Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One of These Things Is Not Like The Other One

Superman, as originally conceived, as a force for the common man, as an answer to the mindless tyranny with which his name (as a term) had come to be identified, as a foe of corruption and injustice, as the embodiment of FDR-style liberalism and the epitome of the notion that one individual can, should and must, of necessity, make a difference; in all this Superman ... Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman... the only true Superman... stands as a beacon of freedom shining as brightly for an adult who holds the ideals of the character sacred as he does for a child seeing him and learning them for the first time. As a symbol of the nearly limitless power of imagination, he has inspired creators for five decades to take up pen and brush in pursuit of excellence, to weave our tapestry once more. To aspire; that one day we might know a tenth... a hundredth of the greatness implied in knowing you are Jerry Siegel. You are Joe Shuster. You are the creators of Superman. And that no monumental and tragic injustice can strip you of that mantle. As comic book creators, this is our greatest heritage...and our greatest debt.

Dave Sim (1988)



Past the age of ten, I realized that the
comic book medium was my thing. Superman was just something I read as a kid. As I said to Chester Brown, I have a bunch of my old Superman comic books. It's pleasurable to flip through them once in a while. But, Chet, if I ever read the stuff and say, "This is so good!" Please. Shoot me. For Wendy [Pini], it was her friends. The Fantastic Four were her friends. The Silver Surfer was her friend. Batman wasn't her friend. The way she connects with wolves. In her mind, she has more in common with wolves that she has with Richard. The more influence women are given in society the more pecular stuff like that gets moved to the center and the weirder everything starts to get.

Dave Sim (2004)

7 comments:

  1. Those women and their strange fixations with Superman and the Fantastic Four!

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  2. Maybe this is a good sign? "Women are weird; men are normal" is about as mainstream and traditional as misogyny gets. It's odious and stupid but it's arguably less mad than the female-homosexualist-communitarian-void -demiurge.

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  3. Well, I think what he has actually done is

    a: Made an observation "Wendy Pini thinks about comic characters as if they were real people, and judges a comic on the basis of which characters she wants to have as imaginary friends, where as I tend to look at the comic as a piece of art work, from the outside."

    b: Extended that to "There are two kinds of people: those who think of fictitious characters as imaginary friends, and those who view them from the outside."

    c: Added: "My example of a person in the first category was a woman. Therefore, all women read comics in the first way, and all men read comics in the second way."

    d: "Except, of course, those men who do read comics in the second way: but they are ones who have become feminized." (All Scotsmen put salt on their porridge.)

    e: "So the first way of reading is the female way of reading, and the second way of reading is the male way of reading."

    f: "Therefore women shouldn't have the vote."

    (He did this in so many words in his notes on the Hemmingway section of "Cerebus": Hemmingway's wife apparently didn't understand how serious the African taboo against bush-meat was, and ate lion in front of a native. Sim adds "And they gave these creatures the vote?" Which, admittedly, from anyone else, could have been quite a good joke.

    The problem is, of course, that the first insight (is Spider-Man a real person you have a pretend relationship with, or some ink on a page that you are looking at) is perfectly valid; and (don't hit me) some of the literature which most depends on the first approach (soap-opera, say) could be relatively unmisogynistically described as "for women" or "women's writing."

    I suspect that if I'd been making the same point I would have said that imagining that Spider-Man or Winnie-the-Pooh or Doctor Who was a "real" person was an essentially "childish" way of reading; and that people who are only capable of reading in that way, or who only read stories which are capable of being read in that way, are essentially childish individuals. As C.S Lewis said in a different context: "I wouldn't believe it very strongly, but some sort of case could probably be made."

    But that editorial from 1988 puts into words exactly what I've been feeling reading the Golden Age Superman material. So maybe Dave Sim the guy who wrote some of the best essays on comics I've ever read could get a bit of air-time along with Dave Sim the guy who thinks that women shouldn't have the vote because Wendy Pini is a bit of a touchy feely hippy fangirl.

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  4. "the more pecular stuff like that gets moved to the center and the weirder everything starts to get."

    It's all a bit the pot calling the kettle a living tool of the feminine anti-God that, surely?

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  5. So maybe Dave Sim the guy who wrote some of the best essays on comics I've ever read could get a bit of air-time along with Dave Sim the guy who thinks that women shouldn't have the vote because Wendy Pini is a bit of a touchy feely hippy fangirl.

    I take your point... but if you juxtapose (for example):

    "People are often skeptical of evolution because it's difficult to grasp the cumulative effect of many slight changes over a very long time."

    and:

    "Religion is really a sort of brain virus."

    ...then it's not very hard to guess which way the discussion will tend.


    ...some of the literature which most depends on the first approach (soap-opera, say) could be relatively unmisogynistically described as "for women" or "women's writing."

    ...and quite a lot isn't, of course. In the sterotype, it's a fanboy who asks Harrison Ford what it was like being frozen in carbonite. But I think you're just explaining Dave Sim's odd reasoning here?

    Sim adds "And they gave these creatures the vote?" Which, admittedly, from anyone else, could have been quite a good joke.

    Here we differ, I think. Try mentally substituting a black person or a servant for Hemmingway's wife to see what's wrong.

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  6. But I think you're just explaining Dave Sim's odd reasoning here?

    Yes. And also observing that he starts out with an arguable point and generalizes it to infinity. "Women rely more on emotion; men more on reasoning" may or may not be true, but it's not offensively misogynistic. But it rapidly becomes "Women are purely emotional; men are purely rational" "Emotion is female, thought is male" and in the end, "Emotion is bad, thought is good"

    Here we differ, I think. Try mentally substituting a black person or a servant for Hemmingway's wife to see what's wrong.

    I think you miss my point. If I were to say something like "I've just come back from a Lenny Henry gig, and I'll never say anything nice about William Wilberforce again" you'd instantly understand to me to be making a joke against myself, because the reaction is comically out of proportion to the cause -- no rational person could possibly go from "This comedian was not funny" to "Let's bring back slavery". If anyone else on earth had gone from "Here is an example of a silly woman" to "Women's suffrage was a big mistake", you would assume that they were saying "Ha-ha, funny me, overacting." Dave means it.

    A lot of jokes involve breaking taboos and saying bad things. We laugh at cock jokes because we're embarrassed by nudity, not because we're naturists. Taking bad taste jokes at face value may occassionally be a necessary tactic, but its the kind of thing people have in mind when they complain about plitticle kreckness.

    How many feminists does it take to change a light-bulb?

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  7. ....which gives me an excuse to quote one of my favorite poems.

    Fellow men! why should the lords try to despise
    And prohibit women from having the benefit of the parliamentary Franchise?
    When they pay the same taxes as you and me,
    I consider they ought to have the same liberty.

    ...

    And in my opinion, such treatment is very cruel;
    And fair play, 'tis said, is a precious jewel;
    But such treatment causes women to fret and to dote,
    Because they are deprived of the parliamentary Franchise vote.

    ...

    And as for the working women, many are driven to the point of starvation,
    All through the tendency of the legislation;
    Besides, upon members of parliament they have no claim
    As a deputation, which is a very great shame.

    ...

    And that, in my opinion, is really very unjust;
    But the time is not far distant, I most earnestly trust,
    When women will have a parliamentary vote,
    And many of them, I hope, will wear a better petticoat.

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