Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Top 10 List To Top All Top 10s

(from When Worlds Collide at Comic Book Resources, 5 November 2012)
...I was also surprised to realize that I hadn't ever really posted an all-time Top 10. In all my years of comic book punditry, I have done Top 10s on a variety of topics, mostly in a Best of the Year Capacity, but I've never done an overall Top 10. So here it is. The ten comics I would consider my favorites, the best, or the most significant. In alphabetical order...

When I revisited Cerebus last year [see links below] and did my sprint through the whole series, not many people were talking about Cerebus. There was that one Comics Journal piece that got me (and probably many other people) thinking about the legacy of the Dave Sim series, and a couple of online pieces around the same time as mine, but now Cerebus is part of a massive (but messy) digital rerelease and Dave Sim is publically courting (in his way) the book publishers of the world.

I wouldn't have ranked Cerebus among my all-time favorites before I did the massive reread/read last summer, though I was always particularly enamored of most of the issues between #100-150. But after rereading the whole enormous, hugely personal work, I can't stop thinking about it. It's a monument that can't be ignored, even if you don't believe in what it stands for.

Read Timothy Callahan's complete Top 10 list at When Worlds Collide and his 2011 Mega-Read here:
Cerebus Mega-Read: Begins (8 August 2011)
Cerebus Mega-Read: Completed (15 August 2011)
Cerebus Mega-Read: 16 Volumes Overview (22 August 2011)


Anonymous said...

"even if you don't believe in what it stands for"

That is what I'm talking about. It is impossible for almost anyone to write anything about Dave Sim without adding a qualifier. All he had to do was put a period after the word "ignored".

David Birdsong

M Kitchen said...

Those "qualifiers" ARE cringeworthy.

Dominick Grace said...

It is impossible for almost anyone to write anything about almost anyone without adding a qualifier. How many completely uncritical rave reviews do you see? And, more importantly, what percentage of those do you take seriously?

I grant you that Dave's work draws more qualifiers than the great work of many another creator, though I suspect that Ditko, Frank Miller, and many others also get more than their share of such qualifying remarks. However, I take the view that the number of people who DO speak of Sim's greatness DESPITE adding qualifiers speaks even more strongly to the quality of the work than would uncritical rave reviews: even many of those who find Dave's views offputting/ offensive/pick your own term (and, let's be honest here: that's a significant majority of people, certainly of the people who have read/commented on the work over the years)nevertheless find the work too great simply to write off as a result.

People who think Dave's work is great despite ... whatever could, of course, simply not speak of it at all, but then, where would Tim get material for this page?

Barry Goodridge said...

Yes, everyone feels the need to add qualifiers, but it is perfectly understandable, and not because they are scared of being ostracized in a PC world. Sim has made his personal views, which many find objectionable, an INTEGRAL part of the work in question, therefore, they CANNOT BE IGNORED! It's not like he made some random comments on twitter that are unrelated to his art. Sim knew perfectly well what the response to his writings would be and he wrote them anyways. Good for him, but his fans need to stop pretending that the reviews of his work are somehow doing him a disservice by mentioning a central thesis of his work.

Mas said...

"Sim has made his personal views, which many find objectionable, an INTEGRAL part of the work in question, therefore, they CANNOT BE IGNORED!"

Well, no, that's wrong because if society could be less, I dunno, ?judgemental?, then it wouldn't matter. If you're reading a certain book, it shouldn't be "well if this guy is reading this then he must be like x, y and z."

Michael A Battaglia said...

"It is impossible for almost anyone to write anything about almost anyone without adding a qualifier." You could just as easily say "It is impossible for almost anyone to write anything well, let alone of substance, period." You wouldn't be wrong. The reality is, the qualifier thing isn't just unoriginal, it's bad writing. I mean, it's a quaint piece, if that. The presence of the qualifiers strips it of any balls and sucks all the fire out of the remainder of the article. It's weak. It's bad writing.

Dominick Grace said...

It's not bad writing. Nor is it weak writing. What is your basis for that claim, other than your unwavering and absolute admiration for Sim?

Max Southall/CerebusTV said...

Well, folks, Tim has made it clear that A Moment of Cerebus is a fansite celebration of all things Cerebus, Dave and Gerhard - and thus is not an appropriate forum for negativity.

Tim does yeoman work making the site THE go-to site for the above, all on a volunteer basis. It's Tim's site and it's his determination alone what qualifies to be included - or excluded! Dave once made exactly that statement about Cerebus in an editorial - HIS comic, HIS choice what to publish or not - not that of the readers.

As we all know, the world wide web is vast enough to provide a forum for anyone who wishes to say just about anything they want - on their own sites.

Dominick Grace said...

I don't see your point. We're responding to a piece actually posted on this site by Tim (I assume he posted it anyway; after all, it IS his site, as you note). There's nothing negative about Dave or Cerebus in any of these responses. And, Tim can and does remove posts he doesn't want on the site. So what are you objecting to, exactly?

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Everyone,

I've got no problem with "negativity" as such, it's just the anonymous and/or uncivilised negativity I have a problem with. That said, I really don't understand what motivates the "haters". Life really is too short. Better to celebrate the things you actually do like, surely.

Despite the caveats in the above review, I liked the fact that he concludes with, "I can't stop thinking about it. It's a monument that can't be ignored"... might not have run it otherwise.

Michael A Battaglia said...

@ Dominic

I'm not suggesting the article as a whole constitutes "bad writing", I'm suggesting the need for the qualifying statement undermines whatever merit the article otherwise possesses. Here's my problem with it: the writer is saying "I'm scared of you judging me, I want you to like me, so please know that I don't agree with what this work stands for, I just think it's really great, here's why (insert unoriginal but cute content here)." I mean, come on, no thank you. I want to see gutsy writing on the subject; I want a writer with the kind of ammunition that will blow the last thought in my mind into a pulpy, red spray against the wall behind my head. I have zero interest in qualifying sentiments. I guarantee you that any writer who is capable of producing letters of substance with some amount of verve/balls would utterly agree with me.

Dominick Grace said...

With respect, I think you're reading a lot into the qualifiers and assuming a lot about what they mean. And I can guarantee YOU that not every writer "who is capable of producing letters of substance with some amount of verve/balls would utterly agree with" you.

And it's Dominick. (No anonymity here! ;-))

Michael A Battaglia said...

@ Dominick: (just to avoid coming across as "negative" (hi Max), please imagine that I'm riding on the back of a wildly grinning, sparkly unicorn with a lava lamp for a horn and a massive, triple rainbow stretching out of it's ass all the way to the horizon as I continue my end of this dialog) I don't know what I'm reading into, exactly. I was fairly blunt, bordering on simple. I think the qualifying sentiment in this context is weak, and I explained why. If you think the qualifying sentiment readily expressed by more or less everyone who attempts to write about Dave Sim has merit, or is inspired/informed by something other than what I've expressed, please explain/elaborate. I'm open minded, interested, etc.

Dominick Grace said...

It's motivated in my opinion by exactly what it says it is: an acknowledgement, on the one hand, of the writers' beliefs in the objective greatness of Cerebus as a creative work (which I share, in case you were wondering) and, on the other hand, the belief of those writers that Dave's views on women are a) so central to the work that not commenting on them is impossible (which is true) and b) their rejection of those views (which I share to some extent). No fear of being judged, no desire to be liked (or disliked), just an attempt to deal HONESTLY with what they perceive as the greatness and the limitations of the work.

This is hardly the forum for indepth or detailed exchanges. If you really want to see what I've had to say about Cerebus myself, at greater length, then read my articles in Eric's book--though I doubt they'll meet your standards for gutsi/vervi/ballsiness, since I do have a thing or two other than enthusiastic admiration to express.

If you still feel a need for gutsy/vervy/ballsy indepth writing about Cerebus, how about producing some yourself? (Yes, I've seen your blog. I would respectfully suggest that it does not meet your stated desire for gutsy/vervy/ballsy writing about Cerebus.)

Dominick Grace said...

I note, by the way, that your blog entry on Cerebus is now password protected. Is there a reason for that?

Michael A Battaglia said...

"No fear of being judged, no desire to be liked (or disliked), just an attempt to deal HONESTLY with what they perceive as the greatness and the limitations of the work."

Then it shouldn't be a qualifying sentiment. It should be worked into the article in earnest, as an important (hopefully seminal) counter view, with just as much explanation and insight offered by the subject of the article. The fact that it is a qualifier is what makes it weak. The fact that every one who writes on the subject goes about it in the same, offhanded way. I think it's wildly presumptuous to assume the rest of us give a crap, honestly. Write something real, from the heart and gut and soul, you shouldn't have to qualify your admiration.

To your second question: I have the article password protected until I finish the next installment, because I don't want readers to be left hanging; I'm a far cry from even getting started on the next installment. Password protection was the only option I had other than deleting it and re-uploading it. On a more personal note: I'm waiting for Dave to respond to a number of letters I've written him over the past four or so months, and if he doesn't respond, then it's going to be clear to me that he is choosing to avoid contact, in which case I would probably not publish the remainder of the article, and I would certainly take myself out of the dialog altogether out of respect, etc.

Dominick Grace said...

Well, I disagree about the effect of that weakness, if weakness it is. To me, the fact that such comments tend to be qualifiers, rather than central planks in the argument, in fact puts more stress on what the writers think is good about Cerebus, rather than suggesting that they think makes Cerebus problematic is too important.

Here are the options, to me:

1) Ignore what you don't like. This is a bad choice for various reasons, not least of which is intellectual dishonesty--unless, of course, there's nothing you don't like.

2) Acknowledge what you have a problem with but focus more on why you think Cerebus is great. This is intellectually honest but doesn't burden the discussion with an overemphasis on the negative.

3) Make what you have a problem with the focal point, or at any rate, an important element of your discussion. Also intellectually honest (or possibly just pissy, I suppose, depending on the overall tone), but not particularly a good approach if your primary aim is to say that Cerebus is overall great (e.g. if you're including in on your list of top ten of all time).

Michael A Battaglia said...

There's no way for us to be in agreement on this. In my view, it's either dive in and take it on or stay out of the waters. I try and put myself in Dave's shoes sometimes, and imagine what it must be like to be an artist of that kind of magnitude, and to read the type of critical response that is prevalent in this day and age (namely blogs, internet blurbs, etc.), and to constantly be confronted with these types of qualifiers as the opening to each instance/effort. I mean, it would either be maddening, disheartening or amusing, and I'm hoping for his sake that it's the latter. From my vantage it's so tiresome and dull it borders on torture to even consider the prospect of delving any further into the article after encountering the qualifying statement.

Dominick Grace said...

So, you either have to love it withiut reservation or condemn it without qualification? You're right. There IS no way for us to be in agreement.

Michael A Battaglia said...

If that's really what you think I'm saying, I can see why you'd be in disagreement. I don't agree with that idea either.

The reality is, it's still VERY (relatively) early on in the dialog, and we still obviously have a lot of growing to do, spiritually, to get to the point where the real dialog can begin here in the physical world. Let's see where we're at on the subject in 5,000 years, or even in the year 2698 (which happens to be the number portion of the captcha that I'm to enter in order to "prove I'm not a robot" to this Blogger interface). By "let's see where we're at" I don't mean you and I specifically, I mean "us", as a human race.

Dominick Grace said...

"either dive in and take it on or stay out of the waters." Hmm. What can that mean, in the context of your repeated rejection of making qualifying statements about the book? To dive in and take it on without qualifiers must logically lead either to undiluted (to continue the watery metaphor)praise or undiluted condemnation, as far as I can see.

I hope Cerebus is still being discussed in 5,000 years, but given that most art ends up forgotten about within a generation or two, how likely is anything to survive five millennia?

Michael A Battaglia said...

You have the last word, Dom. I just received a three page fax from Dave basically indicating that he would appreciate my support in the form of monetary donations but finds having to sustain any form of interaction beyond that to be "really, really, really tiring." Which, to me, is about as close to "please stop writing me because I don't want to have to write you back" as it gets. Utterly his prerogative and I have lost no respect and am not entertaining any bitterness or etc. My thoughts after reading the fax were along the lines of "don't focus on this, it's negative, just move on." I find that my own advise has become more and more reliable as I age, so I'm going to follow it. All the best.

Dominick Grace said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Michael; it must be disappointing. Nevertheless, you are wise to keep a positive focus and move on.