Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #355 (September 1st, 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's reaction to his 1980s story "Solar Plexus" in his new collection, SHINY BEASTS?

Looking back at it today, I cringe. There are way too many throwaway panels and, story-wise, the middle has all the depth and complexity of a pre-Ant Man TALES TO ASTONISH. I actually debated including "Solar Plexus" in this collection, but in the end figured the poor thing deserved to get printed in the correct order at least once (EPIC ran pages 6 and 7 out of sequence). And to be fair, the bit about the dance of the stars isn't half bad. And some of the space visuals really do pop.

Rick goes on to discuss several instances of pure innovation on his part, always striving for something absolutely and resolutely new. Again, it was part of the function of being the first generation to realize that comic books were going to be here for a long time to come and in a variety of forms – it wasn't just going to be a matter of DC super-heroes and Marvel super-heroes and everything else being ephemeral and "catch as catch can". Had we seen what the environment was going to be like (pretty much exactly that) in the far-off year of 2007, we might all have cut our wrists. But, no, it was an age of constant invention with the structure, the design, the narrative, the subject matter. And Archie was a perfect example of an editor – probably the first ever at Marvel with the experimental EPIC magazine -- who was willing to go a long way to get the right look for a story if the creator had a sufficiently innovative idea he wanted to try, as with Rick's "Ghosts in the Machine".

There was no Photoshop then, so the visual of the computerized environment with its ghostly flickering robot soldiers had to be created by hand. To get it, I pencilled the whole story, then inked the robots in full silhouette and drew the computer grids with pen. Those pages were then photographically reversed by Archie's production staff, so white became black and vice versa. In the new white areas, I painted the details of the robots, covering their color with a white line zipatone to give the book the look and feel of video. The new black areas became a full 100% black, something that was impossible to get with my regularly painted work, giving the story a visual snap.

And it certainly does. Even in the digitally re-mastered form you really register the fact that the black background is a "super black" that you just couldn't get by any normal means even with the advantage of Photoshop. Essentially what Rick did was to take the computerized tropes of the Disney film TRON and to figure out how to replicate them in one of the only two full-process-colour comic books that existed at the time (the other was HEAVY METAL). Now, a natural response in our present context where TRON is little more than a quaint antique -- the cinematic equivalent of a Pong game -- would be "Why would you bother?" But that misses the point of the context in which he developed the look. For all any of us knew at the time, this new "computerized look" (which was something eerie to behold as I can attest from my viewing of the first run of TRON in theatres) represented a parallel universe of perception that would one day overtake and eliminate traditional cinema in the same way that talkies had made silent films (Mel Brooks aside) obsolete. In a way it's true – super-hero movies were largely made possible by the development and refinement of CGI effects which in turn were made possible by generations of technicians standing on the shoulders of the technicians who created TRON in the first place and super-hero movies at this present moment rule Hollywood with an iron fist (hmm. Iron Fist. Who can we get to play Iron Fist?). But that involved the computer innovations moving over in the direction of the look of traditional cinema and devouring territory there, not creating their own "computer world" apart from traditional cinema (the race is still on to come up with the first video game to duplicate a big budget action flick on another front in that particular war). The pure computerized look of TRON that Rick has captured so well proved, ultimately, to be just window-dressing. But it might well have been the spot to strike where the iron was hottest and Rick is to be applauded for being the first one there to figure out how to do it cheaply, relatively easily and effectively. And applauded as well that he did it purely for the sake of the single story – depending on how long it took Disney to "let go" of the idea that they had the wave of the future by the tail with that TRON look, Rick might have been able to commandeer a large advance for himself by sending them a copy of that issue of EPIC and saying, "I've figured out how to do it on paper: are you interested in paying me x amount of dollars to do the TRON comic book?" And then building a studio of guys who each specialized in one stage of the process and "cashing in" until the fad vanished.

The only odd-ball here [which Rick reprints in full colour book-ending his back-of-the-book commentaries] is L'IL TINY COMICS, originally commissioned as filler to run in single columns interspersed among typeset copy in the back of HEAVY METAL. Free to experiment, I structured L'IL TINY more like a mutant literary novel than a war comic. This was done partly as a joke, partly as a contrast to the sparse writing of the French reprints [from METAL HURLANT, HM's French "parent" magazine at the time] and partly because I'd just had my head rearranged by Henry Miller. About half of L'IL TINY is swiped, with me sampling Miller's words, phrases, sentences and, in a couple of spots, whole paragraphs from TROPIC OF CANCER and BLACK SPRING. In my mind, I was somehow connecting Miller's vivid phrasing to the way Kanigher wrote dialogue. Slicing and dicing Miller's rhythmic interior monologue into tiny captions that crowd the meandering continuity seemed to create something new and strange; a poetic approach to comics that, to my knowledge, hadn't been explored. I only wish I'd had the chops to write the stuff myself, rather than cannibalizing someone else.

I think Roy Lichtenstein would understand.

I think a lot of creators would get a charge out of this book whether it's from the digital re-mastering where Rick endeavours to prove that if you just work and rework every corner of every panel on extreme magnification with Photoshop, you too can become Rich Corben (you can't, but it is an awe-inspiring attempt), the dazzling double-page image that concludes his collaboration with Steve Bissette on "Monkey See" or the extensive annotations at the back which really gives the flavour of the strange time period occupied by those hard-partying Kubert School Boys (did Muriel ever find out about this?) who managed to have a whale of a time often without running water and still managed to be reasonably productive and bring their multitude of influences to the printed page. It didn't START with SWAMP THING, y'know?

If your comic store won't order you one (it isn't a Marvel or DC super-hero revamp, after all) try this experiment: go into a mainstream bookstore and try ordering it by its ISBN number 978-0-9624864-9-4. Rick's given Diamond an exclusive on his bookstore sales and it would be interesting to see how that's working out for him. $16.95 US. Mature readers.


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.