Tuesday 31 May 2016

Charles Brownstein: Reading Cerebus

(from a Facebook Comment, 17 May 2016)

I think Cerebus has three distinct story cycles that can each be taken on their own:
  • the high adventure & intrigue period of Swords thru Church & State;
  • the Mailer-infused philosophical inquiry on gender & creativity spanning Jaka's Story through Guys; and 
  • the religious conversion novel spanning Rick's Story through Latter Days
Each have their merits.

The adventure pacing, wit, and acting in the first period is in parts some of the best the medium has ever seen, and the ending of Church & State is a great payoff to what was then the longest extended graphic novel narrative attempted in North American comics. Cerebus set the stage for the now-established format of the long-form graphic novel serial, and will always matter for that alone.

The quiet melodrama and violence of political repression depicted in the second period is often devastating. Guys, as epilogue or standalone, is also as good a memoir on the history of black and white comics in the direct market as we're ever gonna get, and it's legitimately charming. The inquiry into the nature of creativity in Minds was for me the apex of the book, and has a lot to offer. But this period also has the rough-going essays defining Sim's self-described "masculinism" which is where many readers part company with the book.

The last period gets really rough going, especially near the end, but even there the art and pacing in many places are still 20 years ahead of what anyone else is doing even now. The Hemingway lion hunting issue does things with 80 and 100 panel grids that transcend Eisner and Tezuka's cribbing of cinematic technique, and enter a realm all their own. The 19th century illustration inspired religious/demonic visions in Rick's Story are a terrifying depiction of schizophrenia that are playing to a certain extent in William Blake's sandbox.

As a casual reader, starting from the beginning and getting out when the returns start to dip for you is a good strategy. As a practitioner, go to a library and look at the craft in each stage, because it's masterful all the way to the end, even when the story doesn't always land.

Charles Brownstein is the Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Photorealism Tryout: Lee Thacker

Alex Raymond's 'Rip Kirby' strip from 27 June 1956
Top: Alex Raymond's original art; Bottom: Lee Thacker's reproduction
(Click image to enlarge)

I chose to copy this strip for a number of reasons:
   1. Sparse backgrounds (I hate drawing backgrounds!)
   2. A nice close up in the last panel
   3. It related well to Raymond's alleged affairs (in my mind)
   4. The pretty girl
   5. It was from 1956, the year of Raymond's death
The text is really just questions that went through my mind as I was drawing it. The final question (posed to the reader) in panel three could be applied to both sexes I think!

Drawing and inking – some background info:
Between 2008 and 2010, I immersed myself in photorealistic portraits of celebrities and musicians. 16 of those ended up being a part of the Judenhass inspired Yellow Stars book, available as a free pdf and a physical copy. Most of the rest of them were used in The Festive Fifty: An Illustrated Memoir. See some examples below.

I spent those 3 years tracing from photos on a light box and inking them using a prolene pro-arte #2 brush. My first attempts were a bit sloppy, but I got pretty good at it and it was lot of fun. I then got the call to start creating comic book stories for David Gedge (of semi-legendary band The Wedding Present) and I've been honing my craft over the past few years into a much simpler, cartoony style with little or no time left over for photorealistic pieces. I should be working on issue 11 of the Tales From The Wedding Present comic this week, but I've taken a two day break to have a go at an Alex Raymond strip. Shhh. Don't tell David Gedge! Ha ha!

Anyway, a few observations on my attempt, panel by panel (in reverse order). I traced off all three panels in pencil using a light box and then inked them.

Panel 3:
This was the first panel I 'attempted' to ink. I decided to use a prolene pro-arte #2 brush as this is what I was using when I was doing the portraits six years previously.

Big mistake.

No matter how gentle I was with my brush strokes, I couldn’t even come close to Raymond's thin lines. I thought with it being a close up, it wouldn't be too difficult. How wrong can you be? It took me a good hour and a half just to ink this single panel - I can usually get half a page of 'cartoony' comics inked in that time! I put my brush away and vowed to myself to do a better job the following day on panels one and two.

Panel 2:
This went a LOT better. I opened up a fresh bottle of India ink, popped open a brand new Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2 brush and it was a breeze. Still not quite getting ALL of the fine lines, but definitely on the right track. The only real failure in this panel is Honey’s chin. I put just a little too much pressure on the brush during the inking of her jaw line and it’s slightly too small.

Panel 1:
Now I’m starting to 'get it' in terms of knowing when the brush was capable of a thin or thick line. Only Honey’s eyes turned out wrong – there should be a small gap between the lower lashes and the iris which I couldn't quite pull off.

This was a lot of fun to do and a real challenge. It's been many years since I filled in any blacks on the original artwork as I usually fill them in using Photoshop. It's also VERY tricky to render spontaneous lines deliberately. I've never seen any of Raymond's pencilled work, but I’m betting he didn’t pencil in every single hair highlight or clothing wrinkle!

Lee Thacker's Photorealistic Portraits:
Top row: Jack Kirby, Art Spiegelman
Middle row: Neil Gaiman, Lou Reed
Bottom row: Gene Tierney, Neko Case
(Click images to enlarge)

Monday 30 May 2016

Distribution: "It's Just Business"

High Society Ad
Cerebus #86 (May 1986)
(from Al Nickerson's Creator's Bill Of Rights Blog, 23 April 2005)
...The first draft of the Creative Manifesto [the precursor to the Creators' Bill Of Rights] was a communal effort on the part of Kevin Eastman, Pete Laird, Steve Bissette, John Totelben, Michael Zulli and Stephen Murphy and myself -- with supplemental input from Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Dave Gibbons, Steven Grant and others -- in response to Diamond raising the possibility of not carrying the Puma Blues because I was selling the High Society trade direct to Cerebus readers and not offering it through the direct market. Essentially the Manifesto was an attempt to determine what rights and obligations each level of the direct market "food chain" had in dealing with each other. This was the first time that a creator who was also a publisher had had a serious contretemps in dealing with a distributor. As a publisher, it seemed to me that what I had found was a "more direct market" which allowed me to make enough money per book to pay the largest printing bill I had ever had to pay up to that time. It wasn’t that I hadn't offered the book to the direct market -- I had -- but the direct market had ordered a very small number of copies, too small to pay the printing bill. In effect what they were saying was: we want you to assume all of the debt and make the books available to us and we’ll order them as we need them. Since the stores had always, in my experience, under-ordered Cerebus, it was an open-ended question as to how long it was going to take to sell six thousand copies of a $25 comic book through them. There were no $25 comic books being sold at the time and, much like today, virtually all of the retailers’ attentions were taken up with Marvel and DC so I decided to offer the books direct to the Cerebus readers and, as a result, instead of coming up short on the printing bill, I turned a $100,000 profit. It was particularly bothersome at the time because the distributors and the stores were always telling me "it's just business" when they would cut their orders or demand a higher discount or register whatever other complaint they had and use whatever leverage they had to make me toe the line. But when the shoe was on the other foot, they presented it as a loyalty thing. I was being disloyal to the stores by selling direct to my own readers. Well, why was it disloyal for me to sell direct to my readers when it was "just business" when the distributors would cut their orders or insist on a higher discount or demand that we pay shipping or whatever else? To me, I had made a no-brainer of a business decision. Go into debt to print the trade paperback and then sit and wait for the stores to order them two or three at a time or sell all six thousand in a month or so and turn a $100,000 profit. Basically, the universal retailer position was -- or seemed to be -- that I was obligated to sell them everything that I published no matter how few copies they ordered. I basically pulled Kevin and Peter into the discussion -- the only other self-publishers who were in the category of being a significant profit centre for Diamond -- as a means of determining if that was a valid criticism and, if it wasn't, to have more than just my own voice opposing it because at that point it was "Dave against everyone and everyone against Dave". The Creative Manifesto attempted to draw lines between what a creator-publisher could do and what he should do. It was entirely legal for me to sell my book direct to the readers, the question was: was it ethical to do so? I was giving the retailer position the benefit of the doubt: they might be right that I was behaving unethically, in which case I was willing to revisit the question but only if some consensus could be achieved as to where my ethical obligations to the retailers began and ended. In my own view -- since this situation had never come up before and was likely to come up again for future self-publishers -- I couldn't just cave in because it would establish a precedent that in effect would say, "A creator-publisher must always do what the retailers want no matter how unsound it is from the self-publisher’s business standpoint." If that was the foundation of the retailer position then I would have to argue strenuously on behalf of all future creator-publishers to keep from having the retailers use me as the template. "Dave caved in and gave us the books, so that means you have to, too. It’s how the direct market does business." Kevin and Peter understood what I was talking about and also understood that they had a lot more to lose than I did if a precedent was established since they were just beginning to branch out into the real world. What if the retailers decided that they had to be offered everything with the Turtles on it on direct market terms or they would stop distributing the Turtles comic books? That much retailer control was unacceptable to me and to Kevin and Peter, but how much control should the retailers have and how much control should the distributors have and how much should we have? The issue was a dispute about how business was conducted between creator-publishers and distributors and retailers. It became complicated because we had to dissect the problem into its component parts in a way that was nearly Biblical: "In the beginning there is the Work…" and then to follow the Work from the point of creation through to the time that it’s purchased by a consumer. The fact that Steve Bissette, a DC freelancer, came into the discussion early on meant that we got distracted from what we were talking about and drawn into a much larger discussion. I was willing participate in the larger discussion as long as the larger discussion also addressed the question of the borderline between creating, publishing and distributing. When Scott showed up with his Bill of Rights it made the process a lot simpler from my standpoint. All I had to do was to get a right included that said "We have the right to control the means of distribution of our work." That got watered down to "We have the right to choose the means of distribution of our work" which was fine by me. That was the answer that I had been looking for when the process got started. I had the right to choose to sell the High Society trade paperback direct to my own readers. Kevin and Peter promptly published a hardcover of the complete Turtles and sold it direct to their readers, helping to reinforce the point -- we have the right to do this. Because Scott was and still is a freelancer who has no contact with the distribution side he never understood that there is a meeting place between the creative and distribution side of the comic-book field if you publish your own work and that a line had to be drawn in the sand to keep the retailers and distributors from establishing rules that said that "creator-publishers must always do what retailers and distributors tell them to do."...


L to R: Dave Sim, Kyla Nicolle, Stoo Metz, Eddie Khanna
Glamourpuss #25 (May 2012)
Art by Dave Sim
Tom Peirce further criticized my use of fashion photos without attribution.

It's quite difficult to attribute fashion photos because most fashion magazines don't.  As far as I can see Supermodels become Supermodels because -- despite the fact that fashion magazines won't print the models' names -- SOME of them become world famous.  MOST of the time, what you are looking at is someone who is going to get eaten up and spit out when she hits the mid-twenties threshold.  Her name doesn't become known so she just disappears: model, not Supermodel.

Also, I think there's  a sense of Perspective that's required.  Fashion magazines are very much disposable culture.  The moment the magazine appears, whatever fashions are depicted are "yesterday's potatoes".  At the High End of fashion (rock starlets, actresses, princesses) it's taken as a given that you will only wear a $2,000 outfit ONCE in public.  That's about as disposable as you can get.

So, to me, doing glamourpuss, it was a matter of basically taking what Conde Nast considered "the trash" and making use of it by skimming their fashion magazines for Al Williamson girls/outfits and Alex Raymond girls/outfits.  No one who was reading glamourpuss was concerned -- or even aware -- that the fashions  were literally "SO six months ago".

On the only occasion that I worked WITH a photographer and model -- Stoo Metz and Kayla on the second last issue -- I set up a deal with them where we EACH owned what we were doing and we EACH could use what the other had done without asking permission.  Stoo could use the Zootanapuss/ glamourpuss strips featuring his pictures of Kayla for anything he wanted.  Kayla could use the photos and strips for anything she wanted.  And I could use Stoo's photos of Kayla for anything I wanted.

So, in my own defence, I was developing a "Creator's Rights" angle to glamourpuss.  Unfortunately, by the time that I actually met a photographer who was interested in working with me, gp was no longer viable.

It was funny reading READS.  I had forgotten the part where Victor Reid suggests to Beth that she should get a share of M. Zulli's royalties because models were important.  These things tend to arrive in the creative zeitgeist and get processed as fiction before they incarnate as Real World things.

So, I don't think I have very much -- if anything -- to apologize for when it comes to "utilizing" photos in fashion magazines.

But, I can certainly understand why Tom would think that I did.

Sunday 29 May 2016

On Sale 15 Years Ago: Cerebus #266

Cerebus #266 (May 2001)
Art by Dave Sim, cover technician Wayne Cope

Saturday 28 May 2016

Ms. A: Effort For A

Glamourpuss #7 (May 2009)
Art by Dave Sim

Photorealist Tryouts

(from Calling All Raymond/Williamson Photorealists, AMOC, 21 May 2016)
...I'm going to suggest that you -- and anyone else interesting in "trying out" for SDOAR -- do a Raymond/Williamson combination comic page and "pin-up" from time to time and post the results here. We'll obviously be able to use the best examples in the books themselves and, presumably, there will be the potential to auction the original on Ebay to justify the time you put in on it.

A great deal of SDOAR consists and will consist of traced RIP KIRBY panels and juxtaposing that with "what was going on" in Raymond's -- and particularly Ward Greene's -- life at the time.  It seems to me that there's a lot of potential just using the basic elements:  September 1956, a white Corvette with red interiors, Raymond, Drake, RIP KIRBY, HEART OF JULIET JONES.

You can download excellent scans of RIP KIRBY originals from the period at Heritage Auctions' HA.com.  The style is quite different from what you get from the IDW reprints (except the handful of strips shot from the original artwork).  Put your own words on the piece in ComicCraft's Joe Kubert font:  "Here's what I have to say, visually, about Raymond's accident."...

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge) 

Friday 27 May 2016

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. Now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I'll be running interesting excerpts from those letters each week.

Today's entry doesn’t have a date on either my letter to Dave or his in response, but I can, by context, place it in the time frame of when Dave was doing Bible readings publicly. I'm pretty sure it came after the initial date of last week's letter entry. I also am pretty sure that it constituted an entry in Dave's Blog & Mail from that time period. It also constitutes Dave's experiment with answering letters by photocopying the relevant part of the correspondent’s letter and then typing in Dave's response. He also tried writing short responses in the margins of the correspondent's letter, but that went by the wayside fairly quickly. Note the handwritten note at the end of the letter. And, just for good measure, I don't actually recall to what letter of mine (or the topic/s of which) he was responding. I cannot seem to find the corresponding letter from me. It may have been one of those times when I didn’t make a copy of my original letter.

[DATELINE: DALLAS: Sometime in the fall of 2006, I think. Dave, if you see this and want to look up the entry in the Archive, please do, by all means, chime in.]

Hey, Jeff!

Thanks for helping me fill up the Sunday Edition once again. I'm certainly standing by in the event that you want someone to vouch for the fact that you are one of a small handful of believers of God in the context of the discussion group and that you stood your ground against universal opposition in defending the validity of my belief in demonic possession as a genuine present-day threat (which I suspect you don't share) and that you would not give in against pretty relentless pressure to denounce me, with your psychology background, as clinically insane. Personally, I find that a more impressive demonstration of faith in God than regular church attendance. If you need me to put that more coherently in a letter, I'll do my best.

I used to actively denounce Large Scale Religion (regularly late-night viewing of the PTL Club with Jim and Tammy Faye was a major impetus behind Church & State) but, at this point, I have to confess that I don't know what to think. Personally, I believe there are a lot better uses for a million dollars a month for faith-based purposes, but I also have no idea what's at stake or where we are in God's Plan. It's very possible that the Texas mega-churches are the last and best hope of Fundamentalist Christianity in the war against Terrorist Islam -- a matter of Go Large or Go Home? -- and that all of the Internet voting, plasma TV stuff is a slightly unsavoury but essential component of making sure there is still a Large Christian Standard around which to rally. As opposed to, say, the Anglican Church, which seems to be determined to wish itself into non-existence through the active embracing of ethical relativism and feminist-based social engineering. A lot depends on how much of their livelihood that $600 a week constitutes, I think. For some of those guys, it might be half their paycheque and for others just the skimmings from the petty cash box. The Synoptic Jesus praised the widow who contributed a single mite because it was all her substance, rather than the Ostentatious Big Spenders in the Temple. I don't think that rule has been made null and void in the interim.

Some thing with the Christian college telling you that they want regular church attendance or someone to vouch for you. You can call that "compulsion in religion" -- which is theoretically something we're fighting Terrorist Islam over -- but it can also be a necessary rear-guard action against rampant secular humanism and corruption. Unless we, as God-fearing men, start linking ourselves up and getting some semblance of standards back onto the table, we're not far from turning society into the gray interchangeable mass that none of us wants it to be. And with THAT territory, I think, comes the acceptance that different people are going to perceive of different ways to avoid the fate we seem to be on a collision course with. For me, it's scripture and feeding the poor, no church. But, I certainly can't fault the reasoning of anyone who sees the situation differently.

Particularly if they can raise a million dollars a month doing it.

(Handwritten note) Jeff -- Yes -- As you guessed, this is how I’ll be answering the mail for the foreseeable future -- I've at least added the touch of sending a copy ahead of the time!


Reading READS for the Last (?) Time

Cerebus #175 (October 1993)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

1) Erick:  No problem.  You've got to say what you've got to say and I've got to say what I've got to say.  Just because you say something I say ISN'T so doesn't mean that it ISN'T so.

At the very least, I hope that we can establish a template for exchanges between disappointed fan and creator.  There are creators who have disappointed me (no, no names) but I would hope that that fact wouldn't undermine their appreciation of my personal...and financial...investment in them and their work if I was as honest with them as you are with me.  The Internet is here to stay and we're badly in need of a spectrum of templates between Troll and sycophant.

2)  While READS is fresh in mind (just faxed the last of the corrections to Sean):  I really like the lengthy Victor Reid vs. The Receptionist at VERTIGO HORSE bits.  Never having been in that situation, it was pure comedy writing and I think it's one of the best things I've done in the "portrayal vs. reality" end of things. 

3) I think READS needs to be properly viewed as Dave Sim's "Apex Atheist Moment".  What I was COMPLETELY unaware of  -- which everyone besides God was unaware of, I think -- was "What happens when he gets to his Bible parody around 2000?"  God was certain that I would become an extremely devout monotheist (since that's what happened and God is omniscient).  Every other entity from God on down, I suspect, was betting that I was documenting my own dissolution and "lowballing" how bad an end I was coming to.  "He's this bad now, how bad is he going to be in 2000?"

4)  As a monotheist, the point I see myself missing in READS (because I was an atheist) is that "Be fruitful and multiply" doesn't come with qualifications or time limits.  My hand-wringing over overpopulation presupposes that the earth wasn't designed specifically for a human population.  It's (to me) the core atheistic flaw stemming from the idea that we're all ACCIDENTALLY here.  My supposition as a monotheist is that if we were ALL being fruitful and multiplying, we would solve the problems inherent in that because we would be getting where God intended us to go.  Because we're not being fruitful and multiplying (guilty as charged, your honour!), we're generally treading water and wondering why things aren't going better for us.

That and "subdue the earth" seem to me to compete for Job One.

5)  Karen Smith-Zulli, if you're reading this, I'm going to need a mailing address.  Every time I do a new printing of READS I owe Michael $250 (arbitrary amount) for his self-portrait as the M.Zulli character.

6)  Sean has written a pretty insightful (I think) contextual essay about READS.  I thought his observation that Orson Welles would have had a lot to say to Victor Reid was particularly astute in the sense of "you have to be really careful around business types if you don't own what you're doing."

7) It was very undiplomatic of me to craft hybrid names like Carl Berger and Karen Potts. In my defence I'll say that I wrote more Really Bad Autobiographical Things about Victor Reid (my middle name and mother's maiden name) than I did about anyone else whose name I hybridized.  It was and is I think a necessary conceit to warn against thinking of editors as your friend.  But, then, Alan Moore and Karen Berger were still getting on like a house on fire (as far as I know) when I was writing it.  They are not "chummy" now, I'd suggest, for exactly the reasons I was documenting in READS.

8)  I was deploring the absence of people posing the WHY? question and at the same time I was avoiding it myself.  Stephen Hawking's "I know what the universe is doing, I just don't know WHY it's doing it".  I documented a number of scenarios in which the human body incarnated as a "snapshot" of creation but missed the point that it implied a Creation Intellect to set it in motion: God.

WHY? did God create the universe?  My guess is "purification" coupled with "data retrieval".  The "well-minded" neutrinos return to God [see the last few pages of THE LAST DAY Prologue] and the "not well-minded" neutrinos get trapped in the collapsed stars they orbited in life and then get trapped in the dark matter/black holes that result.  "Taking out the trash".  Meanwhile God experiences everything, everywhere and accesses the experiences of the returning neutrinos.  I don't think there's much New that comes back to him, but the odds are that there are New things to contemplate given the near infinite variety of experiences in the universe.  I mean, those are just the STARS we're looking at.  Imagine the populations orbiting them.

I think God is particularly interested in relationships.  Does marriage work?  Does marriage work sufficiently for God to create a wife for Himself?  And what form would that wife take?  How much free will could he allow her?  That's, I think, why God created the Father:  working it out in microcosm (although on a huge scale compared to us: the Father created the Big Bang) and then trying to figure out if the bugs can be ironed out sufficiently to make a counterpart to Himself.  I'm guessing no.  But it's just a guess.

9)  Sean has once again done an AMAZING job of restoration on this book.  Scanning all the raw materials for the cover and getting him to reconstruct it from scratch makes it a real jaw dropper compared to what I mocked up and Gerhard threw together on computer twenty years ago.

The capo di tutti capo is the shot that Gerhard did of the Upper City seen through the Peacock Stained Glass window.  No conscious recollection that he had used white Letratone on the Upper City.

It should all be "in there" when Marquis uses the new paper.

But, really, every page is like a revelation of what was actually there in the artwork or the negative.

10)  Arresting moment when I mention that there's "nine years and eleven months" to the end of the book at the time I was writing 186.  9-11 had absolutely zero resonance with anything in 1994.

 11) I was REALLY, REALLY worried that Love would arrive in my life and throw me off course although I only really admitted that in the last couple of pages.  Considering that I connected with Susan "Dave Sim's Last Girlfriend" Alston about a month after writing 186 and was definitely Seriously Smitten for the first time in a while and that the relationship lasted the better part of four years, I think I must have sensed that "something was up ahead" and "single Dave" better get all this down on paper before I got dragged to the other side of the fence.

12) I know there are CEREBUS readers who buy every printing of the trades.  Can someone let Sean know what printing of READS this is?  WAS the most recent printing in 2001?  It's one of the last holes that needs plugging.

Weekly Update #136: New Mr. A by Steve Ditko!

Dave takes a look at Steve Ditko's new Mr. A Comic,
also Dave gets a birthday card from a small child. It has hearts on it.

Robin Snyder can be contacted at:
3745 Canterbury Lane #81, Bellingham, WA, 98225-1186, or
SnyderandDitko [at] icloud [dot] com
All available Steve Ditko books are listed here.

Matt Dow's 60th birthday card for Dave Sim
(click images to enlarge)

Thursday 26 May 2016

Astronautalis: "Fuck God-Damn Comic-Book Movies"

(from the Baeble Music video interview, 25 May 2016 -- starting at 3.30 minutes)
Captain America! Fuck god-damn comic-book movies. I'm gonna be on the fucking record: I am not a Marvel groupie. That shit is bullshit and it's old news to me. Yeah, there was a point in time when I was like, yeah THE AVENGERS, let's fucking do it G. And I love movies with explosions. I'm not on some snob shit. CRANK I and CRANK II are on my top 5 bitch. But at the end of the fucking day I'm sick of the same repeat pattern. I don't want no fucking saucy god damn guy caped in Captain. Fuck that. I'm over it. I'm done. I'm calling it quits. I'm putting a fucking kibosh on every god-damn thing after this. No DC. No Marvel. No PREACHER. None of this. I don't want to see CEREBUS fucking graphic novels on big screen bitch. You've gotta fucking think of your own idea. Quit reinventing the damn wheel. I'm sick and tried of this shit. And that's exactly how I feel. And a bunch of nerds are gonna be in a god-damn Twitter fucking storm, like a bunch of Democrats get when fucking Donald Trump is on. And ya'll finger tips will be hitting all damn day long, and in the mean time I be down in Florida with fingers up!

(via Twitter, 26 May 2016)

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Odd Transformations... 4 part 2

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

So last week we looked at a page from Dave's notebook #7 that showed the thumbnails for Cerebus #95, pages 12 through 15.  This week we look pages pages 16 through 19, which are several more double page spreads.

Notebook 7,  page 110
And the pages from the finished issue:

Cerebus #95, page 16 and 17

Cerebus #95, page 18 and 19 
In the comments from last week Dave said this about the pages:

These are Hawaii pages. Rose had come to visit Gerhard and he was taking the week off to spend time with her -- staying at her hotel just off Waikiki Beach while I was in the condo at the Marina -- so I was left to try to figure out a way to keep everything moving forward while actually running up ahead on my own. And that seemed to be the best way to do it: thumbnail the backgrounds in my notebook and then finish my part of the page. I had to get far enough ahead so that I wouldn't need my notebook if he needed it for reference. I didn't LIKE to thumbnail backgrounds because that tended to confine Gerhard to a predetermined "his side" of the page. And I knew from experience he always came up with better things if they were HIS from the git-go. 

They're really nice pages -- but they needed to be relatively quick pages for Gerhard if he was going to make up the week where he fell behind me. And that was never predictable. We see -- and saw -- differently. Trying to "do" MY background usually slowed him down and diminished the results. That happened here. I hoped that I could thumbnail "this is pretty much all solid black": "here's where you put in some detail" in a way that made sense to him. Sort of. But not really.

The next page on the notebook has a thumbnail for the final page of the issue, though I don't see where the dialogue was used - though since much of it is crossed out, perhaps it was decided not to put it in the issue.

Notebook 7,  page 111
The title of the next issue "An Anchor That's Going Place" was used over the "Just Listen".


Glamourpuss #7 (May 2009)
Art by Dave Sim
(continued from Robin Snyder's The Comics Part 1...)
Hi Robin!  I just saw your note on the front of this issue: "There's a grumbler in here".

Well put.  Just a grumbler.  Nothing I'd take personally.

MS.A in glamorpuss #7 wasn't really intended as a backhanded tribute to Steve Ditko so much as it was intended as a multi-levelled parody.  Let's bear in mind that the battles fought by (particularly) Harvey Kurtzman over the Right To Parody were won a number of years ago.  On one level, I was making fun of the "legalistic" impulse towards female characters (if you don't create and publish She-Hulk then you are leaving open the possibility of someone else doing it, legally).  It's the sort of "make work" for lawyers things our society has had as a thorn in its side (in my view) for too many years.

Taking to its ludicrous extreme, all you would have to do is go through the DC and Marvel "stables" and look for any character who HASN'T had a female incarnation done and -- on the basis of their own "legalism" you would own it.  Do the Spectre with breasts and call it She-Spectre.  The possibilities are limitless.  If DC tried to sue, you could just use Superman/Supergirl as the basis for refuting the charge. If you don't protect it, you don't own it.

Do I OWN Ms.A?

I suppose so.  But then I've never protected anything I've created.  I've always said that if you see a raw material in my work that you want for your own creative work, go for it!  You would know that better than I would.

If Ms.A is a misogynistic, it's a very weird kind of misogyny, since Ms.A is the first transgendered super-hero(ine).

It just seemed serendipitous:  I had purchased Paris VOGUE looking for parody ideas and there: full blown on the page was a transgendered model with a big A on his/her leotard.  I mean, I knew it was a transgendered model because of the jawline.  Men have a very specific jawline which is different from a woman's jawline.  You can do all the other surgery but unless you're going to really, really mess with the mandible (and a mandible is an easy thing to make a mess of, surgically) even a civilian is going to know "something's up".

I thought it was funny to make the world's first transgendered superhero(ine) the world's biggest Steve Ditko fan.  I mean, with an encyclopedic knowledge of EVERYTHING having to do with Steve
Ditko.  And trained to an absolute BATMAN level of superhuman, but human, capabilities.

What would Steve Ditko think of Ms.A is she actually existed and was a government agent in France?
Whatever he thought of her, it wouldn't make any difference to Ms.A.  I thought THAT was funny.  That huge a fan of Steve Ditko to the point where Steve Ditko and his opinions are "beside the point" for her.

I sent the Ms.A parody and every other Steve Ditko parody I had ever done TO Steve Ditko, the first time I contacted him in 2009.  I didn't want there to be any false pretences/two-facedness on my part: here are my parodies, here's an enthusiastic letter about your work, someone gave me your phone number, I'm phoning you on [the date of Barack Obama's visit to Canada in 2009: see cover of  CEREBUS ARCHIVE #2: Feb 19? I'm guessing] at x time.  If you don't want to talk to me, don't pick up.  Well, he picked up ("I pay my phone bill, why wouldn't I answer my phone?") and we talked for an hour or so and then began a lengthy correspondence.

I never mentioned any of the parodies and he never referred to them either.

Make of that what you will.

Coming in part III:  What about the Steve Ditko letters in the Cerebus Archive?

Oh, and Tim, if you've got a copy of #7, feel free to run the entire Ms.A parody here on AMOC.

Impossible Thing #14

Impossible Thing To Believe Before Breakfast #14:
"Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist."

What I'm alluding to here is the Feminist Theocracy's impulse towards "the one right way to think."  The Impossible Things are far too intricate for that:  there are just too many ways of thinking about the various subjects to rule anything "out of order" (I think) -- let alone ruling EVERYTHING out of order that doesn't conform to Feminist Theocracy thinking.

And, yes, in our society, thinking that way makes me a misogynist.  Which is why I don't go out in public.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

On Sale 20 Years Ago: Cerebus #206

Cerebus #206 (May 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Monday 23 May 2016

The Puma Blues: AV Club Review

The Puma Blues (Dover Books, 2015)
by Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli, with Alan Moore
Forward by Dave Sim, afterword by Steve Bissette

"Without it, any well-stocked comics library should be considered incomplete."

(from a review by Tim O'Neil at AV Club, 26 January 2016)
While it is no longer accurate to call The Puma Blues a truly lost work in the same manner as, say, Alan Moore’s Big Numbers, it certainly came uncomfortably close to a similar oblivion. Miraculously complete it returned, however, at the tail end of 2015, a strange artifact from another era. Now that it's back, a bit of explanation is in order.

In 1986 nobody had ever heard of Michael Zulli or Stephen Murphy. Dave Sim (of Cerebus fame) knew the moment he saw Zulli's work that Zulli would be a star, and so resolved to become his first publisher. Up to that point Zulli and Murphy were just two New England comics fans, but the moment the first issue of The Puma Blues saw print in 1986, it was obvious that both men would go on to have long and prolific careers in the world of comics. And that's what happened, even if The Puma Blues itself fell by the wayside.

The original run of The Puma Blues lasted from 1986 to 1989. Sim published the first 19 issues, even after the series fell victim to an ongoing dispute between Sim and his distributor. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Mirage Studios picked up the reins after that for a few issues, but the series ended three issues shy of its projected conclusion. Zulli went on to illustrate issue #13 of The Sandman -- that's the first one with William Shakespeare -- among other things. Murphy went to work on Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, both as a creator on multiple iterations of the TMNT comic book and later behind the scenes involved in creative and marketing at Mirage. The Puma Blues receded further into the background, a cult object that looked most likely to remain forever unfinished.

Now The Puma Blues has finally been completed, and compiled between two covers by the new MVP of archival comics presentation, Dover Publications. It seems almost lazy to call the work sui generis, but nothing really serves to adequately summarize such a surpassingly odd but also supremely affecting work. While the work begins as a near-future sci-fi story -- set in the far-flung future of 1997! -- it eventually grows to encompass pseudo-autobiography, New Age mysticism, conspiracy literature, UFO-logy, and natural history. More than anything else, the book is an environmental fable, and even though some of the ecological particulars have changed in the ensuing 30 years, the overall attitude of planetary urgency, tinged with anti-government paranoia, remains an all-too current sensation.

The Puma Blues is one of those books that could only exist in comics, a highly personal tour de force by two artists still too young to understand the preposterousness of such a doggedly uncommercial enterprise. It's gorgeous. Dover's hardcover edition, weighing in at 560 pages and four-and-a-half pounds, is an intimidating package. There’s an extended introduction by Sim, an extended afterward by Stephen Bissette, and a rare four-page story by Alan Moore. Plus, of course, the brand new 40-page conclusion by Murphy and Zulli. Now that it’s done The Puma Blues can take its rightful place alongside the period’s other great monuments, such as Moore and Campbell's From Hell and Gaiman's Sandman. Without it, any well-stocked comics library should be considered incomplete. 

Sunday 22 May 2016

Gerhard Commissions: Jaka's Story

Click image to enlarge.

(from Gerz Blog, 20 May 2016)
Another "Scenes From Cerebus" commissioned by Dean; he also brought us the High Society cover recreation of the Regency; the Church & State courtyard & cannons scene; and the Melmoth street... Soon to be available as a print in My Store.

Gerhard's 2016 Convention Itinerary:
March 18-20: Comicon Toronto, ON
April 8-10: Wizard World Madison, WI
June 17-19: Wizard World Sacramento, CA
July-August: Gone Sailing Georgian Bay, ON
September 8-10: Wizard World Nashville, TN
November 4-6: Wizard World Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday 21 May 2016

What's Right & What's Wrong With The Comicbook Industry

Darwyn Cooke in 2011, talking to John Scrudder

Calling All Raymond/Williamson Photorealists!

Thanks to Carson G. for the FedEx package of photorealism samples!  BEAUTIFUL STUFF!

I would agree that you will probably find the shift to strict Raymond/Williamson school photorealism RELATIVELY easy.  But I'd offer the cautionary note that the style LOOKS deceptively easy but is actually quite difficult...and that tends to vary depending on the day.  Some days it's "Oh, right, I GET this."  and the next day it's "Oh, right. I SORT OF get this". Speaking as someone who spent seven years at it, I think I'm safe in saying that it's "built in".

I've often wondered if Raymond and Williamson experienced the same thing and to what extent.

I'm going to suggest that you -- and anyone else interesting in "trying out" for SDOAR -- do a Raymond/Williamson combination comic page and "pin-up" from time to time and post the results here.
We'll obviously be able to use the best examples in the books themselves and, presumably, there will be the potential to auction the original on Ebay to justify the time you put in on it.

A great deal of SDOAR consists and will consist of traced RIP KIRBY panels and juxtaposing that with "what was going on" in Raymond's -- and particularly Ward Greene's -- life at the time.  It seems to me that there's a lot of potential just using the basic elements:  September 1956, a white Corvette with red interiors, Raymond, Drake, RIP KIRBY, HEART OF JULIET JONES.

 You can download excellent scans of RIP KIRBY originals from the period at Heritage Auctions' HA.com.  The style is quite different from what you get from the IDW reprints (except the handful of strips shot from the original artwork).  Put your own words on the piece in ComicCraft's Joe Kubert font:  "Here's what I have to say, visually, about Raymond's accident."


Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. Now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I'll be running interesting excerpts from those letters each week.

Returning to our regularly scheduled programming after about a month off, we now get a letter from Dave in which he addresses a cogent suggestion from Jeremy Schorr, owner of Titan Comics in Dallas, regarding footnoting the Cerebus phonebooks; the old Yahoo Cerebus Chat Group and the goings-on there; possible or real demonic possession; and his public Bible readings, among other things:

26 July, 2006

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for your letter of June 20.

As to Jeremy's suggestion, I think you might want to set something up along the Wikipedia model where you would have pages 1 to 6,000 [Ed: It's actually more than 6,000, but who's quibbling?] with breaks between the novels marked and just have people fill it up with whatever I've written about any given page. I don't think it’s really necessary for me to check it. If I wrote it, I wrote it. "To the best of my recollection...". As it starts to fill up if people find contradictory entries, I'll be happy to define the difference or pick one over the other. Certainly, I've been running out of patience with answering the same questions over and over again while recognizing that every time someone asks a question, it's the first time it occurred to them. As to the short shrift of the religious material, I think that will speak volumes on its own. Just imagine: 60 pages on Cerebus No. 1 and three lines on Latter Days. It would be nice if it could be completely separate from the Yahoo socializing -- I meant that was what I was sort of pushing for when I asked if the answers to the five questions [Ed: IIRC, that was when Dave suggested that he would answer five questions for anyone who posed them about Cerebus. It may have been a bit more complicated than that, or maybe not for everyone. Hey, it's been ten years ago, dude.] couldn't be posted somewhere on the site so that Cerebus readers "tuning in" to find out more about the book could find what I have to say in and around the "Who went to see Superman Returns?" stuff -- to which as I recall, I got no answer.

I appreciate you standing up for me against the group, but I think it's probably a lost cause. Still, if anyone can draw distinctions between personal beliefs and psychiatric conditions, you're the one. [Ed: Back at the Yahoo Cerebus Group, trolls and just misinformed posters used to regularly start a string where the only topic was something along the lines of we know Dave Sim is crazy, but how crazy is he? I would regularly chime in with my psychological expertise and debunk it.] Stick it out for as long as you can is my best advice, but I think the Yahoo Group is probably getting ready to "Go Comics Journal message board" vis-a-vis Dave Sim and, at that point, there really isn't much to say, as someone explained to me. It's just mob rule and everyone throwing the worst invective they can think of. Which should be interesting. What exactly is this website supposed to be about if you think Dave Sim is crazy? What are you all doing here? [Ed: That is pretty close to what it turned into. Amazingly, there are still posts put up at that site, though nowadays they are back to being about Cerebus, from what I can tell.]

I'm not sure if I have anything to say to them apart from maybe:

You know, demonically possessed people don't KNOW that they're demonically possessed. But they do tend to blow a gasket when you point it out even as a possibility. And, I've always wondered, why is that? Well, that's not true. I think I KNOW why that is. But, from the secular humanist side of the ledger, if you don't believe in demonic possession, why do you go ballistic when someone suggests that you might be demonically possessed?

I've cleaned up my act a good deal, as you said in one of your responses, Jeff, and one of the things that happens is that you just tend to see things clearly that were (in my view, demonically) obscured prior to that. As an example, I was a firm believer in the "Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely" adage, but it wasn't until I had been reading the Bible for, I think, five years that the next time I ran across the phrase, I thought, "Hang on. That’s an indictment of God. That's saying that God is absolutely corrupt." Never occurred to me prior to that because my mind never got up that high. "Absolute Power -- yeah, like Nixon." See? Richard Nixon was nowhere near Absolute Power but, because I never thought above that mundane level, it never occurred to me that I was cursing God in using the phrase. That seems like a really basic form of demonic possession. Give the phrase to some glib smart-mouthed teenager (like I was) and get him to say it out loud a few times and he's very possibly taken a metaphorical meat cleaver to his own soul without having the slightest idea that's what he's done. It seems to me that the mail is mostly an ongoing contest to see if I can be made to agree with something I don't agree with or to let an observation go that I should refute.

Let me put it another way. Doesn't it seem a little odd that this obscure cartoonist no one has ever heard of and who everyone agrees is crazy is still getting ten- and fifteen-page letters in the mail two years after he finished his book? [Ed: He may have been mostly referring to me, but I’m pretty sure there were others.] Even after he has made it pretty clear that his only advice is to submit yourself to the will of God, pray five times a day, pay the stated alms and fast in Ramadan? [Ed: All of which Dave has done steadfastly since at least 1999.]

I don't think that will go over any better than my answers did but, having finally Googled my own name a while back, I don't think there are many worse things that can be said about me than the category I'm already in.

I've finished the first four Bible readings and booked the next four. [Ed: This refers to the period of time when Dave believed that God wanted him to publicly read, out loud, the King James version of the Bible and Dave went out and rented, at his own expense, a public venue for doing so. All donations went to the local food bank, IIRC.] Our peak attendance so far was five, our lowest two. It's had its amusing qualities. The first week, there was a seniors couple there who left after about twenty minutes. I mean, the crowd is dropping from seven to five, you notice those things and I wondered a lot about that. Why would you come all the way out, stay for twenty minutes and leave? It's a Bible reading. The guy is reading the Bible. What would cause such a profound level of disappointment? Then, the second week, a woman phones the night before (the number is in the newspaper listing). The only person who ever phoned because of the listing. Asks about a hundred questions and at one point asks if I need someone to "spell" me -- she'd love to read some Psalms. Okay, straightforward YHWH stuff, but I deflect it. No, it's just me reading and I'm going in order. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus... God willing, through the Gospels and through the entire Koran. Mention of the Koran should scare her away but doesn't. She has no money, she uses the Food Bank herself. No problem, she's more than welcome. She's a diabetic, so she'll have to have something to eat. One of the girls at Williams gave me a couple of free muffins Saturday night, so I bring one for her. The bus is dropping her off from church. So, I figure I better have money because she's going to start complaining about how is she going to get home, so I'll spring for a cab. She shows up. I give her the muffin and she's delighted. Wolfs it down. She goes to the charismatic church down on Charles Street. She just loves to get up and sing and dance and Praise the Lord. I smile. She gripes at the Food Bank rep that they should have special food hampers for diabetics, that she can't eat half of the stuff they give her. Katharine, the Food Bank rep, is gracious. Bible reading starts and, twenty minutes in, she gets up and leaves. So, okay, that explains the couple from week one. The whole point of this is to get me wondering and discourage me. But what a lack of imagination! Two walk-outs within twenty minutes and both with women involved.

Well, since then it's just been funny. Sandeep, Trevor (who's filming the readings), Greg, me and the Food Bank rep (Christopher, except for the one week for Katharine). Last week, I gave Greg the DVDs that Trevor has been pressing and told him it was for his "perfect attendance record". So, hey, it's just the guys and the Bible. As long as my personal bank account holds out, I'll keep doing it even if I have to read to an empty theatre. As I said to Sandeep, what am I going to do, blame my material? Blame my delivery?

Now, it seems to me that the issue is one of: has anyone ever done this before? I mean has anyone ever read the Torah in an English translation aloud? Even all of the wacky stuff in Exodus about how you put the sanctuary together and (next week's crowd-pleaser) YHWH’s favourite bar-b-que recipes and how to tell leprosy from not leprosy? And then, Israel makes her big move against Lebanon. Is that connected in some way? If my reading the Pentateuch out loud is somehow facilitating the wiping out of Hezbollah and Hamas, well, I'll happily go into debt to see that accomplished.

Anyway, thanks for forwarding all of this.

The dogs howl but the caravan rolls on.



Friday 20 May 2016

Now, just hold on a minute, there! UPDATE intro:

While I admire Sandeep's optimism, this IS John Funk that we're talking about here.  I've definitely signed everything but let's remember that John's previous "drop dead" target date for getting everything done was April 18 and it was me who asked him to make up a schedule of financial penalties if he missed the April 18 target and we're now at May 20th and it's a long weekend in Canada.  I will be perfectly astonished if anything gets shipped to anyone before the end of this month.  :)

Except for the postcards which I did mail.

And now have a very bad (apologies to Jeff Smith) "gitchy feeling" about, because of the amount of printed type at the bottom of the postcard, under the mailing address.  You're really not supposed to do that because the sorting computers look at the "bottom line" literally.

So everyone that I mentioned in the Weekly Update this week, your postcards should arrive in one week and one day (the U.S.), so including the long weekend, we're looking at May 30 as the ETA.  If you haven't gotten your postcard by then, please post a comment here.  We might be looking at reprinting them with the type at the top of the postcard this time.

Or maybe they'll arrive no problem.

I can dream can't I?

Weekly Update #135: Cerebus Archive #4 On Its Way!

Cerebus Archive #4 has now finished printing and is on its way to Cerebus fans! 
Some of them even have special stamps. Now that is, by definition, special.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Odd Transformations... 4

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

The last time we looked at Dave Sim's notebook #7 it was in November of 2015 in Out With the In Crowd. The 115 pages scanned covers Cerebus issues 87 to 95. We've looked at several times before: "Lord Julius", "So...You already said that.", "Odds and Ends", and "Assassin".

This week starts a two part look at the dream sequence in issue 95, Odd Transformation 4. On page 109 of the notebook we see Dave's sketches for the double page spread of pages 12 and 13 (pages 888 & 889 of the phonebook Church & State II) and the double page spread 14 and 15:

Notebook 7,  page 109
And the one from the finished issue:

Cerebus #95, page 12 and 13 
Cerebus #95, page 14 and 15
There are a few noticeable differences between Dave and Ger's versions, and we'll see the next couple of pages next week.


I'm doing this in the form of an open letter to you, Robin, in answer to your request to reprint some of STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND in THE COMICS!  (Robin is one of the few people to own all 180-odd pages of Our Story Thus Far which I thought he was MORE than entitled to -- #1 on the list -- since the TWIN EARTHS stuff wouldn't have been in there if he hadn't sent me his personal collection of TWIN EARTHS reprints, including a #1 personalized to him by the great Alden McWilliams with whom he was a close personal friend. I can, literally, never repay him for that extraordinary consideration)

I said the last time that I sent you something and you asked to reprint it that my policy has always been that anyone is more than welcome to print anything that I send them.  This tends to happen a lot.  While I can appreciate that most people don't share my views, I do consider it a problem to be asked for permission after explaining my position.  I've even had publishers insist on my permission in writing.

I hope you can appreciate that I can't keep doing that without, effectively, undermining my own carefully considered position by setting a contrary and contradictory precedent.  "SEE?  Sim signed this written permission so he obviously believes it's necessary" "SEE? Sim gave express consent so he obviously thinks he needed to."

This spills over into the letter from Tom Peirce in your -- wonderful! -- June issue, Vol. 27 No.6 and my letter that you printed in that same issue, which I'll be discussing next Wednesday.

Enjoyed your (along the same lines) "Recording, Revising, Rebranding History" lead-in in the same issue.

I also like Steve Ditko's new logo for THE COMICS!, although I miss the CLASSIC logo by the (equally) legendary Creig Flessel.  

THE COMICS! always recommended $30 US $37 foreign for 12 issues. Robin Snyder 3745 Canterbury Lane #81, Bellingham, WA, 98225-1186.

Impossible Thing #13

Impossible Thing To Believe Before Breakfast #13:
A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself. 

It's hard to explain these things concisely because so many things are upside down in our society.

The problem is divorce has gone from a religious thing to a societal thing, so The State is now in control.  Where The State intervenes in human affairs, it needs (presumably) to do so on the basis of Equality.  Everyone has to be Equal before The Law.  Which is not what we're doing.  A baseball player's ex-wife is worth $3 million dollars, the clerk's ex-wife is worth $40K (or whatever).

What we are doing is incentivizing whoredom and whore-mongering: gold-digging by women and women-as-chattal by men.  If, instead, we had a fixed settlement rate for EVERYONE based on jurisdiction (as a 24/7 wife and mother this is what it costs to keep you alive in this jurisdiction, so this is what you get in the event of divorce)  we'd be removing those corruptions as a core reality in our society and getting back to something sensible: marrying for love, security, compatability.

If you only got the same "going-away presents" whether you were a baseball player's ex-wife or a clerk's wife, there would be no reason to have "going-away presents" as even an unconscious motivation in marrying and women would, I think, make better choices.  It would also mean marriages would endure longer because being a GOOD wife would be more -- literally! -- rewarding than being an EX-wife.

Likewise if you only got "going-away presents" if you were a 24/7 wife and mother.  Our concern as a society is -- or should be -- "providing for the provider" with 24/7 wives and mothers as the top priority.  As distinct from "nanny enablers", part-time mother-hobbyists, the wives of househusbands, and "opposite sex roommates".  Equal Before The Law suggests that everyone is expected to fend for him and/or her self.  The State intervening in that should ALWAYS be exceptional and should ALWAYS be "blind justice".  Anything else is institutionalized Inequality.