Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #12 (September 23rd, 2006)

All this week the Blog & Mail is brought to you by Dave Sim: Collected Letters 2004

Strong, independent professional woman seated at desk in beautifully decorated corner office:

"I'd heard a lot about Dave Sim over the years and I finally decided to see for myself if he was the malicious demented evil misogynist everyone paints him as being, so I decided to find a copy of Dave Sim: Collected Letters 2004 at a comic-book store—as soon as I could find one that was better lit than the alleyway behind my apartment. But, then, when I saw what they were charging for the book and realized that for that amount of money I could buy a really nice cream-coloured top for 70% off at the end-of-season sale at Banana Republic that would go with my suits for the office and also serve as a good casual-dressy outfit for upscale social occasions I thought, f—k that and bought the top "

Dave Sim: Collected Letters 2004

Because even terminal fashion victims need to be SOMEONE's target audience

At variously-lit comic book stores everywhere or order online at

This week's Blog & Mail is dedicated with the greatest respect and admiration to long-time Cerebus fan and uber-Yahoo, Chris Woerner, who has recently begun his service with US Forces in Iraq in one of Saddam's old palaces. I'm tempted to ask questions about solid gold toilet seats but if the information isn't classified, it probably should be. Devoted readers of the Internet know him better as ChrisW ("I think ChrisW is the funniest man in entertainment still alive" Tom Spurgeon). Formerly of Lincoln, Nebraska, I've still got in the drawer next to my drawing board the 36-page printout of his "Metaphys-X" essay from March of 2004. An amazing piece of work. Thanks, as always, Chris for doing the heavy lifting on behalf of the rest of us and extend best Yahoo wishes from our group to the guys in your unit.

Next up in the mail was my contributor's copies of Steve Peters' The Origin of Sparky through his Awakening Comics imprint. He states in his cover letter, "I'm still too close to the comic to know if the thematic link gives the whole some cohesiveness, or if it just comes across as a disjointed, jumbled mess." As one of the contributors with pencils and writing (as well as pencils and inks on some infernal beasties a la the back cover of Guys as per Steve's request—a motif which he then mirrored in a way that was downright eerie in its accuracy. Hey, Steve, only I'm supposed to be able to do those beasties like that) on the "Musical Origin of Sparky" four-pager, I'm probably in the same boat. This was my first stab at a creative work after finishing Cerebus so I'll always remember it for that and evidently Steve has turned it into an actual song that you can hear at his website for free through the rest of 2006 (Awakening Comics) or buy it on his new 5-song Origin of Sparky CD (at Cafe Press). The pure, solo Steve Peters material in the book (roughly six pages) is the best, in my opinion—and that includes our jam—but it's probably a safe bet that he ironically doubled his sales over his previous offering, Chemistry, with the efforts of some of his "name" contributors—the Diamond Previews listing included Bob Burdon (sic) and Shannon, Wheeler (sic) and he also has panels by James Kochalka, Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, Alex Robinson (tomorrow's Blog & Mail subject), Sean Bieri, Matt Feazell, Carla Speed McNeil and other alternative press luminaries. The fact that the Origin of his winged, white-gloved, haloed, angel-winged and pointy-tailed iconic cartoon mascot is given twenty different treatments, most of them free-form jams with other cartoonists (including Steve's year 2000 Cartooning Class—Dany, Luke, Curt, Dan C., Ashley and Grant—sponsored by the Northern Pennsylvania Arts Alliance) is going to rub a lot of comic-shop fur the wrong way but is in itself pretty witty. Why take twenty-five years to thoroughly muddy the waters as Marvel has done with Wolverine (as an example)—why not just do twenty different origins right off the top? The appreciation of wit in comic-book stores in my experience doesn't really skew in such directions. You can laugh yourself right into a case of career suicide that way.

One of Steve's great innovations—having resolved to do a panel a day—is that his solo work always includes a two- to four-digit notation to indicate when the panel was done (i.e. "1-22"). Some days he gets a bunch of panels done and some days he doesn't get any done but the historical record is always laid bare both to himself and his readers. There was a long lapse between pages 2 and 3 of "The Musical Origin of Sparky" when I didn't hear from him, but I was always pretty sure I would hear from him again.

He also sent me an issue of Punch (No. 2968, Volume CXIV, May 28, 1898) as a belated 50th birthday gift which is very much appreciated and which I'm looking forward to reading (I've never actually seen an issue of Punch, let alone owned one). The gift is quite witty as well. The issue was published 58 years before I was born so roughly the same length of time back-dated from my birth-year as I've been alive takes you back to the late Victorian era. Certainly raises a rueful grin from me.

In his P.S. he adds: "Recently saw a short clip of Norman Mailer & Gore Vidal having it out on the Dick Cavett Show circa 1970. Mailer was asking for an apology, and Vidal said he was sorry if he hurt Mailer's feelings. Mailer said his feelings weren't hurt, he wanted an apology for his intelligence being insulted. Made me wish I could see the entire conversation (It was on an `I Love the 70s' clip show)."

I've never seen the Dick Cavett episode in question but I've certainly studied the exchange at great depth (and repeatedly) in Mailer's essay "Of a Small and Modest Malignancy, Wicked and Bristling with Dots" since acquiring it in a collection of essays of his called Pieces (ISBN 0-316-54420-5) at a used book store in Northampton, Massachusetts in the late summer of 1997. The essay is broken up into twelve Channels instead of Chapters and constitutes one of the best examinations of the television medium I've ever read. The entire blow-by-blow dissolution of the Mailer-Vidal "neutrality pact" ("Still Mailer knew his own career had become too popular for the pact to continue. Sometime after Armies of the Night had won a couple of prizes, Vidal began to sour in public.") takes up most of Channels 9 through 11.

The grievous offence to which you refer was contained in a review by Vidal of a book by Eva Figes in The New York Review of Books where Vidal had written, "There has been from [Henry] Miller to Norman Mailer to Charles Manson a logical progression. The Miller-Mailer-Manson man, or M3 for short, has been conditioned to think of women as, at best, breeders of sons, at worst, objects to be poked, humiliated, killed…". It's a perfect example of hysterical feminist hyperbole—anyone who isn't feminine is blatantly homicidal—in that first feminist summer. Imagine being a writer finally attaining to Mailer's hard-won stature in 1970 and then being compared to Charles Manson less than a year after the Sharon Tate murders and being expected to just take it. And THEN to be invited by Dick Cavett to share a stage with Vidal in the immediate aftermath.

Look up the essay if you get a chance and if you're at all interested. It's a real barn burner and was the foremost educational text for me in "what to do and what not to do when the hysterical feminists come to get you." Mailer made many mistakes in his dealings with them, in my view, running their gauntlet unaided (as all of us who choose to run their gauntlet end up having to do) but I can say without contradiction that I couldn't have survived the feminists' characteristic malice and fury if I hadn't seen someone else survive them first.

Today's instalment of the Blog & Mail has been brought to you by pages 42, 60, 104, 223, 229, 254, 266, 392 and 418 of Dave Sim: Collected Letters 2004

Steve Peters. Fellow Professional, Former Mystic, Devoted Deist, Accomplished Musician, initiator of our "Spirituality vs. God" dialogue, Really Tall Person and he'll bag your groceries faster than anyone else in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania

Order your copy of Collected Letters 2004 in comic-book stores or at

If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.