Thursday, November 10, 2022

Episode VI + VII

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is, in complicated ways, unfinished. Sim sustained an apparently unexplained wrist injury which means he can no longer draw. The final pages of the comic are blue-tinted, to indicate that a second contributor, Carson Grubaugh, has taken over from Sim. (He isn't a believer in Sim's theories, but thinks there is something to them. Skeptical but spooked, he says.) Grubaugh is working from Sim's layouts -- big double page spreads (very reminiscent of parts of J.H Williams 's work on  Promethea) -- mapping the swirling influences of the metaphysical wassissname across history. It turns out that George Herriman launched five unsuccessful comic strips before Krazy Kat (which some people consider to be the greatest comic of all time). These five strips came out around the time of Alex Raymond's birth. This is

"either a comic arts metaphysics pentagram intended to encompass the new born Alex Raymond or a nearly unimaginably intricate five fold metaphysical foreshadowing coincidence"

A message from Sim to his Patreon supporters, explaining why The Strange Death of Alex Raymond will never be published, is part of the text: correspondence between him and publisher Sean Michael Robinson, encouraging him to carry on with it, are part of the afterword. The final correspondence talks in terms of a second volume that Dave is still working on. So although we get a fair idea of what Sim is driving at, we are a long way from having heard the whole theory. If everything connects to everything else, the whole theory is probably unachievable, in any case. If we get another 300 pages of this kind of material in five years time, I shall certainly read it, but I don't know if I will be particularly sad if it never happens. (I'd rather get more Beanworld.) 

It's all nonsense; in the same way that Objectivism is nonsense and the theory that the world ended in CE 70 and we are living in a divine hologrqm is nonsense. In the same way that talking to a sock-puppet snake or eating the body and blood of a dead Jewish hippy is nonsense. Sim thinks that the connections are so overwhelming as to rule out coincidence. I suppose that we could refute him by using the "look elsewhere" argument: are car crashes and the name Margaret more common 1949 comic books than at any other time? Is Margaret more common as a woman's name in those issues than anywhere else? Could we take a sample of comic books from some other date and find proof of some other metaphysical event: say, that Noddy is dead or that Paul McCartney is the son of God? 

But that's probably orthogonal to what Sim is doing. Proving that coincidences aren't statistically significant doesn't prove, to the true believer, that Things are not all fundamentally interconnected. Richard Dawkins says that things which people pray for don't happen with any more statistical frequency than things which people don't; that Queen Elizabeth II, who everyone in England had to pray for by law, didn't live any longer than lots of old ladies for whom no one was petitioning the almighty. I think a lot of fair minded people read that and say "You may be right; but I think you may have missed the point of prayer."

I read Watchmen and Promethea and From Hell and I feel that the Universe is a huge and complex web of symbols; even, if I don't in fact believe it. I am inside Alan Moore's head, and its an interesting place to visit even though I wouldn't want to live there. One of the reasons that C.S Lewis is so loved and so hated is that anyone reading about the death of Aslan feels (experiences, lives) the Christian doctrine of the Atonement. All I feel reading the Strange Death of Alex Raymond is that I am being bludgeoned over the head by an overwhelming quantity of facts. 


Stephen Medcalf was one of the English tutors when I was at Sussex University. He had been a pupil of Hugo (fuck-not-an-elf) Dyson: I wish I had known that at the time. (Why, says Sim elsewhere, do we get so quick old and so slow smart?) One cold February he found a baby girl abandoned in a telephone box. If he had not been passing, the baby would certainly have died; I think he became her godfather. He later described how incredibly unlikely it was that he should have gone for a walk on that particular day, and taken that particular route, and even noticed that there was something in the phone booth. 

"I do, as it happens" he said "Think the event was providential. I do not mean that if I did not already believe in providence this event would have made me do so, but that, since I have that belief, the event fits readily to it."

Flash, I love you: but we only have eighteen hours to save the earth. 


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

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1 comment:

crazyyears said...

As an avid Dave Sim fan, yet not an acolyte, I appreciated your review quite a bit.

I own many iterations of SDOAR, some soft, some hard, some remarked, and with each new iteration I read, I have never gotten anything more out of it than I did the first time, which is to say that Dave's penchant for seeing the connections that no one else can see continues to be a talent that he is unable to successfully teach to others, or to convincingly wield himself. It is, as you say, nonsense.

But I shore does think it's purty!

Michael Hunt