Foreword for Cancertown Volume 2: Blasphemous Tumours
David Hine – September 12th 2012
In volume one of Cancertown, Vince Morley, the book’s narrator and lead character, is diagnosed with Cotard’s Syndrome, also known as Walking Corpse Syndrome, a condition where a person believes they are dead, rotting away, or in milder cases, have organs missing. I once worked as a porter in a psychiatric hospital and did actually meet someone who suffered from the delusion. This woman insisted that the doctors had removed her internal organs. I’m still haunted by her mournful whimpering at mealtimes as she pushed her plate away. “It’s no good. I can’t eat it. I’ve got no stomach.” In Vince Morley’s case he’s gained an organ, a tumour in his head that gives him visions of another world – a diseased world that lies beneath the surface of what we like to think of as ‘reality’ – the world known as Cancertown.
This time round Dethan has a new art team to share his vision of hell. Graeme Howard and Peter Mason have taken up the challenge of painting us the picture we probably would have preferred not to see, and they have carried it off with flying colours (mostly bile green and fecal brown with a spattering of bloody crimson). Cy Dethan’s prose has a wonderful stream-of-consciousness profanity. I envy his talent for coming up with brilliant names for his characters. Anyone writing comics will tell you it’s next to impossible to come up with original and appropriate names, but Cy does it repeatedly: Headrush, Bugfuck, Piecemaker, Corpsegrinder, Nemesister. He even has Vince affectionately refer to the tumour in his head as Baby Meatfist. My personal favourite is Papercut – so very appropriate for a comic where the pages will draw blood if you don’t handle them carefully.
Reading this book has been quite a trip. In his foreword to the first volume, Bryan Talbot gave a warning to potential readers, and I feel compelled to do the same. Cancertown is normally only visible to those who live on the margins of society - the addicted, the homeless, the destitute, the diseased, the pathologically delusional. Cy Dethan, charming fellow that he is, has made it his mission to make that world apparent to the rest of us too. The thing is that once you see it, you’re only a step away from being sucked into Cancertown. So I’m going to repeat Bryan’s warning in the hope that you’re reading this foreword before you actually read the book. Don’t go any further. Put it back on the shelf. Throw it away. Give it to your worst enemy. Got that? Do not under any circumstances read this book…