Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for October / September 2004. If you prefer, here is MS Word document with all of the answers and questions. Once again, thanks to Lenny for getting the questions organized, sent to Dave and posted!
Lenny: We're still around! Hope you and Dave have enjoyed your Question free month, but the party is over! :^)
Dave: Yes, thanks to all for their patience through the Phase II: Good Things for the CBLDF essay-writing marathon and for realizing that it wasn’t the best time to be answering the monthly questions. It was fun being Neil Gaiman’s Famous-Form-Letter Writing Writer Friend, but now I’m back to being just “non-famous-except-to-those-strange-Yahoo-people” Dave Sim.
Lenny: Also - congrats on pulling in over a grand on that CBLDF auction (was that within/under/over expectations?)
Dave: Well, thanks. I don’t really have expectations anymore. It always comes as a complete surprise. That was one of the reasons that I started the bidding at $5. They cost about $30 each to produce so if we could make it past $30 then anything after that was gravy. It actually began as a revenue source/fundraising idea for us (since we don’t have money coming in on the monthly book anymore) as well as for various charities—and, ultimately, way down the road, for what I hope will someday be the Canadian Graphic Novel and Cartoon Museum. I decided to try it out with Neil and the CBLDF. The next one we’ll be trying (God willing) is Lithograph No.2: Gerhard in February and then Lithograph No.3: Chester Brown in May, again with only fifty impressions each. We’ll auction five of them at once this time and see what that does. Your guess is literally as good as mine. Same basic theory. Start them off at $5 each and if they make it over $30 we aren’t losing money on them.
Lenny: Anyways....here's this month's batch....
Q1: You said that Jaka vomiting on Pud was the "core moment" of Jaka's Story. Why is this moment so important?
Dave: Well, I’m not sure if “important” is the correct term. It’s the “core moment” insofar as everything is in stasis to that point and that’s the point where things start to come unglued. It seemed to me at the time that it was interesting, given the level of sexual tension in our society, that there are as few incidents of rape as there are. I mean, agreed, even one rape is one rape too many—but we are a long way from the opposite extreme—having 4 billion rapes in the average day. I intend the observation in a high-altitude mapping societal-structural sense where all of these guys “want it bad” and yet there are very clear lines of demarcation that are, relative to the size of the human population, seldom violated. Take the three love triangles in Jaka’s Story: Cerebus wants Jaka real bad, but he sleeps in the little guest room eating his heart out and actually makes friends with Rick even though he’s Cerebus the Barbarian. Pud spends every night alone with Jaka who is dressed in a sexually provocative manner and just makes amiable chit-chat or listens to all of her petty little problems for hours on end. Oscar has got a major woody for Rick. And even with all this sexual tension that is so thick you could cut it with a knife, still all of these people keep very much to their own side of the sexual barricade. Part of my fascination with that comes from being raised as an atheist— that is, with few appreciable distinctions between right and wrong and far fewer between good and evil.. Where does this society-wide sexual stasis come from, was the atheistic question I was asking myself. Why—given that we are just these big bags of chemicals that happened to grow into this configuration out of happenstance (which, as an atheistic secular humanist, I did very much take as a given) and given that sexual desire is the most natural thing in the world and with The Pill causing the danger of pregnancy to plummet dramatically, why aren’t we just, you know, jumping on people? And the answer of course is that it’s wrong to just jump on people, evil to just jump on people. Good ethical behaviour prohibits it. So, what I was trying to do in Jaka’s Story was to document that stasis as accurately as I could, to build the natural tension that that involves and then to have Pud cross the line. He’s been thinking about it and thinking about it and now he’s going to make his move. And Jaka pukes on him: which seemed authentic in a life sense although the underlying dynamic would remain something of an open question. Why does she puke on him at that exact moment? When I was writing it and laying it out, I thought, arguably, it’s a result of a communicable tension—what the hippies would call a “bad vibe”. Pud is so wound up about what he’s about to do that as soon as he violates Jaka’s personal space his tension invades her and the invasiveness of his tension, coupled with the alcohol she’s been drinking, causes her to vomit. And vomiting, of course, is a species of ejaculation, right? In a larger sense she makes a mess in his lap with her bodily fluids before he can make a mess in her lap with his bodily fluids. So even if the reader doesn’t consciously think of it in those terms—which I assume most readers didn’t since it would be a very unconventional viewpoint to regard vomiting and ejaculation as analogous bodily functions—it still strikes the reader as appropriate. It seems like something that would happen in the situation. Or, moving even further back into the realm of spirit it seems possible that what was at work wasn’t a communicable tension so much as it was Jaka’s own spirit unconsciously protecting her and simultaneously serving Pud with an explicit analogy of what it is that he was about to do, to try to rouse his dormant sense of revulsion both as a means of solving the immediate crisis and to keep him at bay in the long term. Or maybe it was a combination of both.
Q1 Cont: What is its significance?
Dave: Well, I always found that depicting a subject in the book gave me a lot of time to think about it and to see it from different angles and to gain new insights into a variety of aspects of any given subject just because it would be immediately in front of me for the length of time it would take to finish it. So, in this instance, for two weeks or however long it took to do the lead-up to Pud making his move, I was thinking about the dynamic of sexual politics and the politics of sexual dynamics—there’re two reciprocal phrases that imply two differing vantage points on the same subject just by transposing noun and adjectival forms— the rape “vibe” and imminent rape as a spiritual concern. It really depends on how and from where you want to look at it. Just as an example, in doing the sequence, I realized that women derive a great deal of power from the fact that they’re the ones who decide —except in the case of rape—if and when sex is going to happen,. So that, in a real way, every rape that doesn’t take place is a testament to female power and to the extent that the world largely unfolds along lines of female preference and that female will in the area of sexuality prevails almost universally the wide perception of women as vulnerable victims doesn’t seem to be supported by the evidence. Jaka is living with Cerebus and Rick and she’s spending all of her evenings with Pud but, even though all three want her desperately, she’s only having sex with Rick. Having set the scene and having that much time to document it, I recognized the disproportionate amount of power Jaka had in the story—relative to her physical strength and how that compared to the physical strength of Cerebus and Pud— and helped me to recognize, as a result, the disproportionate amount of power women have in our society generally. Jaka is the sun and Cerebus, Pud and Rick are the planets circling her. These sorts of insights—which can be sudden or “come on you” gradually— occur when you are writing and drawing a comic book because a lot of what you are doing is a dramatically slowed down version of method acting. Putting yourself in the place of your characters and mentally picturing and then physically replicating manifestations of emotion and attitude by drawing the characters’ facial expressions, body language and so on. So if it takes you three hours or so to draw a transition from one facial expression to another, you have a lot of time to analyze both what is happening in the panels and what is happening between the panels: what parts of the facial expression changed and—as you erase the expression and change it and erase the expression and change it; at last getting an approximation of the right expression—you have time to ask yourself why the different parts of the face changed the way they did. Why were all of the faces I erased the wrong expression and this is the right one? As to the significance of Jaka puking on Pud I think it offers a potential bridging point of communication between the genders, in the same way that the episode in Church & State—where after Cerebus raped Astoria, she gobbed into his ear—also offers a bridging point of communication. Structurally it’s the same net effect as rape, albeit without the physical pain. How do you like it? Having someone’s mucus expelled into one of your orifices? It occurred to me that, in trying to communicate across the gender divide, you need points of commonality and one of the points of commonality that occurred to me was that heterosexual women and heterosexual men—and in fact lesbians—have at least one thing in common: they are repelled by the idea of having an erect penis stuck inside of them and the idea of it going “spooey” while it’s in there. When you consider the few things that women and men do have in common, it seems worth focusing on and, in my own case, it helped me to understand women and their notion of love a little better. See, even unattractive women have no shortage of men who want to get into their pants and most women have had the experience of intercourse, and most of them have had the experience because they had a positive emotional reaction to someone so that they were able to overcome their natural revulsion at the idea of what guys—just generally—want to do to them. So that they don’t think of it as what the guy wants to do TO them so much as what they want to do WITH the guy. I mean what’s the demarcation between a boyfriend and “just a friend”? The former she lets shoot his pecker snot inside of her and the latter she doesn’t. Of course women in general aren’t pleased by these sorts of distinctions framed in these terms (I remember, years ago, edging close to the discussion point of what the distinction between a boyfriend and a friend was with a female acquaintance and it turned out to be the first time I heard the expression “Don’t go there.”) because women want to focus on all of the things about the guy that made them want to “let him” that made them (in his case) overcome their revulsion for what erect penises do—his eyes, the jokes he told, what he was wearing, what they did together, some sweet gesture he made as well as all the inexplicable moments that go into the decision-making—all of the cumulative things that add up so that she’s a) interested, b) smitten, c) falling in love and then boom d) in love. All the stuff they can’t wait to tell their girlfriends about. But, for all that, the demarcation is still the demarcation—the boyfriend is the boyfriend because he’s the sex partner even though that fact is usually unspoken on the female side and usually treated as a tangential interest by them. Unless she’s a total hosebag who lets virtually any guy stick his dick in her and go spooey, there’s the demarcation between the guy for whom she willingly overcomes her revulsion—to the extent that the revulsion disappears—and every other guy. For women, that’s love. So the significance of having Jaka puke on Pud was that it was a way of honestly depicting the culmination of a rape scene in such a way that male and female readers will hopefully—whether consciously or unconsciously— have the same reaction and say to themselves, simultaneously, yes, that’s really gross and yes, that’s a natural culmination for that scene while allowing me to avoid the old cliché of “someone walks in at the exact second the rapist is about to make his move” which is how most rape scenes were dealt with and the new cliché of having the intended victim beat crap out of the guy or shoot him.. It’s no small challenge to have women and men both react to a rape scene the same way, but I really think I pulled it off there. And what I ultimately extrapolated was that the line was still crossed: although it was crossed in an unconventional sense that involved vomit instead of semen, it was still enough to shake the story loose and everything begins to go wrong from that point on.
Q2: Missy: What is the significance of using Jaka's doll Missy to represent Nurse's head? (i. 114)
Dave: Part of it was my desire to avoid showing Nurse so that I could make the transition from portraying this terrifying ogre figure in the beginning part of the story and then making her a pathetic but resolute old woman later in the story. Had I actually shown her early in the story, I would’ve had to have “de-ogred” her so that she could plausibly be depicted in the later scene or I would’ve had to have made her part ogre in the later scene so the readers would be sure it was the same woman. So that was the reason behind “not showing Nurse”.
Using Missy’s head for nurse’s head was a result of the earliest thinking on Jaka’s Story when I was drawing Jaka as a little girl for the first time. A little girl? You give her a doll. That’s another example of the interesting areas that method acting takes you into. While I’m drawing the doll, I’m thinking about the nature of dolls for the first time—something I had never given a second thought— and how sincerely creepy it really is. I mean, I grew up with the conventional Marxist-feminist spin on dolls which is that they are part of the oppressive patriarchal societal structure which forces little girls to play with dolls as indoctrination for motherhood. Like John Lennon’s Woman is the Nigger of the World which was of that early excessive Marxist-feminist time period. “We make her paint her face and dance.” Personally, I don’t know too many guys (as in NO guys) who “make” their wives or girlfriends either paint their faces OR dance. ‘Honey. We’re going to the company Christmas party tonight. Make sure you paint your face and you better dance when we get there if you know what’s good for you.” If all the other women are painting their faces then for sure she will too, but that has nothing to do with any patriarchy. Likewise women are dancing fools for the most part and that, too, comes from within and has nothing to do with male preferences except when it comes to ogling which is in effect whether the women are dancing or not.
Anyway, I started thinking about this doll thing, this compulsive urge that little girls have towards baby replicas virtually from the time they stop being babies themselves. And the proliferation that some of them go through where you can’t find the little girl in this picture of her in bed because she’s literally buried under baby replicas and animal baby replicas. Being a guy, I tried to analyze what the distinctions were and it goes off in a number of interesting directions. First of all it’s a baby thing. Little girls grow up to be mommies and it’s the mommies who have the babies, so a lot of it is just jumping ahead. She wants her baby now. So, on the one hand it seems like this unhealthy capitulation to an intrinsic female nature—they want things they aren’t old enough to have (which is just going right off the rails with younger and younger girls dressing like five dollar hookers. Sorry, I digress). You don’t explain to her that she can’t have a baby so there’s no use talking about it. She’ll start that high-pitched shrieking that can shatter crystal. Little girls react to “can’t” the way you and I would react to having bamboo shoots jammed under our fingernails. To not capitulate instantly to what a little girl wants is to subject her to inhuman torture. Sic semper Marxist-feminist incrementalism. Okay, give her something that looks like a baby, something that’s baby-sized and baby shaped. And that’s interesting in the same way that Santa Claus is interesting. Tell her that this hunk of plastic is her baby. Tell her the fat guy in the red suit is the one who brings her Christmas presents. I mean it’s no wonder that most women are clinically insane from a very early age. Yes, that’s your baby. Oh, isn’t she a pretty baby. Well, no she isn’t a baby. She’s a hunk of plastic. And it’s considered really bad form to point that out. Far healthier (goes the prevailing female thinking from Traditional to Marxist-feminist) that the child be encouraged in every way imaginable to believe that this hunk of plastic is her baby. Well, you know, if you say so. Just don’t blame me when that little girl grows up to be intrinsically resistant to perceiving reality accurately.
Of course for some of them it isn’t a baby replica, it’s just where their “Other thing” expresses itself. There’s the little girl and there’s her Other which, for a lot of them, is their doll, their favourite doll or their dog or their pet rabbit or their hamster or whatever. That intrinsic element of female nature that intrudes upon genuine evil when Other becomes Familiar in the Wiccan sense, where her identity is so tied up with the Other that an inextricable link between the human and the bestial is forged and everything opposed to the link of the human and the bestial is viewed as evil. You see degrees of this with the sort of women who only trust animals and think that animals are better than people. Then there are other women, the genuinely alienated, for whom everything and everyone is the Other. And that was how I pictured Jaka. Her mother dies before she’s old enough to be really aware of what a mother is, so it’s less easy for her to think of Missy as a baby replica—being to Jaka what Jaka is to her mother (which touches tangentially on another interesting direction: this is me. I, the little girl, am the baby and this hunk of plastic represents me. So I am both me and the Other. I am a little girl and I am a hunk of plastic. Seriously creepy, in my view), so Jaka pictures Nurse as an enlarged Missy. Missy is Other. Nurse is Other. Jaka is Jaka. So she begins to understand her relationships in those frames of reference. There is Jaka and there is Other. Some Others she has control over and some Others have control over her. This becomes the source of her dancing. Through her dancing she has control over Others. There is only one dancer on the stage and everyone else is in the audience. Which is why she’s drawn to dancing pre-eminently and is willing to put anything at risk to keep dancing. It’s the only way of life she knows that allows her to control the Others.
The only little girl that I really saw grow up from babyhood to adulthood was my cousin Tracy who was born when I was sixteen. I had dinner with her a couple of years back and I asked her, What was the name of your doll again? Cozy Molly. I had remembered that that was the doll’s name, but I had thought I must be wrong because it was such a peculiar name.. Where did that come from, I asked her. Where did you get the name Cozy Molly? Evidently my maiden aunts, Aunt Gret and Aunt Fanny (now both deceased) had given it to her and had told her that its name was Cozy Molly. And at that point I didn’t want to know—even if my maiden aunts had still been alive and lucid—where they had come up with the fact that this doll’s name was Cozy Molly.
Whatever the honest answer would have been, I would bet you dollars to donuts it would’ve been genuinely and sincerely creepy.
Q3: Nurse/Ada Talbot's presence in the cell next to Jaka appears to be more than a mere coincidence. Was she (1) really Nurse and a Cirinist; (2) a Cirinist imposter using information gleaned from Oscar's book; or (3) Nurse and not a Cirinist (her 8 month incarceration time would appear to match up with Cerebus' reappearance after his Ascension)? Was her placement in the cell an attempt by the Cirinists to elicit information and/or break down Jaka psychologically before being handed over to Thatcher? (i131)
Dave: 1) That’s very possible. 2) You’ve been reading too many conspiracy theory books. 3) That’s very possible as well. Actually, all of those things were going through my head while I was working on that sequence and because Nurse never comes back into the story, I was able to leave it open to interpretation, both for others and for myself. You know, one of the possibilities that you didn’t suggest was the fact that it might have had nothing to do with getting information or breaking Jaka down psychologically and might instead have just been as nasty as the Cirinists were able to be, given Jaka’s diplomatic immunity. They couldn’t execute her or torture her and they couldn’t execute Rick because of the problems that would cause with Palnu, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t terrify Jaka to within an inch of her sanity and destroy her marriage as a way of indicating what a dim view they took of her career and (what is the Marxist-feminist discrete euphemism?) family planning choices. From a Cirinist standpoint, they wouldn’t be doing anything to her that she hadn’t done to Pud. Was it Jaka’s fault that Pud’s lust for her destroyed him as a person? Was it the Cirinists’ fault that Jaka’s choices—when presented to Rick—destroyed her marriage?
Q4: The last page is very similar to an earlier page of Jaka's Story, but the picture AND text are slightly different. The 1st picture has a flock of birds in it, the 2nd has a lone bird. The 1st Text describes Jaka's actions prior to receiving the invitation and has a final paragraph that says: "She remembered, most particularly, watching a lone figure in the distance..." The 2nd Text omits the initial paragraphs and modifies the 1st sentence of the last paragraph to read: "As she watched the lone figure in the distance..." It appears you have taken Oscar's Jaka's Story and adopted it to fit the ending of your Jaka's Story (changing it). That is, you are making the point that Jaka is in a similar situation now compared to the situation she was in back then - only now, as symbolized by the lack of birds, Jaka has much less hope - she's been destroyed as an Artist - so now she's only a prisoner. Also, you omit "she remembered" from the text - perhaps signifying that what we are reading is NOT an unreliable memory - but reality (as the narrator/you perceive it). Moreover, this act of using your fictional character's creation to advance your own creation blurs the line between creator and creation. This blurring of reality - "All Stories Are True" and there is NO definitive viewpoint - would appear to be one of the central themes of Cerebus and is expanded upon in the subsequent, Mothers & Daughters. Comments?
Dave: Mm. Actually the other way around. In the first instance, she had her life before her with all of the different Jakas she intended to be. The whole range of possibilities represented by the flock of birds. In the latter instance she had been destroyed as everything but an artist. That was the reasoning behind the flock of birds becoming a single bird. She had chosen to have the abortion because she was afraid that having a baby would make her ugly. And the urge to be attractive was strictly a ”dancer thing.” So thus perished Jaka the mother and thus perished Jaka’s child, Jaka’s actual Other. And when Rick found out, thus perished Jaka the wife. It wasn’t just the marriage to Rick that died and it wasn’t just the unborn child, it was her belief that she could be a wife and mother as well as a dancer that died. The dancer decisions would always supersede the mother decisions and the wife decisions. And, of course, the life of a dancer isn’t a lengthy one so not only was she reduced to a single identity, the sands in the hourglass were fast running out on that identity. The only thing that was left besides the artist was Jaka the lover and that would die with the end of Form & Void. It would be impossible to imagine Jaka falling in love and giving it another try after having it brought home to her inescapably that she just wasn’t good for men, which I think I’m safe in saying, she wasn’t. Anytime her artistic self was aroused, as it was aroused when F. Stop Kennedy tried to tempt her to Mealc, everyone around her got hung out to dry—in that case Cerebus’ life being put into grave peril. The “lone figure in the distance” is no longer just a poetic element in the landscape spread before her. The “lone figure in the distance”—suddenly—IS her. It’s actually the opposite of “All Stories Are True”. “All Stories Are True” is one of those conceits that can comfort people who are burning the candle at both ends and trying to live many lives simultaneously, as Jaka was. The “Having It All” Marxist-feminist hallucination. But the unhappy truth for those people is that the world is, ultimately, far more made up of “This Is What Happened” than it is of “All Stories Are True”. There are a plenitude of lives and possibilities before you in your youth that then narrow into a sequence of events which unfolded as they unfolded (Where you can say on your thirtieth birthday: “Huh. So THAT was my twenties”) and—over a short space of time—Who You Might Yet Turn Out To Be gets replaced by Who You Ended Up Being. I speak from the vantage point of someone who is a little over a year from his fiftieth birthday. This is Who I Ended Up Being.
Q5: Was the Lord Julius Like-A-Look Victor Davis?
Dave: In a DRESS? I wouldn’t think so.
WILDCARD: Did you choose the three words "Devil/Viper/Scorpion" - D/V/S - to correspond to David Victor Sim?
Dave: I might have, but I don’t remember consciously doing so. I wanted three biblical terms that would be the sharp/sharper/sharpest metaphorical tripartite declension of intrinsic evil possible. A scorpion seemed to fit the “sharpest” bill. You can’t get much more pointed metaphorically than a scorpion. The devil and the viper seemed suitably “less sharp” incarnations: the allegorical curve of the tail, while the scorpion itself is the sting.
Q con't: And if so, what is the significance of this correspondence to your relationship to the text of Cerebus?
You mean, am I a devil, a viper and a scorpion? That seems to me of a piece with the “Dave Sim is Crazy” theories. As I told someone a while back— not wanting to be completely contrary and to attempt to find conciliation where it can be found—I would agree that either the Marxist-feminists are crazy or Dave Sim is crazy. Brian Coppola sent me a quote that was in Latin or Spanish in a letter which has been in my “to answer” pile for months and of course has gone missing just when I want to refer to it. Something along the lines of “We will go as we go, and then we shall see.” Which seems to sum it up nicely. I will make my case for my viewpoint over the next number of decades (God willing) and the Marxist-feminists will make their case for their viewpoint and then we will see which viewpoint prevails.
Lenny: Thanks once more,
Dave: Oh, you’re quite welcome. See you (in a manner of speaking) next month.