The Naked Artist: Comic Book Legends (2007)
by Bryan Talbot
(from The Blog & Mail, 13 September 2007)
Sad but true. So, as has become our new custom here on the Blog & Mail we'll start this new session – and our second year -- with a progress report on YHWH's War on Dave.
Everything is pretty much "status quo" with both Secret Project I and Secret Project II on hold – work is progressing on both, but I'm definitely starting to feel like Israel here. If I can make it through one working session in between Blog & Mail stints without being attacked I'll be happy to talk about peace (i.e. scheduling the projects).
Not really sure if this latest attack constitutes "progress" from his/her/its point of view – on the one hand its got a proven track record of rallying everyone to the Anti-Dave side of the fence and taking the focus off of feminism, on the other hand, it's got all the appearance of "a dog returning to its vomit" which could suggest that YHWH has pretty much used up his/her/its resources artillery-wise and is now having to repeat his/her/its self. That would be the optimistic way of looking at it and by this point in my life I have learned to be extremely wary of any form of optimism. But, looking on the bright side if the entire comic-book field doesn't stampede away from me as they did in 1994 and 1999 after reading the following then I think I can be safe in saying that we've been eyeball-to-eyeball for thirteen years and the YHWH just blinked. Thanks, as always, to the dozen or so retailers reading this who continue to order the CEREBUS trades and if some or all of you feel compelled to join in the stampede at the end of "Oh, No! Not Jeff Smith Again" Week and never again order the CEREBUS trades, well, nothing new there and no hard feelings.
So anyway, here's how it "went down":
The TCAF weekend got off to a bad but completely familiar start when I ran across Bryan Talbot's new NATIONAL INQUIRER-style volume on the comic-book field which had just come in at the Beguiling. Sad to think that this is the degraded level to which the author and artist of the classic Luther Arkwright and One Bad Rat has sunk, but there you go. As per usual, the Marxist-feminists, unable to counter the Sixteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast, resort instead to character assassination. March 30 of this year, my Technical Director and Research Assistant on the secret project wrote to me:
"By the way, speaking of Jeff Smith... I don't want to meddle in your affairs, but I wanted to make sure you knew that Jeff has continued to say nothing but nice things about you and CEREBUS in the press."
The subtext being: don't say anything more about the contretemps between the two of us: which is always the subtext in the comic-book field. I haven't said anything, privately or personally, and I always find it irritating when the Marxist-feminist comic-book field behaves as if I have, selling themselves on their collectivist Crazy Dave Sim the Evil Misogynist party line. It's always the Marxist-feminists who revive the controversy and then blame me for responding to the character assassination being perpetrated against my reputation, which always amounts to Big Tough Jeff Smith staring down weak (and a new addition this time out) out-of-shape Dave Sim who proves to be a coward. Look, folks: I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings in your Good Jeff Smith/Evil Dave Sim construct, but there is only one obvious source for this calumny and that's Jeff Smith himself. I have no doubt that Jeff continues to say nothing but nice things about me in the press but obviously he is telling a different story at restaurant tables on his many globe-hopping world travels, pumping himself up into the Marxist-feminist Defender of the Faith and bane of evil misogynists everywhere. Or do all you Marxist-feminists think that Bryan Talbot just manufactured this pile of horse manure on his own out of whole cloth? I think I have the right to defend myself and, yes, you're all more than welcome to roll your eyes theatrically at this point, but here we go again:
What actually happened – my lips to God's ear -- was:
SPACE organizer Bob Corby came up to me about an hour into the SPACE show in question and said, "I don't know how you want to handle this, but I thought I should tell you that Jeff Smith just walked in." I thanked him for letting me know and continued to talk to the occasional fan coming by for an autograph or a sketch. My reputation having been completely destroyed by the Marxist-feminists at that point, my table, post-1994, has been seldom "crowded with fans" as Talbot maintains. There was certainly no one at the table except me when Jeff had made his way around the exhibit room – having stopped to talk to a number of exhibitors and to buy a couple of books from them (which I thought was nice of him, local hero and all – it would be nice if he would do it again someday).
It's literally the only time in my life that I made no move to shake hands with someone that I knew when he or she approached. He had behaved in so completely under-handed and dishonourable fashion towards me over our political differences after I had devoted any number of hours to answering his many questions about self-publishing and had made prodigious efforts on his behalf after he gave me the first few issues of BONE at a Capital City Trade Show (he was desperate for help with his comic book which was going in the toilet – the Cap City Show was a make-or-break proposition for him -- and at Larry Marder's behest he came to the table I was sharing with Martin Wagner and asked me for any help I could give him which I then proceeded to give him as I tend to do with anyone I think I can help to this day) that I just could not bring myself to extend the courtesy of a handshake to him.
[It's one of the unhappy repercussions of my experiences with Jeff that even though I continue to help people, I take it as a given that they will all turn on me at the first opportunity as he did. I certainly noticed – and notice -- that no one I had helped over the years had said a word about my treatment post-1994. Helping people is still the right thing to do, so I do it. Believing that cartoonists are decent human beings who remember people who helped them is something I have learned to place in the "wholly mythological" category. Live and learn.]
As far as I was – and am -- concerned, I had met Jeff more than halfway. I had notified him by letter well ahead of time that I would give him the opportunity to make good on his imagined threat of "decking me" or "giving me a fat lip" and told him to name the time and place. I came in two days ahead of time for the exact reason of giving him as many scheduling options as possible.
By that point, I had been – and continue to be -- pretty gracious, I think, about the entire comic-book field turning against me and had accepted my pariah status and the fact that I was completely without any friends or allies anywhere in the comic-book field, high or low – as I am to this day (handful of exceptions duly noted) -- without complaint. You do what's right and if everyone else chooses to do what's wrong – as the comic-book field unanimously chose to do and continues to choose to do -- well that's their choice and, ultimately, they have to live with the consequences.
That's one thing.
However, calling me a coward in print and saying that I backed down from a threat of unprovoked physical violence, as Jeff did, well, that was in a whole different category. That had to do with my personal honour as a man. You're certainly at liberty to call me a coward and say that I backed down from a threat of unprovoked physical violence so long as you do it in tried-and-true Marxist-feminist fashion – that is, behind my back and in secret -- but, if you make the assertion in a public venue like the COMICS JOURNAL, ultimately, you have to back that up. Or back down. I waited a year after the JOURNAL interview to write "Dear Jeff Smith" because I was annotating FORM & VOID in the back of CEREBUS – basically writing the "To Ham & Ham Not" material that appears in the back of the trade at the same time as I was serializing the story. I wasn't about to interrupt something important like that for something as ridiculous as Jeff Smith acting tough five years after the fact.
(from The Blog & Mail, 14 September 2007)
I always try to do the right thing. The only time it becomes really difficult is in a case of severe demonic possession where I am presented with a Gordian Knot which presents me with one of several unpalatable and unacceptable options. In the case of Jeff Smith's interview in the Trilogy Tour issue of the JOURNAL, I have to admit that it took me about a year to try to untangle what the right thing to do was. If someone is running around saying that he threatened to deck you when he did no such thing, is it the same thing as threatening to deck you? Ultimately, I decided it was infinitely worse, particularly since it was only in the COMICS JOURNAL in 1999 that this delusion on his part had become public. However, it was pretty obvious that this was the story he had been telling people for five years whenever they asked him about the split with Dave Sim. It was also pretty obvious that everyone believed him. There was certainly an urge to correct the misinformation right away, but there was also the awareness that five years worth of damage to my reputation had been done, that the damage was irreparable and that six months or a year wasn't going to make a whole lot of difference. I was already universally hated and if I dared to suggest that Jeff Smith hadn't been wholly consistent with the truth (to say the least) it would only serve to make me that much more universally hated. The coward's way out was obvious: let Jeff Smith's version stand for all time and hope that grovelling before and capitulating to Marxist-feminists would allow me to retrieve some sort of status in the comic-book field.
[Okay, I got to this point in the narration of events and I started realizing how much of the back-story I have to relate in order for people in the distant future to understand. I mean, I know that my generation is a write-off and the generation after that is a write-off and the generation after that is a write-off – the best I can hope for, at least for the next two or three decades, out of this explanation is a completely feminized "Violence is so ICKY! Only an evil person would commit an act of violence in this day and age" coupled with "Jeff Smith can't possibly be at fault so whatever Dave Sim did to provoke him to threaten violence must have been REALLY, REALLY EVIL!" Witness the reaction to the Sixteen Impossible Things. You can't discuss things sensibly with a block of cement. But, for the sake of those people in the far-flung future who once more take an interest in reality:]
When I read the interview in the Trilogy Tour Issue, my primary response was to feel sorry for Jeff Smith as I feel sorry for anyone who has completely let go of reality in order to embrace a manufactured delusion in place of reality (i.e. feminists). I mean, I knew what I had written in issue 186 and comparing what I had written and what he was claiming I wrote in his COMICS JOURNAL interview the extreme variance was glaring.
It's nothing I wasn't familiar with.
My ex-wife and several of my girlfriends were in the category in question. They literally couldn't relate an incident the same way twice. It's an easy thing to check. If they tell you a story and it just doesn't sound right, wait a couple of days and get them to tell it to you again. If it's one of the unreal stories that they feel compelled to tell (and it is a psychological condition: or, as I prefer to call it now, demonic possession) it will be inconsistent from beginning to end every time they tell it. I couldn't find my copy of the Trilogy Tour issue of the COMICS JOURNAL (#218) when it came time to write "Dear Jeff Smith", but I basically said, look, just read what I wrote and read what Jeff is claiming that I wrote.
"Ultimately, Jeff's going to look really bad out of this," I thought, and I felt bad about that on his behalf, as I always felt bad when I saw that someone Deni had befriended had twigged to her condition and was now putting a lot of distance between them. The fact that these people can't help themselves is really saddest part of their natures.
What I failed to reckon with (as usual) was the extent to which facts and reality have nothing to do with what the comic book field -- universally dominated by Marxist-feminists -- responds to and how it responds to it. It is already immersed in the same condition so it tends to perceive reality based on its own prejudices (i.e. anyone who isn't a Marxist-feminist is evil) and to ignore anything a Marxist-feminist does wrong so long as they remain a card-carrying Marxist-feminist. Obviously, Jeff was and is very much in that category. It meant that "ultimately" kept getting pushed further into the future. At first "ultimately" was "when people compare the text in READS with what Jeff is claiming that I wrote." Then "ultimately" was "when CEREBUS fans compare the text in READS with what Jeff is claiming that I wrote." Then "ultimately" was "when someone who is interested in reality compares the text in READS with what Jeff is claiming that I wrote." That's where it stands now. My conservative estimate being that interest in reality – as opposed to Marxist-feminism – probably won't arrive for at least fifty to a hundred years.
[To this day, I don't want to call anyone bad names – I trade off "Marxist-feminist" for "misogynist": you call me a "misogynist", I will call you a "Marxist-feminist" – but even someone whose... distortions... effectively ruined my career and my professional reputation... well, let's just say that Jeff didn't completely invent out of nothing the "Big Johnson" Bone Tall-Tale-Telling character who compulsively blows everything out of proportion in STUPID, STUPID RAT TALES (if you catch my drift)]
Well, returning to reality (which I always like to do) no one compared the two texts. It was then that I realized that this was what the comic store environment had degraded itself into: a high school girls' clique. Jeff was a Marxist-feminist and was therefore IN and Dave Sim was an anti-feminist and was therefore OUT and, consequently, facts had nothing to do with it. As with a high school girls' clique. The dominant female decides who is going to be excluded and everyone goes along with it if they know what's good for them. If you ask them WHY the one girl was excluded they couldn't tell you. There are no facts, no reasons, just a natural compulsion to exclude someone that is a core part of female nature, a soul-deep delight in the harshest forms of emotional sadism of which they can conceive, the same sort of female nature that has, obviously, been running the comic-book field at least since 1994. I mean, to the extent that even CEREBUS readers – many of whom still claim to be fans of mine (with fans like this, who needs enemies?) – didn't bother to read the two versions.
To this day.
So, okay, I phone the Fantagraphics 1-800 order number to buy a copy of the Trilogy Tour issue. It's been eight years and I'm still the only person interested in reality and it's a matter of face it, Dave, if you don't do it, it isn't going to get done. The 800 number doesn't work from Canada. So I send Gary Groth a fax asking if he can fax me the relevant quote from Jeff's 1999 interview and – just for the sake of explanation – I faxed him the actual text from page 241 of READS. I also thanked him for not editing out the favourable reference to me in Andrew Langridge's interview in the latest issue of the JOURNAL.
Definitely a surprise but the return fax comes in, like, the next day. Full of sneering sarcasm about my reviving this "nonsense" and letting me know that I had absolutely no stature or credibility in the field – how else would I know it was actually from Gary? – but, give the devil his due, with the excerpt requested. I was flattered considering that I am universally viewed as the lowest form of scum in existence in the comic-book field. I figured I would get a snotty phone call from an underling and I could give them my VISA number over the phone for the copy of issue #218. Or maybe they would just fax me the information. I really didn't think I was still in the category of meriting an actual letter from Gary Groth.
Why? Well, this is The Big Reason right here. You ready for it? For those of you who have been never quite sure of WHY you're supposed to vilify and ignore and disparage Dave Sim – I mean, you've read 186 or READS and you've been left wondering exactly what the big deal is supposed to (even theoretically) be, as some people were starting to do by 1999 – let Jeff Smith clear up the confusion for you. Here, right here. This is why Dave Sim is an evil misogynist who deserved to have his career ruined, his character assassinated and to ensure that no good and decent person would speak to him (if they knew what was good for them) or acknowledge his presence ever again, amen:
Oh, heck. We're out of time. Hey, why don't you track down your own copy of COMICS JOURNAL #218 and look it up yourself so you'll be prepared to rationalize it away tomorrow and thereby restore what you know to be true: Dave Sim is EVIL!
Next: Seconds Out... Round 3!