Wednesday, 13 January 2016

All Careers End In Failure

Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
TOM WHITELEY:
(from Suggested For Mature Readers, 30 November 2015)
...This isn’t a good time to be putting the boot in to Dave Sim. Aged 60, he's in an increasingly desperate situation. Cerebus has gone out of print leaving him with no income from his life's work. He's remastering and reprinting that, volume by volume with the help of Kickstarters, but it's a costly process and the costs are all upfront. He's also preparing for his death by packaging his house, his original art, his notebooks and all the rest of his archives up as a trust, so it can be open to the public after he's gone. And he was continuing to work on SDOAR, which IDW were publishing as a OGN. That's on the rational side. But he's injured his hand so can no longer draw or even sign his name cutting off his only remaining income stream, and rather than accept medical opinion about how to fix it he's had an MRI scan and is crowdsourcing opinion about what to do next. Through a mix of misfortune, principled decisions and irrational, harmful decisions, he's in big trouble. The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, a story about wealthy, successful comic-strip illustrators with their big houses and sports cars and younger wives, may never be finished. Much of Cerebus could become unavailable, perhaps permanently. The idiosyncratic story of a comic-book artist who broke all the rules, who pioneered a model of publishing that arguably changed and saved the industry, could end like all the other stories of comic book artists. Life imprisonment at hard labour in solitary confinement, as Wally Wood called it, ending with your work being forgotten and your money all gone. I'd perhaps heard of Alex Raymond because of Flash Gordon, before I read Glamourpuss, but none of the others were familiar until I realised Al Williamson was the inker on the superb Ann Nocenti-John Romita Jr Daredevil run. He was in his 60s at the time, and that run was printed on toilet paper and largely remains uncollected. All political careers end in failure, they say, and really all careers end in failure but the failure at the end of careers in comics is more acute than most...

The above is a short excerpt from a longer review of Dave Sim's Glamourpuss. Full article here...

22 comments:

Jeff Seiler said...

Mr. Whitely is dead wrong on many elements of this excerpt, which has, I believe, been posted here before. Embarassingly wrong in his damning-with-faint-praise entry in the ongoing litany of "let's all pile on Sim" attacks. Thus:

A) Sim is NOT 60 years old, despite even he writing occasionally that he is. He's pushing 60 but, at the time of Whitely's post, was 59 and one-half years old. He'll be 60 on May 17 of this year. Everyone send him a birthday card.

B) Cerebus has NOT gone out of print, as a totality. Certain volumes have, and Dave has, presumably, let them do so in anticipation of remastering them. Also, Dave still gets checks from Diamond for various volumes, a certain percentage of which he always sends on to Gerhard.

C) Dave CAN still sign his name and does so, just not as rapidly as I once witnessed him do so on 50 copies of Cerebus Readers in Crisis #1, back in (mumble, mumble).

D) It is extremely unlikely that "much of Cerebus could become unavailable, perhaps permanently." Back issues still can be found in stores and are sold on Ebay regularly, as are past printings of all 16 volumes. Cerebus Zero, Cerebus World Tour, Cerebus Not The World Tour, and Free Cerebus are harder to find, but are available. Oh, and, if you're willing to contact Wes Hagen, at Warehouse of Wonders, you can probably get over two-thirds of the entire series, *for free*! (Plus shipping.)

E) Wally Wood and his work are not forgotten. Neither will Dave's work OR money ever be gone in his lifetime, or after. Subsequently, don't forget that the Cerebus Foundation will be funded, in part, by Dave's hefty life insurance policy AND the mysterious Mr. J's bequeathal.

So, Mr. Whitely, crawl back whence you came and cease your baseless defamation.

Jeff Seiler said...

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. His name is spelled Whiteley.

Sorry.

Sandeep Atwal said...

I think that if I ever read an article about Sim that was accurate, my head would explode. The point of articles like these is to bitch and moan about Sim. That's why they get so many things wrong, because the conclusion is reached well before the article is even written. Dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.

iestyn said...

I don't know why I'm going to say this, but today I just feel like I should speak up about things I find frustrating...

And I don't mean - have a go at other people. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and to express them however they want - I guess, sometimes it's worth a third party commenting because they can see things another way.

To put it more clearly - I'm not having a pop at anyone, I just think that I should speak up and give an outsiders perspective.

Quite often - any kind of comment about Dave or his work that raises objections to his opinions, or points out that some things he chooses to do seem counterproductive - is met with passive aggressive 'see everybody still hates Dave' and defensive nitpicking and flummery.

I think it's fair to allow that Dave's opinions do offend many, that Dave's choices are complicating an already difficult situation.

For example, Jeff and Sandeep's reactions are a little extreme in context of the article and what it has to say about Dave and Cerebus and Glamourpuss.

At heart, the excerpt and the article are positive about Dave's work and Dave's contribution to comics history. The comments about Dave's situation clearly draw upon a reading of this site and are meant to point out that Dave is in a difficult place in his life - something I'm sure he would not disagree with. To put it another way - they are there to elicit sympathy in the audience, not to mock or defame.

Your points about his age are nit-picking as the comments are clearly meant as broad brush statements, not an in-depth analysis of Dave and his current life. Equally, drawing attention to Dave's financial situation as similar to many of his contemporaries and the fate of their work as potentially disappearing into obscurity are not attacks, they are expressions of concern.

I think sometimes its better to correct politely and respectfully disagree rather than throw around accusations of defamation where an article is pointing out that Dave is a master storyteller who has twice managed to start riffing on a subject and eventually pull together a significant story. Otherwise your always feeding on the 'deadly insults' and never the 'healthy respect'.

iestyn

Erick said...

I liked the recap of glamorpuss and sdoar, which i confess i never read one word of either because neither was of interest to me.
i may give sdoar a chance though

iestyn said...

See - the review has already made somebody sit up and consider reading SDOAR.

Dave Sim said...

Hi Jeff, Thanks for the phone message about this. No big crisis, I don't think. Mostly wishful thinking: "maybe if we write a Wally Wood ending to Dave Sim's life, Dave Sim will have an actual Wally Wood ending"

Sandeep told me about the review and -- benefit of the doubt (let's suppose the purpose of the review was a review and not a Feminist Theocracy smear) -- I told him to send the guy an e-mail telling him I'd be happy to send him an autographed personalized copy of glamourpuss #1. Which Sandeep did. Didn't hear from him. Didn't expect to.

As you can see actual Dave Sim supporters are EXTREMELY rare. My suggestion to anyone who wants to help in this area is to do what Sandeep is doing: Google search "Dave Sim" and "Cerebus" and when you find a smear piece like this, just politely correct all the misinformation, tell them I'm happy to send them an autographed personalized comic book, give them my phone number fax number and address.

Most Internet people are cowards. If they know someone is reading what they say and challenges them on it, they clam up. Just don't be afraid to tell people you LIKE my work. Just because it's EXTREMELY out of fashion, doesn't mean it's against the law.

Not yet anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

Jeff ("How dare you insult the man I love (in a non-gay way)") and Sandeep ("Dave is my friend, not yours, so grahhr") do Dave no favours with their usual "Of course criticism of Dave is allowed, as long as you do nothing but praise him" defence. If their behaviour is what it takes to be considered "an actual Dave Sim supporter", it's no wonder that people who merely esteem Dave's craft and think much of Cerebus is good just don't cut the mustard.

-- Damian

Erick said...

Jeff, Sandeep and Dave:
I am a long time unabashed and very proud supporter of Cerebus.
I am not a detractor of Dave's, but I am not necessarily a supporter either.
I simply love the work that Dave and Ger did on Cerebus.

Jim Sheridan said...

I can't believe someone would print that a 59 1/2 year old man is 60! What a travesty! We NEED to focus on things like that and NOT the main points of the piece.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Can we use reason, not emotion?

Ray Cornwall said...

Also, while Cerebus in print will always be an issue due to the continual "print is dead", the scans (which aren't as good as the remastered material, but hey! what is?) are available at CerebusDownloads.com.

I realize that digital isn't as cool as print, but still, as long as the hosting fees are paid, Cerebus will always be available to anyone with a digital screen, which these days is practically anybody.

Jim Sheridan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Sheridan said...

On November 30, CerebusTV wrote:

Reality dictates that making offerings to the public comes with the possibility they may be rejected.

There has to be sufficient egotism on the part of the artist if willing to offend the audience, to also be willing to endure insult.

Anything that is challenging will be met with resistance. To expect otherwise is to presume a deference that is megalomaniacal.

Jeff Seiler said...

Damian: The point (well, one of the points) that Sandeep, Dave and I are trying to make is that most people who call themselves supporters of Cerebus are not supporters of Dave Sim. And, that's okay, up to a certain point. That point, in my opinion, is where the so-called supporter begins to rehash accusations against the artist that are untrue, thereby tiptoeing (or flinging themselves headlong) into the arena of defamation.

Jim: While my correction about Dave's age may be nit-picky, it is correct. As are all of my other corrections. Ergo, they are reasonable (in the truest sense of the word), not emotional.

Ray: Thanks for chiming in. Can't believe I overlooked that...

Sandeep Atwal said...

lol...Dave doesn't have any friends. Wish he did! But God forbid you'd correct factual errors in a hit piece on Dave. Then you're just irrationally defending Dave all the time because you're mentally ill or something. There are lots of things I disagree with Dave on, we're very different people, but I just don't go shooting my mouth off about it. There are plenty of people who do that as it is.

Erick said...

Jeff,
speaking as one of those 'supporters of Cerebus but not necessarily one of Dave's' I have to say that I long ago made my peace with the undeniable overall brilliance of the work and my -at times, disgust for some of the sentiments of Dave.
It was not simple or easy to do.
I think the mistake that folks on either side of the equation make is that to support or not support is an easy decision.
Only speaking for me, I picked up my first copy of Cerebus sometime in late 1981 early 1982 and stayed with it throughout the run. As you are all aware, Dave had some serious ups and downs during the run that had nothing to do with the later controversies surrounding his political/religious/female beliefs. Some of that work was so bad that I swear to you I would hurl the book away in disgust. Some of those years of watching a towering talent seemingly disintegrate in front of us were painful. Because back then i was a supporter of not only Cerebus but of Sim. But words matter. Words are why we have the civilization that we do. But some of the Words that Sim put to paper, I found I could not agree with and no longer turn a blind towards. I still loved the work, and felt invested in it, but i also felt detached from its creator. so be it. I came to this site to celebrate Cerebus. Not necessarily Sim. I have met Dave, and he is indeed a gracious man. For some, that graciousness is enough to maintain a staunch attitude of support. For others, it is not. Regardless which side you fall on, most of us agree that the work should live on

Tom W said...

Well, hey. Mr Whiteley here, saw this today. Let's answer some points in order.

Jeff-
a) I assumed Dave was 60 because, as you said, he frequently says he's 60. Mea culpa, as you also said.

b) My error again - because the big push on this site, and in Dave's finances, is to get Cerebus back into print I assumed it was all out of print. If it's the later volumes that are still in print, I'd argue the point still stands; there's no comfort in chapters 9, 11 and 13-16 of a book being available if the others aren't. Nobody's starting Cerebus at Rick's Story without feeling like they've missed a great deal.

c) Great that Dave can sign his name, but he can't do so in the quantities needed for the Kickstarter prints, bookplates, etc which is restricting his ability to make money. Comics are still, after all these decades, a collectible market and signatures have disproportionate value compared to other fields. (I've bought at least two novels which were signed without any indication of it in the shop, one by Salman Rushdie.) It's more the inability to draw that's the problem - years ago, I believe Dave said he could cruise along fine doing commissions for the rest of his life. I presume that's no longer the case.

d) Sure, Cerebus is available second-hand. Having picked up most of a Glamourpuss run on eBay I'm aware of that. But being in print, orderable thru bookstores etc, remains important. Technically I can get myself a full ROM Spaceknight run, but that's a far cry from it being widely available and means it drops into invisibility. Put it this way: if Cerebus hadn't been on the shelves of the comic shops and the shelves of the bookshop, I never would've wondered what it was and plunged in. And if, when my interest was renewed many years later, it'd only been available thru second-hand sellers, who knows whether I'd've continued until the end? If getting it back into print isn't important because of the many thousands of yellowing comics and phone books already out there, why is Dave going to huge effort to do so?

e) Wally Wood isn't forgotten in the comics field, no. But he's easier to remember than a controversial figure who created a 6,000 page graphic novel which requires commitment, a contemporaneous knowledge of the comics field and, for most, a willingness to ignore sentiments they find personally offensive. None of those caveats apply to Superduperman, and still I'm betting most comics readers wouldn't have heard of it let alone read it. Being forgotten, whether or not there's a museum in Kitchener, Ontario that you have to pre-book to visit, has to be a real fear.

Also, I don't need to crawl. I'm bipedal.

Tom W said...

continued...

Sandeep-
I had no idea that was you on Twitter; you didn't, pardon the offense, come across as someone involved with Aardvark-Vanaheim, but as someone looking to score points. And I didn't buy Glamourpuss - twice, some of them - to bitch and moan about Dave Sim. I bought it because I wanted to like it, and because I was interested in what it had become. For thoughts on that, or dogs barking at a caravan if you prefer, follow the link.

Iestyn-
Thanks for defending my piece in my absence. As you say, I'm someone invested in Dave's work. There's not a week goes by I don't find myself reading some of Cerebus - last night it was the closing chapters of Reads. I have mad respect for the work, and I'm one of those who feel it generally improves as it goes on. That's the position I approached Glamourpuss from, and sadly found myself disappointed.

Dave-
If I were to write an ending to your life, it would be you continuing to produce whatever art you wanted to in whatever format you wanted, Cerebus in print and respected, and your legacy settled in whatever manner you wish it to be. I don't wish penury upon you; if I did, I'd hardly have urged people to buy High Society.

I got the message from Sandeep about the signed #1 and looked up your address. Truth is, though, I don't want a signed #1 as much as I want to plug the gaps in my Glamourpuss run with #19 and #21-26. So I considered writing to you and asking for those, including a stamped addressed envelope and payment, but I couldn't work out exactly how I'd do that - we both have the same Queen on our money, but mine ain't legal tender where you are - and then got caught up with Christmas and all the rest of my life. Neither cowardice nor a smear.

And I'm not afraid to tell people I like your work. That's in the piece. Am I a Dave Sim supporter? Well, I bought all of Cerebus in phone books, I bought Judenhass, I bought some of Glamourpuss twice. I don't remotely agree with your views on feminism, but I've supported you as much as I support any artist whose work I enjoy and probably more than most.

Ray-
Good point on digital availability, but it's not being available but being visible that becomes a problem. You can find anything online when you look for it. The issue is not knowing to look for it, as addressed above. Dave deserves to be seen as a giant of the comics field, even if his work is unlikely ever to cross over, but it doesn't matter if you're a giant or a midget if you're invisible.

Thanks all.

George Peter Gatsis said...

what the heck it this conversation?
why are irrelevant details argued?
not 60... 59-1/2... etc... etc... etc...

and WHY is everything being rehashed?
You love Dave, Hate Cerebus... You Love Cerebus, hate Dave... or whatever words you want to pass off for LOVE and HATE...
Why bother repeating?

Why not talk about positive things... like flowers and unicorns and is it even possible for Dave to switch drawing hands, like the Great Frazetta did so long ago... and if so, what possible awesomeness could come out of it?

George Peter Gatsis

Jeff Seiler said...

Tom, good of you to respond, even if it is with more than a small measure of equivocation. Also, with ongoing factual...misunderstandings. To my knowledge, Dave can still sign as many Kickstarter plates, bookplates, etc., as he needs to; he just can't draw headshots or letter on the bookplates. And, as an ancillary point, Dave has always eschewed selling to bookstores, preferring that people buy volumes of Cerebus at "brick-and-mortar comic-book stores". I have urged him for years to market to bookstores, but he won't do it. That doesn't prevent bookstores from ordering Cerebus from Diamond, but most bookstore buyers, be they corporate or independent, are unaware of Cerebus, or leery of buying the whole series.

I appreciate the positive words you have for Dave and that you avoided using the (falsely applied) m-word, unlike in your original article.

Bon chance to you with your future blogs. Oh, and sorry about the "crawl" comment. I got a bit worked up.

CerebusTV said...

It appears that as far as interest in Wally Wood is concerned, the most popular article here is the one about the http://cerebustv.com episode featuring "Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work." So Wally's work is far from forgotten and still generates interest.

Mr. Preece said...

I find Sim interesting because he had the vision and courage to build a career on his own terms. I love Cerebus as an intellectual/artistic package. No compromises. I like that. It's also why I buy occasional new books from Steve Ditko. They both have intense views I don't agree with much, but I love their passion and use of comics to express themselves.

Honestly--given Sim's need for money--I don't understand why he doesn't write a new Cerebus series ("Lost Tales" or "Year One") and hire someone else to draw it. Frank Miller is building up medical money this way with Dark Knight 3 and the announced Dark Knight 4. Sure, it's not ideal, but it's a money-making plan and I think Sim would get a lot of support...

...if he lays off the hot button stuff.

Surely Cerebus can have some interesting adventures without fanning old flame wars (it's about making money and having fun doing it). I bet he'd have no trouble finding a good artist and a good indie publisher to take care of all that too.

It would get lots of coverage too. Especially if it's advertised as being for his health or a permanent library or some other good cause.

Daniel Preece