Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #106 (December 26th, 2006) (Double Sized!)






Now seriously into the final stretch of wrapping up my narrative on the Honking Great Box from Salt Lake City and its contents:

Here's the part where Matt Dow turns up, not once but twice. He was shopping in a book store someplace and found in a remainder bin (for three bucks each) three copies of Future Day, the Flying Buttress Publishing collection of Gene Day's short science fiction stories which was published in 1979, including four stories I lettered for Gene: "Gifts of Silver Splendor" "Gauntlet" "Paper Dragon" "War Game"—all of them circa 1977 when Gene had the Star Wars Jones really bad. I was an idiosyncratic letterer even back then (make that, "especially back then"), taking what I had learned from studying Bill Payne's lettering and stylizing it a fair bit most especially by really angling my italic letters so that you could probably call it Italic Sprawl. Gene gave me a lot of latitude (he couldn't letter worth a darn himself and he knew I was cheap, reliable and fast—and he really liked me lettering: I have to remind myself all the time that Gene was the only unquestioningly loyal supporter/peer/patron I ever had) so I started really pushing the boundaries to the extent that the lettering was calling attention to itself. That was no problem with publications like Gasm who were really just interested in filling pages with Star Wars knock-offs but it finally caught up with me with Mike Friedrich who deemed it sub-professional quality and got Tom Orzechowski to letter Gene from then on in all his Star*Reach appearances. Very funny flipping through a book with work from almost thirty years ago and looking at Gene staring back at me from the back cover and it's almost real to me. I'm looking closely at the bookshelf behind him. It isn't the First Avenue house, I don't think although it could be the upstairs studio where I drew most of the first issue of Cerebus, the two of us sitting back-to-back, sick as dogs with the flu but still drawing away, filling this big garbage bin with the (as I recall) toilet paper and paper towels we were using to blow our noses—Kleenex was too expensive for the amount of paper we were going through. Gene was working on "Days of Future Past". I still remember that splash page of the T-Rex. But I'm not there, I'm in Night Flight Comics in the Cottonwood Mall in Salt Lake City Utah, October, 2006. And Matt Dow is sort of looking for some kind of reaction and he's not really getting one (I don't think) so I just start talking about the stories. Gene developed this quirky Star Warsian approach to the space ships, basically laying in regular thickness pen lines in perspective and then laying in fake machinery detailing into the spaces between the pen lines with a fine-point rapidograph. It didn't really work—it more "worked" since it meant that he had figured out a way to get a pseudo-Star Wars look to his spacecraft which was no small arrow to have in your quiver back in the late 70s. People forget what a revelation those George Lucas humongous space barges were. The Alien franchise was pretty much built around taking the concept and grunging the ships up even further. We all got the Ralph McQuarrie book the Christmas of 1977 and tried to figure out how to do cheap comic book knock-offs of his designs. Some of us decided to stick with drawing cartoon aardvarks as our "bread and butter" but then some of us are just, you know, weird.

Anyway, Matt was nice enough to give me my pick of which of the three copies I wanted so I picked the one with the cleanest picture on the back. Someday I'm going to get Sherwood to do a good enlargement of it and then do a photorealism shot of Gene Day. That should be fun.

And then Matt also gave me a copy of Dear Wisconsin… …Love, Vietnam which is a collection of letters home from Vietnam from his aunt (I think it was his aunt), Bridget Gregory when she was serving aboard the hospital ship USS Sanctuary AH-17 as an American Red Cross worker off the coast of Vietnam 1968-69, edited by his grandmother (remember? Topsy? The one with the school bus full of eleven kids travelling from Wisonsin to California and back again?). Looking forward to reading this.

This being Salt Lake City, I was also given a couple of Devotionals from the Salt Lake City Institute of Religion at the University of Utah which I was looking forward to reading. The first one was "I Now Call the Attention of This Congregation" a sermon delivered on 7 April 1844 on the subject of the dead.

I want your prayers, faith, the inspiration of Almighty God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost that I may set forth things that are true and that can easily be comprehended and which shall carry the testimony to your hearts.

I don't know if this is the general model of Mormon teaching, but I would be suspicious of it since it has the appearance of a short circuit, to me. Anytime someone says they want the inspiration of Almighty God and the gift of the Holy Ghost in a tone that suggests they seem to EXPECT that God and the Holy Ghost are going to treat it as a direct order I think you end up with a leap of faith that, personally, I find unsustainable. Mixing in the prayers of your listeners make them a party to that and can go a long way towards leading into blasphemous areas. When the narrator starts talking about "I calculate to edify you with the simple truths of heaven" that seems to me to be over the line into blasphemy. "What I hope are the simple truths of heaven" or "what it seems to me to be the simple truths of heaven" which is a giant step back from the brink of blasphemy are still over the edge for me. Even Muhammad was most emphatic in relaying the Koran to say, "I don't tell you that I know the things unseen" and he was a prophet. I think all a human being can legitimately say is: "Here are my choices and opinions—maybe they'll be of some use to you, as well". That seems to me to be staying in safe areas. It's not as if I'm picking something out that's exceptional, I'm afraid. I almost gave myself eyebrow spasms at various points. Here's a couple of jaw-dropping sentences in a row:

There are but very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend their own character.

How can you say things like that with a straight face without adding "in my opinion" or "it seems to me"? First of all, whoever you are, you don't know and can never know more than a handful of "beings in the world" so how can you say definitively whether or not they "understand rightly the character of God"? You're making yourself into a judge of people that you've met and their innermost awarenesses and stating definitively that you know whether or not those innermost awarenesses are accurate or inaccurate. Excuse me, but that's, at the very least, extremely presumptuous. The speaker retreats intermittently: "If I should be the man so fortunate [italics mine] as to comprehend God and explain to your hearts what kind of a being God is, so that the Spirit seals it, then let every man and woman henceforth put his [sic] hand on his mouth, sit in silence, and never say anything or lift his voice against the servants of God again." Well, that doesn't really follow sequentially. You'd have to be explaining it to their hearts, because their heads are going to recognize the complete disconnect with logic. What the speaker is essentially saying is "If I know the unknowable…" Well, I think it's pretty self-evident that you can't know the unknowable otherwise it wouldn't be, you know, unknowable.

I am going to inquire after God because I want you to know God and to be familiar with Him. If I can get you to know Him, I can bring you to Him. And if so, all persecution against me will cease. This will let you know that I am His servant, for I speak as one having authority and not as a scribe.

Well, that last bit is a direct paraphrase of a Scriptural reference to the Synoptic Jesus so if the speaker is a Christian and believes that the Synoptic Jesus is interchangeable with God—which is pretty much the stock-in-trade of universal Christianity—then that's self-evidently a blasphemous statement. This is the sort of stuff that boggles my mind. "If I can get you to know Him." That presupposes that YOU know Him and that in itself is blasphemous as far as I'm concerned. The best that any man can say, as far as I can see, is "here's how I BELIEVE that I experience God, here's the way I THINK He acts in my life." I mean, what are you going to do on Judgement Day in front of God when you tell Him about something He told you to do or something you know He instructed you about and He says, "No, I didn't." What? Are you going to argue with Him? Are you going to tell an omniscient being where He participated in your life and where He didn't? And then the speaker makes these occasional leaps into the absolutely infernal in my opinion:

I am going to tell you the designs of God for the human race, the relation the human family sustains with God, and why He interferes with the affairs of men. First, God Himself who sits enthroned in yonder heavens is a Man like unto one of yourselves—that is the great secret!...

…Here then is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God. You have got to learn how to make yourselves Gods in order to save yourselves and be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done—by going from a small capacity to a great capacity, from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, until the resurrection of the dead from exaltation to exaltation—till you are able to sit in everlasting burnings and everlasting power and glory as those who have gone before, sit enthroned.

It ends in mid-sentence shortly after that (and, no offence intended, not a minute too soon for my comfort level when it comes to blasphemy).

Next: Secular Break on the Honking Great Box from Salt Lake City




Tuesday December 26 – Continuing our coverage of the Honking Great Box from Salt Lake City…

[Sorry, one more interruption: I want to wrap up the package of two Fan Club Newsletters that Elizabeth L. of Western Springs Illinois won by ordering the most number of sequential trade paperbacks and the largest number of trade paperbacks in October—basically a complete set—"Here it is, Elizabeth, and thanks for your order!" It was pretty early on in the Blog and Mail's history so I'm sure she had no idea she was even in contention and this is a good way of letting her know without having to actually write a letter]

Tucked inside The Best of Big George was Lucas Ackley's business card. Lucas Ackley, Graphic Designer. Lucas is one of the world-class "behind the counter people" at Night Flight (I already told you about Mike Justice). So if you need some graphic design work done, you can contact him at pickpocketproductions@.... On the back of the card there's a quote from Albert Einstein: "Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value," which I would certainly consider words to live by even though my value—or "value"—is popularly in dispute right now.

I also got my two copies of Archie #570 which features "Archie in the City Library", the issue's lead-off five-pager, as the Riverdale Gang goes to the City Library in Salt Lake City and, among other things, meets Night Flight's Mimi Cruz…

[Alan Carroll, Mimi's husband and co-owner of the store, couldn't wait to show me the, um, really deep sun tan that Mimi has in the book. See, Mimi comes from a Mexican background and I guess Barry Grossman, the colorist, when they told him about her ethnicity decided, "Okay, Mexican: Brown #8A." (or whatever it was). This led me to suggest that the way to international understanding might lie in comic book stores since store owners see the sun so seldom, if we all in the Family of Man and Family of Woman choose to become comic-book store owners, we'll all eventually become the same pale washed out shade of white that all comic-book store owners eventually become. One World, One Off-White Colour and Kumbaya, y'all!]

The story is kind of strange. I mean the idea behind it is interesting—comics and libraries and a comic book store all pulling together to promote literacy—the same thing that attracted me to the Salt Lake City Book Festival when Mimi pitched me on the idea. As Chuck the Black Archie Character puts it "Yes! This library is supportive of anything that promotes reading!" But I have to take issue with some of the choices: like the piped in music.

Betty: "Music seems to be almost everywhere!"

Mimi: "The Director feels [italics mine] the Library is not just about books, but all the arts! …She says the goal should be to also stimulate the mind, eyes and ears!"

I can go along with the mind and the eyes…but ears? In a library? It's probably just an oppressively patriarchal misapprehension on my part (I mean, when it comes right down to it here in the twenty-first century what isn't, eh?) but I've always laboured under the impression that libraries should also be about study (actually that they should be primarily about study but I know when its time to switch terminology: usually about the time that I'm being elbowed out of the way as I am here) and that study is best conducted in absolute silence. I don't mean study in degraded politically correct terms—point a kid towards the book he's looking for and have him copy it out three paragraphs from it while listening to Def Iguana on his iPod and call that scholarship—but of reading a hard text and really attempting to discern and, if necessary, dissect the inner meaning of what the author is attempting to communicate. Back when the earth was still cooling, I used to study at the library but now that libraries (and not just here in the People's Republic of Kitchener, evidently) have been turned into substitute daycare centres where infants are encouraged to fully express themselves spontaneously, at the top of their lungs and without oppressively patriarchal suppression of their personal expression such as I advocate, if I need to study a book, I take it out and bring it back here to the office where I can actually digest it without some ear-splitting interruption. Just so: Mimi goes on to say "And notice the `No Shh!' button on Julie Bartel and Matt McLain, two of our key librarians!...It's a far cry from when the librarians would shush their patrons!" It is, indeed, a far cry. Fortunately everyone is now encouraged to bridge that formerly insurmountable distance with Good Human Interaction Conducted at Roadhouse Decibel Levels now that all of us oppressively patriarchal suppressionist spoilsports have been driven back to our domiciles where we clearly belong since we lack the Appropriate People Skills to Fully Engage With Today's Modern Library on Its Own Swinging Hip-Hopping Terms.

Mimi's "I'd like you to meet Alan Carroll, our store's owner" line is more than a little bizarre for those of us in the know. Um, and what else, Mimi? Alan is…Alan is…it's a word that starts with "h"…Alan is…your…your…it starts with "h", Mimi. C'mon Mimi, apply yourself, you'll think of it.

[I should probably mention that I kid Mimi shamelessly about her marriage since she has confessed to being a terrible wife. It was her and Alan's anniversary the week before I came down there and she forgot it again. So, of course when I was doing the public radio interview that day I made a point of wishing Alan and Mimi a happy anniversary which provoked the interviewer (as I hoped it would) to say, "Did you know she FORGOT it?" I laughed uproariously and said, "I know!" I kid her about it because Alan is completely cool with her being a terrible wife and that's the only one it should really matter to, right?]

Is it just my oppressively patriarchial suppressionist side that finds it odd that Mimi makes no reference to being married to Alan and that Mimi is featured in (let me count them here) fifteen panels and Alan is in one panel? I mean, if that's what it is—that I'm just a narrow-minded oppressively patriarchal suppressionist tyrant who doesn't know when to shut up and that I'm missing the intrinsic fairness in having one co-owner of a store in fifteen panels (who happens to be a female from an "ethnic" background) and one co-owner of a store in one panel (who happens to be an old white guy)(not that there's anything wrong with that, Alan) then please, don't be shy. Give it to me straight. I'm just a redneck KKK bigot, right? I just don't understand that 15-1 is the only fair ratio when you're dealing with an ethnic woman and an old white guy. And this is my Michael Richards "n-word" moment. If I'd just learn to leave this stuff alone I might be welcomed back into the Right Thinking Comic-Book Field, but no. I just have to keep shooting myself in the foot.

The Pariah King of Comics (surveying his blown-to-s—t foot as the smoke and smell of cordite dissipates): Well, MY work is done here!

Not quite. "Politically incorrect miles to go before I sleep and politically incorrect miles to go before I sleep." I got the staff at Night Flight to autograph one of my copies of Archie #570 which is, evidently, available at or you could write to Mimi and Alan: they have boxes full of them. Alan autographed his panel "Muchas gracias! Alan Carroll" which still makes me laugh every time I read it. Alan and I crack each other up on a regular basis. Mike Justice and Josh signed the staff panel. Mimi signed one of her panels that happened to be on that same page (she had three others to pick from!). Incorrigible (I don't think I've ever capitalized the adjective before and I doubt I will again) Erin signed the staff panel "To Dave: These boobs are for you!" Theresa signed the staff panel "To Dave: These boobs would be for you, but I don't know where they have gone." That requires a little explanation: See, Theresa has HUGE breasts which have inexplicably been rendered in Archie Comics size in the comic. Evidently they started sprouting when she was in grade three and they haven't really stopped or slowed down. She's very good-spirited about it in the Dolly Parton way that some women can be, so even though you all hate my guts for mentioning it, I'm pretty sure Theresa won't mind. But, it's an interesting point. I mean, Mimi also has huge breasts now that I come to think of it (and I don't think she'll mind my mentioning it, since the way she initially persuaded me to do a signing at Night Flight was with an overhead shot of her cleavage along with the cleavage of two of her girlfriends and a note "six good reasons to do a signing at Night Flight Comics). Is it just my narrow-minded oppressively patriarchal suppressionist nature that finds it odd that large breasts—even on women who actually have large breasts—is considered inappropriate when it comes to their pictorial representation in an all-ages comic book? No, don't tell me. Let me guess. Another Michael Richards "n-word" moment, right? Cutting my own throat on the Internet. And I don't know a soul who can get me on Letterman and Larry King Live to tell my side of it and plead for forgiveness.

Ah, well. Once the Pariah King of Comics, always the Pariah King of Comics.

At least I'll always have Erin and Theresa's boobs (or what's left of them) in the Cerebus Archive now that I've committed career suicide. Yes, "AGAIN": thank you for reminding me.

Tomorrow: A different form of career suicide as I tackle the second Mormon Devotional I was given





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.