nature vs humans

I do believe we are inherently self-interest driven creatures. But I don’t believe that our self-interests are inherently evil ones as many argue. I believe we have one main self-interest and that is the desire to be loved. Loved by ourselves and loved by others. If this basic self-interest is unfulfilled evil is its replacement.
—  A Thought Stopped Short by Nicholas Browne 
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How does the SPN 9x16 episode “Blade Runners” relate to the famous Ridley Scott film Blade Runner (1982) thematically, you ask…

Spoilers for Blade Runners and Blade Runner!

Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, an assassin who specialises in hunting down rogue cyborgs in a dystopian future (stylistically, heavily influenced by the film noir of the 1940s). They appear human except under detailed testing, and are known as replicants.

Sean Young plays Rachel, a replicant who does not know she is a cyborg and with whom Deckard falls in love. 

What is the nature of being human?

That is the central existential question at the heart of the narrative.

Rachel's memories of childhood may be implanted, but she feels, bleeds, loves, just the way someone born human would do. Why, the audience comes to ask, should she be treated as a “thing”?

Crowley is “becoming human” thanks to his human blood addiction this episode, acquired when Sam performed the “curing a demon” exorcism on him in the church at the end of Season 8. We see the King of Hell experiencing sentimentality, attraction and attachment in 9x16.

Note that this is explicitly paralleled with Castiel’s journey into being human earlier in the season, when Dean makes that comparison, out loud to Sam, by the vending machine as Crowley steals candy.

 Dean, once his body takes hold of the First Blade, is, on the other hand, becoming other than human; a metaphysical killing machine.

Dean parallels Deckard (the “Blade Runner”) and, via the parallel between Crowley and Cas, Cas parallels Rachel.

Not least because of unicorns (which we will come on to). 

 What is the nature of being human vs being a demon, asks 9x16, in tandem with the human vs replicant question of Blade Runner

We see a unicorn skull in Magnus, the rogue Man of Letters’, lair. We already know Cas is associated with unicorns, thanks to Meg’s description of him as her “unicorn” in 8x17 “Goodbye Stranger. Also, the My Little Pony with wings Dean breaks his heart over as Air Supply’s "I’m All Out of Love" plays in the stolen car in 7x06 "Slash Fiction” (after Cas’ death in the lake).

In Blade Runner (the Director’s Cut) Deckard finds an origami unicorn in his apartment at the end of the film. Origami figures have been used to mark out replicants; the implication being (it is left as deliberately ambiguous) that, unbeknownst to himself, Deckard is also a replicant.

Deckard’s moral universe is turned upside down over the course of the film. He starts as a righteous law enforcer killing bad robots, then falls in love with a “robot”, starts to question the “robot”/ human divide and his role (is he a law enforcer or a murderer?), then finds out maybe he’s not as “human” as he thought (both literally and figuratively).  

Remind you of Dean Winchester at all, anyone?

Dean, whose Dad taught him to despise all supernatural creatures but who fell in love with one (Cas). Dean, who became a demon once, and is perhaps becoming one again,..

Deckard finds a unicorn; Dean will find his unicorn (Cas) too, in the end. 

Interview with Erik Nebel

(Drew Miller and Erik Nebel)

I am very excited to be posting this interview. Through viewing Erik’s comics and images for the last couple years I’ve developed much admiration for their color engineering abilities and the respect they give to their viewers. I have always felt that Erik offers us the ability to interpret these images freely. In conjunction with the tumblr ’ Our Comics, Ourselves’, Erik has generously offered some insight into their work and thought processes. (-DM)

DM

So, as you may have seen, the tumblr I’m guest-curating is about exploring the relationship between comics and identity. I like this, it’s broad and allows for all sorts of conversations. I’m not sure where you live, if you are in NYC maybe you’ve seen the art show that is in conjunction with this blog?

EN

I live in Portland, Oregon, and I haven’t seen the art show “Our Comics Ourselves” but I love the idea behind it.

DM

When I saw the show I noticed the type of comics on view were more overtly political than the ones I’m used to reading. It was refreshing. In order to expand the dialogue I think I’d like to approach this conversation from a different angle, one which is more familiar to me- through questions like these: How can concepts of identity be effectively expressed through abstract and experimental languages and processes? And how can an artist engage a viewer through ‘showing’ them something as opposed to 'telling’ them something.

EN

There is a maxim that I often hear in the narrative arts: “Show, don’t Tell”. I would change that. I would say: “Suggest, don’t Show and Tell”.
When a cartoonist is ‘Showing and Telling’, it seems like the cartoonist is presenting their views to you, but you can’t respond, you just listen. This isn’t necessarily a distinction between text-based comics and wordless comics, because you can have a wordless comic that is totally didactic and is all about ‘Showing and Telling’, rather than ‘Suggesting’. When comics are ‘Suggesting’, you the viewer actually form your own ideas about what you’re experiencing.

DM

Personally, when I begin creating a comic that exhibits an overt message I have an impulse to stop myself. It might be that I am afraid to wear my identity on my sleeve. I mean, a person’s identity can be more complicated, abstract, and might require non-verbal expression. There are things we “feel” that are difficult to describe in words, I love seeing those things manifest visually.
I thought your work would be perfect to include on the “Our Comics, Ourselves” tumblr. You don’t use words in your comics to describe what’s going on in your images, they remain purely visual and abstract. Do you have any thoughts about the effectiveness of visual abstract languages?

EN

I agree that a person’s identity is complicated and abstract and difficult to describe in words. But I also feel that words can be important in coming to terms with your sense of self. For me, ever since I started identifying as queer and using the pronouns “they/them”, I felt like my sense of self was deeply validated. My comics are a way of expressing deeper feelings of my sense of self, but the words “genderqueer” and “non-binary" also important to me when i think of who I am, and how I want other people to think of who I am.

DM

You use vibrating colors as indicators of form, specifically for referencing the human body. The colors are strong on the screen! The drawing relies much less on direct line-work, which is uncharacteristic for the medium of comics. It’s an interesting way to develop distinct forms and negative space. Can you talk about color at all?


EN

I think of color in a way that may be different from how other cartoonists think of color. Traditionally, in our popular narratives, dark colors are associated with sadness and badness and things that are primitive, and light colors are associated with goodness and happiness and things that are civilized. That’s completely racist. It’s part of binary thinking. It’s poison in our society. I’m trying to reverse those expectations with my comics.

DM

The figures in your comics always seem to be sharing with each other. Sharing bodies or body parts. The shapes become one another. The play between negative and positive spaces in your images seems to suggest different types of bodies fitting into one another, maybe male and female, or perhaps some less defined types of bodies are having relations. Can you describe what this action of exchange means for you?

EN

Yes!!!!!! You understand my comics exactly!!!! Thank you!!!!!! I want to use my art to annihilate the part of our minds that have been brainwashed by the binary thinking model that pervades our society. Like you said: sharing, fitting together, everything relating to and becoming a part of everything else; that’s the truth, that’s real. Not male vs. female. Not civilization vs. nature. Not human vs. animal. Not white vs. black. Not straight vs. queer. Those are abhorrent harmful constructs.

DM

Do you feel that the Internet, specifically tumblr, is the most effective way to share your work?


EN

So far, yes.

DM

You’ve developed quite a strong and supportive community this way, right?

EN

Yes! I’m hugely grateful.

DM

Has distributing your work in physical book form allowed for developing any similar networks?

EN

Hmmm. I don’t know about that. Having a publisher putting your comics into a book gives your work a sense of validity, so there are certain people who might take your work more seriously if it’s in a book, compared to if your comics are floating around on the internet.

DM

Aside from your online experiences do you think about other types of networking models?

EN

I wouldn’t use the word ‘networking’. I think of it more in terms of forming real relationships. You’re not forming a relationship with some one because you’re hoping that this person will connect you with some one else. You’re forming relationships because those relationships feel good, they feel right. We’re like-minded, we’re trying to accomplish things together, that’s why we connect.

DM

Cartooning has becoming an extremely effective medium for artists trying to develop expressions of personal identity… I have also been wondering about the collective identity of comics that is being created. There are so many interesting artists experimenting with the form right now, it’s growing, expanding and maturing. But in my experience I still usually have to sell people on comics and really try to convince them that there is an advanced language involved, that it is no longer a 5th-rate medium. And I’d like to think the integrity of comics will be recognized at some point. Do you ever think about the future of comics, like how the majority of people will respond to them?

EN

Wow!!! Yesssss!!! I love this question. I could probably babble on about this for hours and hours, it’s something that fires me up, the future of comics. Here’s the short version of my comics belief system: I believe comics will change the world; I believe that comics 50 years from now will look different from comics today, but they will still be essentially comics; I believe that thousands of years from now, people will look back on this period right now, and they will be fascinated by this era in comics history, this momentous time, when everything changes. It’s going to be like a cosmic lightning bolt that changes the course of human civilization, when our comics catch on, and we zap our messages into the consciousness of all the billions of young minds in this world.

DM

Thank you for being involved, your ideas are truly enlightening. I think they are extremely healthy for the progression of comics. I’m looking forward to seeing what you end up working on next! Take care Erik, I have really enjoyed this.

Drew Miller