Rags Morales, the Artist, Speaks Candidly About Life and the World
“The only thing separating Ralph from Rags is just a pen name. There is only a distinction when I’m asked a specific question about comics and I want to be thorough in my answer,” says Ralph “Rags” Morales from his home office in Pennsylvania. He is sporting a Jets sweater and 5 o’clock shadow.
At an early age, Morales moved from a Puerto Rican community in New York City to a densely populated neighborhood of Northern New Jersey, distancing himself geographically from his ethnic community but never losing his identity.
“My uncle used to harp on me about being bilingual. I’m too close to my family’s place of origin not to have an understanding of where I come from,” says Rags about being Puerto Rican-American.
While attending The Kubert School, Morales chose the pen name “Rags” due to the pressing of an art teacher. “An instructor of ours was big on us having nicknames, and the only thing I ever knew about was wanting to be published. There was a popular book at the time, Rags to Riches. Rags was a character in the book who I related to,” says Morales.
A father of four, Morales has three children with his first wife and one with his second. Morales grins about his third times’ the charm fiancee. “We have ideally one of those relationships that identifies that age really doesn’t matter. I’m pretty youthful and she’s pretty grounded so we get along pretty well,”
“I call him Rags, but that’s because I met him as a fan of his, so I just always knew him as Rags; it actually feels awkward for me to call him Ralph. Family and friends mostly call him Ralph (though some call him by his middle name of Anthony — needless to say, I like to crack cheesy jokes about him having an identity crisis,” quips Jessica Gantert about her fiance, punning his famed DC Comics graphic novel.
As Morales reclines in his office chair, speaking proudly about his family, he recalls an incident when his second child, Lorraine, was playing superhero with a bath towel tied on as a cape. “She might have been about four or five years old and was running around like maniac, bouncing from couch to couch, I was afraid she would break her neck and threatened her with a spanking, She paused, posed, and in a gravely voice said, ‘Batman doesn’t get a ‘pankin’.’”
Beyond the heart of a caring father, Morales has soul of the artist, which is often connected with the rights of the citizens and the first amendment of the United States Constitution. A self-described “conservative liberal,” Rags believes in the free market, a balance of power, freedom of speech, and most importantly, freedom of expression.
“We need to try to show a little bit of common sense and common curtsey, it’s why regulations are important. It’s important to have political foresight. Unfortunately, it’s all these crazy policies coming out of the blue, and you see what they are doing with SOPA and the NDAA…the language inside of it says ugly things,” sighs Morales.
“Let’s be honest about the American way; we have been boisterous, we have a reputation of thinking, ‘we are all that,’ why not let them think there is a cool side to us? I can understand us being cautious, but what I don’t understand is racism being done tongue-in-cheek. It comes from a black place. Corporations are not people. They do not have the ability to laugh off a racial epithet. That’s how you know they aren’t people, they don’t think like people. They are emotionless,” says Morales, frustrated by the mistreatment of the average citizen.
Morales believes that the abstract is the ultimate level of achievement, whether in art, life, or politics. It is to be efficient and so loud in that effeminacy that it exceeds all understanding of what is, what was, and what should be, opening us up to greater possibilities beyond what we have set as our limitations.
“I think we are trying to filter out our moral upbringing versus the information we receive. ‘Kirby said, I live for the questions, not for the answers’,” says Morales.
For more information on Rags Morales, visit http://www.ragsagainstthemachine.net/