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Carl Panzram Portrait

































I watched a documentary about Panzram last night and that inspired me to draw this today. Something about being trapped in a windowless hotel conference room brings out the artist in me. The documentary showed pages from Panzram’s original manuscript, his biography written in pencil and smuggled out of prison. They also showed extensive clips of an interview done in ’79 with Henry Lesser, the prison guard who befriended Panzram and smuggled out the biography.

Panzram’s life story is hard to take, a brutal tale of his almost continuous abuse and torture, most of it at the hands of one prison authority or another, followed in turn by Panzram’s vicious, horribly violent crimes to pay back the score, with his rage directed at the whole human race, a miserable, hateful cycle that finally ended with him being hung for murdering a prison superintendent. Panzram’s life succinctly illustrates how hard and downright sordid life was for many people in 19th Century America. None of this, however, excuses any of the terrible crimes that he committed.

Of course, my picture is nowhere near as good as Joe Coleman’s portrait (he was all over the documentary; he’s got to be the Prussian Psycho’s biggest fan) that depicted Panzram down to every last scar and bulging veins. Then again, since I’m not Joe Coleman, that means I don’t have to dress like him. Thank G*d for that small favor.

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