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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...

Monday, October 15, 2012


Shows how much attention I pay to either Fantagraphics or Aardvark-Vanaheim these days, as I just found out last week from this BEAT post that there had been some lengthy discussions as to whether Dave Sim might allow Gary Groth, Inc. to republish CEREBUS in a bookstore-friendly version.

The "blam" in the title refers to the fact that the discussions seem to have blown up in everyone's faces, but I'm not interested in discussing the viability of seeing these two dialectically opposed comics-figures become "strange bedfellows."

One of the many comments Sim made (through a representative) was to vent his resentment of a cartoon that the JOURNAL published in which he was compared to Hitler.

... I was certainly surprised when one of the individuals responsible for labelling me as being co-equivalent with a Nazi concentration camp commandant was suddenly — quite publicly — talking about publishing my work and breathing new life into it... And if I did respond then I would be reinforcing the legitimacy of me being depicted as a concentration camp commandant, 18 years later. Otherwise why was I negotiating with them/him?"-- from "Dave Sim Responds" here.

Sim's aggrievement also doesn't concern me here just now.  Still I found my eyebrows substantially raised by Gary Groth's refutation of Sim's objection, helpfully excerpted on THE BEAT.

Consider this: TCJ, as has been pointed out, sold half of what Cerebus did. (That sounds about right: Cerebus probably sold around 20,000, the Journal around 9,000). Surely, a greater proportion of Cerebus readers cared about Dave Sim and Cerebus than that of Journal readers. It was Sim who first published a Dave-Sim-Is-Hitler analogy comment in a forum that would have far greater impact on Dave Sim’s livelihood than the Journal — his own comic, read exclusively his his own fans. Logically, then, Sim did far more to cultivate what he perceives as the Sim-Is-Hitler public persona that he believes currently exists (which, keep in mind, only exists in Sim’s head). So, we have several layers of lunacy at work here: the first is that there’s wide perception of Sim-as-Hitler (which there isn’t) and the second is that the Journal was solely responsible for this when it was in fact Sim’s own Cerebus that was, logically, far more responsible…..

What amazes me about Groth's comment here is that while I was a constant and (I think) thorough reader of CEREBUS back in the day, I had no idea what 'Dave-Sim-is-Hitler-analogy-comment" Groth referenced.  Groth states that it appeared in response to the incendiary issue #186, but the comment wasn't originated by Sim, though he did respond to it.

I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out how Sim responding to a comment "did far more to cultivate... the Sim-Is-Hitler public persona."  Did anyone remember this lettercol exchange before Groth mentioned it as a proximate cause that inspired the offending cartoon?

I don't think that Sim is "responsible" in any way for fomenting the intellectually lax "Sim-Is-Hitler" meme, even with the consideration that he could have chosen not to print the originating comment in the CEREBUS lettercol.  I can imagine that many people who didn't like Sim's views would have made comparisons between Sim and Hitler had Sim never printed that comment, or any similar comment, and also if THE JOURNAL had never printed the offending cartoon.  Comparing one's enemies to Hitler has spawned its own "law," if one can fairly call it that.

But if you ask me what did the most to spread the Godwinian comparison-- some little comment in the CEREBUS lettercol, or the fullblown cartoon in the JOURNAL-- well, obviously, the JOURNAL cartoon had the greater effect.  Such is the power of the image: *seeing* a comics-celebrity like Sim in Nazi attire will always sear its way into the cerebral synapses in the way that a verbal debate cannot.  I don't imagine that the JOURNAL's low sales prevented the dissemination and discussion of the cartoon in many quarters that paid no attention whatever to the lettercol referenced.

By saying this, I do not side with Sim on the question of whether it was right or tasteful for Groth to have published such a cartoon.

But Groth's attempt to shift the burden to Sim's shoulders is more than a bit egregious.


1 comment:

Michael A Battaglia said...

"But Groth's attempt to shift the burden to Sim's shoulders is more than a bit egregious."

That's putting it nicely. It's deplorable.