Friday 28 February 2014

Weekly Update #20: A Solution For Diamond?

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
Glamourpuss #14 (July 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
Okay, it looks as if George and Sean have their work cut out for them.  Still no word from Lebonfon on  a) the price for a single signature and  b) what they can do to keep me and Diamond from having to pay 95% of the cost of getting the printing to look like the proofs.

Thanks to Barry D. again. is definitely the kind of thing that I'm looking for since it took me two and a half months to do STRANGE DEATH No.4 and that issue had a good ten pages from glamourpuss that I only had to add comic panels and transition backgrounds to.  No.5 is going to have to be all new so that should tell me how fast or slow I actually am.

Let me try and give you a bit more of an overview of where everything stands now, thanks to a phone message from Brendan (no last name). He wanted to know where everything stands on:

That was an example of a book that everyone told me was a sure seller because copies of the original were going for $50 on eBay and it turned out not to be the case (a sure seller I mean).  Sold a few hundred copies and then zip. I think that's the category that I'm in: stores have limited display space so they special order anything that isn't CEREBUS or HIGH SOCIETY.  That requires Large Printing Bills for books that then trickle out over the course of years.  I really should have stuck with my original plan: telling people that the GSP was designed to help young cartoonists, not as a cash cow, so if they can find the text online, download the text.  No problem by me.

The COVERS books are under Special Projects at IDW which is Scott Dunbier's beat.  That covers a lot of territory, primarily (I'm guessing) the Artists Editions which are one of those "success attracts success" deals.  The more of them come out, the more Prime Comic Art becomes available and then Scott has to prioritize.  I'm not egomaniac enough to think the CEREBUS COVERS are going to be very high up on the immediate list even two years ago when we agreed to do them, let alone now.  They've also reprinted the Walt Simonson THOR edition which means there's a new category:  perpetual sellers.  Again, I don't think CEREBUS COVERS are on that list.  If you can sell another batch of Simonson THORs just by relisting them, you really need to do that.  Also, I think Scott is determined to get ALL the covers and that's one of those things that only patience is going to lead to.  And -- from MY standpoint -- and for all I know from IDW's standpoint -- I'm better off working on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND which is already going to take years to do.  Three or four years to produce a year and a half's worth of monthly comic books. Stopping STRANGE DEATH to write commentaries on 300 covers -- how much time is that going to add to the wait time?  Rhetorical question.  None of us knows.

Well, that's one of those: is this another GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING where people SAY it will sell and it DOES sell but not in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile?  The other problem is that it pretty know...drops off a cliff. Here's my history as a freelancer leading up to the creation of Cerebus.  Almost got to the creation of Cerebus. All I'm going to hear is "Are you ever going to finish CEREBUS ARCHIVE?" Well, probably not.  I'm glad I got as far as I did but even as a print-on-demand title it sold really badly.  There just isn't a large enough audience interested in How CEREBUS Came To Be.  For my own purposes, I think it helped in an area I was concerned about: putting my version of the history on record.  For people concerned about that.  To the best of my recollection, this is how it happened, these are the important elements and how they interacted. There are a number of different versions out there, obviously. Steve Peters suggested putting the issues up on KA-BLAM, the "other" print-on-demand outfit. It sounds good, but almost ALL of these things are in the "if you can just wave a magic wand and it happens", well, fine, but even the simplest thing takes time. I'd be more inclined to look into Barry's suggestion of Patreon because it's a "bottom line" thing. Here: you've got patrons who have committed for $80 a month. That's $80 you can bank on.

Same as the above but with the added problem of getting it confused with THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND before STRANGE DEATH even comes out.  "Oh, yeah. I bought that collection. I thought it was supposed to be a comic book.  What a drag".  The story is ALWAYS going to garbled. ALWAYS.  That having been said, when Lebonfon decided that would no longer store books for publishers, I had to figure out what to do with 6,000 copies of glamourpuss (and NO No.5's. D'OH!!).  What I decided to do was to have them shipped to Waterloo and then sign them all so IDW could use them to promote THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.  They're all signed and they're sitting there while I look into packaging them here in town.  Which isn't working, I've come to the conclusion in the last few days.  So, soon the whole skid full of books is off to IDW to be... packaged... in some way. THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND: ORIGINS or something like that.  But that's not a top priority right now with me just having finished issue No.4. That's something -- HOW to package them and HOW best to use them to promote THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND maybe a year or six months before No.1 ships -- we will be brainstorming about when I have, like issue 11 or 12 (God willing) done, two years from now?  Three years from now?

Same deal as above.  You're talking about a five-figure amount to print it.  You're talking about how do I compensate the people I did jam stories with? Or do I? My view is that they can reprint their own work if they want, but Creator's Rights is usually interpreted as:  cut me a cheque if you use my work.  With JUDENHASS and THE GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING it was a one-time sale.  If someone wants to offer to pay me back for the five-figure printing bill if it turns out to only sell once, but, hey the world doesn't work that way. "Gee, Dave, I thought the CEREBUS MISCELLANY BOOK was a guaranteed goldmine.  Oh, well."  I can't really afford even any potential "Oh, well's" at this point, I'm afraid.

Frankly, my biggest concern right now is the amount of money Diamond has tied up in CEREBUS inventory that isn't moving because the whole process of getting CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY back into print has dragged on for two years with no end NECESSARILY in sight.  I mean, how long is it going to take for George and Sean to have a finished signature or finished book between them? As long as it takes to do it properly.  Then we still have to work out how Imprimerie Lebonfon fits into this.  Are they going to insist on an additional 50% on the printing bill?  What happens if we look at the printed signature and don't like it?

With that in mind, I've floated a trial balloon with Diamond: suggesting that if we get to the finished signature stage and we don't like the quality that Diamond consider doing a run of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY through Gemstone Publishing, Steve Geppi's publishing arm that does mostly the OVERSTREET PRICE GUIDE.  Basically, doing a version of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY that they can live with that matches the trade paperbacks as they are now.  A one-time deal -- the Gemstone versions -- just to get copies of the books back in circulation while we keep negotiating with Imprimerie Lebonfon through 2014, 2015, 2016, however long it takes.

I'm not prioritizing the suggestion. I just made it to my Diamond rep instead of to his boss... or his boss's boss.  It takes weeks for any suggestion to make its way to the person it needs to get to in an operation the size of Diamond.  But, I have to look at "Do I see this logjam coming to an end in the foreseeable future?"  Well, I'm trying to stay optimistic but I thought this would all be worked out before Bill Schanes retired as Diamond's VP of Purchasing -- and that was last April.

It's really none of my business as to how "antsy" Diamond might be getting about this.  That's an internal Diamond question.  But I see it as my job to offer a potential shortcut later this year if we get to later this year and nothing is happening.  Diamond can compensate me whatever they want for the Gemstone editions of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY.  The idea isn't to line my own pockets, the idea is to treat Diamond as the major stakeholder they are.

Matt Demory, my Diamond rep said his Aardvark-Vanaheim file is... bulging.  I have no doubt. All of my faxes and proof copies on CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY are stacked in the corner of the office and the stack is a good foot and a half high.

I wish there was an easy way out of this and, as always, anyone who sees anything I don't see or has a sudden VISION or an answer in a dream  :)  Please, post it here.

Okay, see you all next Friday.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Pulling Back The Curtain

Cerebus #200 (November 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Following Cerebus #12, August 2011) of the key turning points in the Cerebus storyline was where Dave shows himself drawing the Cerebus comic. He pulls back the curtain -- I think it's in Minds -- he pulls back the curtain, and you see Dave drawing the comic you're now reading. John and I talked about this for hours, beyond whatever we ended up writing. That's a key narrative shift which neither of us was really happy with...

...This is an overused term, but it's a very postmodern thing to do. You're being reminded that you're reading a comic book, and part of the fun of getting lost in fiction, is that just for a while you can become lost in that fiction. You don't have Tolkien coming in saying, "By the way, this is just a story about hobbits and orcs." You get lost in that world. And that had happened in the first hundred, hundred-fifty issues of Cerebus, whatever, and Dave reminds you that you're sitting there reading a comic book and he's drawn it for you, and it's like "I know that, but I don't want to be reminded of it when I'm reading the story." And once that shift happened, all of the real-world stuff from Dave was necessarily a part of the comic because he brought it in, and while on an intellectual level I understand what he was doing, and on an intellectual level it was completely brilliant, on a fun, fiction reading level, I'm going, "Oh man, did you really have to do that?"...

...And then there's the whole section of the story in which Cerebus is talking to Dave. Okay, it's an analogy: Cerebus has a creator, Dave has a creator. I could see it on an intellectual level; I just didn't enjoy it. I don't like it when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby popped up in Fantastic Four comics, or Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were in Spider-Man. It was a silly kind of thing there. But I still thought, "You people can't resist putting yourselves into the stories!"

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Dave 'n' Ger's Credo

Cerebus #1 Page 1
Art by Dave Sim
Originally published December 1977; Redrawn 2010
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from Aardvark Comment in Cerebus #166, January 1993)
After you have finished an issue of a comic book, you could do a better job if you redrew it starting at page one because of what you learned while doing it. Theoretically you could redraw the same comic book for ten years and end up with a perfect comic book but you're not going to earn a living that way.

Every creator does work that he isn't happy with. You can't be at your peak 365 days a year. Ger's and my credo is that if you didn't like the page you just did you try harder on the next one. First you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast. Burnout, I think is a myth. You go through dry-spells. You work hard, you are disciplined and ultimately you should be able to produce at a high enough efficiency on a day-in day-out basis (drawing quality, composition, execution and finish) so that when the quality slips (as it is going to, people being human and all) it is still at a high enough percentage of your peak efficiency that it  doesn't obviously and self-evidently, stink on ice.

The Doctor Who Cast Read Sim!

The Doctor Who Cast Read Dave Sim:
Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Paul McGann (8th Doctor), Colin Baker (6th Doctor)
Cover art by Dave Sim

(via Twitter, 17 February 2014)
Fun to see @Scott_Tipton's Doctor Who book in the hands of some Who-luminaries @gallifreyone this weekend.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Star Trek (TOS)

Star Trek (2012)
Art by Dave Sim
(via Twitter, 19 February 2014)
It's not for any particular issue right now, just a great piece of Sim art.

(from A Moment Of Cerebus, 24 February 2013)
...Chris had asked me to do a generic-variant cover and had sent images from the recent movie. And I ended up just doing Shatner and Nimoy, which he bought for another book but explained that they have the licence for the recent movies so I need to do those characters... 

Monday 24 February 2014

Petunia Con 1984 Print

Petunia Con 1984 Print
Art by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlare)

Sunday 23 February 2014

Alan Moore: A Biographic

Extract From The Revised & Update 16-Page Biographic
"Alan Moore: An Extraordinary Gentleman"
(Free download, only from the Sequential iPad/iPhone App

(from the introduction to the Alan Moore Biographic, revised 2013 Sequential Edition)
Alan Moore: An Extraordinary Gentleman was originally created in 2003 for a tribute book compiled to celebrate Alan Moore's first fifty years on the planet, which I published and edited in conjunction with the Italian publisher Black Velvet... I thought that the book needed an overarching introductory sequence of some kind. And rather than just a mere text biography that would provide some context for the rest of the book, I decided to map out the essential events in the life of Alan Moore in a comic format, using images from his own comics to illustrate his journey, literally and metaphorically. Like the book itself, the 'biographic' grew from four pages to eight, and finally to twelve. Alan Moore: Portrait Of An Extraordinary Gentleman was a great success, selling out of two substantial printings in super-quick time and raising over $36,000 for its chosen causes.

Skip forward to 2010 when I was invited by Tim Pilcher, a commissioning editor at Sussex-based publisher Ilex Press, to write a lavish 'visual biography about Alan Moore. Believing  that I had already done much of the groundwork necessary some years earlier, I foolishly agreed. That book became the Harvey Award-nominated Alan Moore: Storyteller. Upon completion of the new book, it was suggested that perhaps my original strip Alan Moore: An Extraordinary Gentleman could be included, reproduced in colour for the first time in English, as a bonus supplement to the UK edition.

However, after a short review of the material and armed with a vast quantity of new and accurate knowledge culled from nine months of intense research, study and investigation, I realised the full extent of the errors, falsehoods and unsubstantiated information that it contained. So the decision was made not to proceed with the idea, and the strip has continued to remain in limbo until now...

Gary Spencer Millidge is a graphic designer, illustrator and writer. He is best known for his self-published Strangehaven comic book series, and his books Alan Moore: Storyteller and Comic Book Design.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Weekly Update #19: 'Cerebus' & 'High Society' Reprinting

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
Cerebus Vol 1 & Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
Cover art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Checking in.

Working on page 22, the last page of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND No.4.  Still have to do the Notes section in the back, production notes for Chris Ryall and colouring notes for Jay Fotos.  But...very close.  Which brings up a key point -- I started the issue December 14 and I'm close to finishing it February 21.  Which would lead your average person to say, "Okay, so it takes you two months to do an issue."  Well, no.  Even if I was done today it would be two months and one week.  "Well, whatever."  Well, no NOT whatever :).  Over 18 issues, if I say I'm going to get them done in two months and it takes two months and a week, that adds FOUR MONTHS to the length of time it takes to do them.  If that isn't factored in, the result would likely be 16 issues coming out on a monthly schedule and -- just as you were waiting for the Big Payoff -- suddenly you'd have to wait FOUR MONTHS for No.17.

Just sayin'.

This -- the Weekly Updates -- I think, is proving to be a successful experiment in Complete Transparency in running a business. Since I'm not a Computer Person or an Internet Person, I'm always thinking "What genuine use could you have for the Internet?"

It seems to me this is it, potentially.  Everyone gets to read my "mail" before I do, so we all know what it is that I'm talking about when I come in to the coffee shop to weigh in.

Big plus (to me):  genuinely interested readers and fans know exactly what's going on so anytime anyone wants to disparage Dave Sim as "crazy" and "evil" and wonder aloud what I'm doing right now, they can tell them. "Just go to A MOMENT OF CEREBUS and read the Weekly Updates. That will tell you all you want to know."  

I think George and Sean are making REAL progress in their discussions. Too technical for me in its particulars, but where it does intersect with my own areas of expertise:

1)  I'm very aware of the differences between, say, IDW's Artists Editions and 100% accurate reproduction of the INTENT of the artwork.  i.e. Wally Wood didn't intend for you to see where he pasted up a correction or whited out and patch of brush work. Scott Dunbier makes interesting choices some places, opting to "go dark" a lot of times to pick up more of the paste-up/white out Reality of the original artwork.

Sandeep, by contrast, definitely did the bitmap conversion on glamourpuss.

My personal preference is for the latter.

[and for glossy paper -- I think the best reproduction so far -- apart from glamourpuss :) -- is the Barry Windsor-Smith RED NAILS book which is on glossy paper. IDW prefers trying to match to the texture of the paper to the Strathmore art paper most guys used. But, that's apples and oranges to me. Guys didn't draw on glossy paper because it wouldn't take pencil very well, erase well, or hold up to man-handling. If the pencils just magically appeared on the page and could be inked without any further erasing, slick paper would be more precise. They were using fibrous art paper because it worked with pencil AND eraser AND ink and (often) tone. I did a revised Inside Front Cover for #3 on Strathmore paper and pasted it up on my usual 172 Illustration Board.  I think I know why those guys liked the 3-ply Strathmore with kid finish so much :)]

This will be an interesting situation when each issue of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND is (God willing) finally published as a black-and-white version and a colour version.  My inclination would be to do the glamourpuss bitmap conversion method and cover up white-outs and paste-ups and things in the black-and-white version.  But I'm doing it through IDW -- which has definitely showed a preference for the paste-up/white out Reality method.  It should be something that Ted Adams, Chris Ryall and Scott Dunbier are happy with and fits in with their way of viewing comic art. It's THEIR money that's making it possible.

There are many things that George has picked up in his restorations (MANY things) --

[as an example, a trail of smoke from a candle being lit in #7 -- it was done in white paint and the white paint wasn't thick enough to make a definite trail. I never really got the hang of how to mix white paint so it was thick enough to be picked up by the camera but not so thick that you have to roll in between your fingers and stick it down by hand (just kidding).]

-- that I don't know if they would survive the conversion to bitmap.  That's where I can't adjudicate the discussion.  I would definitely opt for losing the pencil lines where they are being picked up where that doesn't compromise any linework that has been missing to now.  I agree with Sean, it takes the reader out of the story -- particularly the guidelines for the lettering -- and the CEREBUS trades are, first and foremost, "popular editions". They're meant to be read. And where you err, you have to err on the side of "literary/visual" anywhere where you would be interfering with the READING experience. As long as you don't lose tiny lines that the "visual/literary" reader is entitled to. ALL THE WAY into the page and balancing between those two things -- I'd tend to leave it up to the guy doing the heavy lifting.

Photocopied panels, I'm in complete agreement. Kim Preney finally had to explain to me that photocopies only LOOK accurate and clean. They're actually formed by the toner powder adhering magnetically to the charged area. So the "thin line" is actually closer to a pattern formed by iron filings on a piece of paper over a magnet. When you shoot that with a camera, you're going to be shooting that "flare" of iron filings that aren't readily visible... and get a fuzzy image. Where that happens -- like Weisshaupt taking a drink early in CHURCH & STATE -- I'd suggest scanning the first panel which is the original and then matching the placement where the photocopies are)

Way, way, way off in the future -- if anyone is still interested in CEREBUS -- someone is going to face the choice of scanning Gerhard's original artwork for the bags of gold backgrounds (which are still in The Cerebus Archive) in CHURCH & STATE and digitally substitute them for the bags of gold photocopies on the original artwork, matching area to area.

How DEDICATED are you to restoration of INTENT?  I sure wouldn't want to do it.

Watery ink, I'm still dealing with on a daily basis. I'm doing the thinnest lines I've ever done on the STRANGE DEATH pages and there does come a point where -- through evaporation -- the pen nib just won't do fine enough lines because the ink is too thick. This is particularly true when the pen nib is brand new (my solution to not being able to Master the Gillott 290 pen nib -- a brand new Hunt 102 is the same fineness of line but it requires changing nibs VERY frequently) and I'm trying to copy, say, Ray Burns lettering on a RIP KIRBY panel that is maybe 1/20th the size that HE lettered it at. So, I dilute the ink -- actually using distilled water which keeps mineral impurities out of the mix -- but then have to wonder:  is IDW going to be able to pick this up? First of all on the black and white and second of all on the colour version? Which is a persuasive argument for their Reality Original method. You'll pick up a light brown letter that's supposed to be black that you're apt to lose when you're making everything Either Black or White.

Following on from the "heavy lifting" on CEREBUS restoration: Possible solution:  George provides Sean with his finished digital files and Sean goes through them looking for instances where reproduction choices are, in his view, interfering with the reading experience.  Then, the discussion could move over here with Sean saying:  "Okay, here's what can be done.  If I adjust the reproduction to lose the pencil lines on this page, THESE lines are going to fade.  THIS is the tipping point.  Here's "-1" "-2" "0" "+1" "+2".  What say you, CEREBUS fans?"

Or CEREBUS fan -- since there will probably only be one person still reading at that point. :)

But, that to me would be the hidden benefit to running a Completely Transparent Business:  the person who has the level of interest to stick with the discussion right to the end, IT GETS TO BE THEIR CALL!  COOLNESS!

I'm sort of kidding I sort of think.

Travis P.:  Thanks for your comments.  I don't want to make too much of a point of it, but I infer that anyone who hasn't signed the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim Is a Misogynist" petition thinks I'm a misogynist and -- to me, compelled inference --  doesn't want the immaculate purity of their Feminist reality trodden upon by me. Particularly including requests for things like assistance, advice or comped books. It's all guesswork which is why I asked Margaret to start the petition. When Rob Walton signed and Chester Brown didn't, at that point I knew that there was NO WAY I could ever guess who thought I was a misogynist and who didn't.  Same reason I wouldn't contact Colleen Doran or Eddie Campbell.  You don't want to make a mistake in those cases. Or, I don't, anyway.

Speaking of which, the Petition has 20 EXTRA NAMES since, like two weeks ago.  WHAAAAT??!!

The best jump we ever had in the last  six years was when Oliver's significant other Carma Chan decided she was, single-handedly, going to get the 2,000 signatures. Which I knew she wouldn't. But I think she got something like 12 in the space of a month or so. Which was INCREDIBLE!

Not sure what's going on.

Okay, still waiting for a response from Lebonfon both here -- Monsieur Auberge pere ou fils (turns out that the General Manager is the son of the President: very reassuring that Lebonfon is a family operation: so it's not as if internal communication is going to be a problem) or Patrick or Josee -- and also a quote as to what they are going to charge to do a test signature of George and Sean's (at the moment theoretical) final fixes.

They're probably just mulling over what George and Sean are talking about.

Also looking forward to seeing THE YEARS HAVE PANTS and the first two volumes of the A DISTANT SOIL restorations when Eddie Khanna sends them to me.

See you all next week!

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

Friday 21 February 2014

Cerebus vs Michael Zulli's Sweeney Todd

Cerebus / Sweeny Todd (unfinished, 1991)
Art by Dave Sim, Gerhard & Michael Zulli
(from Cerebus #154, January 1992)
Sweeney Todd remains an unfinished and unpublished story written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Michael Zulli for Stephen R. Bissette's publication Taboo. Work on Sweeney Todd was stopped when the anthology itself was discontinued.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Comic Art Metaphysics II: The Double Helix Prism

What follows is a 10,000 word response by Dave Sim to various web-articles sent to him in hard-copy form by Rob Imes (editor of the Ditkomania fanzine). Although not essential, you may find it helpful to read the following key articles before tackling Dave's response below
Many thanks to Dave and Rob for allowing this essay to appear on A Moment Of Cerebus.

Dear Rob,

Well, God help me, I did it. Read all 131 pages of tiny-type screen captures from the Internet that you sent.

Thanks for offering to let me off the hook to "circular file" the whole works if I was so disposed. Tim had contacted me saying I should check out a link to a multi-page interview with Alan Moore answering charges of being a misogynist and a racist. "No," I thought. "I'd see myself as someone rubbernecking at a traffic accident." I told Tim to let me know if someone on Alan's behalf started an "I Don't Believe Alan Moore is a Misogynist or a Racist" petition online and I'd be sure to sign it (even though Alan hasn't signed my petition from which I can only infer that he thinks I'm a misogynist). In the neatly-ordered and largely untravelled landscape I inhabit -- quite happily -- that same interview arriving from you tended to suggest that (Comic Art Metaphysically speaking?) I actually needed to at least read the material.

Interestingly, for me, everything that you sent seemed to relate to the central subject and it seemed incumbent on me to risk violating the sanctity of the universal feminist consensus by "going out in public", while trying to minimize doing so where possible, What I've decided to do is to entrust all that I have to say here to you and Tim and get him to relay it to you. Tim can post as much of it as he likes on A MOMENT OF CEREBUS and you can post it anywhere you see fit.

Since I'm still pretty sure there's a 99.9% consensus running against me, I'm going to urge you and Tim to consult with each other on anything that you think needs to be taken out of my text here. It's not censorship, I don't think, it's respecting the 99.9% universal feminist consensus running against me (which I think it's only rational to infer from the 513 -- sorry, 514 -- people who have signed the petition versus the number of active participants in the comic book field). Anything that makes you and/or Tim cringe on my behalf, just take it out and just put something like [5 CRINGE-WORTHY LINES DELETED]. I'm basically your one-time guest and you need to be comfortable -- in advance -- with everything your guest is going to say. Because you're going to stick around after this and I'm not.

Okay, let's start with Paul Kupperberg's 26 January post "Stan And Jack And Steve And Mort And Jerry And Joe":

What Mr. Kupperberg is discussing seems to me a good example of Comic Art Metaphysics, some of the parameters of which I've been attempting to document in THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, my current work-in-progress (halfway through page 19 of issue 4). Although there I'm more dealing with the concept(s) of how a creator affects himself and the world around him through what he's writing and drawing, what Mr. Kupperberg is documenting seems to me to be an even more basic and primary application:

I theorize that there is such a thing as a "comic art gene", a permutation of the human genome which expresses itself in roughly one in every thousand or so people born into the English-speaking world (and possibly Europe and Japan but I think the percentages would be higher there for "albums" and "manga"). A nice way of putting it is that having the "comic art gene" makes us exceptional. A not- nice way of putting it is that it makes us abnormal.

As with any number of "ways of being" in our world, it's structurally a double helix. Basically we perceive the world as being composed of... binary dichotomous?... opposing threads in a way that the vast, vast majority of people don't: literary / visual.

If you are born with the gene, very early in your early childhood learning, when you first experience comic art -- either a comic strip or comic book -- you perceive it as a Primary Form of reality, categorizing it alongside other primary dichotomous classifications like parent / child, up / down, in / out, hot / cold. Most people don't put it in that primary classification area of their brain / mind, only the "one in a thousand".

Or, possibly they do when they're younger but when they hit puberty, they understand (or as we would see it "misperceive") comic art as being a childhood thing and over a short period of time move it (or more accurately, I suspect, it moves itself) from the primary dichotomous area of their brain into separate categories: visual arts go here, literature goes over there. To 999 out of 1,000 people, that's literally a "no-brainer".

To us, keeping the two together as a Primary Binary System in our minds is critically important. It's a settled question and we build a lot of internal defences around it. To the 999 the idea that something which is equally composed or words and pictures can have the same validity as real art, "real art" or Real Art is, at best, theoretical (and anything less than "at best") ludicrous. It's the reason that MAUS was awarded a "special" Pulitzer. You know, the way there are "special" classes for "special" people (insert compassionate, therapeutic, institutional smile here).

We bristle at that. It isn't true, we say (trying not to keep the snarl out of our voices).

But. if you can step back far enough (which is pretty much impossible for people with the "special" comic art gene: you really can't step back from what you see as a Primary Binary System governing reality), you can see the point. If 999 people see something as infantile and 1 person sees it as being of critical, primary importance, odds are the 1 person is, well, a cookie or two short of a Happy Meal, yes?

Particularly for my generation, the Baby Boomers, it became second nature to question those kind of assumptions. My parents' generation (1920s / 1930s) didn't. You did what everyone else did and thought the way everyone else thought. Even -- and often especially -- when it was something near and dear to you. You stayed very far away from any crazy idea -- like wanting to keep reading comic books and comic strips past the age of 11 or 12 -- shared by only one in a thousand people. Not doing so was a good way to end up in a rubber room -- and not metaphorically. So most of the 1 in a thousand were "closeted" throughout the first half of the twentieth century, square pegs that fit themselves into round holes because everyone else was and that was what you did, end of story, and then thought no more about it. The only exceptions, really, were cartoonists who could validate retaining the interest by making a living at it. While remaining suspect: what a weird thing to do for a living! Even if you're making six figures. What a weird thing to make six figures at!

The Baby Boomers, being more mobile and communications-savvy than previous generations, dealt with these kinds of things by "finding each other", which is how the first comic stores and comic-book conventions happened. We were still seen as (brace yourselves now) borderline retarded or completely retarded (and those were the terms for how we were seen: "developmentally challenged" or "arrested development" still being far off on the horizon of charitable euphemisms when I was 11 or 12) by the general populace but it was recognized that we were (mostly) harmless and it was viewed as enlightened and compassionate to allow us to wallow in our borderline retarded state (while always hoping on our behalf for an awakening moment into actual adulthood). You might not let your daughter marry one but there was really no need to lock them (us) up if their (our) only problem was seeing comic books and comic strips as having a disproportionate level of importance that, to 999 out of 1,000 people, they self-evidently don't have.

See? You're all FUMING as you're reading that. But fuming just makes the perception more fully entrenched. To the 999 we have already been extended a wildly improbably benefit of the doubt -- which, to them, seems damned liberal-minded of them (excessively so, dragging them over in the direction of borderline retardation) -- and now we're fuming about it? Have we no sense of proportion about our little... quirk?

So, we inhabit our own reality, the reality of the comic-art gene person. The science is settled over here. The best comic art is the best art. Period.

(A few of us shift uneasily at that. Is that position intellectually defensible? It does sound a little, you know, a cookie or two short of a Happy Meal. Is Krazy Kat the Mona Lisa? Van Gogh? Rubens? Andy Warhol?) Point being there is a point of reduction where some of us do think that we are being a little... disproportionate.

Particularly when we're surrounded by people who are getting more and more indignant by the minute. EFF the Mona Lisa! EEF Andy Warhol! Give me Krazy Kat or give me death!

So we turn inward into our own reality which is only real to one-in-a-thousand people. And here, where the science is settled, we are who we are: we inhabit the DNA helix strand we were born with (and into) which is either predisposed to literature / visual (1 person in 2,000) or visual / literature (1 person in 2,000).

I think you would find that the former reads the captions and word balloons first and primarily and then looks -- glances -- at the picture. The line of sight flicks over the image and then returns to the text probably a few times in each micro-second. The text is home-base. The latter looks at the overall page, then select images and parts of the page that attract his or her eye and goes micro / macro several times each micro-second even while reading the text.

This is what Paul Kupperberg is talking about, I think, but not consciously He's addressing the entire community -- both strands of the double helix -- and stepping directly into the snake pit. Who created SPIDER-MAN? Stan Lee or Steve Ditko?

If you inhabit the literature / visual strand, you can SEE the visual / literature strand -- it's always 'right over there' in opposing gravitational orbit -- you understand its arguments but you know that it's fundamentally wrong (or Wrong). Stan Lee created SPIDER-MAN. The visual issues from the literary. The word is the parent to the image. Anything else is getting the cart before the horse.

If you inhabit the visual / literature strand the opposite is true (or, rather, True): Steve Ditko created SPIDER-MAN. The literary issues from the visual. The image is the parent to the word. Anything else is getting the cart before the horse.

The fact that we discuss this -- or shrill at each other about this -- again, looks completely disproportionate to the outside observer, the 999 out of 1,000. "You are aware that you're, you know, talking about... uh... SPIDER-MAN right?" And then (O, my Merciful God! they can't help but think) knowing by the glittering look in our eyes, no we really don't see it that way, they really do have to wonder if we are as harmless as they are trying, in dutiful liberal-minded fashion, to think that we are.

This is Prime Reality stuff to us, mother's milk. This is at least as important as Capitalism versus Communism, Monotheism versus Atheism, Democracy versus Authoritarianism -- pick your own 999-Person-World-Primary-Reality-Opposing-Double-DNA-Helix strands.

This is why I see a need for sketching in the first broad strokes of Comic Art Metaphysics, a structure for our system of beliefs and perceptions.

Who created SPIDER-MAN? To answer that question for myself, I have to ask who created CEREBUS? because that's the only anecdotal citation for which I have first-hand experience. Did Dave Sim writer create CEREBUS or did Dave Sim artist create CEREBUS? You have to move past the actual point of origin, Deni misspelling Cerberus; Deni's sister Karen coming up with Aardvark Press and her brother Michael coming up with Vanaheim Press (at my behest) for the name of the fanzine publishing company, my creating a cartoon sword-and-sorcery aardvark image as a mascot. It wasn't yet comic art. It became comic art when I did the first panel of Cerebus with a word balloon. I drew Cerebus first and then I wrote the first line of dialogue once I had drawn him. Likewise with the splash page to #1, the first actual Cerebus page. I definitely pencilled it and then wrote it and then lettered it and then inked it. The image was parent to the word.

Put another way, throughout the entire history of the character, Cerebus wasn't "incarnated" until I drew him. Page 755 of CHURCH & STATE didn't become page 755 until it was pencilled and inked by Gerhard and myself. There's probably a notebook page with the dialogue or descriptions on it, but that isn't, to my way of thinking, in any way That Page or even "that page". I inhabit both strands of the Comic Art Metaphysics DNA double helix (which probably makes me 1 in 1,000 among the one in 1,000) so I can always look across to my DNA counterpart and I can switch my perceptions from one to the other and then dispassionately say what Reality is to me. Dave Sim the artist created Cerebus and no dissent from Dave Sim the writer on the point.

The Larger Idea, to me, behind Comic Art Metaphysics is that there are Larger Ideas behind Comic Art Metaphysics. That what we are discussing is not really SPIDER-MAN, but rather our various Comic Art Metaphysical perceptions of what SPIDER-MAN is. SPIDER-MAN lends itself to this because what we are also discussing is the Larger Ideas of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and they are profoundly dichotomous as Comic Art Metaphysical Icons.

Which have little or nothing to do with who they are as human beings, how they are seen by the People Of The 999 who know them as human beings. We don't know them as human beings, we only know them as the Large Ideas behind their published work which (rather than who) loom ever larger in our "comic art gene" perceptions with each passing year.

They represent or Represent to us Liberal versus Conservative, employer versus employee, writer versus artist, company man versus freelancer, extrovert versus introvert, self-promoter versus non-self-promoter. And Stan Lee is firmly in the literary / visual strand with no "truck or traffic" with the opposing view. And Steve Ditko is firmly in the visual / literary strand with no "truck or traffic" with the opposing view.

I hadn't realized until I read Mr. Kupperberg's piece that the Jonathan Ross / Neil Gaiman tracking down of Steve Ditko was anything other than a misguided schoolboy prank. Mr. Ross actually got a valuable piece of information from Stan Lee with the "I'm willing to say so." / "That's not what I'm asking you, Stan" exchange. In Comic Art Metaphysical terms it would be extremely suspect, ethically, to try to coerce anyone to abandon his strand of the helix. As I say, I‘m pretty sure that Stan Lee was BORN into that strand and that strand into him. We, hopefully, have -- or will soon -- move beyond the crude primitivism of coercing the denial of Inherent Nature in the interests of some illusory One Big Happy Family consensus.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were always that, were always their respective natures, we just didn't become aware of them as that until they did what they did -- did SPIDER-MAN -- in order to become that. They (Large Icons They) incarnated in the same way that they incarnated SPIDER-MAN. It was time for them to happen because the 1-in-1,000 group of Baby Boomers had coalesced like a giant coalfield to press them into the two opposing metaphysical diamonds that they are and now always will be as long as there is a 1-in-1,000 comic-art-gene group of people in the English-speaking world.

They had no idea in 1962/1963/1964/1965 that they were enacting a multiplicity of Large Comic Art Metaphysical Ideas which is why they have no distinct memories of what actually happened. "The FANTASTIC FOUR seems to be working, let's try something else." You could as fruitfully ask a plumber what was he thinking about when he was fixing that drain? What was the sequence of events? What was said, what did he know and when did he know it? At the time, they could... maybe... have seen some level of importance in that for what they would know as the Most Important Comics. It would be interesting to know how PRINCE VALIANT came about if Hal Foster was asked and there was some place to read about it. But it wouldn't have been thought of as crucially necessary! Which is where both of them can, and should -- like my hypothetical plumber -- be forgiven for thinking that you were a cookie or two short of a Happy meal for being so... intense... about this.

Of course the plumber's drain never became a (literally) billion-dollar intellectual property. Which does tend to skew the thinking of the 999 at least about the intellectual property, but more often along the lines of "what is the world coming to when something this infantile and (diplomatically! diplomatically!) developmentally-challenged is generating a billion dollars?"

I'm extrapolating in THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND that there are still Larger Layers to be considered. That the nature of Comic Art Metaphysics is layered incarnation. There is a Larger Story than SPIDER-MAN and that Larger Story is Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. There is a Larger Story than Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and that Larger Story is Marvel Comics (I think Mr. Kupperberg is being very helpful to the discussion in giving everyone a reality check that Corporate Metaphysics play a large part in any discussions of the pre-Direct Market industry). There is a larger Story than Marvel Comics and that's the double helix of the visual / literature vs. literature / visual context we inhabit and which inhabits us. It's a multi-levelled tapestry with multi-levelled layers of meaning which can be very, very powerful. It's no coincidence that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" occupies imprimis pride of place in the context of SPIDER-MAN As Large Icon equidistant from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko who, unquestionably, view their own and each other's fulfilment of that in completely opposing ways.

What I see as the intersection of SPIDER-MAN's Large Icon Context with the Real World (Metaphysics generally: the Reality we and the 999 inhabit) is the assassinated JFK. Iconically, the Spider-Man costume designed by Steve Ditko is a bullet hole between the eyes and the lines of the webbing the font of blood issuing from it, drenching the head and entire torso, waist, forearms and feet.

The cover date for AMAZING FANTASY 15 is August 1962, the same month that Marilyn Monroe died.

It seems to me it was a Metaphysical WhipCrack -- a pretty much unprecedented one -- an enactment which signalled in advance that the die was cast. All enactments earlier in 1962 between the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe -- when the first SPIDER-MAN story was being written and drawn and Steve Ditko was designing that unprecedented costume -- were leading to Monroe's death. The cascading font of blood from the head was going to be the inevitable result.

That's part of what we're responding to when we respond to SPIDER-MAN. The Metaphysically Aware part of ourselves is aware of the Extremely Grim core of the character's creation.

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" and the dire consequences of the choice of Great IRresponsibility.


Over at the POST-GAME show on Batton Lash's Facebook page (This being my first -- and hopefully last -- time reading this volume of Internet postings, I was struck by the fact that that was what it reminded me of: an extended POST-GAME show, in some cases for a football game that took place 50 years ago and sometimes as long as a football game or even longer. At least that's the way it starts. People trying to be as edifying as possible in a paragraph or two and -- if possible -- a sentence or two and then it's as if the "colour commentator" or the "guest former coach" suddenly starts really feeling his steroids and it's really jarring since, like everyone else, I was raised on television and people talking in real time were -- Don Cherry excepted -- really careful about being aware that they were perceived, metaphysically, to be sitting in the living rooms of millions of people they've never met):

I think Arlen Schumer scores the most telling point with "If you gave that same verbal data to 10 different artists, you'll get 10 different images". Of course he undermines that point by belittling the other strand of the double helix, the literary / visual. I think this is always unhelpful to any discussion. Arlen was born into the visual / literary helix and Mr. Kupperberg was born into the literary / visual helix. I think it's always valuable to come up with a new sound byte that helps make the case for your own strand but -- this will be a recurrent theme of mine -- it's really, really wacky to be perceived as wanting to eliminate the other strand when there are definitely two core strands to the double helix you are occupying and which is occupying you. We are a double helix and there is no real world example of a self-sustaining single helix that used to be a double (so far as I know).

I'd add to Arlen's comment that it is significant that John Romita Sr. has said that Stan Lee told him after issue 39 not to bother trying to "do" Steve Ditko. It was just Mission Impossible which suggests that whatever Steve Ditko brought to those first 38 issues wasn't just anything any artist could do (which, to me, is the literary / visual strand trying to diminish the visual / literary strand and, arguably, constituted undue provocation of Arlen).

Bissette popping up here (Hi Steve! Thanks again for signing the petition!) reminds me that this was one of the discussions that we had about Mirage Publishing and then about Tundra Publishing: if you are discussing a joint creation, do an audio recording of all conversations because, inevitably, you're going to lose track of who came up with what. You don't discuss "The Property" unless the tape recorder is turned on and you don't turn the tape recorder off until you agree, mutually, you aren't going to say anything else about it. And if you slip, turn the tape recorder back on, do an agreed synopsis of what you just talked about and then shut it off.

I didn't see SAVING MR. BANKS but the authoress of Mary Poppins was way ahead of the learning curve on that one: if you're talking to Walt Disney make sure you have an irrefutable record of what was acutally said. It's the reason that I do most of my discussions with IDW by fax. It slows things down but the fax is in there somewhere if I need to confirm what I said or what Chris Ryall said. Save all of your e-mails concerned with any Intellectual Property right from Day One and don't discuss anything unless you have a 100% rock solid record of it.

I think it's also valuable to note when someone on the opposing strand says something that you are unable to refute that you need to focus on it and write it down. Your Comic Art Metaphysical mind is alerting you to something that might assist in... how would I put this?... a more integrated understanding of the entire context of the Binary System into which you were born. Strict knee-jerk adherence to only your own way of thinking will compel you to overlook important jigsaw puzzle pieces you didn't even know you were missing. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Next: Alan Moore's Last Interview

I'm going to start with Dr. Will Brooker's account of the evening. It seems to me that the problem starts with Kevin O'Neill's -- I think quite understandably -- thinking that he was "among friends" and that mention of the Golliwog character wasn't out of line in the context of an Alan Moore Event. That Kevin O'Neill thought that a disservice had been done to the original character, proposed doing the character to Alan, Alan looked on it as a writerly challenge and went to work. I think this failed to take into account that an Alan Moore Event didn't necessarily mean that everyone who was there was 100% conversant with every part of Alan's oeuvre and that (I infer from Dr. Brooker's tone) that golliwog is "as near as dammit" to the n-word in the UK. I'm certainly aware of the unforgivable implications of "wog" particularly as it applies to people from the subcontinent, but I think the nuances of this are a "U.K. thing" and that probably only people from the U.K. or Commonwealth countries more "linked in" than I am are the only ones who can discuss this intelligently in any depth.

I do think Alan makes a valid point that all that might be definitively said about the character is that each reader will make up his or her mind as to whether he successfully did what he set out to do and that that's true of any creative work.

The word "sensitive" is a particularly double-edged sword here in the early years of the twenty-first century and what I take away from Dr. Brooker is that he is sensitive and extremely empathetic. He doesn't so much feel badly on his own behalf for "golliwog" passing unchallenged, he feels badly on behalf of black people generally and the extent to which he is a party to that by remaining at the event.

I potentially see a problem in his choosing to leave and then tweeting about it insofar as, at one level, it suggests that he was the only person there sufficiently closely attuned to Reality to realize that that was the only ethical course open. Everyone should have got up and left and to not do so was to betray an implicit solidarity that we all should share -- must share -- with our black brothers and sisters in such contexts.

It seems to me the fact that no black people walked out and that black people were present -- as well as various minorities -- is problematic for Dr. Brooker as well.

There is the peril of coming across as More Ethically Attuned Than Thou which then puts people who would otherwise be your natural allies on the defensive, particularly those who were on the stage. It suggests that it would have been the job of the moderator to say, "I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to withdraw that comment about that despicable racist stereotype and apologize to all of the black people here and black people generally or I'm leaving and I'm urging everyone else to leave." That seems... disproportionate... to me. Although I can understand someone else thinking that it's an irreducible baseline. The Only Right Thing To Do.

On the subject of ACT OF FAITH, I think there is possibly a thematic link to the (as I see it as I infer Dr. Brooker sees it) misogynistic violence in THE KILLING JOKE.

Personally I would have trouble with a lengthy scene of a woman strangling to death. But I do think that's personal sensibility. My patron, T, in Texas showed me a lot of graphic novels and series when I was down there and I was forcefully struck by the extreme-sadism-as-entertainment. What we would have called way back in the 80s "splatter porn" and is now just "cool" or "hardcore" or "awesome".

It wasn't just the shooting of Barbara Gordon, it was the fact that she was shot, and after she was shot, stripped naked, raped and photographed being raped and then the photographs shown to her father as a means of driving him insane. I really think that "over the top" doesn't do justice to the facts of the piece and I think it was well beyond most of the extremes of rape that are perpetrated and which Alan is citing as his central concern: to reflect reality. Which raises the question (at least for me) of why? Why would you let your writerly imagination stray That. Far. Over. Into that territory? If all you're saying is "This bad guy is really bad" it seems at least two bridges too far to me. But, I'm also just one reader and Dr. Brooker is just one reader. And my sensibility is decidedly unfashionable in the comics field. And Alan was the writer of THE KILLING JOKE.

Alan's defence is probably just as apt here: you can't succeed with every reader with what you intend to do so there's no practical way to address the accusation or charge or indictment or whatever you see it as being. I'd side with Alan that all of those are just opinions of people who didn't write THE KILLING JOKE and not really relevant to the writing of THE KILLING JOKE as a consequence.

Dr. Brooker's question that he never got to ask is highly speculative. My best guess would be -- looking at Alan's habits as a writer from Day One -- that he doesn't revisit his own work so, no, the notion of "if he could go back in time" almost certainly doesn't apply. He wouldn't be evasive in saying that. It just wouldn't bang a gong anywhere inside his writer's mind.

With his stature and market muscle, he could, in effect, go back in time any time he cared to on any of his books and revise, redo or modify them. In this case probably with DC's wholehearted support if only because -- Corporate Metaphysics being what they are -- there would be a public relations bonanza in announcing that Alan Moore has decided to revise THE KILLING JOKE and Brian Bolland has agreed to illustrate all the changes/additions whatever.

I've got my own controversial rape scene -- Cerebus raping Astoria in CHURCH & STATE. There I think I was making a more substantial point that probably didn't come through either a) at the time b) since or c) with most readers. And I tried not to explain because -- as an on-going work -- if you have to explain what you're doing it means you failed in your intention. Hope they -- or some of them -- "get it" later on. A quarter of a century later seems a different thing. READER'S DIGEST version:

I saw it as Astoria definitely having a High Level Debate with Cerebus as his prisoner: essentially saying "You're trying to make this into something that it isn't. You aren't really the Pope. You are technically, but you don't understand that that has to mean something larger than "technically". You're actually just another vile male and I'll prove it to you. And it will cost you because technically you are the Church and you are in my way and I want you out of my way. I think I can trip you up and bring you -- and therefore the Church -- down by several hundred notches on the Big Scoreboard." Which, to me, she did. She aroused him sexually. She didn't provoke him into raping her (although he would have seen it that way). Even as -- blunt-minded -- as Cerebus was and always had been, he couldn't just rape her which is a dead giveaway that he's transgressing and knows he's transgressing. Instead he blindfolds her, performs a "marriage" ceremony between them and then (in his mind) has marital relations.

At some level he must know exactly how bad that is.

But he's incontinent in the larger sense of the term (ie not just physically): if she's blindfolded it isn't really rape. If he marries them, as the Pope, it isn't really rape. And then, of course, he falls asleep right after. Which is part and parcel of trying to evade, mentally, that which can't be evaded in any way. If he falls asleep it didn't happen. He was asleep.

I had to address Astoria's nature as Lord Julius' ex-wife who was taking that stature -- and her link to Cirin -- and striking off on her own. Basically becoming the first feminist in Estarcion as distinct from the Cirinists (who were a matriarchy). I was doing the first substantial building blocks on the Cirin / Serna "How The Matriarchy Came To Be" which would take up a big chunk of "Minds" in MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS. Daughter political thinking actively opposed to Mother political thinking.

Rape, it seemed to me, would have to be factored in as an unavoidable part of Astoria's program.

The same way that rape, particularly gang-rape, is used to intimidate and "police" women in rural, tribal India today and in virtually all Muslim countries.

I had to fudge it quite a lot but what I decided was that Astoria would just become detached from it. In a context where rape would be unavoidable -- moving around a Medieval / verging on Renaissance environment mostly alone -- attempting to effect political change, empower women, etc. -- she figured out that the best that she could do was to just be an inert lump, completely detached. Which you'll notice was what she did with Cerebus. And then, as she did with Cerebus, gob in their ear. "That's basically what you just did to me -- injected your slime into an orifice of mine where it was completely unwanted". And I've always been proud of her line in answer to Cerebus' "What was that for?" "Little wedding present." Her fundamental belief in the fact that women getting the right to vote was the larger good was weighed against the sacrifice and she made the sacrifice. If becoming inured to rape was what it took, that's what she'd do.

I was still fudging it. Rapists are sadistic by nature. It's an act completely shorn of empathy. A woman -- particularly an attractive woman -- travelling alone in that historical context would be drawing a straight line between two very evil male points. Astoria would have gotten scarred at some point or several points and probably maimed. By not having that happen to her, it seemed dishonest at a fundamental level. But to actually show her physically maimed seemed a bridge too far to me. Over in the direction of splatter porn (again, I apologize for the dinosaur term).

If I was doing it now, I would probably go that extra step because there would be the real world precedent of girls getting acid thrown in their faces and getting their noses cut off in Muslim countries. Which we now know was happening at the time, and is a recurring motif in tribal societies (it just wasn't talked about in the news because it was pre-9/11). And, thematically, it's the same thing. The girls who that happened -- and happen -- to tend to just become more resolute which is what I was trying to convey with Astoria. The end -- women getting the right to vote -- justified any means for her. You would, presumably, flash on the mental image from the news you can erase from your head instead of asking "Where is this coming from? is this guy 'getting off' on showing Astoria with her nose cut off?"

That was my "backstory" for Astoria that I didn't want to just drop like a turd of exposition somewhere. Who would she discuss forcing herself to become inured to rape with? I get the sense that did not come across AT. ALL. for most readers. So I'm suggesting that could be the case with THE KILLING JOKE. Alan was saying what he says he was saying but that it just didn't make it off the page, through the readers' eyeballs and into their conscious minds.

I'm really fuzzy on dates, so I just looked up my copy of THE KILLING JOKE and -- I think I have a first printing -- it says it came out in 1988. The rape scene in CHURCH & STATE was in 1987. It was all pretty new territory at the time. We were the first generation of comics creators who only had to concern ourselves with what we thought needed to be said -- "Mature Themes" "XXX Violence" -- me, because I was paying the printing bill on CEREBUS and Alan because he had an unprecedented Sales Stature in Corporate Metaphysics terms. "With great power comes great responsibility" and I don't think Alan or I can fault anyone who decides we fumbled the ball badly. And I think Alan was pretty clear about that in his interview at several junctures. But I don‘t think you can get anyone's best work if they have to run everything through a mental sieve until they've extracted and eliminated ANYthing that might offend ANYone. Particularly in the 21st century because that's a very, very, very long list and getting longer by the day.

I'm trying VERY much not to be disingenuous here. In the context of an Alan Moore audience almost everyone is going to skew in the direction of viewing me as Nine Different Kinds of Nazi, most especially Dr. Brooker, Laura Sneddon and Pam Noles -- Heidi MacDonald definitely. I'm really not. I'm always aware that there is an opposing viewpoint and I tend to think it's always better to picture "Okay. What double helix is this and which helix am I?" than to demonize an individual just because they don't think the way I do. I'm genuinely concerned because of what I see this doing, potentially, to the Helix Opposite. Everyone is trying very hard not to turn this into Cultural Revolution stuff but the "shoot from the hip" nature of the Internet tends to make that something you can be in the middle of before you're even aware that it's sneaking up on you.

Julian Darius' An Apology To Dr. Will Brooker -- as well as his earlier posting -- is a very good example of this. It says in his bio that he started Sequart in 1996 and I infer that he's maintained a largely unblemished record of intellectual rigour in a very public environment for close to two decades. Very much a guy who isn't going to flinch and take down a post but then pretend he, you know. actually didn't. And then he's also got a guy on his site doing an Alan Moore Might Be Insane Now piece which is intended ironically but... but... that title. I don't think it telegraphs irony at all this close to Ground Zero. I forget who it was who delivered the eulogy for Isaac Asimov at an Atheists Society (?). Kurt Vonnegut? Anyway, he started the eulogy "Isaac is in Heaven now." And brought down the house. That's the intonation of the title but you have to read it that way and you can't control how people read. How they hear the words. I don't think irony works in proximity to the slippery slope into Cultural Revolution stuff. But what are you going to do? Ban Intentional Irony During This Crisis Situation? That is Cultural Revolution stuff.

I'd have to say the only really "sour face" I experienced in reading Alan's interview was when he played the homosexual innuendo thing on Dr. Brooker. "You are causing me irritation so my natural assumption is that you are probably on the opposite side of the fence from me politically and you fellows usually squirm whenever homosexuality comes up and never as much as when it is suggested that you might be a closet queen, so here you go." Oh, he's NOT still doing THAT old number is he? Very nice to see that Dr. Brooker was way way way out of range as a target. A well deserved exploding cigar for the Magus.

The Gordon Brown remark that Alan tossed off. Well. yes, it resonates very badly but I think it's one of those things you have to make allowances for. I was at a barbecue over the summer for my local MP, a Conservative (I know, boo, hiss) and a friend of mine (I know BOOOOO HIISSSSSS) and during the speakers program there was, to me, way too much Justin Trudeau bashing. Cheap jokes. "Guys, Ladies, he's way ahead in the polls right now and he's just arrived. He hasn't said enough to tell us even where he is on the Helix strand opposite. You aren't making him look bad, you're making yourselves (us) look bad." But I'm in the minority on that and I think the people who think that cheap shots are unworthy no matter what the target are increasingly in the minority.

But I think the net effect is the most important thing -- Alan has decided not to do any more interviews and fewer public appearances (after Stephen Holland of PAGE 45 chided me back in 2012 that "Even Uncle Alan is getting out every once in a while these days"). It is, I think I'm safe in saying, a "bad trade" for your strand of the Double Helix. Whatever you might gain for asserting accountability: that you haven't -- or, at least, from now on you won't -- give Alan Moore a free ride. Um, that's a really irreplaceable voice that you have there. And I think if you step back and take a deep breath and look at what he's saying, you're going to have a very difficult job finding fault with his bottom line: it doesn't make any kind of sense for him to second-guess himself on what he's writing because there's always someone who is going to be offended by what he writes. All the reader can legitimately say is "Doesn't work for me". No problem. Where do you see a "Yes, but..." that you could successfully append to that?

I think there's definitely a case to be made that the Golly Wag character was an insurmountable writing challenge. I think even Alan Moore is going to run across things that he tries to make work and (some? many? most? few?) people are going to be deeply, deeply offended by. I can't see why Pam Noles shouldn't vent about it and I can't see why Dr. Brooker shouldn't vent about it. Particularly if (as in Dr. Brooker's case) it takes him a while to marshall his thoughts and get it exactly shaped what it is that he thinks really needs to be said (as seen by "Twisted Times" the only piece of his I've read he's not exactly helpless in expressing himself and someone that eloquent who really needs to "work it out" first is likely to have something of genuine value to say when it's finally shaped). And if a public dialogue with Pam Noles helps him do that -- and helps her do that -- so much the better.

But, I think, in a general sense -- here addressing both strands of the Comic Art Metaphysics Double Helix -- it would be good to reassure Alan that this is just an important subject to an unknown number of people who need to have it discussed at some length and need to work through a lot of aspects of it towards a resolution of whatever kind but that it is not Cultural Revolution stuff. That -- if he has anything more to add to what he's already said about racism and violence against women -- he'll be glad to post it to wherever the dialogue is taking place when it has concluded but that the participants should be aware that it is extremely unlikely that he will. That there really is nothing to add to his bottom line. And that they really -- for their own good, for Alan's good and for the good of your overall political context Opposite mine -- accept that with good grace.

Sandeep Atwal who I've worked with on and off over the last ten years or so is a Sikh (although not a practicing Sikh) and interested in comics though not, I don't think, branded with the "comic-book gene". And he asked me about THE SPIRIT because he knows Will's work was very influential on me. And I told him I would lend him some of my Warren magazines and Kitchen Sink issues with what I consider the best Eisner work. And then as I was going through them, there was Ebony White. (things that make you go, "Hmmmm") Sandeep makes most of his living from selling collections of Malcolm X speeches on the Internet (malcolmxfiles I'm pretty sure it's called), so as I handed them over, I warned him. The next week when I came over, he handed them back. Nope. Couldn't even look at them.

Well, you know. I didn't apologize or try to explain or rationalize. It was a unique situation because he had asked me and it was central that he had asked me because he knew I valued Will's work so highly. Automatically, he knew what my position was. Automatically I knew what his position was. We haven't talked about Will or THE SPIRIT since. We have plenty of other things that we can talk about. (Best of all for me -- listening to him talking about Malcolm X).

And I hope that's the case with Dr. Brooker, Pam Noles and Laura Sneddon and Alan Moore. Although probably not at this point or anywhere in the near future.

I will mention that I was very ambivalent about doing this. I said a few years ago that I would stop going out in public as a sort of "best compromise" on the view that I'm a misogynist. I don't agree, but, at the time, I was one guy against a universal consensus (a perceived universal consensus? Well, yes, I would guess so, but without hard evidence -- and there was no hard evidence -- even suggesting that there was anyone "on my side" would have the compelled inference that it was still one guy several cookies short of a Happy Meal grasping at straws. As Martha sneers in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF "Portrait of a man drowning.") It seems like basic democracy to me. People voting by signing or not signing. It's at least crystal clear and not like shadow-boxing at every public event.

Well not a lot has changed since then, but there are now 514 signatories to the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim is a Misogynist" petition. That's a lot of friends for one guy. I sincerely feel very privileged. And they're all people I can be completely at ease around and it has the primary benefit that it means I'm not... infecting... any pure feminist spaces or pure feminists with my presence. There is no danger of a Laura Sneddon or a Pam Noles or a Dr. Brooker or a Heidi MacDonald coming face-to-face with me by accident at a comic-book convention and things being... really awkward. I don't have to concern myself with "whose good time, evening, entire convention" I ruined by being there.

I still get invited. One for a signing today in the mail, another phone message from a woman who -- not every year, but very regularly -- calls from a major Con saying they would love to have me as a guest. And every year I call her back and say the same thing:
(207 or 409 or, now, 514) people is a lot of friends. But if you picture it as a percentage of the people in the comic-book field -- even just counting the ones that I've met, had dinner with, had drinks with -- back when I drank, it's a very, very small number. I have to assume that everyone else thinks a) I'm a misogynist b) thinks it's fine to call me a misogynist c) really, really, really doesn't want me anywhere near them or near anyone that they like. Conventions are interesting. Signings are interesting. But not interesting enough to always have to be wondering: Which one are you? when I'm meeting someone. I was never a Huge Deal in comics, like Alan (as an example). I spent a lot of time with each person who was getting things signed or a sketch so it looked as if I had a line but it was usually four people for an hour. No one noticed that it was the same four people. It was "I always had a line". I even fooled Will Eisner with that one when we were set up side by side at the 2004 Torontocon. He said, "Okay, you can stop showing off how popular you are."

It's a joke that I used to make that a Dave Sim signing consists of the store owner, two people locally, five who didn't show up and no one can understand why they didn't show up and two other people who drove 15 hours to be here and then have to turn around and drive back ten minutes later because they can't miss work. At a modern major Con that leaves a lot of people who are really, really, really, squeamish about people they know for a fact don't Think The Right Way. I just can't, internally, see that as "a wash".
If you want to view it through the Double Helix Prism it seems to me that this is another example of feminists wanting to eliminate "not feminists" from the feminists / not feminists Double Helix. I get that. I can see that it's very, very, very important to them. It's not very, very, very important to me. I neither care particularly about being eliminated or eliminating anyone else. I care about Reality. I'm perfectly content to build a Reality Zone where I can perceive Reality without having to run it through Politicallycorrectcheck on my Macbook.

Which is why I wrote Tangent and why I incorporated it into the 15 Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast. They're just as Impossible To Believe today as they were (How long ago was it? More than a decade, at least. 12 years? Doesn't matter.)

I think it's the best of all possible worlds. Feminists are in no danger of me infecting their space and I don't have to worry about whether it's okay to do Oscar Zarante's voice or it's okay to say the word golliwog or it's okay to make a joke about saying golliwog without having to worry that somewhere out in the blackness (which is all I can see because I'm on a stage and all I can see is a big bright light shining in my face) someone's pilot is wavering and then guttering and then going out. And I've Ruined. Their. Evening. I've Ruined. My. Own. Event. And that this is just the beginning of something that is going to spread very far, very wide, very fast and practically immolate a lot of people once the metaphorical accelerant hits the smouldering cigarette butt.

Sorry. I interrupted myself. Back to the "We'd love to have you" phone chat:
Guests get invited our for dinner. The Con director loves me. Eight people at dinner absolutely loathe me and have publicly said so on numerous occasions. How do l tell the Con director that I don't think it's a good idea for me to go out for dinner? I either become a major downer for him by not going or a major downer for eight other people by going.

That's a really uncomfortable thing for everyone's digestion (except mine but things like that don't affect my digestion). It's not something you want to fly across the country to experience, trust me. I don't envy Alan now having to go through it. It takes a lot of getting used to and I've always been -- I think, I never knew Alan well and I don't know him at all now -- far more of a loner than Alan will ever be.

So (I will say to the caller trying to wind it up), all I can recommend is: before you call, check the petition at iPetitions online first. If there are fewer than 2,000 names on there then I'm nowhere near revisiting the question. In fact (I've had to start adding recently) I set the 2,000 names threshold back in 2008. It's taken almost six years to get to 514. Simple math tells you that, at this rate, I would be revisiting the question when l was 75. She laughed (which was nice -- she got that I wasn't angry. I was amused). I'm pretty sure that at that point I would say: I've made it without going out in public from age 52 to age 75. I think I can make it the rest of the way without breaking a sweat.
Arlen Schumer rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I like the guy a lot. He's in Westport, Connecticut so he's been extremely helpful at getting me things like photos of the Alex Raymond crash site. But the guy I talk to on the phone isn't the online guy. Night and day. And he was a part of several online discussions that Rob Imes forwarded to me. In particular Batton Lash's Facebook page...

(BTW I feel bad that when Batton was being accused of racism that he hadn't signed my petition so even though I wanted to do something for him it just seemed weird: what good does it do for a guy who doesn't think he's a misogynist to go on the record that he doesn't think a guy is a racist when the compelled inference is that the guy who isn't a racist thinks the guy who doesn't think he's a misogynist is a misogynist.  :)  I can't believe I actually got all that out intact.)

...well, here Arlen is right after (as far as I'm concerned) he's scored major points for the visual / literature side against Mr. Kupperberg and the literature / visual side by saying if the writer gives the same description to ten different artists, he's going to get 10 different designs:
Just had to delete the first comments about my post since it went up on Sunday. Not surprisingly by the ever contentious and usually clueless Arlen Schumer. I called for reason, he responded with rancour. Buh-bye! Feel free to stir up the s--t anywhere else you want but not on my wall.

Critical thinking, meet Arlen Schumer. Arlen Schumer meet -- wait, Arlen, where are you running to?

Right here, smart guy; let's see you post quotes of mine and rebut them. I DARE YOU.
Yes (part of me is thinking). It would be interesting to see what -- even theoretically -- you could come up with to refute the point that if a writer gave the same visual description of, say, a costume, to ten different artists you would get ten different designs. Different enough that if you tried to trademark all 10 of them as being the same costume, I think the Trademark Office could be excused for looking at you really funny.

But most or me is thinking. I couldn't do this. This looks like utter lunacy to me. I can't understand why this doesn't look like utter lunacy to most people. ALL people.

But, that's what I think. Is there a polite way to say "Post the 15 Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast and REBUT them. I DARE you"? No. There isn't. "I DARE you"? I don't think I've said "I DARE you" since I was 7.
PK nailed it in his article. Period.
"Roger McKenzie," I'm thinking to myself, like Ebenezer Scrooge in the tone of "Know it? I was apprenticed here!". Roger McKenzie and I started at Warren at the same time. 1979. I sold "Shadow Of The Axe" to Louise Jones and he sold her a million scripts it seemed like overnight. Wow. He's still out... there. In... here. Somewhere. Jimmy Stewart voice: Well waddaya know about that?
Saying the word "period", while ignoring my 3 posts in refutation of PK's piece won't make them go away, Roger.
And then they calm down. And I feel as if I've gotten whiplash three times over. But that "Why, Roger McKenzie! Bless my soul! It's old Roger McKenzie!" moment. That was nice. For a nanosecond.

I can't do that. But, yes, calling me a misogynist and expunging me from the comic book field is not going to make the 15 Impossible Things either a) go away or b) be any less impossible.  :)  or  :(  or  ;)  or, you know, "What. Ev." as long as we're using Paris Hiltonisms like "Buh-bye". :)  :(  ;)  or Emoticon Emoticon Emoticon if you prefer.

Okay. Almost to the end.

Camille Paglia.

And I wonder what that name "does" on the Internet, here, today, February 2014. What a roller coaster of a life dear old Camille Paglia has lived. A hundred roller coaster lives and I've probably only been consciously aware of a half dozen. She's Up. She's Down. She's Brilliant. She's Sick. She's Compromised. She's Corrupted. She's Winning, She's Losing. She's Forgotten. She's Back. She's Crushed Beyond Recognition. She's Evil. She's Wonderful. She's Better Than Ever. The first time I read about her most of the article was taken up with trying to explain why she hadn't been mentioned much / at all with the first wave of feminists (I think this was around 1985 or so) and why she had needed to be expunged while not calling it that or pointing any fingers at anyone because it just happened. Okay? It just. Happened. Now let's move beyond that unpleasantness because unpleasantness does no one any good now does it? So here's 20 or 25 years a feminist Camille Paglia artfully painted back into the photographs that she had... well, as we said, just unpleasantness. "Hell, that's all blood under the bridge" as George says in WAOVW.

Anyway Rob's on a Camille Paglia "kick" these days (I think I read him saying that in TETRAGRAMMATON FRAGMENTS. Yes, I'm pretty sure that was it. The newsletter, digest zine for the UFO, United Fanzine Organization. How far back does the UFO go? Hang on a minute, can you? It's just upstairs on the bookshelf. My Steve Ditko book shelf. The DITKOMANIA zine goes there and, of course, TF. I'll be back in just a jiffy.

Yes, issue #229. Can you believe it? A fanzine at issue 229 that isn't CBG. CBG. It used to stand for... oh, never mind. It says in there somewhere how long UFO has been going. It's definitely "down tools" when the new TF comes in. Can't find Rob's mention of Camille Paglia. Maybe it was in DITKOMANIA instead. [It was in Rob's column in TF #232, Feb 2014 ~ Ed] Anyway, sorry:

She writes in a December 16 post entitled "It's A Man's World And It Always Will Be" (subhead) The modern economy is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role -- but women were not its author". Oh she must be in Crushed Beyond Recognition mode at this point, I'd imagine.
When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys [her emphasis] who have no incentive to mature or honour their commitments. And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centred and profound sense of themselves as women.
That seems to me to have a DNA level of lucidity to it. The Gender Double Helix. You can embrace or resist the Strand Opposite, just as you choose. But trying to eliminate the Strand Opposite or suppress the Strand Opposite or... Expunge... the Strand Opposite because it won't capitulate to you, because it refuses to believe Impossible Things just because you REALLY, REALLY CROSS YOUR HEART AND HOPE TO DIE want it to, then it seems to me that you really don't "get" Gender or even gender. But, just as you choose. You know, when I wrote "Tangent" the gender balance -- er, "balance" -- at university was 60/40 in favour of women. Now It's 70/30. Which is well past the point -- well past the point -- where feminists decided Something Needs To Be Done NOW when it was 65/35 for men. Avowing that they sought only numerical parity. CROSS THEIR HEART AND HOPE TO DIE KISS THEIR PINKIES UP TO HEAVEN NO TAKE-BACKS STAMPED IT DOUBLE-STAMPED IT. 50-50 and you'll NEVER HEAR ANOTHER WORD ABOUT IT!

But, you know? Just as you choose.

Just as you choose.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take a long, hot shower and get this... INTERNET... off of me.

Dave Sim

14 February 2014
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Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.