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Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

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It’s not enough to excuse his crimes, of course, but it does help because it’s clear that there were things going on in Gein’s brain that he couldn’t deal with. But trust me, you will need a strong stomach to read this, unless of course you are one of the hardened True Crime aficionados. Gein’s well-meaning, doomed brother; their overbearing religious fanatic mother; the small-town sheriff and fire marshal, so far in over their heads; and of course, Gein himself, with his drooping eye and guileless expression, and his Mackinaw trapper’s cap with distended earflaps – so iconic that it’s become something of a shorthand for serial killers – are all so well-portrayed that they give a dark cinematic energy to the whole affair. Powell does such a good job making Plainfield just a dull little farming town in the middle of nowhere, and all the people seem nice (although we know that just because they’re “boring” doesn’t make them “nice”), so Gein’s crimes have a huge impact on them, and Powell shows that well.

First, there's the resort to classic transphobic tropes--his mother taught him that men are gross, he wanted to be a woman, when he couldn't get the courage to cut his cock off, he decided to kill women and dress in their skins.I was taught from a young age that spreading rumors was a sin, but, like many of the venial sins, there is a satisfaction to committing it. Can we say, then, that evil is a universal feature we are born with, and that there isn’t much we can do to stop it, unless we work as a society to find the deranged elements and confine them in a place where they cannot harm anybody? Like whether Gein truly was insane given that his murders, particularly the last one, Bernice Worden, shows definite premeditation, and he got away with his crimes for many years before eventually being caught.

This book delves deep into a backstory of a ruthless, overbearing mother whom young Ed worshipped despite her viciousness, as well as a violent household filled with tragedy and forced ostracism. And, with those events being truly horrific, I was interested to see how this subject matter would be handled in this genre.

I thought it would be neat to check out, because who doesn’t like a deep dive into the mind of a serial killer? It would be easy to dismiss the problem as non-existent, as too mired in the impossibility of reaching a clear answer. Even if Gein’s recollections aren’t quite what happened (memory is a tricky thing, after all), we know from other, more well documented serial killers that they’re made, not born, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Gein as his mother destroys him.

You can have all of the facts short of the omnipotence of God, but you can never actually solve anything. There might be endless tales of when, after drinking too much, we could have accidentally, quite naturally, felt the urge to discharge that amount of alcohol that was starting to stop our body from functioning properly. That title reads like a rumor—the condescending familiarity of the nickname; the un-self-conscious, casual grammar.Throwing up is something we may want to do while reading Professor Harold Schechter and Eric Powell’s graphic novel. The father dies in 1940 and a few years later Henry (perhaps killed by his brother), leaving Eddie happily alone with his mother. The few times we see Ed’s fantasy world, Powell uses harder lines and not as much shading (plus there’s a fun homage in there that I saw and was glad it was deliberate), which makes it clear that the reality inside Gein’s head was the place he wanted to be. It was actually a very captivating read (read the 200+ pages in one sitting) and one of Eric Powell's finest works. He presents side-by-side images that range from clinical and fully interpretational, and it is all evocative.

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