“Pumpkins Don’t Have Souls!”
Dean Yockey’s “Pumpkin Man”
I confess openly that while I love comics, I am not so much a reader of discerning taste as much as I am one with very low motivation. I take comics as they come to me, and it is rare for me to seek them out with the intention of following their course of action through. This, I suppose, along with the usual monetary concerns that create such a lugubrious phantasmagoria in my stupid fucking brain as I attempt to sleep at night, have endeared me to the webcomic. The webcomic, as it were, is possibly one of the signature forms of communication for the generation born betwixt the 90’s and the early (I classify early as 2001–2005) Aughts. Partially from webcomics did the phenomenon of the “Meme” (many of which take the form of comics) spring forth, and this use-and-toss outlet has provided a great amount of cultural capital to those online. The internet and the culture of internet (very narrowly speaking, of course, and in this case focused on obscure forums and platforms like 4Chan) has left an indelible mark on the making and processing of comics, and I believe it now shows a measurable and undeniable effect on the kinds of stories and ideas that comics will begin to tackle. Some of my favorites have featured a talking acorn who attempts to find meaning in life while drowning his senses in booze and hijinks, a group of bunnies living in a videogame attempting to make peace with a cookie-baking villain, and a magic detective and his zombie friend who attempt to solve mysteries while projecting subtle homoerotic inclinations.
But the one I wish to talk about has a stand-in for God (Whom I distinguish here as YHWH, El, Elohim, Eloah, El Shaddai, Tzevaot) in the form of a Pumpkin.
Yockey’s comic, “Pumpkinman”, started as a “Quanto Comic”, a type of comic which is outlined in Seigneur Scott Mccloud’s book “Making Comics”. In the most basic of terms, each gentleman and lady who deigns to partake in such an amusement suggest the strangest and most obscure combinations of words they can think of to the pre-approved author. Said author then produces for their predilection, a comic, which will make an alchemical humor of such philological ingredients. In this instance, the words came from Yockey’s sibling (and co-author in certain works) who produced a 2-word phrase:
The resulting comic was a sort of whimsical farce:
As one can well see.
The initial intention was that this should be a simple,
one-off gag-piece, but thankfully, like any artist
worth his salt, Mr. Yockey chose to develop this
anomaly into something altogether more interesting
“You Will be My Prophet!”
“Pumpkin Man” tells the story of a young man named Lloyd, who worships the titular character along with his disciples. Lloyd, in an over-the-top example of selflessness, begins his journey by running out of his home to rescue pumpkins during a bombing of the fields by be-turbaned terrorists, only to be rescued (as in the original comic) by an animated pumpkin who is soon titled “Pumpkin Man”. Lloyd is soon preaching the word of the Pumpkin, denying the Square Pumpkins supported by corporate shills and tolerated by the terrorists, and walking the land, attempting to convert the faithless, assisted all the while by Pumpkin Man. After fighting Pumpkin Man’s thirteenth son, “The Dark Pumpkin”, in his corrupt “Capitol of the World”, (leading to the physical incarnation of the seven “Deadly Enemies of Man”) Lloyd and his followers set out to found their own city based on their ideals. After building the city, and withstanding attacks from the first four demons, they are accosted by an army of demons led by the three remaining “Deadly Enemies”, and, after the final defeat of the Dark Pumpkin by Pumpkin Man, ascend to Pumpkin Heaven, where they live free of pain or sadness for eternity, far away from the Earth, now a tomb for Dark Pumpkin and his lackeys.
“Pumpkin Man” is a story that does not define itself readily. The writing is simple, but contrasting. At one moment, characters engage in dialogue easily comparable to many other modern manga. At the next, characters begin reciting pin-prick filibusters in a prose that invokes the KJV Bible. The writing is dead-serious, and the situation at hand absolutely absurd. One feels the moral convictions of Yockey’s words at the very same moment that he recognizes them coming out of the (non-existent) mouth of a humanoid pumpkin who catches laser-beams. To attempt to pin Pumpkin Man down requires analysis and thought; hence, I intend to collect a few of the different messages to be found in Yockey’s work, and attempt to address them in the gestalt at the very end. I propose that we start with Yockey’s chosen style.
Anime, “Alt-Right”, Kitsch, and Cucurbita Pepo
With no small amount of hesitation, and with acknowledgement that such a proposal is easily mischaracterized, I will say that the most prominent style of Japanese comicry and animation (which with your forgiveness and understanding I will variously refer to collectively as either Manga or Anime for convenience’s sake) is quite possibly one of the Fascist’s most favored art forms at this historical moment. I submit that I myself am and have been throughout my life a fan of several Japanese Manga authors and writers of Anime, (Araki, Tezuka, Tatsumi, Koike and Kojima, Takimoto, Kamiyama, Otomo) and they have each left their mark on my life and my way of thinking. We can see, though, in Manga and Anime, the undeniable mark of Kitsch in many of the series one can find. I hold that Kitsch is not just an aspect of these series, but an irreplaceable feature of them. A few of the common character tropes:
1) The Helpless Female, often with a highly stereotyped personality ranging from stubbornly declaring her feelings for the main (usually male) character to be opposite of those she truly experiences, to being cripplingly shy, overly dependent on, and inexplicably attracted to said main character. This same woman is generally waifish and irresponsibly attractive, and often appears posing for no reason.
2) The Chosen One, the previously spoken-of protagonist. He is usually unremarkable in every way, save for being attractive to the nubile protagoness, and being granted incredible powers with which he must save the world. Generally, he has an unerring devotion to the nebulous concept of “justice” and proclaims to be fighting for the love of his friends. He is usually heir to some ancient wisdom or power.
3)The Evil One, often a demon which has been sealed away and wishes to either destroy or take charge of the planet. A Shaitan of sorts, The Evil One has no real goal or desire other than to corrupt society and set himself up as a ruler.
This is to leave out the general exclusion of races beyond a strange purgatorical halfway-point between White and Japanese, the proliferation of the “Harem” Manga and its other lite-porn peers, and the general political inclinations towards a defence of “tradition” and “the old ways”. The parallels are incredibly easy to find in Western media, right back to some of the earliest writings, and many of these parallels were likely transported directly into Japan from America’s own comics. The difference lies in the amount of kitsch we find in Manga and Anime at this moment. The Japanese forms show tendencies toward a level that has turned much of it into a self-parodizing formalist experiment. Not only do we often find ridiculous amounts of cliché, stereotype and pandering in Manga, but it has become an important aspect of much of the form.
But such Kitsch as we find here (if I may oppose Mr. Greenberg) is not all that harmful in itself, and my own feelings toward it are rather ambivalent. It is, one must suppose, the cultural equivalent of a sugar sandwich on white. Inoffensive, lacking in substance, extremely easy to make, extremely pleasing to consume, somewhat dulling to the senses, and tolerable in large amounts and in rapid succession. A little bit of kitsch is to be expected in every form. Many of my favorite artists from Rembrandt to Herriman to Marie Lloyd to Kurt Weill have engaged with Kitschy themes and ideas, borrowing heavily from popular culture and accepted values while also serving to upend them. Purity (of thought form or meaning) does not truly exist in any art form, and if it did, such an art would certainly be stultifying. Kitsch can serve art, and not just refute it. Indeed, there are certain Manga (Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure among them) that manage to spin the adoption of kitsch into a sort of Rabelaisian sophistication. The problem comes with those who do believe in purity.
The Online Alt-Right is a special sort of constellation of some of the brightest stars in White Nationalism and Neo-Nazism. Some of them (not most of them) have found anime quite appealing for their purposes. Ever since Rick Wilson has called the Alt-Right a pack of “…unmarried, single men who masturbate to anime…” there has been some effort to connect Anime (and My Little Pony to a lesser extent) to White Nationalism in general, and Donald Trump in particular.
It is important to note that there is an ironic, even self-mocking element to this connection. As Messr. Lawrence Murray of “The Right Stuff” blog (an alt-right blog that lists among its goals such items as “Putting cuckservatives in the cuck shed…” and “Using the therapeutic power of LARPing to help tens of thousands of young men manage their autism”) states: “To recap, why are anime girls wearing Trump hats and why will they continue to do so? First of all, it’s funny, so there’s that. And secondly, there is an overlap between internet Trump supporters and internet anime fans.” “…But if the alt-right can get Jews to think anime is anti-semitic, that’s one small step for memes and one giant leap for gaslighting.” The Alt-Right (no matter how liberals, moderates and conservatives may try to deny such a thing) are human too, and are reacting to fear and anxiety about certain situations in their lives with misguided aggression and overly-simplistic mantras. While the connection to Anime may be ironic, and secondary to the more important Meme, the benefits (as Sr. Murray has pointed out) are real, and the connection to Kitsch is essential.
Kitsch, or rather, the purer forms of Kitsch, can, like Le Corbusier’s “High Art”, be utilized as propaganda for dubious purposes or otherwise. We see this in the use of art that the Nazis claimed reflected “The True German Spirit”, we see it in the Russian Tradition of “Social Realism”, we see it in paintings by Rubens, we see it in tales of the “Greater and Purer” past, etc. The current trend differs only in its (very modern) “Ironic” subtext. The use of Anime is a tactic of Surreality which is used to parody the attitudes and the beliefs of the Alt-right’s image of “The Liberal” (just as the Liberal generates his own image of “The Alt-Right”). The implicit goal is to chop a wider rift in the earth; to radicalize the leftists in order to radicalize the right, and to make those who criticize the Alt-Right seem either crazy or decadent.
This is where Pumpkin Man comes in.
The story and the storytelling style of Pumpkin Man draw heavily on subjects (save for racial equality and sexual issues) that take center-stage for the Alt-Right, and the Far Right as well. Christianity (maybe not so much for the Alt-Right, but certainly the Far-Right), Corruption, Apocalypse, the degrade of Moral Values, the slipperiness of Truth and Logic, all of these are touched upon by Yockey in his work, and done so in a manner that hearkens back to classic anime from Tezuka to Ishinomori, combining it with a style that sometimes evokes the work of Gary Panter.
The plot is patently ridiculous — The strangeness of such a plot and the scratchy, summary drawing style stand in sharp contrast to the earnestness implicit in the writing. Yockey asserts his faith in deeply conflicting ways. Why, then, does it have any relation to kistch? To radical politics?
One of the aspects of Manga that is used to service the viewer most frequently is the visual form. Many popular Manga — like many popular American comics — tend to have drawing that is elegant and titillating, sleek to a fault, and easy to interpret. This is important for marketing purposes, but it is crucial to note that without such images, many of the stories themselves would likely fall apart. The writing in many series tends toward the formulaic — again like many American comics — but the key difference lies in the visible embrace of formulaicism. There are many names for similar character types in Japanese Manga (Tsundere, Bishounen, etc.) and there is a very widely and commonly used symbol system that is used extensively in nearly all Manga. In a certain way, frequent readers of Manga become “fluent” in it, and as a result, the formula of writing and drawing is perpetuated. This is much like the Commedia Dell’Arte, Japanese Kabuki, and the English Music Hall, all popular forms where characters, phrases, and movements appear and reappear. Yockey’s innovation is to interpret this visual style as a more literal form of semiotic writing. Yockey’s characters in Pumpkin Man are truly calligraphic; they bear only the most necessary of features to make up faces and bodies. They show (for the most part) a very restrained form of emotional expression on their faces, bearing for the majority of the time an owlish stare. I quote Yockey:
“I honestly don’t care about being literal with the art I draw. Art doesn’t need to just communicate what we see. Good art expresses emotion and feeling. To me, the line between real and unreal is very thin, perhaps nonexistent. In panels sound and visual effects, along with word balloons, intermingle alongside “real” objects, with no segregation. In my opinion, cartoons are by nature unreal, in a literal sense, but very real in a deeper sense.”
Because of the vocabulary of Manga, Yockey is able to use this minimalistic mode to evoke the entire tradition. Reducing his characters to marionettes, and using accepted symbols (stars, speed lines, etc.) in place of atmospheric or chia-roscuric effects, Yockey distances the viewer just enough to allow them space for reflection. The viewer recognizes the characters less from the eye and more from the mind.
If Kitsch is an appeal to emotion for emotion’s sake, then Pumpkin Man refutes it. But this visual language, the story, narration and dialogue are all in service to what Yockey refers to as a story not about Religion, but about God. We will tackle this problem shortly, but for now we must understand his style of argumentation, which runs opposite to the styles used by traditional Christian Evangelist tracts, and the Alt-Right’s more Anime-centered endeavours. In most religious tracts, the verbiage and visual style tends to prop up Christianity as something that is not only entirely logical and free of moral failings, but also an obvious and simple solution. They condemn the world and prop Christianity up as pure Knowledge. As an example, a few excerpts from the incomparable (and late) Jack Chick.
The effect of the Chick tract is to render itself ridiculous. Only the reader who is already convinced will approve, and only the reader who is suffering under the most intense delusions of hatred and fear will change their opinions after reading such a thing. We have already seen the Will o’ the Wisps that the Alt-Right is using in a rather more effective manner, and have discussed its intent.
Pumpkin Man positions itself firmly under the banner of irrationality from the start. The first action taken by a character is to run outside during a bombing raid (by terrorists who, in turn, have no rational reason to be attacking) in order to save a few Pumpkins. The world is threatened by the presidency of a Pumpkin in the shape of a Cube. The protagonist uses blood to destroy robots. In effect, Yockey has geared his message to appear as irrational as it seems, and to revel in the deadpan humor brought about by such messages. The effect is to render the reader into an embodiment of conflict. They laugh in their incredulousness and disbelief, and at the same time become more sympathetic. The rationalized reader, in his amusement, suddenly realizes the uncontroversial nature of Yockey’s cries against war and hatred, and his desires for forgiveness and understanding. They look through Yockey’s lense — not through a representational drawing, but through the artist’s own mindset, and begin to relate to his thoughts. Yockey, in his comic, demonstrates a keen understanding of the cyclical nature of hatred and violence, and condemns both the antagonists who take up the sword for profit or hatred as well as the protagonists who take it up for the sake of justice or vengeance. Unlike Jack Chic, he does not wish to rally troops, but to bring in neighbours. Unlike the Alt-Right, his surrealism is geared towards humanizing rather than alienating. The goal is not to disassemble one’s world view and build it anew, but to build up his own, leaving the blocks sticking out to emphasize their (excuse my mangling) “built-ness”. In this rhetoric, the warlike is implicated, and the enemies one sees around one are revealed to be illusions.
He makes this quite clear in the characterization of Crane and his doppelganger Wrath.
Throughout the story Crane falls into the trap of relying on his own might, finally taking up the sword in the name of Peter (a gentle and timid character who is done in by a terrorist with a rocket launcher) Naturally, Crane finds that the more he attacks Wrath, the stronger Wrath becomes. His only option is to stop attacking.
However, Wrath, weakened by Crane’s passive resistance, tricks Crane into attempting to execute him. This gives Wrath enough strength to give Crane a near-fatal injury before being finished off by the blood of Pumpkin Man. Crane is eventually hospitalized, and given a symbolic death and rebirth via an artificial aging by the Demon “Age” and a retroversion to his infant self through the power of Pumpkin Cells.
The cliché of this storyline is self-evident; Yockey subjects it, in a way, to the same rebirthing undergone by Crane and Lloyd (whom we will discuss shortly). “Peter’s Sword” is very strongly suggested to be a false object of veneration, a symbol employed to take up the sword for the sake of revenge, and in the name of justice. In effect, it parallels certain alt-right sensibilities, whose actions are not truly directed against other races, but against a world that these fellows think has spurned them. The sword of “Racial Purity” or “Masculine Pride” is, in truth, “Peter’s Sword” a sort of rock to chuck at a society that some feel has no place for them.
The combined effects of Yockey’s writing and drawing serve as an uplifting laugh at Christian belief, the Manga format, and political militarism. Yockey himself understands the implications of his story and its contradictory nature:
“In no sense is this story intended as a mockery: much of it I really meant. However, the story is also filled with absurdity. I can’t simply say that it was serious or not serious. It’s not simply one or the other. One of my characteristics is that even I can’t always tell if I’m being sarcastic or not…. Sometimes the truth itself is absurd. Sometimes we mock things we love.”
Yockey has tapped, in a very natural way, into the force of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Carnivalesque and Grotesque forces in art and literature. Politics and religion aside, one of Yockey’s major themes is death and rebirth, connecting him not only to the Christian God, but also to the earthly realm of the grotesque. It is these themes that we shall now investigate, along with the most looming symbol in Mr. Yockey’s work.
The Pumpkin is likely the most contentious symbol here, it being not only a strange one, but also one selected randomly out of thousands. The embrace of pure chance and postmodern sensibilities notwithstanding, the Pumpkin is a fortuitous metaphor for Yockey, as well as a fine intertextual connection.
One cannot deny the connection between Pumpkin Man (himself one who rises from the Pumpkin Patch) and Linus’ Yahweh Surrogate, “The Great Pumpkin”. In the context of Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts”, “The Great Pumpkin” becomes an article of faith that is ever-present and yet forever obscured. The Great Pumpkin, powered only by the bibliophile Linus’ unwavering devotion is brought (in a certain way) to life. Similarly, Pumpkin Man, too, is given life (and endless revivification) by the faith carried by Yockey’s characters. Pumpkin Man dies and disappears multiple times within the text, (often in an absurd and exceedingly violent manner),
But whereas Linus’ Pumpkin never reveals itself, Lloyd’s takes an active role in his journey, not only rising up from the literal and proverbial Pumpkin Patch, but doing so multiple times, in the most theatrically absurd way possible.
To descry the Pumpkin as a simple article of faith is to sell short its poignancy. To connect God (any God, to my own sensibilities, but in Yockey’s case, Yahweh exclusively) to such a plant as a Pumpkin allows us to characterize the Divine in very interesting ways. First, one must acknowledge the Jack-O-Lantern, which is quite easily seen in Pumpkin Man’s Face (which one also can’t help but point out as resembling the Grey or the Flatwoods Monster). The Jack-O-Lantern is an object connected to both the natural world and the closest thing we have to the Medieval “Feast of Fools” — a celebration referred to as the perfect embodiment of “Carnival” by Bakhtin — this being the modern-day Halloween, with all its references to the overturning of social norms, mocking of political figures, and references to death and grotesque revival. In the act of carving out the Pumpkin, and incising a face in such a thing, one creates a sort of signification of the Grotesque. The Pumpkin is not frightening in itself (not to us, anyway) but more or less a symbol of all things frightening. It functions in this sense, as a connection to the semiotic, and the Byzantinian tradition as well as the tradition of the grotesque. In the humble Jack-O-Lantern, the Physical artifact is connected to meaning outside of itself, a certain Spirit given to the Pumpkin by virtue of its transformation into artifact. Yockey relates his drawings in the story to this kind of transformation in a passage showing how Lloyd is reborn through Pumpkin Cells.
Lloyd, the recipient of a sound and violent death, is reduced to meaningless lines. The cells of the Pumpkin, the Semiotic, restore the pen-strokes to their previous status as a signifier of Lloyd, who in turn symbolizes prophet-hood and faith. This connection to Death, Rebirth and — especially — Sacrifice are no accident, as Mr. Yockey points out when describing his initial conception of “Pumpkin Man” as a whole.
“I think I got the idea to turn Pumpkin Man into a series while I was sitting in church. Just as he died in chapter one, I would kill him again in chapter 2. Each death was self-sacrificial. From the very start, it was intended to be a Christian allegory.”
Inevitably the Jack-O-Lantern is connected in one’s mind to Death and Renewal; one participates in the death of the fruit by scooping out its innards — possibly the child’s first true visceral relationship to the Body in general, given the Pumpkin’s slimy and placental endocarp — and its Renewal by reviving it as a symbol, an object that transforms one’s environment and mindset. Here we must not discount too, the role of Pumpkin Man’s Blood.
Blood — perhaps the ultimate signifier of The Body, save for the Stomach — is the protection that is offered by Pumpkin Man. It becomes a physical manifestation of the faith of Lloyd and his Disciples, as well as their ultimate connection to each other, made brothers and sisters as they are by contact with Pumpkin Blood.
Sacrifice, Death, The Body and Rebirth all have their place within Pumpkin Man, given their context along with the absurd and the laughable in a story that has its sights set on God. This, then, connects God not merely to the Spiritual realm, but to the Physical as well; the death of meaning is the death of the semiotic, and the prophet is reduced to nothing without the structures Yockey’s comic sets up for itself. God is connected to the Earth by the Pumpkin. God is given his form through the physical manifestation of the Jack-O-Lantern. I believe we can draw two solid conclusions:
1) The Pumpkin stands as a symbol of Religion. God has no face, no visage, so we take our human tools, art, and carve him into existence. The Object, now given a face and an inner light becomes both alive and steadfast. It becomes a vessel for the imagination, something that makes our inner lives seem real.
2) The Pumpkin stands as a symbol of the body, given its rebirth at the moment it dies, and leaving meaning upon ultimately rotting away. It functions to connect God to the Body, and to allow the Body to transcend — or at the very least modify — itself by merging with the semiotic, as in the practice of Baptism, Eucharist, and indeed, Art in General.
All of this is drawn into play amongst the constant presence of laughter, which, like Pumpkin Man himself, allows us to both deny the importance of the physical world around us, as well as embrace it. Laughter gives the faithful viewer a means of understanding Religion’s ultimate illegitimacy in relation to the greater notion of God, and the non-faithful an understanding of God as a truly postmodern concept, given temporary symbolic form in the shape of crosses or Pumpkin Man himself, but unlimited in its capability of shifting its meanings and implications. Religion is shown to be a stabilizing force, while God becomes an unknowable one. Yockey, for his part, has no illusions about religion:
“Religion is powerful for changing behavior and mindset. However, religion is incapable of changing a person spiritually, and it cannot help a person reach God. I can say with certainty that I have reached God. I know him. But, that’s not because of religion. It’s because of relationship. “
The renewal of Religion is the understanding that it is not necessary; all is seen to be rhetoric.
“You Have Tampered in My Domain!”
For all this, Yockey’s work seems at first glance to espouse very conservative views of Morality, epitomized by the presence of “The Seven Deadly Enemies of Man”. The first connection one makes is to the “Seven Deadly Sins”. But Yockey does not consider this as his point:
“They are called “the seven deadly enemies of man”, which is synonymous with “the seven deadly sins”, which was inspired by the “seven deadly enemies of man” from the old Shazam comics, which were “Pride, Envy, Greed, Hatred, Laziness, Selfishness, and Injustice… That gave me the idea to make my own seven deadly sins. It’s sort of intended as a derailed list. A few of them make sense, like wrath, and greed, but most of them are absurd (how can bird, nose, eye, and age be considered sins?). It was kind of supposed to be funny.
While it is easy to pin Mouth, Wrath and Greed down (Gluttony, Wrath, and Greed — though I suppose the last two hardly warranted a pointing out — respectively) Bird, Nose, and Eye are — as Yockey points out — purely nonsensical. This is in contrast to Eye’s statement made prior to leading the demon armies to the Pumpkin Settlement: “Wrath, Bird, Greed and Age may have been deadly sins, which destroy a man’s BODY…. But us three, Eye, Nose, and Mouth are those which send a man’s soul to hell!” as well as Pumpkin Man’s statement to Crane: “Do not be concerned with the fleshly world! There is a deeper world, a spiritual world! Do not see with fleshly eyes but with spiritual eyes!”
The physical world in most modern-day Christianity (save, perhaps for gluttony, because this is America, after all) is given over to the realm of the Abject, the area to be avoided at all costs for one’s spiritual survival. But as Yockey’s comment makes clear, the senses that lead to the sins so hated in the Christian tradition belong to everyone and are not sins in and of themselves. We must remind ourselves of Yockey’s continual references to the body.
What we are inevitably led to is the contradiction inherent in Christian thought: the body is a tool for, as well as a gift from, God, and yet the body is also a tool for, and a purveyor of, Sin. Pumpkin Man implores his disciples to see with their spiritual eyes, and yet the only one who can do so is Lloyd, who has lost his own eyes, only to regain them when he is whisked to Pumpkin Heaven.
So what are we to make of this dichotomy inherent within the body? What are we to understand of the nature of material sin, as opposed to emotional and spiritual sin? I defer to Pumpkin Man himself:
I edit, but I believe that the message is not far off; though the body may produce suffering (directed towards ourselves as well as others) the ultimate manner of reconciling ourselves with such imperfect forms is to accept them. The man who denies the body is one who denies not only his own pleasures, but the suffering of others. The body, being the progenitor of laughter, allows one to understand the connection between the Divine and the Earthly. God, given his (well, in this case God’s a “he”) own awkward and gangly body is a demonstration of such bodily humor.
More interesting in this area, though, is the specter of “Age”.
Age is perhaps the strangest figures among the “Deadly Enemies”. He (though, technically, Yockey never makes Age’s gender clear) cannot be considered a “Sin” by any means, and if he is an enemy, then he is one who should rightfully win out in the end. Age, in any case, represents for Yockey, “…the unholy desire to have control over life. He fights against Zoe because she has the same desire.” We should take stock, here, of Age’s form, this being a mixture of an elderly man and a butterfly, the latter an obvious indication of death and rebirth. What this signifies is the intimate connection of the body to the sacrifice seen in Christian theology and in “Pumpkin Man” at large. To include Age in the company of Sin is to conflate the two as entirely unavoidable, part of the human experience, and thus not subject to eternal and irreconciliable condemnation. The body, in its conceptual form, is given its own death and rebirth brought about by one of this writer’s personal favorite moments in this text, Age’s death by old age.
The control over life and death, in Yockey’s work, is instead relegated to the technologizing forces in modern society, given form by that most natural signifier of modernity, the cube.
The Square Pumpkins, introduced by the Dark Pumpkin, and adopted by farmers who ultimately become “Squares” themselves, imply a twisting around of religion to suit ulterior motives. Just as Religion can serve as a veneer for corrupt politicians, technology and commercialism can be used to twist values to serve modernity. The farmers who give over to growing Square Pumpkins are the equivalent to those who would use religion to oppress or to market products. For Yockey, God and Religion are means of enhancing human experience, not denying them. So in denying the natural world, the Square Pumpkin farmers and the Dark Pumpkin (who enhances himself with cyborg attachments) deny the body, its Death and its subsequent Rebirth.
The loss of humanity is connected to the technologies that detach ourselves from human existence. The same technologies that lay claim to advertising, industrialism, war and “self-improvement”. All that denies humanity, its body, its mistakes and its imperfections lacks any connection to the Divine. Likewise, Yockey relates the Square Pumpkins, in his words, to : “Pagan Religions”. The ultimate False God in this case, then is the worship of Technology and the Material; In Yockey’s work, both deny death and the body as well as the natural world, abandoning both for dark cities and laser-shooting eyeballs. In this landscape, the image, too, (particularly the image of the self) becomes something threatening. Greed becomes an image of one’s own face (reflected in a glass, darkly) and the all-seeing Eye of Providence is a veneer for a Panoptical authority.
The image in Yockey’s work is shifting and ephemeral; his characters need not stay on an exacting and precise model (them being so easily legible) and their existence as characters and not random lines — delineated as they are in a Rodolphe Topffer scrawl — is dependent on very precarious criteria. Frequently, panels devolve into assemblages of lines, stars and stick figures, decipherable, yet difficult to pin down.
The Image, is, in a way, the final betrayer, the false idol deserving denigration. While it is used for Yockey’s purposes, it is subjugated to a Lutherian subordination towards the Word. The Image is made to move out of the way of text, and is forced to function as Word to convey its meaning. And yet, the Words in this arena would cease to function were they not connected, Mordrake-style, to the Image. Each contrasts the other, and, yet, is forced to coalesce.
“We are Going to a Better Place”
Ultimately, “Pumpkin Man” is a text that is relatively short in length, and yet, unexpectedly broad in its implications. It would seem to me that Yockey’s ultimate goal is not singularity or orderliness. Instead, he seeks duality. Pumpkin Man is both all-powerful and easily destroyed. He is a unique being formed from a commonplace object. He dies, and yet finds himself alive. The Demons seek to destroy mankind and can thrive only in conjunction with them. The Dark Pumpkin is a despicable absurdity, and a threatening presence. Yockey could have told a story where each meaning was polished and indelible. Instead, he creates chimeras.
The message is one of co-existence; not just of the harmonious but of the discordant. Using a stunted and disjointed language, he achieves a strange eloquence. The point is that nothing in this world is one in itself, not You or I, not Us and Them, not Yahweh and Lucifer. Laughter is the vehicle which allows those things to merge together so painlessly. The final separation from the Earth is a journey away from lines and borders of stark black and white, and towards planes of shifting and mixing color and light.
Yockey’s characters and their goals and motivations frequently remind me of St. Francis and his band of Proto-hippie monks, who the Saint himself referred to as “God’s Jugglers” who sought “Spiritual Joy”. As Francis was not above the use of humor (whether it was preaching to birds or claiming that his wife would be “Poverty”) I feel it fitting to close with his prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
Shit, that was awfully serious, wasn’t it?