The Johnson’s became a part of his personal mythology. The world was divided into Us and Them. In later life, any stranger who did him an act of kindness in a tight situation was a Johnson.” —William S. Burroughs
I was once known as that SUGAR in their vitamins?! persona, active in a variety of online newsgroups and mailing lists from about 1988 until sometime in 1995. I have often been asked, what does this mean? You probably already know: It was a line in a television commercial for children’s chewable vitamins which aired in the 1970’s, often during Saturday morning cartoons or after school programs.
The graphic on the left is by the Japanese manga artist Suehiro Mauro. A common reaction by most is revulsion, which amuses me, because it hardly compares to the outright violent nature of society today. Even for Mauro, it’s rather tame.
I first came across Maruo’s work in the liner notes of John Zorn’s Naked City record. Always curious about undignified bodily functions, it immediately fascinated me. The Kanji text accompanying this graphic basically translates to, “Am I dying?!” Ironically, these are the very same words I cried out, doubled over in pain, in the Summer of 1996 when I was yet to be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Today, this image holds more meaning for me than ever because some days, it sums up exactly how I feel physically.