And On The Seventh Day God Enjoyed A Comic Book…

The year was 1995…  I was working at Comics Route in Manchester, Vermont when I first met Chris Kulig.  Little did I know at the time, that this interesting man who road into town on a bicycle, asking to be photographed next to my display for Teri Wood’s self-published Wandering Star, would remain a constant in my life for the next 16 years.  Chris made his purchase that day, and inquired about mail order options before continuing his travels across the green mountains of Vermont.  You see Chris was enjoying his first summer off from the Seminary, and his travels had landed him in my comics shop, and every month since that day in ’95, I’ve been selling Chris his comics.  Although he’s not just Chris anymore, now he’s Fr. Christopher Kulig, O.Carm. of the St. Joseph/Immaculate Conception Rectory.  That’s right folks, a comic book reading Roman Catholic Priest!  And not only does he read comics, but at my request, he wrote a little something about them too.  Here’s an excerpt…

Cerebus © Dave Sim

Meet Joe Priest

It was 15 years ago or so that I found myself in a comic book store in north Jersey, browsing through the various titles.  I came upon a most intriguing graphic novella: Meet Joe Priest.  If I recall correctly, it had both a priest in roman collar and a Hell’s Angel character on the cover, replete with motorcycle, of course.  Hmmm, I thought, I did have a few extra dollars in my allowance, so what the hell–I bought it.  The story was fairly kitschy: in a future time of dictatorship, when human birth had been usurped by genetic engineering done in the laboratory, a renegade priest runs rampant with his motorcycle bodyguard, “confessing” every nubile young lady in town (“confessing” being code word for impregnating, if you hadn’t inferred) as a way of subverting the evil regime of his time.  Oh, brother, was it worth the five bucks?

I had to laugh, though, since this was nothing like priesthood or sacramental confession.  How might I know?  Well, I have a confession to make: I am a Roman Catholic priest, going on ten years, now. It was in the seminary that I picked up the aforementioned title (really, how many grown men have an “allowance,” save “priests-in-training for poverty, chastity and obedience—or very henpecked husbands!).  But my interest in the art form of comics went back just a little bit earlier, to the late 80s.  My college roommate at West Virginia was somewhat of an avid collector, back in the day when the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series was a hot seller.  However, my potential interest in comic books was quickly squelched when my roomie wouldn’t let me read that four-part series, lest I ruin its re-sale value (NB: Another dorm-rat college buddy wouldn’t even let me read the ensuing compilation book, since its bluebook value was increasing, too!).

Suffice to say, my interest was put off for a few years.  If these books had become like ancient manuscripts, “sacred texts,” forbidden from my purview, then why bother?

Then I took a road-trip with Tony, the sole representative of the WVU fencing club, for the NCAA fencing tournament in Orlando in 1989.  For the journey, Tony had brought his Cerebus Phone Books, both High Society and Church and State I & II.  I can still recall, with great glee, the hilarity I found in the opening pages of High Society, where this new hero for our ages—Cerebus the Aardvark—was itching to pick a fight with anyone, and was foiled at every turn.  I was enthralled.

I would soon begin collecting Cerebus and eventually go on a quest to find first printings of each issue.  It probably did not help my relationship with my last girlfriend at the time (“You just had to make me drive you to every comic store in the area in search of ‘another Cerebus comic book’!” echoes her perturbed voice in old section of my romantic memory); but I grew to appreciate the different stores I visited in my travels.  Why call ahead and ask, “Do you have any old Cerebus?” when you can go into the store and see what treasures were waiting to be found?  Like Meet Joe Priest?  Well, some stores had more hidden treasures than others (but, as kitschy as it was, I did like Joe Priest).

[Meet Joe Priest can be read in its entirety in Panel to Panel: Exploring Words & Pictures, which can be purchased at this website.]

Simmer Down, Dave…

During the late Spring/Early Summer of 2010, Jon Mathewson (whose recent book of poetry can be purchased HERE) corresponded with, Cerebus creator, Dave Sim via fax.  That interview, which Jon has titled The General in His Labyrinth, is previewed here for your enjoyment.  If you’d like to read more, and there is a whole lot more, please support Panel to Panel over at Kickstarter.com and pre-order your copy today.  As I write this, there are less than 20 days left in our fundraiser, and we still have a lot of ground to cover.  Please take a look at the excellent rewards we are offering, and find the pledge level which best suits your budget.  We here at Panel to Panel are eternally grateful for your support.

Jon Mathewson: You are a patient guy.  One thing that has always impressed me about you is your ability to see the sweep of time, and your place in it.  A the age of, what, twenty-three?, you saw how to turn Cerebus from a series of monthly satires to an epic encompassing politics, religion, and “dangerous philosophy.”  You saw Cerebus life ahead of you, and spent the next couple of decades telling it.

So: I read Glamourpuss in 2010, and enjoy your examinations of photo-realism and comics’ internecine fights of yore, but I wonder, where do you see Glamourpuss, and where you are now, in the greater sweep of your career?

Do you see any similarities between your pariah status and the way Ezra Pound was treated by the literary establishment of his day?

Dave Sim: Ha Ha.

Oh, sorry, you’re serious.  Or pretending to be, anyway.  No. Ezra Pound was a Nazi sympathizer and dupe.  In the context of our present age, I’m the only one who ISN’T advocating the Marxist-Feminist totalitarian dictatorship, the only one who DOESN’T think that capitulation to the “one right way to think” is the correct course for a civilization.  I’m being treated the way I’m being treated because I’m enunciating common sense – the impossible things to believe before breakfast are as impossible now as they were when I came up with them.

In the same way that the good Germans persevered through the 1930s and 1940s, I have persevered through the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century basically living the way they lived: waiting to be arrested for not thinking the right way, hauled before a human rights commission or, basically, waiting for the other shoe to drop on a daily basis.

I do good work.  I do the best work that I can, just as if it would be given a fair hearing – which it isn’t since it doesn’t conform to the only way we are allowed to think in the 21st century – that the Marxist-Feminist dictatorship is the only way to think: if you aren’t a Marxist-Feminist you’re a misogynist.  I like to think that fifty or a hundred years after I’m dead there might be a restoration of common sense, in which case my hard work will be appreciated.  I think it unlikely that it will happen in my lifetime.

I work from the moment I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night.  I pray five times a day.  I observe a Sabbath.  I fast nine days out of ten.  I do Glamourpuss, Cerebus Archive and Cerebus TV.

I have preserved a daily record of the ongoing campaign by Marxist-Feminists to destroy me.  On the other side of things, it documents my perseverance in the name of freedom of expression and the wide spectrum of viewpoints which exist in our society in spite of the dictatorship we all labour under.

My best guess is that all traces of my passing will be eliminated at the point of my death, or at least the attempt will be made.  It’s all totalitarians are capable of doing, whether you’re talking about Nazis, communists, Marxist-Feminists, al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Where am I now?  I haven’t been destroyed yet, but not for want of trying on the part of those trying to destroy me.  That’s the situation I’m in, which is the same situation I’ve been in for sixteen years.