Southern Bastards #16:

Moving the Goalposts

There are eerie and tempting parallels between Coach Boss and a certain American President-elect. Both are brutal, simple-minded, deeply insecure tyrants, and both have a tendency to move the goalposts and declare victory when an honest win isn’t forthcoming. As the latest issue of Southern Bastards begins, Coach Boss’s Running Rebs have lost two games in a row, and as the introductory text tells us, he isn’t about to make it three. Boss put himself in this situation, as longtime readers will remember, by alienating defensive Coach Big, a man who actually had a conscience. A conscience doesn’t bother Coach Boss — just about the only thing that seems to bother this character is feeling his grip on power and popularity ever so slightly loosen. Like all bullies, Coach Boss can dish it out, but he can’t take it. And violence is his answer to everything.

Neighbouring town Locust Fork has been beating the Rebs at their own game of late, thanks to the Reb’s crippled defense and a star wide receiver for the Locust Fork team, Theron Goode. Since Coach Boss can’t seem to win a game honestly, on the field, he naturally just turns to cheating, but his version of cheating is as ugly and petty as one could possibly imagine. Because for Coach Boss, whose ego and feelings are hurt, there can be no quarter given. Football is never simply a sport in the anthropology of this society: it’s about pride and that most southern of notions, honour. The cognitive dissonance on display here around the concept of honour is rather substantial, because what Coach Boss actually does has little or nothing do with how most people understand the meaning of the term. Then again, Boss, as other soon-to-be world leaders, acts as if the rules don’t apply to him, and gets enough people to go along with that presumption until he wins.

Another interesting development in this issue is the introduction of a new character, “Colonel” Quick McKlusky, of Locust Fork’s Lightning Auto Sales. Looking more than a little like an ageing Burt Reynolds, Colonel McKlusky is rarely seen out of his stretched yellow convertible, sports more “bling” than your average Hip Hop star, and is accompanied everywhere by a small monkey wearing a football uniform. More playful and flamboyant than Coach Boss, by the end of this issue, it’s clear that McKlusky can claim no moral high ground over his opposite number. He’s just as brutal, but with a little more style.

And further discussion would lead us deep into spoiler country (although the cover this issue gives a rather large hint of what’s in store), so we should simply note that this issue of Southern Bastards continues the traditions of this great comic by featuring literate, complex metaphors and wonderfully brutal and grotesque art. Jason Latour moves with ease between scenes of violence carried out in mobile homes (naturally) and iconic sequences set on the football field. That strange mix of old-fashioned Americana and deep, violent tribalism captures something authentic about the American experience in all of its contradictions. As the United States begins a remarkable political experiment, perhaps Southern Bastards hits upon something heartbreakingly true about how power and authority works in that country.

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Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe


A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe


A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


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