Friday, September 07, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #361 (September 7th, 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.






A few more thoughts on Scott's manifesto from Wednesday and Thursday of this week:

I know you don't really have an enormous background in comic books. It's more of a medium that selected you rather than anything that you grew up in. So it was interesting reading your thoughts on the nature of the craftsman since I imagine you are unaware of the big dust-up over the term `craft' (as opposed to Art) that took place back in the 1980s and 1990s when Gary Groth, through his magazine, THE COMICS JOURNAL effectively turned it into a pejorative. Not only a pejorative, but the worst pejorative imaginable. You wouldn't want to be caught dead defining your comic-book work as a `craft' because you would as much as be admitting that you were a fourth-rate talent, a hack. Hacks were craftsmen and craftsmen were hacks and Gary would brook no denial.

I always thought it was the weirdest discussion I had ever read. Of course there is craft attached to comic book creation. Do you think Gilbert Hernandez developed the facility to do a consistent style over however many hundred of pages PALOMAR turned out to be by sitting down at the drawing board only when he was in the white-hot throes of True Artistic Inspiration and then slashing away at the page in a fury of passion? Just the fact that someone pencils a comic book page before they ink it puts it into the category of craft.

There are certainly Artistes in the comic-book field and (not surprisingly) THE COMICS JOURNAL is the only magazine to document them. There is absolutely no craft to their work whatsoever (very funny to write that, since I can't think of a worse thing to say about another artist's work even as I know that they would view it as the highest possible accolade). It is pure Inspired Art. But, to me, all that means is that they have run their cars into the same artistic cul de sac as Picasso, Warhol and Jackson Pollock. I think Gary can take full credit for that since I don't know of anyone else who was more assiduous in his advocacy of bringing that category of creation into the comic-book field and automatically deifying it. The unspoken competition is on: who can produce the comic book with the LEAST amount of craft to it? Who can produce the most excrescent comic-book equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting? I don't know who it will end up being, but I'll be flipping past them just as I flip past all of the contenders for the pantheon on the COMICS JOURNAL's Mount Olympus.

Ivan Brunetti is a good example of why I think that Gary's theory of craft-free infantilism being the ne plus ultra of comic art is full of holes. The Cerebus Archive contains Ivan's first two incarnations of MISERY LOVES COMEDY that he sent me back when he was in high school? College? They're very funny (VERY funny – I never forgot the name) but they have not an ounce of craft to the drawing or lettering. Now Ivan is one of the most accomplished artists at Fantagraphics in terms of finish and execution – that is craft – probably second only to Chris Ware in terms of pure craft exhibited on every page. But, presumably, his hack-and-slash infantile style of his high school years is the more Artistic for that reason. No craft=Art.

Silly-ass theory, if you ask me, but don't let me stop you, Gar.

Okay, let's talk about something interesting instead. A few days after having consolidated his three letters into a kind of manifesto, Scott was already having second thoughts and sent along another letter:

Dear Dave,

Or you could argue that by taking up painting again, I'm simply overextending myself and living beyond my means. The graphic novel is something that needs to happen, but is painting? Painting takes up a lot of living space; I could move to a smaller place to save money and concentrate wholly on the ANUBIS graphic novel. Not worry about painting, and still be able to call myself a craftsman. That's what should be the most important to me. No need to be the grandstanding artist. I don't need to prove to the world who I am. I don't need to prove that to anyone. Not even my readers. I am there for them as a curiosity; whether they take my work seriously, or think me a fool, is up to them.

To the death,


Well, yes. I have to admit that it's a compelling enough subject as you've been discussing it in the depth that you have in your letters that I've gone from being completely dispassionate about it to wondering if it's something that I want to try. Now that I'm actually working again. That's pretty compelling considering that I haven't done an actual painting in over thirty years.

I think a lot of it comes down to motivation and dividing your resources. But, on a purely theoretical level, I picture doing, say, a canvas of the "baby-throwing page" from Church & State. Enlarging the wind-up and the pitch to, say, two feet by three feet. Now, there's an appeal to that, particularly doing the tone on Cerebus by hand. I think that's one of the things that you understood viscerally when you came up with it. It's a black-and-white painting. That's pretty odd and innovative right there. The average painter could maybe conceive of doing a black and white painting as a one-off change of pace, but what painter would say "All my paintings will be black and white only"? And, in my case there's the commercial consideration. Here is the only painting of the baby-throwing page. What am I bid? You can call that crass commercialism but, to me, there are too many other elements that go into it. What better image to distil the essence of Cerebus the Pope? It says a lot, even if you (and perhaps ESPECIALLY if you) don't know anything about the book.

But, of course, I'm working on Secret Project II now and I want to get back to it. Between writing these Blog & Mail entries and TCAF this weekend it will be more than a week before I can do so. Anything else that I decide to do is going to be in the way of that. As you say, am I comic-book artist or am I a painter? Arguably being able to produce attractive work at an unnaturally fast pace (when compared to most art forms) is a core element of being able to say "I am a comic-book artist" as opposed to "I drew a comic book once." Craft, again. The same as the difference between someone who designs and builds one-of-a-kind bookshelves adorned with intricate carvings and sells them and someone who once designed and built a one-of-a-kind bookshelf strictly for himself and never did again. If you're selling them, in order to make the expenditure of time worthwhile, you have to develop craft, facility, short-cuts, aptitudes. If you're doing it for yourself you can take as long as you like and do everything the most difficult way possible and never once think "There's got to be an easier way to do this."

But, it's an individual call. I think in your own case, the fact that you paint and then think better of it and then paint again and then think better of it means that it will always be a part of ANUBIS (unless you just decide to burn all the paintings one night and never do another one) as a creative work in toto. It's a graphic novel and it's a certain number of paintings. You're pretty sure it's a 3,200 page graphic novel but you have no idea how many paintings it might prove to be.

In his letter of June 29, Scott writes

So, in retrospect, do I think that I made a mistake by barging into your PO Box as I have? Depends upon how you look at it, actually. If you ask why I would want to be linked in any way to the person responsible for the CEREBUS pantheon of political and/or religious perspectives, well then yes: it was a mistake. But if you consider how I may have inadvertently drafted a road map for aspiring creators (as you say) wanting to pursue their very own mammoth, self-made comic-book story, or how I was able to vent my frustrations along the way to artistic maturity by penning missives to an established professional – the only one (I might add) who would listen – well, then, no. It wasn't a mistake. From my point of view, privately, it's really not a problem. I definitely think that I've overdone it, but whether or not I have worn out my welcome is for you to determine (not me), being on the far end of it. The fact that you do not likely think of me as an annoyance is one of the things that leads me to consider you a friend. You've been good to me, but I don't think of this as a public channel. Whatever comes out of my efforts here is not something I want to cultivate further than I already have by writing it down and mailing it. I'd venture to say that most of this stuff won't be part of the ANUBIS catalogue.

Well, yes, Association With Dave Sim: Asset or Folly? isn't something that's going to get established in the short term, I don't think and I can certainly understand people being wary of it or ambivalent about it (asking me to write an introduction for their book and then not mentioning it on the cover comes to mind). I'd be lying if I said I'd rather see another letter from Scott Berwanger in the mailbox than a $10,000 cheque from Diamond but that doesn't mean you've overstayed your welcome. Even though it seems to accumulate in a hurry and I never seem to get to the bottom of it, I don't think of myself as being inundated with mail. If you can open all of your mail and read it in less than an hour (including the magazines and comic books) then your mail is still in the manageable category.

I don't think of you as a friend. I think we have a mutual loyalty which is to the comic-book/graphic novel medium. You're attempting something that hasn't been attempted before and which could (or could not) prove to be a more viable template for the aspiring magnum opus graphic novelist than anything I did. I think I'm well-positioned because of my own loyalty to and status within the comic book/graphic novel medium context to preserve whatever amount of your own thinking you want to send my way and I'll try and run as much of it as I can on the Blog & Mail and preserve all of it in the Cerebus Archive. To me that has very little – in fact, virtually nothing – to do with either of us as people. If you want to send me the life history of your mother, as an example, I'll be happy to read it and preserve it but I don't think it's going to be of much use to anyone either now or a hundred years from now in deciding whether or not or how they intend to do their own graphic novel.

Things like this from further on in your June 29 letter:

No plans to buy my own photocopier now. The main drawback I see with doing that would be maintenance. Photocopiers break down rather frequently, and can be cantankerous beasts when they want to. I'll let the folks at Office Depot bear the burden of keeping them running. No interest in doing a web comic. In my mind, comics will always belong on paper, not presented with electronic media. I am determined to keep my comics on paper.

It's just as likely as not that five years from now (let alone a hundred years from now) you'll need a footnote on that to explain what a photocopier was because everyone will have a printer that does what photocopiers used to do. But, in the context of our present time, I think you've made the right choice. Someday when I get caught up on everything, I'd like to do a mini-comic or a digest on the photocopier I have – just ten or twenty copies of something but I sure wouldn't want to try producing an actual print-run of something on it. Most of the problem is the toner which produces great jet black copies but soon erodes into really dark gray.

Tomorrow: The Independence Day letter


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.