The Things I Do For Comics – Hello, I’m Johnny Cash
Did you see the film Walk the Line but walk away thinking that it wasn’t quite preachy enough? Well, this week your prayers will be answered by this little gem:
I’d like to start off here by stating that I am not an expert in the field of Johnny Cash studies. I’ve seen the biopic Walk the Line once and I’ve seen Walk Hard about fifteen times. I’ve also read a fact here or there on the internet and (now) one wildly inaccurate comic book about his life. Now, even in my admittedly limited expertise, I can say that the phrase “Folsom Prison Blues” is never actually spoken in the song of the same title.
So right out of the gate, this book is full of shit.
So… (and let’s remember, I’m really not an expert, but I had to check since I figured a cotton-pickin’ family with only three kids seemed a bit unusual) Johnny Cash had six siblings, and his name wasn’t really Johnny. That last part I knew because it’s kind of a trivia question sort of thing. His name was J.R. and he eventually changed it when the Air Force required a proper Christian name for his registration. Nonetheless, his brother calls him “Johnny” when we lays that preachy “money doesn’t matter” bullshit on him during their bible radio party. I think what we’re supposed to take away from this is that, even if you give all of your money to someone else… say, a church for example, you’ll still be happy. Hell, maybe even happier than before, so why not give it a try?
I find it a bit strange that Johnny and his pop are shown so gleefully working on a two-man saw when such a device left him down a brother. They never do get around to mentioning the traumatic saw-related death of his brother, even though that seems to have been a pretty relevant moment according to most other sources. Instead, they focus on his relationship with God.
Pro Tip: If you’re trying to shake the notion that your religion is seated in a culture of child molestation, hire a professional proofreader and task them with spotting any double-entendres, intentional or otherwise, that may appear in your work. Keep an eye out for more of these poorly worded references to a young man’s relationship with his deity as we move along in this book!
So Johnny joins the Air Force and casually relays the news of Stalin’s death to his pal Robert Stack. Actually, that’s based on the truth, they say Cash was the first America to receive that news flash, although I would wager he did more than just share the tidbit with another dude, and I also doubt that he knew noted film and television star Robert Stack.
How cool does this comic make the Air Force seem? They chill out in radio rooms all day with their strikingly handsome commanding officers, and at night they laugh it up and write legendary songs. Also, they go fishing and get shitfaced!
Did you notice that one? That was definitely one of those accidental jokes I was talking about earlier. Listen, if you want to have a homosexual relationship with an all-powerful creator, I support you 100%, as long as you allow other gay people to get married. It’s the hypocrisy that bugs me, you know? Anyway, I’m getting off topic. What’s important here is that Johnny was too busy maintaining a healthy balance of service to his country, having a good time with friends, and having a healthy personal relationship with his God while not spending enough time praying in a room with other people. And it wasn’t about to get any easier…
Now, at this point Cash was a very successful musician. I actually find it kind of insulting that the creators of this comic think that his unlikely success in an overwhelmingly difficult line of work amounts to nothing because he doesn’t go to church enough. It’s not like he said “Fuck God and fuck my parents, I quit Christianity!”, he acknowledged the challenges set before his faith and he’s got a smile on his face. I know that if I were a hugely successful musician and Laverne and Shirley showed up in my dressing room, the lord and savior Jesus Christ would be just about the last thing on my mind. Can’t we give the guy some credit for having his heart in the right place?
NOPE. What a piece of shit, am I right? This guy passes by a church because he’s got some stupid old contractual engagement he has to attend. Is it somehow nobler to be an unemployed zealot than a hard-working family man/casual Christian? I feel way worse for Johnny Cash than I do for God in this story, you’d think that God would see how much pressure Johnny was under and cut him a break or something, but instead he just floods his life with pills. Sweet, sweet pills.
The dutch angle and the gratuitous shading on his upper lip actually make Johnny look like Joaquin Phoenix in this splash. So, that’s sort of impressive since it came out when the actor was a toddler.
At this point, the Christian reader may argue that God sends Johnny a sign in the form of a friendly family of religious Country singers. The wholesome Carters treated Johnny with kindness and in return he started trying to bang their daughter. Their heavy petting sessions in a church don’t slow Johnny down, though, and before too long he’s arrested for driving while intoxicated in the motherfucking 1960s. My grandfather used to tell wacky tales about how funny it once was when a cop pulled you over for driving your kids to the asbestos store after having a few cold ones. The cops would give you a slap on the wrist and head home to give his wife a slap on his mouth. They were simpler, more awful times and to have been arrested for DUI back then meant you were seriously fucked up.
This guy is my new favorite comic character. He stands around in the drunk tank challenging other drunks to deathmatches. He never expected Johnny Cash to wander into this arena, however, and is taken by surprise when the Man in Black (or a red shirt and yellow belt) lulls him to sleep with Christian songs.
Still, that wasn’t enough to shake Johnny off of his drinking and pill-popping. He kept at his ways until he went on an accidental vision quest (otherwise known as getting lost in a cave while hammered) and had resigned himself to dying in his geological tomb.
Now, al-fucking-though he uses basic Boy Scout skills to get himself out of this cave, he thanks God for saving him. This life-changing moment, wherein Cash once and for all devoted himself to his Lord, is purported to have happened when he was drunk and high. We, the reader, can clearly see that God had no hand in Johnny’s escape, but his drug-addled mind doesn’t realize that, and he changes his ways. Is this the message the publisher ought to be spreading?
Anyway, after his cave adventure, Johnny admitted he needed Jesus in his life, and June Carter… and her cockblocking parents… moved into his house to help him sober up! He eventually convinced June to marry him, and wore a ridiculous tuxedo.
I hope he at least let you nail her before he magically gave you a son.
So, this book was pretty shameless. I’ve read Spider-Man books published in association with Aim toothpaste that were more subtle about trying to sell something to the reader. I know that Johnny Cash was, in fact, a religious dude but I think that there’s more of an arc to the story if he isn’t always thinking about God while he’s partying and sinning. If this book is intended to coach line-straddling Christians back to the church, I suppose it could be very effective. But if it’s supposed to sway people who have entirely written off the possibility of a life devoted to the Christ-child, I think they may have missed the mark. Although, it may have persuaded me to join the Air Force, now that I think about it.
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Posted on January 29, 2015, in COMICS!, Reviews, The Things I Do For Comics and tagged Christ, COMICS!, Johnny Cash, Music, Spire Christian Comics, The Man In Black, The Things I Do For Comics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.