Good evening, cats and kittens, ’tis your friendly neighborhood nepphie again, ready to entertain you with a riveting Dissection! This week I’ll be tackling Gun Slinger, and contrary to previous promises, I think the temptation to make it one long Dark Tower joke is going to be a bit too much to resist.
That said, let’s dive right in!
J: Personally, I’d never dive into anything as shallow as a Chick Tract, but you go right ahead and sustain that paralyzing neck injury. I’ll head over to the phone and dial 9 and 1 and wait to see what happens.
A hired killer trusts Christ and, at death, goes to heaven. But the law-abiding marshal who hunted him rejects Christ and goes to hell. Clearly shows that salvation is through grace, not works.
J: Clearly shows. In much the same way that Return of the King clearly shows that Hobbits are the most trustworthy creatures when it comes to handling the One Ring, or the way Back to the Future II clearly shows that Hoverboards are fuckin’ awesome. That is, by dealing entirely in fiction, and thus being able to completely skirt reason.
J: As usual, by the way, my comments will appear like this, with preceding J:.
…wow. Really, wow. Jack’s penchant for minimal necks has gone to a bit of an extreme here, I think.
J: I know. His mother should’ve fucked a giraffe.
Purple strikes me as an odd colour for a comic about a Gun Slinger, though I’m not entirely sure why.
J: I think this is supposed to be Prince, actually, but Jack rejects TV as The Devil’s Tool, so he had to work from description alone. Admittedly, he got impressively close.
J: Also, what are those two white lines trailing parallel to each other behind his head? Is that temporally anachronistic jet exhaust?
Grandma? That woman’s kind of old herself to be calling another lady Grandma. Wasn’t life expectancy back then something ridiculous like 40 or 50?
J: Yeah, they look roughly the same age. Though, you never know, this is the South, after all, and [obligatory trans-generation incest joke].
She’s not actually knitting with the ball of yarn, notice. It’s just sitting there. Comfort yarn.
J: Maybe we’re interpreting this all wrong and it’s not really her grandma as in the mother of one of her parents, but rather some kind of horrible, mutant, mongoloid cat of some sort that’s capable of speech, which happens to be named ‘Grandma’. After all, they have some kind of freakish half-cat half-houseplant hanging up there above — who knows what kinds of fucked up mutation experiments these people have gotten into.
What exactly can you feel, granny? The gas you just passed exploding behind you? Or those tingly vibrations of yours? Ooh, I bet it’s the presence of Lord Satan, since you seem to have horns, and are therefore one of those demons in disguise Jack talks about! She must be a bad granny, you know, since feelings and premonitions are WITCHCRAFT according to Jack.
J: Those aren’t horns, they’re just Dilbert’s Boss Hair.
Anyway, say goodbye to granny, kids, we won’t see her again for the rest of the tract.
J: Say what you will about her looks, she does an extraordinary, impassioned cover of Live’s “Lightning Crashes”.
The Gunslinger in Black rode into town… and the Fang Dog followed.
J: No, it’d have to be some generic western sidekick name, like Fangy the Kidd. Or, well, Dogg.
And here we have some more of Jack’s usual atrocious sentence structure. No question mark on the first panel, though the use of emphasis seems almost accurate (a coincidence I’m sure).
Uh. So kill him? Seriously, if you’ve killed people for it before, what’s stopping you now?
J: He never does, you know. He just announces it incessantly so he can seem like a badass. He does it with just about anything that irritates him on any level at all. “I’ve KILLED people for not washing their hands after going to the bathroom like that.” “I’ve KILLED people for complimenting my hat ironically like that!” “I’ve KILLED people for pestering me into going to see a band I’m really not interested in even after listening to their CDs, and then wandering off and picking up some woman near the bathrooms and spending the whole damn night making out with her even though they know I just broke up with my girlfriend, and it turns out I was right and I actually didn’t have a good time at all like that.”
Is it just me, or does Jack seem to have some kind of almighty hate-on for babies? If anyone can show me any flattering baby he’s drawn short of Jesus himself, please enlighten me.
J: That’s not a baby, it’s one of those cutesy demons he always draws crawling all over sinners.
More Fang! I bet Jack knows how popular Fang is, and puts him in more often so people will tolerate the tracts more.
J: Fang: The only thing that doesn’t absolutely suck in a Chick Tract.
J: Jeez, he slammed the guy so hard into the wall he knocked his unibrow off.
Our Gunslinger’s taste in fashion is just awful. What’s he wearing? A black singlet leotard? He also appears to be *posing* in the doorway. I suppose this is Jack’s pathetic attempt to make us worry that Bart Dawson is the man this guy is out to get.
J: It’s the stereotypical “how anyone who carries a gun in the old west enters a doorway” pose. And as we all know, any situation in a Chick Tract has to be stereotypical.
J: Why’s this guy have a portrait of Queen Amidala hanging from his wall?
Holy crapola plot twist!
J: This is holy crapola, all right…
…did Bart glue his own pubic hair to his head? And why would a random saloon owner have a scar up his cheek?
More fashion weirdness, I thought this was the wild west? Why does our Gun Slinger have a WWII-era SS-Totenkopf headpin? I would think the Nazis would want to kill a grim specimen of humanity like this.
J: No way, man, he has the stereotypical General Burkhalter cheek scar and everything. He’s totally undercover SS.
J: Also, I think the Gun Slinger’s “nose” is actually a potato that’s inexplicably growing out of/lodged in the front of his face. I’ll bet he doesn’t get blackheads but long, tentacly eyes he has to cut out with a paring knife.
I really have to wonder what Jack is trying to accomplish with all these “light show” panels. How can he think they look anything but retarded?
J: Indeed. It always looks like these characters are imprisoned inside this cavern of needles tailor-sculpted to be about three inches away from every inch of their body. It’s like some kind of Iron Maiden-style torture, designed to punish them for any kind of movement. (Ironically much like fundamentalist ideology! HAW HAW HAW)
J: *punt* “GET THE FUCK OFF MY CLOUD.” Wow, he’s really getting some air. Looks like the Invisible Man is wrestling with him to get his beer. Wait a minute, is he wearing flannel and a trucker cap?
Context is a hilarious thing. For example, the previous panel is talking about a preacher, and if you stretch your brain a little bit, you can imagine they’re talking about the guy that’s being flung out the door in THIS panel. So we have a drunk preacher who’s getting thrown out of saloons. Ahh, Jack, never change.
J: “I HAD a thriving business until he came along and I gave him a bunch of free drinks because he was a ‘man of God’ and all that and always guilted me into never collecting on his tab, which he ran up like he had a hole in his throat.”
I think I see why he has the weird scar. It’s because he lets his pet rat gnaw on his face all the time.
J: Given the state of old west medicine, I wouldn’t be surprised if that rat is really his doctor, inspecting the wound for infection. How would this be any worse than, say, a tincture, or phrenology?
Why are you throwing out your only patron if everyone else has quit and you’re out of business?
J: Hey, a place has to have standards, you know.
I guess that weird groove on the Gunslinger’s cheek is supposed to represent a near-miss with a bullet that then went through his ear? What the hell is in this guy’s ear that makes it stay straight out when shot with a bullet? Maybe he’s just into body modification.
J: Wait, the prostitutes got married? I thought Jack was adamantly opposed to gay marriage. Maybe it’s okay if it’s lesbians.
He looks less menacing and angry than SAD about the notion that he’s going to kill the preacher, incidentally. Cheer up, emo criminal.
J: “I’ll be in his church Sunday. By Monday, he’ll be in a casket. I seriously have to get it done by Wednesday, though, ’cause my band has practice then and I don’t wanna disappoint the guys. I have a song written about how sad and painful my life is.”
J: Where’d the Zorro mask come from, by the way? Does he just sort of tug it on briefly when making promises about killing, for dramatic effect? Looking ahead, I don’t think we see this for the rest of the Tract, so probably yes.
Yep, Jack hates kids, I’m convinced. We have some weird drooling monstrosity in the bottom corner here who apparently is attempting to strangle a snake.
J: He’s Baptist. And he’s drooling because he just got finished with his little pseudo-seizure where he rolls around on the floor and barks out strings of noises and considers it “glossolalia” even though he’s not actually speaking in tongues but spluttering random gibberish. Though, in previous Chick Tracts, typically anyone with a snake is SATAN.
Then again, the entire collection of hu… can we even CALL this humanity? It’s a bunch of ogre Neanderthals. You lied to me, Jabberwock! You said Jack doesn’t believe in evolution!
J: He doesn’t. He just tries to account for fossil evidence of earlier forms of human by trying to make it seem like all of humanity are a bunch of brutish, hideous fuckfaces with protruding foreheads.
J: “Have you seen this man? He walks these streets, a loaded six-string on his back. He plays for keeps, ’cause he might not make it back. He’s a cowboy — on a steel horse, he rides. And he’s wanted–” “Yes, yes, we know the song. He went to Bottlesville. Do you HAVE to do that EVERY time you show us one of these?”
When I was a child, I made a habit of bothering very ugly, very armed men with a horrible fashion sense. Every Sunday.
J: “Hey, Mister, what’s with the guns? Why are you pointing them at me? Why are you pressing the barrel to my temple? Why are you cocking the hammer? Why are–” *BLAM* *BLAM BLAM*
Everyone else in town is reflexively and repulsively terrified of this guy’s face, but the moment he gets to church he’s welcomed unconditionally?
J: Yeah, see, religious people know no fear. Y’know, except for when they shit themselves in abject panic because their kid saw a half of a breast on a show about feeding babies. Or when two men kiss each other and they can somehow foresee their marriage ripping apart. Or when they feel like they have to control the rest of the world with a heavy fascist fist because there are people out there who don’t think the exact same way they do and that might cause problems to their comfort and their precious babies and their morality.
Interesting concept (if painfully transparent), if you hadn’t set it up to FAIL a few panels back, Jack. Seriously, what happened to most of the town getting religion? So many that the saloon keep is out of business? Ring a bell? Unless this is a discrete commentary on hypocrites who are only kind in church, but for that to be the case I’d have to ascribe a modicum of cleverness to the soggy sack of crap we call Chick, and that just won’t do.
J: I wouldn’t place my bets on “plot consistency” here, if I were you.
It’s kind of sad that a preacher who looks that weird is still the most normal looking person in the tract thus far.
J: He reminds me a little of a young Michael Gross. You know, Family Ties era.
Of course you feel strange, Terrible Tom, you’re melting! Your bloated, cancerous body is rotting from within and you’re going to boil down to nothing!
J: Behold, the power of cheese.
More posing silhouettes. “Quick man, tell me if you’ve seen this killer before the sun gets any closer!”
J: Maybe they’re just standing on railroad tracks, in a tunnel. We can always hope.
J: Oh, yeah, this is a great plan. After all, it worked out so well in Waco.
Apparently the marshal got punched a couple times before showing up for work.
J: Maybe he just hasn’t gotten any sleep. In a few months.
Take the last panel out of context, letting it stand just by itself, and you pretty much have my views on organized religion in a nutshell. Just sayin’.
So the man in black fled across the desert, and the white marshal followed? Jack, you’ve made the worst Dark Tower tribute strip ever D: I can’t even make a proper DT joke! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
J: He’s slapped a fundamentalist message into yet another stereotypically-themed plot. What’d you expect?
J: Hey! One of few John 3:16 panels in a Chick Tract that doesn’t feature the same stock “Jesus crucifixion” image.
And now he’s fondling himself. This guy’s not a villain, he’s an escaped mental patient who needs love and sympathy.
J: Looks like he’s just chilly and in need of a light wrap.
“Now you keep your rat hat on while you’re in church, young man!”
Insert vitriolic rant against the crucifixion story here.
J: Do people’s hands… turn like that?
Aaaaand now he’s taking a dump in the pew, disgusting all of his fellow churchgoing Christians. Again, nice to see my views of Christianity summed up in one go.
J: Looks like he’s really having a go at it, too. The way his face looks, it’s like he’s howling and grunting like a constipated bear as the turds the size of fists slide with frustrating resistance out onto the kneeler. “HOOAAAAGGGHHHHHHHHH! HOW HOW HOWWAARRRRGGGG! HOT-OT-OT-OT-OT! HUMPH HRMMMMMMPH! UNGH!” *plop* I envision this process is much like that behind the creation of a Chick Tract.
The marshal looks kind of demented in the second panel here. I keep hearing Beavis and Butthead snickering. I’m also amused that Beavis and Butthead are permissible spellings in spellcheck, but spellcheck isn’t.
J: “Ehehehe… hey you guys… you guys: Boobs. EheheheheHEHEHEhehehe.” Also, mine doesn’t like any of Beavis, Butthead, or spellcheck. Guess it’s not as into cultural references as yours is.
J: This guy’s really fucking effected by all of this. Remember, everyone: Next time you’re being assaulted by a killer of whatever level of aggression and determination, you just have to read John 3:16 and tell them that God forgives murderers, and they’ll drop their gun and start praying.
J: At some point in his past, someone stabbed him down the cheek with a hair pick.
These panels are boring. XTreme closeup of Tom’s face is unappealing too, so I’ll just rant about Christianity.
It irritates me to no end that there’s no scale of justice here. We have a self-professed murderer who gets forgiven of his crimes, ok cool, illustrates God is supposedly merciful, I can dig it. But then what about the people who spend their lives doing well, never harming anyone else, in the service of Christ? There’s some mention about a crown and radiance in heaven, but oh wait we’re not supposed to be doing it for the reward. There’s no scale, no sense to it. It’s a bunch of meaningless bullshit drivel that’s supposed to make me feel humble and wonderful that god views me the same way as a merciless serial killer. It’s reason-killing insanity, and I have to go vomit now.
J: I think the whole “your actions don’t matter” thing is supposed to mean “it doesn’t matter if you’ve done wrong — God will still love you if you repent, and you can still be a Christian”. Instead, fundamentalists have warped the fuck out of it, extrapolating it to mean that NONE of your actions matter, and ONLY a very specific kind of acceptance of Jesus (simple belief doesn’t cut it) does. I’m not entirely clear on their intentions, but this message really seems to endorse a lifestyle of atrocity eventually punctuated by an adoption of Christ as one’s personal savior that cancels all of it out.
The marshal’s dialog construction here reminds me of Judge Rawlings from Guilty, what with the aggressive beginnings followed by weird pauses.
J: He realized he completely forgot the guy’s name, and eventually settled on a generic categorization.
Fang’s finally realized he’s in a Chick tract and is trying to escape! Go Fang Go!
J: Keep going! Run as fast as you can! Hell, even if you can make it into, like, Mary Worth or For Better or For Worse or something, it’d still be better than this place!
Hahahaha terrible tom terrible sinner hahahahaha NO!
J: It’s terrible writing.
Wait, where’d that neck come from? Did Jesus give him a new neck when he got saved?
J: The preacher let him have a few inches of his, looks like.
Preacher looks a little too earnest here. I’m thinking less ‘holy man of god’ and more ‘creepy jail-fetish pervert’ at the moment here.
J: “What would you like for your last meal, Tom? How about me?”
Wait, what? No trial? I wasn’t aware US Marshals had the authority to hang people on their own judgment calls. One has to wonder if some of Jack’s preferences for the legal system are peeking through here.
J: Well, see, the execution is the trial. The logic is simple: What hangs by a rope? Houseplants? Yep. Sails on a boat? Yes. Very small rocks? Sure. But what else hangs by a rope? Swings. So, if they put a rope around his neck and he falls and then he swings, he was guilty. But if he doesn’t swing, then he was really a witch. Or a swing. Or something, I don’t care anymore.
I think the second panel has some stuff backwards, doesn’t the executioner usually wear the black hood?
J: This makes it easier for any enthusiastic audience member to come up and pull the switch while still remaining anonymous. They don’t have enough masks for everyone.
Painfully obvious attempt to indicate that Good Outside Isn’t Good Inside here. Still, at least the antagonist in this case wasn’t as hideously ugly and useless as most of Jack’s stock villain characters.
Oh wait, yes he IS. Look at those freaky piano teeth. They’ve gotten bigger every panel since we’ve seen the guy. It’s like they’re permanently trying to jump out of his head at this point! TEETH ROCKET.
J: Whew… I was going to say. The guy’s like the bastard miracle offspring of Yosemite Sam, Bugs Bunny and an ice skate. I think his face is legally considered paper shredder. It looks like he’s choking on a fun house.
I like how it takes several minutes to get to heaven after you die. Maybe there’s a queue. Or perhaps the heavenly express flight takes a while.
J: Again, Jack waffles on the “when do people go to heaven” thing. He’s even confused about what happens to them when they get there: They either stand before God or are rejected outright at the gate, and it happens either immediately after they die, minutes later, after a long trip to heaven, or some indeterminate amount of time later when the Rapture comes. And what happened to the whole “play every goddamned second of your entire fucking life out on a big screen in front of everyone” thing?
J: I like the implication of Chick’s condemnation toward the marshal’s attitude, here, about “getting exactly what he deserved”. By the fundamentalist God’s model, people should actually be getting punishments infinitely worse than what they deserved. Now that’s a reasonable model for morality if I ever saw one!
Why exactly would the Marshal attend Tom’s burial? Thoughts, Jabberwock?
J: To ensure the body makes it all the way into the ground without bursting out of its coffin and going on a rampage. They were really worried about zombies back then.
I think that buzzard is eating a sock.
One thing I do have to give Jack props for, he’s been much more consistent with his backgrounds in this strip. They’re rather conspicuous compared to his use in Guilty. Did he improve, or regress? I need to find out which strip came first.
J: Guilty was released only a few months ago; pretty sure we did it right after it came out. So, definitely a regression. Maybe Jack really feels like the entire world is disappearing into a void, and doesn’t understand when people ask him “where are the backgrounds?”
I love how it seems like there’s plenty of open space for him to ride through off to his right, but he chooses to ride right next to a bunch of rocks where it’s very likely snakes would be hiding.
J: You can actually tell what’s going on here? I thought there was some kind of weird space-time distortion that teleported him and his horse into the middle of a rock.
J: Snakes, by the way, are known for climbing to the tops of rocks and aggressively and without provocation going after the faces of humans riding other large mammals.
“Hurry up guys, c’mon! I’m stuck in the hole to hell, stop playing with that marshal’s soul already!”
J: “Guys? Quicksand. Uh… guys? Hello? A little help? I mean, HAW HAW funny you’re making him look like he’s buttfucking himself, but, uh… kind of… impending… situation… here. Meh, nevermind, what am I gonna do? Die?”
What, no Angels flinging naked old Marshal into the fiery pits?
J: I guess not. Maybe it really is a busy day, and they’re just immediately filtering people without the whole “stand before God/view your life/get tossed into hell” thing. I dunno. Honestly, I’m a little ashamed of us for expecting consistency, here.
I guess some particularly arrogant souls warrant the infernal KKK for their incarceration in the realm of eternal torment.
J: Hah, yeah, seriously, who are these assholes? It’s like if the Coneheads had landed in Taliban-governed Afghanistan.
ANGEL STAND AT ATTENTION. EMOTION FOR PUNY HUMAN.
Apparently the demons ripped the marshal’s shiny white teeth out and gave them to Tom, whose neck already seems to be receding as he wanders off into heaven, waving to imaginary nobodies.
Wait, I thought believers got new bodies in heaven? Why does Tom still have his mangled old head? Dammit, false advertising!
J: “Welcome to heaven, Tom! You made it! And no, you can’t have the chunks of your ear back. Sorry.”
And the marshal is hovering as he burns in incandescent fury. The background effect almost looks like a heart. It must be a present from KKK demon to Satan. “For you, the dread lord and master (of my black heart), a fiery marshal valentine.”
J: Either that, or he just discovered he’s the Human Torch, but way too late for it to actually be of any use to him.
Pretty obvious what Jack was trying to do with this one. A half-clever attempt at illustrating the Christian notion of it’s not what you’ve done, it’s who you know, but it collapses under the weight of bad storytelling and ridiculous coincidence.
J: KILL EVERYONE! DESTROY AS MUCH AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN! ACCEPT JESUS AT THE LAST MINUTE! IT’S NOT YOUR ACTIONS THAT COUNT — IT’S YOUR LOVE OF GOD! And making the world so much worse for everyone else will only help to serve as a greater test of their faiths!
Jack seems to be slipping in his theological consistency (as if that’s a surprise to anyone), for the aforementioned reasons. I wonder what his tracts will be like as he continues to age and slip into senile dementia.
J: The weird thing is that he keeps slipping back into them as well. And then kind of laterally, sometimes, into something similar, but different in some subtle way that seems to contradict whatever else he said about the same subject. We can only hope that in his increasing madness, he continues to come up with baffling new versions of his ontology, and that his backgrounds continue to disappear until it’s all just floating mouths in a white void.
Well, until next time folks!
J: Tell your friends, and all that.
This has been a nepphisendance production, because having two confusing names will make people love you more.