Dave Sim's blogandmail #354 (August 31st, 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.
Rick Veitch has got a new short story collection out, called SHINY BEASTS that he was nice enough to send to me The credit line on the cover reads "Rick Veitch with Alan Moore and S. R. Bissette". That's pretty gutsy, I thought. Kind of like meeting John Lennon at the door and saying, "Oh, by the way. Did I mention I invited Paul McCartney, as well?" Will this patch things up between Alan and Steve? Well, that's up to Alan, so I guess all I can say is, I sure hope so – and repeat that Steve's and my discussions of individual creator responsibilities for the business aspects of their own work was the reason that Steve cited Alan's choices as being somewhat wanting in a long-ago and now completely forgotten (except, evidently, by Alan) COMICS JOURNAL interview. Can someone point out to Alan that a) Steve doesn't listen to me about anything anymore and b) it makes a lot more sense for Alan to not have any contact with me as a matter of principle than it does for Alan not to have any contact with Steve as a matter of principle? Okay, Rick. We both tried. It's in the court of Comics' Most Charming Necromancer now.
With the exception of one HEAVY METAL story, these are all stories that Rick had published in Archie Goodwin's EPIC MAGAZINE. In fact, Rick's participation pre-dates Archie's, Rick got in under the Rick Marschall administration. Who even remembers that Rick Marschall was the first editor on EPIC? A handful of old people like me and Rick would be my guess.
If Rick was getting paid an hourly rate for the time that he's obviously putting in at the computer "re-mastering" these stories (you'll remember he did the same thing with his ABRAXAS AND THE EARTHMAN serial from EPIC that I reviewed favourably earlier in the year) he'd be a very wealthy Veitchmonster by now. It must be very gratifying for him. Did anyone else have worse luck with the reproduction of his work in EPIC? If they didn't run pages out of order, they ran them upside down (!) or added a blue shade to the black-and-white part of a story whose entire point is that part of it is in colour and part of it is in black-and-white. That would certainly have me making "Curly" Howard noises anytime I opened up an issue to see how my story came out. Particularly if you're a "thinking man's" cartoonist.
And make no mistake that Rick is a "thinking man's" cartoonist and always has been. If he learned his short-story storytelling skills at the knee of Joe Kubert and Robert Kanaigher
(little known fact: from 1959 on they shared a single right knee – Joe got it Monday, Wednesday and Friday) (that's a joke) (I keep forgetting this is the new entirely humourless funnybook business)
– and he freely admits that he did – and hewed pretty close to the mainstream companies in doing so, he was always looking for greater depths to what he was saying, looking to produce work that would have an impact on the thinking of others: and not just his peers, but future generations of cartoonists.
[We were really the first generation of comic-book cartoonists to have a sense that there might even BE future generations of comic-book cartoonists. Jack Kirby's generation couldn't allow themselves that luxury. Not consciously. Their entire history with the medium was one of catch-as-catch-can – fly-by-night publishers and fads that came and went. Slippery stone to slippery stone in the river with the unmistakable sense that as soon as your foot left a stone it sunk out of sight and there was never more than one or two stones visible up ahead of you. Joe Shuster, who co-created Superman, was a New York messenger. That didn't exactly point in the direction of Funnybook Immortality. Even the newspaper strip cartoonists who dominated the personal Mount Olympus of Kirby's generation – the Raymond school, the Foster school and the Caniff school – got quite savagely kicked to the side by television when Kirby was in his prime. Comics won't even be here in five years, everyone had been saying since 1938. It was easy to see where they got that from.
But to a kid of mine and Rick's generation, the steps from Red Raven to Captain America to the Newsboy Legion, to pioneering romance comics to monster stories at Atlas to the Challengers of the Unknown to the F.F. and single-handedly creating most of the Marvel Universe just looked like a dazzling series of career moves where everything Simon and Kirby touched turned to gold and job opportunities rained down upon them like Autumn leaves. Once we had conventions and fanzines that got slicker and slicker and comic-book stores, the question was no longer if comic books were going to be around in five years. Sure they were. Comic books will be around in a hundred years. The question was one of: WHOSE comic books will people be reading in a hundred years? Mine? Or someone else's? In a lot of ways it created even more pressure than thinking that comic books would vanish in five years. For comic books to carry on into the future but MY comic books to vanish! Unthinkable. We had to make our mark and keep making our mark.]
So, there was no such thing as "just a gig" for someone like Rick Veitch. No telling where the iron was hottest – the field was getting wider and more diffuse all the time – but there was no question that you needed to strike the iron, strike it as many times and in as many ways as you could. "Solar Plexus" which is one of the stories contained herein was designed around airbrush effects. Don't laugh. Airbrush artwork was a huge part of the commercial art field in those distant pre-Photoshop days and the surface of its potential had barely been skimmed in comics. We had one brilliant practitioner in Rich Corben (who is actually one of the most brilliant airbush artists of all time in any environment, period – and that was part of the problem. If you couldn't beat Rich Corben -- and no one in comics could come close -- the airbrush end of comics ended up being a one-man nation, Corbenland) and a handful of other guys who oscillated in and out of what was left of underground comics and designing record covers. As Rick writes
I did the splash page, with Sun Tap One floating in orbit near the sun, and brought it in to show [Rick] Marschall along with the script. When I pulled the board out of my portfolio, Rick just about did handstands. He immediately showed it to Stan [Lee] who was sufficiently taken [with the piece] to request that I leave the board in his office for a few days.
And that was the only way that you knew how, exactly, you might be doing. The editor just about does handstands and Stan Lee wants to have the piece in his office for a few days. This could be it. This could be where the iron was hottest and you might just be striking it at the exact right moment with the exactly right amount of force. It might be just as easy as that: developing airbrush variations on comic-book visual tropes (the Kirby Krackle as Rick calls it) and building from there.
When I next spoke with Rick, he said Stan loved the script but…he wanted stories that were more character-driven. It was suggested I add a guy emotionally linked to the sun from an early age. Happy to land the job, I agreed.
It's not a step down, it's a step…sideways. Yes, that's it. Remember the editor practically did handstands and Stan Lee wanted to have the piece in his office for a few days. This still COULD be it.
When I delivered the finished story a few months later, it was to Archie Goodwin who had replaced Rick Marschall. EPIC was re-evaluating everything in its pipeline and "Solar Plexus" had to stand muster before the new editor. Archie read the story and said he really liked parts of it, but…he wished I'd left out the "guy linked to the sun" bit. When I told him it came from Stan, he gave me one of his patented sighs and went on to accept the story as is.
There's a great lesson there in how you have to deal with the comic-book field on its own terms in the upper reaches of Marvel and DC. If it's the mid-80s and Stan Lee makes a suggestion, you use it even if it might not be in the best interests of your story. It's all perception so as eager as you are to see yourself as having made the Big Breakthrough (the editor practically did handstands and Stan Lee wanted to keep it in his office for a few days!) when the ground shifts out from under that, you have to follow the perception and realize that you have to compromise on your original intention and try something else. Had Rick the option not to use Stan Lee's suggestion, had he been able to do the story as originally conceived and had Archie Goodwin had the option to tweak it with an idea or two, what are the odds that "Solar Plexus" might have actually been the Big Breakthrough? See, there's no way of knowing because there's no control group. Rick always had faith that the Breakthrough would come in cooperation with the companies and what they wanted changed or added to your work was just part of the process.. I was always convinced that a real Breakthrough wasn't possible unless you had complete control of the creative decision-making. Rick's is still the majority viewpoint by a wide margin. Arguably Image's multi-million dollar sales in 1993 occurred on the borderline between my viewpoint and Rick's.
Tomorrow: Rick's reaction today in looking back at "Solar Plexus"
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