Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #86 (December 6th, 2006)

For the next two weeks, the Blog & Mail revisits


In honour of Steve Ditko's 80th year coming up in 2007 and in the hopes of drumming up a little business for his post-Marvel work published through Robin Snyder's RSCOMICS.

Order direct from Robin Snyder at

Or write to him at

3745 Canterbury Lane #81, Bellingham, Washington 98225-1186

Wednesday December 6 -

Mission accomplished. As soon as I got the two tracing paper figures juxtaposed, what the ectoplasmic self was staring at became a no-brainer: the "all seeing eye" coming out of Dr. Strange's amulet. Another level to the gay-looking/ballet humour in that it looks like an erect uncircumcised penis. Unless Sean M. doesn't want that on his wall (and who could blame him or his wife if they didn't?) in which case that wasn't my intention AT ALL. It's just the "all-seeing eye" coming out of Dr. Strange's amulet with the distinctively wavy, thick-line Steve Ditko motif.

The background I roughed in quickly and then positioned on the drawing.

It's a big part of the fun of this piece so I want to put some time in on it but, as is always the case with commissioned pieces, I have one eye on the clock. I've already been working on this for part of three days and it's still in the pencil stage. Let me put it this way: let's say that you make $100 a day at your job. Now let's say that instead of getting that $100 a day you get $100 to do a given set of tasks. If you can do all those tasks in one day, you're still making $100 a day. If it takes you two days, you're making $50 a day. If it takes you three days, you're making $33.33 a day. If it takes you four days, you're making $25 a day. By about day five, I figure you would be starting to think about what part of the tasks you can jettison rather than trying to figure out how to make it more complicated. This is the core problem with commissioned pieces and in fact with all creativity: where am I putting the time in? And how much time am I putting in? As it is, I'm not even charging for reading the Complete Steve Ditko Doctor Strange and I'm not charging for writing a diary of all of my decision-making. And yet I'm still expected to make what is roughly half of what I was doing commissions for a few months ago.

This gets into interesting areas. I was talking to Phil Irish who is the Kitchener Artist-in-Residence this year (drop by and say "hi"—he's just across from where you pay your public utility bills at City Hall) a while back about the series of paintings he's working on whose subjects are people's favourite places in the world which he gets them to draw a map to and then he goes there and makes sketches and then comes home and does a finished painting of the place and hollows out a space in the painting where he puts the map that the person gave him. Anyway, we were talking about the favourite parts of our work and discovered that we had in common that the parts we actually LIKE doing take up very little of our working time. Most of the time we are doing preparatory work that we're less interested in so that we can get to the part that we're more interested in. And that suddenly struck me as decidedly screwy. If art requires being a sincere personal expression to be considered art, then presumably it also requires that the vast majority of what goes into its production is supposed to be pleasurable. And yet most of it isn't. The subject came up again last week when I had lunch with Chester at Peter Pan and he mentioned that he had done a commissioned work that paid well (but, again, not as well as it would have it if would have taken one day instead of the four days that it took) and had recently been asked to design a package for The Complete Little Orphan Annie. As he said, they interested him but not in the way that working on his new graphic novel interested him. Likewise with his recent Western Canada tour. It was interesting and probably useful but not as interesting or useful as working on his new graphic novel. So, there it was again. I'm more interested in working on my secret project and my commentaries on Mark than I am on the things I am working on and yet these are the things that I'm working on.

Part of it, I think, is plain Judeo-Christian work ethic which has as one of its key—although seldom discussed—components that you are supposed to do unsatisfying things first before you can do satisfying things: for the same reason that you eat dessert last and dinner first. You always save the most pleasurable for last. The problem with that theory in this workaholic age is that you can very easily get yourself into a situation where by virtue of the sheer volume of work that we're all required to do, you NEVER actually get to what it is that you WANT to do and you are ALWAYS doing things that are less interesting to you because you're labouring under the delusion that at some point there will come an end to the things you don't want to do when the evidence is very much to the contrary.

My problem is that it's hard to tell the difference sometimes. I think myself obligated to do things like the Blog & Mail because it seems to be making a difference in sales and obviously I'm interested in generating more sales. If it isn't generating more sales (and I talked about this with Chet as well) and it just so happens that we were due for a little sales spurt that has now come and gone then there are any number of other ways that I'd rather be spending my time—like doing another Siu Ta: So Far strip or commentaries on Mark or my secret project. And that's where this links up to this commissioned piece that I'm working on (and discussing as I'm working on it). By waiting for something that banged a gong with me—a Ditko-influenced piece—I'm not sure if I'm not just refining my own level of self-distraction. I mean I really would rather be doing those other things but by incorporating the Blog & Mail and sticking to a theme that interests me at the upper end of my disinterest I would have to say that arguably I have possibly become the serpent in my own garden, tempting myself away from what it is that I want to do.

There's also the interesting question of whether I'm doing myself any good here talking about Steve Ditko and Dr. Strange and Mr. A. All of those are considered to be in the mainstream culture of comic books, genre fiction, etc. which is supposedly the death knell for anything that has any larger ambitions. I THINK I had larger ambitions with Cerebus but I don't know if I'm driving people away by talking about mainstream stuff or casting a wider net. Again, it's the difference between answering the mail and getting a letter from a Steve Ditko fan who wants to know what I think of Mr. A and just using the fact that Mr. A dropped into my lap as I was working on a Ditko-influenced commission as an excuse to talk about Mr. A.

I mean, I'm definitely looking forward to talking about Mr. A…

…but I'd still rather be doing my commentaries on Mark.

Viewers of the website have probably noticed by now that the calendar has been taken down. It turns out that two commissioned pieces a month is going to be a little optimistic over the next while. So, instead, I'm inviting interested individuals to contact me by phone (519.576.0610) to discuss any commission that they are interested in. When you phone, I can let you know what the current high offer is for the next commissioned piece after Dr. Strangeroach is and which I will be beginning probably after Christmas or early in the New Year (so I can get some uninterrupted working time on my secret project and commentaries on Mark). If you want a Gerhard background, you can let me know on the phone and then negotiate with Gerhard separately. The best rule of thumb on a Dave Sim commission is that you will get the best results if you are paying roughly $400 to $600 per figure. That is, a $1,000 commission of Cerebus and Jaka is going to look better than a $1,000 commission of Cerebus, Jaka, the Roach, Lord Julius, Astoria and Konigsberg. If you let me know what you're interested in, I can let you know what part of your picture is going to be the most time-consuming and then leave it up to you as to whether you want to stick to your original request or modify it in order to get more picture for your money.

That number again is 519.576.0610


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.