Showing posts with label Dave Sim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dave Sim. Show all posts

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.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

 Pledge £1 for each essay.

My extended Essay on Cerebus the Aardvark is available from Lulu press. 

Episode V

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. 

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is subtitled "a metaphysical history of comics photorealism". 

The term "metaphysical" keeps cropping up. Alex Raymond is "the first human being to methodically and purposefully shatter the metaphysical realism barrier", apparently. 

In philosophy, metaphysics means questions about what is really, really, real -- as opposed to epistemology, which answers questions about how we know what we know, and ethics, which is about, well, ethics. Sim seems to be using the word to mean something like "underlying reality" -- what Douglas Adams called "the fundamental interconnectedness" of things. Dirk Gently, you will remember, saw the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. 

Does one historical person share a name with another historical person? They may have a "metaphysical enactment relationship". Does a character in a comic strip resemble a real person? It can be said to be a "metaphysical comic art portrayal of them." 

The back cover blurb talks about "meta-textual resonances". A meta-text is a text which talks about itself; very often a book which knows that it is a book. One of the things which distinguishes human language from mere signalling is that you can use language to talk about language; where you can't -- say -- use road signs to talk about road signs. (I suppose a sign which said Important Sign In Half A Mile might be meta-sign. )

I do wonder if the two words -- metaphysics and metatext -- have become connected or confused in the writer's mind.

Raymond's death was so significant that it sent out "tendrils" forwards and backwards through time, leaving traces and connections that can be discovered by anyone who looks for them. Another historical road crash, or a comic strip depicting a road crash, can be said to have been caused by, or caused, the one which killed the creator of Flash Gordon. Sim plays with the idea of cause and effect: a particular comic is significant because Ward Green "will write it..he always wrote it..always had written it. It affects events in his past, which is...his present, and which is simultaneously...his future." (Alan Moore did a similar thing around Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen.) 

Further, characters in real life "incarnate" themselves in texts: sometimes because a real person has been depicted in a comic book; but sometimes because a comic book character happens to resemble a real person.

These connections can be very obscure indeed. The main character in a Joe Simon/ Jack Kirby romance comic called "I was a pick up" somewhat resembles a character called Pagan Lee who appears in Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby. This character somewhat resembles Margaret Mitchell. Sim sees this as highly significant. 

"The comic arts metaphysic of Ward Green's fictionalisation in Rip Kirby of the March Hare Tea Shop Margaret Mitchell as Pagan Lee (the leeward side of Mitchell's intrinsically pagan self) seems to cause the March Hare Tea Shop Margaret Mitchell to...sprout elsewhere in other comic art as well."

Ward Green was the head of King Features Syndicate which published Flash Gordon; he wrote the scripts for Rip Kirby. The March Hare Tea Shop was a speakeasy that Margaret Mitchell frequented.

Now, this kind of pattern formation can be creatively fruitful. It is pretty much the whole basis of Watchmen. Moore believes that magic and creative writing both draw connections between disparate things: connections which did not exist before the magus or poet made them, but which are thereafter real. 

I have referred before to Sim's theory that the secret history of Christianity is encoded in the history of nineteen sixties pop music. James (Paul McCartney) and John (Lennon) kick Peter (Best) out of the band; the apostle Peter vacillated between two rival Christs (like a Rolling Stone); once Jesus has died, what you are left with is Peter, Paul and Mary. There is a genuine wit and cleverness to that: we can enjoy watching Dave Sim extract rabbits from hats. (Who is the Jesus analogue in the Beatles? The Jewish man in charge of the whole group?? Well, didn't George Harrison sink a lot of money into a film about an imposter-Messiah entitled Life of...Brian???) And those of us who managed to get right through Promethea may have some knowledge-by-acquaintance of Moore's deeply held believe that everything is a symbol of everything else. But it is also a story, with a plot and characterisation and narrative development and all the stuff you expect there to be a in a story. It may not convert us to ritual magic and path-working, but it stands as a worthwhile, if pretty obscure, work of art. An artefact as well as a statement: a thing made as well as a thing said. (The Middle English word for Poet was "maker".) 

I have argued at too much length that I think that Cerebus the Aardvark, despite its obscurity, difficulty and increasingly toxic ideology, stands as an astonishing work of art. 

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond? Not so much.

The purpose of the Strange Death of Alex Raymond is to tell us about this thing called Comic Book Metaphysics. Sim truly thinks that if he tells us about all the connections he has made -- and he honestly thinks that these connections are real and undeniable and that once they have been pointed out no-one will deny them or put them down to coincidence -- we will understand how the artist died and believe that this is how the universe works. 

Tell, at massive length: don't show.

I don't know whether he thinks that every death is at the center of an equally complex metaphysical web, or if Alex Raymond is a unique world historical figure. Probably the latter. The whole universe revolving around a single artist of genius. You can see why Dave Sim would be attracted to that idea.

I am not sure if I should reveal Alex Raymond's significance. It is an odd thing to be writing spoiler warnings for what is essentially an extended essay: but my jaw did genuinely drop when we came to The Point. In the same way my jaw dropped when Dave said that Cerebus was going to finish on issue 200, rather than 300; in the same way it dropped when Cerebus turned inside out and we were in Dave's studio, and Cerebus was a comic within a comic.

Maybe if you are the sort of person who thinks you might read this sort of thing you should skip the rest of my meta-essay? (Disclaimers apply. Do not feed the troll.)

Perhaps as much as a third of the comic is spent talking about Margaret Mitchell, the author (Sim insists on saying authoress) of Gone With the Wind. She also died in a car accident, five years before Raymond, and lots of comics around the time of her death seem to depict car crashes, near car crashes, characters called Margaret, characters with the initials MM and characters who resemble Margaret Mitchell or have affinities with her life. On page 244-247 Sim departs from his normal hand written lettering to show us a series of huge, headline like frontispieces, about a woman from eighteenth century Ireland who was prosecuted for witchcraft. (She is sometimes called The Last Witch in Ireland. She wasn't executed, but she was put in the stocks every day for a year while Irish people threw hard-boiled eggs at her.) Her name, of course, was Margaret Mitchell.

"Had Margaret Mitchell just been a contemporary iteration of an infernal presence in our world that dates back to the eighteenth century? Is that what had caused the weird outbreak of Margaret Mitchell analogues in comic books cover dated August-September 1949? Or was the motivating force behind these otherwise inexplicable manifestations Ward Green's obsessive and magnified focus on Margaret Mitchell?"

Why is the story of the woman who wrote Gone With The Wind of relevance to the story of the man who drew Flash Gordon? Because (apparently) Ward Green, had tried to come to an arrangement to adapt Gone With the Wind as a comic book. (Mitchell did, in fact, write the first few episodes of a comic book soap opera which was illustrated by Stan Drake: the only fiction she wrote after her famous novel.) Gone With the Wind was a massively successful book that had been turned into a massively successful movie; so the pairing of Mitchell with the massively successful artist Alex Raymond would have been a very big deal.

However, Ward Green was (it says here) an unreconstructed racist, and possibly an occult dabbler as well, so a Ward adaptation of Gone With the Wind would probably have been a thorough going Confederate apologia, rather than merely an exercise in Southern Nostalgia. If such a famous artist had illustrated such a work -- with a readership amounting to practically every adult in America....

SPOILER SPOLIER SPOILIER would have resulted in a Confederate Revival and a new civil war in the 20th century. 



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.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

 Pledge £1 for each essay.

My extended Essay on Cerebus the Aardvark is available from Lulu press. 

Episode IV

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is more like an extended essay than a graphic novel. The text, sometimes in captions and sometimes in balloons, reads a lot like one of Sim's editorials or back-of-the-book text-pieces from the days of Cerebus. Some people will find that more off-putting than I did: I have always found Sim's prose style readable and engaging and indeed powerful. The Viktor Davies material directly prior to the explosive Tangents essay was an astonishing piece of prose by anyone's standards. (Disclaimers. Troll.)

There is some attempt to frame the essay in a narrative: a female comic-shop owner keeps finding copies of the comic in her shop. There is a very Dave moment when she herself realises that she doesn't have anything to do with the story, and also becomes physically aware of Dave's brush drawing her. This is the only part of the work that feels like a conventional graphic novel or a sequential narrative and serves to remind us just how fucking good Dave is at this sort of thing.

What do you do when you have finished the telling the six thousand page life story of a barbarian aardvark who becomes Prime Minister and Pope, founds a religion, dies alone, unmourned and unloved and then goes to hell? Obviously, you start to study fashion, and draw pictures of models in high-class outfits while learning the techniques of photorealistic artwork and researching the history of photorealistic comic strips. 
And gosh, the resultant artwork is stunning, even by Dave Sim's own high standards. He says that the picture of the lady in the diaphanous blouse on page twenty five is the best thing he's ever drawn, and he may be right. Given Dave's views on male/female relationships, the text around these pictures in the original Glamourpuss comic was pretty -- broad -- although by no means uniformly unfunny. (Disclaimers. Troll.) That hyper masculine Dave Sim was studying Vogue was superficially amusing: but he seemed to genuinely think the fashion designs were beautiful. 

QUERY: Has Dave Sim seen Mrs Harris Goes To Paris?

The comic was not a commercial success (leading to Sim, if I recall correctly, telling the world that he was going to quit illustration and become a copper miner) but the historical sections form the basis for this new work. All this is rather taken for granted in the opening sections of the Strange Death of Alex Raymond. If I had known nothing about Dave Sim, Cerebus, or Glamourpuss, I might have been a little bamboozled by it. 

This is a wider flaw in the book. Sim takes a lot for granted. I know my comic book history better than I imagine you do, and have actually read Flash Gordon, but "Terry and the Pirates" is really just a name to me. This stuff was incredibly mainstream in its day, but is now merely archival material; like old radio shows and old B movies.

Sim says that Alex Raymond, Hal Foster (Prince Valiant) and Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) are the great trinity of photo-realistic newspaper strip artists. They drew in incredible detail; their art was seen by huge numbers of readers (we're talking, like, thirty million); they were very well paid, but they had to work incredibly hard. Almost uniquely in the history of American comics, their material was read by, and directed towards, adults as well as kids.

Sim has studied Raymond's artwork very closely indeed. Raymond was famous among other artists for his very fine brushwork. Sim, by experimenting, works out that he must have been loading his brush with ink, and then painting a tiny rectangle in order to bring the the bristles to a very fine point. (The normal approach was to moisten the brush with water, bring it to a point, and then put a tiny drop on the end -- which gave you much less line for your time.) And, sure enough, he finds lots of tiny rectangles in the shading on some of the fine-lined strips.

This is fascinating stuff, assuming it is the sort of stuff you are fascinated by. Not all of us can keep the distinctions between Non Stylised Realism, Stylised Realism and Cartoon Realism clear in our heads; or quite keep track of why Jack Kirby was part of the Raymond school where Neal Adams was more a follower of Caniff but Sim is the master of his craft, and it is always exciting to hear one master craftsman talk about the work of another.

But it is clear that Sim has studied the material in such minute detail that he has started to see things which are not actually there. Do not gaze for too long into the ultra fine brush-lines or the ultra fine brush-lines will gaze into you. 

Everything turns on a photograph of Alex Raymond shaking hands with Milton Caniff, on the occassion of his appointment as president of the National Cartoonists Society. Sim becomes convinced that the body language in the picture indicates a complex tension between the two men. His minute study of the artwork makes him believe that Raymond was swiping certain techniques from Caniff, even though, as the far superior artist, he didn't need to. Caniff would have resented this, which is why the handshake in the picture looks so awkward. 

When the Death of Alex Raymond was part of Glamourpuss, I thought Sim was going for a straightforward conspiracy theory: that Caniff had somehow had Raymond murdered in revenge for artistic theft, or that Raymond had committed suicide out of remorse. 

But that would be far too simple. It seems that the universe killed Raymond to pay a kind of karmic debt.


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.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

 Pledge £1 for each essay.

My extended Essay on Cerebus the Aardvark is available from Lulu press. 

Episode III

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is completely unhinged. But it is interestingly unhinged. At the very least, it is a structural wonder, and of course the artwork is beautiful.

It's one of those texts which is a monument to its own composition; and to the impossibility of its completion. The introduction, by Eddie Campbell, compares it with Tristram Shandy, the book which is so full of digressions that the main character has not been born by the final chapter. The back cover places it somewhere between Alan Moore's From Hell and Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. Bryan Talbot's Alice In Sunderland is another obvious comparison. Eddie Campbell collaborated with Alan Moore on From Hell. He also said that Who Sent The Sentinels was the best thing that has ever been written about Watchmen. 

It starts with an account of its own genesis, as one strand in a comic called Glamourpuss. It ends with a collaborator,  Carson Grubaugh, writing "This is as far as Dave got" and trying to add some sort of closure based on Dave's sketches and notes. Cerebus, by the end, was a comic about a comic; with the Earth-Pig consciously aware that he was being drawn by someone called Dave. The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is about how Alex Raymond, and others, made comics; but it is also about how Dave Sim made, or failed to make, the Strange Death of Alex Raymond.

I don't think I understand it. I certainly wouldn't presume to review it. I will, at least, attempt to describe it.

On September 6th 1956, Alex Raymond, creator of Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, Secret Agent X-9 and latterly Rip Kirby, was killed in a car crash. He was driving his friend Stan Drake's car over the speed limit and crashed into a tree. Stan Drake survived.

Sim makes out a decent case that accounts of the accident are inconsistent. It is said that Raymond accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the break in an unfamiliar vehicle: but how -- asks Dave -- can you mistake the accelerator when the car is already moving at speed? Sim thinks that the accounts of the death are so strange that the truth has become occluded. Not, you understand, through a conspiracy or a cover up. More a kind of mass delusion.

"Everyone -- everyone -- in a mass schizophrenic episode had ...fled... mentally from the accident and has stayed "fled" from it throughout the ensuing decades."

He thinks that Alex Raymond was such an important person and his death was of such significance that the universe -- what he calls "comic book metaphysics" have conspired to avoid confronting the truth.

“To understand why it is necessary to examine Alex Raymond’s metaphysical significance in our world’s history."

So that is what the books is about. Not about how Flash Gordon and Prince Valiant influenced Thor and the Green Lantern. Not about Dave Sim rediscovering lost and neglected newspaper strips. Not about which kinds of brushes and pens different artists used. About the metaphysical significance the creator of Flash Gordon had in human history.

The book is notably free from Sim's directly religious speculations. In Cerebus, he developed a complicated Marcionite theory that the Bible, and indeed all of history, is a sort of allegorical debate between the primary God and a secondary demiurge called YOOHOO (i.e the YHWH of the Old Testament). But if God and Yoohoo were trading allegories over Alex Raymond's car crash, he doesn't say so in this volume.

Most Christians regard occult and magick as decidedly Bad Things, but Sim doesn't seem to see any particular conflict between his metaphysical ideas and his religious beliefs. A long, long time ago, Alan Moore told Dave Sim that converting to Christianity was like becoming fluent in Russian, where being initiated into ritual magick was more like taking a PhD in structural linguistics. There is a lot more of Alan Moore in Dave Sim and a lot more of Dave Sim in Alan Moore than either side would probably admit.

There's not that much of Sim's gender-theory in this book, either, for which we should thank our deity of choice. He talks about a 1952 science fiction comic strip called Twin Earths, in which our planet is visited by the inhabitants of a more technologically advanced twin. He notes that (astonishingly) some of the technological predictions in the strip have come true (moving side walks, movable domed covers on stadiums, GPS navigation, the internet) but that some of them have not (miniature pets, extracting minerals from sea water, teleportation). But he then suggests that, the things which have not happened have simply not happened yet: some of the strips predictions may come through in the future. 

He notices that one of the male characters in Twin Earths wears a skirt. And he notices that one of the pieces of technology is a device which can read people's thoughts, determine if a person is thinking in the wrong way, and subsequently brainwash them. 

"For all of you who believe I shouldn't be allowed to think that there's something wrong with a man wearing a skirt, definitely something to look forward to."

Remarks like this simply shift the burden of proof: a standard technique for any dull right-wing pundit. It's not that different from saying that a bakeries selling veggie sausage roles is infringing our right to eat meat. It's a smallish step from there to saying that the real evil is not racism, but people who think that racism is evil. 

Dave: no-one is saying that you shouldn't be allowed to think that only people with penises ought to wear pants: they are saying that they believe that your thoughts in that regard are wrong and mistaken.

But on the other hand, it's a good example of what Dave does so well as a writer and a rhetorician. Speaking directly to the audience: responding to a probable objection to something which he has just said before the objection has been raised. (Ironically this creates the illusion that he can read our thoughts...) It takes you aback, a little bit. And there is a deprecating wit to the self-characterisation, a little like the "evil, mad" Dave Sim riff in Glamourpuss.

Usual disclaimers about whether praise for the form of an argument implies endorsement of its content -- about whether it is inconsistent to blame a writer for saying a bad thing and simultaneously praise him for saying it very cleverly -- can be taken for granted. Please do not feed the troll.


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.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

 Pledge £1 for each essay.

My extended Essay on Cerebus the Aardvark is available from Lulu press. 

Episode II

 I saw Star Wars when it first came out in 1977. It was very good.

It was generally accepted that Star Wars was pretty heavily derived from something called Flash Gordon. The BBC started to show the old movie serials on kids' Saturday morning TV. So I saw Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, and they were very good.

The serials were based on an old comic strip by someone called Alex Raymond: and lo, the Observer Colour Supplement started to reprint Flash Gordon in the Ice Kingdom on a weekly basis, and I read Flash Gordon and the Ice Kingdom, and behold, it was very good.

Flash Gordon was quite heavily influenced by the Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Borroughs; and behold, W.H Smiths had paperback editions of the Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Borroughs in their science fiction section; and I bought a Princess of Mars and the Gods of Mars, and I read a Princess of Mars and the Gods of Mars, and behold, they were very good.

Alex Raymond is a terrific artist. If you don't know the comic book or the Buster Crabbe serial you have certainly seen the Dino De Laurentiis movie, which is not very good at all, but does have a terrific theme song.  

About the time Star Wars was coming out, a Canadian named Dave Sim was launching a comic called Cerebus. Cerebus was based on Barry Smith and Roy Thomas's Conan the Barbarian, which were based on Robert E Howard's pulps, which were based (among other things) on Edgar Rice Borroughs sagas. Roy Thomas who wrote the Conan comics also wrote a John Carter comic. So Cerebus and Star Wars, which both came out in the same year, are conceptual descendants of Flash Gordon. 

What are the chances?


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.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

 Pledge £1 for each essay.

My extended Essay on Cerebus the Aardvark is available from Lulu press. 

Episode I

There was a thing called the Bible code, wasn't there? If you take the text of one book of the Bible and print it in a single long line, and then print the same text in a long column, and then fill in all the other letters so it forms a massive grid, and then start doing word searches, all kinds of surprising phrases turn up. "President Kennedy Will Be Shot" "Eleventh September Very Bad" "Liz Truss Likes Pork." What are the chances? 

Very high, as it turns out. There are about three million letters in the Bible, and three million squared is about nine thousand billion. The chance of any particular seven letter word coming up at random is about one in eight billion, so any eight letter combination of letters ought to be in there about one thousand one hundred and twenty five times. Hebrew doesn't have vowels, and the words don't have to to be adjacent and you are allowed to skip letters. You could do the same trick with Moby Dick. 

I just came across the story on the interwebs of a skeptic who decided to see if palm-reading works. Palmistry is a fairly closed system compared with other divination techniques: there is a high chance that two analysts will interpret the same lines in the same way. To his surprise, he found that the system worked astonishingly well: his clients told him that he was reading their personality and biography with remarkable accuracy. This made him wonder if there might perhaps be something in fortune-telling after all. But to double-check he tried the experiment of telling clients the opposite of what the almanack taught. If good fortune was prophesied by a wiggly line, he warned them of hard times to come. If the health line was strong and virile, he told them they were in danger of getting sick. And -- spoiler alert -- they continued to tell him that his readings were astonishingly accurate.

Many British tabloid newspapers publish astrological columns: often superficial "sun sign" astrology, but sometimes very detailed horoscope readings by practitioners who know their celestial onions. The most famous, and therefore most investigated, celebrity of the 1980s was Diana, Princess of Wales. She famously and tragically died in a car crash, provoking a crisis for the British monarchy. Not one astrologer warned her in advance that 31 August 1997 was inauspicious: but after the event they were all able to spot the astrological data they had missed.
In the sixteenth century a French physician named Nostradamus wrote:

"Because they disapproved of his divorce,
A man who later they considered unworthy;
The People will force out the King of the islands; 
A Man will replace who never expected to be king."

No twenty-first century English person can possibly read these lines and not make a connection with King Charles III, Princess Diana, Queen Camilla and Prince Harry. They simply can't. But if Charles lives to be as old as his Mum and William V succeeds without any problems, people a hundred years from now will connect it with some other king and some other island. That's why Nostradamus was such a good fortune teller. 

Douglas Adams was a skeptic even before he was drawn into the orbit of Richard Dawkins. But in his book So Long And Thanks For All The Fish he puts a very clever argument into the mouth of an astrologer. Of course astrology doesn't work, they say: it isn't supposed to. It's an arbitrary set of rules that you play around with. But the process of playing with the rules leads to insights. It's a technique for thinking about yourself.

I am sure that some fortune tellers are charlatans or just entertainers. But some are undoubtedly gifted and intuitive counsellors for whom the Tarot is a tool or a prop. Very good books have been written under the influence of I-Ching. And also LSD.

Adams later says something similar about Feng Shui, and as a matter of fact and presumably to Richard Dawkins' consternation, God. Of course there aren't invisible dragons or mysterious flows of energy in your office: but pretending that there are may be a very good way of thinking about pleasant, relaxing spaces. So maybe the idea of a supernatural creator is a good way of thinking about how to live as an embodied consciousness in a world full of other embodied consciousnesses. Terry Pratchett had the same thought. So, come to think of it, did the Right Reverend John Robinson.

I think it was A.A Milne who said that his problem with Spiritualism was that it couldn't decide if it was science or religion. If it claimed to have scientific proof of the survival of the soul, then the mediums need to subject themselves to objective tests by skeptical scientists. But if it claimed to be a religion, then it needed to be judged by the results: were the "spirits" dictating profound wisdom that could be put alongside the Sermon on the Mount or the Fire Sermon or the Bhagavad Gita?

Alan Moore tells the story of the man who set out to prove that there was nothing to the occult. You could prove anything you liked, he said: you could prove that Noddy was the Creator of the Universe if you wanted to. Krishna is depicted as a dancing child, isn't he? After the first murder, Cain went to live in the Land of Nod, doesn't he? A few days later the man happened to be in the British Museum, and saw an Aztec carving of a deity in the form of a small boy with a pointy hat with what appeared to be a bell on it. Then he happened to be listening to the radio, and heard an interview with Enid Blyton in which she said that, while being given a dental anaesthetic, she felt as if her mind left her body and was being driven towards some divine light.

He gave the experiment up. Either it is true that Noddy is the Son of God; or else the skeptic had worked a spell and made it true; or else you can find patterns and proofs in everything if you stare at them for long enough.

I myself have told the story of listening to my Beatles collection just after reading The Walrus Was Paul. I kept finding obvious clues in the lyrics which had not been spotted by the writer of the book. Once you know that every Beatles lyric is really about the death of Paul McCartney, then every Beatles lyric really is about the death of Paul McCartney. And every line of the Jewish scriptures is really about the life of Jesus. And if you play a record backwards you can hear it saying whatever someone has told you that it says.

Which is what makes this stuff so dangerous. Start looking for conspiracy theories and you find them. Believe in one conspiracy and you believe them all. Crashed space ships in New Mexico are an entry drug to alien democratic lizards eating babies in underground Pizza Huts. Jewish alien lizards, almost invariably.

When Alan Moore decided to initiate himself into Aleister Crowley ritual magic, he asked his friends to tell him if he seemed to be going mad. "Alan" he says that they said "How could we tell?"

His answer was "Tell me if my writing changes."


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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My extended Essay on Cerebus the Aardvark is available from Lulu press. 

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond

A meta review in six episodes

This essay is intended for people who do not intend to read The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, but are interested in what it contains and how it strikes me. It will probably also be useful to people who have not read it but think that they might, although it does contain what I can only describe as "spoilers". 

The usual preambles about how some people don't think you ought to read Dave Sim at all because his gender politics is so nasty and cancel culture doesn't exist can be taken for granted. Please do not feed the troll.


Andrew Reviews of Glamourpuss

General talk about shock and offence in art. 
(NOTE: Contains several usages of a very strong racial slur, in the context of a discussion of a work by H.P Lovecraft. If I were writing the piece today I might write this differently.)

General discussion of Dave Sim, in response to a correpondent.

Substantive review of Glamourpuss.

Substantive review of Judenhaas, which came out at about the same time. 

Oral review of Glamourpuss by friend who is not a regular Cerebus reader. 

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)

Friday, June 27, 2008


I asked Jonathan what he thought of Glamourpuss. He told me:

"I fell asleep reading it.

"Not because it's boring. It isn't boring. But it is like reading a technical manual. It's got that much detail in it. The words don't make much sense to me because I don't have much understanding of the material. I've got no interest in Rip Kirby. I'd never heard of it before. I've got no interest in the fashion industry. I would find it easier to read a computer manual.

"He's taken the device that this is an origin story for Glamourpuss, except Glamourpuss isn't really a character. At the same time he's saying that he wants to work out how Alex Raymond created comic books out of photos, because he was the best at it. So it's kind of a study on that particular kind of comic. And none of those are things which interest me.

"His writing is as good as ever. I got the feeling that he's just repeating gags that he's used before, but it did make me laugh. Evil Dave Sim realising that this was actually working and that he could perhaps use this -- with a lovely little caricature of himself presumably taken from a photo. I thought that was just very well done.

"He seems to be deliberately playing up to and teasing his critics. He's chosen the fashion industry knowing that people will jump to conclusions, because he's a famous misogynist. But lots of the digs at the industry are very funny. There are some nice jokes. "Top 5 signs you've already found Mr. Right" is one of his standard jokes. You just reverse something and make it funny. Of course once you get to the 5 signs they're all absolutely wrong... Which is an old Viz joke. The scenes with Glamourpuss are a bit funny. But they're not his best stuff; not the 'early funny issues.'

"Since he's taking pictures from fashion magazines and using those as illustrations, they don't connect at all. He's got very good drawings -- translations from photos -- but they are a stream of photos of models wearing designer clothes to which he's trying to add a thought bubble which fits. There isn't a narrative.

"It reminded me most of Alan Moore's "Magic Cards" which is basically a collection of poems, or plotless prose with very good illustrations -- basically a stream of consciousness. You come to the end and think "I have no idea what he was going on about." I could read the words; I could see what was happening in the pictures; but nothing happened in the story. He'd adopted a style to write it with, but it wasn't a character. I think the same is true of this.

"There are some lovely bits where he is quoting a particular piece of fashion -- dresses or gloves or handbags or shoes -- which sounds very authentic. I don't know whether he's actually gone and learned who the designers are and what goes with what or whether he's simply copied it all out of the fashion magazines.

"That's quite amusing: that Dave Sim is writing about fashion, apparently very knowledgeably. I assume he actually sat down, read about fashion, and found out about it. Because he's mad. I'm sorry, I mean committed."

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Judenhass is a 40 page comic book, with stiff card covers and shiny pages, with a few pages of text notes at the back. As everyone knows, it deals with the holocaust, or, as Dave Sim prefers to say, the shoah. According to the theory of the Unity of the Literary Virtues, I ought to say that Glamourpuss, being sexist, is Bad, whereas as Judenhass, which sets out to remind us that the holocaust was horrible, is Good. In fact, while I found Glamourpuss interesting-but-bonkers, I felt that Judenhass failed to cast what little it had to say into any particularly interesting artistic form.

Pages 1 - 7 depict six shots of the gates to Auschwitz: in the first frame it's in the middle distance, and it gradually gets closer and closer. Clearly, the point of view is that of a victim in a train to the camp. There is no dramatic narrative: the text consists of Lucid-Dave, (in his own voice) telling us why we still need to think about the holocaust -- especially if we are comic book readers, since the founding fathers of the American comic were, to a man, Jewish. The final panel of page 5 states that people often talk as if the shoah was inexplicable and unique to Nazi Germany, "Whereas I believe that the historical record of non-Jewish culture and its tolerance for and embracing of Jew hatred shows, instead that the shoah was very much..." We turn the page an are confronted by a 2 page spread of the gate to the concentration camp, accompanied by the single word "inevitable."

This may be a little mannered and obvious; but it's definitely making use of the comic book form to progress an argument. The big (and not at all small or cramped) panel gives an interesting rhetorical emphasis to the little word in the caption.

Unfortunately, this is the last page of comics in the whole pamphlet. Oh, the rest of the book is laid out like a comic, but there's no sequence and certainly no narrative. We are simply showed a series of pictures of holocaust victims. Pages 12 and 13 each consist of 9 panels. The first is an extreme close up of someone's eye and each subsequent panel "pulls back" until we are looking at a body on a pile of victims. (Because no context is provided, it isn't always easy to tell if we are looking at live people or corpses, which may be the point.) This sequence of panels doesn't have any particular point of view: it represents, if anything, a camera zooming in and out of the scene.

Page 33 and 34 consist of 2 large pictures of horribly emaciated children, and around 24 small close-ups of their faces. A photo realistic picture of Hitler, making the familiar Nazi salute is superimposed across the spread, along with three panels of text about Hitler's anti-Semitism and Europe's reluctance to accept Jewish refugees. So far as I can see, there is no sequential way of reading the comic book panels – the image of Hitler and the text completely disrupt any sequence. The comic book grid is simply one element of a montage: a well constructed and striking montage, but just a montage.

If Dave Sim chooses to spend his retirement sitting at a light box trying to work out how to translate satin gloves or leather shoes into pen and ink, that's his business But the idea of Dave Sim taking documentary images of dead Jews and trying to translate them into photorealistic pen and ink drawings... and then, presumably, scanning or photocopying the result and assembling a collage which repeats the same picture 20 or 30 times....strikes me as, if anything, a little distasteful.

Do the pen and ink drawings say anything that the actual news pictures would not have done? And do we in fact need to see the images to understand what the holocaust was? The book doesn't tell us about the scale of the genocide, or the cold-blooded industrial way it was carried out. It just shows us that people were treated appallingly and some of them were killed. But, surely, we knew that already? There might be some purpose in showing someone who agrees with meat eating, abortion, or capital punishment pictures of an abattoir, an aborted foetus, or an execution: It might be that they thought it was possible to switch a cow, a foetus, or a murderer off like a light, and need to be told how horrible the procedure actually is. (Mad-Dave would say that this was an appeal to emotions, and therefore invalid.) But is anyone in a similar state of ignorance or denial about the holocaust? There are a small number of nut-jobs who already know that no such event ever took place. I don't know why they would be impressed by pen and ink renderings of what they believe to be faked photographs. Everyone else already uses "holocaust" as a synonym for "human evil".

Throughout the comic, images of famous and in some cases reputable historical figures are juxtaposed with the death porn, along with captions quoting anti-Jewish remarks that they made. Sim's notes show that his research on this has been characteristically thorough: he has taken care to verify that everyone really said the things he attributes to them, and that they really meant what it sounds as if they mean. He says he rejected a widely circulated quote from George Washington, because it referred to war profiteers rather than Jews; he gives Aquinas the benefit of the doubt, assuming that a passage about usurers is a condemnation of people who charge excessive interest, not of Jews in general. He quotes famously inflammatory remarks made by Martin Luther, but notes in that nearly all modern Lutherans have repudiated this aspect of their leader's theology. If only everybody was this careful about their use of the internet.

Other than "the holocaust happened", does the book have anything to say? Sim rejects the term "anti-Semitism" -- after all, Arabs are "Semites" too --- and says that the Holocaust was the result of Judenhass -- Jew-Hatred. And he prefers the Hebrew word shoah (calamity) to the Greek holocaust (sacrifice by fire) adding:

"The shoah was done to Jews -- and yes, to others as well. But the fact that "to others as well " has become a universal interjection when the subject of the holocaust comes up it seems to me, points to a central and malignant evasion on the part of non-Jews."

Evasion? If you define "shoah" as "the massacre of Jews in Nazi Germany" then it is trivially true that only Jews were victims of the "shoah" I do not see why it is "evasive" to say that between three and five million non-Jews were also killed. And I don't buy his central claim that there is a specific thing called "Jew-Hatred" that made the concentration camps inevitable, any more than I believe that Diocletian, Stalin and Richard Dawkins are all infected with a single thing called Christian-Hatred. I think that at times of plague, war and economic recession, stupid people will look for someone to blame, and will generally pick on a small, easily identifiable group that looks or acts differently.(British Jobs For British Workers, and all that.) I think that similar fibs are always told about the target group. Romans said that Christians were cannibals; Christians said Gnostics ate babies; Gentiles have often said that Jews steal Christian babies to use in their sacrifices. Nick Griffin says that the Koran requires Muslims to molest white children; Richard Dawkins thinks that raising children Catholic is the moral equivalent of etc etc etc etc.) I think that saying that "the holocaust was caused by Jew-hatred" is like saying "Crime is caused by criminals". It tells you nothing; it gives you an excuse not to even attempt to understand the specifics of why it happened when it happened where it happened.

I wonder whether Sim's essentialist belief in one specific thing called Jew-Hatred is related to his increasingly shrill insistence that although he thinks that women should not be allowed to have jobs, should not be allowed to vote, and should be spanked when they disobey their husbands he does not in any sense suffer from Woman-Hatred?

As ever, some of the strangest stuff comes in the text epilogue.

Unfortunately in this age of diminishing attention spans it seems to me that there is also a need for distillations of the facts that allow even the slowest reader and the most reluctant teacher to comprehend and convey some measure of the enormity of the Shoah and the profound level of enmity against Jews which made it possible. I hope that Judenhass with roughly a 25 minute reading span will serve that purpose. It is to be hoped that 25 minutes could be found to teach high school students on the subject..and the on-going significance...of the holocaust."

Even when he means well, Dave still exists in his own parallel little universe.

I don't know anything about Canada, but I find it spectacularly unlikely that any child in the UK could get through school without knowing what the holocaust was. You can't avoid Anne Frank's Diary, for one thing. Don't some schools pay attention to something called "Holocaust Day"? There is a widely disseminated complaint that English History has been reduced to "Henry and Hitler": a curriculum that concentrates on the Second World War (and the Tudor dynasty) to the exclusion of everything else. We English can't resist mentioning the War because we single handedly won it without any help from anyone else. But maybe things are different in Canada.

It's an intriguing picture. The teacher, who is apparently reluctant to teach the children, possibly because he himself is an evasive non-Jew who thinks that the holocaust was done to other people as well as the Jews. The little emotion based beings, totally out of control since we stopped beating them, with no idea that such a terrible event ever happened. One morning they come to school. They sing a hymn or swear allegiance to a maple leaf or whatever happens over there. Teacher goes to the cupboard and hands out 30 copies of Judenhass, presumably neatly covered in brown paper and paid for by the Canadian government. The little emotion based beings put their heads down and start to read. The silence is broken only by the occasional question. ("Please Miss, who was Stan Lee?") Twenty five minutes later, the books are put back in the cupboard, and the children never hear another word about Hitler until they leave school.

I am not sure whether, during those 25 minutes, they will actually have learned very much.

Cerebus: How many of these off-limits cattle do you suppose your people mutilated and burned trying to please the living thing, the big light and the big fire in the middle of the earth?

Konigsberg: Once again, I decline to answer on the basis of feeling even more nauseous than I did a few minutes ago. [thinks] Millions, probably

Cerebus: There's the sad part. Someday, Yoohwhoo is going to demand that that "debt" be paid. And... millions, you said? Millions of your people are going to... um. [Long pause] [Clears throat] [Another long pause]

Cerebus the Aardvark, "Latter Days"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


-- Do you think that we'd be as interested in these paintings if they weren't by Bob Dylan?

-- No, but they are by Bob Dylan, so let's move on.

News night Review, BBC2 13th June.

Glamourpuss is a 28 page comic book -- 19 pages of comics, 7 pages of text + covers.

It is packaged as a parody of a woman's fashion/lifestyle magazine. It is, it goes without saying, spectacularly well-drawn. In places, it is very funny. Almost everyone who has seen my copy has at least smiled at the strap-line: "The high fashion comic book that's SO six months ago"

Six pages of the comic depict the internal monologue of an airheaded fashion model named "Glamourpuss." Reading about Chinese culture, she exclaims: "These people make foot binding seem like a...a...bad thing. Don't they realise that an L.B.D by Vera Wang just looks wrong with size four booties?" Exegetes may take the view that, since it depicts a woman who is a self-obsessed idiot, "the comic" "says" that "women" are self-obsessed idiots. I found it quite amusing.

Many people have spotted that as Cerebus progressed, it became less and less about Cerebus and more and more about Dave Sim. It has also been noted that as the comic got more and more Simcentric, the art got better and better. Glamourpuss. is not about Glamourpuss. Nor is it, except incidentally, about fashion. It is about Dave Sim, and about drawing. It is about Dave Sim drawing. It is about Dave Sim drawing Glamourpuss.

Dave says that the title of the issue -- "The Top Secret Origin of Glamourpuss."("WHO she is! HOW she came to be! WHERE she gets all those great clothes") is a slightly cynical in-joke: "In comic book stores, if you have a No.1 and a "origin of..." story, no matter how pointless, it's going to boost your sales." But it is actually a pretty good description of the comic. The comic is about how Dave came up with the idea for the comic; and about the techniques he used to produce it.

Pages 1 - 5 are a series of pictures of a pretty girl in various outfits, overlaid with captions in which Dave speaks in his own voice. (The voice is that of Lucid-Dave, not Mad-Dave: the voice of the funny editorials, not that of the ranting essays.) Lucid-Dave says that when people asked him what he was going to work on after Cerebus, he always replied "photo-realistic pictures of cute teenage girls". This was, in fact, what he was drawing, but he had no way of coming up with a story to go with the pictures. (Exegetes may wish to spend some time wondering whether the comic "says" that it's ok for middle aged men to look at pictures of teenagers, and whether "cute" is a sexist word to apply to members of the opposite gender. The models in Glamourpuss. are all well over the age of consent.)

On pages 6-9 there are more fashion pictures, and copies of comic-strips by Alex Raymond, who he believes to be the past-master of the photo-realistic style. He comments in great detail about the techniques that Raymond used. I must admit that I had rather assumed that "photo realistic" drawing wasn't real art: it's simply a matter of tracing a photograph, isn't it? Sim explains that it's actually all about translation -- finding the exact kind of brush stroke that will represent a texture in pen-and-ink. And indeed, every one of the "traced" images in the book are instantly identifiable as "Dave Sim" pictures.

Sim uses Raymond's Rip Kirby as an example: a comic which I confess I've never seen. I enjoyed Raymond's Flash Gordon for the strange architecture and the inventive story-telling: although I can see that the realistic human figures are very pretty indeed, particularly in the Ice Kingdom segment. Sim uses pages from fashion magazines to experiment with photo-realistic work simply because they provide a ready source of reference material – and also, presumably, because the clothes themselves present an interesting artistic challenge.

On pages 10 - 15, he "demonstrates" that it isn't possible to turn this material into a comic because -- obviously -- a series of pictures of different models in different poses don't make up a narrative sequence. So he presents a series of montages of Glamourpuss. and her meandering thoughts about life and clothes – the last of which is interrupted by Lucid-Dave saying "This is actually pretty good! This could work!"

The remainder of the comic consists of more close readings of Rip Kirby, concentrating in particular on Alex Raymond's use of heavy black shading, breaking off on page 19 with a "Sorry, I seem to have run out of pages this time around."

The package is rounded out with text pages which are parodies (parodies) of women's magazine features, such as Glamourpuss's "five signs that you've found Mr. Right" which are, of course, five signs that the man you are dating is completely unsuitable for you. ("He stands you up and doesn't call to apologize....Horrified? Relax. He's just playing head games with you because he's finally realized how deeply and passionately and inextricably in love with you he is...") Exegetes may have a problem with this section, since it seems to "say" that men are selfish louses, but that women aren't clever enough to spot this -- which suggests a sexual politics which is slightly (slightly) more complicated than the single word "misogyny" might suggest.

I dunno. If you asked me "what does Dave Sim do well" I'd come up with a list along the lines of:

a: caricature

b: body language

c: voice -- using balloons and lettering to tell you what his characters sound like

d: Panel composition

e: Dialogue -- even the barking mad Torah commentaries were intermittently very funny

f: Farce

g: Big, overarching plots

h: Complicated political machinations

Glamourpuss. seems explicitly created to leave all of this out.

Not that one can't still see Dave's skill. Page 14 is a single image of Glamourpuss. against a white background. The captions are printed directly on the background, but the whole page is enclosed by a heavy black box. It is almost ostentatiously "not a comic." This is in contrast to page 15, which is a montage of three images against a realistic background. A small picture of Glamourpuss. is juxtaposed with a large picture of Gandhi (because she is thinking about him).This time, the page itself has no border, but Glamoupuss's thoughts are printed in boxes like conventional comic-book captions. I think that this draws us into a more sequential, less novel-like way of reading. At the bottom of the page, there is a small, inset frame containing a caricature of Dave Sim himself. The inset frame is black, were the rest of the page is on a white background; which makes the point that two different kinds of narrative, the fictional and the autobiographical, are being placed alongside each other. (We have Dave, who is creating Glamourpuss, Glamourpuss herself, and Gandhi, who Glamourpuss. is thinking about, all represented on one page, but in slightly different ways.) Sim's thoughts are in slanted text boxes to represent their "madness" and intrusiveness. The small "GP" insignia at the bottom right of the page indicates that this section of the story is "over", and we are returning to something which will at least look like a conventional comic. This represents an effortless, fluency in the sheer language of comic-books; a creator who is entirely at ease with the form; unselfconscious innovation.

Some critics objected to Cerebus on the grounds that a long work which includes both passages of comic strip and passages of prose is not kosher. I don't know whether Glamourpuss will similarly be accused of mixing milk with meat. The sections where Glamourpuss is thinking out loud are quite wordy and say "She thought" and "She said" instead of using speech bubbles and think bubbles. But the text looks like standard comic-book lettering. Perhaps we only feel that "prose" has intruded into our funny book if it is printed in Times Roman?

Glamourpuss reminds me of nothing so much as one of Harvey Pekar's less inspired days: when he spends three pages telling you that he got up, went to the toilet, bought some eggs, and couldn't think of anything to write a comic about. Of course, the whole point of American Splendour is that it's trying to transmute ordinary domestic life into art. I don't know whether the latest meanderings from Planet Dave are going to seem as interesting in the long term.