Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Restored READS now available - An Excerpt from "4,500 Words on the Restored READS"



Sean Michael Robinson:

As per the above graphic, the restored Reads is now available from your favorite comics vendor. As the book has now been spotted "in the wild," I thought it might be a good time to present a few excerpts from my essay for the book.

This was the longest essay I've written yet for the restoration project, and, not surprisingly, one of the most difficult. I think it's safe to say this is the most controversial book of Cerebus. It's certainly the least understood and the most shallowly read. Present in the full-length essay—Todd McFarlane, Sue Anne Nivens, Hesiod, Orson Welles, and Gertie the Dinosaur. (Purged from the essay due to length? Philip K Dick at Disneyland and the sexual politics of Ikea. Perhaps excerpts of excerpts to be presented in the future?)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the excerpts. The full essay is in the restored Reads, now available from any Diamond retailer.

***

An Excerpt from "4,500 Words on the Restored Reads"


Publishing had been considered, like the wine trade, an occupation permissible for gentlemen, perhaps from the fallacy that the most necessary qualification was an appreciation of literature. In fact, then as now, a publisher, to achieve success, needed charm, financial acumen, fore-knowledge of the future, a stony heart, and a very rich wife.
      —Ruari McLean, Victorian Book Design & Colour Printing

In his introduction to Reads, Dave Sim refers to this, the ninth book of the Cerebus series, as “a point of convergence and a breaking apart of the Cerebus readership.” With the distance of two decades as of this writing, I’d say this is both prescient and something of an understatement. In the text pages that populate the second half of the book, Reads fractures the fictional narrative of the story and, for many readers, represent the termination of their association with the greater work, Cerebus as a whole.

The critical reaction was as aggressive as it was shallow.

Do you really need me to summarize Reads? I’m betting you’ve read it—or skimmed it, let’s say—at least once. And Sim does an excellent job summarizing it in his introduction to the book, and hinting at the ways in which it functions in the broader story.

Above, I invoked the word “critical,” maybe a little carelessly. I think there’s a distinction to be made between criticism, and critical words; of the latter, there’s been plenty addressing Reads. The former, I don’t think I’ve seen. What, exactly, do the different sections of Reads have to do with each other? How does a story about a writer navigating the corrupt and corrupting world of publishing fit in with the rising climax of an almost 3,000 page visual sword and sorcery epic? And how to explain the almost-but-not-quite-autobiographical broadside that makes up the text portions of the back of the book? How do the formal aspects of the work function (or not) in conjunction with (or not) the narrative aspects of the text?

What, you’re not expecting an explanation from me, are you?


[Barry Windsor-Smith] had prints of all his Gorblimey work there, and, for whatever reasons, began to describe the allegory behind the Ram & Peacock prints [...] we all stood, mouths agape, while Barry unraveled, in meticulous detail, the interlocking representations and juxtapositions, the story he intended to tell with the picture and the grand joke that it would sell on the basis of the barbarian in the picture when the barbarian was incidental to the intent of it.

His explanation triggered off a way of looking at creativity, for me, that continues to this day. I began striving to understand the myriad levels of meaning in all great and intended-to-be-great works of art. When I failed at that — became discouraged because I couldn’t read each artist’s mind, I began to see that what was intended was not nearly as important as what I perceived — I now looked at works for their impact on me, no longer for whatever “right interpretation” might theoretically exist.
—Dave Sim, Swords of Cerebus, 1983

Throughout the Cerebus series, the literal narrative, i.e. the who-did-what, is inseparable from the form and formal experimentation of the work itself. This is nowhere more true than Reads. In the 174 monthly issues leading up to Reads, Sim had perused, poked, pushed, and prodded the formal boundaries that have served to separate the graphic narrative (parentage uncertain, most probably born to one Rodolphe Töpffer in 1831)  from the novel (born a century or three earlier, but come of age around the same time). High Society, the second volume of Cerebus, uses diagetic “found texts” (transcripts, diaries, letters, a written history) to move the story forward and compress the action while enriching and enlarging the unvisited portions of the fictional world. Church & State introduces the “read”, Estarcion’s equivalent to the pamphlet-novel, and early chapters follow Cerebus’s own attempts at composition (mostly used to humorous effect), and further use of transcripts, letters and notes, as well as a mercifully brief excerpt from The Prime Minister and the Hussy— A Tale of the Tainted Love That Destroyed a City-State. Later on, in a chapter consisting solely of full-page double spreads, a seemingly non-diagetic text appears...

...the full essay is in the restored Reads, now available from any Diamond retailer.

***




You want me to say “four,” I’ll say “four”—you want me to say “seven”, I’ll say “seven”—only please don’t take my townhouse.
— Victor Reid, Reads

The first portion of the text follows the success and subsequent downfall of Victor Reid, author. He has been “labouring in virtual obscurity on a series of historical fictions centered on the interwoven relationship of Cirinism and Kevillism,” for a period of “some years (sixteen, to be precise)”, before unexpected and unwanted fortune—success—strikes him. In these first few paragraphs we are presented with what are, depending on your viewpoint, either direct references or allegorical resonances between Victor Reid and one Dave Sim, author; the most relevant to the current discussion, the sixteen year span between the publication of Cerebus # 1 (December 1977) and the Image Comics publication of Spawn #10 (May 1993). 

Written by Dave Sim and drawn by Spawn’s creator, Todd McFarlane, this one-off issue was published by Image Comics, at the time a new upstart publisher in the world of capes and tights. Image Comics promised full creative ownership to its creators...

...the full essay is in the restored Reads, now available from any Diamond retailer.

***
  
Dave,
When they first made love, it transcended any feeling, any emotion that she had ever felt before. They had both waited so long, holding back from this eventuality for the past few weeks they’d been fighting against it—trying to keep each to themselves—the fears of past rejections still clouding their memories, and it was only now that those fears slowly melted into a soft hesitancy…
—Nephelia, Aardvark Comment letter column, October 1993

Dear Dave, 
The happy ending in my other letter was a bit premature. Not longer than 2 days after I wrote that letter did I see the error of my optimistic ways. She really started to annoy me.
—“ZOBNEK”, Aardvark Comment letter column, May 1994

Dear Dave,
I’ve been staring at this damn logic proof for hours now, with no progress, and a new friend just rang, which completely blew my concentration, so I’m hoping to clear my head a bit by responding to Dean Esmay’s letter in 177, which I passed from doing in that postcard ...
—Mikel Norwitz, Aardvark Comment letter column, May 1994

What else are you missing?

Viktor Davis’s direct address of the reader...


...the full essay is in the restored Reads, now available from any Diamond retailer.




***

Lou, there are two kinds of people in this world. There are men, and there are women. You with me so far, big fella?
—Ted Baxter, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Lou’s First Date,” written by Ed. Weinberger and Stan Daniels, 1973

Conventional definitions aside (“I know it when I see it”), what makes a comic a comic? What makes a novel a novel? Is a work disqualified for having too many words? Too few? Too few drawings? Too many? Is Little Dorrit a work of graphic literature, produced in collaboration by Charles Dickens and Hablot K. Browne? Or is it a prose novel, entangled with some inconvenient cultural leavings? When a modern editor puts out an edition of Vanity Fair sans author W.M. Thackeray’s own illustrations, several of which completely shift the meaning of the text, what exactly is being said by that decision? Who is the author of the resulting book? Was Richard Scarry a writer? How about Edward Gorey? 


                                                                                ***

...And as you might have gathered from the previous interjections, the full essay is in the restored Reads, now available from any Diamond retailer. 

More next week!

38 comments:

adampasz said...

I look forward to the full essay. Coincidentally, I stopped reading Cerebus monthly around this time, and only picked it up sporadically after that. It's not because I was offended, but I was taking a break from most comics in general. Also, I guess I didn't have the patience for the extended text pages.

I can see why Dave decided it was necessary to transform Cerebus into a more personal, meta-textual exploration of things that were important to him at the time. Maybe this is a natural progression for many artists after they've grappled with their process and subjects for several decades. Michael Moorcock and Stephen King are other examples that jump to mind of artists who became more meta-textual in their later works. In all these cases, the meta-textual content is fascinating, but not always fun or accessible.

Speaking of inaccessible, to this day, the controversy over the "Male Light and the Female Void" stuff does not make sense to me:
1. Why should we assume Victor Reid is accurately expressing Sim's personal point of view? Reid is clearly a caricature/exaggeration in a comic that relishes parody and satire.
2. Why should I care about Sim's personal point of view? Should I only read and enjoy works by pristine, flawless individuals? Isn't it reasonable mandate of a creator to explore controversial ideas, whether I agree with them or not?
3. Is *anything* in Cerebus more offensive than material appearing in books, movies and other popular media around that time? I could walk into any comic shop today and find something much more offensive in under a minute!

Finally, I'm realizing that comics are never really going to "grow up". By their very nature, are a little bit juvenile, and even voyeuristic. They are designed to be hidden away in your bag, and read when nobody is looking! This is not something to be ashamed of. It's actually part of their power.

Sean R said...

Hey Adam,

I completely agree with your above points, as you'll see when you get s chance to read the full essay. Not covered in the essay- I think s big part of the reaction to Reads is due to the, let's call it "status anxiety", of the comics field. Obviously a topic for a longer discussion...

al roney said...

Anyone know where I can order a copy on-line? I just don't go to stores, comic or otherwise, much these days.

Even though I recently re-read Reads during my on-going Cerebus re-read (I'm up to Form and Void now) I'd still like to pick this up just to see the awesome restoration work.

Thanks!

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Adampasz:

1) Because Dave himself has said very similar things in his own voice, and affirmed that they are his beliefs.

2) "Controversial ideas" don't float around in the aether; they are the product of people's minds. Certainly creators can explore any ideas they wish -- and audiences can opt not to read those works. I generally assume that an individual with the drive to succeed a highly-competitive field is a bad person, and approach the work as a separate entity.

3) Today you may indeed be able to find more offensive material; at the time, Cerebus, Boiled Angel, and Verotik were controversial. Sometimes offensive is in the eye of the beholder. Which is more offensive, Cherry Poptart, Bitchy Bitch, Jack Chick tracts, or Protocols of the Elders of Zion? "Reads" is closer to the latter two than the former two.

I look forward to reading Sean's full essay.

-- Damian

adampasz said...


I am not familiar with Jack Chick or Protocols, nor do I have any desire to be. I agree "offensive is in the eye of the beholder".
But I'm not sure about the part about assuming people in competitive fields are bad. I assume all people have both good and bad inside them, along with some boring stuff. :)

Sean R said...

Hey Damian,

I hope you get a chance to respond once you've read the full essay. I'd love to discuss it with you but I'm wary of regurgitating my points from the essay less artfully.

As for this, though--

"Today you may indeed be able to find more offensive material; at the time, Cerebus, Boiled Angel, and Verotik were controversial"

It's incredibly misleading and inaccurate. No one of my acquaintance—certainly not anyone in the "comics press" (such as it was at the time)— would have talked about the three books in the same breath.

In the status-anxious comics context, maybe Cerebus is dangerous? In a broader art context, from any rational standpoint that values artistic expression and personal autonomy and aesthetic appreciation, it's the ubiquity of mind-numbingly banal corporate-controlled jingoistic power fantasies that would be the real problem.

And now I'm in danger of another essay.

Tony Dunlop said...

I'd like to echo Al's question of 10 August 2016 at 23:42 about ways to purchase the remastered phone books. Due to the brilliant restoration work of Mr. Robinson and Dr. Mara, as well as the higher quality paper stock, I am considering buying one or more p.b. volumes for the first time (having all the original issues from 19 up, I've never seen the point before). However, I am no longer a comics shop regular, and as far as I can tell, my only choice right now is to:
1. Visit or call a local comic shop to put in a special order
2. Wait for the special order to be delivered to the store
3. Visit the store to pick up my special order.
(My few recent visits have found no remasters "on the shelf.")
Apparently Diamond Distributor is the only source of the phone books. Do they have an online ordering option? As things stand, apparently I don't consider it worth the hassle to pick them up…and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

adampasz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adampasz said...

Sean, I'd be really interested to read that essay about artistic expression!

I'm mostly not interested in rehashing old debates, but rather figuring out how to take the discussion to the next level. It's hard to argue that Sim's work is not worth analysis... even Reads!

Anyway, I thought this blog had a really interesting take:
http://whenwillthehurtingstop.blogspot.com/2013/10/fun-and-games-with-dave.html

"...to a receptive audience of feminist and feminist-sympathetic academics with no real experience with Sim and his toxic persona, the subject was simply fascinating. Outside of a very small circle, Sim's ideas are laughable. Even if the hate is real, the context and presentation render them hard to take seriously in mixed company. I think that this reflexive distancing from Sim's ideology can only mean good things for Cerebus the work. In a room full of people trained to balance and appraise aesthetic objects from across history that are inextricably bound to various kinds of oppressive and harmful ideological apparatuses (big ups, Ezra Pound!), Cerebus found a sympathetic audience."

Dave Sim said...

Tony Dunlop - I THINK Amazon offers all the trade paperbacks.

PAGE 45 in Nottingham England has definitely said that they offer CEREBUS trades WORLDWIDE. I know Menachem Luchins at ESCAPE POD COMICS is willing to service the U.S. market. Of course, in the latter two cases, if you tell them you're interested in the REMASTERED versions they'll know what you're talking about and make sure that you get those. I'm not sure if that would be the case with Amazon, depending on how old some or all of their inventory is.

Dave Sim said...

adampasz - I think one of the problems is the blanket term "controversial".

BOILED ANGEL was controversial but so were the punishments to which Michael Diana was subjected. Which is worse? What he wrote and drew and published? Or the fact that the courts said that the police could knock on his door at any time to check and see what he was doing? I don't think READS is remotely in the same category.

Controversial also has a tendency to be amorphous. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness for years which is why it was deemed Controversial. Now calling homosexuality a mental illness would be deemed Controversial. As would calling it a choice. As would calling it a...many things. But, I think I'm safe in saying that there are a lot of viewpoints on homosexuality that people hold strongly. Just because you've silenced people doesn't mean you've convinced them.

This is Controversial because I disagree with it and I don't think it should be disseminated is one thing.
This is Controversial because I think it needs to be eradicated is another thing.
This is Controversial because we can't risk it becoming widely accepted is another thing.
This is Controversial because we can't risk ANYONE being swayed by it is another thing.

There are lots of viewpoints. I think a mature society accepts that and gives everything a fair hearing or the individual just says "I'M all done talking about this" and accepts that that can't, in a free society, end the discussion.

I think it's an intellectual failure to assume that we have arrived at THE TRUTH about anything at any juncture in our history, given that we've been wrong about so many other things.

Dave Sim said...

al roney - Glad to see you're "plugging through"! Considering how valuable -- and rare -- everyone's time is, it's flattering that anyone is devoting that much time to my work.

Dave Sim said...

Sean R - You might be onto something with your "status anxiety" comment. I don't really have anxiety about anything and certainly not about how comic books are viewed by the Big Bad World. It still throws me for a loop when a civilian in the 18-24 cohort accidentally happens upon the Off-White House going door to door. "You draw comic books? AWE! SOME!"

Because there's that, but there's definitely the sense that comic books are lowbrow trash (so maybe it's more that the 18-24s tend to think that AL lowbrow trash is AWE! SOME!).

Ultimately -- 100 years from now -- I think creator-owned, creator-controlled comic books will be seen as significant for the fact of their being unedited, unmodified personal expressions at a time when quasi-edited, quasi-modified was the best you could hope for. Step back and look at your LCS: there's a lot of stuff in there that is FLAT OUT NOT ALLOWED ANYWHERE else in the Feminist Theocracy.

Dave Sim said...

Damian - I think your "grouping" of CEREBUS with Jack Chick tracts and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion says far more about your own (unique? minority? substantial minority?) categorizations than it does about CEREBUS. Yours was certainly the consensus view back in the 1990s but I really don't think we "end up there" as a society (although that's still the only view allowed in polite society). How long it takes for us not to "end up there" (I'm guessing fifty to a hundred years after I'm dead) is open to debate. But I think the move away from your position -- by society in general -- is probably well underway. Incremental. Glacial, in fact. But underway.

I'd say "we'll see" but I don't think we will. We'll all be dead! :)

Barry Deutsch said...

"Step back and look at your LCS..."

At the risk of seeming ignorant, what does LCS stand for?

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Sean: I don't know why you would think that my mentioning three comics published at around the same time and discussed in the comics press precisely because they were controversial "incredibly misleading and inaccurate." Nor do I know what you mean by saying that nobody you knew "would have talked about the three books in the same breath," when all three were discussed as controversial works in The Comics Journal (at the time pretty much the official journal of the field). Would they have had to be reviewed in the same article? Dave himself demanded that "Friends of Lulu" defend Verotik's creators or brand themselves hypocrites.

Dave: Myself, I would say the punishments Michael Diana received were worse than his offense. "It's all just lines on paper, folks."

When you say, "I think it's an intellectual failure to assume that we have arrived at THE TRUTH about anything", I assume you're including your views on women, god, the bible, etc. I agree with you on this point. Intellectual honesty requires you to constantly re-examine even (especially!) your most closely-held beliefs.

When you say, "I think creator-owned, creator-controlled comic books will be seen as significant for the fact of their being unedited, unmodified personal expressions at a time when quasi-edited, quasi-modified was the best you could hope for," -- well, I hope so. I have said before that I think that will be your and Cerebus's greatest legacy: proof that creators can tell exactly the story they want, limited only by ability and not by editors or bean-counters. But when you say, "Step back and look at your LCS: there's a lot of stuff in there that is FLAT OUT NOT ALLOWED ANYWHERE else in the Feminist Theocracy," I think either you are describing a reality other than this one, or comics shops elsewhere than the West Coast are very different. As you have said elsewhere that you don't visit comics shops, I suspect you're just manufacturing evidence to suit your thesis -- making it up out of your head.

And you may want to believe that "my side" is a minority and losing ground, but I think the evidence shows that (as you often claim in other contexts) you are in the minority, and we are moving (slowly and glacially) the other way -- in a direction that I think is for the better.

-- Damian

Tony again said...

You can get all the phone books on Amazon but I'm quite confident they're not the remasters. Why? The publication dates are all given as several (or more) years ago.

Sean R said...

Damian,

The controversies (or "controversies") around the three books are so radically different, the reactions so divergent, as to make the comparison meaningless. Yes, I've read almost every issue of TCJ and am well aware of the contemporary writing regarding the three books. (I've also written for TcJs online incarnation, including two articles re: interstate anti-pornography laws that might give you some insight into my attitudes on free speech. Google my name and "Simpsons" to find them, if you're interested).

Barry Deutsch said...

Oh, Local Comics Shop! I get it now.

Gotta agree with Damian on this one - I don't think there's anything in my LCS "that is FLAT OUT NOT ALLOWED ANYWHERE else." I might be wrong - can you give a specific example of a comic book in comic shops that is forbidden everywhere else?

Jeff Seiler said...

Damian, in Dave's defense (like he needs me to do that), there are LCSs that sell pornographic comic books, as I'm sure you know. In fact, some of those books feature pornographic acts that are at the outer extremes of pornography--rape scenes, etc.--that mainstream porn could never show. They get away with it because "it's just lines on a piece of paper". Graven images.

I was actually surprised the last time I was in Kansas City, MO, and went to Clint's Comics and saw they had completely eliminated their "adult comics" section. The Marxist/Feminists won again.

Barry Deutsch said...

Feminists being anti-porn is so 1990s. Nowadays they make porn.

I wonder if "rape porn" was really what Dave intended to refer to? In any case, it's hardly something you could only find in comic book stores. I hear there may be all sorts of porn available on the internet.

Jim Sheridan said...

We are on the internet. The internet allows for an incredibly wide range of expression, wider than the typical LCS could imagine.

Maybe prime time TV is heavily edited and modified, but come on, people. The net offers all kinds of expression.

A while back I joked at what struck me as the oddity of people writing to Dave here like he was Dear Abby. I think Dave is a comic genius, but I'd never thought of writing to him to discuss masturbation. Maybe Jim Starlin.... Dave chided me, saying this is the rare corner of the internet where people can express themselves honestly without fear of reprisal. I submit that with very little looking, you will find a multitude of sites where people speak boldly and freely, whether the topic be hatred of Hilary Clinton, love of tentacle porn, belief in the Palestinian cause, concern about vaccination, or anything you can think of.

al roney said...

Dave - the re-read is hardly any sort of effort at all, in fact it's been quite enjoyable.

Coming back to a work at various points in life always brings about new perspectives.

One example for me is "Going Home". At the time it was published I honestly found it boring. Sure, I could appreciate the writing, the artwork and the sheer effort that went into those pages, but it didn't grab me at all (F. Stop? Riverboat, What the...?).

This time around I thought it was great, I finally got "it", and could appreciate it on a whole 'nother level.

The whole "Cerebus started to suck at (insert issue here)", just isn't happening (at least so far - lol).

As far as the Remastered "READS" goes, as was mentioned by a few others here, Amazon is a mess and you can't be sure that you're going to get the new addition - at all. In fact, I doubt that you can. I'm not going to deal with an overseas retailer either (sorry).

Accessibility of your work has to be paramount. It shouldn't be a "Where's Waldo" sort experience.

Part of this is I'm 1. Busy (work along with buying and selling a home is a royal pita) 2. Lazy and 3. I have 2 copies of the READS trade already so what's the rush?

I don't think I'm alone on this though.

You used to sell the phone books directly back in the day - maybe I missed the reason why you don't do that anymore. Time, logistics, money?

adampasz said...

I think instocktrades.com has the new editions. And I see them showing up when I put in my DCBS order.

The original point I was trying to make, which kicked off an interesting discussion (thanks) is, it has always struck me as strange is that Dave/Cerebus seems to have been singled out, when, for decades, there have been so many works in comics and elsewhere that are so much more [INSERT_SYNONYM_FOR_CONTROVERSIAL_HERE]. I think the "status anxiety" theory is a good one. But I'm curious to hear if people have other theories.

Barry Deutsch said...

I'm having trouble thinking of any other comic at the time which took as "controversial" a stand on a popular issue, took as sustained a stand, and was as prominent as Cerebus.

Sean R said...

The problem so bad with the way Damian used the term is what s wide swath of different types of boos it covers. Compare the reaction to. Mike Dana's work to the reaction to Reads and you get the idea why. I say they're two completely different things, not really comparable. As for theories, I'm doubling down in status anxiety, which also explains TCJ and others long-time uncomfortableness with Cerebus' parodic elements as well.

Jim Sheridan said...

Sean, I think there is something to what you said, but I also think that the remarkable change of direction that the book took created a lot of the bile. For many readers, Cerebus raced to the top of the comic world by being a certain way. It was snappy, witty, and maybe fell in line with its readers' thinking. It was focused on the adventures of a character who fascinated people. It stopped being that way. So it wasn't a title that was controversial all along; it was one that many people embraced and even bought the stuffed animal for.

As an analogy, if MASH had suddenly taken a pro-Palestine stance for its final season, and Hawkeye barely appeared for many episodes, it would be called the most controversial TV show ever, even though other shows more consistently and deliberately pushed bigger buttons.

Jim Sheridan said...

(Rough analogy, I know. Feel free to substitute Cheers or Seinfeld)

Sean R said...

Hey Jim,

Excellent analogy. I agree completely. But it still illustrates the broader point that "controversial" is such a broad term that cherry-picking items that fall under that header (as Damian has done above) can lead to apples-and-oranges comparisons that say less about the books in question than the attitudes of the person drawing the comparison (one that's further stymied by television's traditional restrictive nature) Would your theoretical pro-Palestinian MASH be as controversial as Deadwood? As The Wire? (Looking for a television show as extreme as the most extreme comics is also totally fruitless.) I mean, Urotsukidoji is one of the only books ever to have caused temporary imprisonment for selling, right? Is Urotsukidoji also comparable to Cerebus?

And Dave is definitely right that the direct market enabled creative artists with a unique vision to reach and make a living from a comparatively tiny marketplace. Not unlike the best of the internet today. Note, though, that the economics in place (and the nature of reading on a screen, I'd argue) mean that the majority of what "makes it" digital only, at least so far, are gag strips and other humor strips aimed at niche markets. Has someone created something yet of the scope and committment of Cerebus through crowd-funding methods, something that sustained itself over many decades? Will it happen eventually? Possibly. Personally, I'm skeptical, and I do think the direct market as constituted in the 80s and 90s was a unique phenomenon.

Jim Sheridan said...

Sean, back to my point, I do think the COMBINATION of controversial (women are inferior) plus radical change of pace in the direction of the comic (incredibly sharp spoof of comics industry AND politics AND pop culture featuring a charismatic main character suddenly moves to lengthy, slower moving, dark or somber tracts) would be enough to derail any audience.

"Controversial" works like Deadwood or artists like R Crumb are what they are early on. Cerebus shifted in a remarkable way, years into its career.

If I have to think of a pop culture analogy, it would be the band Genesis going from 20-minute prog rock epics to suddenly delivering pop rock dance tunes. Of course, their shift alienated their cult following and delighted the mainstream.

Sean R said...

Hey Jim,

Good points all, and I don't think we disagree. I'd be curious to hear your reaction to the full essay when you've had a chance to read it!

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Sean: You accuse me of "cherry-picking" examples of controversial comics, but you haven't explained why these are not comparable examples ... unless you are trying to smuggle in the argument that they're different because Cerebus is good and Verotik and Boiled Angel are not. That claim is both debatable on its own and irrelevant to this discussion (though as it happens, I agree with you). They were all published at about the same time, and all attracted negative attention because of their content. One might even say that Cerebus was the least controversial of these works at the time, as law enforcement did not speak to Dave about his comic.

And where do you see any "long-time uncomfortableness with Cerebus' parodic element"? The worst I've ever heard is that the parodies date the work in a way that makes it less comprehensible to today's readers. Is that what you mean? Then I think your phrasing is unnecessarily catastrophic.

I ordered a copy of the remastered "Reads" from my LCS just this week (it's not in stock, of course), so I haven't read your essay yet; I'm still looking forward to it. But what do you mean by "status anxiety"? Again, I suspect that you're trying to smuggle in a claim about Cerebus's artistic worth. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

-- Damian

Sean R said...

Hey Damian,

"long-time uncomfortableness with Cerebus' parodic element"

See: virtually every mention of Cerebus in TCJ post-Kim Thompson having editorial input in the magazine (and post-Critters Fantagraphics, I suppose). Heidi MacDonald, R Fiore, Gary Groth mentions come to mind. Even current editor Nadel. (Excepting perhaps the Spurgeon interviews, which are at least surface sympathetic to Sim's artistic worth).

All people that had a vested interest in "comics as art," but a changing view of what that might mean in practice, and how "team comics" might get there as a brand. Status anxiety, all right.

As for the controversial thing, maybe we're talking past each other here. I don't think the books are comparable because a. for two of the we're talking legal action and investigation of law enforcement and b. controversy over visual depictions of illegal acts is a very different matter than controversy over written content or tone change of a long-running book.

Like I said, would love to talk more about this after you've read the essay, so I don't rehash it here with less considered words :)

My apologies for overreacting to your initial comparison (which I still don't agree with at all, but I understand your impulse a little better, I think).

Sean R said...

(I shouldn't have lumped Heidi in with the above-quite a different kind of dismissal)

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Sean: I think you've mischaracterized Heidi and Bob, and I would be interested in hearing you explain more about "status anxiety" (which you said above is not covered in your "Reads" essay). I'll bow out of the conversation until I've read your essay and have something interesting relevant to say. Looking forward to it!

-- Damian

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Oops! HTML fail; there's supposed to be a stroke through "interesting" above.

-- Damian

Tim P said...

Is it actually out now? Cerebus Reads that is. My LCS can't seem to get it even with the diamond code, as UK diamond doesn't know what he's talking about.

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