Why You Should Be Reading… Image Comics’ Southern Bastards… With A Discussion On The Confederate Flag AKA “Rebel Flag”

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Hey everyone back again for another week of…WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING…

I’m Grainbelt Jones, let’s talk life, let’s talk comics…

So this title has been on my radar for a bit of time now, it seems every time I head into certain shops I frequent, someone is talking about this title. I have recently become a fan of Jason Aaron and have planned to catch up, and finally the stars aligned. I came a crossed the first 2 issues when browsing the store, after a convo with the sales person.  I can be honest and say with all the racial tensions going on in society right now, I didn’t really know if I was up too reading something such as this, and to be even more honest having people (all white) tell me to read the comic just because issue 10 has a variant cover of a dog ripping the rebel flag, really sketched me out and proves how inconsiderate and clueless people can be. Like oh I should read this just because of the confederate flag nonsense in the news, and this comic has made some sort of stand by having a dog eat one on a variant cover, have more respect for me than that, I still want to read a well written story with resounding artwork, and quite frankly a cover sometimes doesn’t supply proper context. Now that I got that off my chest I will say once I finally did get to read this series it came to my surprise it does have a well written story and resounding artwork, the story comes with a nice twist after the first arc, and I honestly can say I have enjoyed the first 10 issues. Also at the end of issue 10, the same issue as the flag variant, there is an interesting article in the back to say the least, written by Jason Latour, attempting to tackle the issue of the confederate flag and its place in the South, giving me a different perspective to consider. I can’t say I agree with all he is saying fully, but I must say the respect I have for this project was maintained, and once we go over the series itself i will finish this column with thoughts on his essay. For now, let’s get into WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING ……

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As the title implies our story takes place in the South and we follow a town that is immersed in football culture, they live and die by Friday night lights, and there is nothing more important than the very game that defines their town. As our story begins we are introduced to a man named Earl Tubbs, he grew up in Craw county having quite a small reputation as a football player, however that reputation has been succeeded by his Father who was the town, and county sherif. Earl has been forced to return home after a 40 year self imposed exile, once an uncle has gotten sick and could no longer take care of his fathers household. Earl then begins proceeding with the plan of moving everything out of his father property and returning home to Birmingham, and away from the town that plagued his happiness years before. Upon him being unleashed on to his old stomping grounds Earl is forced right away to deal with his fathers death, and his past, he also notices how different the town is run without his fathers guidance, and that there seems to be a new rule of order.

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“I did you a favor, son. I helped you when you needed it most. Helped you when nobody else in this county would’ve dared. You don’t return that favor by runnin’ off to college and never comin’ back.” – Coach Boss

 

Coach Boss, is the Rebel football team head coach, and has a seemingly tight grasp on the town itself, not only with owning businesses, but also having a certain influence in the way of people and politics. Earl, who is coming from a different city, and representing a different time, instantly becomes someone not favorable to Coach Boss and his followers, progressively causing a clear conflict that drives our story forward. As we continue this book, or its story rather, we see this may not actually be just about Southern Football at all, that the football is being used as a vehicle to tell a much deeper story, of control, jealousy, and dysfunction, along with sprinkles of real and social issues along the way. Don’t get me wrong Jason does drive home football is above all in this town, as we see the townies facing the very question of morality VS winning, and the state of how their County is moving forward under Coach Boss’s rule. That is continually allowing certain instances to happen with no attempt at recourse, the best way to live in Craw county. Heck there is even a gloss of racism as we have scenes showing the whites putting up with black players, because hey, they can play the game well, and increase chances of winning. I actually loved this in the script, the appropriation of black culture is something that continues to terrorize the black community, and it is at times we feel more tolerated because we can bring good things to the table, but we are not truly equal. I thought the writer did well by showing this and i commend this segment weather he realized what he was doing or not, and continuing the story I find how well Jason continues to deliver hidden gems of the current state of society. Again this isn’t just about football, this isn’t just about a county, this about man’s obsession with the need to win, the quest to feel important, the power of acknowledgment by ones family and environment, the quest of feeling important and how a man can fall into a dark place if he is denied of such. How a soul can convert to taking, and abusing his power to shape the future he wants and is willing to kill for. There is a lot to get into here folks and I hope I sparked interest into WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING…

SOUTHERN BASTARDS…

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Now I would like to talk about this variant cover, and a bit about the essay at the back of issue 10. First let me say this is my opinion, I suggest catching up on the series and picking up a copy of 10 and coming to your own conclusions, I am not using this medium to push my own beliefs on you, but I would like to challenge your mind bringing a different perspective, and in the process hopefully promoting for you to think for your self.  With that being said let’s talk about the essay and then refer back to the cover.

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The essay in my opinion was well written, and I honestly could tell the writer was truthful in his words. First and foremost if your truthful I will respect you regardless if I agree or not, and Mr. Latour, as I stated above did not induce me to lose any interest in the project what so ever, if anything I’m more interested in where he is going with this. I agree with the overall message of the essay which states “It’s time for the rebel flag to disappear.”  He also hits home with questioning how if Southern Pride is defined by the pain induced onto others and how he refused to believe as such. He was well articulated and I must say he got my wheels turning. Where he ended his point I have no problem with but getting to that final point took me on a little bit of a un comfortable journey. I felt that during his diatribe, there were plenty of times while explaining his empathy and understanding of the Rebel flags meaning, he downplayed the very reason on why he agrees to take the flag down anyway. I will say this though, the cool thing is as a black man I kind of get that he will not fully understand my stance and, i in turn should shine the light on myself and say I probably won’t fully understand his positions either. Its impossible. I think however some steps, in a weird way, were made to agree to disagree.  Like stating…

“In many cases, poor whites in the south fought for the interests of the ruling class of Confederate aristocrats. Often their sole motivation being a certain freedom of their own, the promise that one day they too would be able to carve out their own piece of land, or navigate their lives free of another man’s will.” – Jason Latour 

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Now as a black man I say, at the expense of my people? How can you respect that? How  can you empathize with that? Again some how you always make a way to make this about you and your freedom, when blacks clearly suffered from a lack there of, but I digress. Again I could go on and but I don’t expect to fully understand a white man who grew up in the South and how he can ever empathize or try and understand his culture or flag, but at the end of the day we can both come to agree the darn thing needed to die. The last thing I want to touch is how people need to be very careful when it comes to trying to relate to others in these times. As I stated above this comic was referred to me simply by the cover of number 10, which insults my intelligence to think just because of its cover and that the fact they are defacing the confederate flag should be a selling point for me. Look, I like anyone else want to form my own opinions and sometimes people, try to  think about how you are coming off with some of these things. Its like here this is what you want isn’t it? You’ll love this! No man give me something a little more concrete. I also find it strange that even though the essay was well written, how people are really applauding this article and are using it again as a selling point. It really comes off as your feeling proud he didn’t make you look bad,  and for once in a race conversation you were represented well, getting your points across mainly, and your own perspective. Its strange to expect someone to enjoy it as well based on only the conclusion written, because you see it as having our best interest at heart, when a lot of that essay, actually most of it, was written for you, and by someone who mostly identifies with you. People as I can understand I can’t fully get what Mr. Latour was trying to say with this essay, because a lot of it directly downplayed my history of people, so you also need to get you will never fully understand how blacks feel, and that just because you think a white guy is saying what we want to hear, you can never fully break it down like we can, so please stop putting people on a pedestal and use them as a selling point because you think its what we want said. It goes back too, we would rather have more of us in the board rooms and writing for companies, or have someone come to us and our companies to write the essays, VS having people tell us who we should support and how we should feel. It’s kind of like this whole Bernie Sanders none sense, if you really want to understand our side of things, empathize from our perspective VS constantly finding some person or medium that is written for you, by you, and trying to use that as a way sell you products or your false understandings….

-Grainbelt Jones