The Greatest Artist Of Our Generation (Is F@*$%*# Bonkers)

I usually reserve my online writing to rants about gaming, pop culture, or comic books. On rare occasion these three can intersect in delightful ways; like that time we discovered the evangelical publication designed to warn the faithful about the evils of D&D. Usually when that happens I gush about it like someone’s confused yet delighted father who just learned how to use the dog-face filter.

Other times these three circles of geekdom overlap in stranger, less predictable ways that horrify and confuse. This is one of those times.

What you may have gleaned from our aquatic friend here is that the artist, Joel Harris of Deviantart (jharris) has found his calling in life. And like most people who discover their true purpose, Joel has gone all-in.

Take a glance at his deviant art page and you’ll find hundreds of paintings and illustrations. Go far back enough and you’ll see classic comic-book style sketches, portraits, and ink drawings. But the one series that stands head-and-fins above the rest are his manatees.

So, so many manatees. Manatees in superhero garb as far as the eye can see. DC Universe manatees. Marvel Comics manatees. Star Wars manatees. All lovingly painted in colorful, intricate detail. If jharris had painted these 30 years ago, we’d have a Manatee Hero Team instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I like to imagine the artist sending hero-manatee Christmas cards to the people who slighted him in the past, with some variation on the phrase “You Said I Wouldn’t Make It In The Business!”.

When I tried to find more information from his deviant profile, it simply stated (and I quote);

I was born.
I live.
Someday I will die.

And if we follow the blogspot link he provides we run into a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2012, is written by a man with the psudonym “Daddy,” and features a picture of Luke Cage delivering presents from Santa’s bag with the quote “Sweet Christmas!”

It seems when I try to scratch the surface of this mysterious manatee maker, I just fall further down the rabbit hole.

Perhaps part of the charm of this series is that it’s completely non-aggressive. I’ve seen hipsters on pintrist do similar nonsensical pop-culture blends. But instead of stepping back and letting the internet enjoy what they’ve created, they have to comment about the wild randomness of their own work, like they didn’t know what they were creating until it stood up from the lab table and started harassing villagers. Works like these are usually self-aware to the point of smugness. Whereas jharris and his manatees are comfortable existing, while the collective brains of the internet melt around them like an exposed nuclear site.

I really can’t express enough the fondness I feel for these sets. They’re just cute enough, strange enough, and ugly enough that they brighten my day by scrolling through them. And by ugly, I mean it in the kindly lipstick-on-a-manatee way.

Did I say lipstick? Because I mean lipstick. jharris doesn’t limit himself by gender, damn it.

And in case you were wondering if you can buy these in t-shirt form, then yes. Yes you absolutely freaking can. Because god is real. And in his mind there is no logic or mercy or compassion for the human race–only manatees and a vast whistling madness.

Note: This is an unsolicited review, and I have zero connection (or permission) from the artist. So if you’d please check out his work here, and consider buying a shirt here, I bet he’d appreciate it. I know I’ll be rocking an X-Manatess print before the month is out.

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