Friday, July 27, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #318 (July 26th, 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


Continuing with ELEPHANTMEN WEEK here on the Blog & Mail. And the "flip" story on issue #001, "Just Another Guy Named Joe".

I like the title a lot. Richard Starkings has a good ability to connect with the Baby Boomer audience. If you're my age or slightly older or slightly younger you'll make the automatic connection with SPIDER-MAN 38, the last Ditko issue: "Just A Guy Named Joe". Richard didn't start reading comics until 1971 so that puts him in the slightly younger category but we are "of a piece", "brothers of the spear". Asking us what the last Ditko SPIDER-MAN issue was and the title is about as much of a trivia question as "CAN YOU spell your last name?"

The interesting thing about ELEPHANTMEN is that it is almost all subtext or, at least the series of anecdotes that they're starting with are almost all subtext. In the case of "Just Another Guy Named Joe," the subtext is bigotry, xenophobia, racism. Only instead of black people or immigrants it's the "Munts" (the unspoken pejorative for the Elephantmen, the fictional equivalent of) (are we all grown-ups here? Mm. Experience tells me probably not, so let me wimp out and write) (N-word). The narration is the eponymous Joe's introspections on what the introduction of the Elephantmen has done to society:

"Don't think about the Munts…sorry, the `Unhumans' `The Elephantmen'

"Don't think about Obadiah Horn [one of the Elephantmen] and the corporate empire he built on the backs of sad saps like you."

I wimp out because Richard wimps out. Is someone who is fuming with inner resentment against the Elephantmen really going to correct himself in the privacy of his own thoughts after thinking the forbidden term "Munts"? THERE's an unanswerable question for you. Here's another one: Is it out of bounds to suggest that this can offer encouragement to the Politically Correct Thought Police – that Richard writing a bigoted character like this indicates that we have really made progress when, even in an intellectual discussion about societal issues, we use the term n-word? Is it scarier when I write it as N-Word rather than n-word? Or does that just mean that I'm so old and out of touch that I don't understand what significant progress the use of "n-word" instead of the actual n-word represents? For a long while I've thought there was great merit in drawing distinctions between black people and n-words as, in my experience, black people do. The pin-heads who shot up the Foot Locker on Boxing Day on Dundas Street in Toronto, killing a fifteen-year-old girl in the process over some idiotic "loss of face" gangsta delusion (just as a whattayacall f'rinstance). Is it really an example of bigotry that I think of those moronic teenagers with their pants around their hips and their tattoos and their piercings and their gang colours and their illegal handguns and their vials of crack acting out Gunfight at the OK Corral in the core of downtown Toronto as n-words? Is there any validity to the fact that I think it insults intelligent discourse to describe them as black people? That I sincerely believe you are never going to make any progress on the problem thinking of them and describing them as "disadvantaged and troubled youths"?

Jeez, Dave, I really hate it when you talk about things like this.

I know. And this is the EASY one from ELEPHANTMEN #001.

Returning to our original concept, The Battle of the Sexes and how that enacts itself in popular entertainment, the most pertinent panel to our subject in "Just Another Guy Named Joe" is one that shows one of the Elephantmen, a mutated crocodile, in an inner city alleyway menacing two scantily-clad young ladies. Menacing probably isn't the word (which is the great thing about the inherent ambiguity of imagery as a device of communication) given that one of the scantily-clad young ladies is flirtingly touching his snout with her index finger and both of the girls are smiling. His hands look ready to sweep them both up in one big hammerlock, but given their body language this impression (as it turns out) needs to be revised. He's obviously just gesticulating. It's only the fact that he has the physical features of a crocodile that makes him appear threatening. And he's dressed in cool threads (or what would have passed for cool threads on MIAMI VICE – did I mention that both Richard and I are old?). Both of the girls are white and as I say, our subtext for the Elephantmen is that the Elephantmen are stand-ins for people of colour and (sudden insight) MEN of colour (there ARE NO female Elephantmen). So, uh, here we are. And we're suddenly not sure that we want to be reading what we think we are reading.

Backtrack through the previous three iconic panels. Obadiah Horn being interviewed on a giant screen Times Square-style plasma TV with Joe's "corporate empire…he built on the backs of sad saps like you" interior narration. Then a shot of Jeremiah Granger (remember? The giraffe?) standing in front of his clothing store with "Don't think about all the jobs taken away from honest Americans to provide those…animals with a livelihood. Don't think about the corner stores and small businesses the government assigned to them" as the interior narration.

[See, now we have subtext WITHIN subtext. The location is the United States, but this suggests that a Marxist government is in the offing. Immigrants in our society – presumably the intended metaphor – are running corner stores and small businesses but they weren't "assigned to them" by the government. Or were they? If you have social workers in a given city and those social workers are hired under government program to assist new immigrants and you have Boat People coming into that city and the social workers find a corner store for a family of Boat People to run or help them to find it does that mean that the government "assigned to them" that corner store? How clear does the demarcation need to be between "helping someone" and "assigning someone"?]

Then a mutated zebra cop standing next to his squad car "Don't think about the way they look at you. The way they look down on you…maybe they think you're just another Joe…" then the alligator with the two hookers who are either hookers or just garden variety Image Studio Era "hot chicks" with the mandatory soccer balls stuck onto their chests. Are their partly exposed nipples signals that they ARE hookers or just an indication that we can all look forward to exposed nipples becoming the new societal norm?

"Yeah, maybe they think they're bigger than you, stronger than you…but that doesn't make them smarter than you. It doesn't make them better…"

The "bigger" and "stronger" are interesting. It's another subtext appropriate to the medium: the view of wimpy little guys when contemplating the archetypal alpha male exaggerated to the nth degree. The Elephantmen are every school bully who ever lived running around loose in the streets. Is he still a bully or is he just bigger and stronger than me? "Celebrate diversity, Mr. Bigger, Stronger Alpha Male!" But as subtexts go – if what we are talking about is genuine communication by metaphor – it's more than a bit of a straw man given that the environment where these stories are going to be available, comic-book stores, is one where "bigger, stronger" men as opposed to males don't usually go. And if they do go, they're not apt to look at a giant mutated hippo in a fedora and trench coat on a cover and say, "This is supposed to be ME isn't it?" Another cultural prejudice and presupposition hiding in plain sight. The pretty girls and the wimpy guys are human beings. The big, strong scary guys are mutated animals.

Tomorrow: SO? What's wrong with that?


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.