Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #360 (September 6th, 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.




Part Two: What a craftsman is not

A craftsman is not a showman.
A craftsman is not shameless.
A craftsman is not a philosopher.
A craftsman is not a leader.
A craftsman is not well known.
A craftsman is not an apostate.

So, it’s these kinds of notions that really separate what I am doing with Anubis and what the Pop artists of the mid-to-late 1900s were doing with their own approach to art making.

Maybe I’m a craftsman with a certain sense of adventure…as it relates to the telling of tales, or a fondness for boyhood conquests, but I don’t want to make many suppositions beyond that. For me – and this applies equally to the hand-stitched Anubis mini-comics in their own right …

[Sorry to interrupt Scott in mid-thought: there’s some dispute in the field as to what to call comic books made from 8.5 x 11” sheets folded in half. Although they are more widely described as “mini-comics” by people in the mainstream – who tend to categorize any photocopied black-and-white comic book with or without a colour cover as a mini-comic -- most mini-comics practitioners hold that mini-comics are comic books made from 8.5. x 11” sheets folded in quarters and then trimmed. Also called “8-pagers” because you get 8 pages from a single 8.5 x 11 sheet. Comic books made from 8.5 x 11 sheets folded in half are usually called “digests” by mini-comics practitioners. To further complicate matters, back in the 1990s self-published promotional excerpts from forthcoming full-sized comics (usually signed and numbered and given away or sold at conventions) came to be called “ashcans” after the use of the same format in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s when it was used to establish and register proprietorship of a comic book title. The new logo would be slapped onto a hastily assembled package of pages from a publisher’s previously published inventory of work and registered as a trademark and copyright as well as being offered for sale on a handful of newsstands.

The Anubis mini-comics – distinct from the original run of full-sized comic books with black and white interiors and colour covers -- are in this digest format, 8.5 x 11 sheets folded in half and sport colour photocopy covers. Courtesy of Scott, The Cerebus Archive presently houses issues 1 through 32 of this series]

…craftsmanship is the measure and means of my artistic activity. Or more accurately, at least it should be.

When it comes to actual storytelling, I want to take a craftsman’s angle as well. To tell a well-crafted story with very little else in terms of excess intellectual or symbolic baggage is what doing Anubis should be all about – a nice big bite of rollicking adventure, free from controversy or innuendo. I suppose there is some latent content that belies my reluctance to admit certain themes and symbols, but it is auxiliary, or perhaps incidental, in my view. Or to put it another way, it is a talent that may well come out from the subconscious, as opposed to the conscious.

I mean, mood sure is nice if utilized properly…

But seriously, craftsmanship is also more important to me than exposure. Once again, setting me apart from someone like Warhol who lusted after fame, and wished it almost equally for everyone else around him. He wanted to bring forth a subculture, I guess.

Well, yes. While I will concede exposure is a factor amidst my own intentions relating to Anubis, I still think that I can get the needed amount of attention from East Coast small-press trade shows for my mini-comics, and a smattering of unobtrusive, low-key gallery showings for my canvases. So, I don’t have any solid plans for putting together an actual painting exhibition yet. For now, I want to just concentrate on the studio time. I’ve got 30-35 pages to go on Book I to be done in time for SPX ’07, and I also need to figure out how to make the boxes. Once I’m past that, and in between Books I and II of Anubis, I can devote some time to painting.

But what about the idea? Why all of this emphasis on craftsmanship? What about the comic book functioning as an idea, an intellectual property? Isn’t that something that goes beyond mere craftsmanship? The “idea” is me, reflecting on my life, my place in the world. And it requires the amassing of resources like photo references, latent mental images, or remembered passages from storybooks or old movies. Or maybe it’s constituted of an already-present archetypal mythos embedded in my consciousness – a storyteller’s instinct or maybe his conditioning

(Whether the mythos was implanted by someone else during my formative years or whether it was cultivated by me, along the way, is something to reflect upon. But, really, the archetypes are either there or they aren’t. I can’t do anything to change that from this point in time. As it relates to me, or at least to Anubis, the die has already been cast. Now, it’s mostly just a matter of showing up for work in the morning).

[Hate to interrupt again, but I have to say that that parenthetical aside is my favourite thing of Scott’s that he’s written here. If you have everything ordered in your book, it is, indeed, “mostly just a matter of showing up for work in the morning”.]

So putting it all together is going to be an act of craftsmanship, ehh? Yeah. And while the “idea” may be tangential to that, it will mostly be a matter of making it actual, as a fine woodworker would make a bench or an oaken table with hand tools, based on a blueprint or schematic. The idea is the blueprint. But the furniture is what has the actual function. Once the bench or the table has been crafted, the blueprint is of much less use. It may serve as a curiosity of sorts, as my sketchbook samples in the back section of the serialized comic books do, but it isn’t intended to be an inseparable part of the formal presentation. And that’s one of the reasons why I like to paint, too. Painting is verrry formal. In the end result, there is little there that is superfluous – and that is meant to include trumped-up bravado.

My ideas are in the service of the story or the painting, and once the ink or the paint has had a chance to settle, whatever conceptual aspects surrounding the artworks exist, are inherent in the physicality of the work itself. There is really no good reason to read more into it than what is in front of you once the media have coalesced. And with that being the case, I can get on with the business of the next page or the next episode. I will try not to long for something, or crave it to be permanent…consequently cleaving a rift between what a work is, and what one would reasonably refer to as a “fetish object” more than anything else. I think that Warhol had the presence of mind to distinguish between the two as well, and that everyone after him who ever had something vital to say, artistically, and who said it with any real grace, did so and does so, as well. Even if they are not widely known.

It’s one of the reasons that I want to be remembered in my time as a craftsman. Because I can see through the veneer of absurdity. Because I know better than some, and yet…maybe not as well as others, my place in the cosmos. The craftsman makes few assumptions, and in being as such does not require that he function as the grandstanding artist.

Dave –

Hope this finds you well. Thanks for all the encouragement and attention. It is much appreciated. I’ll let’cha go now…


Oh, hey. No problem. Since this is my blog, I thought I’d throw my two cents in on a few of the subjects you raise before moving on to your subsequent letters. I think all of us in the comic book field think a fair amount about Lichtenstein, Warhol and Johns which, to me, is a testimony to what they actually accomplished (however inadvertently – and I’m pretty sure it was mostly inadvertent) on behalf of comics. I think the Jackson Pollock crowd had (as I think was their intention) left art no place to go after the downward trajectory of art from Picasso through to Pollock. How much more eroded could you get and still call it art? I think the actual point of the Pop Art Movement was to create an ancillary dead end: You can take genuinely bad art and call it high art. In the same sense that Picasso retreated into complete primitivism: You do art at the level of sophistication of an ignorant savage and call it high art. In the same sense that Pollock retreated into poo-poo ca-ca: You basically take a giant dump on the canvas as if your tubes of paint were so many recta and the paint fecal in nature. Pop art asked, What is the worst art in our society? And then put that on canvas. A Campbell Soup can. There. That’s bad art. A panel from a comic strip. There, that’s bad art.

Warhol trafficked in that but, as I think we would agree, his actual motivation was wealth and fame. He came up with an identifiable look, a style that was distinctively Warhol and then basically got everyone else to do the actual work when he could afford to do so and arrived at one of the Grand Summits of one way of looking at art: what form of art can I come up with that takes virtually no talent or attention to accomplish, where others can do all the hard work and I can spend my life partying and meeting famous people? There is no one higher than Warhol on that particular Summit (or, as I think you and I would agree, “summit”). Really famous people sought him out to pay him enormous sums of money to do basically the same picture of them that he did of everyone else.

I liked your point about your own paintings being self-referential. Apart from his self-portraits, nothing I can see in Warhol’s work was about Warhol (except in the sense that he was interested in fame and money and nothing else). As you say, Anubis is yours. You aren’t doing paintings of Mickey Mouse or Superman, you’re doing paintings adapted from your own comic panels. And you’ve been working in intentional isolation and obscurity for over a decade. To me those are definite Art bona fides.

As the Blog & Mail readers will see, your primary ambiguity centers on what best serves the purposes of your work, what makes Anubis either MORE Anubis-like or LESS Anubis-like. You don’t take a poll of your friends and family (or me) to find out which is which. You know that you are not only the final arbiter, but the only arbiter of what Anubis is and isn’t. What you want it to be and don’t want it to be.

Tomorrow: A few more thoughts before moving forward


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

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

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