So I devoted part of this weekend to sitting down and finally reading the Getting Riel commentary Dave Sim published in Cerebus #295-297. I really don’t know what the hell I was expecting.
As I said in the first chapter of Can’t Riel Just Get Along?, I think that Louis Riel is a very important work, so I was looking forward to hearing what the author (Chester Brown) had to say. Sim is nothing if not intelligent, and I was hoping that if anyone would be able to get to the heart of Riel, it might be him.
But of course I seem to have been mistaken in this matter. Sim can – and does – speak eloquently on the subject of comic book history and art when he wants to. But the Sim of Getting Riel is instead the Sim we all know and love from Tangent. I can’t fault him as such, because he admits very openly that he filters everything in his life and experience through the litmus of whether or not it is pro-God or anti-God (pro-YHWH). He looks for the finger of God in all events, be they news stories or the behavior of his friends and family. So, obviously, any issues that may have been tangentially raised by Riel are brought back at the end of the day to Sim’s religious preoccupations.
Credit where credit is due, Brown seems to honestly be enjoying some of the intercourse, even if he is noticeably silent on certain of Sim’s salient points. They are obviously good friends (even if, perhaps, Sim would dispute my Marxist-feminist definition of "good friends") and considering the fact that both hold decidedly different views on the state of the world they seem to enjoy the give-and-take (what there is, of course).
Brown seems to have the patience of a saint. Sim repeatedly claims that no one talks to him because of his outspoken views and his dogged resistance to Marxist-feminist ideology. But honestly, I think the main reason that people may avoid Sim these days is the fact that every bit of conversation he reprints in Cerebus is filled with defensive and, frankly, endlessly selfish digression. For instance, there’s a sequence where Sim hectors Brown for having fallen behind on their voluminous conversation by failing to respond to Sim’s faxes in a timely enough manner. But, of course, Sim fails to take into account the fact that Brown was then in the midst of what must have been a very busy and productive time: the lead-up to the national release of the collected volume of Brown’s largest and most important work to date in a single volume. Rather, Sim sees that Brown is hesitating and prevaricating on account of his ingrained Marxist-feminist resistance to any competing ideological viewpoint. Brown explains that he was busy and Sim apologizes in a very half-assed way.
You get the idea that Sim seems to think that a lot more people spend a lot more time thinking about him than they actually do. Which is understandable: he thinks he’s the only person left on the planet who understands the original "True" meaning of God’s scriptures. I don’t think he’s insane nor do I believe he’s delusional (two concessions I am sure he would see for the condescending liberal apologias that they are). But I do think that there’s not a lot he has to say on these subjects that will be of interest to me, being the Marxist-feminist agnostic that I am. Whether or not the voice of God in the Book of Exodus is actually God or God and another ersatz spiritual entity trying to trick Moses (as Sim believe the entire Jewish creed to have been "tricked" by YHWH into worshipping a false god) is of little import unless you actually believe the Bible to be something more than a collection of stories, which I don’t. What can I say, I’m funny like that.
I think that agreeing to hold these conversations with Sim has to be part of a concentrated effort on Brown’s part to appear more "normal". I mean, considering the fact that he lives an aggressively ascetic existence, is a strident libertarian and is very frank about the fact that he occasionally pays for prostitutes, he looks positively normal next to Sim, who argues that the act of enjoying food is a distraction from the contemplation of God.
I’m about halfway through the last part of Getting Riel and I don’t really hold to much hope for finding the intense discussion of craft and formalism that I was hoping for from Sim. So, I guess that means if I want something done right I’ll have to do it myself.
In other news, it seems as if there was some sort of comic book convention over the weekend, or something, I don’t know. Apparently it was revealed that living and breathing people produce the comic books you and I take for granted, and not soulless robots from Mars. And the comics world was stunned as famed science-fiction author Philip K. Dick was reported to have returned from the dead in order to write a Black Widow limited series. This was later confirmed to be a hoax, as Dick is not scheduled to return from the dead until 2006, when he is scheduled to write an episode of NBC’s hit dramady Scrubs.