Dave Sim's blogandmail #44 (October 25th, 2006)
ALL THIS WEEK! THE BLOG & MAIL IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY
(YEAH WE KNOW. DAVE AND GER, RIGHT?)
NO NO NO—THE TRADE PAPERBACK!
(DAVE AND GER ARE A TRADE PAPERBACK? SINCE WHEN?)
THE CIRINISTS ARE FIGHTING BACK THE ONLY WAY THEY KNOW HOW: TURNING MASCULINITY AGAINST ITSELF
HOW DO THEY DO THAT, YOU QUERY? WITH BOOZE OF COURSE!
"GUYS" THE TRADE PAPERBACK
(I THOUGHT YOU SAID DAVE AND GER WERE THE TRADE PAPERBACK)
ALCOHOL IS FREE AND THERE'S NO LAST CALL!
AT YOUR LOCAL COMIC-BOOK STORE OR CLICK ON
(free alcohol? At MY comic-book store? No way. Believe me, I've asked plenty of times)
Very strange. The day that *********'s letter was being posted (Monday, as it turns out) I had cause to be pawing through the Archive in search of the tracing paper drawings I had done of a short animation of Cerebus talking on the radio for the abortive Radio Show album that never got done way back in the 1980s. Having seen what a great job Jeff Tundis did on www.cerebusart.com I figured there couldn't be a better use for them than to have him scan them in and then I figured the least I could do for all of his hard work was to give him the tracing paper drawings to keep. So, anyway this entailed having to dig way, way back into the oversized pages and photocopies and way, way, way at the back what do you suppose I found? "Panties in the Garden of the Moth," the strip that ********* had sent me—his only copy of it—in his past life as M.B. of Brooklyn, NY. It even had my cover letter to him attached, just the way I remembered it. As I said: very strange.
So, did I actually think anyone was going to come out to Pearson Airport to get stuff autographed and take digital pictures and bring their laptop with them? Nah. Can you imagine if, say, Neil Gaiman or Frank Miller posted their departure time and flight and invited people to come out to the airport? See, that's what makes Dave Sim The Pariah King of Comics and why I say that I don't have fans, I have readers. I think it's worth keeping these things in perspective. Of course, someone might come out to the airport, but I doubt it SO severely that we're just going to pick right up on my review of The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (in stores in the next week or so).
I still can't get over the crispness of the line on that first strip, the bold outline and the George McManus brand of composition. Kahles' Hairbreadth Harry as well, whom Gould credits as an inspiration. Throughout the fall of 1931 and into the beginning of 1932 he's really all over the map, trying for an illustrative look and realizing that he just doesn't have the talent to put things down on the page the way he pictures them in his head. He's trying too hard and then, suddenly, he'll do an absolutely beautifully composed and executed strip very much outside of his abilities like the strip for 6 November 31, where Tess Trueheart is being coerced into driving a getaway car for Big Boy and three hoodlums warn her "Don't fergit yer instructions" along the way. The car is shot from four different angles and each one works really, really well. The next day everything flattens out again and it's definitely back to being a cartoon strip. It would take most of the first two years for Gould to recognize that he "drew flat" and to stop fighting it although he clearly aches to be Alex Raymond. Oddly enough his women are more realistic than his men. Tess Trueheart is a cutie (and a flapper) right from the git-go. Even when he strays from the John Held Jr. template, he's still able to draw women who differ from each other, who actually look as if they're wearing their clothes (the men's clothes look like cardboard cut-outs hung around their necks). By February of 1932, the three-dimensional panel is the exception rather than the rule: flat panels where everything is staged on the same plane, two faces in profile facing each other. Even when he attempts foreground and mid-ground figures, the foreground figure is in profile and the mid-ground figure facing directly towards the reader. It's the idiosyncratic look that Gould will come to be known for and it's interesting watching him fighting a destiny to which he will ultimately surrender. But not without a fight. It might just be, but I would swear that in the sequence starting 27 February 1933 and running through to the end of April, he's doing Harold Gray! It might just be because so much of it takes place in the countryside but the staging and composition is very much along the lines of Harold Gray to me. It takes Gould until well into May before he manages to get all of the compositions nicely flattened out again.
What's even stranger was the shift in the look of the strip through the spring of 1932. I'm always half reading and half analyzing a comic strip when I'm looking at it. "I know this look," I was thinking to myself, "Whose look is this?" And then it hit me. Joe Shuster's Superman. Not just Joe Shuster's Superman (you can see where he got the slicked back hair and the single thin lip, oddly discontinuous, two short horizontal lines on either side of the nose) but his early Superman and pre-Superman lettering style as well from the 1937 to 1939 period when he was drawing pretty much every page. He must've seen a kindred spirit in Chester Gould. "I don't draw very well, and this fellow doesn't either but he seems to get by okay with what he's got." Tracy's sidekick, Pat Patton, is the archetypal Joe Shuster everyman. Round face, dots for eyes, flattened oval mouth.
Yes, I'm pretty sure that Joe Shuster was looking at a lot of Dick Tracy strips as he was figuring out how he was going to draw his comics as soon as he got the chance. He would've been the right age in 1932 for slavishly copying someone else's work as a learning experience.
TOMORROW: Oh, that annoying Sunday page problem!
THERE'S MORE FOR YOU
Written Tuesday evening October 17
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
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
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:
Or, you can check out Mars Import:
Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.