Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. Now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I'll be running interesting excerpts from those letters each week.
Returning to our regularly scheduled programming after about a month off, we now get a letter from Dave in which he addresses a cogent suggestion from Jeremy Schorr, owner of Titan Comics in Dallas, regarding footnoting the Cerebus phonebooks; the old Yahoo Cerebus Chat Group and the goings-on there; possible or real demonic possession; and his public Bible readings, among other things:
26 July, 2006
Thanks for your letter of June 20.
As to Jeremy's suggestion, I think you might want to set something up along the Wikipedia model where you would have pages 1 to 6,000 [Ed: It's actually more than 6,000, but who's quibbling?] with breaks between the novels marked and just have people fill it up with whatever I've written about any given page. I don't think it’s really necessary for me to check it. If I wrote it, I wrote it. "To the best of my recollection...". As it starts to fill up if people find contradictory entries, I'll be happy to define the difference or pick one over the other. Certainly, I've been running out of patience with answering the same questions over and over again while recognizing that every time someone asks a question, it's the first time it occurred to them. As to the short shrift of the religious material, I think that will speak volumes on its own. Just imagine: 60 pages on Cerebus No. 1 and three lines on Latter Days. It would be nice if it could be completely separate from the Yahoo socializing -- I meant that was what I was sort of pushing for when I asked if the answers to the five questions [Ed: IIRC, that was when Dave suggested that he would answer five questions for anyone who posed them about Cerebus. It may have been a bit more complicated than that, or maybe not for everyone. Hey, it's been ten years ago, dude.] couldn't be posted somewhere on the site so that Cerebus readers "tuning in" to find out more about the book could find what I have to say in and around the "Who went to see Superman Returns?" stuff -- to which as I recall, I got no answer.
I appreciate you standing up for me against the group, but I think it's probably a lost cause. Still, if anyone can draw distinctions between personal beliefs and psychiatric conditions, you're the one. [Ed: Back at the Yahoo Cerebus Group, trolls and just misinformed posters used to regularly start a string where the only topic was something along the lines of we know Dave Sim is crazy, but how crazy is he? I would regularly chime in with my psychological expertise and debunk it.] Stick it out for as long as you can is my best advice, but I think the Yahoo Group is probably getting ready to "Go Comics Journal message board" vis-a-vis Dave Sim and, at that point, there really isn't much to say, as someone explained to me. It's just mob rule and everyone throwing the worst invective they can think of. Which should be interesting. What exactly is this website supposed to be about if you think Dave Sim is crazy? What are you all doing here? [Ed: That is pretty close to what it turned into. Amazingly, there are still posts put up at that site, though nowadays they are back to being about Cerebus, from what I can tell.]
I'm not sure if I have anything to say to them apart from maybe:
You know, demonically possessed people don't KNOW that they're demonically possessed. But they do tend to blow a gasket when you point it out even as a possibility. And, I've always wondered, why is that? Well, that's not true. I think I KNOW why that is. But, from the secular humanist side of the ledger, if you don't believe in demonic possession, why do you go ballistic when someone suggests that you might be demonically possessed?
I've cleaned up my act a good deal, as you said in one of your responses, Jeff, and one of the things that happens is that you just tend to see things clearly that were (in my view, demonically) obscured prior to that. As an example, I was a firm believer in the "Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely" adage, but it wasn't until I had been reading the Bible for, I think, five years that the next time I ran across the phrase, I thought, "Hang on. That’s an indictment of God. That's saying that God is absolutely corrupt." Never occurred to me prior to that because my mind never got up that high. "Absolute Power -- yeah, like Nixon." See? Richard Nixon was nowhere near Absolute Power but, because I never thought above that mundane level, it never occurred to me that I was cursing God in using the phrase. That seems like a really basic form of demonic possession. Give the phrase to some glib smart-mouthed teenager (like I was) and get him to say it out loud a few times and he's very possibly taken a metaphorical meat cleaver to his own soul without having the slightest idea that's what he's done. It seems to me that the mail is mostly an ongoing contest to see if I can be made to agree with something I don't agree with or to let an observation go that I should refute.
Let me put it another way. Doesn't it seem a little odd that this obscure cartoonist no one has ever heard of and who everyone agrees is crazy is still getting ten- and fifteen-page letters in the mail two years after he finished his book? [Ed: He may have been mostly referring to me, but I’m pretty sure there were others.] Even after he has made it pretty clear that his only advice is to submit yourself to the will of God, pray five times a day, pay the stated alms and fast in Ramadan? [Ed: All of which Dave has done steadfastly since at least 1999.]
I don't think that will go over any better than my answers did but, having finally Googled my own name a while back, I don't think there are many worse things that can be said about me than the category I'm already in.
I've finished the first four Bible readings and booked the next four. [Ed: This refers to the period of time when Dave believed that God wanted him to publicly read, out loud, the King James version of the Bible and Dave went out and rented, at his own expense, a public venue for doing so. All donations went to the local food bank, IIRC.] Our peak attendance so far was five, our lowest two. It's had its amusing qualities. The first week, there was a seniors couple there who left after about twenty minutes. I mean, the crowd is dropping from seven to five, you notice those things and I wondered a lot about that. Why would you come all the way out, stay for twenty minutes and leave? It's a Bible reading. The guy is reading the Bible. What would cause such a profound level of disappointment? Then, the second week, a woman phones the night before (the number is in the newspaper listing). The only person who ever phoned because of the listing. Asks about a hundred questions and at one point asks if I need someone to "spell" me -- she'd love to read some Psalms. Okay, straightforward YHWH stuff, but I deflect it. No, it's just me reading and I'm going in order. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus... God willing, through the Gospels and through the entire Koran. Mention of the Koran should scare her away but doesn't. She has no money, she uses the Food Bank herself. No problem, she's more than welcome. She's a diabetic, so she'll have to have something to eat. One of the girls at Williams gave me a couple of free muffins Saturday night, so I bring one for her. The bus is dropping her off from church. So, I figure I better have money because she's going to start complaining about how is she going to get home, so I'll spring for a cab. She shows up. I give her the muffin and she's delighted. Wolfs it down. She goes to the charismatic church down on Charles Street. She just loves to get up and sing and dance and Praise the Lord. I smile. She gripes at the Food Bank rep that they should have special food hampers for diabetics, that she can't eat half of the stuff they give her. Katharine, the Food Bank rep, is gracious. Bible reading starts and, twenty minutes in, she gets up and leaves. So, okay, that explains the couple from week one. The whole point of this is to get me wondering and discourage me. But what a lack of imagination! Two walk-outs within twenty minutes and both with women involved.
Well, since then it's just been funny. Sandeep, Trevor (who's filming the readings), Greg, me and the Food Bank rep (Christopher, except for the one week for Katharine). Last week, I gave Greg the DVDs that Trevor has been pressing and told him it was for his "perfect attendance record". So, hey, it's just the guys and the Bible. As long as my personal bank account holds out, I'll keep doing it even if I have to read to an empty theatre. As I said to Sandeep, what am I going to do, blame my material? Blame my delivery?
Now, it seems to me that the issue is one of: has anyone ever done this before? I mean has anyone ever read the Torah in an English translation aloud? Even all of the wacky stuff in Exodus about how you put the sanctuary together and (next week's crowd-pleaser) YHWH’s favourite bar-b-que recipes and how to tell leprosy from not leprosy? And then, Israel makes her big move against Lebanon. Is that connected in some way? If my reading the Pentateuch out loud is somehow facilitating the wiping out of Hezbollah and Hamas, well, I'll happily go into debt to see that accomplished.
Anyway, thanks for forwarding all of this.
The dogs howl but the caravan rolls on.