The word monster conjures up many images. One generally thinks of terrorizing and mythical creatures like Cyclops, Godzilla or Nessy or maybe even a giant, furry, blue Disney character. But a fetus??
According to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary (and several others), “monster” refers to a fetus or an infant that is grotesquely abnormal and usually not viable. At first the association seems a bit odd and even rather cruel, but we can see how the reference is supported when we consider the rate at which children are killed in-utero after a positive test for some kind of fetal abnormality. Of course most would say that such a thing is done in the interest of avoiding the financial and emotional stress of caring for a sick child or saving the child from a life of suffering. But, if we’re being honest here, it’s also because there still exists in our world a certain level of physical revulsion, or discomfort at least, at the thought of seeing or being close to the physically handicapped.
Enter Alphonse, the hero of a new comic created to foster discussion about abortion. From the website:
Alphonse is the story of eight lives that intersect because of an attempted abortion. Why “attempted?” Because while there are no angels or demons on either side, there is definitely a monster in the middle: Alphonse. Rendered “grotesquely abnormal” by his unwitting mother’s use of controlled substances, he is both sentient and freakishly coordinated. He is also deeply wounded, twisted by fear and rage after the attempt on his life, and bent on revenge.
But violence begets violence. Alphonse is pursued even as he is pursuing, and haunted by the claim that there may be another way…
Alphonse is the brainchild (literally) of Matthew Lickona, a staff writer for the San Diego Reader, who was, according to this Catholic News Agency interview, inspired by Gary Cangemi’s “Umbert the Unborn” comic strip featuring a cute, lovable little fetus who shares pro-life wit and wisdom from inside the womb. But Alphonse is NO Umbert.
Lickona describes his character as a “living nightmare” and likens him to the Flannery O’Connor character The Misfit from her short story ‘A good Man is Hard to Find‘:
a twisted, violent soul who nonetheless bears a kind of prophetic witness, both in spite of the violence and, in a way, through it.”
I finally got my copy of the first issue of Alphonse this weekend and read it yesterday. It’s…different. Very dark, serious, a little disturbing at times, but then, so is abortion, is it not – and more so! I’ll say this much, it certainly is a creative new approach to the abortion debate, reaching out to a new and different audience.