By Ben Boruff
On March 22, 2005, Anna Ayala claimed that she found part of a human finger in her Wendy's chili. According to most reports, the finger seemed to be at least partially cooked. After some investigation, authorities concluded that the finger did not belong to any Wendy's employee, and the local coroner's office claimed that the finger had not been cooked in the same manner as the rest of the chili. Eventually, law enforcement discovered that the digit belonged to a co-worker of Jaime Placencia, Ayala's husband. Placencia acquired the finger from a co-worker so that Ayala could toss it into some subpar chili. After hearing this story, many questions arise: Why a finger? How does Placencia's co-worker feel about his now-infamous appendage? Why would anyone order Wendy's chili? But perhaps the most important question is this: How should I feel about Anna Ayala's willingness to use a part of a human body in this way?
This is the question I ask about Jason, the protagonist of The Living Finger. Prior to the first issue of this comic, Jason, an awkward 20-something shell of a man, finds an animate finger and puts it in a hamster cage.
Jason is creepy.
Even if readers ignore the bizarre, supernatural qualities of the comic's premise—the zombie finger, for example—they still have to deal with Jason's unsettling reaction to the detached digit (which, incidentally, he lovingly names “Wendy”). Many readers will label The Living Finger as a work of horror (or some subgenre of horror), so—if that label proves to be accurate—my only caveat is this: Jason is the monster. Or perhaps the creature of nightmare is specifically Jason’s unquestioning connection to the finger. Either way, Jason is an upsetting character. His love of the finger is closer to necrophilia than inquisitiveness. This is not a curiosity-killed-the-cat sort of story, and it is not an object-got-your-mind story like Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven or The Tell-Tale Heart. This is a story about a man who inappropriately reacts to loneliness.
Jason and Anna Ayala represent opposite ends of the spectrum of possible thoughts about detached body parts. Anna Ayala emotionally distanced herself from her severed appendage and treated it like a prop, a tool with which she attempted to scam an unsuspecting fast food franchise. Jason, on the other end of the spectrum, seems to love his disconnected finger. To be fair, Jason's finger happens to be alive, but that does not excuse his infatuation with the digit. If anything, it further disrupts our ability to empathize with him. Arguably, love is an unfitting response to severed body parts—especially if they continue to move.
Many plot-based questions remain after the last panel of this issue, but the characterization of Jason causes most of my confusion. Reactions to this protagonist come in two mutually exclusive forms: apathy or disgust. Either Jason is an empty vessel that carries the reader from moment to moment, or he is an intensely lonely sociopath who falls in love with Wendy, his pet finger. Hopefully, future issues will point us in the right direction.
The Living Finger #1
Writer: Garth Matthams
Artist: Armin Odzic
Publisher: Darby Pop Publishing