Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #317 (July 25th, 2007)


Roberta Gregory to Craig Miller [with interpolations by Dave Sim]

Hi, Craig

Thank you for sending me the comp copies of FOLLOWING CEREBUS. I was away for a few weeks and just now got them.

I have no other way of contacting Dave than through you [This isn't true. The office phone number and fax number are both in the JAKA 'S STORY trade paperback]. Can you see that this Pets to him somehow?

I began reading the "Reply to Roberta Gregory":

I only got to the point right after his original letter to me where he states that I was on the comp list for CEREBUS, and since I only mentioned reading JAKA'S STORY, I must have thrown away the others unread because it would make me 'look bad' or whatever

[I wrote in FC 10: "There were strange omissions (from her strip), such as the fact that she nowhere mentions that she had put me on her comp list (at least I assume it was she who put me on her comp list) and that she had been on our comp list pretty much from the time that I met her (which as I recall, was the Seattle stop on the '92 Tour). Her strip suggests that she only read JAKA'S STORY and then issue 186, which sort of begs the question, `What did she do with all of the comp copies she got in the mail? Did she read any of them or throw them away unread? And if she threw them away unread, why didn't she say so?' And I think the obvious answer would that it would make her look bad. I read her work that she sent me. She didn't read my work that I sent to her. Idle speculation, but it seemed a strange omission. She also doesn't mention that I sent her several letters of comment over the years on those occasions when there was something in NAUGHTY BITS I wanted to comment on.]

That is a huge lie. I have NEVER received any comp copies of CEREBUS from him. EVER. I got the copy of JAKA'S STORY when he visited Seattle back when it was the latest book of his, several years ago, when he graciously gave me a copy. If he sent the copies via Fantagraphics they never made their way to me. They would have been put in the mailbox I have had there, and still do. If he sent them to my PO Box address in Seattle, every single one of them seems to have vanished through postal error. The US Postal Service is not THAT bad. Any copies of CEREBUS I read are the ones I paid for with my own hard-earned bucks.

[The earlist issue of NAUGHTY BITS that I have is issue #6 which is dated August, 1992. I know I never bought any myself so assuming that that was the latest issue that was out at the time of the Seattle stop, I think I made a tremendous mistake at the time in thinking that Roberta and I had swapped addresses and said that we would put each other on each other's comp list. Which tended to happen not infrequently. At various times I had reciprocal comp list trades with the Pinis, James Owen, Jeff Smith, Colleen Doran, Todd McFarlane and others.

I had completely forgotten having given her a copy of JAKA'S STORY (actually, the latest book at the time was MELMOTH which had been published in the fall of the previous year) and still have no conscious memory of it whatsoever. I think what happened is that she sent me the copy of issue #6 as a swap and perhaps thought that she should send something more besides that because the next issue I have is issue 10, dated October, 1993 followed by issue 11, dated January, 1994. The next one I have is issue 15, dated February, 1995. And on up through #22. I've gone through all of my two hundred or so unfiled comic books (pretty much 1997 on) and can't find any of the subsequent issues, but I know she sent me each one up to the last one.

So, I sincerely apologize to Roberta for my faulty memory of what happened in 1992 and take her at her word that she never got anything from me except the copy of JAKA'S STORY

I cannot describe how angry and betrayed I feel, that he would be misrepresenting me and making fun of me in print on something false like this. If he was planning on reacting this way, he should have at least had the decency to contact me to verify the facts he is using to try to make me look bad the rest of the industry.

[Again, I think it was an honest mistake -- which I did identify as "idle speculation" -- based on my having forgotten having given Roberta a copy of JAKA' S STORY in Seattle. I sincerely believed that she had been on the Aardvark-Vanaheim comp list all along and, in fact, made a point of mentioning that on many occasions -- that even though she's an extreme leftist feminist and I'm an extreme right anti-feminist, we both still traded our work with each other. At various points it was one of the few things that gave me hope about the female faction in the comic-book field. I sincerely apologize, again. It was entirely my mistake in misremembering what had happened. I wouldn't have contacted her to verify it because I was so certain that that was the case.

Having gotten Roberta's e-mail via fax from Craig at 6 am today -- July 19 -- I'm FedExing this to Jeff Tundis and requesting that he run it July 21 through July 28 in place of the Sixteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast. I encourage anyone who wants to download it and circulate it everywhere in the comics industry to do so

No wonder Dave pulled the Roast book, perhaps when he knew I would be involved in it. I had planned a piece that was going to be as (I believe) respectful as the piece I originally wrote for FOLLOWING CEREBUS but now I have absolutely no respect for this man. I don't even want to have to deal with him directly and I do not care what he has to say in reply. I am going to print this out and sent it to him by mail, at least so he knows what I think (so all the responsibility has not been upon you, Mr. Miller, in case you do NOT want to get in the middle of this) and I can at least feel I contacted him, not that I believe he would really care what I have to think. It is more for myself so I can feel I resolved this and moved on.

[It isn't true that I "pulled the Roast book". Roberta is referring to a publication called the DAVE SIM CELEBRITY ROAST book which Jeff Seiler, Jeff Tundis and Oliver Simonsen had started developing and soliciting contributions for as a benefit for the COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND before notifying me that they were doing so. I was notified by phone by Jeff Seiler July 11 and faxed this to Jeff Tundis July 13 to forward to the 20... count 'em 20... cartoonists they had already gotten confirmation from:

"Dave Sim was not notified of this project until 11 July at 9 am in a phone conversation with What Comics Vice-President, Jeff Seiler. Mr. Sim sincerely regrets the COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENCE FUND and the First Amendment freedoms upon which it is founded being used as leverage to force him to indirectly endorse (by inference) -- under the masquerade of entertainment — the revival and extension of slander, abuse and vilification of his name and reputation which have been the comics industry norm since the mid-1990s.

"As a firm believer in those First Amendment freedoms, he does, however acquiesce in all particulars to the fundamental right of the participants to legally engage in the activities upon which they have embarked without notification to him.

"He will have no further comment on the DAVE SIM CELEBRITY ROAST either before or after publication and has suspended all of his own current projects pending the result of the DAVE SIM CELEBRITY ROAST publication."

As you can see, I put no impediment in the way of the DAVE SIM CELEBRITY ROAST being produced or published, I just said that 1 would have no comment on it either before or after the fact. I assume that there is still sufficient interest in such a publication -- the venom directed at Dave Sim runs deep in the comic-book industry -- that the UNAUTHORIZED DAVE SIM CELEBRITY ROAST would probably find any number of willing participants and eager readers. The situation remains the same: I will have no unilateral comment on such a publication before or after the fact. In the same way that I had no unilateral comment on Deni's contribution to I HAVE TO LIVE WITH THIS GUY. I didn't read it because it didn't interest me. To date no one has asked me a direct question about any of the contents of Blake Bell's article just as no one has asked me a direct question about the various smear pieces that have appeared in THE COMICS JOURNAL and as I assume no one would ask me about any factual basis to the contents of an UNAUTHORIZED DAVE SIM CELEBRITY ROAST. It is in the nature of some people to indulge in character assassination just as it is in the nature of some people to take character assassination at face value as unvarnished fact.

I still have the greatest respect for Roberta Gregory and her talents but I do think it is intellectually dishonest to say, at any time, "I do not care what he has to say in reply" or "it is more for myself so I can feel I resolved this and moved on." With all due respect, both of those views reflect a dangerous form of solipsism which seems to be a core element of all extreme leftist Feminist "thinking" -- that someone can just unilaterally "resolve" something on their own terms while completely ignoring that there is a dissenting and opposing viewpoint. My own view is that no one should ever feel so "angry and betrayed" that they are unwilling to find out what the "other side" of the argument is.

I was not making fun of Roberta nor was I trying to make her look bad to the rest of the industry. It was an honestly expressed speculation which turns out to have had no foundation in fact. Which is why I have apologized for that speculation while trying to explain the honest mistake in which it originated

I AM throwing out the comp issue FOLLOWING CEREBUS with his reply to me, unread beyond that paragraph where he claims he was sending me comp copies all along. I don't want to read any of what he has to say, if this is any indication of what is in his reply.

[Again, with all due respect, I think it is intellectually dishonest -- and a core element of extreme leftist Feminist "thinking" -- to always take the first opportunity to take personal umbrage and to allow -- or rather use -- hurt feelings both to disengage from a "frank exchange of viewpoints" and to, then, unilaterally use those hurt feelings to justify the disengagement. It's obviously advantageous in a solipsistic sense, allowing the "wounded" party to claim resolution where none exists - in the same way that the 1997 Board of the Friends of Lulu can claim that they "beat Dave Sim" because they unilaterally decided to stop discussing the idea of a Women In Comics petition opposing censorship, but in both cases my fully developed argument in favour of my view still stands unchallenged and unanswered. 1 read Roberta 's strip and replied to it. Roberta read exactly one paragraph of my four-page response and then unilaterally disengaged. I hardly think that any fair-minded person would call that an intellectually honest response.]

I have work to do and I do not need to be the target of somebody who obviously really could use some therapy and I do not need to be poisoned by their mean-spirited attitude any longer. I only care about the opinions of those in the industry for whom I have respect and Mr. Sim has now lost all of mine.

I would never stoop so low as to trash a colleague in print based on something that is not true, that he could have easily contacted me in all these months to verify, if he was truly surprised that I had never mentioned reading those comp copies he claims I was sent.

I guess that about covers it.

Thank you for sending me the comp issue.

[Again, I sincerely apologize for mistaking the arrival of comp copies from Roberta as being a reciprocal exchange, having forgotten that I had given her a copy of JAKA' S STORY in Seattle in 1992. I'm not sure if it's therapy that Roberta needs -- I would certainly never be so blatantly rude as to suggest such a thing about someone I have only met once and exchanged a handful of "chit chat" observations with -- but I do think there is "something missing" that is critically necessary to being a functional member of society if your response is to immediately disengage from a discussion at the first sign of hurt feelings. I can't even imagine losing ALL respect for anyone -- even Rosie O'Donnell or Madonna if you want to go to ludicrous political extremes -- over any issue or disagreement and I certainly can't even begin to imagine what my life would be like if I was capable of being that way.

Why is it that the people who are the most obsessive on the subject of Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T -- that is, extreme leftist Feminists -- are so incapable of extending just such a base level of human respect to anyone who doesn't share their own peculiar political viewpoints?

Again, I encourage anyone interested to circulate this exchange of viewpoints to do so -- or to cut and paste it back into a "Roberta only" e-mail if you're an extreme leftist Feminist disinterested in exchanges of viewpoints -- as widely as possible in order to counter any advantage I might have over Roberta in having a regular publication and daily blog in which to air my views.

And, considering that I have just now been made aware that Roberta sent me far more comics material than I ever gave to her, I would be happy to send her any and all of the CEREBUS trade paperbacks and both volumes of COLLECTED LETTERS if she expresses an interest in having them



So, okay. Where angels fear to tread but, also, hopefully an intelligent review of ELEPHANTMEN #001 for those of you who have already mentally "tuned out" as you always do when Dave decides to enter Angelic NO GO territory (which, as far as I can see is most of you). I'm still interested in ELEPHANTMEN, but I have to say that the monthly version swerves off into areas that I find disconcerting. That's going to take some explaining.

"See the Elephant". It's interesting that they establish the structure of the ELEPHANTMEN comic book right at the outset. Having lived "behind the scenes" in comic books for the better part of three decades now, you can usually tell when someone has a distinct game plan and when they're just making it up as they go along, play by play depending on where they end up on the field. The "flip cover" is one of them. Of the eight issues so far, five of them have had "flip" covers – second covers drawn by different artists to supplement the primary cover done by Ladronn and printed upside down relative to the front cover. And in most cases, the flip cover is followed by a separate story.

It's an interesting structure because it basically turns the ELEPHANTMEN into an "anecdotal" book. The space isn't really enough to get into anything too "in depth" so what you get is a little slice of life episode that brings out the character of Hip Flask and helps to develop a supporting cast. The problem with that is that the supporting cast can start getting out of hand and your readership divides into those who are getting fed (whose favourite characters dominate the anecdote selections) and those who are getting starved (whose favourite characters disappear for an extended period right at an interesting point in their development). Strategically there are potential problems but tactically (at least up to issue #008) it's sustainable.

And speaking from experience, it's almost impossible to tell how it will play in the collected form until you see the collected form. Usually "a lot better" which is why people who aren't 100% sold on a title usually go from a regular buyer to "I'm waiting for the collected volume". Instalment by instalment, a book that is seriously losing its way out in the woods and a book that's coherent but not obvious about how it all ultimately "hooks up" look the same (uh, TELL me about it). Neil's audience -- whether they admitted it or not – thought several times through the 75 issues, "he's lost it." DREAM COUNTRY. What's the deal with these short stories all drawn by different artists? The core audience is completely under the spell and I was certainly in the core audience. It never even occurred to me to question the short stories as short stories. "These short stories are great". And then reading the collected DREAM COUNTRY at the appropriate place when I read the whole story (Oh, that's how the short stories fit in). My best guess is that Starkings, Ladron and Casey are too good at what they do to have done the first two volumes and then said, "And, uh, now we're just going to make up a bunch of cool but pointless stories to fish you in further."

As often happens when I'm reviewing material (and I try to read every scrap, all the stories and all the editorial content which I've done with HIP FLASK) something will stick with me that seems overwhelmingly pertinent later on but is just one among many little mental post-it notes I've filed away at the time.

[This happens a lot with the NATIONAL POST on Wednesday and Thursday. I'll read an article and not really think much about it and only 24 or 48 hours later go, "Wait a minute. That was a major jigsaw puzzle piece. How could I have missed that? I need to quote from that!" The recycle box gets emptied early Friday morning, so that can be that if realization dawns on Friday afternoon about a piece I read Wednesday morning.]

[I know what you're thinking: if I was on the Internet I could just click on and the article would be archived there. Just to keep all of this thematically linked, I'd venture to say that if I was on the Internet I probably wouldn't have been thinking about the article in question – I'd probably still be clicking through 128 studio shots of Natalie Wood or Audrey Hepburn taken by Richard Avedon back in 1959 or 1960 that someone had posted and in that case I can guarantee I wouldn't have been thinking at all.]

So, I spent the better part of last night going through all of Richard Starkings' editorials. "Where is it? It's in here somewhere. I know I didn't make it up. Where is it?" And it turned out to be in "Pulp Science Fiction" the temporary name for the letters page in the first issue, second column.

"I created HIP FLASK and the ELEPHANTMEN with the intention of filling a series of comic books full of implausible ideas and impossible characters. Evil scientific genius? Check. Mutant hippos and elephants? Check. Robotic frog? Check. A cybernetic assassin? Check. Hot girls hanging around misunderstood male leads with deep dark secrets? Check…"

He goes on from there, but that was what I was looking for. "Hot girls hanging around misunderstood male leads with deep dark secrets". There's even a shot of Hip Flask with one of those "hot girls" in the corner of the page by way of emphasis. Even a half-inch tall and dressed in skin-tight super-hero spandex I can see that her breasts look like glued-on soccer balls, her waist is impossibly thin and her eyes are huge. Image Studio Look.

I think Richard might be onto something here. "Hot girls hanging around misunderstood male leads with deep dark secrets." To quote Henry Higgins, "By George, I think he's got it." It's the choice of the nouns and the adjectives and verbs that give it away. "Hot" rather than "pretty" or "strong" or "independent" or "devoted" or "caring". "Girls" rather than "women". "Male" rather than "masculine". "Hanging around" rather than "lusting after" or "sleeping with" or "helping" or "caring for" or "following" or "learning from". It's my thesis that popular fiction always strives to both reflect the real world and to try to set a course for it and always has the "Battle of the Sexes" as its core interest. It documents battles, truces, capitulations, war, spying, armistices, annexations, occupations, pacts of convenience, etc. etc. ELEPHANTMEN might very well be the first fiction to genuinely document the uneasy permanent truce as viewed across the insuperable divide. Hence the "hanging around". It's a complete fiction, in my view, created to offer consolation where none actually exists, of a piece with such divergent (but thematically linked) fictional relationships as that between the thinly-veiled semi-autobiographical Terry Zwigoff "Creepy Old Record Collector Guy" character and the two teenaged girls in GHOST WORLD and the Marv and Nancy relationship in Frank Miller's SIN CITY movie (Jessica Alba becoming the first stripper in history since Jaka to keep all of her clothes on while onstage just to give you an idea of the hallucinatory level of male delusion that we're discussing here). Pretty young girls don't, as a rule, "hang around" COGs (Creepy Old Guys). COGs "hang around" while trying not to appear to "hang around" pretty young girls and left to their own hallucinations and waning sexual powers can talk themselves into the reverse being true.

Which is, you know, sick. Sorry to put it that abruptly, but there you go, Creepy Old Guy to Creepy Old Guy. That's sick. [Need some more convincing? Okay. While you're ogling the girl young enough to be your daughter in the coffee shop or the supermarket and thinking to yourself "Maybe she'd go for a more…MATURE…guy…not like the unsophisticated boys who are always pawing at her. Maybe she'd go for someone misunderstood but sensitive and intelligent like me." Okay. Now picture the woman in her forties or fifties still dressing and acting like a teenager scoping YOU out and thinking "Maybe he'd go for someone more MATURE…not like these usually unsophisticated, brainless children. Maybe he'd go for someone misunderstood, but sensitive and intelligent like me."

Now what's your reaction? Unless I miss my guess something along the lines of "Lady, you are free to think whatever you want that keeps you warm at night and able to face the dawn, but keep it to yourself." Well, same deal. Check them out surreptitiously and intermittently – we all do – but don't get obvious about it and whatever you do don't even dream about going across the line of scrimmage unless you really, really REALLY want to ruin her month ("OMG! I LOOK LIKE SOMEONE THAT CREEPY OLD GUYS THINK THEY CAN HIT ON!") if not her entire year ("I HAVE TO GO HOME AND BURN ALL MY CLOTHES AND GET ALL MY HAIR CUT OFF!"

Okay, I've just made a lot of Creepy Old Guys feel bad way, way, WAY down deep inside, so let's not tackle #001 "See the Elephant" right away. Let's circle around and deal with the "flip" story "Just Another Guy Named Joe".

Tomorrow: "Just Another Guy Named Joe"


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.