Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dave Sim's religion

Dave Sim interview. (Recent, and very long.)

Dave Sim, as most serious comics- and counterculture fans will know, is the writer and artist of the phenomenal Cerebus comic, which was self-published and was one story which took 24 years to do, all issues arriving more or less on schedule. And it was even really good! Except in the parts when it was unreadable, like in many late issues which were taken over by long, tiny-type, highly unorthodox religious speculations (or rather assertions, he never gave any indication of ever being uncertain, sort of like L. Ron Hubbard), occasionally only broken by admittedly well-done illustrations. Hardly a "comic" in those parts, at least.

He wasn't kidding either, despite his religion (which he seemingly acquired unexpectedly in the middle of it all) apparently (I confess I simply could not read all that... stuff) being a mix of the three major religions, with tons of his own stuff thrown in, like a male and a female god, the female one being seen as "the Void", and apparently generally the source of all bad. He got religion hard. From this interview:

I wouldn't advocate the use of LSD or other drugs by anyone.  But, at this point, I wouldn't advocate masturbation, cigarettes, fats, sugars, popular music, most fiction, dancing, movies, card-playing...very little besides reading Scripture aloud, working 12 hours a day six days a week, fasting nine days out of ten, eating very little when you're done fasting, see where I'm going with this? :)
For me, it's forty years of bad decisions and -- to this point -- sixteen years of repentance.  SERIOUS repentance.  Don't apologize for it.  STOP DOING IT and apologize to God for how long you did it.  22 years of fornication and 16 years of repentance.  Six more years and I'm even.  Theoretically.

Makes the Puritans look like Saturday in the Playboy Mansion.
Also, one might almost say "of course", part of his complex creed is the big importance of "Zero Contact With Computers!" I'm not sure why, but it seems to fit with his deploring anything which is pleasurable. The exception re computers is a bit of help and the library computer so he can earn a bit of money on Kickstarter and digital versions of his work. 

I like Dave, and I think his work is... unique in the very best way. But I really doubt we could be friends these days. How can a lazy hedonist with a girlie web site be friends with somebody who thinks pretty much everything is a sin, even listeting to pop music, masturbating, or eating more than once every two weeks? I can't imagine a single subject we would clash over within three minutes tops. (He also seems to have parted with many past close friends and collaborators, like Gerhard, who did the amazingly detailed backgrounds in Cerebus.)

And I sort of feel like it's a pity, he really had (have?) a wonderful sense of humor, is highly intelligent, and made a fantastic comic. (Now he makes comics too, but stuff which probably 15 people in the world will be interested in.) 

I've sent him donations a couple times, on principles of love and admiration. (He knows me, I had letters in his letter column a few times back in the day.) The second time was today, the first time he was nice enough to send me a couple of sketches in the mail, even though that had not been promised.

Clickable. Cover of High Society, fantastic art by Gerhard (and Sim).
BTW, I am now reading the wonderful High Society story line in digital form through the iPad Comix app. It's good, I think I'm enjoying it more than back in the day on paper. It was cheap paper by necessity, and the contrast was not as good as on the iPad's Retina display. And until we get the super-iPad, you can turn it on the side, and view half a page at a time, and have it also be larger and clearer than in the paper comic. 


Dave Nielsen said...

I agree that it started to suck toward the end, but it sucked at the start too, until he found his groove. Too bad he went insane.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Dave himself agrees with the second point.
The first one: well, it was just not a comic anymore. And when it was (as in "Going Home"), it was sloooooooooow and obscure. Who really cares if Mrs. Hemingway was responsible for H's suicide? If she was, it's a matter for a journalistic exposé, not a funny-animal comic book.

I would not call him insane. He takes care of himself, and can debate rationally. He is very eccentric. But not more eccentric than it is shared with millions of people. Only they tend to be in very fundamentalist areas, not Kitchener, Canada.

Dave Nielsen said...

Dave himself agrees with the second point.

You don't? Just to be clear, I don't hold that against it - a lot of things take time to find their "groove" (Seinfeld, Peanuts, Star Trek TNG, Popeye, the list is almost endless) and that's something that's not often allowed these days. Whether a comic book, comic strip, TV show, whatever - these days it'd better be good right away.

I would not call him insane. He takes care of himself, and can debate rationally. He is very eccentric. But not more eccentric than it is shared with millions of people.

The number of people who share it doesn't make any difference, you're still insane if you believe it. He's not insane in that he's a danger to himself or others, but I'd say he is still insane. That said, he's achieved a lot and while I don't know that I'd call him a genius exactly, genius and madness or at least eccentricity go hand in hand as we all know.

Kitchener, Canada.

Little fun fact, via Wikipedia. Kitchener was called Berlin until 1916.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Aha, that explains a joke Dave made in the letter column 15 years ago.

"You don't?"

Sure I do. And Peanuts is a good example, simply nowhere as strong as it became 5-10 years later.

We tread on very loose ground on defining insanity. If belief in a god or anything spiritual makes you insane, then the very large majority of humanity is insane. (We may well be, but now we have a problem discussing "facts".)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

... btw, in fact I think it's a weak point that he included all the weak early comics in his grand oevre story, because they just don't have anything to do with it.
I'd even say the same about many of the sub-stories. I don't know why he claims that Cerebus' story *had* to be "very, very, long indeed", i.e. 6000 pages.
I don't even claim to understand what the frick the whole story was about, as a whole. But I have difficulty imagining any one story which needs more than, say, 500 pages to tell if it comes down to it.

Anonymous said...

Probably painted himself into a corner. That happens from time to time. LIke the reimagining of Battlestar where it was clear they were making it up as they went along and the finale sucked because of it. Lost, too, was like that. Still, whether Cerebus had any overall plan, it's still a hell of a toboggan ride.

Dave Nielsen said...

Btw, I was going to say about reading comics on the ipad: I haven't tried it, so I might love it, but for me sometimes with comics and other things it's the less slick version that I like. For example, the old Asterix comics I have from the 70s and 80s before they digitally recolored and relettered them - the imperfections (the human touch) are what are appealing. I remember in Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes how later comics (the 60s, I guess, because that's when the book was published) comics looked like they'd been drawn in a bank. It's part of the reason I prefer earlier Simpsons before they went digital - now, it's too slick.

Again, I haven't tried it, so who knows - maybe I'd love it. I've had to eat my words before. In the early days of digital cameras I swore I'd never use one - for some reason, not realizing that as with everything else they'd improve and would become not only as good or better in quality but that their ease of use would be a huge factor. (Same reason I'd never use a typewriter or a computer - I've been spoiled, like everyone else who grew up with them, by the ease of correcting mistakes, ease of editing, and not needing to put in new sheets of paper, etc.)

P.S. Have you gone back to your older photo, E? That's a classic dating website move - the 10+-years-old photo. As someone with a history of staunch heterosexuality I can say that in your current one you look studlier - you've got a whole Clooney-esque older man thing going.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I believe you, Constanza, thanks. (Though it surprises me a bit.)

One of my top fans said I should change it. (She say "no 1 fan", but that spot is hotly contested.)

Funny enough, I like the new HD Simpsons way more than the older, which seem half finished to me, and the first couple seasons are just too ugly and low-rez for me to enjoy.

But I have some vintage Danish Peanuts hardback collections, where the lettering is *wildly* dilettantish, all over the place. It has some charm.
"Too slick" is definitely not for me in fine art.

Dave Nielsen said...

I'd hardly call comics fine art, certainly it's not regarded as high art - rightly so, as much as I enjoy a lot of them. The first two or three seasons of The Simpsons were pretty rough but at least from Season Two the writing ws a hell of a lot better than the current ones, which counts for something, but certainly by Season Four they'd got it down. I think it might've been 8 or 9 when they went digital - where, according to the commentaries, the drawings were still done on paper and scanned in, then digitally colored. That was still okay as it preserved the hand drawn quality. It's only later on when even the drawing is done on computer that it started to get too slick.

I sometimes forget that because you've bought in to the idea of being an early adopter of all this stuff you kind of have to rationalize it. I'm glad I don't have to do that.

John Q. Public said...

I don't like Cerebus, at least not the story. The art, once Gerhard took over doing the backgrounds, was great. I also liked Cerebus' appearance in TMNT.