Note From The President, Cerebus 119, February 1989Copyright 1989 Dave Sim
We have been more than fortunate with the critical reaction to this first book of Jaka's Story.
Hard to believe that we're already one hundred and twenty pages into the third Cerebus novel; rewarding in that no Aardvark Comment's and fan press reviews have ventured the opinion that Jaka's Story is boring. Rewarding because it was my intention that "Pogrom's Progress" was to be a very slow and monotonous introduction to the four principle characters - and further that the reader would discover that the four principle characters are very boring, ordinary people (like all of us). This is a dangerous sort of admission for a creative person to make since it tends to cause fan and reviewer alike to revise their opinion to conform to the creative person's view of his own work ("That's what I thought. I said Jaka's Story was boring six months ago") so, I'll elaborate a bit.
I wanted to see if I could portray boredom and monotony and make it interesting; because to me boredom and monotony is interesting and enriching. In point of fact boredom and monotony are, quite often, misnomers. A person can say he is bored at the exact moment of a truly spectacular sunset ...or in a moment of real tranquility and inner peace. Canadians have a reputation for being boring. When Americans say this, I realize that this means that we don't kill each other often enough and when we do, the details of our homicides aren't sufficiently grisly to do a good movie-of-the-week; we don't sue each other for obscene amounts of money over mindless machismo; we tell the truth and expect others to do the same. Boring, right? To me the movies that feature a graphic act of violence every ten seconds; or a car chase; or an explosion are boring. I find most movies and almost all television programming boring. All of the 'rules' about keeping the action going; eye-catching camera work, quick cutting and fever-pitch pacing have painted these multimillion dollar media in hues of self-caricature (in much the same way that endless regurgitation of Neal Adams' innovations by lesser talents have made super-hero comics caricatures of themselves).
When I do watch television, it is usually the CBC French affiliate out of Toronto; and it is usually a European movie. For some years I've been drawn to the way they tell a story. I don't know enough French to understand what's being said, but I am sympathetic to a viewpoint that depicts two people conversing in a dining room, each measuring their words before speaking, changing their emotions incrementally, revealing their thoughts through gesture and expression as much as through their words. With the sound off, I begin to write my own story. I'm usually able to guess when the tone of a scene is about to change because all the subtle signals that would convey such a change are there; in the camera work, the directing, the editing and the acting. In most American films you only know something violent is about to happen because its been three minutes since the last act of violence.
Anyway, since I am rolling the dice - pushing the limits of what I think I can get away with until it includes what I want to get away with - I just thought I'd let you know that I considered Pogrom's Progress, after the escalation high of Church & State's ending, to be a high-risk experiment (twenty percent chance of scattered approval); and to thank everyone for their encouragement so I can give the limits an even harder push in "The Poet". Who knows where it will end?
Stay tuned and thanks.
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