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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some

competitive theater going on there; it makes a lot of psychological sense.

You also have this theme of betrayal, a fairy tale heroine, Snow White, who

became a victim of conspiracy by the evil queen. Or you’ve got the

“Portrait of a Lady” story — innocent young girl as victim of a shadowy

older woman in league with a male and so on. So our hearts went out to her

because we felt she was utterly out of her depth in trying to maneuver

against these two old-guard constellation of enemies — the House of

Windsor and this malign woman from Charles’ past.-- Camille Paglia, Salon.com

A few weeks ago I picked up a comic-shop copy of Dave Sim's GLAMOURPUSS #22.  I hadn't looked at the title for some time, though I had probably sampled six or seven before I decided that Sim's main subjects therein didn't move me that much.  I had some interest in his interpretation of the photorealist tradition in comic strips and books, but the purchase-killer was the book's parodies of fashion (or "glamour") magazines and the models that sell them.  If there is such a thing as "bad good girl art," Sim's parodies were "bad dumb girl art."  (To be sure, the art-part was fine; the writing sucked.)

There is, to be sure, nothing wrong (save to the politically correct) about humor built around the central concept of dumb-- and usually pretty-- girls.  I've liked a lot of it, ranging from Bill Ward's seminal TORCHY to the Bridwell/Oksner ANGEL AND THE APE.  (And fie, triple fie, upon Phil Foglio for the miniseries in which he "smartened up" Angel O'Day!)  But I didn't think much of Sim's "DGA" was funny, so I let my attention to GLAMOUPUSS lapse.

The lead feature of GLAMOURPUSS #22-- "Secret Origin of Zootanapuss"-- did nothing to dispel my negative feelings toward Sim and DGA.  However, I found that the photo-realistic section of the book had swerved from straightforward history into something Sim himself, in an intro, labels as "Based on a True Story."  Much of what Sim relates and theorizes upon does, as I mentioned in A SYNCHRONICITY SAMPLING, strongly resemble the Jungian concept of synchronicity.

I hasten to state that Dave Sim doesn't endorse Jungian concepts anywhere in GP #22, and that for all I know, he may never have done so.  To my recollection the only direct allusion to Jung in the late issues of CEREBUS was a negative one, so I don't have any reason to believe that Sim would be receptive to Jung's concept of a "psychoid archetype."

During the section seen in GP #22, Sim ruminates on certain obscure aspects in the life of artist Stan (HEART OF JULIET JONES) Drake-- what caused Drake and his family to relocate from New York to Connecticut, Drake's earlier nervous breakdown, and the fateful 1956 car-crash that injured Drake and killed his passenger, Alex (FLASH GORDON, RIP KIRBY) Raymond.  Sim has evidently been writing on these matters since issue #14, so I'm coming late to the party.

But what a synchronicitous party it is!  Sim correctly presents his speculations as essentially fictional in nature, yet he manages to weave together a tapestry of corresponding incidents and resonances between not only the worlds of Drake and Raymond but also those of Al Capp (whose brother wrote JULIET JONES), and Margaret Mitchell (whose name was used to launch the strip).  Others, more distantly removed in time and space though not in theme, include Princess Diana and Dodi Feyed, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, and (making a "crossover" appearance from their CEREBUS incarnations) F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

"There's a strange quality," asserts Sim on page 14, "to Stan Drake's life that seems to ... interweave... itself with reality and various forms of fiction."  I relate this to the Paglia quote above, where the author sees the death of Diana as something more than straightforward reality, finding that the real event shares themes with two fictional creations, one folkloric and one high-literary.  In contrast to Paglia, though, Sim focuses on a wealth of intriguing little details.  It's like reading Samuel Rosenberg's NAKED IS THE BEST DISGUISE, where the intensive investigation is applied to real people.

Of course, in the empiricist worldview shared by most comics-critics-- whether as passionate conviction or default-- there can be no "interweaving" between fact and fiction.  The knee-jerk reaction of many critics would be to assert that Sim was simply projecting on reality images that he personally wished to behold in them.  This charge of "projection" comes even easier when a given writer endorses unpopular opinions, as Sim has been known to with regard to feminism.

I used to argue somewhat against Sim's anti-feminist positions in the lettercols of CEREBUS, but though I found him a stubborn and sometimes intransigent opponent, I would never do what many critics and forum-posters have done: to consider him "crazy" because his view verges far from my own.  It's true that there are "crazy people" who look too hard through a particular emotionally-tinted lens and lose the ability to see anything else, but that's clearly not the case with Dave Sim.

However, in one sense Dave Sim and his critics are on the same page, insofar as they subscribe to the Platonic notion that emotion is epiphenomenal while reason, essentially its opposite in common parlance, is one's sole source of insight into the workings of the universe.

On page 23, in conversation with a supporter named Eddie Khanna, Sim says:

"'The Wedding of the Century' billing always seems to incite emotion-based psychosis in our society about what almost invarably prove to be ill-starred and short-lived unions... [list of four such marriages, including Diana and Charles]...And it seems obvious that you have to put the female names first in these 'marriages.'"
Sim's distate for mere emotion was made explicit long before this, as in this provocative quotation: 

"Emotion, whatever the Female Void would have you believe, is not a more Exalted State than is Thought. In point of fact, I think Emotion is animalistic, serpent-brain stuff. Animals do not Think, but I am reasonably certain that they have Emotions. 'Eating this makes me Happy.' 'When my fur is all wet and I am cold, it makes me Sad." "Ooo! Puppies!'   'It makes me Excited to Chase the Ball!' Reason, as any husband can tell you, doesn't stand a chance in an argument with Emotion... this was the fundamental reason, I believe, that women were denied the vote for so long."

Of course Sim's critics would simply turn the reason/emotion argument against him in response, seeking to prove that his judgments were flawed by his emotional responses and that they were using a truer species of reason than he.

Where the matter of synchronicity/interweaving is concerned, however, there can be no final appeal to a hypothetical reason.  Just as individuals think that a supposed "psychic experience" is valid or invalid on the basis of personal experience, one's view of synchronicity is no less personally determined.

In agreement with Jung, I don't think that emotion is epiphenomenal.  I don't know if psychic energy is a quantifiable influence upon real events, but such influence might be a reason-- if not the only reason--why discrete events in history seem to form parallels to one another.  The lazy empiricist merely asserts that there can be no such influence or resonances, based on the materialist proposition that mind cannot affect matter.  Said empiricist might rebut Sim's "interweavings" by asserting that Sim is seeing what he wants to see: ill-starred unions, in which women are more prominent than they should be, coming to bad endings.

Contrary to both Sim and the materialists, I believe that emotion, at the very least, provides a lens through which everything, including rational cogitation, is colored.

Sim looks at four disastrous marriages, one being that of Princess Diana, and sees a meaningful theme of "the haughty woman brought low," if I am not interpreting him too freely.

Paglia looks at the death of Diana and sees another meaningful theme, that of the maiden persecuted by society and the influence of an older and hostile female relative.

As I stated at the end of THE INTERSUBJECTIVITY SOLUTION, neither interpretation is wrong.  Both are "true" in the sense that these are valid resonances that the historical events evoke, even though the respective themes are tangentially opposed.

In my view this is the crucial nature of Jung's archetype theory.  It can't be channeled to reflect only ideas that a certain societal stratum considers good or proper or rational.  It reflects everything, warts and all.  Men trying to pretend that all women are dumb; women trying to pretend that all men are stupid.  The collective unconscious preserves it all-- and if Jung's theory of psychic energy holds water, then it could be a reason why so many persons repeatedly attempt to follow the pattern of myths, even against their own rational best interest.

In conclusion, I can only say that I'll be checking out back issues of GLAMOURPUSS, intensely interested in the Stan Drake Universe, but maybe passing over the Dave Sim version of the "DGA" archetype.

1 comment:

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Gene,
Would you be okay with me 'reprinting some of your Dave Sim related articles on 'A Moment Of Cerebus... with full credit and links of course.
Thanks for considering.
momentofcerebus [at] gmail [dot] com