Saturday, 28 June 2014

Ass-Kissing Overture Letters From Journalists

The following letter (taken from Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004) was written by Dave Sim in response to Chris Shulgan's article in the Saturday Night magazine in November 2003.

9 February 04

Hi Chris:

I'm finally getting around to answering my mail now that Cerebus is done, having plowed through 2001 and 2002, I’m now about halfway through 2003, and here's your fax making the original inquiry about doing an interview for the Saturday Night piece and reminding me that I intended to write to you when the piece came out, win, lose or draw.

It was interesting. I’m really starting to think that there would be some value in posting on the Internet the ass-kissing overture letters I get from journalists and contrasting them with the smear pieces that end up in print. I know I’m not alone in this and it isn’t just Canadian journalism that’s at fault. I think journalists have sort of moved their scales of justice away from their finished pieces and now weigh things from the initial overture (i.e. having kissed his ass shamelessly to get the interview, in order to be balanced, I now have to kick his ass as hard as I can). It was amazing to me that you never asked me about the Astoria-based-on-Deni hallucination, just as the fact-checker (make that fact "checker") never asked either. It would have been very simple to straighten out. Likewise when the fact checker mentioned that I had gotten a good deal from my dealer on the acid. And I said, No, I didn't have a dealer – the acid was a birthday present from my brother-in-law, Deni's brother, Michael. The article comes out and it's turned into "an acquaintance". My brother-in-law is an acquaintance? I already mentioned in 298 that Cerebus was never a recipient of the wide acclaim that you attached to the publication of High Society. Hardly. The publication of High Society, because I sold them direct to fans, made me the most hated person in comics at the time. The exact opposite of wide-acclaim.

The first time that I knew I was in trouble was when you were here doing your interview and I kept wondering when you were going to ask me anything about my faith. I mean, I understood the appeal – particularly to Canadian Marxists – of disparaging me as a drug-addled misogynist. I wouldn’t expect anything more from a Canadian journalist. But, the first question you had to ask in your fax was about the “phases” in my life and, as I told you, there are only two: pre-Bible and Koran and post-Bible and Koran. Anyway, at one point you asked me about praying five times a day and asked me about the prayer. Had I written it myself? I said, Yes, I had. Then I said, it runs about ten minutes, would you like to hear it? And you said, No. I really didn’t know whether to laugh or not, but I sure felt like laughing. Oh, this is going to be a really balanced article, I thought to myself. This is going to be a gem.

Well, as I say, you lived down to my worst impressions of my fellow citizens and, so far, your article stands as the last Canadian word on Cerebus. Certainly it is, as history will now record the only Canadian word on Cerebus in a major Canadian publication prior to the actual completion of the work.

I’ve also been typing letters in response to readers for the last two weeks. I think yours is only the second Canadian letter I’ve had to answer.

So, hey. Good for your team, eh?

No hard feelings.


Anonymous said...

Of course, just because Dave wishes to recognize two phases in his life does not oblige us to do likewise.

I can see a few phases, just in his professional life: Dave the young wannabe, trying anything to become a professional cartoonist; Dave the guy writing, drawing, and co-publishing his own comic book month to month; Dave the graphic novelist, trying to craft one long story rather than an eternal monthly serial; Dave the self-publishing guru, excoriating publishers for their immorality and urging everyone to self-publish; Dave the polemicist, spewing naive rants about society, religion, world affairs, and cosmology; Dave the archivist, answering his mail and organizing his personal papers; and back to Dave the wannabe-cartoonist, trying to establish himself with new projects in a new style.

In his personal life, we can see Dave the geeky young virgin, Dave the married man, Dave the hedonistic and amoral slut, and Dave the celibate recluse.

Spiritually, we can see Dave the atheist (by his own report; he saw "something out there" before Cerebus was 20 issues old); Dave the monotheist, pretty sure the "something out there" was the God of the Christian Bible; and Dave the gnostic, practising his personal amalgam of the three Abrahamic religions.

Any other phases someone might suggest?

-- Damian T. Lloyd, ddt

Anonymous said...

Damian stop being such a butt head ! It seems like you are only here to poke fun at Dave's comments. Life is short. Lighten up. If you don't agree with what he has to say or at least find it interesting why hang around ?

Dave A. Philpott, No ddt

Kitchener Dude said...

I would advise Tim deleting any references on MoC to alleged use of substances if a North American tour is contemplated, otherwise it is likely to be aborted. Look what just happened to Nigella Lawson...

I have personally known Dave since childhood and never observed the behavior that has been hyped into media legend.

Anonymous said...

Dude: I think that horse may be out of the barn. Dave admitted in several venues he's "done way to much of just about everything", and printed photos of himself smoking weed. His drug use seems to be more than alleged.

Dave: Aw, stop it, you're hurting my feelings.

But serially, folks, I think we as readers can see Dave going through several phases in his approach to his own work. One aspect that's interesting: pre-Cerebus Dave wanted very badly to be a professional cartoonist, with less concern about what he was cartooning. After Dave and Deni decided to publish Cerebus beyond the three trial issues, he was most concerned with giving fans what they wanted so he could keep going. As he came to appreciate the sheer breadth of creative freedom that his position offered, he started to tell his readers "this is the story, take it or leave it" -- at that point becoming a capital-A Artist.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pnq

David Birdsong said...

I am quite sure that folks that knew me back in the day would not recognize me now and one very close friend from my formative years considers me a complete idiot because of my beliefs. Those closest to you fight the hardest against changes you dare to make.

In my own experience I view my history in large chunks and obviously Dave Sim does as well. It's those around us that see the fine details and prick us with them.

Anonymous said...

Ah, David, your comment suggests to me where Dave's insult above comes from! Perhaps my first sentence was too bluntly worded. I intended a statement of fact, not a slight to Dave Sim.

If you view your life in large chunks, that's your business, and good for you; nobody can say you can't or shouldn't. However, you don't get to require other people to view your life similarly; we make up our own minds. That's not pricking you; that's a setting of terms for the purpose of discussion.

Dave said "the major development in the artwork" came when he started using Hunt 102 nibs instead of Rapidographs. That's a turning point between two phases right there. When Gerhard joined the book, that began a new phase. Surely the infamous Issue 186 is a turning point between two phases. When Dave was self-publishing's most prominent and tireless advocate was one phase, and when he ceased being that is another (he said after that fact that he always intended his campaign to be time-limited).

I listed several phases I think Dave's cartooning (and his personal and spiritual lives, but those are less interesting) can be divided into. I'm still interested in anyone's thoughts about the phases of Dave's creativity -- not the plot of Cerebus, but Dave's changing and evolving approaches to the artistic and business challenges confronting him and the comics industry at large. I think there's value in that. If you disagree -- well, I'll still think I'm right and you're wrong, but that's not pricking you.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, bds

David Birdsong said...

You know wut? It sucks when you change and no one seems to want to let you do it. You make some good points Damian, but you can't blame Dave or his more lock-step fans for not being jazzed about your attention to detail. Who wants to have all their "phases" dissected and inconsistencies pointed out especially when they have become, even if in their own eyes, a better person or, dare I say, the man God wants them to be? And oh yeah, man o man, I know Dave Sim has opened himself right on up by living his life in public (well, comic book public). Some folk ain't gonna like your style, but I think this blog is better with you on it because it is certainly better than dead silence.