Friday, December 29, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #108 (December 28th, 2006)

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Those of you hoping to tune in and find a new commissioned piece underway are, unfortunately, forgetting how Luddite Time Travel works. Even though tonight is Industry Night at the Victory Café in Toronto and I'm down there having lunch with Chet at Peter Pan and then heading over to the Beguiling and then for the first hour or two of the festivities, through the miracle of Luddite Time Travel it is actually a little over two weeks before that, December 13, as I am typing this and—having had nearly six days of uninterrupted work on my secret project, I am now getting both sufficiently Lead-Time Paranoid and Unanswered Mail Guilty to try and push my way to the end of 2K6 (how was your year? That's nice.). So: to the Mound o'Mail:

Nice to hear from long-time Cerebus subscriber Ed Komara, librarian at the Crane Music Library at the State University of New York in Potsdam NY: among other things he writes (offering encouragement: which is nice I need all the encouragement I can get):

I have noticed that few (if any) "commentators" and fans of Cerebus write about or even discuss the last one hundred issues—actually the last 150 issues, to be honest. I find this to be an interesting parallel to studies on American blues. It seems everyone wants to write on the pre-World War II Mississippi era, on the postwar era in Chicago through 1970. But there seems to be comparatively little on blues during the last 35 years, when blues merged with soul music. That current Southern US black audiences call what they hear "blues" seems to have no effect on changing some influential writers' minds. So there is still meagre commentary on contemporary blues. And there may well continue to be meagre explication and commentary on the second half of Cerebus, compared to the large amount for the first half. But the second half deserves more.

I appreciate the compliment. I think that might be attributable to word of mouth which, in an almost completely left-leaning, atheistic environment like the comic-book field, is going to severely limit the "spread" of the last half of Cerebus. The people who have read it aren't going to talk about it (because they didn't like it) and, consequently, the people who would be interested aren't going to hear about it. And of course those who would be most interested in Latter Days and The Last Day (that is, the religious) are going to be put off by the content of the first half of the book which is tailored to the sensibilities of left-leaning atheists. Just to get all the way through the Cerebus storyline requires a level of open-mindedness that is pretty well non-existent in our world. As does the Blog and Mail with its Sunday Editions devoted to things scriptural. Certainly in the short term—the next thirty to fifty years—it looks to me as if Cerebus is a closed system with only minor "leakage" from its present habitat as a major disappointment and failure in comic-book frames of reference (with the "early funnier ones" all that recommends it within those restrictive confines) with the potential for actually "hatching out" to an interested audience being a long term—hundred to two hundred years—proposition. I'm kind of philosophical about it since I suspect that that was the way that God planned it to happen when He created me, so I write as much explication as I can with the long-term audience in mind knowing that that communication is entirely one-sided: basically "reading into the record". Looking on the bright side, the Baby Boom and post-Baby Boom generations have always prided themselves on being able to Face the Face (apologies to Pete Townsend) whatever the Face might be and Cerebus will go down in the official record as something that they just couldn't. Face, that is—which I consider to be no small credential. As I said to someone a while ago, it's a strange conundrum in that there is no greater credential to Baby Boomers in considering an individual in an entertainment field than for that individual to still be considered an outlaw at the age of fifty—which I definitely am considered to be. So much of an outlaw that I've become the Pariah King of Comics. It'll be interesting to see how it all hatches out in the long term (even though I won't actually see it in the long term, myself): if the 90% of the comic book field who want Cerebus destroyed by ignoring it to death can accomplish that or if the 10% who think Cerebus should be preserved will ultimately prevail (85-15? 80-20? 70-30? You pick).

Regarding the Scripture readings. I think it is a marvellous endeavour—after all, they were meant to be read aloud, even read aloud one book at a time, at the time of their compositions. Out of curiosity I bought the DVDs of the Genesis readings from tgrace through Ebay. It was during the chapter on Sodom and Gomorrah that I thought, "Hey, that Sim is on to something here," and I reached for my King James Bible. I thought the Joseph chapters were well done as a sustained Told narrative. I like to think I can attend a reading sometime. Meanwhile, I read on your blogspot that DVDs of the rest of the Torah are now available, so I think I will order those. I wonder how you read all those laws in Numbers and Leviticus.

With great difficulty. It's very difficult to maintain even the façade of intellectual interest when what you're reading is that seemingly redundant and, often, seemingly nonsensical. That was the reason that I didn't even dream about reading scripture aloud publicly until I had a lot of experience doing it privately and I was sure that I could give "full value" even to those parts that I don't understand and to those parts that would, on the surface of them, seem tailor-made to put a saint to sleep. Scripture is scripture and is deserving of the most reverential reading you're capable of bringing to the table. Even the atheists (who, I suspect, make up the vast majority of the dozen or so people who have come for the readings) are struck by the fact that it is a very engaging narrative and that three hours goes by very, very quickly. That was, really, my core point. Even the most boring parts of the Bible aren't actually boring. Preaching of any kind tends to be boring and reading the Bible without inflection—or reading scripture that has been leached of its poetry and "dumbed down" into monosyllables and "See Spot Run" sentences—can make it seem boring but it's actually very compelling material. My assumption is that the soul responds to scripture because it understands what's being said and why and the more scripture the soul hears, the more it responds and that this has a positive spin-off effect on the conscious mind which has no idea or a very limited idea of what its listening to. I think scripture is "soul nutrition" so it's kind of humorous to me to picture the way it is usually dished out in churches—parsimoniously—and then picked apart word by word and letter by letter. All of these souls gathered for the purpose of being fed and there's the big "feed bag" right there, the Bible, just chock a block full of soul nutrition and—here's the little lump that you get this week. Now, let me tell you about my fishing trip on my latest retreat and how I think it tells us all something valuable about generosity.

So far we've been able to keep going. Unfortunately the Registry Theatre has become very popular and can no longer cut me a "half price" deal on the rental nor guarantee me more than one or two Sundays over February, March and April. So, the next stop is the Starlight Lounge, 47 King North in Waterloo, thanks to Bernard's generous offer to let us use it. Maybe we'll see you there, someday, Ed.

I'm trying not to push my atheistic readership too hard, so my answer to Ed's question about Paul's epistles will be in the Sunday Edition this week, God willing.

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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.