Friday, 12 August 2016

“Never Commit Suicide. Always Make Them Kill You.”

Sequentially reprinting Dave Sim's letters and faxed correspondence to me, with occasional annotation from me.

Today's letter from Dave continues the discussion of the ongoing attempts to publicize glamourpuss. He was looking for volunteers to help get the word out about it at various 2008 comic book websites and discussion groups. He also discusses the “Dave Sim is not a misogynist” petition. Note that the numbers have changed significantly in the ensuing eight years. Also note that I then and now have no idea to what the Stephen King references referred, but then I’ve never been a big fan of Stephen King.

10 July 08

Hi Jeff:

Well, I think it’s one of those “let’s face facts” things but you need to have the facts before you can do so. I’m definitely over in Stephen King territory and have been for some time so the only way to deal with these things is patiently. Patiently and [by] documenting what reality is, as opposed to what people want it to be (which is really the underpinning of feminism and, therefore, it’s not unexpected that this is the core of what’s wrong with our society).

I think you can be helpful by documenting what is going on. This is how many volunteers we ostensibly have, this is how many we actually have. This is what they said they were going to do, this is that they’ve actually done. Obviously, if you’re looking for something on a website and can’t find it, that bodes ill for its promotional value where what you’re counting on is people happening across it. The potential flaw in the reasoning there is that people are familiar with different websites. So, obviously, the volunteers should be posting to websites that they know because they know where the structural bodies are buried. It looks like Lenny has the best grasp of what needs to be done and is doing it, but then I’m in direct communication with him. That’s part of the Stephen King quality to this. People’s reliability seems dependent on direct contact with me. But, of course, the idea is to find a way to make it work where I don’t have to spend hours a day holding everyone’s hands because I’m supposed to be writing and drawing. The Larger Imperative, it seems to me, is to try to get Dave Sim onto the Internet. He spent a month there in February, so he should be jonesing at this point and is just about to break down and get a laptop, high-speed Internet connection and spend hours a day on there, so his production schedule goes to hell. Again, the Stephen King quality. Why do I seem to be immune? Why does that seem to have a disproportionately large impact?

I’m trying to learn Bizarro World logic to give myself a fighting chance. The petition is part of it. The Stephen King thing is made up of contradictory dichotomies that everyone needs to hold onto in order to convince themselves that they’re sane. “Dave Sim is an enormously popular creator whom everyone admires and respects” on the one hand and “Dave Sim is an evil misogynist that no one can stand and no one will have anything to do with” on the other. The petition in tandem with the low sales on glamourpuss and Judenhass is showing that the latter is the prevailing reality. Sales tend to be hidden but the petition is right out there in such a way that it allows Marxist-feminists to manipulate and therefore (in their frames of reference) create reality. But they don’t know which reality to create. If supposition A is true, then signing the petition is necessary in order to create that reality. If supposition B is true, then not signing the petition -- or taking your name off of the petition if you’ve mistakenly signed it -- is necessary in order to create THAT reality. 118 people is too many in situation B and not nearly enough in situation A.

The complete lack of volunteers only defines reality more sharply. Situation A is such a minority (.01%) view that active support of it drops exponentially when anything more elaborate than signing a petition is suggested (.001%). In that case, 118 people is definitely WAY, WAY too many, which means, in order to support that created reality you need to believe that 118 people having absolutely nothing in common apart from signing are completely batshit insane and all in the same way.

My best guess is that everyone besides the 118 want OUT because of the compelled inferences involved -- and OUT means pretending that Dave Sim (and Cerebus and glamourpuss and Judenhass) don’t exist. And basically hoping that I’ll kill myself or declare bankruptcy or something in order to make supposition B reality. My theory all along has been "Never commit suicide: Always make them kill you", so there’s not a lot of potential for relief for them over there -- although I’m pretty sure that they’ll eventually see it as the only viable option.

I mean, don’t you find “What was I supposed to do about this?” to be a little bit of a Stephen King-like question coming from a librarian about a book that someone discussed with him? You’re a librarian, what do you THINK you’re supposed to do about a book that someone discussed with you? [ED: IIRC, this refers to my having offered to donate a copy of Judenhass to my local library, as I have done with several school and public libraries. At one library, I found the copy I donated on the “For Sale” shelf some weeks later.]

There’s this... ambience... around me. I think we’re getting to Something’s Got To Give, but then I thought that fourteen years ago and I was wrong then and I’m probably wrong now. Lou Copeland, who worked on Judenhass for two years, hey, it was up and down, but he’s still glad he worked on it. But does he find it odd that this amazing piece of work is now all but ignored? No, not really. Just figures it’s the dysfunctional direct market. You see what I mean? For Liberals, it’s just a matter of picking a scapegoat and then “moving on”. There's always a scapegoat, so there's never anything wrong. Just "move on". If they can ignore a 6,000-page graphic novel, then they can ignore anything.

I hope you're right about it [ED: Judenhass] being a long-term gainer but I don’t see any evidence of that with anything of mine -- unless it's fifty years after I'm dead: which I've been saying all along.



Jim Sheridan said...

Scapegoating is indeed a pervasive thing...

There are plenty of comics that don't become popular even though their creators think these comics are great.

I buy anything Cerebus related. I also bought 2 copies of Judenhass. I bought Glamourpuss for 18 issues and then quit.

I simply don't find Judenhass or Glamourpuss very interesting. Plenty of other readers probably had the same reaction.

Judenhass is incredibly well drawn and has important ideas. Many of the ideas were ones I already knew from other sources, but that doesn't make them invalid. It means that for me and maybe other readers, it felt redundant.

A more central concern is that it doesn't have the kind of narrative that grips a reader: characters, conflict, a plot arc. Cerebus at its height had those things in spades. Glamorous had the same problem. Dave is a master of characterization who was now writing comics that didn't focus on character.

I also think that the challenge of writing a comic about the Holocaust is that, as the French knights say in The Holy Trail, "we've already got one!" I certainly realize that MAUS and Judenhass are markedly different books, but I could see a librarian saying "We already have that ground covered." I think ANY comic writer who decides to address the Holocaust will face the same challenge: the comic that many people consider one of the best that the medium has to offer already addresses that topic, and audiences are bound to consider any new comic that addresses the Holocaust to be less necessary, or redundant, or derivative, even if it's not.

Dave Sim said...

Hi Jim! Of course, it's also a matter -- for me -- of keeping photorealism comics on life support. It's not a very popular form (to say the LEAST) and that puts me and other photorealism devotees at odds with the general market. "This, to me and to others like me, is interesting BECAUSE it's photorealism". The best you can hope for with the average comics fan is: this is interesting to me IN SPITE of it being photorealism. Which, as you say, wasn't the case with glamourpuss.

I think glamourpuss WAS a character-driven series. It was a very different -- and to the traditional comics mind very BAD -- idea to make the lead character a) the editor/publisher/writer and re-writer of the magazine and b) a non-comics fan. A comic book about fashion magazines for people who don't like or understand comic books. What if Helen Gurley Brown decided to do a comic book? What would it look like? The comic book tropes just go "right by her". She glues them onto the material like stamps. I really miss glamourpuss the comic book and glamourpuss the character. I miss going and buying fashion magazines and looking through them for the raw material. I REALLY MISS the "Oh WOW! on a scale of 1 to 10 Al Williamson girl/Al Williamson girl's dress/Al Williamson girl's shoes that's a 12!"Doing glamourpuss was THE ABSOLUTE BEST experience in my career, bar none.

There ARE some of us in that category. We aren't WRONG. There just aren't enough of us to sustain something like that. I think that's too bad. Karl Stevens thinks that's too bad. Carson Grubaugh thinks that's too bad. Eddie Khanna thinks that's too bad. That's about it, unfortunately. Unfortunately from our perspective.

Dave Sim said...

Synchronistically, Darrell Epp just sent me a print-out of a panel discussion between Gil Kane and Will Eisner where MAUS came up and Gil Kane just tore it to pieces AS comics, basically because of the simplicity of the drawing. Spiegelman could have just used the same two panels over and over. If that's the level of drawing ability that you're bringing to the table...etc. et.c Eisner, of course, is appalled and keeps trying to drag Gil over to The Populist View of MAUS, but Kane's having none of it.

I thought there needed to be a photorealism Holocaust story. I also think Spiegelman dropped the ball -- badly -- when it came to the founding of the state of Israel. And how IMPORTANT in world history that event was and is and that it was a result of the Holocaust: the POINT of the Holocaust for those of us who think "that way". The Harry Truman White House pages in JUDENHASS to me are an attempt to correct that ball being dropped.

YOU have MAUS but MAUS is not inclusive of any viewpoints but the viewpoint it espouses which is WAY OVER on your side of the fence. And that viewpoint, to me, misses the point of the Holocaust.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Hi Dave,

I've always viewed Judenhass as part of a trilogy that includes Maus, and Will Eisner's The Plot. One is the Holocaust as told from a survivor, the next is from a non Jew, and the last as the Holocaust from a contemporary who lived through it and saw a rising return of Jew hatred.

While all three are different narratives, there is a common theme binding them together.

At least that's how I see it.

Matt Dow

Erick said...

I have a theory and you are a good source to test this on. It is simply this: Creators who truly believe that they are artists create for themselves and if the audience happens to enjoy it - and pay for it, that is fine, but it is not the reason for the creation's existence.
I came to this conclusion 25 years ago while I was reading Gravity's Rainbow it struck me while struggling through yet another almost impenetrable chapter- I did finish btw, that Pynchon was writing for the sole entertainment of himself. He did not really give a damn if the readers got it or not.

I see evolving creative work the same way. By that I mean perhaps a creator starts out wanting to make say a comic book so he can make some money. But then his evolving talent and perhaps self perception begin to shift his focus away from just satisfying his audience but to first and foremost satisfying himself.

Do you think this is valid?

Carson Grubaugh said...

My couple coin-rolls worth of cents on the subject.

I am not convinced that people do not like the style itself. I suspect and problem people have with the style has to do with what kind of content is attached to it.

If we were all doing J. G. Jones, Tim Bradstreet, even Al Williamson Star Wars, I think we would as popular as all of those artist are or were. How many people loved that Jerry Ordway adaptation of the first Tim Burton Batman film? When the style lends realism to fantasy it is wildly popular. The problem is that it is REALLY hard to do stuff that is traced from photos and not have it come across as posed and stiff. People look different when they are actually in motion an dwhen they are holding a pose. The guys who actually use photographs, like myself, are always going to have this problem. The real studs, like Alex Raymond, Bryan Hitch, J. H. Williams III, Travis Charest are capable of just making the stuff up from scratch. A couple guys I have seen lately that achieve this photo-referenced-looking but probably-entirely-made-up freshness are Mico Suyan and Lewis Larosa at Valiant.

When the style is used to just document day-to-day life, which is a lot easier to pull off, people seem to turn off. For those of who love working in the style but prefer less bombastic content it will always be a problem. Scott McCloud is probably correct that the simpler a representation of a figure is the easier it is for the audience to identify and empathize with. That is why all of the successful autobiographical stuff is the simplified stuff.

It may be a philosophical thing between generations as well. As an educator I am always told that I should be wary of instituting a hierarchy of power in class, me on top, students below. Dave would correctly attribute this distrust of hierarchical power structures to Feminism and progressive identity politics. These days we are supposed to spread the learning experience out so that it comes from every participant. Sounds great, but these poor kids are paying money to hear what someone with years more experience than them have to offer. Of course there is room in the educational experience for insight to come from any participant, I learn things from my students all of the time, but to disrupt the idea of the professor as the expert on top of the hierarchy is contradictory to the entire point of paying someone to be an expert in their field. If you really want that distributed educational experience, don't pay to go to college, join an art-collective like the one Alan Moore credits with so much of his early development. You don't see this attitude in the science departments, by the way. Only the liberal arts and soft sciences. No one wants non-experts randomly mixing shit together in the science labs.

The point of all of that, as it relates to photo-realism: the more realistic the representation of the narrator is in something like a auto-biographical or historical book like SDOAR the more likely it is that today's audience is going to feel like that very particular person is lecturing (read patronizing or, even worse, mansplaining) at them.

Personally, I think by eliminating the fashion industry stuff in Glamourpuss, which was way to obtuse of an approach for most people, and focusing on presenting a historical story with a clear forward thrust, Dave has innovated a use for photo-realism that can eschew the bombastic images typically required by most people and still keep the audience attention. Whether they are going to feel like they are being manspalined too? I hope not.

Judenhass was too much of a montage of facts for most people. I think all of the repeating of images took away any clear visual narrative progression.

Dave Sim said...

Hi Matt! For me, the more relevant distinction would be pagan/atheist and monotheist. As a monotheist, I take it as a given that the Holocaust was engineered/allowed to occur by God so that the Jews could be restored to Israel after 2,000 years. 6 million had to give their lives in order to achieve that otherwise impossible task. The pagan/atheist view is basically "S--t happens, but sometimes S--T happens." The monotheistic view is that something like that doesn't happen unless God intends a Larger Purpose by it.

Hi Erick! - I think so. Although I seem to have entered another "zone" above that one where my primary interest is to attempt to achieve Accuracy, if possible, and at the very least accuracy....

[I entertained myself with CEREBUS, glamourpuss and CEREBUS IN HELL?. I attempted to be Accurate with JUDENHASS and now with SDOAR.]

...which is only possible because I have a "bare bones" subsistence living made possible by CEREBUS. I can spend years working on my RIP KIRBY COMMENTARIES, based in the idea that Accuracy is only possible if I go through the strip panel-by-panel, word balloon by word balloon, word by word, deciphering Ward Greene's subtext. With no idea how much of that is going to make it into SDOAR apart from: "virtually none".

I think the result will be an "iceberg entertainment" from the perspective of most (all?) readers. As accessible as it can be made as a series of IDW trade paperbacks. But assuming that only 1/10th of what SDOAR will be visible...and the 9/10s posted online if anyone besides me and Eddie Khanna turn out to be interested.

Dave Sim said...

Hi Carson! - Well, definitely. That's why I say my work won't actually be examined for fifty or a hundred years after my death. We live in a Feminist Theocracy where ANYthing can be refuted and discredited by calling it "mansplaining". "Mansplaining" is actually quite recent as a term but will, presumably, endure for generations, meaning all we'll officially hear is (even MORE) "womansplaining".

I hope you can continue to "play the game" so you can hang onto your job since that's what's buying you the time to work on SDOAR. I think anyone in the "academy" in 2016 in any of the G7 countries is in the same situation: stay out of the Human Resources Director's Office (or whatever they call it where you teach). If you have to choose between actually teaching and Hewing To The Feminist Theocracy Party Line (which seems to me a given), choose the latter and do your Authentic Work elsewhere on your own time.

One of the reasons that photorealism is "ill-thought of" is because it's high-end stuff when it's done properly. Women cartoonists can draw like Jeffrey or Chester Brown, so, in a Feminist Theocracy, that style becomes the gold standard. It's The Right Way to draw comics if women can do it. It's the Wrong Way to draw comics if women can't do it.

It's DEFINITELY not a discussion you want to have in your classroom in today's political climate. The odds of finding a potential photo-realist in academia are WAY remote. If you do find one, just switch between photorealism mentor (one on one) and Achtung We Are All Feminist Theocracy Comic Artist Equals Here -- favouring the latter over the former by a wide margin.

Dave Sim said...

Whether SDOAR is in the category of communicating with people a story that they want to read in a photo-realistic style. Mm. I really doubt it. That's so far "beside the point" of why I'm doing it at this juncture that I don't really even visit the idea mentally. Chris Ryall, IDW editor-in-chief really LIKES it but he sees it as being like the late Darwyn Cook's PARKER material. Darwyn's really good and by virtue of being as good as he is, he MAKES the material "wide audience" interesting in a way that anyone else doing it wouldn't. My reaction would be, "Yeah, but people LOVED Darwyn. People HATE me."

In a Feminist Theocracy, NOT reading Dave Sim and not acknowledging that Dave Sim exists is considered a credential.

You can't build an audience there. What you have to do is hope that it collapses under its own weight two hundred years from now and things that aren't feminist propaganda start to get read by the general public. And not until, in my opinion.

Dave Sim said...

Hi Carson! No way to prove it but I think what we're waiting for is a Neal Adams who is interested in adapting DEATH OF A SALESMAN or some comparable work to prove it can be done.

The unvisited premise is that Real Life is interesting without genre trappings. We aren't anywhere near "there" in the comics field. Unless its feminist propaganda, preferably drawn by a woman. And that (so far, anyway) means Jeffrey/Chester level of rendering.

Carson Grubaugh said...


I doubt it is that women can't draw that way. The most talented students I have had have all been females. A couple of them could give me a run for my money. I do, however, buy into the idea that they probably wouldn't choose to produce photo-realist work because it is less expressive/emotive and less likely to lead to an empathetic response in a reader.

I have gotten pretty good at walking the tightrope of actually teaching something worth knowing without falling into the political lava. How long I can stay balanced on that razor-thin line I do not know. Hopefully until I am physically unable to enter a classroom, because I love the job.

The students WANT you to act like the expert and love the amount of hardcore technique I provide them. They know which instructors are hiding their lack of actual knowledge behind, as you call it, "bafflegab," and who is shooting straight with them.

What really scares the bafflegab crowd is someone who has extraordinary technical chops AND top-notch conceptual acumen. I think having both qualities actually makes it harder to get a tenure-track job at a lot of places because the egos of the faculty reviewing the applications don't want that kind of competition.

Dave Sim said...

Hi Carson! I'm not sure it's even competition, per se, that they're worried about so much as it's unconscious envy. That is, envy that they're unconscious of experiencing AS envy and which (as a result) tends to express itself in REALLY peculiar forms they themselves would find bizarre if they saw someone else exhibiting that response. Which really sums up a big part of the Alex Raymond/Stan Drake "relationship". :)

And I was referring to COMICS artists, not female artists generally (where I agree with you: female artists and painters are quite competitive at the top of the Realism ranks to the extent they want to be competitive). In a Feminist Theocracy any woman exhibiting the chops of a Colleen Doran who could deliver reliably and in high volume (the criteria for a COMICS artist) would have more work than she could possibly handle BECAUSE the companies are so sensitive to the misogyny charge. Why aren't there more women drawing high-profile, realistic books?

Because virtually everyone willing to sacrifice his life to drawing COMICS is a he. And you have to sacrifice your life to it in order to appear -- even briefly -- on the COMICS radar screen.