Monday, October 30, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #48 (October 29th, 2006)

And he who believed said, "O my people! Follow me: into the right way will I guide you.

O my people! This present life is only a passing joy, but the life to come is the mansion that abideth.

Whoso shall have wrought evil shall not be recompensed but with its like; but whoso shall have done the things that are right, whether male or female, and is a believer—these shall enter Paradise: good things unreckoned shall they enjoy therein.

And, O my people! How is it that I bid you to salvation, but that you bid me to the Fire?

Ye invite me to deny God, and to join with Him gods of whom I know nothing; but I invite you to the Mighty, the Forgiving.

No doubt is there that they to whom ye invite me are not to be invoked either in this world or in the world to come: and that unto God is our return, and that the transgressors shall be the inmates of the Fire.

Then shall ye remember what I am saying unto you: and to God commit I my case: Verily, God beholdeth his servants."

Sura "The Believer" 40:41-47

I've highlighted the line that struck me so forcibly my last time—my second of three times— through the Koran, reading it aloud, this Ramadan which was as far as I had gotten with this Sunday entry (although I typed a couple of paragraphs of blather that went nowhere and then stopped when I realized that was what it was). I wasn't sure if I should highlight the line like that, but that was the vivid mental image that I had to accompany the larger mental image: of the day when the dead will be awakened to life and the sort of mental evasions and false memories and "strategic deletions" of what we did and didn't do in our time on earth will vanish away like smoke leaving only who and what we actually were (and, as a result, are). Submission to the will of God, in my experience, opens up the aftermath of this life as well as life itself into a fully integrated whole so that both become vividly real. I'm fully aware of having been an infant, simultaneously aware of having been an adolescent, a teen-ager, a young man, a middle-aged man, a man on the cusp of old age, being an old man, being a man on his deathbed being a man who sleeps awhile and then suddenly being awake—all of us being, finally, irretrievably awake—on Judgement Day. All of those states of existence are the same to me now, all of them are as real as my sitting here and typing this at 4:25 am on October 26.

If thou couldst see when they shall be set over the Fire, and shall say, "Oh! Would we might be sent back! We would not treat the signs of our Lord as lies! We would be of the believers."

Aye! That hath become clear to them which they before concealed; but though they should return, they would surely go back to that which was forbidden them; for they are surely liars!

And they say, "There is no other than our life in this world, neither shall we be raised again."

But if thou couldst see when they shall be set before their Lord! He shall say to them, "Is not this it in truth?" They shall say, "Yea, by our Lord!" "Taste then," saith He, "the torment, for that ye believed not!"

Lost are they who deny the meeting with God until "the Hour" cometh suddenly upon them! Then will they say, "Oh, our sighs for past negligence of this!" and they shall bear their burdens on their back! Will not that be evil with which they shall be burdened?

The life in this world is but a play and pastime; and better surely for men of godly fear will be the future mansion! Will ye not then comprehend?

Now know We that what they speak vexeth thee: but it is not merely thee whom they charge with falsehood, but the ungodly gainsay the signs of God.

"The `master of dreams' commeth unto me by night."

About an hour ago, in fact. I'm sitting in a living room on the floor between couch and coffee table and I have a hand-written list that I'm reading aloud of metaphors contained in a story I've just read in manuscript form. The metaphors function at just about every imaginable level. It's a new story and an old story, the story I've been telling and living and having thrust upon me since 1994 as well as, as I said, a story I've just read. It's both and I understand that. There are people in the living room listening but I'm not aware of anyone specifically or how many people there are or why they're there. I'm checking off, basically (with a sense that bears a resemblance to adding up the same column of figures I have added up a dozen times previously and which always produces the same result) what has happened, what is happening and what continues to happen after the fashion of the Blog & Mail entry earlier this week where I revisit the Friends of Lulu rejection of my suggestion of an anti-censorship petition to be signed by feminist cartoonists and the free ride that feminists get in our society. The one is a metaphor for the other. They're two sides of the same coin. The rejection of my suggestion and the free ride that feminists get in our society—their complete license to be completely and totally intellectually dishonest and never have to explain why or why not—and I'm going down this list and reading them out loud and suddenly Neil Gaiman comes swooping in and lands on the couch behind me.

"I've called The Globe & Mail…" he begins—citing the name of Canada's other national newspaper (the "loony leftist" one) of whose name the Blog & Mail is a parody—and I realize that what he is talking about is some kind of reparation. He's going to use his celebrity cachet to…to what? Explain to The Globe & Mail the importance of Cerebus and of me, I guess. Explain to them why they should have covered issue 300 coming out two years ago. He's still talking and I'm vaguely aware of that fact but what I'm thinking is "No, no, no, Neil,"—not angry or anything but as if I'm patiently lecturing a recalcitrant schoolboy for the umpty-umpth time, "You don't get it." I look down at the list in my hand which is composed of these two-sided metaphors which has nothing to do with anything that calling The Globe & Mail is going to apply to or help. "The rejection of my suggestion and the free ride feminists get in our society" is one of them. There's no one at The Globe & Mail who would have a frame of reference for that. There are about ten of these double-sided metaphors, in ascending order of importance and significance with the highlighted line above being a rough approximation of the most important one, that the issues under discussion—feminism, I would guess, being foremost among them (witness the Whore of Babylon of John's Apocalypse)—do have an end point on Judgement Day. You can evade discussing it as much as you want but there does come an end-point, a terminus to all evasion. There is no "moving on" from Judgement Day. "Then shall ye remember what I am saying unto you." "No, Neil, what you're talking about only goes up so high" is what I'm thinking as Neil is talking. And I look down at the list of metaphors and the damage to my professional reputation, my undisputed status as the Pariah King of Comics and that's like #3 or #4. If that. If that. And Neil's still talking and I'm just sitting there wondering if there's some way—something I could say or do—to get his thinking up at least another level. And then I'm thinking, "For crying out loud, he's supposed to be the `master of dreams'. I shouldn't have to instruct him on these simple basics." And I wake up and it's 3:15. So I get up and do the preamble to my prayer which is my SOP. If God wakes you up, get out of bed, get down on your knees and pray. If prayer does the trick—and I usually know if it does or doesn't—go back to sleep. If it doesn't do the trick—as in this case it didn't—get up, turn on the light and read aloud from the Koran. As it turns out Sura 6 "Cattle" which I then proceeded to read in its entirety. Definitely very large resonance with the dream, with the higher metaphors standing out in sharp relief. As it will be said to the newly awakened dead on "the day witnessed":

"Now are you come back to us, alone, as We created you at first, and ye leave behind the good things which we had given you…"

Things like professional reputation or fame or public acclaim—the stuff that, so far as I can see, only goes up as high as #3 and #4 on the list of metaphors (if that, if that). It's not about that: that all gets left behind. It's about reality and Truth and the fact that feminism has little or nothing to do with either of them. What value would there be in pulling strings to get me a nice write-up in the Globe & Mail salvaging what's left of my now non-existent reputation or celebrating the end of the Cerebus two years—soon to be three years—after the fact? "Now are you come back to us ALONE". We reawaken as the solitary individual souls we have always been and will always be. Professional reputation and public acclaim are the dissipating smoke no sooner seen than gone. "But – I had such a nice write-up in the Globe & Mail" just isn't going to cut it on Judgement Day.

Verily God causeth the grain and the date stone to put forth: He bringeth forth the living from the dead, and the dead from the living! This is God! Why, then are ye turned aside from Him? He causeth the dawn to appear, and hath ordained the night for rest, and the sun and the moon for computing time! The ordinance of the Mighty, the Wise! And it is He who hath ordained the stars for you that ye may be guided thereby in the darknesses of the land and of the sea! Clear have we made Our signs to men of knowledge. And it is He who hath produced you from one man, and hath an abode and resting place! Clear have we made Our signs for men of insight.

As the dream receded—like my "Meet You at the St. James" movie dream last week—it left in its wake the residue of what had been expressed to me through it, whether in a spiritual collectivist sense or in the sense of my unconscious mind telling me what's going on. So, let's "cut to the chase": I will revisit the subject of feminism in this space from time to time—I consider the headline "Daily hectoring from the Pariah King of Comics" to be a generalized fair warning—but in such a way to try to establish overview: that, to put it bluntly, the problem with feminism isn't my problem, it's your problem. Bringing up my petition to the Friends of Lulu from 1996 that had been rejected outright over the seven signatures of its president and board members and further debate closed off I revisited the subject September 25, then leave it sit for a month and then point out that nothing had been said about it since. The feminists' free ride in our society. QED. I'll tell you right now that I'll bring it up again the third week in November and I can guarantee you that nothing will have been said about it by then either. The core point (and as gently as I can put it) is: " no offence, but you folks haven't changed a bit in ten years" as a means of hopefully bringing some new level of self-awareness to those of you who like to believe that "moving on" is always the best answer, is always the high road. "Moving on" most often is just shameful evasiveness, intellectually dishonest, wishful thinking that if you ignore a problem it will go away. It's more accurate to say that if, as an example, you ignore the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in the 1980s, it will lead directly to 9/11. QED. It's another two-sided metaphor. At least that's the grown-up way of looking at things as far as I can see.

When Cerebus came to an end, had there been an accommodation or an attempt at an accommodation or an attempt at inclusiveness: some people are feminists and some people aren't feminists and Dave happens not to be—had, as an example, Neil Gaiman said in 2004 when everyone was asking him to comment on Cerebus coming to an end, "Whether you agree with Dave Sim or disagree with Dave Sim, clearly what he has accomplished is not only worthy of respect but of celebration. Grudging admiration muttered behind his back and coupled with tolerance of the assassination of his character and the unrelenting and libellous insistence that he is clinically insane in that context is no different from outright ostracism and is intellectually dishonest and shameful." But, alas, that's "of the moment" and the moment, alas, was 2004. I initiated the "Lithograph No.1: Neil Gaiman" benefit piece at least partly to give Neil an excuse to say something along those lines as 2004 was coming to an end. We all face these trials and I don't mean to single Neil out except in the sense that he was THE individual who could have most decisively shifted the terms of the debate over Dave Sim because of his lofty pre-eminence in the comic-book field (and this was obviously the reason that people kept asking him about the book coming to an end)—I invoke Neal Adams' moral-centered question posed at the end of my article on him in the latest Following Cerebus: "Is this what we do in comics?" Yes. Inescapably in 2004 this is what the comic-book field chose to do from Neil Gaiman on down. "Let's ignore it and maybe it will just go away." The perversion of the multi-levelled metaphor scraped near-infernal lows. As Christopher Shulgan wrote in the November, 2003 smear piece in Saturday Night magazine—still the only media acknowledgement of Cerebus coming to an end in this country—quoting my ex-girlfriend and former executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund:

Others worry that Sim, without the grounding demands of Cerebus, will lose all touch with reality. Says Alston, "One of my greatest fears is that when Cerebus ends, Dave will take his own life…"

Finally as Sim sits before his drawing board and works on one of the last issues of Cerebus, I ask him about Alston's suicide fear.

Continuing to draw, Sim says, "they're hoping that I will [commit suicide], because for them that will invalidate what I'm saying. That the way Dave Sim lives is not the way to live. That's not the case. I have never been further from suicide than I've been since reading the Bible and the Qur'an." He rotates his gaze from his drawing board to look right at me. "I think it's wishful thinking," he says. Then he turns and continues working on Cerebus, as he has most days since 1977, and as he will continue to do for only a few days more.

It was a tough call as to whether I was more amused or disgusted by the transparent attempt at all levels of thinly-veiled metaphorical reality—Shulgan, Alston, the editors of Saturday Night—to solve the "Dave problem" by earnestly suggesting in a thinly-veiled metaphorical fashion that it might be better for all concerned if he would just "do the right thing" and snuff himself. "We're already universally ignoring you and we are now preparing to universally ignore Cerebus coming to an end. PLEASE take the hint." I could understand the motivation. Dave Sim dead means that the free ride for feminism never having to defend itself intellectually could continue unabated and without opposition or an insistence upon an intellectual accounting that men are (justifiably) forced to make of their views. In fact Dave Sim killing himself would strengthen the case. "See what happens to you when you `lose all touch with reality' (i.e. when you choose not to be a feminist)? You become distraught and then you kill yourself." Nice try, I thought, nice try but too clever by a secular-humanist half. You're missing the point, I thought. I'm not the one who is delusional here. You are. The only real sharp pain of anguish was seeing, suddenly, with crystal clarity that this was what the environment I had been a part of all of my life, the comic-book field, had reduced itself to: it would rather try to force me to kill myself than face the intellectual emptiness of feminism.

"Is this what we do in comics?"

Again, all I can say is: this is what comics chose to do in 2004. That can't be changed. My reaction to being left completely alone—far from being suicidal—was a sense of profound pity for everyone who had chosen that course of action, "isolate him and hope he kills himself," and who would (most of them) persist in it right up to the present day and presumably (no evidence to the contrary) for years to come. I can't imagine what it would be like to carry that burden of being just that small-minded and mean-spirited. Not just individually but collectively when the history of the comic book medium is written in years to come and as successive generations enter the field and the people of my generation in their sixties, seventies and eighties will be asked (not directly: that would be needlessly cruel—but to be asked metaphorically by the unrelenting gaze of idealistic youth which is always the core of the comic book field): WHAT did YOU do in March, 2004? And WHY did you choose to do that? Or to NOT do that?

"Is this what we do in comics?"

As I say, we all face these trials.

I faced (I'll flatter myself here) an even more difficult one when I came to the stunning realization that the Bible was the Truth that I had been looking for when I first read it in 1996. The same rule of intellectual honesty holds true. Had I publicly stated "Yeah, I read the Bible and there seems to be a little more there than I thought, originally. Overall it was not a bad book." And then blithely carried on with my happy secular-humanist existence, the same indictment would have held true. "Grudging admiration in that context is no different from outright ostracism and is intellectually dishonest and shameful." There was only one chance to "get it right" and that was in 1996 when the realization came to me. The right decision in 1996 would have been a downright shameful "so what kept you?" decision had I vacillated and rationalized and evaded for another year or two or three or five.

See you nice folks on Judgement Day. "Then shall ye remember what I am saying to you." Oh, and Good Luck to everyone on "that day that will turn children grey-headed". No offence, but I think you're going to need it.

The Scripture at the Registry Theatre

Readings continue November 12 and 19

122 Frederick St. in Kitchener

with the Fifth Book of Moshe

[also called Deuteronomy]


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.