Note From The President, Cerebus 87, June 1986Copyright 1986 Dave Sim
Well, I'm sitting here in the studio, with the cover and letters page yet to do and I've just read a good hundred or so Aardvark Comment letters. The topic of conversation is almost exclusively "Dave's bad attitude" pro and con. The "pro" letters tend to be "let freedom ring" in tone and substance, responding to the fact that I, have by happy accident or cosmic twist of fate, cut myself a hunk of turf that grants me more creative freedom than, say, Leonardo da Vinci had. This was the only salient point to my recent tantrums and naturally enough I was gratified by the number of people who got that at which I was driving. The "con" letters are an uneven mixture of people feeling bad for the fans I "kicked in the teeth" (to borrow one of the pithier descriptions) people opining that I have become arrogant, unfeeling, rude, stuck-up, brutal (you get the idea) people predicting that Cerebus won't last another year.
The genesis of those letters columns was the oft-expressed fan sentiment that there is something wrong with printing letters of praise exclusively -- that Marvel does this and as a consequence their credibility suffers. Not wanting to let my credibility suffer -- or even experience twinges of discomfort -- I set about trying to strike a balance. That presented a different problem. Cerebus is mine. All mine. On a day-to-day basis I just shrug off the occasional "Dear dip-shit" letter and drop it in the garbage. The problem was finding something to say to these whimsical individuals. Do you see? It was the difference between picking up the phone and hearing a stream of invective that you can stop by replacing the receiver or having people shuffling around your apartment saying "A wonderful apartment. Just great. You should be very proud, but that chair sucks and these colours aren't right and the rug is ugly" or "So this is the great apartment): Hah! It used to be great but there's nothing here. It used to be full of neat stuff but the new stuff is all CRAP".
Cerebus is mine. All mine. It bears repeating because some of you still don't get it.
Here's where I think I went wrong.
My intention with the letters page for the longest time was to do the letters to the Editor section in National Lampoon, but to use authentic letters. The more wack-o letters I printed the more I got and the stranger the letters page got. If it made me laugh, it had a good shot at making the next issue's Aardvark Comment. Then I started getting the occasional complaint from the self-declared letter-hacks (I won't go into what I infer from their title) that there were no wordy discourses on Cerebus anymore. Okeydoke. Let's try that, I thought. The problem was essentially one of tone. By virtue of paying $1.70 for a copy of my work, many people became self-appointed editors and art directors. As I started skimming other letters pages the names would recur, all with criticisms that had no foundation besides "I don't like it" or "I feel ripped off'. And what I found particularly galling was that the no-talent bozos who answered the letters in these other books made no effort to defend the creative people involved and tried to be as civil, as polite, as placating as they could manage while, with reservations, humbly disagreeing.
And then it came together. Bozos who can't write or draw writing to other bozos who can't write or draw and complaining about the quality of work produced by someone who can write and/or draw.
I don t like George Thorogood doing country and western music. To me he is one of the finest rock and rollers, but country and western leaves me cold.
Does it make any sense for me to write a letter to Mr. Thorogood (let's suppose for the sake of argument that it goes straight to him as the Aardvark Comment letters go straight to me) telling him that he's making a mistake by including country and western songs on his albums, that they would sell much better if they were strictly rock and roll albums?
I mean, I daresay the thought has occurred to him and has probably come up in conversation and meetings with the record company executive bozos that are his crosses to bear. What could be his only response (supposing, once again, for the sake of argument that he would respond to such inane advocacy)?
It's my music and I do it my way. Don't like it? Don't buy it. There's lots of rock and roll albums that don't have country and western on them. Buy those instead.
If I then belabored the point by indicating that I paid good money for his last album and out of the ten songs on it I only really thought two were vintage Thorogood and the rest were filler or hack work or muzak fodder, I should not be surprised to see him roll his eyes heavenward, grimace, jerk a thumb in my direction and ask of no one in particular "Who is this asshole?"
He would be right and I would be wrong. Period.
Now let me add tangentially that if the purpose of your criticism is to effect change it's not very likely to happen for the next two and half or three years. Not in Church and State, anyway. It exists now in full skeletal form and probably wraps up around issue 115 which will make it almost twice the length of High Society at completion (we will release it as a two volume set sometime after it's done).
Just as I started getting intimations of Church and State as High Society reached the half-way point (#37-38), so am I now getting initial thoughts about the Cirinist/Kevillist/Love Story novel which will follow Church and State.
Having spent the better part of nine years planning everything that is (and much of what will be) in Cerebus I am quite a bit further ahead then all of you. This is as it should be, in my mind, or there would be damn few surprises.
With these caveats, I welcome your criticism and comments but I also serve notice that the funny letters will get priority on the letters page, followed by interesting, followed by critical.
And from time to time I might just take custody of this space to have a bit of a go at any topic that I feel like blathering on about.
Because it's mine.
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