Friday, July 27, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #319 (July 27th, 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? What's wrong with the ELEPHANTMEN having as a core subtext of the pretty girls and the wimpy guys are human beings: the big, strong scary guys are mutated animals?

Well, maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that it mixes uncomfortably with the racism subtext especially when it comes to hidden psychologies. Let's not tiptoe around it, let's address the point that that leads us to: Is the idea of white women sleeping with black men really that terrifying for any white guy anymore that they would frame it in terms of black men being, metaphorically, big, strong, scary mutated animals? Is there some pressing cathartic need that I'm not aware of that has to be addressed, metaphorically, at this late date?

I might be the only person in the world who thinks of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X as having "funny parts". Either people are terrified of what they think it might contain and consequently haven't read it or they have read it and treat it with disproportionate reverence and fear, just because they're white liberals and that's what they, you know, do – anything they're afraid of (and there is very little that terrified white liberals quite as much as big, strong, scary black men) they tend to treat with disproportionate reverence (like George Plimpton all but declaring a street hustler n-word like Don King to be a genius because his dog's breakfast street patter contains passages from Shakespeare he had memorized).

The funniest parts, to me, are about miscegenation. All those respectable white businessmen going up to Harlem to the black clubs to get someone to steer them towards a black hooker. Malcolm X's assessment is a mixture of revulsion (that these masochistic white guys all want to be humiliated by a black hooker) and triumphalism (that the white man is that weak and pathetic). It seems to me he completely misses the point that it is just an example of extreme racism on the part of extreme racists – they are participating in what they see as the most humiliating and degrading experience imaginable: having sex with a black woman. He faithfully documents this and other perversions from his pre-Islam n-word days before he went to prison and got exposed to the Koran. His own world-class married white woman/lover who came up to Harlem regularly and the status that conferred upon him. The other n-word street hustlers all circling wondering if they can take her away from him. It reminded me of the old joke about the black guy who comes up to a white guy in a bar, staggering drunk, and says, "I make $150,000 a year, I drive a Jaguar, I live in a ten-bedroom mansion and I only sleep with white women." The white guy mulls it over and says, "I can see that. If I made $150,000 a year, drove a Jaguar and lived in a ten-bedroom mansion, I wouldn't sleep with black women, either."

Malcolm X writes about a known place across the railway tracks where black women went to get picked up, randomly, by white men. Or was it a place where black men went to get picked up, randomly, by white women? Or was it a place where white women went to get picked up, randomly, by black men? I only read the book a couple of months ago but the details don't really stick. Is it just me that the details don't stick for? Sleeping with someone BECAUSE of their skin colour is racism. So whatever the details of the story that I've forgotten, the actual point of the story is just racism. It's not racism and reverse racism. It's racism. The skin colour becomes the defining element, the object of the desire, ergo it's racist. What the skin colour is and what the gender is isn't really pertinent. I assumed (and maybe I'm wrong) that everyone looks at it that way these days. The humour is the subtext in the book where he is obviously, for the time period, Tearing the Lid Off of Something Scandalous!

And the thing that I found funny and still find funny is that Malcolm X's motivation in telling the story wasn't to combat racism, to say "hey, why don't we have a lot more of this? What's the big deal?" It was (pretty clearly) to humiliate the white man. And the even funnier thing is that he undoubtedly succeeded. In the mid-1960s? Are you kidding me? And he was fully entitled, as far as I'm concerned. They threw the book at him because he was found with two B&E accomplices who both happened to be blond-haired, blue-eyed white women. One of them a MARRIED white woman. The only obvious reason they would throw the book at him is the fact of the miscegenation, his prison sentence both for him and his black male accomplice was WAY, WAY out of proportion for their crimes and status as first-time offenders (first time CAUGHT, anyway). And the white women were basically sent back to Beacon Hill with a slap on the wrist.

So, those parts of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X are obviously sweet payback for the hard time that he did. You railroaded an ignorant n-word who then educated himself in the prison library until he was capable of putting this all down on paper clear as a bell and who had become a big enough celebrity to be able to get it put on every bookshelf in every major bookstore in every major Liberal city in the country.

F**k me? No, no, no. F**k YOU! As a guy, I find that funny.

I find that really funny, but then I have a very weird sense of humour (as you may have picked up on by now) and I also didn't go around the "who is sleeping with whom" block until the 1980s when the subject of black men sleeping with white women just wasn't even remotely humiliating anymore. Like the old chestnut about "But would you let your sister marry one?" The first time I heard that one I tried it on for size inside my head. Would I let my sister marry a black man? I was a child of the feminist age. One thing that I knew for certain from the time I was fourteen was that it was no longer a matter of "letting" women -- especially family members -- "do" ANYTHING. I was well aware that women were going to do exactly WHAT they wanted to do WHEN they wanted to do it and I had two choices: a) shut up or b) shut up.

I also knew from around puberty that white women are capable of just about anything if they think it might cause their mothers to go ballistic and my sister was a white woman. But she was the daughter of a white woman who was a capital L Liberal so anything she chose to do that was intended to make my mother go ballistic…and failed to do so…would just feed my mother major Liberal brownie points in the universe women inhabit and subtract from my sister's total, so there was nothing my sister was willing to bet the farm on and consequently didn't really do much of anything. Part of my mother probably ached for my sister to bring home a black man so my mother could play the Katherine Hepburn part in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER?

I don't know what the question would have done to pre-feminist generations of men (presumably make them go ballistic at the prospect of "their" sisters marrying black men) but in my case it just had no application. I had absolutely no racial or familial proprietary interest: as if white women in general or any white woman in particular was "mine". She was "my" sister only in the sense that we shared a bloodline and a last name. By the rules of feminism, I had no more connection to her or proprietary stake in her well-being than I did in any other woman. Even if I thought she was being an idiot – like the time she was shacked up with a violent offender ex-convict (who as it turned out later on -- after the entirely predictable unhappy ending -- had been threatening to kill her on a regular basis) – by the rules of feminism, all I could do was be completely supportive or keep my opinions to myself. Sure, I thought there was a real possibility that she would be killed. Unfortunately, under the rules of feminism, you have to just take that as a given. 1) Women are going to do whatever they want 2)They usually haven't the first clue about what the guy they're with is like and 3) when 1) and 2) are in effect, a lot of them are going to end up dead.

But the use of the miscegenation subtext in Elephantmen (which I can't believe is inadvertent – the whole analogy-with-racism is just too carefully planned out and too overt in all other ways), I have to admit, surprised me. Particularly coupled with the title, invoking the earlier Ditko story, the point of which was that this guy who tried dressing up as a super-villain was really just an average, typical guy on the street. "There are a million of them out there." That kind of thing. I'm not about to call for the censors but that did surprise me. Is there a level of hidden anxiety out there about THEM sleeping with OUR womenfolk that I've been walking around ignorant of? Similar to the widespread level of anti-Americanism that turned out to be infecting Canada that I thought was just good-natured rivalry with a much larger competitor/good neighbour and which turned out to be virtually systemic (and malicious!) bigotry in the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties?

Does Richard Starkings believe that there's a lot of that out there, carefully hidden from view? Would he admit to it if he did?

Maybe ELEPHANTMEN is exactly what we need to help these hidden legions of phobic/racist young men "get over it". But I still find it hard to believe that you could find more than a handful of white men or boys who think that way in this day and age.

Tomorrow: Okay, back to "See the Elephant"


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.