Monday, September 10, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #364 (September 10th, 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.








Okay, on to excerpts from Scott's two letters dated July 8.

Dear Dave,

Jesus, I'm all over the map. At this point, the best thing to say is that writing in isn't working for me so I had best go. I'm sorry for troubling you, and want to at least be able to say it was all in earnest. I'm just having a real hard time sorting out the dissemination of my work (the actual studio effort is going splendidly).

Right now, I'm asking myself why the boxed sets wouldn't be a dignified enough presentation. In answering my own query, I'm discovering that they are dignified. They're just fine. I'm just not a commercial artist of any kind. Maybe I should keep that second, shorter, graphic novel in mind for the future as well, paint along the way from time to time, too. I mean what's the point in censoring myself?

I'm so sorry for all this. I'd best sign off and return to my corner of the world.

No need to be sorry. You're just thinking out loud and that's one of the best ways to think, in my experience. I think there's more value in a self-publisher wannabe getting to read something like this than my own "decided what I was going to do when I was 23, and did it `til I was 47" case closed approach which makes everyone else just feel incompetent, unfocused and unaccomplished. Most people have a lot of doubts and change their minds frequently. And you're already one of a handful of people who have done 1,000 pages of a comic-book story anytime in human history.

I think it's a wrong way to think of it, though, to ask "what's the point in censoring myself?" That's the feminist in you. There's a big difference between censoring yourself and understanding that the years you have to work at peak efficiency are limited (your twenties and thirties, mostly) and that you have to make the most efficient use of those years. You can't do everything that you want to do. Trying to do everything you want to do is apt to make you a "multi-tasking" dilettante who never makes his mark anywhere. Be wary of framing questions in pejorative terminology like "censoring yourself". That's just going to compel a knee-jerk recoil which is the opposite of thinking it through. I can ask myself "What fun is this? Sitting at a keyboard for fourteen hours typing out my opinions for people I'll never meet or never know?" Well, that's a pejorative way of putting it that presupposes that life is supposed to be fun. I can get up right now, forget about the rest of my fasting day, go out and have a good meal, forget that I haven't had a drink in over four years and have a nice half bottle of wine and then see what there is in the way of nightlife out there and skip my evening and night prayers. That would be a lot more fun, but what would I have to show for it?

Scott's back two days later with two letters on July 8:

No. If it means that I have to sacrifice other things to self-publish a perfect-bound edition of the six-volume ANUBIS graphic novel, then that's what it means. Maybe I'll be able to hire a graphic designer to help me and maybe I won't. But it's gonna get done so long as I don't get hit by a bus or develop Parkinson's disease.

As far as painting is concerned, I think I've got that one cinched, too. What I'm really trying to do amidst all of the stink I've made over the matter is put together an exhibit of sixteen canvases in my mature style. I've already got seven of the canvases done, and if I can't get nine canvases done between now and the time ANUBIS is done, I'm just not doin' sumpthin' right. Based on my estimated time of completion, ANUBIS will be finished somewhere around my fifty-fifth birthday, sooo, that's what? A painting every two and a half or three years? I did seven canvases between 2006 and 2007 aaand met my page quotas on the graphic novel all the while. Should be a piece of cake. If I can just get those nine others done, I will have satisfied the urge to scratch the itch.

As far as the other graphic novel I was talking about doing is concerned, I really shouldn't be thinking about anything else artistically until ANUBIS is out of the starting gate and headed for the self-publishing hill. Maybe I'll get to a point where I can consider doing another graphic novel and maybe I won't. Right now all that matters is ANUBIS. And, in my view, the Anubis paintings are a part of the Anubis idea. They're something I need to work out, like the book.

Let's think of the boxed sets as my equivalent to the serialized CEREBUS or BONE or what-have'ya. Let's think in terms of figuring out a way to publish this beautiful book and keep it in the domain of Adventure Comics.

It is one of the more difficult parts of doing the comic-book magnum opus to keep yourself in the here-and-now. When it comes to "after I'm done" projects, I think it's worth reasoning that one through and going "I'm not thinking of anything else in my life in terms of `twenty or thirty years from now' why am I even pretending to picture what I'm going to want to do then, artistically?"

Speaking from experience, you aren't going to know until you've almost gotten there. It was only my decision to do an Alex Raymond/John Prentice/Al Williamson RIP KIRBY look to the Cuba sequence in FORM & VOID that told me exactly how interested I was in that. VERY interested. A lot more interested than I thought I would be. Likewise the wide-screen photorealism lifts from Fellini and Bergman in LATTER DAYS. Neither would have even occurred to me a year before that. Nor did I know that I would start reading the Bible in 1996 and what that would lead to.

You've gone back and forth so many times on the paintings, that I think you should avoid using terms like "cinched" with your present decision (whatever it happens to be at any given point).. I'd just put it in a mental box of "things to watch out for". If you're getting your quota of pages done and you're on track for your completion date, there's no reason you shouldn't do anything that interests you. It's only if that thing is getting in the way of your work or throwing you off schedule that you have to be wary of it, whatever it is.

In my case, drinking and smoking pot. I never got to the Wally Wood stage of going out and buying some beers to drink while I was drawing and then when I finished those getting myself a big dirty bottle of something and going on a multi-day toot. I always went out to a bar or a nightclub to drink and after last call I was done. We never had beer in the mini-bar fridge in the studio on King Street or upstairs here at the house. We had beer out back at Camp David for Monday night pool-playing nights with Bob and Tim but I never once went out there and cracked one open in the middle of the day or at night when I was here working by myself. If I had, even once, then that would put beer on the "things to watch out for" list. I'd smoke pot to get a nice buzz going but as the strains got more potent (I can't even imagine what they're like now) I cut down to little "one hits" off Gerhard's hooter unit. I didn't smoke until I was cross-eyed, didn't use a water pipe to get maximum smoke with minimum throat scorch.

As I say, "things to watch out for". Anything that gets in the way of your productivity should be on that list and should be watched carefully. If the paintings aren't in the way, there's nothing wrong with the paintings, if the paintings are in the way, then you have some choices to make.

In the other July 8 letter he wrote:

Only thing is that if my hunch is right about the future of the small-press book market, putting together conventionally published edition of ANUBIS might actually be a retrograde move. Reason being: the means of publication is being put into the hands of more people than ever before. And, as I see it, there will become more, and more, and more choices between titles for readers than ever before. From what I understand, web comics are spreading like wildfire, too. So, as choice increases significantly the odds of having an independent title skyrocket or to even make a significant mark will not necessarily get easier. It might even get harder. And that being as such, working with boxed sets and the immediacy of them, would be more akin to riding the current, than fighting upstream with self-publishing. That is my prediction, anyway. Sort of eerie to think about Warhol's statement that in the future "everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame" I see that as a prophecy of the times, in a way, with it having been said almost fifty years ago.

One of the Second City comedy reviews in Toronto back in the 90s was called "Andy Warhol, Your Fifteen Minutes Are Up."

You're never going to know exactly what the market is going to be like at any given point and no one knows what book is going to "skyrocket" at any given point. Usually the unexpectedness of a "skyrocket" book is a big part of the process itself. No one would have guessed that Elfquest or the Turtles or Bone would "skyrocket". The question in each case was: is there even a market for this in an environment so dominated by Marvel and DC super-heroes? Three times the answer was, YOU BETCHA. Most of the rest of the time, it's: so far, so good or, more often, no, not a chance.

Remember, I'm sitting on my own secret project at the moment – perhaps permanently -- because the domination by super-heroes is just so extreme right now. I couldn't tell you if that will improve in the next six months or the next six years, let alone twenty or thirty years from now when you're ready to bring ANUBIS to market. All you can really do is make your best guess and go for it when you think the time is right and hope you're right.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that for ANUBIS to be up for consideration amongst comic-book scholarship (my wish and dream come true), I might not need to go beyond my home-grown boxed sets to achieve that aim. If, for instance, the boxed set ever came up for consideration as a viable means of dissemination, and I was not dependent upon the perfect-bound model to "succeed" I would opt for sticking with the boxed sets. If anything, it would be A LOT less work on my part – or, at least, more the kind of what that I'm put together for; for me making the minis and the boxes is fun, fooling with computer software is not, making sales calls is not. Wouldn't have to bother with all of that digital pre-press or any of the business publishing mechanics (instinctively, I think of myself more as a printmaker than a self-publisher). Remember, I think that the boxed set is dignified enough. Question is, will everyone else? If they ever do, I'll be in a great position.

Yes, but I think you already got that whole aspect covered when you decided that your regular job was there to provide you with a livelihood, so that whatever form of dissemination you chose, your livelihood wasn't riding on it. It strikes me that that plays very much in your favour. You pick the format that you think is best suited to ANUBIS and let the chips fall where they may.

As to comic book scholarship, well, scholarship in any field is just an initial response, anyway. There are any number of authors who were the object of intense academic scrutiny in their hey-day who are completely forgotten today. Fitzgerald, to cite an example, wasn't taken seriously by the academy until long after he was dead and that was mostly through the efforts of Matthew Broccoli. If you have a Matthew Broccoli in your corner it becomes impossible to tell if you actually warrant all the attention that you're getting or if it's sustainable. The actual answer doesn't come until way, way after you and your entire generation has been long dead.

Chester and I were both at The Beguiling when Douglas Wolk's new book on comics came in. Peter handed us both a copy and told us that there was a chapter on each of us. Mine was a fleshed-out variation on Wolk's article in THE BELIEVER. I mean, in a way, it's one of those "dream come true" things – a New York Times journalist writing a chapter on my work in his book. On the other hand it was $27.50 Canadian and, like all scholarship on CEREBUS was still basically skirting around the question of whether or not Dave Sim is literally crazy because he isn't a feminist. As Peter Straub said when the original article came out, it was as if he was asking, "What if Hitler had been a brilliant painter instead of a mediocre one?" And, of course, from my side it's a matter of "How can you seriously believe in feminism after thirty-seven years of seeing what it actually is?" The two perceptions are so far apart it would have been pointless to buy a copy, bring it home and go through the chapter line by line comparing it to the original article to see if he had moved closer to my position or further away. And it was $27.50! That's a lot of money for a few pages carefully but not specifically calling you possibly, possibly not a misogynist.

Put another way, I got a very nice write-up in THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY back in the 1980s, but its not as if they've mentioned me a whole lot since then, right?

Tomorrow: Scott's two most recent letters


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.