I recently troubled to excerpt a portion of a Dave Sim letter from about fourteen years ago. Having delved that far back in the past already, I may as well put that matter in my personal historical context.
I remember being fascinated with comic strips and kiddie comics as soon as I could read, though the only thing I can date is a 1960 sequence from DICK TRACY, which would have been in newspapers when I was five. When I saw the sequence reprinted in a post-1990s TRACY reprint book, I clearly recognized a visual involving a villain named "Spots," who possessed literal spots floating before his eyes. When the story concluded with Spots dying in a shootout with Tracy, the "spots" evaporate like his dissolving soul-- and I was sure I'd seen the same scene before. Whether I really remembered it from the age of five, I do not truly know.
I didn't get into superhero comics initially. Around '65 I remember seeing some Julie Schwartz comics that grossed me out. Then in 1966, my opinion on superheroes changed and I dropped the kiddie comics for superheroes, westerns, and the occasional horror-genres. I think the changeover had something to do with a TV show that had the sound "Da Da Da Da Da Da" in the theme song.
I remained pretty isolated from fans, except for one or two "pen pal" relationships. In 1972 I met a couple of local fans with whom I kept contact, which may have encouraged my fledgling fan-writing.. Though I'd started getting comics-fan mailers through the post, it was one of those friends who first showed me the JOURNAL around 1976. Impressed with the magazine's thoughtful and inquiring tone, I submitted, and my first JOURNAL essay saw print in issue #35 (June 77), three issues after the magazine took on its current name (having been "THE NEW NOSTALGIA JOURNAL" before that).
I remained loosely associated with the JOURNAL throughout the 1980s, except for a brief period in which I tried to quit the fannish thing, with no evident success. Toward the late 1980s, as I mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I became very critical of the JOURNAL's increasingly elitist attitude. My last overture to the magazine occured during 1989.
However, also during that period I'd also come to admire the lively discussions in Dave Sim's CEREBUS lettercol, and I'd written Sim letters off and on. A few years after I quit submitting to TCJ, a feud broke out between Gary Groth and Dave Sim around 1992. Since the Internet still wasn't viable, Dave's lettercol became for me a enjoyable place to debate matters of comics criticism, including the faults of the JOURNAL-- though I had a sense that on one level Dave was just as elitist as Gary Groth.
Dave gave me irrefutable evidence of that in a essay called "Annotated Hart," and I wrote what I considered a letter of friendly rebuttal, focusing on the old Wildean debate between "ethics and aesthetics." Dave didn't precisely answer my objections, but he did take major exception to what he considered a conflation of popular fiction myths and the genuine revelations of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. I could be wrong, but until then I don't think he'd completely "come out" as to his religious convictions, or I might not have made the comparisons I made in quite the same language.
Naturally, I wrote a long re-rebuttal letter, but Dave didn't print it for reasons too involved to mention here. (I've sometimes considered excerpting parts of the letter here for my own amusement.) Dave did print a much shorter rebuttal in CEREBUS #243 (June 99) and did not append any reply, which was better treatment than I got from AMAZING HEROES in response to assorted complaints. Even without making further contributions to the lettercol, though, I continued to follow CEREBUS to the end and sent Dave a congratulatory letter when he finished his epic, to which he replied in cordial fashion.
Oddly, the end of the 1990s, when I wrote my last letters to Dave Sim, was about the time when the Internet took off, which gave me new venues wherein I could be a bane to bloody comic book elitists everywhere.
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