Saturday, 12 March 2016

Aardvark Comment: "Dave Sim Is Crazy, But..."

(from a comment posted on AMOC, 11 March 2016)
...Dave Sim is crazy, but that's not (in this case) a bad thing. Crazy is interesting. Crazy- or to remove the general pejorative nature of that particular word let's call it 'unique thinking' and 'intense dedication'- had a significant role in creating one of the big, important works in all of American comics. And it's sad to me that identity politics and personal invective get in the way of Cerebus being recognized for what it is.

The background radiation of an art-appreciating conservative's life is accepting that the art one consumes is going to hold ideas and messages that are likely abhorrent or at least odious to your beliefs. Naked Lunch is art, and a great book (Dave's dismissal of it notwithstanding), and important regardless of your moral proclivities. Same with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Or V for Vendetta (the comic. That fucking movie was just... ugh). Or a significant portion of Lars von Trier's work, or a couple of Spike Lee's joints (he's kinda hit or miss if we're being honest with ourselves). Guys like Frank Miller, Dave Sim, or Steve Ditko move outside of the political comfort zone, and get effectively booted from polite society, their work dismissed or re-evaluated unfavorably (in Miller's case particularly). I'd argue that Miller has been doing his most honest work recently- his cartooning has become downright morbid, his words distilled and exaggerated into hardboiled high fantasy. But you know, they're the bad kind of crazy (as opposed to Alan Moore's dabbling with Magick and sequestering himself away from the filthy plebs), so fuck them.

What's particularly fascinating (to me, at least) is watching Dave's metamorphosis as an artist and thus Cerebus' evolution as a character over the course of 30 years. Sim began the work as a feminist, drug-using Canadian leftist married to his co-publisher, then a divorced high-functioning alcoholic trying to use his measure of success and popularity to promote independent publishing, then an anti-feminist who finds religion while doing research for his book, to a guy who decides to completely eschew women, casual friends, and drugs altogether and live a spartan lifestyle of work and prayer. More than simply becoming a more proficient artist and writer, this evolved the book in utterally unexpected directions. Moreso than what happens when one creative team hands off a super hero book to the next set of hired hands. And completely different from the 30 years worth of Stan Sakai's ever-steady dedication on Usagi Yojimbo. Unique. Crazy, if you will. Worthwhile. Not the sort of thing one just dismisses because it's not ideologically pure.

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Travis Pelkie said...

What's fascinating with Cerebus (and I think sort of what he was getting at with the "scanning is just the start"/nature of narrative post a few back) is that Dave had the ending of the book pretty well in mind from the early days (as I understand the notes and comments he's made about The Last Day), but there were still plenty of swerves along the way that he made work pretty damn well over all. It's a testament to having a strong vision and the will to see it through over a long time span.

Which is one of the reasons I continue to find the work and the man fascinating. Even when I don't agree with large swathes (is that the word I want?) of his writings.

I don't necessarily agree with Frank Miller's current (or maybe it was always there?) viewpoints, but Dark Knight Returns and Dark Knight Strikes Again were friggin' awesome. DKSA is a laugh riot, really. And that end....

Barry Deutsch said...

The background radiation of an art-appreciating conservative's life is accepting that the art one consumes is going to hold ideas and messages that are likely abhorrent or at least odious to your beliefs.

I don't think being an art-appreciating liberal is any different. :-)

Galvy said...

@Barry- perhaps. Maybe stuff like the Death Wish films are difficult (the author of the original book hated the movies), but the consensus of critics and artists is typically left-of-center. Maybe not-left-enough, or too-far-left, but left all the same.

CerebusTV said...

The obsessive life's work of one man has become a major tourist attraction south of our home in Miami FL - Coral Castle. Not appreciated in his lifetime, but his compulsive eccentricity produced a lasting monument to one man's artistic vision.