Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #151 (February 9th, 2007)

I mean Dave Sim just irritates the

$#%& out of me so there I am reading along

and going "This #$%@ is just SO

$%#@ing WRONG" and…I don't get to read

what he's leading up to! I know whatever

it is, it's going to be full of #$@%

but I don't get to find out exactly

what KIND of

This is a little out of order, but Chet and I went to the Silver Snail to browse around until Peter Pan opened at noon. Chet went to browse (grudgingly: he always feels disloyal to the Beguiling when I drag him into the Silver Snail) I basically went to check how many of the sixteen volumes of Cerebus the Snail had on the shelf. Pretty good this time. I think they were missing only three or four of the books. Since it was new comics day there was a lot of bustling about and Diamond cartons being ripped open and books and magazines and comics stacked before the clambering hordes. One of the bustlers had green hair. Can it be? I looked a little more closely. Yes the bustler also had rivets in her lip and nose. Not exactly unique on Queen Street West in Toronto but still too much of a coincidence. Yes, it was true! Willow Dawson was back working at the Snail! She asked me if I had seen her comic book. Well, no I hadn't. Just that quickly she gave me copies of what turned out to be Violet Miranda Girl Pirate, written by Emily Pohl-Weary and published by Kiss Machine and financed by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

"I'll give you a plug on my blog," I told her.

Very eager to have a look (skipping ahead to later that night and one of my favourite times of all—reading my new comics on the return bus trip to Kitchener. That hearkens back to the Captain George Henderson Memory Lane days. I still remember reading Berni Wrightson's Badtime Stories for the first time, at the age of fifteen, under the illumination of the overhead reading light as the traffic of the 401 swarmed around me on just such a return bus journey) I pulled the three issues out. Girl Pirate.

I just couldn't do it. I love Willow Dawson to pieces, but I could no more bring myself to read a comic book about a Girl Pirate than I could go and see a movie about gay cowboys (not naming any specific movies). It's just that "nutty as a fruitcake" end of society as far as I'm concerned. There never was and there never would be such a thing as a girl pirate and, in my view, society is far better off acknowledging that even in its fiction because the other way lies madness. The distinction I've come up with—and which I think society would be well-served to adopt—is between "naturally-occurring" and "normal". To me, those who find significance in a wholly fictitious concept like "gay cowboys" are mistaking the one for the other. I assume that there has been such a thing as gay cowboys over the number of centuries that cowboys have existed, but I also assume that their numbers are so few as to constitute a statistical state of non-existence. Let's say one out of every twenty-eight thousand cowboys was gay. That means that a gay cowboy is a "naturally-occurring" event. It does happen. But nothing which statistically occurs at a rate of one for every twenty-eight thousand can be called remotely "normal" and consequently can't remotely be called indicative of anything however much the members opposite want it to be indicative of the "normalcy" of gayness. Whatever else one-out-of-twenty-eight-thousand might be, "normal" isn't one of them.

Oddly enough the distinction would crop up later in the day, as well. "Naturally occurring" versus "normal". The one is not the other.

Anyway, Violet Miranda, Girl Pirate is available at online. This doesn't really constitute a plug since I couldn't bring myself to read it (Girl Pirate? GAH!) so let me, instead, plug Suley Fattah's comic book to benefit cancer research, Drawing the Line and Willow's story "Small" which was in there and which was one of the first places that I saw her work. It's finally available from Diamond Comic Distributors and the order code is JAN073597. And now, for the visually impaired:

The Diamond order code for Drawing the Line is


If you won't buy it just for Willow's story (and you really should you know), maybe the fact that Chester Brown and I did a jam strip with Cerebus and Chester's bunny character will persuade you? Hanh? What do you mean "No?" You're just not that big of a Cerebus completist? Jeez you are a tough nut to crack. Hmm. What about new work by Stan Sakai? Yes! Stan Sakai, legendary Usagi Yojimbo artist/writer and one of the newest members of the Century Club (100 issues by a single creator or creative team—congratulations, Stan, and welcome!) No? In that case, What about new work by Moebius?

Aha! I KNEW Moebius would get you. Seriously, all proceeds go toward cancer research at Toronto's legendary Hospital for Sick Children and Princess Margaret Hospital, a very worthwhile cause.

Willow's also hard on work on her own graphic novel. Assuming that it doesn't end up being about transsexual Welsh coal miners, maybe I can give that one a nice review.

On the way out of the Snail, I said to Chet that it is completely beyond me how a pretty young lady like Willow can look at herself in the mirror and say, "I know what's missing. I need a couple of giant rivets in my face!" And Chet agreed. He couldn't see it either. Which just made me a little mournful for the two of us since it was obviously an example of two cranky old guys. I mean, I accept it in those instances. "The reason I don't think like everyone else about piercings is because I'm old and hopelessly out of date". At the age of fifty you take it as a given that that particular process is just beginning. If I end up living to be eighty, the whole world is going to look too screwy for words and I'll be looking forward to dying in no small part so I don't have to watch any more parts of it go into hell in a handcart.

"Like girls spitting," I said to Chet.

"Girls spitting?" he asked, incredulously.

Yeah, haven't you seen that? Pretty young girls hawking up loogies and gobbing them in the streets like low class guys/thugs and jocks do. No, Chet hadn't noticed that and was more than a little appalled at the mental image it conjured. As well he should be. I'm still not remotely used to it. Could it be a Kitchener thing? I told Chet that I had considered that it might be specifically directed at me as a COG (Creepy Old Guy) who can't help staring at pretty young girls. You want to stare at me, buddy? Here, this is what you get to see. HAWKKK FLOOO! Chet laughed and I laughed, too. I mean, if that was the idea behind it, it works great, I told him. As soon as they do that, no matter how cute they are, I can't stop staring at them fast enough. On the way into Peter Pan I wondered if maybe it wasn't an Oriental versus Occidental thing. Chet exclusively scopes out Oriental women and girls on the streets and is pretty much blind to women of the Occidental races. Could it be that Oriental women and girls are too classy to stoop to the level of hawking and spitting in the street? I couldn't rule out the possibility, having pretty much decided that white girls are completely without limits when it comes to pushing every boundary of tastelessness and vulgarity (although obviously the whole subject was too politically incorrect to discuss with anyone besides Chester and a handful of others). Another good reason to have lunch with him. It's all just another topic of conversation. Agree, disagree. It's all just speculation and personal opinion.

And a lot of the time, we're just making chit-chat about this that and the other. I don't mean to make it sound like we're this two-person underground cabal of dangerous and seditious opinions. There's a lot of garden variety small talk mixed in as well.

I don't know if it will make Willow feel any better (I hope it will), but I was equally disappointed on my return bus ride in two out of the three comic books that I bought for myself that week at the Beguiling: Will Eisner's The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart and Batman The Spirit "Crime Convention" by Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart. I mean, as soon as I heard about these (and about the proposed Spirit movie), I thought, "Will could not have been less interested in this. This is a Denis Kitchen idea, not a Will Eisner idea." Not that there's anything wrong with that. There is no question or doubt that Will trusted Denis implicitly and that Will trusted Denis with the Spirit intellectual property to an extent that he trusted no one else. You don't inquire into something like that when you're made aware of it: you just take it as a given that Denis earned that trust and stamp "case closed" on it as anyone in even distant proximity to the Eisner/Kitchen relationship couldn't help but being made aware. But that doesn't keep me or anyone else from holding a personal opinion and my personal opinion is that Denis' various attempts to make The Spirit into an active intellectual property do a disservice to the Eisner original and diminish what Eisner and his hand-picked team of assistants accomplished between 1940 and 1952. That twelve-year run— particularly the forward momentum and progress that I see exhibited in it—stands as an unassailable monument to one of Comics' Greatest High Water Marks. Attempts to make use of that immaculate cachet, to me—and I speak as someone who did his own misguided attempt to make use of it with the "Cerebus vs. The Spirit" in Cerebus Jam—can't help but just be spray-painting useless graffiti on the unassailable monument. You can't damage the monument, but it would look so much better without the spray painting on it. If "Cerebus vs. The Spirit" never existed it could only be to the benefit of what The Spirit actually is. All of the benefit from Will agreeing to do the story with me in 1985 was on my side. It was a complete act of creative charity to a long-time admirer on Will's part.

I kept trying to come up with suitable analogies. The one that came the closest would be my response if I found out that Alex Ross had been hired to do a book of fifty new Krazy Kat Sunday strips. I mean, on the one hand you would have the impeccable credentials of Alex Ross as the "skyer no higher" re-imaginer of virtually every super-hero under the sun. Like Darwyn Cooke the guy just can't help but do interesting treatments of intellectual properties that haven't been rethought for decades. Just to be in proximity to his thinking on the subject for fifty pages would be worth the price of admission (particularly if it was accompanied by Alex Ross commentary). My respect for Darwyn Cooke is definitely in that category. Whatever he's going to attempt, I'm going to be interested in looking at and studying. But, at the same time, there is an in-built response that I think is more common sense than prejudice. This Shouldn't Be Done. Alex Ross doing fifty pages of Krazy Kat is simply unnecessary. It does no favour for George Herriman's legacy, for Krazy Kat or for Alex Ross. It's spray-painting on the monument. It doesn't really harm the monument, but the monument is certainly better served (at least as I see it) without Alex Ross attempting to "contribute" to it. There is only Herriman's Krazy Kat and apart from the occasional homage (again, I did mine on a couple of pages in Going Home) it is best left that way.

Darwyn, as all of the publicity attached to this makes plain, was aware of all this going in. It's a suicide mission plain and simple and it took a lot of guts to shrug and dive in face-first. Speaking personally, I hope the whole experiment fails sooner rather than later and I can go back to looking forward—without qualm—to whatever Darwyn decides to do next.

I'm sorry if this seems unduly harsh to Denis Kitchen and what he wants to accomplish on behalf of Will's legacy, but I think it needed to be said and—since I'm already the Pariah King of Comics—I figured I might be well-positioned to say what I think a lot of other people are thinking.

The latest issue of Comics & Games Retailer—belated Blog & Mail thanks to Krause Publications for keeping me on their comp list for all these years—contains very few Market Beat reports (up-to-the-minute retailer assessments of the market's positive and negative surprises) on the revived title and the Batman crossover. One retailer wondered if his Batman demographic audience could be stretched to accommodate The Spirit in a way that he seemed to suggest he guessed that it was a long shot at best. The Spirit just isn't, in a modern market sense, in the same context as Batman. It's an apples and oranges crossover idea—like Batman and Tomahawk or Batman and Rex the Wonder Dog or something (I really hate to type things like that in case it gives some freelance writer ideas). Another retailer reports one of his customers wondering if this means that The Spirit is now officially part of the DC Universe. Yes, there you go—that's what happens with the small context getting in that close proximity to the large context. Is The Spirit going to join the Justice League now? Is The Spirit going to cross over with Fables or Sandman or Books of Magic? If so, I think it will just be more spray paint on Will's monument. Better we should all find a way to move more copies of his post-Spirit graphic novels. THAT would have meant the world to Will.

Tomorrow: Talking Prostitution with Chester Brown

There's MORE for you




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.