Friday, 3 June 2016

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Judenhass (2008)
by Dave Sim

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.

Okay, last week’s entry was from July of 2006. In my files (well, box) I don't find any more letters from Dave to me from 2006. That is a bit surprising, but there were periods during which we did not correspond. Especially in 2007, when another Cerebite and I (you know who you are) proposed a 30th anniversary book that would include submissions from professionals in the comic book industry. The other Cerebite contacted many of them and got "yes"es from most but, when I finally told Dave about the project, he told me in no uncertain terms to NOT do the project. He didn't say why at the time, but it turned out that he thought that most of the other comics professionals would not have good things to say about him and he also thought that our project would take away from his "secret project" that he was working on at the time and for which he had projected a release date of December, 2007. It was, of course, "Judenhass", and it didn’t come out until 2008. Sooo, that little contretemps led to a period of inactivity, as far as corresponding with Dave went. Six months or so later, Dave agreed to answer five questions about "Judenhass" for me to print in the back of "Cerebus Readers in Crisis". Thus, by fax:

1. I began work on JUDENHASS in the winter of ‘05, when I realized how affected I had been by the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I laboured over it for two and a half years, determined not to release it until it was as good as I could make it. GLAMOURPUSS was really just a way of keeping my hands and mind occupied while Lou C., my technical director, did all of the meticulous computer paste-ups, based on my photocopied approximations of what the finished pages should look like. I'm very conscious of the danger of "commercializing" The Shoah, which is the reason that JUDENHASS isn’t going to be "promoted" but, rather, just "released" in May of this year, the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Because SPACE is probably the least commercialized venue I know of in the comic-book field, I'm going to exhibit some of the JUDENHASS artwork there. It's the only place the artwork will be displayed, unless a Holocaust Museum or the Simon Wiesenthal Center expresses an interest.

2. I suspect that I was, probably unconsciously, in need of great beauty as subject matter after the debilitating process of rendering the horror and ugliness of The Shoah in scrupulous photorealistic detail over 30 months, or so. What could be more physically beautiful than the world’s most attractive fashion models in the world’s most glamourous clothing, as captured by the world’s best photographers? 3. Alex Raymond, unquestionably. The litmus test for whether a photo was “in” or “out” was whether or not the model, clothing and photo composition looked like something drawn by Alex Raymond. Still is.

3 b) I consider the Raymond School: Raymond, Drake, Prentice, Williamson, Adams and others to be the highest achievement in the field and the single most difficult "look" to master. Having finished a 6,000 page graphic novel, it was really a question of whether I was going to try to hit that high-water mark or settle for just flirting with it in "Latter Days".

4 a) People who like a good, funny parody comic and who believe that Alex Raymond and/or Al Williamson are the be-all and end-all of comics illustration... or are at least worth owning and looking at.

4 b) I don’t know if anyone in the fashion industry will “get” GLAMOURPUSS. It’s one of the big question marks. Do they have a sense of humour about themselves or will they be offended? The circulation on any fashion magazine dwarfs the highest circulation comic book by a ration of 200 to 1. I’m social-climbing by sending 1,500 copies to the major North American fashion, women’s and lifestyle magazines. Are they looking for or will they at least tolerate a court jester from Southern Ontario? Only one way to find out.

4 c) Same answer, really. I think it’s funny and I think it has the "eye candy" thing out the wazoo. No big muscles, skin-tight costumes and gritted teeth, though. What Super Geek (or even ordinary geek, for that matter) wouldn’t get three dollars’ worth of entertainment out of a comic book composed almost exclusively of pictures of pretty girls? Again, only one way to find out.

5) Glamourpuss is glamourpuss (she prefers the lower case when she’s not at the beginning of a sentence). She’s every gorgeous fashion model dressed to the nines that you’ve ever seen. Every woman’s dream come true: She not only wears something different and fabulous every day, she looks physically different every day -- but always at her Alex Raymond best. She has a Dorothy Parker style wit about her, since she has until I finish drawing her to polish whatever her net bon mot is. If I can sell enough of these, I get to stare at her for hours on end, in each of her incarnations, trying to get he “just so” in pen and ink. Can you think of a better job?

BONUS QUESTION: Not since Young Jaka have I come up with a character so amenable to "spilling her guts". I’m trying to keep the text pieces to a minimum but, I think, once everyone has fallen in love with glamourpuss (women AND men, hopefully), they won't be able to get enough of her every sixty days.

I’m afraid this is all [Ed: and then he drew two arrows pointing to the word “all”, followed by “I’m serious, Jeff... I don’t want ANY phone calls”] I'll be able to provide. If you can get Liz B. to send me a clear photo relevant to her piece, I'll do a drawing from it and it will be up to her (and you) to turn it into a cover. You can promote CRIC #3 and SPACE by saying that they will be the "in tandem" venue where Secret Project #1 will be announced and artwork from it will be displayed. There are 30 individual pieces, 11” X 17”. Can I leave it to you to coordinate that with Bob Corby [Ed: The founder and still, as far as I know, manager of the Small Press and Comics Exposition.]? I picture easels behind the table, facing the wall, so that no kids accidentally see the pictures. Kids, or anyone who is at all squeamish about The Holocaust. That's what's there. If you don't want to see it, don't go behind the table.

I'll fax this to Lou C. as soon as I’m done typing it so that he knows that you're "All Access". PLEASE try to limit your demands on his time and personal space. He's up to his eyeballs in his own life and job and is very generously finding time to help me with this from the beginning and is going to be fully occupied with coordinating the pre-press, website, etc. under a very tight deadline. He'll help you, I'm sure, but he’s not a CRIC "gofer" by any stretch of the imagination.


[Ed: In May of 2008, at SPACE, Dave called and asked to come up to the room that Steve B. and I were sharing at the host hotel and brought with him his ratty old portfolio bag. He then laid out on the bed all of the pages, sans lettering, of Judenhass. And, later, he asked me to be the person to pin them up on the display boards, which were angled into the corner so that no passers-by could see them unless they asked to go behind the table. Bob had arranged for Dave to have the corner table for just that reason.]


Jeff Seiler said...

I should add that pretty much everyone who went into the display came out crying. "Judenhass" is one of the most moving books you will ever read.

Among the ones, as he admitted publicly after he read a preview of it, who cried, albeit, not at S.P.A.C.E. that year, was none other than Neil Gaimon.

If you are among the five or ten Sim fans who have never read "Judenhass", thn go find it now.

And, read it!

Jeff Seiler said...


$%#&ing gremlins...

Dave Sim said...

I think, eventually, JUDENHASS will get some serious attention. But, I think it's highly doubtful that I'll live to see it. Thanks, Jeff!

Jeff Seiler said...

As always, Dave, you are more than welcome. My pleasure, ad infinitum.