Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #330 (August 7th, 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.


ELEPHANTMEN to the right of me! ELEPHANTMEN to the left of me! ELEPHANTMEN on my Blog & Mail!

#004 – Flip cover but no flip story this time out. "Hazardous Materials, Wounded Animals". It's a book-length story but still pretty anecdotal. It's hard to tell at this point if the plan is to just do anecdotes from now on (it would certainly be a temptation if they're having as much trouble keeping artists on the book as it appears that they are) or if the anecdotes are just a way of building readership in the early going. Beginning, middle and end. It's certainly what worked for CEREBUS early on. Moritat is back and so is Miki. A bunch of interesting things happen in the panels where I'm waiting for Miki to show up again.

#005 - Moritat is back. That along with the more substantial plot developments brings back the sense that this is going to be a major story and the anecdote feel is just a way of warming things up. Incredibly ultra-violent cover by Chris Weston (beautifully drawn and coloured, though). "When Animals Attack!" And do they ever in this issue. Engaging stuff. I barely noticed that Miki doesn't make an appearance.

#006 – Moritat is back again. Very reassuring. Interesting combination of covers. Ladronn really doing his best Colleen Doran – it looks very much like one of Colleen's portrait covers on A DISTANT SOIL -- with a Sahara cover (although Colleen wouldn't be caught dead hiking the character's boobies out to Chesapeake Bay like that) and J. Stewart Campbell with a Sahara flip cover. Campbell is a good example of the Image 90's look that I was talking about, the Michael-Golden-by-way-of-the-Image-partners only with breast implants like glued-on soccer balls. Again, no offence intended. In two years the guys who drew like that made more money than every comic book artist put together over the last fifty years (if you left out Kevin Eastman and Pete Laird) and consequently pushed the industry standard rates for penciling and inking up a good two or three quantum levels.

Two stories this time: "Abandoned by God" which really clarified for me that maybe the dominant metaphor wasn't miscegenation but was actually (gulp) bestiality. Basically Savannah and Obadiah the Giant Mutated-Kingpin-Sized and Kingpin-Wealthy-Rhino are getting hitched. And the stir that this causes (i.e. "President of the Children of God coalition Perry Falbertson, had this to say… `The institution of marriage is under attack, and the Lord himself has called upon us to protect it! `Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.'") particularly in the media is the point of the story. The lady and the rhino really love each other and the rhino takes offence when a television news crew imply that it's bestiality. Or rather, he infers that they're implying that it's bestiality and that, therefore, they're insulting his fiancée by saying she would have intimate relations with an animal. There is a kind of extrapolation going on, I begin to realize, about the implications of genetic manipulation. If you genetically combine human and animal DNA and produce a half-human, half animal does sleeping with that creature constitute bestiality? Not to put too fine a point on it, but: Yechh. This is that creepy "furries" aspect of anthropomorphics that the comic book medium lends itself to coming in the back door. The mistake I made, I think, was in believing that it needs to be related to something in the real world to sustain itself as metaphor and the only comparable reality was miscegenation. Certainly we are only a hundred years removed from the time when white people would look on having sex with black people as being near kin to bestiality (hey, don't shoot the messenger). And as we know from Thomas Jefferson, that was, in many cases, only a surface way of looking at it that concealed an entirely different reality. As Malcolm X tells us, it was a lot more common than white people liked to acknowledge and the abhorrent core reality was that it was, flat out, thinly-concealed rape: white men who would portray themselves as seeing black women as animals but (some? Many? Most? All?) of them were still having sex with their female slaves on the sly without benefit of clergy and without benefit of courtship. Every black person that you saw who wasn't completely black only became "not completely black" one way. And that certainly shored up Malcolm X's core argument that the white man was the devil incarnate.

It becomes more interestingly nuanced the closer you examine it. Obviously seeing black people as animals or near-animals is wrong. A society matures out of that view (hopefully – again, the question: does Richard think abhorrence at miscegenation is a common but hidden view?) and the issue becomes one of individual preference. If a white woman wishes to marry a black man or a black woman wishes to marry a white man and vice versa, it really only concerns the individuals involved. But does that extend to bestiality? Put another way, is the argument against bestiality that the animal has no human intellect to bring to the table or is the argument that – even if you were able to find an animal with human intellect – bestiality would still be wrong? Put still another way: if you really, REALLY love your dog and you want you and your dog to get married does anyone have the right to stand in the way of that? I would think that it would mean that society has eroded to a point of no return but then a vast majority of white people a hundred years ago would say the same thing about miscegenation. Is acceptance of bestiality something we mature into or something we erode into?

Savannah (remember, the plucky little girl outside Hooters?) and her Mom re-enter the story. Plucky Savannah on the side of Sahara the Princess marrying the Rhino getting smacked by her pious mother. Plucky Savannah hearing about Ebony getting shot up. Plucky Savannah climbing out a window (why is it that windows in comic books never have screens on them in the dead of winter?) ("We'll take Ebony some flowers he'll like that."). Guess who has quickly zoomed to the top of my Least Favourite Elephantmen Character List?

Sahara flip story by David Hine and Rob Steen. Again, well over into Marc Hempel territory. In my view, probably a little too soon after the Tom Scioli Kirby homage issue. As I said, Neil didn't spring Marc Hempel on us until 57 issues into a 75-issue storyline. Does it work? Time will tell, I guess.

#007 – Okay, so guess who stars in my least favourite issue of ELEPHANTMEN so far? You've got it. "Little Girl Lost" by Starkings and Moritat. At least Moritat does the framing sequence for a 29 – count `em – 29-page fairy story drawn by DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING artist Chris Bachalo that Hip Flask the Hippo relates to Plucky Little Savannah (why is it that in comic books, Plucky Little Girls who have all the guts of a linebacker juiced on steroids and are Worldly Wise Beyond Their Years end up being completely entranced suckers for interminable fairy tales the only point of which ends up being "Maybe we should call your Mom"? Why don't they ever just roll their eyes as Real Plucky Little Girls – in training to be strong, independent women -- would do? "Oh, please. A FAIRY tale? What do you think I am? A CHILD?").

Hard to know what to make of this one.

The cynic in me tells me that it's Richard trying to be Neil.

Neil can get away with it because, well, Neil actually TALKS like that. You can discuss the Gross Domestic Product of Minnesota or the Twins chances of taking a wild card spot in the AL West this year or how a Pro Wrestler ever became governor and when it's Neil's turn to offer an opinion it's going to sound a lot like the opening to the (original, of course) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Chris Bachalo helps the effect but not, I don't think, to the extent Richard was hoping for. There are some absolutely gorgeous compositions here from the Todd McFarlane school (it's a weird Miracleman moment in comics history: Richard's trying to do an authentic issue of SANDMAN and Chris is trying to do an authentic issue of SPAWN) that Greg Capullo took to stratospheric heights, including the same excessive layers of dark colour to bring out the Disney glints and the Tinkerbelle sparkle highlights and the blazing fires. Say, fellas, can we take the navy blue down about 12 levels here so that I can actually SEE those amazing compositions? No? Why not? Because everyone loves this stuff and it's only boring old soon-to-be-dead f**ks like me who want to see the actual drawing? Hmm. Good point.

If you want to see a textbook use of Comicraft fonts, this is a good issue to pick up, though.

The cynic in me also thinks that this might be Richard coming up against the hard reality of monthly publication and trying to buy Moritat some time, as the new permanent artist, to actually get a jump on future issues by just having him do the framing sequence. Obviously Chris Bachalo didn't turn out 29 pages overnight so Richard is definitely showing some planning aptitudes by having things like the fairy tale worked out this far in advance. As far as I know, they still aren't LATE or if they are, it's still measured in days or a week or two and not months. I was in Toronto in mid-June and picked up the April and May issues. Being a week or so behind after ten issues may not sound like a big deal to anyone who has never worked on a monthly title, but to anyone who has – and particularly for anyone who started doing a monthly title from a standing start (unlike me who had two years of bi-monthly to get my feet wet) -- it's like watching a guy with hiccups doing a high-wire act.

Well, he hasn't fallen.


Tomorrow: One more, two more, Last three: stay with me now.


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Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

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