Month: March 2004

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Laundry List



Christopher Butcher has been on a roll lately, generating quite a bit of notoriety for himself, and that’s all good, but am I the only one who was shocked by the aggressive tone of this post?


It’s (sort of) a reply to Steven Berg @ Peiratikos, and not a very polite one… Maybe it was just a bad day? Anyway, I’m loathe to throw fuel upon this particular fire, but I can’t help myself–I disagree with Mr. Butcher on almost every particular of this post!


In the interests of diplomacy, I will restrict myself to the man’s observations and ignore his tone.

1. Steven is “talking out of his depth” when speaks about Tim O’Neil’s take on superheroes because he hasn’t read TCJ #258.


No–you don’t need the Filth review in order to gauge Mr. O’Neil’s (sadly unnuanced) opinion of the genre, all you need is this post he offered up as a reply to an e-mail I sent him last month


2. Steven is not allowed to compare the X-Men to Alice in Wonderland, because the two works are offered in different media


Come on! Art is art. And certainly, narrative art forms are narrative art forms! (storytelling is storytelling) Obviously, there are special criteria appropriate to the judgment of prose fiction that don’t apply to the judgment of comic books, but this is not an apples and oranges situation!


3. Maltese Falcon vs. Citizen Kane–studio produced film vs. auteur film. Butcher says it’s “obvious” which one is better.

These are both great films, but I’ll go on record right now with the opinion that Huston’s freshman effort will eventually outdistance Welles’, in terms of critical respect. As Christopher Butcher demonstrates daily, there are a lot of intelligent people out there who still belong to the “cult of the maverick artist”, and these are the folks who continue to give Orson extra brownie points for running a closed set and telling RKO to fuck off. Stick it to tha man! Meanwhile, Huston quietly sneaked into the director’s chair, took note of the resources that Warner Brothers had to offer, and steered a brilliant adaptation of one of the twentieth century’s most important novels to port.


Beneath the pyrotechnics, CK is a very ordinary tale of hubris. The way that Welles’ hammy performance and relentlessly intrusive direction actually serve the theme of overreaching ambition is uncanny, I’ll grant you. But Huston’s quiet insistence upon facing Hammett’s stark narrative dead-on, without any embellishment, also creates a perfect marriage between form and content in the Falcon–a film which asks: how does a human being deal gracefully with a no-win situation? Again I say, these are both great films, for very different reasons, and only philosophical inclination can account for a clear judgement in favour of one or the other…

Don’t get me wrong–we owe Welles a lot! Citizen Kane broke down the linear storytelling mode that had dominated Hollywood films up until that time (although Welles derived this technique from Sturges’ screenplay for The Power and the Glory), giving people like Edward Dmytryk the freedom to perform unheard-of narrative gymnastics (flashbacks within flashbacks within…etc) There’s no bigger fan of forties film noir than me! (which reminds me–everyone go out and get Murder My Sweet right now! And then watch Crossfire, if you wanna see some real narrative magic… Dmytryk takes a simple plea against anti-semitism and turns it into a masterpiece, merely by shuffling the sequence of events!)

And if anyone thinks I’m down on film auteurs, I just want to remind people that my favourite director, bar none, is Frank Capra–a man whose directorial philosophy was “one man, one film”. I just don’t happen to believe that Orson Welles is in his class, is all. Or that a film created by committee cannot be, on principle, just as good as a film created by one person–anyone ever see I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang? That’s a producer’s film!


okay, okay–back to Christopher Butcher!


4. writing for Marvel is bad because the suits won’t let you blow up the Vatican, even if you really, really want to!


Well, that’s too bad isn’t it? I guess you’d have to find some other way to make your point then, hunh? You would be doing such a thing to make a point, right?

5. Planetary shows us that you can comment on established characters without actually having to write the characters themselves.

Yes. I agree. So does Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme. However, this does not mean that you cannot do excellent work by going the old-fashioned route. It’s true that you probably cannot “debunk” Captain America whilst writing Captain America, but then, the opportunity to debunk is to the artist what a box of matches is to a bored child… In that kind of situation, either everyone gets burned, or a little brat gets sent to bed.


6. And here’s the piece de resistance: “But the one thing that you and Sean need to both learn is that this isn’t “repetitive predictability”, it’s an ongoing discussion about what corporate superhero publishing’s effect is on the North American comics market.”

Here we’ve tripped over the major fault line that divides us in the sphere and tends to set blogger against blogger–some of us are more interested in creator’s rights than in the works themselves. Steven is not one of these. Neither am I. Let’s not forget that I’m a creator myself, and I’m not exactly getting rich off of the proceeds of Darkling I Listen. I do it because I love it–and because I hope, in time, to receive more feedback like this… Still, I’m also a critic, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to factor the artist’s struggle/life into my appraisal of the text at hand. If it’s interesting it’s interesting. If it isn’t, it isn’t. And it doesn’t matter what anyone wanted to do. Or what they were prevented from doing. What did Mick Jagger say?

Good night friends

Dave

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Cerebus Survey: “Loose, Baggy Monsters” Can Be Good For Ya!



JW Hastings offers up a brilliant observation–if you want to get the most out of Cerebus, approach it as you would Dickens’ Pickwick Papers … Take what’s there as you find it. React. Don’t try to impose Grecian Urn symmetry upon a delirium epic. Elrod and the Roach always work against/undermine whatever the main thrust of the narrative happens to be–this is not a drawback, it’s a schizophrenic seal of honesty in storytelling!

Tim O’Neil made the whole journey, from #1-300, and he seems to have employed a similar reading strategy:

In a lot of ways, I think it would be impossible to extricate “Cerebus” from Sim. “Cerebus” is Sim’s story, the story of his personal growth and intellectual expansion. Where he ends might not be where you or I would necessarily have gone, but he is never anything less than rigorously honest in his portrayal of his own mind. There’s nothing more you can ask from any cartoonist, or any other artist.

Great review Tim!

Have you tried Melville’s Pierre; or, the Ambiguities–my own candidate for perfect prose analogue of Sim’s series? I think you’d love it!


Okay, enough Cerebus! Time for me to start reading Church & State!

Good day friends!
Dave

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Silly Rabbit


Some people are acting as if this Millarworld post by a guy named Richard L actually means something… Let’s take a look shall we?

That being said, the more I think about it the more I think that superheroes (by which I mean the mainstream Marvel and DC universes) ARE just for kids. That doesn’t mean they are stupid or simplistic or that adults can’t enjoy them. Rather I mean that the characters themselves don’t work as adult creations – they are intrinsically ridiculous if you look at them as an adult (surely part of the point of, say, Watchmen).

You can have adult super-powered characters or superhero-like characters for adults but I’m afraid Batman isn’t one of them – the only way to do that is to recreate him as an essentially impotent character struggling to reconcile his own need for a violent outlet for trauma (Dark Knight ends with him finding a better way for a reason).

Let’s face it “I’m a multi-billionaire genius and the best way I can find to help the people of Gotham is to dress as a giant rat” is not an approach you can take with an adult sensibility and not conclude that he’s mad as a hatter.

Both Watchmen and Dark Knight were taken as heralding a new age – an “adult” approach to superheros when infact both were about the impossibility of treating these iconic characters as “adult” and having them continue to behave in the way we have come to expect.

Comics can be for adults and some of the most challenging and interesting modern literature for adults comes in the form of a comic book. But the mainstream characters – the archetypes and the bit-part players that surround them – simply cannot be written as adult characters with out appearing utterly ridiculous to all concerned.

Like I said, that doesn’t mean you can’t write these things in a way that both young and (relatively) old people can enjoy, just that you should not be trying to approach Superman with an adult sensibility.

That’s why we get these constant arguments about his actions – because the greying audience increasingly expects Superman to act in a manner psychologically authentic to the adult reader when, of course, the character simply cannot hold that weight – he becomes something completely different.

The key, I would argue, is that for the mainstream superhero, ditch the “adult” garbage and accept these characters for what they ARE, limitations and all. Stop trying to make them something completely different – which is what being “adult” with them (what Moore called last week the current “intellectual posture” towards them) does.

If you want adult, there are plenty of books filled with characters designed to appeal to adults.

Okay now. Yes, there is no doubt that any effort to turn superhero comics into psychologically realistic comedies of manners a la Jane Austen will certainly fail (artistically, that is). And it seems that many failures of this kind have come into being since 1986, many of them written by Kurt Busiek… If that was all Richard L. intended to say, then we are in complete agreement.

Unfortunately, that is clearly not all he says. Part of the problem here is the terminology he uses. This, for instance, is gibberish:

Comics can be for adults and some of the most challenging and interesting modern literature for adults comes in the form of a comic book. But the mainstream characters – the archetypes and the bit-part players that surround them – simply cannot be written as adult characters with out appearing utterly ridiculous to all concerned.

“Adult (read ‘psychologically realistic’) characters” equals “available to an adult sensibility”.

“unrealistic”/”archetypal” characters equals “fuh kidz”.

Right?

Of course not.

Readings like this make me crazy! A text is more than the sum of its characters’ parts! Stop focusing on (for instance) the Gruenwaldian Captain America’s psyche and start thinking about how he, and the other elements of the story, fit into the narrative structure! Characters exist to serve a greater design! You know that Magritte painting? Well, think ceci n’est pas un etre humain when you look at Steve Rogers and his supporting cast…


By Richard L’s reasoning, Hawthorne is for kids–so is Keats’ Fall of Hyperion, and Wuthering Heights, and Moby Dick, and Pierre, or the Ambiguities, and so on! Any epistemological quest is going to seem like it’s for kids in this strange formulation. Basically, he’s declaring that all of the greatest works of art since Wordsworth & Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads are mere escapist fantasies, because their characters aren’t “adult” enough… Now, Aaron Haspel might agree with this, and he might even produce an excellent Yvor Wintersian defence of the position, but who else out there is willing to give it a whirl? Mr. L? Mr. Butcher? Mr. McMillan? Go ahead guys–I’m listening! Whatever you do, don’t forget to check out this piece by Steven @ Peiratikos before you begin!

There’s a lot more to say here, but I’d better go–Cerebus: Church & State arrived via inter-library loan today + Lillian Robinson’s Wonder Women is very good so far + I’ve got more Infantino to think about, a novel to tinker with and a paper to write!

In the meantime, I hope you will join me in looking forward to reading Tim O’Neil, Mike Sterling, and J.W. Hastings’ imminent Cerebus posts + H’s upcoming work on the seventies All-Star Comics run! I can’t wait!


good night friends!


Dave

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Soundtrack: Garrison Starr Songs From Take-Off To Landing


(Starr gets NO respect! I don’t get it…)




I’m still hoping for more responses to yesterday’s prolegomena to a reappraisal of the late Infantino–as far as I can see right now, it’s me n’ Bruce Baugh vs. the World on this question! I know that my friend Jamo (whom you may remember from his guest-post on Charles Burns’ Black Hole) hates the artwork on Spider-Woman, and Steven Wintle has assured me, privately, that the “Trial of the Flash” issues really rubbed him the wrong way, back in the eighties… Anyone else? In case you haven’t guessed, there’s nothing I like better than a rousing game of “how outta touch IS Fiore?”


Anyway, in between ransacking the first few chapters of my novel, reading Bliss Carman, and putting in my time at the ol’ salt mine, I’ve been perusing some issues of Daring New Adventures of Supergirl and Spider-Woman… I just can’t get over how much I love the artwork! I wish I had a scanner, because I think some of these pages ought to be in circulation! (also, it’s hard to talk about it without showing it to you…) I see from the letters pages though, that many people at the time wrote in to express their dissatisfaction with Carmine’s strange pencils, and the fact that he got very few of the cover assignments is telling…

Anyway, here’s my latest tangent: I think both S-W & especially DNAOSG were real attempts to bring a balanced “feminist subjectivity/POV” into superhero comics (of course, the creators were still men–Gruenwald & Kupperberg wrote the stories–and that’s not ideal, but still, it was a beginning… also, the excellent Lois Lane back-up in SG was written by Tamsyn O’Flynn…anyone know what happened to her?). When you recall that Cecile Horton (Flash’s lawyer) is a fascinating human being/non-love interest too (that scene in #336 where the speedster finds her underneath the rubble of her dynamited house in a sensory-deprivation tank is so GREAT!), not to mention all of those gender-shenanigans associated with Iris’ return…well, I think it’s pretty clear that Infantino was on a mission of sorts in the late-seventies/early-eighties! This is the kind of thing I wish interviewers would ask about! Isn’t it sad that superhero “feminism” took a Claremont/Byrne direction (basically gender essentialism) while the Gruenwald/Kupperberg/Infantino (Fiore) humanist/feminist vision hit a wall? (or, in the 1990’s, a round silicone monolith?)

Okay, I have to go! But now I’ve talked myself into checking this book (by a fellow Montrealer!) out of the store




I should be ready to talk about it tomorrow!

Good afternoon friends!
Dave

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Beware the Ides! or, Et tu Quarter Bin? (In praise of the Late Infantino!)


(Soundtrack: Everclear– World of Noise)


Inspired by my own Infantino-boosterism yesterday, I’ve been Googling around, looking for other opinions on the man’s work… I was particularly hoping to find some material on the “Trial of the Flash” stories he did with Cary Bates in the early eighties… Who else was doing twenty-five issue storylines at that time? Just Dave Sim… But no dice–and that makes me think I oughtta do something to rectify the situation! I think it’s a landmark series. It has its corny aspects, I’ll grant you, but this was an unbelievably stark nightmare to put a bright red superhero through… When you think about it, from the death of Iris in #275 to the end (#350), The Flash is almost as unrelentingly cruel in its machinations against the protagonist as The Passion of the Christ (I’m tellin’ ya, he loses everything here: two wives, his reputation, his identity, even his face, after the plastic surgery!)–however, unlike in Gibson’s film, we do get a resurrection (Iris’) at the end, and it feels completely earned… I wonder if Morrison had any of this in mind when he was writing Animal Man? I think it’s worth investigating!


Anyway, here’s what I found on Infantino–almost all of it deals with the early work and the “executive years”, unfortunately:

1. A decent interview from 1998, at TwoMorrows… Interesting stuff on DC editorial changes in the late sixties, discussion of what went wrong (commercially) with Ditko’s Hawk and Dove, Kirby’s New Gods, O’Neil/Adams’ GL/GA, etc.; the advent of the “artist/editor” (notably Joe Orlando); the puzzling lack of interest in Nick Cardy’s great Silver Age work; DC’s determination at this time to “grow up” without copying the Marvel formula…

2. “Carmine Infantino, Linchpin of DC’s Silver Age”–A career overview at The Quarter Bin… This quotation seems to voice the consensus opinion on the later stuff:

He even returned to do work for DC on such Infantino-connected properties as the Flash, though during his return he used the same modified and angular style typical of his Marvel work. During the years when he hadn’t had the time to dabble in art himself, his feel for the work changed somewhat, a change very clear to an observer who compares his early DC Silver Age pieces to work after 1976.

What’s wrong with change? And this change in particular? I think the new “angular” look is fantastic. I’ve never seen anything else like it–I can look at Infantino’s Spider-Womans, Daring New Adventures of Supergirl and new model Flash for hours! Does anyone else agree with me?


3. He’s ranked number #65 on the Atlas Top 100 Artists of American Comic Books

Comicdom may have lost some of Carmine Infantino’s best years. An artistic dynamo in the 50’s and early 60’s, Carmine eventually backed into the role of publisher at DC during some of its most artistically satisfying years. There was a cost, however. His return to the drawing board in the late 70’s (after a split with DC) was less than inspiring. Missing was much of what made his earlier work so impressive: sharply designed covers (a job he handled for almost the entire DC line while he was Art Director), nimble drawing, well spotted blacks, and an excellent creative eye. With a hand in the creation or early adventures of characters such as the Flash, Adam Strange, Deadman and many others, Carmine is a major figure in the foundation of modern comics.

Again–I beg to differ!


4. An excerpt from the interview with Gary Groth in TCJ #191… It dwells on Infantino’s Golden Age apprenticeship and the work conditions at the time. This is precisely the kind of material that I couldn’t care less about, and it’s no surprise that it was torn from the pages of the “magazine of news and criticism”… I’ll never understand why people want to read about artists struggling to hone their craft. I mean, I’m involved in this process right now, and I know damn well that it isn’t interesting to anyone but me! Save it for the water cooler for Christ’s sake! Or is that the problem? Writers and artists don’t have a watercooler to gather ’round, so they force their banal shop talk upon their audience. If you like this kind of thing, please write to me and explain the appeal!

5. This book looks fairly interesting: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino, with an afterward by Jim Steranko…


Okay, maybe it’s time to read some Flash comics!


Good afternoon friends!
Dave

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Good Walls Make Good Reading


(Soundtrack: Breeders–Pod)


I spent a few hours perusing Arlen Schumer’s The Silver Age of Comic Book Art yesterday. Neilalien has spoken very highly of the book, while TCJ-messageboarders were far less kind (I even got into the act–talkin’ through my hat, as usual!)…

Have to say, I think Neil is closer to the mark… As you know, if you’ve read this blog at all, my interest in superheroes is narratological, rather than art historical–still, a work cannot live by structure alone… you’ve got to put some meat on those bones, and that is indisputably the artist’s responsibility! I disagree vehemently with Gil Kane’s contention that “the only thing that makes [superhero comics] worth reading is the art”–but of course the interesting artwork is what attracted people in the first place, and made them care enough to donate their time and energy to the consensual narrative-building enterprise that my dissertation will explore!

Schumer won me over with these introductory remarks:

There has never been a coffeetable book celebrating their [the silver age artists’] work, showing the actual printed comic book art–with Ben-day dots on cheap newsprint–as it was transmitted to and perceived by the readership. Other books have been illustrated with the black and white original art, and as beautiful as that is, that’s production art, as far as I’m concerned. The recent spate of reprints, though they serve a noble purpose, remove the original coloring and replace it with garish colors on harsh white paper. Although most of the comics in those days were poorly printed with off-registration rampant there was something beautiful about them too.

You are correct sir!!!

There are chapters on Infantino, Ditko, Kirby, Kane, Kubert, Colan, Steranko, Adams. Personally, the only choice I take issue with is Kubert. Sure, he’s good, but I would have preferred to see Wally Wood in that spot, or Don Heck, or Nick Cardy, or Mike Sekowsky, or Ross Andru, or Werner Roth, or even Barry Windsor-Smith (if only for the immortal Avengers #66-67!)… Anyone care to explain to me why Kubert belongs with the rest of these guys? Schumer’s writing certainly didn’t convince me, and neither did the artwork in that chapter…

But this is more than just a coffeetable book. It actually makes an argument–and rather gracefully too: it’s all done through chapter arrangement; you don’t have to see it if you don’t want to… Unfortunately, it’s an argument I disagree with rather strongly!

Schumer begins with Infantino, describing his work as the acme of streamlined, suburban modernity… Frankly, I call that damning with faint praise. Infantino was more than just Curt Swan/Murphy Anderson-squared! I’ll admit that I’m prejudiced in this regard, and that I’m more familiar with the artist in his post-executive Spider-Woman/The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl/immortal “Trial of the Flash” phase, but I think Schumer is really overemphasizing the “slickness” of Infantino’s work. Sure, the settings (even the ones in space!) are suburban, but these backgrounds are there precisely to play up the dynamism of the agents that move through them! That’s how I see it, anyway (and I did have quite a few of the sixties Flash comics at one time…I loved them! even the “Flashgrams”, which were a far cry from the Bullpen Bulletins, I’ll tell ya!). To be fair, Schumer does allow Infantino to defend himself against the charges of gentility, by printing quotations like this one:

On covers, I felt that … one way to irritate the eye is by creating negative space with shapes. You can put things off-angle. Or you can put a large object in with a tiny object, and that would force the eye to look. And it would offend it, it irritates it a bit, but it takes you in… once you get the person in, you hold them.”

This sounds like Russian formalism. The aim of the artist is to defamiliarize. You take something the reader/viewer knows well (like 1950/60’s suburbia!) and “make it strange”… To me that’s a lot more interesting/challenging than taking a fantasy character like Green Lantern and rubbing his hyper-realistically rendered nose in squalor! Clearly, Schumer disagrees. Implicit in the structure of his book is an argument in favour of a qualitative progression (or, at least, a progression towards “seriousness”) from Infantino to Adams…

Schumer gives Neal Adams the last word on the Silver Age, and I think most of us understand that the “promise” he speaks of was, in fact, more like a prophecy of doom, and the “road” leads right off a cliff, with Jim Lee at the wheel:

You have to think of Kirby’s impact in a general sense. Kirby’s a phenomenon as well as an inspiration. But nobody says they want to draw as well as Kirby. His work is like this kind of wall; it will never get better, it will never get worse. It’s just there–it fulfills itself.

My work is more like a promise. My work says, ‘here’s the road Here are some of the things you can see along the road. And there’s no end to it’

My impact, I think, is on a very personal, individual level. If you do good work and you succeed, the things people take away from it are as individual as they are. The depth of the work was sufficient to reach different sparks in each person.

In a sense, my work said you now have permission to do great art in comic books. That if you think you’re only worthy of producing fine art or becoming great in another field, I now present comic books as potential. The challenge is, this is what I’ve done; what can you do?”

Obviously, Neal Adams’ project did, in a sense, signify the end of the Silver Age… But then, so did Steranko’s, and I have to say I would have preferred to see the book culminate with J.S’s design-revolution, rather than N.A.’s “gritty photo-relevance”. Isn’t a work of art supposed to be a “Wall”, i.e. unique, “Other”? Memorable for what it is, rather than for what it teaches? Gene Colan or Neal Adams? Who’s more interesting? Can there be any doubt? Who the hell wants to go to drawing school when they open up a superhero comic?

Still, it’s an interesting book and very much worth your time!


Good afternoon friends!
Dave

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Prochain Episode


(Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac– Tusk)

I’m not a moper by disposition. What I am is a worrier. Oh, I’m not gonna try to tell you that there hasn’t been a lot of tearful reminiscence and perusal of photo albums around this place for the past couple of days–that was inevitable, given the Husk’s uniqueness and (pantomime) quotability–but the most pronounced effect of this sad event has been an escalation of the “cat health terror level”…

Don’t get me wrong, I know I was lucky to have the Husk for almost eleven years, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish his stay had been much, much longer… And the same goes for my other two feline companions. Simpson is almost ten. Dashiell will be turning nine on April 20th. This numbers game is bad for my head–and even worse for their peace of mind. Since Wednesday, I find I’ve been paying a morbid amount of attention to every move these guys make. These aren’t the “standoffish” cats of satire and cartoon fame–they follow us around anyway, and they respond promptly to my whistle. However, they do require some privacy, and I haven’t really allowed them any. Let’s go Simpson. Eat those pellets! Keep that strength up. Not happy with that water I put out half an hour ago Dash? Wait right there–I’ll get the Brita! Okay, now let’s run around, just to prove we’re all vibrant!

I think we reached some kind of breaking point this morning when Simpson emerged from the litterbox and found me waiting with a bath towel and some shaving supplies…

We’ll be okay. Don’t worry. My seminar paper is coming due and the cats will get some breathing room.

I’ve got big plans for the blog too–I’m stalled at Cerebus #49 (it seems I’m missing more issues than I thought), so I’ll have to hold off on Sim’s opus for a while; in the meantime, I’m going to be writing on the wonderful layers of narrative built (by the likes of Englehart, Stern & Rogers, and Englehart again) upon the FF’s original visit to Rama-Tut’s Egypt in FF #19, the Gwen Stacy clone saga, Roy Thomas’ Dr. Strange, Sorceror Supreme, Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme (hopefully The Forager will beat me to this one and we can have a great discussion about it!), Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again, Clowes’ Ghost World, and maybe Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan too… We’ve got the last three in stock at the store–which I’m at liberty to borrow from. No Cerebus unfortunately… no Teratoid Heights… and, despite my altruistic insistence (I have #1-26 already) that it would sell like hotcakes–no Animal Man either! I hope I can convince the buyer to order The Filth, at least–I certainly do want to own that in TPB, but I don’t want to wait to read it until I can afford to buy it, ’cause that’ll be a while…

Okay. Time to get ready for work. I want to thank all of you who took the time to express your condolences to us. I know there are a lot of bad things going on in the world, but, as far as I’m concerned, there are no small tragedies, and this pain is real. Luckily, so is your kindness.

Good afternoon friends!
Dave

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Thanks for the kind words today people. I really, really appreciate them. Sadly, as we all know, human desires and benevolence are one thing, and reality is quite another… It all happened so quickly and I’m certainly not done adjusting to it yet, but the fact is the Husk is gone… I never made it to work today. Instead, we toured the island in search of hopeful opinions, but there weren’t any to be had. The poor guy was far sicker than I dreamed when I posted my little vignette this morning. No red blood cells. Several organs failing… I don’t know how he managed to be so loving and playful while all of this was happening to his body, unbeknownst to any of us, but that’s how I’m going to remember him. Christine & I were there to hold him when everyone agreed that the suffering had to end… Anyway, I think I’ll take a break from the blog for a few days–just until I find the right frequency to miss him on…

Good night friends
Dave

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Sadness


Hi. I just brought my cat in to the hospital. The Husk. They’re keeping him for observation. They’re afraid it might be his heart. I hope they’re wrong, somehow. We wouldn’t even have a chance if I didn’t have a wonderful girlfriend who agreed to help with the costs. Thanks Christine. Yeah, I know he’s almost eleven and cats don’t live forever, but I really love that guy, and I want him to…

Anyway, I thought the least I could do was cut and paste a little thing I wrote about him on the blog last fall. I think you all would love him too!


The Greyness of the Cat (less offensive than “Husky-Dick”, no?)

When I first got out on my own, almost exactly ten years ago, I thought I might have to go without a pet for a while (for the first time in my life). Income was sporadic at best, and I didn’t think it would be fair to bring a little one into that kind of situation. I resolved to live off the affection-capital of laundry-trips home and the occasional kindness of canine passers-by. But it wasn’t enough. The squirrels at Mount Royal provided some relief, but that was never more than a band-aid solution. The nature channel got me through a few tough nights… But really, as far as I’m concerned, a man without a mammalian familiar is nothing, and the house of such a man is not a home.

I think I was the happiest person in the apartment, when my sister decided to give her boyfriend a kitten for his birthday, in November 1993 (at the time, I was the third-wheel in their domestic arrangement). As I recall, she paid a fair amount of money for the Husk (which seems extremely funny, in retrospect), and he looked it. A glistening gray and white Persian-without-the-pushed-in-Persian face cat, the Husk made us all love him, with his giant whiskers, affectionate tendency to cling to people’s backs whenever they stopped moving, and all-around good-guy attitude. Yes, he liked to climb the Christmas tree, but that’s a forgivable fault in a young puss. And I finally felt like I was living in a real place of my own, instead of in a Ramada Inn without the vibrating bed (I didn’t have a bed at all back then–I had an inflatable pool-raft).

But Dave (my sister’s boyfriend, not me) liked to smoke pot, and he had a lot of friends who liked to smoke pot, while listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, on repeat, endlessly… I don’t think the Husk wanted any part of this scene, but he often didn’t have a choice. Many was the time I came home from wherever I was going back then, only to find our beloved kitten squirming in the arms of an ardent (but very slow-moving) pursuer. They were just having fun. No one wanted to hurt the Husk. But eventually they did. Of course. I was washing dishes one night, when I heard a squeal that drowned out even the Floyd and the Nintendo. When I got to the living room, I found Dave leaning over the half-grown cat, inspecting a gnarled paw, saying: “Man, I think he hurt himself…” The paw was broken. The poor little guy had to wear a little cat-cast for weeks. And when it came off, he wasn’t quite his old self. He had developed a habit of pissing. To express his cat-anger. I don’t know how he did it, but he usually managed to pinpoint the things that meant the most to Dave. It was awesome to behold.

One bright, cold winter’s day, I came home and felt that something was missing. I turned to Dave, who was the only other person there, and asked: “Where’s the Husk?” He replied: “He’s being punished.” I looked everywhere. I did not find the Husk. I seriously considered attacking Dave. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to physical assault. My sister got there just in time to get the bastard to admit he had sequestered the cat on the back balcony for hours. Just because a jogging suit got pissed on. Anyway, eventually, my sister left the guy, and when the three of us went our separate ways, I was told that, unless I adopted the cat, he would be executed. Everyone had grown tired of the Husk. His pissing had begun to spread beyond military targets. I took him, of course. He did piss on a box of my favourite old movies, but most of them still played, and he still loved to perch on my back, when I was reading.



I moved in with my friend Ingrid. She had a kitten of her own. A female. Named Simpson. The Husk had never been fixed. Income remained sporadic. If anything, the problem was worse than before, because my chronic tonsillitis had become one continuous fever, and I didn’t have much energy. Somehow, we all scraped by. And we adopted a stray kitten, named Arizona. Also a female. When my sister moved onto our couch, the Husk remembered her. And he never missed a piece of her clothing, when she left one on the floor, which was, basically, every day.



The female kittens approached maturity. The Husk took notice. And appropriate action. I got a job at the National Film Board for a little while, and used some of the money to put an end to his sexual desires. Or so I thought. The Husk began to let the girls alone. But he took a real liking to my Care Bear. And my friend Cara’s leg. Well, he had always liked her leg, but the bear thing was new. And then both Simpson and Arizona gave birth to Husk’s progeny.



We found homes for them all. (My youngest, and most perfect–Dashiell–was among these, but I like to think that, since I was more of a father to him than his biological parent, he takes after me). But the Husk continued to fuck stuffed animals and piss in places he shouldn’t, although, once my sister left, it was usually only when my litter-box maintenance fell below his standards.



There were other misadventures. Ingrid’s little friend Gary left the front door wide open one day, and the Husk wandered off. In mid-January. For almost two weeks. It gets very cold in Montreal, at that time of year. I looked for him everywhere. Because I love that little bastard, can’t you tell? Finally, Gary redeemed himself, by finding the AWOL beast, roosting, Wakefield-like, in the laneway behind the house… We all whooped joyously and gave him a warm bath.



Since then, the Husk hasn’t bothered to groom himself at all. If I don’t trim his long fur, it gets dread-locked in a hurry. He’s still a leg-man. And he still pisses on the floor occasionally. And my house would still suck without him.


Thanks for listening friends
Have a good day
Dave

untitled

“I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of people. The fucked up good and the fucked up bad.”

(Soundtrack: The Amps– Pacer)

I read Seth’s It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken a few days ago, and I quite liked it…

Unfortunately, since I then proceeded to read this:

am now immersed in this:

and expect to read this very soon:

I’m not really in the best frame of mind to give Seth his due. He is no, I say, no Dave Sim–as good as Will Eisner, that is…

Which doesn’t mean his book isn’t worth discussing. It certainly is!

The title for this post comes from page 129 of IAGLIYDW. The words are spoken by “Seth” himself, in conversation with his friend “Chet”. The rest of the observation goes like this:

You see. Everybody’s fucked up. Everybody has had traumas in their life to deal with. With most people these traumas mess them up inside…but a few people they come through even better adjusted somehow… I mean they haven’t developed damaging emotional problems… I envy you Chet… I’m not one of the lucky ones…

This is hardcore Calvinism (minus God) in modern dress–and, obviously, I can get behind that! But where do we go from there? I can really empathize with Seth’s sense of being “out of phase” with the present, his “nostalgia issues”–obsession with old New Yorker cartoonists, preference for “old-fashioned” values and costumes, tendency to turn any place he visited in the past into a shrine. This is just a way to graft an existential problem onto world history… The real trouble is–despite the fact that memory is a real place, no one has ever found a way to get there!

So “Seth” (and Seth) muddles along through beautiful drawings, groping for the ineffable, until he (& we) stumbles across THE (dual) MESSAGE (voiced by the wizened old remnants of Kalo’s world): “When you get to my age, you realize that everything mattered” (155)/ “A little misery is good for the soul” (163). Now, I agree with this stuff too! And I can readily believe that the eye responsible for this blue-shadowed world is as compassionate/sharp as anyone could want–otherwise we wouldn’t have these panels…

But where’s the trauma?

This is the first extended look that I’ve taken at any of Seth’s work–so maybe I’m being unfair and “the eye of the storm” is elsewhere, but, as a self-contained narrative, IAGLIYDW just doesn’t do it for me. You can’t just assume that readers are going to nod and say, “yeah man, trauma… I been there dude, no need to show us none o’ that!” I don’t know–am I asking for too much? Or something too strange? Personally, I can’t begin to consider a work of art “great” unless it conveys some sense of crisis. No wonder this guy’s fixated upon the American Renaissance, right? Yeah, I guess… However, it seems to me that Seth is living off of the interest generated by the “misery”, without providing ANY of the emotional “capital” that makes “everything meaningful”–and that’s cheating! I’m certainly open to reading more Seth. Can anyone tell me if he presents a more complete picture elsewhere? Please let me know!

On a (sort of) related note: There have been a few sales of my novel Darkling I Listen through Amazon lately! Since everyone I know in the flesh already bought one quite some time ago, I have to assume that this new action is owing to the blog! Thanks friends! Whomever you are!

“Unorthodox Economic Revenge!”

Good afternoon
Dave