On April 23rd, The Metro Times posted the following drawings submitted by reader Joseph Goeddeke. The drawings, credited to a Clifton Harvey, were found in a soon-to-be demolished residence in Detroit. Though the drawings are dated "12/79", the social commentary depicted in some the drawings are simply timeless. We here at Esotericana wanted to take a deeper look into these unearthed illustrations.
The first drawing reminds us of Hieroynomous Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" and the figure drawings reminiscent of Henry Darger's "Vivian Girls" - influences the Metro Times were smart to incite -Though there's something deeply disturbing, yet whimsical, going on with Harvey's depiction of Satan. Until now, we have had yet to see a snake-necked and armed, troll-nosed, goblin handed Satan. Truly original, though if I could see the drawing in person I would probably find Satan's mouth full of humans (Judus/Brutus?) - the only reference to a widely known depiction: Dante's. In fact, the rest of pencil illustration is flush with different renderings of Hell's punishments that seem rooted in Dante's Inferno. But, a closer look gives us a more harrowing run-down of the post Vietnam era: Jimmy Carter's Joker-esqe visage at the base of a brothel, a gun igniting to a target off page (Jimmy's?) amidst a pill abuser (overdose) and the all too familiar gas mogul. Zooming in brings the real treat here with the obscured dumpster (trashcan) baby and old woman mugging hard to make out initially. Flushing out the lower right portion of the hellscape sketch is the cross burning KKK (seemingly making use of the hellfire for their absurd ritual) on top of back-alley depictions of homeless men scourging for bottles, a wonderfully literal back-stabbing and the proverbial little devil overseeing a terraformed pit. Oh and let us not forget the William Blake-esque frown cloud that seems a little disappointed in us voyeurs.
Upon first glance one might assume this a rambling of a teenage Satanist, a testament to his dark lord. BUT, upon further inspection this is simply a scene depicting one of those proverbial little devil's addressing the Three-Horned-Goblin-Mugged-Sad-Satan. Its interesting to note that things aren't looking good for Hell's overlord with the humans above turning to the good book instead of Hell's inviting Jimmy Carter brothels in the previous sketch. And satan is so pissed, he's imagining a snake-tailed-dragon-sasquatch proclaiming "DEATH (TO) THEM ALL".
Sad-Satan is pissed by Jesus' announcement. Seems he went all MegaZord and morphed into a six-headed dragon exclaiming "NEVER AGAIN WILL I BE DEFEATED BY THE LIKES OF CHRIST!"
In this more cartoon/comic strip styled rendering, we'll title "THE COST OF LIVING", Harvey is quick to turn the acid belched sketch into political commentary. The president (seemingly faceless - a timelessness testament) proclaim's the government's proposed spending cuts, cuts that wouldn't affect the rich, of course, and as this becomes clear - the commander-in-chief mutates to the three-horned-thief, or Sad-Satan as we've come to know him. Yet, Sad he is not, not anymore, as he is tummy tickled at the President's announcement and Hell seems to be in order. Its interesting to note these drawings were found in an abandoned dwelling amidst the economically devastated Detroit. Though these are dated in 1979, the harrowing future seems to be very apparent to Harvey. Soothsaying or not, this is a somber reminder of the cyclical nature of time.
Its interesting to think what a menacing threat the KKK was viewed in the late 70s. Pawns of Satan? No, just backyard idiots with guns.
This one is a head scratcher. It appears to be insinuating that Satan ignites racism, while also depicting dark skinned men playing dice. We appreciate the stance taken in the illustration - that racism is evil - because, for lack of a better term, it is - though the intentions are nice, the double standard portrayed here is hard to digest. This might help us infer how socially conscious the illustrator actually is. Perhaps not a touched and god-fearing man but a well intentioned god fearing boy was behind these.
Another wonderful myriad of Satan's triumphs displayed: Joblessness (due to inflation), KKK members hailing Satan, what seems to be a white man and a black man in fisticuffs, a jailed person, someone finding their lover in bed with another and aimed to kill, and soldiers at war. Aside from all the KKK imagery (we find them completely irrelevant as a threat or group deserving of our attention) the terror displayed here is unnerving because it’s reasonable. In 1979 or in 2015, we Americans, especially those of us in the Motor City, face unemployment, the threat of war, racism (still!), theft, murder, and all of the "earthly delights" so terribly and unreasonably true. This cartoon cautionary tale reads well as a Jehovah's Witness Comic Book. As a way to reach youth about the ills of man, and Satan's dastardly deeds, the church could certainly use this artistic form to their advantage.
-Keats Ross is a writer, musician, and paranormal detective from Portland, Oregon. For more, check out his latest project We, The Hollowed.