Saturday 5 September 2015

Correspondence From Hell: Introduction

A Conversation Between Dave Sim & Alan Moore
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Conclusion

Alan Moore: "I Wear The Chain I Forged In Life" (2013)
Art by Dave Sim

The following essay first appeared in Alan Moore: Portrait Of An Extraordinary Gentleman (edited by Gary Spencer Millidge & Smokeyman, Abiogenesis Press, 2003), a celebration of Alan Moore on the occasion of his 50th birthday, and it accompanied a reprinting of Dave Sim's Correspondence From Hell with Alan Moore, which had originally appeared in Cerebus #217-220 in 1997.

By Dave Sim

Dealing with pagans (as I frequently do) is an interesting business. When Gary Spencer Millidge contacted me about contributing to this publication, he mentioned in his fax that Cerebus is the first comic book that he reads when he receives his fortnightly shipment (Cerebus is the comic book that I write and co-draw -- if you are a feminist forget that you ever heard the name and you can continue to exist in your happy little mythological world). Since it is, by now, common knowledge in the comic book field that I am not a feminist and that I am vehemently opposed to feminism, for anyone in the comic book field to acknowledge that they read Cerebus is a most exceptional circumstance. Owing to the implicitly... expulsive?... quality of feminism, Cerebus has not been mentioned in polite society -- pagan or otherwise -- for some years now. Nor have I. So Gary's observation, for me, begged the question which it immediately raised: is this true? Does Gary read Cerebus (leave aside the question of whether he gives it any amount of priority)? Or is there some manner of pagan chicanery afoot? Is he (let's be completely indelicate here) in Alan Moore's thrall? I ask this because Gary's communication had been preceded by another from a fellow in New Jersey, enquiring if I had in my possession an Alan Moore script which had been sent to Gerhard (Gerhard does the backgrounds on Cerebus and we jointly run the company) (I would say we're partners, but that, unfortunately, bespeaks a different connotation these days) and myself some years ago when Alan and Neil were talking about doing a joint anthology title and which he wished to publish in a volume celebrating Alan Moore's 50th birthday (this same volume? Or are we about to be inundated with books celebrating Alan's 50th as we were with "Princess Diana Tribute" books five years ago?). Neil Gaiman had, evidently, mentioned to this fellow in New Jersey that Alan and Neil had jointly concluded that the copy of the script which we had been sent was the only copy of said script in existence. Neil didn't have a copy. Alan didn't have a copy.

Now, I ask you, exactly how likely is that?

Pagan stories always... "sound" funny in exactly this way. Like a Neil Gaiman fairy tale. (lilting musical voice) "And there was only one copy of the story in all the lands and all the world and by the strangest of chances it came about that the story had fallen into the possession of a Deluded Acolyte of the False and Wicked Judaic, Christian and Islamic God Who Doesn't Believe that Abortion is a Virtue."

You see what I mean? Wait, it gets better.

Coincidentally, there had arrived in the same day's mail as the envelope from the fellow in New Jersey another envelope containing an ad slick for (I swear I'm not making this up) a collection of stories which had won an "L. Ron Hubbard Writing Competition" -- said ad slick containing a nice, big quote from Neil Gaiman about what a jolly good show it is that a science-fiction writer who founded his own religion -- er -- "religion" -- had indirectly produced such a volume of great writing. And which also contained a very nice cover letter from someone in California saying what a jolly good show it would be if I ran the ad in Cerebus. To which I could only reply (albeit only mentally -- I see no need to get stuck, however cosmetically, in the tar baby that is the spiritual residue of whatever L. Ron Hubbard has left behind in this vale of tears) that it would be an equally jolly good show if the earth's core were to turn to permafrost. Alas, life does hold its little disappointments for us all, doesn't it?

The fellow in New Jersey had interviewed me some years ago on behalf of another (I am coming to suspect) pagan publication and mentioned in his letter that he found himself "having to" contact me again. In a letter from someone representing Alan Moore (however indirectly) the phrase "having to" does tend to jump out at you, having the "whiff" about it of someone being compelled to discharge a completely unpleasant but unavoidable duty. That part, at least, rang true. In pagan society I can well imagine that having any manner of contact (however fleeting) with Dave Sim would be considered an unpleasant duty which would be undertaken only if it was completely unavoidable. Or perhaps the fellow is merely a feminist and has picked up his aversion to Dave Sim by that brand of osmosis which is peculiar to the politically correct and which is the only discernible means by which they arrive at their political opinions. Like sheep with scrapie: if one of them has the opinion, they all have that opinion.

Anyway, I found the script right where I had left it in my "don't under any circumstances for one second lose track of where this is" drawer next to my drawing board. Swiftly, I put it in an envelope and mailed it off to New Jersey guy within minutes of receiving the letter. Didn't want Neil's fairy story to have an unhappy ending. "And the Deluded Acolyte of the Wicked God Who Doesn't Believe Abortion is a Vitue returned the story to the Brave and Noble Necromancer and he and all the children celebrated by spending the night raising the spirits of the dead from out of the earth including Princess Diana because her grave was just over the road a ways from the Necromancer's house and because all the children, of course, loved Princess Diana. The. End."

I mean, it as Alan's script. He wants it back, he can have it back. What am I going to do? Pour holy water and sacramental wine on it?

Anyway, it was a couple of days later that I got a fax from Gary. Not enough time for the script to actually make it to New Jersey, but that really has nothing to do with how, you know, pagan stuff works. "Space and time are mere uni-dimensional extrapolations of the earth-bound three-dimensional limits possessed of the blahdy-blah-blah-blah, etc." I mailed it and, presumably (in doing so) had passed some pagan test or other. "...for on the third day, there came unto the Deluded Acolyte a fax. And the fax sayth unto him..."

So, okay. I have a bit of a problem. I would like to contribute something to Alan's birthday celebration but pagans are like homosexuals and feminists and socialists (most of them are homosexuals and/or feminists and/or socialists, but let's leave that discussion for another time). You support the idea that they shouldn't be hunted down and shot or burned at the stake or drawn or quartered or made a public laughing stock by contrasting their viewpoints with reason or commonsense (broke the last one myself which is how I've ended up outside of the comic book field looking in), and the next thing you know, they're running around telling everyone that you're a closet homosexual or a closet feminist or a closet socialist or a closet pagan -- "HE'S ONE OF US! HE'S ONE OF US! I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" As with most of my dealings with people these days, it's a lose-lose proposition. Reinforce their viewpoint that everyone and everything is interchangeable -- that Dave Sim is secretly one of them but is just going through a... phase... or some Freudian or Jungian closet homosexual / closet feminist / closet socialist / closet pagan... trauma... or other -- or decline to participate and be accused of being, well, I don't know "The Antialan" or something.

Well, where angels fear to tread:

So, anyway, this is a dialogue/correspondence which Alan and I conducted by fax (at my instigation) and which I published in the back of Cerebus (issues 217-220) a number of years ago after the last instalment of From Hell had been published (to very little -- which is to say no -- fanfare. A fact which irritated me since at the time -- as I do today -- I thought that From Hell was a high water mark for the comic book medium, a graphic novel in every sense of the word, mature majestic, sweeping , beautifully conceived, beautifully realised and, consequently, of virtually no interest to the comic book industry. I thought that devoting vast amounts of space to a discussion of it in the back of Cerebus in four consecutive issues was the least that it deserved. And which, unfortunately, was about all that it got.

In retrospect, to me, the most memorable part of our exchange came when I asked Alan a question about morality -- that is, right and wrong -- and he answered the question by talking about talking backwards and how everything is the same backwards as it is forwards. Which, of course, isn't true. Right is always right and wrong is always wrong even when we are unable to perceive the distinctions between them accurately.

You know, it occurs to me that it would be really nice if, as a 50th birthday present, I could just type "IN THE NAME OF ALMIGHTY GOD COME OUT OF ALAN, THOU VILE AND ACCURSED." And have it work. Just like that when Alan read it. But, alas, I don't think demonic possession -- at least of the sort that Alan seems to have involved himself with -- works that way. As the Synoptic Jesus found out (I suspect) very much to his own chagrin as he went about casting unclean spirits out of people. You can cast them out, sure, but... "When the uncleane spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dire paces, seeking rest: and finding none, he sayth, I will returne unto my house, whence I came out. And when hee commeth, hee findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked then himselfe, and they enter in, and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse then the first." It's interesting to note that even though this verity of Jesus' (Luke 11:24-26) was about a man, he seemed to have struck a... feminist?... nerve; "And it came to passe as hee spake these things, a certaine woman of the company lift up her voice, and said to him, Blessed is the wombe that bare thee, and the pappes which thou hast sucked." I suspect this "certaine woman" was Mary Magdalene out of whom Jesus was said to have cast seven devils. You know what I mean? Early prototype of the mouthy feminist? "And hee said, Yea, rather blessed are they that heare the word of God and Keepe it." Yes, exactly. And so much more eloquent than "You are SO busted, Mary."

Oh, sorry. Forgot where I was. Anyway all of Alan's words are in a non-italic typeface. So, if you're a pagan simply read all of the non-italic blocks of type skip over all of the italic blocks of type. My apologies to Gary Spencer Millidge for "outing" him as a Cerebus reader (note: he never said he liked Cerebus -- no one would be so foolish as to say that, publicly, in out Feminist Age -- he just said that he read Cerebus) and...

Happy Birthday, Alan.

Next Sunday: Correspondence From Hell Part 1

by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
Available from Top Shelf / Knockabout Comics


Jeff Seiler said...

You know, looking at the drawing at the top (wigh I never before today knew existed--ganna need a bonus print of this, for sure), the thought occurs to me:

Wonder what is inside of each of those little locked...coffins?...with a Cerebus head on it?

Jeff Seiler said...

Speculatively answering my own question: We can see all or part of seven of those boxes.

Seven deadly sins?

Seems unlikely, but possible, in Alan's case:

Wrath? Probably. Greed (avarice)? Maybe. Sloth? Unlikely. Pride? Probably; the man has accomplished great things.

Envy? Hmm. Can you accomplish great things in your field yet not envy others who have accomplished greater feats? Gluttony? Seems unlikely.

Lust? Bing, bing, bing, bing!!! The man conceived of and wrote Lost Girls, fer cryin' out loud!

But, this is all just speculation. Hell of a drawing though.

CerebusTV said...

Aside from the personalized paranoia (they are out to get ALL of us, not just Dave) pretty much, yeah.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

"Marley in his pig-tail usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pig-tail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair on his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent: so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the buttons on his coat behind."
~ from 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

I guessing that the Alan Moore script referred to by Dave Sim above is for the never-drawn 8-page comic "Belly Of Cloud" reprinted in George Khoury's "The Extraordinary Works Of Alan Moore" (TwoMorrows, 2003). The introduction there states:

"This story comes to us via a recommendation by the ever-friendly Neil Gaiman who has never forgotten the alluring sting he got from reading it many moons ago. 'Belly' was intended for Gerhard to illustrate and Dave Sim to publish. It's another interesting project that never came to fruition, but serves us an excellent example of the workmanship that Alan puts into his craft."

I wonder why Gerhard never drew it, and whether he would be interested now? That would be an interesting Kickstarter idea...

CerebusTV said...

One of the laments most sorely felt, by Dave Sim no longer contributing new material to CerebusTV, but blessing it to others, is that it left his seminal performance of the final stave of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, undone.