Saturday 30 April 2016

Getting Riel With Chester Brown: Postscript

Getting Riel
Chester Brown discusses his graphic novel, Louis Riel, with Dave Sim

Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus
by Chester Brown
(Drawn & Quarterly, 2016)

(from comments posted on AMOC, 19 April 2016)
There was a full-page article/review of Chester [Brown]'s new book [Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus] in the NATIONAL POST that I was going to make reference to at some point, at the end of the first column of which David Berry announced that Chester is the ONLY person to do religious commentary in a comic book. But then, I just thought, Why bother? I already know how the discussion is going to go on AMOC. Chester Brown GOOD Dave Sim EVIL as opposed to the tenor of the article: Chester Brown GOOD Dave Sim NON-EXISTENT.

Yes I do think that demonic possession exists and that it's the same as it's been since Biblical times, "we"'ve just decided to call it by other names. It's particularly noticeable for someone like myself who prays five times a day, reads Scripture aloud and fasts most days (and 24 hours on Sunday). For ME, that's just basic self-protection. It's pretty apparent what a complete LACK of self-protection looks like. I definitely don't look at people who don't protect themselves and go "Wow! They're so carefree and happy! I must be seriously deluded!"

There comes a point where you just accept that you're not getting a fair hearing and that you won't get a fair hearing in a world where a major cartooning presence like Chester Brown is, basically, saying that Jesus agrees with him that prostitution is a good thing. Canada has certainly opted for Chester Brown's view of prostitution THAT isn't considered misogynistic or... anything pejorative. 

I think two things worth pointing out: 1) Chester, according to Joe Matt, mischaracterized Joe's disapproval of Chester's whore-mongering as "Joe is too cheap to pay for a prostitute". That may be true, but in all of the conversations that Joe and Chester and I had, Joe's objections were always on moral grounds. Chester did the same thing with me: mischaracterizing my disapproval as being "Dave doesn't believe that women should have jobs." [Interview: A John's Gospel,, 9 May 2011] I definitely don't believe that 86% of women working outside the home is a sensible... or sustainable... percentage but -- like Joe Matt -- I just think that prostitution is morally wrong. And that's certainly what I always said to Chester. "You CAN'T believe that prostitution is harmless or, even worse, beneficial." He definitely did. I would clip and mail articles to him about prostitution when they appeared in the NATIONAL POST -- pro and con -- because I wanted to help with his research. What he did with it was up to him.  

The 2) thing is that Chester is definitely one of the most -- if not THE most -- unique whore-mongers on the planet, as far as I'm concerned. I infer from the reviews and commentaries on PAYING FOR IT that people sent to me that Chester is continuing in his relationship (or "relationship" or Relationship) with his favourite prostitute and that they have now become virtually an old, settled, married couple.

I know at the time that Chester and I were hanging out that she would bake him cookies for Christmas, so it isn't a COMPLETELY one-sided thing.

Personally, I wouldn't be wanting to defend that on Judgement Day, but I'll be very interested to see how that does "shake out" on Judgement Day.

And I can certainly admire Chester for his advocacy (as I understand it): that if more men treated prostitutes the way they do a girlfriend or a wife that they cherish -- as Chester definitely cherished and cherishes his favourite prostitute -- the world in general and the world of prostitution specifically would probably be improved. Or be made less unhappy (not necessarily the same thing).

I don't agree and, as far as I know, Joe Matt doesn't agree, but there you go.


Dave Kopperman said...

It may be semantics, but I'd argue that most of the exegesis in Cerebus is done in text form, with the comics pages offering more of a reflection of morality that's far less explicit about its scriptural underpinnings. No doubt Berry would have ignored it even had the commentary in Cerebus actually been comics, but it does give him an out (although I can think of other examples that belie the notion that Chester is the first to use the form for that purpose).

Dominick Grace said...

Most of the exegesis in Mary Wept at the Feet of Jesusis in prose form, too, in Brown's notes. The actual comics bits are loose adaptations of biblical storiesand as such, "interpretations," but it's not biblical exegesis in comics form.

Dave Kopperman said...

That strikes me as over-literal. The comics in Mary Wept clearly offer interpretations of biblical events that are not in the original text - which IS commentary.

Ray Cornwall said...

I've always wondered (and the Chester Brown discussion reminded me of it) just how many readers finished Cerebus. The whole thing, 300 issues (and I will settle for that as a defibed complete read, even though I think the "optimal" complete read includes the letters page and supplementary text pages along the way- again, another conversation). I always hear the argument "Cerebus USED to be good", which I would argue is untrue. Cerebus was good and got better, but the rewards to the reader in the later issues required a bit more work. But nobody says, for example, David Foster Wallace isn't worth reading because Infinite Jest is hard to read...

...wait, actually they do. Maybe that's a bad point.

I'm currently reading Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, which is about 3000 pages altogether. It's a very difficult read. I'm glad I'm reading it on a Kindle, because I can easily look up vocabulary words and various English history. The rewards aren't as easy to come by as, say, The Collegiate Hepcats. But both are still awesome.

So anyway, the question is for Dave- how many people do you think have completed reading Cerebus?

Also, I wish more people would offer you the civility you just offered Chester.

Dominick Grace said...

I've read all of it-as in ALL of it, letters pages, supplementary essays etc. I don't have the earliest issues in their original form, but I do have their integral reprints in the Cerebus Bi-Weekly format. I have a complete run of the comic from issue 12 forward (the first one I bought new off the shelves, though 17 was the current issue--I was able to get 12-17 the same day) and that's how I originally read it: month by month, cover to cover. Yes, even the Cerebexegesis. Much of it I have reread, some sections multiple times, though there are long swaths I have read only once.

Barry Deutsch said...

I've read "the weak form" of all of it - somewhere about halfway through I switched to just reading the phone books. But I've read all the phone books multiple times, I think.

Unknown said...

Ray Cornwall - I have no idea. But, I think that's probably a "declension" area of Read, read and "read". A lot of people, I think, only "read" books but would be offended at the suggestion. If you're a Reader -- like yourself -- then I think you have to content yourself with that and not get into "difficult" discussions with "readers". Just as, as a funnybook creator, I need to content myself with having no idea how many Readers or readers or "readers" I have. To be fair, each person pays the same amount for the same book and I make the same amount from them. I try to keep that uppermost in my own mind. I probably make a good deal of my livelihood off of people who buy volume one and go, "Nope. I don't get it." And leave it unread or mostly unread on their bookshelf.

They can always "get it" later. That's just as unpredictable. CEREBUS reads very differently to a lot of people in their forties than it did to them in their twenties. And of course, there's the problem of the first volume not really being representative of what's there. "Don't try to understand me too quickly," as Norman Mailer said back in 1956 or so. It's easier said than done. We all have "snap judgement" areas in our lives or we'd have no BREADTH of knowledge.

I thought Chester made a good point in Berry's article that he still isn't clear on WHAT Jesus was teaching. Neither the Synoptic Jesus or the Johannine Jesus were "big" on answering direct questions. You don't notice because the answer is always more interesting than the question.

Jeff Seiler said...

I've read all of "Cerebus", start to finish. I own nearly all 300 issues, minus numbers 1, 2, 3, and 14. And, I own nearly all of the bi-weeklies. And, I own a lot (most) of the ephemera.

When I first, back then, read a brand new issue, I would start with the comic, and then I would go back and peruse the President's Notes and Aardvark Comment, or the essay du jour.

I once wrote to Dave that the latest issue had taken me 20 minutes to read the "Cerebus" story and two hours to read the back of the book. His response was on the lines of, "I know, dude!"

He didn't say dude.

Think, for a minute, about his having written all of that.


That's why, even after all these years, a big part of the time that I spent this weekend with Gerhard and Shelley was taken up by Ger and I talking about Dave.

Some of it was Ger putting up with me idolizing Dave, some of it (a very small part) was him doing the same; some was me...NOT idolizing Dave, in good company...and the rest was taken up by both of us idolizing Shelley.

But, as usual, I digress. Look for my complete account of the Minneapolis Con experience, as experienced by Ger, Shel, me, and a few surprise guests (including Dave, telephonically) soon.

Hint; spoiler warning: THE Neal Adams was there, and with him. On Dave's behalf.

What's that? Don't believe me?

Ask Ger.