Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #302 (July 10th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


Why did I tell these stories in reverse order? Oh, right. I remember. I couldn't make up my mind how I was going to end this one.

Anyway, the First Interesting Thing on the Toronto trip was that I was talking to Chet about my secret project and mentioned that since it's a photorealism project, I plan on doing a bibliography not just of the books that went into the writing of it, but also of the photographs and where I found them. I frankly admitted that this might be a wise idea or a very unwise idea since I'd be calling attention to my use of copyrighted material. Of course, I tend to fall back on my own open-handed control of Cerebus as an intellectual property. If someone wants to use Cerebus or use panels from Cerebus in their own creative work, as long as it's just as a raw material, I have no quarrel with that. I think the individual creator is the best judge as to whether or not he or she needs "needs" or Needs to use Cerebus. Consequently, I think, in the larger scheme of things I get a certain amount of slack when it comes to my own use of copyrighted material. I always make sure that I'm bringing something new to the table in addition to just making magpie-like acquisitions. I cited a couple of examples from the secret project where I had several options for one person to pick from as photographic reference and the one I picked ended up being a book jacket photo by Man Ray. Well, that only makes sense in a way. If you have several photos to pick from you're going to pick the best photo and the best photo is usually (not always but usually) going to be by the best/most famous photographer. But, what happens if Man Ray's estate really loathes comic books or really loathes my treatment of my subject?

[and I have to say that it's really the estate – read: family – that I worry about in these instances. In my experience creative people are all pretty much aware of that magpie quality and treat lesser degrees of plagiarism and homages, "homages" and Homages as what they are: expressions of appropriated creativity for people inclined towards that kind of thing. However once they're dead it is the heirs – usually on advice of their attorneys – who take crushing people like insects as just part of the cost of doing business if not keeping up appearances].

Did I really think something like that was going to happen? Chet wanted to know.

No, not really. I think all of the sudden "to do" about graphic novels is evaporating pretty quickly and that we're well on our way back to just being "funnybooks" and that puts us "below the salt" when it comes to even being recognized in the real world let alone being allowed to share their reality. Comic-book people exist somewhere between the homeless and commercial artists neither of whom your average suburbanite is going to get caught dead with in any form of societal engagement. That's what social workers and art directors are for.

(I wish I had said all that, but genuine coherence always comes much later at a keyboard when I'm juiced to the gills on caffeine. At the time it was taking most of my attention just to keep from ramming into Chet's bike with my suitcase)

But I'm once again in the unenviable situation of establishing precedents in the comic-book field where none have been set that I'm aware of. I cited another example of a Presidential Library I got three copyrighted photos from. The very nice lady in the audio visual department (who has evidently been there for some time, she's mentioned in the acknowledgements page of most books on this particular President) asked me on the phone if the photos were for my personal use. I explained that I was using them as reference, tracing them and turning them into drawings.

"So, they're for your personal use?" I picked up on the signal. She wanted to let me have the photographs and she'd err on my side in the gray areas involved but by law she was required to ask me if they were for my personal use or for a commercial use. Well, what exactly is a graphic narrative if not a "commercial use"?

"Yes," I dutifully replied. "They're for my personal use."

And a couple of days later I had my photographs.

I'm not sure if I set a precedent there or WHAT the precedent was if I did set it. It could be something as simple as "Dave Sim will lie like a rug to get the photographs he needs for his secret project." I'll be thanking her in my own acknowledgments and sending her a copy of the finished work in care of the Presidential Library in question and then, you know, let the chips fall where they may.

Anyway, Chet started mentioning several of the drawings which he had appropriated for use in LOUIS RIEL. Outright tracing from old engravings. It wasn't something that he tried to hide – someone had recognized his use of the work of C.W. Jeffreys and, being in the midst of doing a documentary on Jeffreys asked if Chet would agree to be interviewed and Chet said sure – as long as his face was completely digitized and his voice altered and the line on the screen said "Homeless Person or Perhaps A Commercial Artist".

I'm kidding. No he was completely open and aboveboard about it.

And then he brought up THE PLAYBOY and I hadn't even THOUGHT about that one. He had made extensive use of copyrighted photographs in that one – I have no idea what the deal is that Hugh Hefner has with his photographers but I would not have bet the mortgage on the farm that it was along the lines of "Oh, hey – swipe away. Knock yourself out." After all it took him YEARS to give Kurtzman back the Little Annie Fanny artwork.

But, yeah, Chet had gone back and drawn a lot of those covers and a lot of those pin-ups from his earliest Playboy experiences. "Hey, Chet, you're on my side in the argument in spite of yourself." Playboy lawyers.

"Yeah, that was the first thing I thought of when I saw the Playboy logo on the envelope. `Uh-oh.'. And then it turned out to be…"

One of those funny Chester Brown moments. I should say one of those funny Chester Brown, Seth, Joe Matt moments because they were all past masters in NOT telling each other anything about what was going on in their lives. As an example, neither Chester or Joe knew that Seth was buying his first car until he showed up with it in Toronto.

"…did I ever TELL you about the letter I got from Hugh Hefner about THE PLAYBOY?"

I was tempted to INTENTIONALLY ram his bike with my suitcase…AND my over-sized portfolio.

No, you DIDN'T tell me about the letter you got from Hugh Hefner. In fact, I'd be surprised if you EVER told ANYONE about the letter you got from Hugh Hefner about THE PLAYBOY.

You know the other funny thing about Chet? If I called him up right now and said, "Chet do you mind if I run the Hugh Hefner letter and your response on the Blog & Mail?" He'd probably say, "uhhh…" as if trying to figure out why I would make such a weird request and then say, "Su…ure." Instead of saying, "Are you kidding? I can build an entire ART OF CHESTER BROWN book around that letter. People would buy the book just to be able to read that letter." It would never occur to him.

So, I'm just going to leave it at that.

It's a great story, but it's Chet's story, not mine.

Get him to tell you someday.

UPDATE 25 JUNE 1957 HOURS EST - Time to find something to go with the last third of this here Diet Coke I snuck out and bought without telling you. I've got the perfect thing: Grissol Canape Melba Rounds. What are THEY? I'm glad you asked me that question.

You know those little hard round melba toast crackers they have under the horse ovaries at cocktail parties?


Say, you REALLY don't get out much, do you? That's okay, neither do I anymore. Anyway, they're great. WHY are they great? They are great because there is 1 gram of fat in SEVEN of them. That means I can eat SEVENTY of them instead of having, say, half a chocolate bar. That counts a lot with me at the age of fifty-one. "How many of these can I have if I don't eat half a chocolate bar?" When the answer is "more than ten" hey, count me in.

See, they're not only virtually fat-free, they're also from the primary food group known as INCREDIBLY BORING which means that long before you could eat seventy of them, the flavour of them (garlic it says here) would literally put you to sleep. Trust me, Five of these babies and the last thing you're going to have on your mind is food. They literally give the word "food" a bad name. Ugh. "Chewing." "Relentless…Chewing…" "Largely… flavourless." "Pointless ingestion for its own sake." "What is our concept here?" "Oh, no – not ANOTHER one!" "Isn't that seven YET?" "STOP! STOP! I'LL TELL YOU WHERE THE TREASURE IS!"

"Mustn't." "Black." "Out." [apologies to Frank Miller]

Okay, almost time to answer the mail and see if we can get the level down below the sides of the drawers so we don't have any "mail related casualties" to go with our INCREDIBLY BORING food group. Actually I don't usually eat them plain like this: the idea is that I stand up in my Not a Kitchen and spoon tuna-fish onto them (if you're not particular about your tuna fish – and I'm not, I discovered -- you can get it for roughly a buck a can or less) and then a dollop of Ranch dressing. See, all the calories are in the Ranch dressing. Tuna fish and the melba rounds you can eat up in the low seventies and still be under the number of grams of fat in a chocolate bar. In the tuna fish and Ranch dressing scenario boring comes in with the prep time and the standing. You have to spoon the tuna fish onto the melba round, then carefully put a daub of Ranch dressing on the top and then pop the whole thing in your mouth and then chew for an unnaturally long time to get it down to a size you can swallow. You can TRY eating it in two or three bites but then instead of EATING melba round, tuna fish and a daub of Ranch dressing you will find yourself WEARING a melba round, tuna fish and a daub of Ranch dressing. It really is a marvel of culinary engineering for that reason and you're welcome. However, if you try sitting down to eat it, I won't be responsible. I've never tried that and certainly never in front of, like, a television. When you know that you can eat seventy of them instead of a chocolate bar and with the Core Addictive quality of Ranch dressing (aka the flavour saviour of the caloric challenged)? No, in my mind's eye I see a couch and a person that stinks of tunafish and crumbs and wads of tunamelbafishanddressing stuck to everything for a radius of twelve feet. Mark my words only a man who lives alone (a woman would just know better) would even dream of attempting such a thing and he would deserve exactly what he would get. Yechhh.

But standing up and not trying to read anything? Just carefully spooning tuna fish onto your melba round canapé and carefully putting a daub of Ranch dressing on the top? And then carefully popping the whole thing in your mouth?

[a BIGGER daub? Well, of course, EVERYONE is going to TRY for a bigger daub. Heh-heh. ONCE. Because you know what you get? I'll tell you what you get, Mr. and/or Ms. Smarty Boots: Ranch dressing fingers. You can't just wipe them off, either, because Ranch dressing is sticky. The whole operation grinds to a halt and it's another three minutes before you get another daub of Ranch dressing because you have to wash your Ranch dressing fingers and dry them off before you can grab another melba toast canapé round because, face it, the only thing worse than a completely flavourless melba toast round is a WET completely flavourless melba toast round. And face it, you DESERVE just such Ranch dressing deprivation for being Such A Greedy Guts Ranch Dressing Pig Face (I'm sorry, but it needed to be said).]

Again, by the time you've had five or six you really want to find someplace to sit down. Enough with the tuna fish and the ranch dressing and trying to keep the daub small enough so I don't get Ranch dressing fingers and having to chew for an unnaturally long time to make it small enough to swallow. My leg is getting a cramp here.

As I say, it is a marvel of culinary engineering or "How Else Do you Think a Normally Rotund 51-Year Old Man Can Keep Wearing Jeans With a 34-Inch Waistline?"

Okay, it's now officially 2044 HOURS EST and we are into Hour Number Fourteen which should explain the preceding Psycho Diet for Anorexic Men. Laugh if you want but word of this is going to spread like wildfire. The days of the South Beach Diet are numbered, baby.

Anyway, we got a postcard from a GENUINE FAMOUS PERSON here at the Blog & Mail and we know how often that happens, don't we? When WAS the last time that hell froze over? Let me check my calendar. So, we're going to let him jump the massive queue. It's P. Craig Russell! I had been waiting to hear back from him about the introduction he asked me to write for THE ART OF P. CRAIG RUSSELL. Told him he could take out anything he didn't like. The Pariah King of Comics is always ready for the "bait and switch". I even mentioned in the introduction "What was he THINKING?"

His answer:


" Four reasons I asked you for an intro.

"1. Unlike Windsor-Smith, Kaluta, Vess (peace be upon them), I concentrated almost solely on continuity and wanted to show a lot of that in the book. You are on the shortest list of visual storytellers.

"2. You write very well, so we'd be assured of a lively read. Your being a true iconoclast lent an anticipatory nervousness to it. What WILL he say?

"3. You've expressed an appreciation of my work in the past.

"4. It would piss off all the right people.

"Many thanks


"P.S. Did you KNOW I lived on the Upper West Side? If not…fine archery."

And with that, it's now 2057 HOURS EST and that's prayer time this time of year, Bubbah. Say, you don't suppose anyone is actually NERVOUS about my intro to Craig's book do you? Nah…

…well, hunh. Maybe they are, eh? Maybe it'll even sell a few books for Joe Pruett and the Craigmeister. Stranger things have happened.


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.