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“I said exactly what I wanted to say, exactly the way I wanted to say it.”

Dave Sim was actually interviewed by The Onion (not a permalink), and this is the quote that sticks with me most:

“There was no “storm of misinterpretation” following Cerebus’ “marriage” to Astoria. I’m not sure the quotes belong on there. That was part of my point. If Cerebus is the Pope and he declares himself married to Astoria and has sex with her, is that rape? There were a number of levels to that one, but that was the joke as far as I was concerned.”

I’ve never read Cerebus, mostly because I didn’t really see the point in giving money to someone who doesn’t think I deserve to be able to make such weighty decisions. Then as the end drew near and other comics bloggers talked about all the interesting things going on in Cerebus I got more and more convinced that I should give it a chance. But I haven’t yet, and it’s partly what’s contained in that quote that holds me back. I realize I may sound like the sort of “hysterical” feminist Sim so despises on this one (and, let’s be honest, that’s basically my normal state) but I’m utterly put off by a writer who can’t think of a better way to deal with an abstract concept like “what level of power makes you able to make something true/real/existent just by saying it?” without throwing in a “joke” sequence in which his main character rapes the character based on the author’s by-then-ex-wife?

And I hope I can be emotional without proving Sim right about the nature of women, but this all hits me far too close to home and I really don’t understand how it gets to be such a laughing matter. So an established, nuanced character gets raped (or maybe not, since apparently in Simworld there’s no such thing as marital rape) to lend gravitas to some adolescent musings on language and meaning and that’s supposed to just make the point stronger or something. Perhaps it does, but not in the way Sim intended. I realize that the tragedy is that people who weren’t themselves adolescent fanboys were reading and were betrayed by writing like this, not to mention Astoria’s human counterpart. And I just don’t know whether I could read and enjoy this, even without the question of what my money supports. I know other people read and I trust their judgment, but I don’t know how to make this decision.

Not really switching gears, my interpretational fixation just before we began this version of the blog was how people can do wicked, hurtful things and be utterly convinced they’re doing something right. Dave Sim seems to be one of those people, sure of himself and utterly remorseless, although it’s unfair of me to say that when he’s perhaps repented in his way for the things he did before his vow of chastity and so on. What he’s done, though, is build a world in which he doesn’t even seem to have the “number of levels” he put in Cerebus. He knows what’s right and what’s real and what’s best, and never seems to question whether things he says are so. At least he realizes his own thoughts are out of step with many other people’s. They are with mine, and I think because of who I am this may be a fatal disconnect. I don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.


  1. Laura G says:

    I’m right there with you. I have often been tempted to try Cerebus, but while I admire the accomplishment, I don’t admire the words of the man behind it. I just can’t bring myself to give it a try. And if I did, I fear it would be tainted because of all the other things I’ve read about and from Sim.

    — 31 March 2004 at 2:20 am (Permalink)

  2. Shane says:

    I tried the first 8 issues and enjoyed it. Supposedly those are before he decided to go into all of that stuff though. I think this is one of those “like the art, but not the artist” things that I find a lot in this world.

    — 31 March 2004 at 2:31 am (Permalink)

  3. Steven says:

    The problem with Sim’s paranoid delusional reality he’s constructed for himself, of course, the way he effortlessly defeats attempts to make rational counterarguments to his outlandish statements, is that his entire reality is constructed on the foundational belief that emotional responses are invalid. An emotional response of revulsion is a clearly reasonable response to much of Sim’s pontificating.

    We don’t engage in calm rational debate with men who beat their wives. We hopefully prevent them from continuing to beat their wives and see that they receive psychological treatment. (Not that people who beat their spouses generally get the therapy they probably should if they’re convicted, but it would be nice if they did.) (And Dave Sim never beat his wife to my knowledge, but as I recall he does advocate it.)

    — 31 March 2004 at 2:37 am (Permalink)

  4. Shane says:

    wow he came right out and advocated it?

    — 31 March 2004 at 4:15 am (Permalink)

  5. Steven says:

    Here you go, from Andrew Rilstone’s Is Dave Sim Mad? essay:

    “Women and children have soft, cushy buttocks, which are, nonetheless, shot through with reasonably sensitive nerve endings. I believe that those buttocks are there for a very specific purpose intended by their creator.”

    — 31 March 2004 at 5:31 am (Permalink)

  6. David Fiore says:

    The biggest problem with Dave Sim is that, while he is unquestionably, to my mind, the greatest cartoonist of all time (it’s him or Eisner, and then maybe Ditko), just in terms of what he can do with some inks and a page (although I haven’t read the second half of the Cerebus saga, so I cannot address the quality of the work as a whole). Unfortunately, he is still alive. And he’s pretty much bent on showing us what a jackass he is, all of the time. It’s easier somehow when you read that some long-deceased author/artist was a loathsome/misguided human being.

    But with Sim, there’s still the chance (however miniscule) that he will wake up one day and start talking sensibly once more (yes, yes, I used female characters to represent emotion, and male characters to represent reason–these were just metaphorical tokens at first and then I thought to myself: “wouldn’t it be simple if life really was like this?” and then, in a blink of an eye, it was!)

    He’s never going to make this admission–but he could, and somehow that makes him seem more reprehensible than someone like Hemingway (as a prose poet , Ernest has few peers–but his gender politics were just as terrible as Sim’s; worse, I think, because there are no Jakas or Regency Elfs in Hemingway …)

    Anyway, that was all just a preamble to a very short nod of the head on my part: in a world so filled with incredible stuff to read/see/listen to, there’s no reason for anyone to waste their time on anything that they suspect they will hate! Sim (like Courtney Love) has given his contemporaries a whole lot of good reasons to ignore him. It’s too bad, but he asked for it.


    — 31 March 2004 at 6:10 am (Permalink)

  7. Rose says:

    Dave, I dislike Hemingway for his prose and his politics, so that’s an easy one to skip. What I was getting at here is that I fully believe there are major parts of Cerebus I would very much enjoy, but I’m not sure I can let myself enjoy them because I don’t want to support the parts I’d hate. And I’ve read most of his rants available online through The Comics Journal and other places, so I’m not avoiding his ideas. It’s all about boycotts, I guess.

    And to clarify something that could be inferred from my original post, I don’t think that sexual assualt needs to have a special status that keeps it off-limits for literature or anything like that. That’s a condescending and common attitude, one that’s not helpful at all to people who are trying to educate about or deal with sexual assault, which is something I did a lot of back in my college days. I just think it’s a major issue that affects a lot of women and men and it’s unwise and unkind to treat it as callously as Sim seem to do.


    — 31 March 2004 at 12:02 pm (Permalink)

  8. David Fiore says:


    It’s definitely unwise to do anything that Dave Sim does! He is a fool. I can’t help lamenting the fact that the only contact you’ll ever have with him is through those horrible tracts that he’s been publishing as “letters to the editor”… He is absolutely worthless in this mode. And he may be the world’s poorest reader of his own work.

    I mean, take the rape scene, for instance: in black and white, it doesn’t play out anything like the way Sim argues that it does in that interview! Cerebus’ world–up to #150 anyway–was a shockingly brutal world. Every issue brought new cruelties and I never got the sense, at the time, that the author endorsed any of this realpolitik… Bruce Baugh wrote, a little while back, that Cerebus began as a no-hold-barred critique of power, and the Cerebus/Astoria relationship is illustrative of this:

    Everything that happens between these two is a mind game. They are continually jockeying for position–not a single honest word passes between them ever. As far as I could see, the rape was supposed to be the ultimate example of that. It was not taken lightly at the time–when I read that, as a 13-year old, I thought to myself, “wow, I never want to get to the point where the only thing I consider, with regard to other people, is what I can get away with doing to them…” Sim is probably the greatest contributor to my lifelong anti-Foucaultianism.

    What ultimately drove me away from the series was the sense that the artist behind the work was in the process of coming around to the idea that the “assassin’s motto” ought to prevail in the realm of gender relations. I know that this is not the case early on in Cerebus–the protagonist’s only two genuine relationships are with women (Jaka and The Elf), and there is no question that the early Sim privileged these friendships over all of the other contacts that the Aardvark makes…

    Oh well, I’m not trying to convince you to read the series, but I did want to defend the Sim-the-artist from Sim-the-submoronic “gender pundit”! As often happens, Sim has become the thing that he once criticized most.


    — 31 March 2004 at 2:45 pm (Permalink)

  9. Rose says:


    I do understand the power focus (and Bruce’s analysis was really good, as was Kip Manley’s) and that’s a particular interst of mine, which is another reason I want to read Cerebus. As I said, I have no problem with depictions of rape in general, though I’ll quibble or be disturbed or upset by various instances, and it’s a clear way to talk about the muddiness of certain kinds of power imbalances and power misuse.

    I just thought this particular episode, the quote from the interview, summed up ways in which Sim has failed. He started out interested in questions of what power words hold and how power in general can be used, and he fell away from all of this when he thought he found the answer, when it seems his early work revolved around the idea that this was a nasty, awful struggle with no hope of resolution.

    I guess much of this has been musing publicly, maybe not the best idea. I think the answer is that I just need to read Cerebus, but critiques and understandings of power particularly w/r/t gender roles is and self-perception is something I’ve been reading and thinking about for ages, so I’m also a bit worried I’ll find Cerebus disappointing, silly as that sounds. But of course it has a metatheme I like, the way people hate in others what they can’t recognize in themselves. At any rate, I think the answer is that I’m interested enough that I need to read it. I suppose I should start checking libraries around here.

    Also, I know you’ve said several times that you’re anti-Foucauldian. I have plenty of issues with the guy but think he said some interesting things. I hope I’ll get to hear more detail about this sometime!


    — 31 March 2004 at 3:07 pm (Permalink)

  10. David Fiore says:

    I’ll be extremely interested to hear your reactions Rose! At the very least, you’re in for a visual treat. This time around, I’m most pleased with some of the angles Sim takes to “shoot” the conversations in the living room between the Aarvark and the Countess in the early issues of “Church & State”… also, the Foghorn Leghorn and Groucho dialogue really holds up, I think!

    As for Foucault–well, I think that if you give up on the idea that beings can, somehow, sometimes, actually come to think of each other as ends rather than means, then you give up everything that matters, and i think Foucault does eschew this possibility.

    I’m not interested in the kind of “empowerment” that merely results in an inversion of the current hierarchy!

    you’re right though, we should talk more about this! I hope you’re still enjoying Blithedale, altough I’m not sure “enjoying” is the word I want to use, because it’s a creepy book!


    — 31 March 2004 at 4:44 pm (Permalink)

  11. jake wakeman says:

    This changed my life. I’m not sure “enjoying”

    — 3 June 2004 at 6:31 am (Permalink)