For the past decade or so, Dave Sim, Cerebus creator and publisher of one of the longest running independent comics in history, has been dogged by criticism of misogyny in his work. It started first after publication of an essay in Cerebus #186, "Reads" in which he attacked Oprah, the intelligence of women, feminism, gender differences, and something called the "Female Void" and the "Male Light". Two more out-of-left field essays popped up again in Cerebus #264 and #265.
Issue #264 printed a challenge to Bone creator Jeff Smith to a fist-fight, a gesture that that drove his longtime proofreader, Diana Schutz to resign. He followed thatup in #265 with an essay titled "Tangents," an essay-length "DEBUNKING" of feminism, abortion, the "feminist-homosexualist axis," and his thoughts on, er... spanking adult women. Carol West, his adminstrative assitant, and the last of his female employees, quit in disgust midway through typing up the essay. The Comics Journal has a rather extensive write-up on that part of Dave Sim's history with his employees.
CBR's Gail has a scathing parody of both of those essays in "Dave Sim's Guide To Getting Chicks".
Dave Sim recently published "Glamourpuss", a satirical take on women's fashion magazines, and in what is one of the oddest moves I've seen in years makes you agree to an odd terms of service agreement before he'll even talk to you.
Fellow nerdcore rapperDoc Popular had this to say:
" ...[he] decided the best way to handle such a situation was to send out a form letter requiring anyone who wished to correspond with him to fill out and return with a note saying “I don’t believe that Dave Sim is a misogynist.”. “If you aren’t willing to extend that minimal courtesy to me,” he states “then I would respectfully ask that you not attempt to contact me in the future.”
You can read a scan of the original letter on the fantastic Inkstuds Blog, or hear their recent (and relatively rant free) interview with Dave here.
In his letter Dave asks “What sort of friends and fans allow a friend or the person they are a fan of to be called the lowest, subhuman form of life in our society with impunity?”. The Dave Sim Misogyny Page is chock full of his quotes on gender and Heidi McDonald has an interesting piece on the subject in The Beat.
Although I am not willing to on the record and state that I feel Dave Sim is not a Misogynist, I will state that a terms of service of correspondence is a great idea! As a matter of fact, I have decided to enact my own Doctor Popular TOS on this very blog; by commenting, reading, hearing about, or in anyway thinking about Doctor Popular or DocPop.org, the user is hearby stating that they agree that “Doc Pop is the awesomest guy on the internet!”.
Yeah, this sounds like a great idea to me, Doc.
My take? For me, my whole sense of awe regarding Dave Sim is that he has an eye for the design elements and page layout of a comic book that have few equals in the comics industry, even today. Sadly, his views are repulsive and wrong. I do think it's worth reading Cerebus, but I would certainly say you aren't missing anything is you stop after the sixth "phone book" volume.
What, you don't want to take my word for it on the fact that he's a great artist? Alright, howzabout this post from metafilter user :
Here's an early page, showcasing some of his writing. Here you get a feel for his comedy writing and dialogue.
Over time, he started putting negative space to work really well, see here, here, and here
Here's three pages from a climate fight between major characters. The art is gorgeous, the panels and transitions great and there's several years of weight between this confrontation that give it an emotional impact.
The rest, I'm just gonna link to and let you decide on your own.
Cerebus as pope
Cerebus pisses off Red Sonya
Who has a husband?
Three more pages.
I still don't think that invalidates Dave Sim being a messed up pile of hate and misogyny, though. He DID declare that all women are incapable of rational thought, that they want to be raped by doctors, and that "equal pay for equal work" = Communism. It's all just layer after icky, oozing layer of justification for his personal contempt and loathing for women.