Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #334 (August 11th, 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.


Then in the 10/1/33 strip Tracy says to the mobsters: "At last, Buckley – we've caught two of you bombers and "enforcers" red-handed. You see, this store was opened up a few days ago just to trap you racketeers. We knew you'd be muscling in here soon…of course you're only small fry. But we'll have your bosses soon." All in one word balloon. And then (I swear I'm not making this up) he grabs Tess by the arm while she takes off her disguise and says "There's a signal button under his counter connected by private wire direct to the radio room at headquarters, and the lady that pushed that button when you walked in here is none other than Miss Tess Trueheart plus dark glasses and a wig." And just in case these mobsters who traffic in extreme personal violence didn't pick up on that, Pat Patton gleefully yells, "TESS!" from the background.

These are just the small fry, the big bosses are still on the loose, and Tracy goes out of his way to let them know they were done in by Dick Tracy's own girlfriend.

And Dave Sim and Art Spiegelman and everyone else RAVE about this strip? And I do. And Art Spiegelman does. As I said last time, I put away my autographed William F. Buckley book to read the first volume. Couldn't wait to read the second volume.

There was something that Chester Gould understood about the comics medium that I don't think anyone else has really clued into to the same extent that he did. The whole thing is forward momentum. It is technically considered to be "bad comics" to take up half a panel with a caption that stiltedly describes everything that is going on. Chester Gould didn't think that was "bad comics". Just the opposite. If the gangster threatens to throw the bomb in one panel and you explain what Pat Patton is about to do and how Dick Tracy signals him in the caption in the next panel and then show Pat shooting the bomb out of the guy's hand and into the pickle brine in the following panel…Chester Gould is saying, that's GOOD comics. Set up, explanation, gunshot "OW!". The reader wants to see the bad guy get shot in the hand so the sooner you can get him shot in the hand, the better your comics are. If you can get from point A to point C with one long-winded caption, that's better than using two or three panels to get there.

About two seconds before I was going to say something, as if Chester read my mind he mentioned the weird way that he drew Jean Penfield, the writer. She first appears in the 1/24/34 Sunday strip as a typical 30's brunette fashion plate. Then starting Monday and Tuesday her head just keeps getting bigger and bigger along with her eyes – bigger and bigger and further and further apart. It's beyond even the outer boundaries of Chester Gould caricature. She's like an alien life-form or something. Each eyelash is about the length of Dick Tracy's nose. It's all you can do to read what's going on in the strip for trying to figure out what it is with this hydrocephalic 30's brunette fashion plate.

[I was trying to think of her name the whole time I was writing this part and then God, as He often does, very helpfully had the NATIONAL POST run a huge publicity still from the 1934 film, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT just in time for "last minute revisions day" here at the Blog & Mail. Claudette Colbert. I'm almost tempted to go to the library and find out if Claudette Colbert had been in any films before that one that Chester Gould would have seen in late 1933. I think she was. You didn't get cast opposite Clark Gable in 1934 if you just fell of the turnip truck from Nebraska the week before. Oddly enough each of her eyelashes is about the length of Clark Gable's nose. Her head's normal sized, though.]

But, obviously, Gould didn't once look at her and think – maybe that's a little distracting. Obviously, he always stuck with what was working for him: hell bent for leather forward momentum in the storyline. It soon becomes obvious that the point of Jean Penfield is to get her into her negligee so she can talk to people on the phone and then get attacked in her mansion, and then shoot someone in her mansion and then almost get blown up in her roadster and then get abducted in her roadster and then to drive her roadster off of the road, then wrestle for the steering wheel with her "kidnaper" and then crash through a shack, then brush a haystack and then dash STRAIGHT FOR THE HUGE STORAGE TANK OF OIL.

Eyes? No, I can't say that I was too worried that the size or her eyes or the size of her head was a little distracting, Chester Gould appears to say from across the intervening seventy-three years (thinking to himself all the while: It's comics. What don't you understand about that?)

One of the Pop Artists in the 60s did a Dick Tracy strip that was all gibberish. He basically traced all of the faces and figures but then rearranged all of the words in the captions and word balloons so that they made absolutely no sense. The intent, I'm sure, was High Irony, Camp, to try and show exactly how devoid of content DICK TRACY and all other pop culture was. The thing was, it still had that incredible forward momentum. Even though you knew that each panel contained nothing but gibberish, you still read every word and looked at all the pictures. Pavlov was right, especially when it came to Chester Gould's storytelling. MUST READ! MUST LOOK AT! MUST READ! MUST LOOK AT!

With the circulation and readership that DICK TRACY had, it must've perplexed Chester Gould on an on-going basis. "They can see how I'm doing it, they can see how successful the strip is – why do they insist, instead, on doing strips that move so SLOWLY?" To Gould, it must've seemed as if everyone else's stories were as slow as molasses in January. Because they were, by comparison. Gould, by contrast, was always trying to figure out how to make things go faster. There's a great moment in the 3/4/34 strip where he letters the word balloon directly INTO Tracy's hat. He's got a certain amount of information to impart in Tracy's word balloon, there isn't room for all of it OVER Tracy's hat, so he just letters straight into the hat and then inks the hat around the words. Why not? Why stop and think or even slow down and think? There's a whole rest of a Sunday page that needs writing and drawing. It's COMICS!!

I check my little notebook here where I noted all the dates of the strips and then look them up and, sure enough, there I am twenty minutes later all the way up ahead in the Jean Penfield story with her roadster dashing STRAIGHT FOR THE HUGE STORAGE TANK OF OIL.

That's COMICS, folks. All in capital letters. I better put the book back downstairs or I'm never going to get any further tonight.

If your store doesn't have them in stock, you can order direct from IDW at

Okay, Ted, I'm ready for Volume Three anytime you are.


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

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