In this wide-ranging and exclusive New Romanticist interview, ex-Muslim artist extraordinaire Bosch Fawstin discusses: his new graphic novel series The Infidel and its’ hero Pigman — the Jihadist’s Terrorist; the influence of Frank Miller, Alex Toth and Ayn Rand on his work; the errors of George W. Bush and his contemporaries; his appearance on the Daily Show and the solution to dealing with Islamic terrorists. Enjoy!
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who is Bosch Fawstin?
BOSCH: A life-long comic book fan whose love of heroes led him to Ayn Rand’s novels and her philosophy of Objectivism, which my own fictional heroes embody.
I decided in my mid-20’s that I would turn my love of comic books into a career and released my first graphic novel, TABLE FOR ONE in 2004. The book led to a “Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer” award nomination, as well as an “Eisner Award” nomination for “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition”.
I’m currently working on my second graphic novel, THE INFIDEL, featuring PIGMAN, the pigskin-clad, counter-jihad superhero.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Ayn Rand? Yes, I see the author of Atlas Shrugged she even makes an appearance in Table For One. What inspires you about Ayn Rand and her philosophy Objectivism in regards to your art?
BOSCH: Ayn Rand is the most fully realized artist I’ve ever come across. She wrote the truth as if her life depended on it, and she made me conscious of the fact that my favorite artists have always been the most honest. Her philosophy of Objectivism is what helps keep my life and the lives of my heroes in full intellectual engagement with reality. Its focus on what really matters helps me better recognize the unimportant and the unnecessary in my life and in my art, which is a great value in keeping my stories anchored to reality and true to themselves.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who are your influences from comics – both in writing and art?
BOSCH: Frank Miller and Alex Toth are the big two, the ones whose work most challenged me to get real serious about my writing and drawing in order to show and tell my stories in the best way I can. Miller, mainly for his writing, and Toth for his inimitable drawing and storytelling ability.
NEW ROMANTICIST: For those new to Toth, what do you recommend as your favorite?
BOSCH: When it comes to the work of Alex Toth, I find it very difficult to play favorites because when thinking of your question I had a flood of images and stories in my head. But here’s a link to a short story that he drew that really shows how singularly great he was as a comic book artist. You can imagine how I felt when, less than a week after I sent him a black and white xerox copy of Table for One, I received a handwritten post card from Alex Toth himself, praising my efforts. I had heard about his famous post cards, which were truly a work of art in and of themselves. The one thing his appreciation for my work did is to make me dig deeper to get better, which is something he did throughout his entire career.
NEW ROMANTICIST: I see some John Romita Jr. in there too – particularly in the panel with your character Killian inking his comic with his library in the background. Also, some of those characters seem reminiscent at times of Herge’s Tintin. Wasn’t Miller an Ayn Rand fan too (though by no means could one call him an Objectivist)? I remember reading that Miller was particularly influenced by her work on esthetics, The Romantic Manifesto, which I assume you have also read?
BOSCH: Definitely, I read it a number of times, and I recall that when I first heard of Rand’s influence on Miller, I felt “Of course”, after having read his work for a number of years. John Romita Jr. was my favorite penciler in comics for a good number of years, especially when he had his early runs in Amazing Spider-Man and X-men, and I still appreciate his work, but I’d love for him to draw stories that he thinks are truly worth telling because when he’s asked about his best work he goes back nearly twenty years to his collaboration with Frank Miller in Daredevil: Man Without Fear.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Miller also has been fairly vocal against the Jihadists and in his defense of Western Civilization, to the point that many of the left-leaning of those in the comic world label him a “fascist” etc., despite the fact that Miller is a defender of free speech. Are there others in the comic world with your views, and how do your views on 9/11 differ with his?
BOSCH: I do know of a number of creators in comics who understand the threat we face, but I’m not sure they’d want to associate themselves with my particular position, so they’ll go unmentioned by me. I do know that Miller intended to pit Batman against al Qaeda in a story he called “Holy Terror, Batman!”, but for whatever reasons (we can imagine what they were), Miller has now replaced Batman with his own creation, “The Fixer”. To think that Batman went from taking on Jihad to now taking on a Muslim to be his “French Batman” shines some light on why Miller’s project didn’t go through. Nonetheless I personally think Batman is not built to take on mass murderers anyway, since DC doesn’t allow him to kill, and being willing to kill is a requisite for fighting jihadists. Regarding any differing views Miller and I may have with respect to our approach in taking on this enemy, the Infidel takes on all of Islam — it’s laws, its doctrine of warfare, etc.. By contrast, from what I’ve read about Miller’s views and his project, I’ve never heard him get explicit about Islam per se, so he may just be focusing on al Qaeda. The fact that even that is considered controversial is just another sign of how far removed our culture is from where we need to be during this war.
NEW ROMANTICIST: What are your thoughts of Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen?
BOSCH: While I appreciate the craft Moore brought to Watchmen, because it must have taken a lot of thought and a lot of work to put it together the way he did, I’ve never been moved by his stories. The only time I felt there was something strong and true happening in Watchmen is when Rorschach entered the story. Not surprisingly, Rorschach was based on Steve Ditko’s Objectivist-leaning character, The Question. I think Moore tried his best to cut The Question down to size in order to characterize him as a psycho, but I think the character ended up being the most compelling in the story, despite Moore’s intent.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who did you discover first – Miller or Rand?
NEW ROMANTICIST: Have you sent a copy of The Infidel to Miller?
BOSCH: I did ask a mutual friend to pass it on to him, so I’ll wait and see what happens. I’d love to discuss taking on Jihad through comics with him, and find out exactly where our approaches differ.
NEW ROMANTICIST: What is The Infidel about?
BOSCH: The Infidel is a story about twin brothers Killian Duke and Salaam Duka, whose Muslim background comes crashing to the forefront of their lives on 9/11. Killian responds by creating a comic book featuring a pigskin-clad superhero named Pigman, who takes on Jihad. Salaam’s response is full submission to Islam. Pigman’s battle against his arch-enemy, SuperJihad, echoes the escalating conflict between the twins.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who is Pigman and how did he come about?
BOSCH: Pigman is aka Frank Warner, an ex-Muslim who, prior to 9/11, wrote and published books critical of Islam and Jihad. After the atrocity, Frank realized that he would have to take the war into his own hands when he saw Washington’s pathetic response to 9/11. The idea of Pigman came about when I started thinking about the enemy and what would be their worst nightmare personified. He’s a pigskin-clad superhero, a physically big, strong, ruthless defender of Western Civilization who fully understands the enemy and speaks his language. He is the perfect weapon against jihad.
NEW ROMANTICIST: What would you have rather seen Washington do? What do you think of those who said that Bush went “too far” in Iraq, and look what that has led to?
BOSCH: In addition to immediately bombing the mountain ranges of Afghanistan to wipe out most of al Qaeda, I would have wanted Washington to bomb Iran to show what happens to the world’s greatest state sponsor of jihad terrorism after an attack like 9/11, not to mention as a long overdue response to years of aggression against us.
George “Islam means peace” Bush, after having the green light from the American people to do whatever it took to End the threat facing us, decided to show our enemies that they can get away with mass murdering Americans if they belong to a religion. I really think Bush went after Iraq in order to avoid confronting Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two greatest threats we face in the region, which just happen to be the two most Islamic countries in the Muslim world. I think Bush’s decision to go after Saddam Hussein is because he appeared to be the least Islamic – i.e. “religious” — of our enemies in the Muslim world. And the fact that there was no love lost between Sadaam and his neighbors meant Bush could avoid Iran and Saudi Arabia without too much of a price to pay from an American public uninformed about who our greatest enemies actually are.
In the aftermath of 9/11, we needed an American president who understood that an enemy who flies planes into buildings, and a culture that celebrates that evil, would have to be dealt a devastating blow that would force it to end its jihad once and for all and begin to accept that we live in the 21st century.
NEW ROMANTICIST: How did you come about your views of Islam?
BOSCH: I was born into a Muslim family and, while my parents were not devout, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a rejection of all those outside of our own kind was the norm in my upbringing. Only after 9/11 did I read the Koran and study Islam and its jihad. I needed to know firsthand whether Islam sanctioned the atrocity and I found that it did — that however insane the act seemed to the civilized world, Islam gave the 9/11 Muslim mass murderers a moral sanction for their evil act. We are still so far removed from the realization that Islam’s heroes are its jihadists, from Mohammad to Osama bin Laden.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Wow! Leaving Islam. Doesn’t that make you an Apostate?
BOSCH: It does, and according to Islam, I’m to be killed for it. It’s similar to how deserters of armies have been dealt with by their superiors when caught, which only emphasizes the militant nature of Islam.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Well at least you are in good company. So I take it you would not put Mohammad in the same category of Jesus or Buddha?
BOSCH: Mohammad was unique among those who claimed to be prophets as he had his critics assassinated, he waged wars against neighboring tribes and spread his religion by the sword. Mohammad made the founders of other religions seem rational by comparison.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Well how would you reply to Former President George W. Bush and President Obama who say that Islam is a “religion of peace”, and that Osama and those violent Muslims are “extremists?”
BOSCH: Islam means submission, submission to the will of the malevolent Muslim God, Allah. Osama bin Laden has never been repudiated as a deviant Muslim by any honest Muslim who knows Islam. The mass-murderer Osama bin Laden is revered in the Muslim world as the closest thing to Mohammad today, which really is all one needs to know about Islam and what it truly means.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Yeah, but those moderate Muslims aren’t killing anybody. In fact you have a peaceful, moderate Muslim as a character in your comic-book. What does that make them?
BOSCH: “Moderate Muslims” aren’t Muslim in any way that Islam would recognize. The problem with them is that they give Islam a better face than it deserves, and some mistake them for Islam itself, sometimes citing a decent person who happens to be Muslim as proving that Islam’s fine, outside of its “extremists.” I’ve thought about this for a while, and I think I’ve found a good way to make my point about it: Your average Muslim is morally superior to Mohammad. They are individual human beings who may or may not be a problem. It’s Islam’s consistent practitioners, especially those who are active in Organized Islam, who are the problem.
NEW ROMANTICIST: It’s quite intriguing how you have a story within a story. You have the counter-jihad superhero, PIGMAN, whom is the fictional creation of Killian Duke, who is himself is a fictional creation by you. It works on so many layers tailored to multiple audiences. How did you come up with that idea?
BOSCH: At a certain point in putting together my ideas for the story, I thought about the fact that not only must we wage a ruthless battle against the jihadist enemy, but we also, as individuals, have to fight through the self-destructive barriers that our culture has built around us in order to dissuade anyone from taking on a project such as The Infidel. It’s as if somehow those who are most invested in these barriers think that they can protect themselves from acknowledging certain terrible truths without paying any real world consequences for it. As Ayn Rand has stated, “To fear to face an issue is to believe that the worst is true.” So the story of Pigman took on a whole new dimension for me when I decided to write about the kind of cartoonist who would create such a comic book in a world that demanded it, but that does its best to ignore the necessity for it, which made me even more interested in taking the project on.
NEW ROMANTICIST: If you could describe Pigman in one or two words what would you call him?
BOSCH: Jihadists’ Terrorist.
NEW ROMANTICIST: And would it be safe to say, given the similarities, that Killian Duke is an autobiographical version of you?
BOSCH: Yes, he is.
NEW ROMANTICIST: So how has been the response to Issue#1 of The Infidel so far?
BOSCH: The response to The Infidel #1 has been gratifying. There have been two reviews published so far, both positive. One was written by someone who disagrees with the theme of the work; one by someone who is sympathetic with it. Reader response has been as good as I could have hoped for, both from long-time comic book fans and from those for whom this may have been a first-time comic book purchase. Nearly ten years after 9/11, The Infidel #1 is the first comic that has taken on jihad in a significant way. I believe today’s pop culture has to show and tell the truth about what we are facing in the post-9/11 world; it has to bring it to the enemy the way the culture of the WWII generation did.
NEW ROMANTICIST: …and it also looks like you will be making an appearance on The John Stewart show?
BOSCH: Yes, after they read my critical comments about the “Muslim” Batman, they found out about Pigman and invited me on to discuss both in an “interview” conducted by their “Liberal Muslim”. And even though I thought the actual shoot went pretty well, who knows what will air, since their job is get as much laughter as they can from their segments. But I figured this would be a good way to get Pigman out there to a culture that has seemed to want to keep him out. The segment I’m on has been rescheduled a few times already, but it looks like it will now air either Mon. Feb. 28, but more likely Tues., March 1st. I’ll keep everyone updated about that on my blog.
NEW ROMANTICIST: So what can we expect in Issue #2?
BOSCH: The twins engage in a war of words that only makes matters worse between them, but sheds more light on who these men are. In Pigman’s world, SuperJihad makes his first strike.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Fantastic…thank you for sharing your time with us Bosch, and we hope to hear from you again.
BOSCH: I appreciate the opportunity to get the word out about my work, thank you.