Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #305 (July 13th, 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.


Friday July 12 –


A letter from Jeet Heer from – REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN!? What in the heck is the thoroughly Toronto-ized Jeet Heer doing in Regina? I bet the address is a beard and he's actually hiding out somewhere around Yonge and Eglington. Mm. 306 area code. That's Regina all right. Jeet writes:

"I hope this notes find you well.

"I was reading John Bell's INVADERS FROM THE NORTH, a history of Canadian comics. In this book.. Bell makes use of some of the writing you did for CANAR [Comic Art News & Reviews]. This reminded me that for a while I've wanted to send you a note about your writing about comics, which I've long enjoyed.

"You've been writing about comics for nearly four decades now, in fanzines, in the pages of CEREBUS, in interviews and now on your blog.

"I think it would be good to gather the best of this material in a book, maybe titled DAVE SIM ON COMICS.

"What makes these essays and stray comments valuable is that you have a distinct aesthetic. It's not an aesthetic I necessarily agree with: I'm much more of a Frank King/HaroldGray/George Herriman man, rather than a devotee of Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Neal Adams, etc. But for that very reason, I like to read a strong articulation of your point of view, because it's different enough from mine to be informative.

"Anyways, I hope you give this idea serious thought. It seems like a good step for you to take in your post-CEREBUS days. It's a way of using your energy and skill without going into another comics project right away.



"PS. You mentioned on your blog that you wrote a letter to the NATIONAL POST about one of my Seth articles. I've never seen that letter – what did you write?"

Um, actually that must've gotten garbled in the translation. What I said was that the only time my name had ever appeared in the NATIONAL POST (up until I finally had a letter printed a couple of weeks back) was IN one of your articles on Seth. If I'm not mistaken it was the first time we met -- at the lunch before Dylan Horrocks' slide show. You were there, Dylan, Peter Birkemoe, Seth, Chester, Joe Matt. Seth took something out of his jacket pocket – I can't remember what. A lighter? – and it was obviously an authentic antique of some kind, a definite 1930s period piece. I turned to you and said, "That's the thing about Seth. Some people can adopt a 1930s look, but Seth gets everything right down to the smallest details." And at some point you wrote, "As the now-forgotten cartoonist Dave Sim once said…"

No, you didn't say "the now-forgotten". I'm being acerbically jocose.

Thanks for the compliments on my comics journalism. It's not something I would actively put together on my own. The Technical Director on my secret project wants me to write a short essay on photorealism in comics for the secret project's website and I told him it likely won't be much of an essay more of a "Why I Want To Be Al Williamson When I Grow Up." As I discovered when John Tran sent me an Internet article on Johnstone & Cushing and when I talked to Neal Adams about his experiences as a teenager at the tag end of that period I really don't know anything about the history of photorealism just the aesthetic and how I respond to it.

And, seriously, people's eyes glaze over since we're far more in a Frank King/Harold Gray/George Herriman time period even in the super-hero context. Bruce Timm is far more from your side of things than mine.

They're being polite (YOU'RE being polite) but their eyes are glazing over (YOUR eyes are glazing over). Which isn't to say I don't appreciate the gesture. I do.

"Let's not hog the lectern here, there are other aesthetics to consider."

But that's very different from being actually interested and for me to actually explain the difference between Raymond and Williamson and Adams as I see their work you have to go really, really deep into the page to a level that just doesn't exist with King/Gray/Herriman where there really isn't any more to see from an inch away than there is from a foot away or two feet away. From a comfortable reading distance you're going to see everything that they do and have done. From your aesthetic's vantage-point I'm discussing things that at best are beside the point of good cartooning and at worst don't exist because they can't be easily perceived from a comfortable reading distance.

There are interesting idiosyncrasies to my aesthetic. I was looking at John Tran's large collection of HEART OF JULIET JONES tear-sheets and what I hadn't seen before is that, like all newspaper strips, it had that grotesque Buffalo News colour slapped all over it that makes DC Comics in the 60s look like the Sistine Chapel ceiling by comparison. In one of my last phone calls to Neal Adams needed to get the Neal Adams issue of FOLLOWING CEREBUS ready, I remarked on this. It's some of the worst printing imaginable and still you and Stan Drake and Al Williamson and Alex Raymond were doing outrageously fine lines in your work (with a Gilotte-290 no less!) many of which didn't reproduce at ALL.

And he said, "The REALLY fine lines I did for myself." And I thought to myself, well, you'd really have had to. There's a really interesting level of dedication there where you are choosing to draw better than the reproduction can handle. Gerhard and I got into an unspoken fine line competition the last two years on CEREBUS, but that was always within the confines of what Preney could handle. When they started going too dark and the line-work started filling in, we worked at getting them to tone it down. My mind boggles at the fact that Alex Raymond and Stan Drake were obviously going toe-to-toe on a daily basis and only a fraction of what they were doing was showing up on the newspaper page.

You can call that real dedication (my aesthetic) or wasted effort (your aesthetic). Why not draw everything at a comfortable arm's length distance and put more of your energy into doing a touching human drama? I think you can chalk it up to an overpowering shift of emphasis. The leap of technical ability from Alex Raymond to Stan Drake means that that's where you're putting in the hours: on an aerial shot of a sleepy New England town where you know exactly what sort of day it is by the way it's been drawn, exactly what the texture of the trees is, the density of the snow, the period of the architecture. It's the 1950s and early 60s on its own terms instead of seen through a glass darkly of jaded cynicism. When you get way over into Stan Drake land and look back, basically everything just looks like variations on Matt Feazell's stick figures. How difficult is that? Challenge yourself!

But in terms of Heart On The Sleeve Sincerity, yeah, your aesthetic has mine beat all hollow. It was one of the things I had to get used to in reading Little Orphan Annie. "He's KIDDING, isn't he?" No, he isn't kidding. This is the way he sees life and he couldn't be more in earnest if he was spilling his own blood onto the page. It's why he gives a bone-deep Democrat like Art Spiegelman the willies. They aren't just stories, these are Moral Verities That Can Crush You In Your Godless Secularism. An Art Spiegelman character in a Little Orphan Annie strip would either Repent and See The Light or He Would Come To A Bad End For Which He Himself Was Solely Responsible.

I know that you're trying to make a living as much as possible from comics scholarship, so let me say that if you want to put together a rough cut of a DAVE SIM ON COMICS book for me to have a look at, I'll be happy to have a look at it and give you a yea or a nay. If I end up liking it more than I think I will, I might even agree to write commentaries on the pieces and/or publish it. But, I think we both know that your comics scholarship heart lies elsewhere.

Anyway, thanks for writing.


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.