Friday, October 05, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #389 (October 5th, 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.


Some of you folks with copies of COLLECTED LETTERS 2004 might remember a fellow I was corresponding with for a while there by the name of Toc Mongo Fetch (the "Mongo" part appears to have gone the way of the dodo – which, as an Alex Raymond and to a lesser extent Flash Gordon fan, was sort of unhappy news). We got into a number of interesting discussions in the rarefied narrative air that he breathes. I'd try and haul him back down to earth and when that, invariably, failed, I'd fill myself with metaphorical helium and try to get up to where he was – translating my own words from literal and clear to artsy and obscure. Finally he called a halt, which was unfortunate but not unexpected, so I was pleased when I received a copy of his latest work in the mail.

As it says on the back cover "Of Softdoor Scout Finnagain and Daffodil Dash Eleven" is number one of "Kids of Lower Utopia" which is volume six of The Lost and Found Season of the Most Pope Joey. That's just the title. You can see what I was up against. If not, try the disclaimer on for size:

"The stories, characters and incidents mentioned in this comic live inside Toc, and since Toc lives inside me, any similarity to you is purely coincidental. But again, `The world is because you are', so how could it be a surprise if you see yourself in our self? `Uncompromising surrender – to what is' Thanks for looking."

Anyway, one of my complaints about his work is that it is so obscure on its literary side that it does a disservice to its illustration side, which is, quite literally beyond belief. Looking at Toc's work used to do to Gerhard what looking at Ger's work does to everyone else. Big advantage here over COLLECTED LETTERS 2004 is that I can show you, instead of just telling you. click on and browse around a while. I'll be here when you get back.

Tum ta de de dad um.

You back? Now, ain't that somethin'? I'll hope to tell the world. If you forgot to read any of it while your mouth was hanging open, go back and read a few panels. Again, I'll be here until you get back..

Tum ta de de dad um.

Okay, now my point was that although I like this kind of stuff – I'm wary of it [If FROM HELL is a zero and The Koran is a ten, Toc's stuff is much closer to a one than it is to a nine, let's put it that way] but I do like it -- he is so far over into obscure that a lot of people who might otherwise flip over his work are going to steer clear of it. So I kept trying to get him to either take it down a couple of notches or annotate it. Well, guess what? He chose to annotate it this time around. And, yes, as I suspected he's a lot closer to Alan Moore than he is to me. The fact that the book "stars" two late-pre-adolescent girls suggests a whole other level of unhealthiness since girls are already predisposed towards this kind of moon, papa wolf, white owl, heebie-jeebie stuff without pouring it onto the page with this level of clarity. And, of course, the annotations only make it worse so, in Robin Williams' immortal phrase, I may have to smoke a turd in hell for my suggestion.

Toc switches from pen-and-ink (my preference) to pencil (his preference) after 16 pages but it's not, like, hearbreaking because I already have so much of his black-and-white pen and ink work (he used to send it to me in photocopy form) that it's not as if there is any shortage of inspiration to be had. One page of Toc Fetch is worth pretty much twenty pages of someone else as far as learning experiences go.

He's also represented by the Ricco/Maresca Gallery at 529 West 20th St on the third floor in New York City and the Obsolete Gallery in L.A. ( if you want to see some of these puppies (in his own words) "alive in its own skin". He had an opening at the Ricco/Maresca September 13, 2001 that I had actually planned to fly down for if I hadn't been so busy at the time. Close call, eh? As I recall the story, he and the owners hunkered down in the back room, sucking back brewskis and peeking out at the occasional brave soul who ventured in to look at the pictures during that period when The City That Never Sleeps went catatonic for a while.

Anyway religio-philosophical differences aside, you can't go wrong picking up at least ONE of Toc Fetch's publications.

Okay, as promised here's my reasonably long-delayed discussion of POD (Print on Demand) comics, provoked by the arrival of Steve Peters' SPARKY IN LOVE and a few days later by the arrival of Randy Reynaldo's ROB HANES ADVENTURES, but first a couple of letters from Steve, one dated July 2 and the other July 12:

Hey Dave:

Here's the song parody I played for you and the Yahoos at SPACE. I wrote it in about twenty minutes (the trick is to pick a song that doesn't have a lot of verses, and no chorus or bridge), inspired by your Matt Dow challenge. I have to give Matt Dow credit though since I neglected to include the Diamond Order Code in the lyrics (which makes the challenge infinitely harder). A hearty Blog & Mail shout-out to Mr. Dow, by the way for giving me his extra copy of Gene Days' FUTURE DAY hardcover when I saw you guys at SPACE.

Shamelessly playing on my near-absolute CEREBUS Yahoo authority, I had invited Steve and Max Ink to come along to the traditional Yahoo dinner at Schmidt's Restaurant and Sausage Haus at 240 East Kossuth Street. It's in a converted historic brick livery stable and has been there and in the family since 1866. It was worth going the second year just to see the look on Gerhard's face when they started playing the same oompah polka music he runs screaming from during Oktoberfest here in Kitchener. How the Yahoos ended up finding their way from the hotel way out by the airport to a restaurant a stone's throw from where Jeff Smith lives I don't know. Must be kismet. Anyway, I ended up at another table from Steve and Max and had to laugh at the looks on their faces when we were leaving. They had been thoroughly Yahooed. Don't sit down unless you speak Star Wars as a second language.

The opinions expressed in this song are not necessarily my own; the words were simply intended to get this thing stuck in people's heads (100% guaranteed!). So, without further ado, "Latter Days" to the tune of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze":

LATTER DAYS is a book by Dave

CEREBUS don't seem the same

`S'not as funny as his older stuff

Just an aardvark sitting on his duff.

All tied up by three heretics

Years go by as they do their shticks

Are they crazy, or is it prophecy?

Whatever it is

Sure sounds like blasphemy!

Cerebus gets old and fat

Tells his followers where it's at

He's got them turning an unrighteous age

Is it just a fiction

Or the world today?

I thought I'd give another try at "commissioning" you to do a couple of jam bits, and make a modest contribution to the "Help Dave Buy Out Gerhard's Portion of A/V Fund" in the process. If this is not do-able, void the check and let me know via the Blog. If the amount is reasonable and you can find time to do it, my instructions are as follows:

For the Eisner-inspired jam, "Sparky Gets the Blues" if you like you can write the next song lyric above the panel.

I originally conceived of the Sparky-as-Dr. Strange jam as a jam for you and me after reading your Blog entries about Ditko, but after reading how busy you are and after happening to dig out spiegelman's "Narrative Corpse" book, I abandoned that plan. I liked his idea of letting each contributor see only the previous contributor's 3 panels. So yours would follow the 3 Max Ink panels I've enclosed. I've also contributed a model sheet of Sparky as a sorcerer supreme and the layout of the parts of the room that have been seen so far…

…I'm still intrigued with the notion that Doctor Strange, a character I always thought of as a good guy, is a master of the black arts, and what the implications of that are…a friend of a friend (if I'm remembering this correctly – for all I know, this is something you said in the Blog and Mail – won't I look foolish!) went to see Stan Lee at a speaking engagement recently, and someone asked him how he came up with all that mystical sounding gobbledygook ("Shield of the Seraphim", etc.). Lee's response was that he looked through some books on mysticism and magic and he just picked out some stuff that he thought sounded good. It seems to me that, on a spiritual level, that's a pretty irresponsible approach, though I doubt Stan took that into consideration.

At any rate, I figured an Eisner-inspired jam and a Ditko-inspired jam would be things you could sink your teeth into quite readily. As usual, I'm more than happy to ink if you just want to do pencils.

Also enclosed is a copy of SPARKY IN LOVE, so you can see the finished version—I know the pages with the black borders weren't in your preview copy, nor were a couple of the "Crumb captions" in my intro to "I'm Not Sorry". We were talking at SPACE about doing mechanical tones on the computer. Most of the tones on the 6-page story (the one with the black borders) were done 10 years ago when I first drew the piece, but the first and last panels were drawn this year, and feature all-computer mechanical tones. What I did was I scanned my mechanical tones and then paste them in using Photoshop. I was able to get an endless variety of densities by changing the size of the tones.

As you might've guessed, the theme of the next Sparky comics will be Magic. It'll probably be Print on Demand and not solicited through Diamond. Sales of SPARKY IN LOVE were disappointing, about 300 copies (though my brother Jeff, who owns Commuter Comics in New Jersey, tells me that that's actually not too bad for an indie book). THE ORIGIN OF SPARKY sold more than twice as many. My original plan was that if S.I.L. sold less than 500 copies, I would do it as POD because my usual printer, and others like them, have minimum print runs of 1,000, and I'm getting tired of having hundreds of extra copies cluttering up my apartment. However, I've since found out that some retailers won't accept POD books. The EVERWINDS: `SHROOMS reprint book was POD and I'm wondering if that fact hurt sales on SPARKY IN LOVE. Though `SHROOMS sold slightly less copies than SPARKY IN LOVE, so it's hard to say.

Chester and I discussed this the week we both found out that the Beguiling has a policy not to carry any POD books. We both agreed that all it would take to change their minds is one hit POD book. I have to admit that I didn't think too much about it after that, but now it seems to be becoming a real issue in the field.

To a degree I can understand the retailers' reasoning. It's really just the argument against CEREBUS x number of years later on, where there was a complete consensus in the field that CEREBUS wasn't a real comic book: which is why it wasn't featured in the OVERSTREET PRICE GUIDE for many years, even at the point where the first issue was selling for $75 in some places. The concern was the "thin end of the wedge" on the part of OVERSTREET and those who were the custodians of the-comic-book-as-artifact. If they put CEREBUS in, every non-Marvel and DC book would be pushing to be put into OVERSTREET and that would be a lot of work for everybody involved. There was also a huge constituency (as there is to this day) who didn't believe that any comic book should ever sell for more than cover price under any circumstances. Both positions were ultimately untenable. As CEREBUS #1 pushed into the "hundreds of dollars" bracket it made the whole thing look silly from another angle. They had garden variety Marvel books that no one could sell for more than a nickel listed as being worth $2 or $1. It was really messing with the dictionary definition of what a "Guide" is. In the latter position, I all I had to do was to ask "You would really sell an ACTION #1 for ten cents if you got one in?"

But, make no mistake about it, it took years and, as I say, there are people who are still trying to maintain those positions twenty-five years after the fact.

Where I think this is relevant to the POD discussion is that I think it issues from the same basic core argument: what IS or ISN'T a comic book.? All that they're doing is taking the easiest available definition – a comic book has to be distributed by Diamond – and trying to carve that in stone. In the same way that the Overstreet argument -- prior to accepting CEREBUS -- was that a comic book had to be distributed on newsstands in order to be a comic book. And that argument was untenable because the entire industry was moving into the comic book stores. It wasn't that Robert Overstreet and his advisors suddenly developed the warm and fuzzies for my little grey aardvark, it was that they had to decide what to do about Jack Kirby's CAPTAIN VICTORY, Chaykin's AMERICAN FLAGG, Grell's JON SABLE and so on. They were faced with having to say that Jack Kirby suddenly dropped off the map in 1981. Say, where did Jack go? Robert Overstreet and his advisors have absolutely no idea.

Personally, I don't think the stores – who otherwise spend a lot of their time complaining about how Diamond gets to call all the shots – are doing themselves any great favours by jumping to that conclusion. If you rule out POD books UNDER ANY AND ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, what you are in effect (heck, in ACTUALITY) doing is saying that Diamond decides what a comic book is. But what you are doing is reinforcing the thing that you're supposed to be opposed to.

I'm not saying that there aren't problems. Ka-blam ( is printing a lot of these books and they're turning into a pretty sophisticated operation. They're doing ROB HANES now as well as "standard-sized comics, perfect-bound trade paperbacks, manga-sized digests, `ashcans', special or convention editions, sketchbooks, mini-posters, fliers." And they've got a companion outfit called Indy Planet ( which features literally hundreds of titles (printed by guess who) as well as Comics Consignment "a storehouse of Indy Comics by your favourite creators". Now it's not hard to see what the retailers object to. They already have hundreds of titles to look at in PREVIEWS that at least has a "winnowing out" process. This is every comic book everyone decided he wanted to publish. Picture clicking through that mess once or twice a month.

But, I think you have to back up and look at what is actually at issue here: "calling the shots". Let's put it this way: you can't make all of those comic books disappear by wishing them away anymore than Overstreet could make Pacific Comics and First Comics disappear by wishing them away. Eventually Pacific Comics and First Comics went away on their own when they ran out of gas. But what Pacific Comics and First Comics WERE didn't go away. The iconic idea that they represented is now held by Dark Horse and Image. If Dark Horse and Image go away, they will be replaced by two other names. But, I think I'm safe in saying that you're never going to go back to just Marvel and DC again.


The point is calling the shots. So? Call the shots. You'll carry a (A) POD book under what circumstances? Well, first of all, you'd have to actually see it. Hand a store owner a comic book and let him flip through it and he's going to know one of two things after he's flipped through it: 1) this sucks, I won't carry it or 2) this looks pretty good but I don't have time to read it right now. There's no need to be polite. This is the low end of the comics field. These are either complete bottom feeder cartoonists OR guys who don't have much of a head for business, but they at least know better (thanks to people like me and I'm sorry) than to just sign with Marvel and DC and effectively give Marvel and DC control over their lives. Do all you're doing is what a Marvel or DC editor would do. Flip flip flip. Nope. Sorry. Same thing Elmer Wexler told a teen-aged Neal Adams. It would take me all day to tell you what's wrong with this (i.e. I have better ways to spend my day). Just make sure that they know that's the gig. You want to come back in six months with another comic book, I'll be glad to flip through that one and give you another snap judgement. Basically, being a stand-in for your customers. Is anyone going to buy this? No.

But, what if the kid is the next Michael Turner? You flip through and go, Wow. Now, the book could still suck. So you tell him (and it will be one kid out a hundred) that you'll actually read it ON YOUR OWN TIME. Come back a week from now and I'll tell you if I'll carry it or if I won't carry it.

And that's where the "self-contained" thing comes in as well. If it's the first issue with a big "to be continued" in the last panel…?

Look, kid. I like you. You seem like a nice guy. But you're a cartoonist. I've got cartoonists I've invested a lot of money in who are literally YEARS late finishing a lousy mini-series. For six months I got aggravated by people asking when the next one is coming in and now they don't even ask. That's how bad the situation is. When it comes to comic books, I only believe it exists if I can hold it in my hands. If you have a four-issue series and you can bring me ten copies of all four issues and it looks as good as this, we'll talk. You bring me a single "beginning middle and end" comic book as good as this, we'll talk. Then I know all you have to do is send an e-mail to Ka-blooey (or whatever their name is) and I can have another twenty of them by the end of the week. But continued next issue? You're a scrawny little runt and you probably don't weight eighty pound soaking wet, but I don't trust you any further than I can throw you. No offence.

See what I mean? Call the shots. This is how much space I'll give POD in my store. Six slots. Go ahead, knock me out. I'm Paula Abdul and you're the one with the microphone. Show me the magic.

No continued stories. Give them a fixed amount of time. You have one week (two weeks, three weeks) to sell ten copies. Somebody whose book I think is better than yours shows up tomorrow, he gets your slot.

Ed Sullivan was always looking for the next Elvis Presley. That didn't mean that every kid with a guitar, eye-shadow and a half pound of Vaseline in his hair who walked in the door after 1956 got on next Sunday's show. But it also didn't mean that he ruled out four skinny kids from England with their hair done like girls, either.

Tomorrow: More on POD, Steve Peters' SPARKY and Randy Reynaldo's ROB HANES


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.