by Ono One (deleted)
I am puzzled that people who claim to enjoy Pictures for Sad Children misinterpreted and were offended by this.
I think he's for real. He might not be. If he isn't, I am. I especially resonate with:
"emotion and perception are rides that you go on, and the actual "you" is experiencing these rides from an enjoyable perspective."
So now I see the truth, maybe I'll stop being so depressed.
Thank you John, for this, and the creations that you share.
Wow. What happened in here?
Here is a comic made by John Campbell: http://archive.picturesforsadchildren.com/208/
It features characters making absurd statements in a world that is a joke, a world where everything is perfect for everyone. It contains an indication in its last two panels that there exists a world that is the opposite of perfect, and that world is probably the real one which we inhabit.
The above post is written by a character, fake John Campbell, in a world that is a joke, a world where there exists a vast conspiracy of artists pretending to be depressed in order to entertain a target audience. This is a very silly notion. It is an absurd idea that reflects, much like the comic, that the truth is the opposite, that we exist in a world where creative work not infrequently functions as an outlet for depressed persons to communicate their feelings to others. Almost every sentence in the above post contains a tremendous absurdity of the fictional world presented.
This post and the bizarre internet reaction make me think of a few lines from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which fans of Mr. Campbell's work will recall he made a comic about in the early days of pfsc. In the archive, it's pages 31 through 44.
"There will be time, there will be time/To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;"
"And turning toward the window, should say:/'That is not it at all,/That is not what I meant, at all.'"
I don't get it I don't get it I don't get it I don't understand anything anymore.
Many people are claiming this to be satire, and considering the author, that would by default be the more likely option. Yet, this does not feel like satire, and especially not like pfsc's obviously absurd kind of humor.
Lately I've been thinking about 'the responsibilities of an artist'. Art plays an important role in how people see the world, and as an artist you can change people's perspectives for the better or for the worse. With that in mind, the second paragraph more than makes sense from the perspective of someone who truly believes 'depression' as a disorder rather than a state caused by circumstances does not exist. There are many things that are considered by general knowledge to be true, while they only 'are true' because people believe they are. If 'depression' as a disorder does not exist, it would make sense for somebody to regret propagating this escapist behavior.
(As an aside, and feel free to flame me for this, in the search for the truth around this article I've encountered some examples of 'I have depression' that only reinforce the notion of 'depression' as a disorder not existing; people who simply blame their unhappiness on something that 'just is like that' rather than trying to figure out what makes them unhappy. As someone who has had extended periods of non-depression and depression and who's seen psychology applied in practice (been diagnosed with shit; symptoms are vague to say the least and anybody I've met with the same diagnosis is radically different even in the aspects of the diagnosis), and as someone who's 'struggling with depression' right now, I can't help but call bullshit on the whole 'depression as something you can't get over' thing. I am currently (and have for the last three months been) feeling rather apathetic, wanting to do things but unable to bring myself to do anything, and not enjoying things I should enjoy. Throughout the periods of depression and nondepression in my life, I've noticed that this state is something very complicated and not solvable through common knowledge. To be more specific - 'what makes us happy' is not related to the state of unhappiness we call depression. 'Depression', the state, which I do not believe to be some kind of "disease", is something that occurs even in a situation - no, ESPECIALLY in a situation where we have everything we desire. I fit all of the symptoms of what people describe as "struggling with depression", but I've noticed the occurrence of this state has a very definite pattern depending on situational factors. It's not something you're just afflicted with and can't do anything about. The feeling of powerlessness makes you powerless, but that does not mean there's no solution you've just become blinded to.)
Paragraph #8 ("Each of my comics can be read from a "depressed" perspective and...") also makes sense from the 'serious post' perspective. pfsc is, at the same time, 'depressing' and funny. It's both serious and tongue-in-cheek. It's the beauty of absurdism - similiar to black comedy (though radically different in execution) it makes people think about things by not treating them seriously. Again, as I described in my comment on paragraph #2, the last sentence here can be a serious consideration of the effects of groupthink and our definition of 'depression'.
Finally, he concludes with 100% serious information regarding the current state of the kickstarter. If this is satire, why would you do this and both purposely make it more difficult for people to recognize the satire (leading to more people missing the point) and weaken the authencity/seriousness of the information you're trying to convey (the actual update)?
On the other hand, people claiming this to be satire do have a point. The first hint is, of course, the writer himself; I have never seen him post anything serious, and it would make sense to assume such a controversial-sounding post can only be satire.
As can be seen from the backlash, depressed people can feel hurt by people claiming they're only pretending to be depressed. This post may be john's way of coping with this, making fun of those who underestimate depression.
The writing itself also seems to be exaggerated in places. "My most prominent regret" sounds like a line only a character in fiction would say/write, "these sad and unnecessary cases" also sounds very cheesy, "believe it is my calling to be the first", "At an early age I noticed", "the more confused I got. Was I communicating incorrectly?", all examples of lines that could go straight into a parody. As I've never seen john write in a non-pfsc way, there's no way to tell if those are just the quirks of his writing style or whether these are just to point out 'dudes, I'm just writing utter bullshit here'.
The real kicker, though, comes at "I got more and more exhausted with acting unhappy and withdrew from the majority of my friends. I spent a great deal of time alone and extremely happy". (I personally initially misread this as saying 'extremely unhappy') Either this is something with a significant untold context, or it just makes no sense. Withdrawing from your friends and being alone are things stereotypically associated with being unhappy, not being happy, especially when taken as a result from an escalating problem. It's hard to interpret this as anything but a parody of a problem that does isolate you and make you unhappy.
I'm not sure what to believe anymore. The suicide comic from earlier could swing either way; either he was unhappy faking depression or he was unhappy about being accused of faking depression. The post could be serious or it could be satirical, and it would make good points either way. This post could be an interesting article on depression, it could be a badly written satirical piece that fails to inform readers of its point, or it could be a brilliant satirical piece meant to confuse readers.
Whatever it is, if your intention was to make people talk about the subject, you've done a damn fine job at it.
This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.
Here's how I understand the flow of events:
1. Campbell composed the satirical piece above.as a response to those who believe you can "just get over" depression.
2. He posted the aforementioned satirical piece as a KS update, probably figuring that A.) KS pledgers were fans and B. ) fans would grasp his sensibility enough to get the joke.
3. Some folks had trouble getting past the first paragraph or so, made some angry assumptions about the piece, and took to their Tumblrs and Twitters to howl.
4. Probably surprised and amused by this development (given the original intent of the piece), Campbell, rather than posting some kind of clarifying comment, posted an unlikely list of "creatives" who supposedly contacted him out of solidarity.
Basically, author writes satire, credulous people get enraged, author begins trolling. :)
Re: the Tumblr post about "creatives" who've allegedly faked depression for whatever reason: Jerry Holkins and Scott Kurtz, for real? Jerry had me good, but Scott always just seemed awkward to me.
I don't even know what's going on so I'll just call bullshit and hide in my room.
This caused quite the tumblr storm. As Angel said, shame on all of you. I just want the book to be delivered by ghost train.
This would make a good comic.
I am really sad that so many of you don't understand what it is to fake depression. You're just hurling abuse at this poor man, after he bared his soul for you like this. Fake depression is a real disease, and I can't believe how heartless, cruel and relentless most of you have been. Cut the man some slack. It's not his fault that he's happy, and he needs our support in order to get better.
Shame on you, people. Shame on you.
I call BS. I think he's faking an apology for profit. He's an admitted liar, why would we believe him? :-O
(This is my wry voice.)
I feel used!
Na, just faking it. That's the best thing I've read in a long time, and I'm so glad to hear someone say it. I always feel I'm doing something wrong that I don't share the same deep emotional drives some other artists do, even though I know it's 85% a matter of chic. Glad to see this fortified from another perspective.
So dude, when's the book coming?
I, like many others, didn't read your comics or back your book because we thought you were depressed. Even your readers may not be depressed (though some certainly are). Your work conveys a certain detachment and absurdity, as others have said, that I think we all can see in the world and ourselves no matter what we're feeling and why.
But I'm glad you're not actually depressed (even though I never thought you were supposed to be). That's an awful thing for anyone to deal with.
@Tom Smith: John didn't say that depression is a fake thing. He's saying that a cynical, detached view of his comics would chime with a perception that 'depression' is a set of behavioural norms that can be learned and applied, much like he says he did. The irony is that the 'self-loving' attitude described is the one that has no natural empathy ("their values are different to ours — this comes out via their appearance and behaviour"). He's apologising for what he believes is the fact that the comics perpetuate that kind of attitude.
I've always enjoyed different degrees of Pictures for Sad Children. Many of the comics deal with absurdity, and at some indeterminate point collapse into the subjective: the world is only absurd because the protagonist fails to understand it. Gauging other people's immediate reaction — specifically, when and how they laugh in the reading — has always been a wonderful thing to observe. Some of the comics are incredibly well observed — I've felt like that! Nobody's expressed that detachment better! Other times I find them stupidly hilarious — nothing could ever be so bleak! The human mind collapses into absurdity! …but it's most often a subtle and varriegated mix of the two, besides other elements. So I've had profound enjoyment, on all sorts of levels, of John's comics both because I feel I can relate to the bleakness of the worldviews expressed and the hopeless alienated fatalism of the protagonists, but also because they're just hilariously absurd. And realising how hilariously absurd your own mind can be is a wonderful tool for insight and self-betterment as well as devilishly good light relief.
There is a common disease in 'outsider' art fandom whereby the appreciator doesn't have a deep love of the work itself, but instead displays a zealous support of the work under the bizarre notion that they 'connect' personally and intimately with the artist. The fact that these people will often find in conversation that their understanding of the work is not half as deep or appreciative as others should set alarm bells ringing. Regardless, you should keep the two separate: I have been profoundly affected by these comics and no revelations as to the artist behind them is going to qualitatively alter those deep impressions. I have never known John Campbell, now I've read the single longest tract of written text of his I've ever seen, which, like all his work, seems both hilarious and deeply tragic all at once.
@The indignant betrayed: What John has done here is very interesting in that it gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process, which destroys a certain mystery or certainty for a lot of people — and such was likely not desirable to most. You must appreciate, though, that the value of art is entirely in your own perception. It is the ultimate self-betrayal to convince yourself you no longer appreciate art after discovering a factual detail about the implicit values of its creation. Caravaggio does not get shit when you stop believing Christ is the Lord.
For more insight into the nature of art, sincerity, authenticity and appreciation, I highly recommend this very short story by the unjustly unknown Swede Hjalmar Söderberg, a Sketch in Indian Ink:
I want this to be a foreword in one of the books.
@Alex Kerfoot: That seems to be the only logical guess at this point. Everyone must be kidding.
do what you gotta do, john. looking forward to when it's done.
John I am Excited for this Book so Hard you don't even know =v
tl;dr. i see fonzie on waterskis. what button do i click to stop getting these updates?
I really do not care whether you are/were depressed or not!
Because your work is QUALITY.
I'm just glad you're capitalizing your first-person pronouns now. In seriousness, I always thought you were just theming on the perception of helplessness, I never translated that theme as an indicator of your own mindset. That may just be thick-headed of me.
I was wondering what was going on with the book, but I figured you were just as slow to meet your commitments as I usually am. Hard to judge someone else for apparently having the same flaw that I have.
This is why I gave you money.
Sorry I meant 'can't pick up...'
I find it odd that people who consistently follow a comic with humor as dry as PFSC can pick up on when the author of said comic is making a deadpan joke.
I thought it was funny, but I think I would have preferred a comic as an update instead. I'm afraid you just accidentally pissed off a lot of your readers. I still love you though... Hooray?
This is brilliant. You're brilliant. Keep up the good work! Looking forward to the book.
At first I was like "I don't even", but then I remembered it's john campbell.
At any rate, although an artist/writer in some sense of the terms and diagnosed with depression about seven years ago, I'm sure the the whole "depressed artistic type" paradigm (is it still a paradigm if it's gone on forever?) doesn't help my own perception of it.
Why am I saying this? This is all a farce. I shouldn't be on the internet when tired.
If you expect the author to express his actual opinion, you've come to the wrong place. I've ebeen reading John Campbell's stuff for years, and I have never known him to say anything serious, sincere, or honest about himself. I take everything he says as a fiction, always. When he writes, he's always pretending to be someone, but in a kind of obvious way. Does that make sense ?
This thing he just wrote is no more true, no more sincere than the previous update about a ghost train. It's a story about some insensitive asshole who pretends to be depressed and refuses to see the actual depressed people around him. Or maybe it's the story about a guy lying to himself and being in denial about his own depression, and also everybody else's.
A comment from john would be nice at this point.
Now I am just kind of hoping that all these other people are in on it? Am I breaking kayfabe? What is going on...
Ah, one important part I forgot to add, it matches up with the 'suicide from ferris wheel via noose, gun and bomb' comic (part 2), which has a secret panel where the character says 'but i faked being depressed for so long'. Artists tend to express themselves through their art, all the more so if the art is abstract and/or silly (so you can say whatever you want to say and still have nobody asking you about it). He did a similar thing right after the Kickstarter (the 'success' comic) where he expressed his surprise at how much people pledged for the Kickstarter.
I had expected the post to be tongue-in-cheek when I started reading it, but it really doesn't feel like it this time. The tone of the post feels truly serious, and he is making a valid point with the 'culture of depression'. Furthermore, he even linked this kickstarter update from the pfsc front page (which he notably didn't do with the first update) and he retweeted a tweet from someone who emphasized with him - I doubt he's just making fun of someone who 'fell for it'.
This is the first time I've been so confused my brain overloaded and set to sincere. I'm completely stumped as to whether it is. In conclusion fantastic work.
@Chris Anthemum You're not alone. But it seems like maybe we are the only two?
am i the only person that realizes that this is extreme sarcasm, likely pointed at people who suggested that this is what he is doing - "pretending to be depressed" - rather than actually being paralyzed by it?
"I got more and more exhausted with acting unhappy and withdrew from the majority of my friends. I spent a great deal of time alone and extremely happy."
We can all agree that this doesn't change how awesome the comics are. You could still continue to write comics that "feel" depressed like PFSC does and I don't think that would be artistically dishonest - you don't have to be in a state of depression to write depressed/depressing comics.
It seems to me that the point you drew attention to first is the important one, which I take to mean that by pretending to be personally depressed (like in interviews, in your Kickstarter description, blog posts, whatever) you feel like you're contributing to it being "cool" to act depressed and preventing people from actually dealing with any emotional issues they may have because to do so would be to damage their conception of their identity as an artist. That's how I read what you said.
And if that's what you meant: I agree. It's good to recognize this and write it out like this, and it takes a lot of guts to say this on a bunch of levels. People just expect you to be funny or sad, and you're breaking their expectation and inviting people to make fun of you for taking yourself too seriously - or for having taken yourself so seriously in the past that you felt like you had to put on an act to be an artist or something.
I really appreciate this post, and am really looking forward to your work now that you've cleared your head, be it PFSC or something else entirely.
Like most of the people who paid money, I do not know you and would not pretend to know what you are really feeling when drawing this comic.
The reason I gave my money was that I like this comic, not because I assumed the person drawing it is depressed.
I do not feel deceived, and you should not feel guilty because you have made a profit.
Oh, before this thing explodes into a shitstorm, what I think he tried to say is that clinical depression/major depressive disorder/any kind of 'depression that's just due to your brain being fucked' is bullshit, not depression (the sensation of feeling like shit, possibly for an extended period) itself; that depression is caused by your life being shit and you need to find and solve the problems that make your life shit, not just accept that you 'just have depression' and it's something you just have to live with.
Though if that's what you were disagreeing about, flame away.
Huh, that's one confusing post. I didn't expect 'you as creator of pfsc' to type up such a direct and serious post like that.
I don't really get what the problem is about all this, to be honest. Pretending you're something you aren't for artistic reasons is pretty common; especially among musicians there are many who have a persona they use with any kind of music-related communication (performances, interviews, etc), generally completely different from who they really are.
'Deception' is a very subjective term. Depending on how you look at it, all art is deception; images are mere pixels, lines, brush strokes etc intended to trick the mind into believing something is there. Stories allow the reader to witness something that has not happened. I funded this kickstarter to be deceived like that.
I gave you money because your art is interesting and entertaining. You made something awesome, and that's not something to be sorry for.
hey yo depression is real what that fuck dude c'mon
Just because YOU were pretending to be depressed doesn't mean depression is 'not a "real" experience.'
That's a ridiculous thing to say.
Whether depressed or happy or just ok I've enjoyed your comics deeply.
While in hospital a nurse told me, after I made a very inappropriate joke about the circumstances at which I arrived there, that the patients that get better and don't return are the ones with a dark sense of humor. Your comic has only ever helped me.
This update alone was worth my pledge.
Honestly, I kind of read your comments with that dual perspective anyway, so it don't make me no difference.
weirdest kickstarter update ever
You are still awesome.
I agree with Christina.
I don't care. Ship the book!
You're pretty good at faking, but it doesn't really matter to me. I have enjoyed your comics while depressed and I still love them now that I'm happy, and I'm glad to have backed this.