Off Limits

When dinosaurs ruled the earth

He's a writer, musician and artist, so naturally, Denver's Gregory Hill is plagued by Life's Big Questions. Questions like: What would happen if the leader of the free world parachuted onto a desert island populated only by ravenous prehistoric beasts? In the comic "Dinosaurs Versus the President," Hill attempts to provide the answer.

"I was going to do a song called 'If I Had a Conscience, I'd Kill the President,'" explains Hill, who also performs music as left-of-center roots rocker Soapy Argyle. "But my friends told me it was stupid, that people would get indignant and angry and start freaking out with their passion. So I thought, 'Let's just make it goofy.'"

The result was "Dinosaurs," the latest installment in the Starving Magpie series that Hill created with illustrator Lucas Richards. In this silly bit of Xerox-machine allegory, after landing on Skull Island, George W. Bush challenges a group of curious stegosauruses (left) and T. rexes to a fistfight before hightailing it back to Air Force One. The twelve-page comic comes with a "handy metaphoric guide" ("Air Force One equals Penis") and alludes to everything from nuclear proliferation to cultural imperialism.

The reader is, of course, meant to root for the dinosaurs.

"I wanted to use dinosaurs because they're scary and they're big, but they're real," says Hill. "There's so much about them that we don't know, we could possibly reinvent them to fit our personal demons in modern times."

A new edition of Starving Magpie comes out whenever Hill and Lucas feel like putting it out; "Dinosaurs" is the twelfth issue in five years. The comic is part of a larger creative nest called Sparky the Dog (www.sparkythedog.com), a loose publishing and recording collective that "celebrates the music, art and words of neglected, weird and brilliant creators of anything that seems in the least bit clever." Past Sparky projects include a ten-part, full-color action comic called Captain Mistletoe and the serial Toots and Chubby, which chronicles a friendship between a squirrel and a bird.

But while that animal tale has its own civic undercurrents -- "It's about the relationship between animal species, so I think it's intensely political," Hill deadpans -- "Dinosaurs Versus the President" is the duo's first piece of bona fide propaganda. Still, the two don't expect to be counted among the great artistic election stumpers of 2004.

"We're not going to change any votes, any ideas, period," Hill says. "We're not running around with our banners at the peace rally. We're not giving money to the DNC. This is our exclamation of upsetness."

Do they feel better for having made that exclamation?

"No," Hill replies. "Because you can say bullshit, but that doesn't make the bullshit disappear."

El presidente: A familiar name is turning up on write-in ballots from the Mexican border to the Canadian line, as a Colorado congressman continues his controversial crusade against the elephant in America's living room -- el elefante - tha few other politicians will touch.

Tom Tancredo for president?

The District 6 incumbent is known as an outspoken critic of illegal immigrants and border policies that allow undocumented workers to stay in this country. That's the reason Bonnie Eggle of Cadillac, Michigan, is going for Tancredo. "He's not out searching for votes; he's getting votes from people who believe in him," says Eggle, whose only son, Kris, was murdered on the Mexican border in August 2002.

Kris Eggle, a park ranger assigned to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, was killed while assisting U.S. Border Patrol agents in apprehending Mexican drug smugglers. Today Bonnie Eggle runs a website, named for her fallen son, that focuses on border issues -- and she feels Tancredo is the only politico paying adequate attention.

Does Tom Tancredo want to be president? Quizzed about a potential candidacy, the Littleton Republican says that every senator and representative secretly dreams of the Oval Office when they look in the mirror in the morning. And if there's still no progress on immigration policies by the next campaign, Tancredo admits he might consider "putting a toe in the water" -- but only if it would advance the debate.

In the meantime, he's received calls from election boards in California, Georgia and Colorado asking whether Tancredo-for-president votes can be counted. Although he's declined so far, "it's nonetheless quite flattering," he says.

Tancredo, the grandson of Italian immigrants, is chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus. For him, reform would consist of militarizing the border by doubling the Border Patrol's force on the line or actually bringing in the military, as well as an intense crackdown on employers of illegal workers to remove the incentive for people who sneak across the border.

According to Polly Baca, executive director of the Denver-based Latin American Research and Service Agency, Tancredo's ideas have more holes than the border itself. "It's totally unrealistic, and it's a fantasy world," she says. "If Tancredo would get his wish, he'd totally destroy our economy in Colorado." This state relies on the cheap labor that Latino immigrants provide for picking crops, cooking meals and making beds for tourists, she points out.

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