Dave Sim's blogandmail #338 (August 15th, 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.
My best assessment of where Mike Kitchen's plan went wrong:
It's a well-known fact that God hates cats. Absolutely cannot STAND the little bastards in any way, shape or form. So, really the whole point of the exercise was just to give God an opportunity to break the little SOB's leg in four places. Everything that happened to you besides that, really, was just window-dressing.
I'm kidding. I'm kidding.
I think the problem was that you waited until way too late to get serious about finishing SPUD & HARRY #1 and then engineered a situation where everything had to go off like clockwork in order for it to happen. So, basically you were backing God into a corner by making the whole enterprise a "doing the right thing" gig, forcing His hand to make the first issue happen or otherwise He would be giving you cause to doubt His plan and to doubt the validity of "doing the right thing". I suspect He gets this a lot from rookies and takes unfamiliarity with the do's and don'ts into account. Up to a point.
Well all right, yes, you determined to do the right thing, but the actual right thing was to start much earlier on SPUD & HARRY #1 and build in a lot of lead time so that you could comfortably get it done in time for APE. It seems to me that that was the eloquent message from God. He would let you force His hand (this time anyway) for the sake of your new, wobbly faith and ensure that you did get the first issue done on time, but He wouldn't let you do it comfortably. He would make you sweat and force your own hand in a few instances on the way. "Feel free to force My Hand again anytime you want to go through a bunch of ordeals like this. But wouldn't you rather just work on improving your time management?" The cat, it seems to me, was a warning in proximity. He could have broken your leg, instead, or one of the kid's legs, or your wife's leg. And next time He just might if you take the lesson you got this time too lightly and decide to try to go 2-for-2 "doing the right thing" when you're actually trying to "get the fix in" with God. Think it over.
One last burst of type, then I'll leave you to your work.
I was speaking with Jeff Seiler about CEREBUS READERS IN CRISIS #2 when he relayed the story how during your seriously strange illness, Jeff had mentioned my name to you, and you had said, "That name sounds familiar…where have I heard that name before?" To answer that question: I'm guessing that you remember it due to Al Nickerson's Creators' Rights discussion. I had faxed you a message board post that you replied to on the October 31st edition of the Blog and Mail. So yeah, that's most likely why you knew my name.
No, I think it was the weird fever dream I had one night of this giant cat with one leg that looked like a deflated accordion wearing a SPUD & HARRY t-shirt, who just kept saying "Mike in the Kitchen. Mike in the Kitchen."
I'm kidding, again. Yes, that was it. It was just the two of us at the end there talking about Creators' Rights as I recall.
There's still lots more to say, but I'll save that for another letter. It was an honour to receive your reply to my previous letter, let alone a 27-PAGE reply to my previous letter! It arrived in my mailbox the day I (sort of) quit my day job. Timing couldn't have been better. I checked the box on a whim as I had already missed my GO Train. I appreciated your comments on the whole range of topics. Glad it was of use for some Blog and Mail fodder, and I apologize profusely for making you re-type the whole thing.
Oh, hey, no problem. Typing is actually easier than writing and both of them fill up space the same. I could get Tundis to scan the letters by sending them to him, but I figure his employers should get at LEAST an hour or two worth of work out of him every week (since they are paying him a full-time wage) in and around all the volunteer time he puts in on the Blog & Mail, cerebusart.com and making sure he and Maggs get a copy of everything published that says Cerebus on it (as well as checking to make sure what printing all of the trade paperbacks are on, doing a completely detailed wall map of Estarcion, etc. etc.) and the way I figure it is: if he actually had to scan letters into the Blog & Mail there would go his employers' hour or two worth of work right there. Poof.
Okay. Time to review SPUD & HARRY #1.
I'm not sure how large a page Mike's working on, but I would suspect HUGE given all the detail that has gone into these pages not to mention the near pathological level of fine-dot Manga-style screens that he's using. As I'm sure he found out (and as Gerhard found out on GOING HOME) once you start using multiple gradations of tone you tend to get locked in and it starts absorbing a lot of the production time. If you put a highlighted fine 10% tone for a flesh tone on your characters in one panel, then you have to do it in every panel. You can't even slack off and drop a solid 10% on the face because the effect is too jarring. One panel you have contours clearly evident and then the next panel just a flat tone. Mike's also got at least one detailed cityscape on each of the first few pages of the HARRY part of the story (it's a flip book – half HARRY, half SPUD) and because he's working so large he's not really getting full value for them. Because the foreground characters are pretty basic line-drawing cartoons, the reader's eye (as opposed to a fellow artist's eye) sits out from the page. The reader registers that Harry has picked up the ATM and is preparing to throw it at the cop car but doesn't look closely to see that the miniature cityscape behind the cop car is as detailed as anything George Perez ever did. It's one of the reasons that the super detailed Manga artists use very few panels to the page and make sure that the backgrounds take up at least as much space as the characters and the word balloons and the captions put together. At least as much. Time is money and the readers have to be shown clearly and unmistakeably what it is that they're paying for or they're just going to say, "That was really good. When's the next one coming out" as if it's a basic cartoony style that can just be knocked out four pages in an afternoon.
I'd also recommend that Mike stop talking about still being an amateur. Yes, no question, he aspires to being a genius but there's a lot of room between amateur and genius that the average reader doesn't have a vocabulary for but which they are comfortable enough sorting out in their own minds according to their own preferences. Low-balling your own work in the editorial every time out hurts rather than helps that decision–making process.
The shot of the two cop cars skidding sideways at the top of page 8 of the HARRY section is very accomplished at every level, as an example. Good composition, good balance, good execution, good use of tones, good use of white space, good sound effect, two ways of drawing cars skidding sideways that are both different and both very good. If the entire rest of the issue doesn't measure up to that panel, that's more a tribute to the excellence of that panel than the inferiority of the rest of it. Since he's probably composing this on the computer, those are the sorts of things Mike should watch for and then magnify. "I meant for it to be one eighth of a page, but it turned out so good, I think I'll make it a quarter page." He's really got those stylized Metro Toronto police cars nailed. He can do them literally and he can do them cartoony and they're still completely recognizable.
As largely silent as the HARRY side is, that's how "wordy" the SPUD side is. Again, he's got a lot of amazing detail on his backgrounds, all sharply drawn, sharply delineated but again, all strangely proportioned to drop way, way back out of range of the eye that's looking at the cartoon figures in the foreground. If you're going to go to the trouble of doing backgrounds that are that geometrically precise and detailed, you really should be getting more in the reader's face with them. My advice would be to make sure that he has one large panel per page where he really shows what he can do with the backgrounds and makes sure that the background dominates and then smaller panels where he either doesn't have backgrounds or has fragmentary backgrounds. A cityscape takes x amount of time to pencil and ink whether it's an inch wide or five inches wide. If it's an inch wide, no one is going to see it and if you have four of them on the page that's 4 times x amount of cityscape time. If it's five inches wide and you have one of them on the page, that's one times x amount of cityscape time.
Spud engages in an extended monologue that Mike admits to having pretty much lifted whole from CREATURE FROM JEKYLL ISLAND: A SECOND LOOK AT THE FEDERAL RESERVE by G. Edward Griffin, one of those conspiracy books about Worldwide Banking, the Federal Reserve, the IMF and the World Bank that presupposes a fixed amount of money and the creation of money out of nothing as a means of…oh, I don't know…punching holes in the Ozone layer or explaining how Al Gore got that fat in seven years [Actually, I think Mr. Gore is just "pulling an Oprah" – he decided to get fat so all the fat people would identify with him and then he plans to get skinny so everyone can talk about The New Al Gore just in time for him to scoop up the 2008 Democratic Nomination].
No, it's interesting, but to me it just misses the point that the United States' status as the dominant economy is STILL based on precious metals – they still have most of the world's gold in Fort Knox – it's just that it's also based on what each government thinks of each other government's financial situation. The U.S. is being very up-front about how much the war in Iraq is costing and every other government and every investor on the planet gets to decide what they think of that (as well as what they think of the "smoke and mirrors" housing market in the States where the banks are offering short-term low interest mortgages in order to juice their "housing starts" statistics while trying to cover up the astronomical number of defaults there are on those mortgages when they actually go back to a market-based rate of interest). You want to bet against the U.S. of A.? Fine. Sell all your American dollars and buy Russian oil stocks instead if you really think Russian oil stocks are going to give you a better return. Good luck cashing in, though. The Canadian dollar bottomed out at .62 U.S. five years ago and right now we're within 3 cents of being "at par". Now we've got a lot of the same headaches Uncle Sam had back in 2002. If the system is "rigged" the "riggers" didn't do a very good job of it from what I can see.
Anyway, I highly recommend SPUD & HARRY. So far you can find it at Calum's Strange Adventures in Halifax (naturally), The Silver Snail, the Beguiling, Leon's Hairy Tarantula (all Toronto stores) and Rory's Comic Relief. Or you can order it at www.ultraist.net
So, Mike. When's the next one coming out?
Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck.
You want comedy? Okay, how about this: a subscription offer from BOOKSELLER magazine in London, England.
Dear Mr. Sim,
At a time when the book industry is in a dynamic state of change, The Bookseller is crucial to the continuing success of your business.
Etc. etc., blah blah blah. 51 issues a year.
279 Euros. Roughly $500 Canadian. Actually closer to $600. If The Bookseller really is crucial to the continuing success of my business, it looks like I'm toast, folks.
Tomorrow: Dale Thompson checks in from Greeneville TN. He's been gone awhile.
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