But the main impediment to Dave Sim’s literary reputation is Dave Sim himself. His regressive social and political views and obnoxious rhetoric have created a public persona that’s eclipsed his artistic achievement in the comics world much more completely than it would have in the larger, less insular artistic world — where, for example, plenty of people call John Updike a chauvinist but not even his bitterest detractors question his mastery as a prose stylist, where Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ill-advised statement about 9/11 being a work of art didn’t get him ejected from the first rank of postwar composers, and artists like Wagner and Pound are still secure in their respective pantheons despite having endorsed ideas that are, to put it charitably, pretty well discredited.
But Sim’s controversial ideas are not peripheral to his work; he ultimately makes them its central message and purpose. Wagner never actually wrote any operas about the villainy of the Jews, nor Pound cantos praising the wise and just rule of Franco, but Sim incorporated his screeds about women and the tenets of his one-man religion into the text of his novel, so that even a reader determined to ignore all the apocryphal gossipy bullshit accumulated around the artist and concentrate on the work itself is finally forced to confront the fact that the man has some bizarre ideas and an abrasive way of expressing them.
–Tim Kreider, in his must-read introduction to a longer essay on Dave Sim’s seminal (in more ways than one) independent comic Cerebus from The Comics Journal #301. (I made this exact point, complete with the Wagner example, a few years back.) It’s one thing to be an artist with odious ideas unrelated or tangential to your art; it’s quite another to make them your art’s main attraction. Kudos to Kreider for drawing the distinction so clearly.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item.
If I had $15 to spend at the comic store this week, the first thing I’d grab would be Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s New York Five #1 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), the follow-up to New York Four (obviously), their contribution to the much-loved-by-me-at-least Minx imprint. Really, almost everything else pales into comparison, but I’ll also go for IDW’s Infestation #1 ($3.99, which I was convinced came out last week), the fun opener for the zombie crossover that’s about to go across their licensed line for the next few months. My superhero fix for the week comes from Paul Cornell and Pete Woods’ always-entertaining Action Comics (#897, DC Comics, $2.99), which pits Lex and the Joker against each other, and Age of X: Alpha #1 (Marvel Comics, $3.99), which starts off another reality-altering timequake or something for the X-Men. I’m not expecting much from this, to be honest, but Mike Carey has proven me wrong before…
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been enjoying on the comics front. Today our special guest is our friend Ron Richards, one of the co-founders of the popular comics website iFanboy.com. To see what Ron and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Nate Neal‘s first graphic novel, The Sanctuary, is a considerably quirky work on multiple levels. It’s a silent graphic novel, it sports an introduction by Dave Sim, and as I found out in this interview, Neal initially wanted the book to have an wordless title. Publisher Fantagraphics describes the book as exploring “the primal mysteries and sordid inner workings of a Paleolithic cave-dwelling tribe, creating an original ‘silent’ reading experience by using symbols instead of words.” The publisher offers folks a 15-page preview in order for consumers to get a small taste of the story. Neal also offers some unique marketing videos as well as other samples at his blog.
Tim O’Shea: Whether one agrees with him or not, Dave Sim typically elicits a strong reaction whatever he does these days. With that in mind, I am curious what motivated you to have him write the intro to Sanctuary?
Nate Neal: Gary Groth (publisher of Fantagraphics Books) and I were trying to come up with someone to write an introduction to kind of ease people into the comic–to explain to the reader that they were in for something different and to prepare themselves. Gary suggested a journalist who writes for The Comics Journal. I mentioned that I knew Dave Sim and thought he might write an intro for the book. Gary perked up. He seemed interested by this, even though he and Dave are kind of nemeses–he told me to give it a shot. He warned me that Dave was making people sign a “Sim is not a misogynist” petition before he’d talk to anyone. I first met Dave in 2005 at a comic con in Ohio. At that time, a couple other artists and myself had been self-publishing a comic book anthology called Hoax. Dave was a big supporter of Hoax–although I think he kind of disinterestedly loathed most of my artwork in that anthology–the style of the art, the ideology behind it, everything! Although when he thought something had merit, he’d tell you. He would write little reviews of Hoax and send them to us. Very detailed, scathing reviews. He butchered a comic I did for Hoax #4. It just destroyed me. Embarrassed the hell out of me because I knew he was right. Later after I got a Xeric grant and printed the first half of The Sanctuary as pamphlet comic books, Dave wrote me a letter telling me he thought it was great. He basically told me I was going in the right direction. So he kind of broke me down and built me up again. His work had astounded me since I first read Minds. Even though he’s been railroaded out of the alt. comics canon (along with other modern greats like David Lapham), he’s still one of the greatest cartoonists alive–a visionary. Of course I’d want him to write an introduction to my book. I’m not an apologist for Dave, but I’ve read every Cerebus book in detail and I believe that he doesn’t hate women. Sometimes I think what he really is is a Confucianist!
Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
As usual, I’d spend it on single issues. Starting with Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1 ($3.50), then picking up a couple of Moonstone books: Zeroids #2 ($3.99) and Return of the Originals: From the Vault – The Pulp Files ($1.99). I enjoyed the first issue of the genre-mashing Zeroids and have been looking forward to the next part of the story; From the Vault is sort of Moonstone’s version of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or DC’s Who’s Who. I don’t know nearly as much about the classic pulp characters as I’d like, so I’m looking forward to the education. Next I’d check out IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons #1 ($3.99) to see if they’ve figured out how to do a good D&D comic. That brings me to $13.47.
Welcome once again to our weekly round of “What would you buy if your budget was limited?” — or, as we call it, Food or Comics? Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join Brigid Alverson, Chris Mautner, Kevin Melrose and me as we run down what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad” money to splurge with.
This week we’re coming to you a day late, as comics won’t arrive in shops in the United States until tomorrow due to this past Monday’s big holiday. And check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15 …
Batman and Robin #14 ($2.99)
Glamourpuss #15 ($3)
Starstruck #13 ($3.99)
My three main purchases for the week. The one of note is the final issue of Elaine May and Michael Kaluta’s Starstruck. I have no idea if IDW plans on collecting the series or not, or if there are other Starstruck mini-series in the works (I’m guessing not; my Spidey-sense tells me that the series wasn’t a solid seller for the company), but if this is the end (at least for now), I’m grateful to IDW for taking a chance and introducing me to what can only be described as an utterly dense and utterly unique comics-reading experience.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is blogger and critic David Uzumeri, who can be frequently found at Funnybook Babylon, Savage Critics or Comics Alliance. Guy gets around.
And now we have him here as our special WAYR guest! To find out what David and everyone else at the mighty Robot 6 is reading this week, simply click on the link below.
Digital comics | A free digital comic starring Wallace & Gromit, the popular animated UK duo, has been downloaded more than 500,000 times since Nov. 7, leading one eBook blogger to wonder whether The W Files is the “FIRST eBook best-seller.” (If it’s free, can it still be considered a bestseller?) Released by Titan Publishing, the free iPhone app marks the 20th anniversary of Wallace & Gromit. Subsequent issues cost 99 cents each. [GalleyCat]
Digital comics | Marvel is giving away 1,000 one-year subscriptions for its Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited online service to enlisted military personnel through Jan. 7. [Air Force Times]
Publishing | Reed Stevenson looks at the growth of manga in Europe, where the market is expanding at a pace of 10 percent to 15 percent each year: “Sales of printed manga books have fallen in Japan in recent years but grown elsewhere, particularly among European young people who are consuming such titles as Naruto, Fruits Basket and Death Note with the same appetite as an earlier generation showed for The Adventures of Tin Tin and The Adventures of Asterix. [Reuters]
Libraries | There’s still more follow-up to the removal this week of Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age from two middle-school libraries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Teachers still have access to the anthology — it depicts language and sexual reference that at least one parent found objectionable — and may use it in class.
An editorial in the Argus Leader calls the school board’s decision “a reasonable approach that balances the need to provide suitable guidance for kids when dealing with sensitive topics without falling prey to censorship.” CBS affiliate KELO, meanwhile, continues its coverage of the story with a look at how books are selected for libraries. Tom Spurgeon also has reaction from two of the anthology’s contributors. [Argus Leader, KELOLAND.com]
Creators | Jeet Heer digs up writings by a young Dave Sim expressing, in no uncertain terms, his disdain for the work of Jack Kirby. [Comics Comics]
Publishing | Publishers Weekly teases its forthcoming lists of the best books of the year with a Top 10 that includes David Small’s National Book Award-nominated memoir Stitches. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | UK newspaper The Times rolls out a package marking the 70th anniversary of Marvel Comics with profiles of Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr., 70 facts “you didn’t know” about the company, and a gallery. [Times Online]
Publishing | Back issues of Cerebus Archives, Dave Sim’s bimonthly DVD extras-style collection of letters, stories and artwork, are now available through print-on-demand publisher ComiXpress. [ComiXpress]
Blogosphere | Mike Nebeker, co-host of the Geek Tragedy Podcast, passed away Oct. 27 from an apparent stroke. He was 41. According to this blog entry, his co-hosts plan on Tuesday to post a new episode that will contain their farewells and Nebeker’s unaired interviews from the Alternative Press Expo. After that, they’ll take some time off from the podcast. [Geek Tragedy Podnotes]
Comic strips | Amazon has announced the 10 finalists for its Comic Strip Superstar contest. [Digital Strips]
Donna Barr is a creator with a rich history in the comics industry. As noted in her Wikipedia profile (which Barr directs people to): “Common elements in her work are fantastic human/animal hybrids and German culture. She is best known for two of her series. One is Stinz (about a society of centaur-like people in a setting reminiscent of pre-industrial Germany). Originally published in 1986 as a short story in a hand-bound book, it was then serialized in the Eclipse Comics series ‘The Dreamery,’ edited by Lex Nakashima. It was picked up by Albedo creator Steve Gallacci under his Thoughts & Images label, moving on to MU Press and its imprint Aeon Press. It was then self-published under A Fine Line Press.
Her other long-running series, The Desert Peach is about Pfirsich Rommel, the fictional homosexual younger brother of Erwin “The Desert Fox” Rommel. Beginning in 1987, it was set in North Africa during World War 2). The first three issues were published by Thoughts & Images. Additional issues were published by Fantagraphics Books, Aeon Press, and then self-published. Other works include Hader and the Colonel, The Barr Girls, and Bosom Enemies.
Barr has also recently published a number of novels, including Permanent Party, An Insupportable Light, and Bread and Swans. The last two of these feature Stinz and The Desert Peach, respectively. Some of her later books take advantage of the new print-on-demand technologies.”
Barr and I initially started this email interview to discuss Afterdead, her project currently running at Webcomics Nation. My thanks to Barr for her time and to Joey Manley for helping to facilitate this interview.
Tim O’Shea: While some veteran creators are new to webcomics, you are not–as you’ve been running your work with Joey Manley’s various sites since 2003, I believe. How did you jump into webcomics well before some of your contemporaries and what attracted you to the medium?
Donna Barr: Joey asked me to. It’s a good decision; he’s one of those GOOD publishers that make me feel I haven’t gone to the dark side.
Talk about ambition. Leigh Walton and Laura Hudson have created a new comics site, titled Cereblog, devoted to (as you may have already guessed) Dave Sim’s seminal (and just a wee bit controversial) series Cerebus. Their goal? To dual critique all 300 issues, one each week.
Cerebus: A Diablog (or sometimes Cereblog) is an ongoing close reading in two-part harmony. Neither of us was born yet when Cerebus was launched, and neither of us has previously read very much of the series. We’re curious to see what Dave Sim’s work, in all its twisted glory, has to say to a new generation of readers. Grab your own copy and read along with us!
All kidding aside, so far they seem to be off to a strong star. Here, for example, is Leigh on issue one:
What’s interesting about the “Cerebus is an aardvark” juxtaposition — seemingly the point of the comic — is that the comic largely doesn’t notice. The opening few pages of this issue, when the human characters are shocked to see a warrior aardvark riding a horse and entering a bar, comprise pretty much the only time in the series (I think) when the comic draws attention to the conceit. “Thought later he would be called the finest warrior to enter our gates, at the time, he was but a curiosity…” “I can’t serve YOU here… YOU’RE A…” etc. But then he’s hired by two thieves to join their heist, with a minimum of hesitation, and that establishes the treatment for the rest of the book: Cerebus is funny-looking, and he’s recognized as an unnaturally skilled warrior, but he’s not a dog walking on its hind legs or anything.
Please join me in wishing them the best of luck. By the time they get to Reads, they’ll need it.