Saturday, 31 March 2012

Ditkomania: Ever-Lovin' Ayn Rand

Ditkomania: Ever-Lovin' Ayn Rand (2008)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Fantagraphics Books, 2008)
More than anyone, the diminutive female philosopher and writer Ayn Rand defined Ditko's professional and personal life. His adherence to Rand's philosophy, known as Objectivism, forever changed his outlook on morality, finances and his mission as a comic-book creator. By immersing himself in Rand's teachings, Ditko started down a path that, ironically, would lead him away from a life of riches and fame... Her philosophy was based on the principles of rationalism and individualism, and a belief that art should mirror one's personal beliefs. She popularised the phrase "A is A" - that man's consciousness should be devoted to perceiving reality, not inventing or creating it.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Steve Ditko

(from The Blog & Mail, 25 November 2006)
I finished my review of The Ditko Package and, vaguely dissatisfied, I finally broke down and called directory assistance in Washington State to see if they had a number for Robin Snyder. It's one of those things that I tend to be ambivalent about in the comic-book field particularly when you're looking at a book that's from seven years back. What are the odds that all the playing pieces are still on the same chessboard and in the same configuration? From my experience, not very good. I'm one of the few people I know where I can say that I'm still in the same geographic location I was sixteen years ago, with a phone number that predates that by probably another seven years. And, no, they didn't have a phone number for Robin Snyder on Yew St. Rd. but they did have a number for a Robin Snyder on Canterbury. Now we are into serious ambivalence. What are the odds that it's the same Robin Snyder? So I phoned and asked "Is this Robin Snyder?" "Yes it is." "The Robin Snyder that works with Steve Ditko?" and sure enough it was. My first question was out of my mouth before I could even assess whether I wanted to ask it.

"How's Steve Ditko doing?"

Robin laughed heartily and said, "He's doing GREAT!" with just that level of emphasis which was more than reassuring: communicating the sense that there are probably people in the world where it would make sense to ask about the state of their health and overall being but Steve Ditko definitely isn't one of them.

Robin didn't have much time to talk - he and his wife were getting ready for a trip to another part of the state to "visit the kids" - but I did manage to get some basic information about how RSComics is doing and where he is in his collaboration with Steve Ditko. They've done a total of FIVE Ditko Packages (the one I have is the first) and besides that they've done roughly THIRTEEN other projects in the last seven or eight years. They did have a website at one time, but Robin closed that down and now they do strictly mail order. He said probably their best selling title is the smaller 32-page Ditko Package. I asked him if he had a ballpark figure of how much it would cost to buy everything they have and he guessed somewhere around $110 US. I asked if he sold to comic-book stores and he said they did on occasion but they don't offer stores a huge discount - he said the highest they go is maybe 15 or 20% - so that tends to limit their orders from comic-book stores (which usually need at least 40 to 50% off). He laughed again and said that it's more common for a huge Ditko fan to run across one of their books somewhere and get in touch and then order, you know, EVERYTHING. Which is why the $110 ballpark figure wasn't a real challenge for him.
It's an interesting field where someone who is that much of a comic-book household name (and apart from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby I don't think there's a name in that category in the comic-book field) can still be happily producing his own work on a regular basis and just selling it direct (or, at least, relatively direct) to his legion of fans without Diamond and without the comic-book stores. Not with any animosity, just that this way of doing things suits his purposes and so he's happy to just keeping hoeing his row in his own way on his own terms.

...After I hung up, I thought, You know? Wouldn't it be nice if just once we could have one of those great comic-book outpourings of affection BEFORE one of these legends kicks the bucket or we find out he's in hospital barely clinging to life? Wouldn't it be nice if everyone for whom Steve Ditko means the world (in many cases that isn't hyperbole if you've ever met a Ditko fan - this is a guy who had his own Ditkomania fanzine devoted to him back in the 1980s, long before the Jack Kirby Collector came out) could write to him - while he's still doing GREAT - in care of Robin Snyder and tell him so? And (not to be totally pushy) maybe send along a few bucks for Ditko's latest project (whatever that might be?). I mean, if you don't think it's a good idea, don't feel obligated. But if the idea just really bangs your gong, sit down right now and send a nice letter and a few bucks to:

Steve Ditko
c/o Robin Snyder, 3745 Canterbury Ln. #81, Bellingham, WA, USA 98225-1186
or at least send him an e-mail at
Steve Ditko is the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics and has continued to write and draw comics for over 50 years. Much of his post-Marvel work is available via Robin Snyder at RS Comics (the Ditko Blogspot lists all the Ditko books currently in print).  Fantagraphics Books are the publishers of The Steve Ditko Archives, reprinting never-before-collected horror and science-fiction stories from his early pre-Marvel career.

You can find out more about the life of Steve Ditko in a fascinating 2007 BBC documentary (now posted on Youtube) as Jonathan Ross goes In Search Of Steve Ditko.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Jaka (Now)

Cerebus #265, April 2001
Art by Dave SIm & Gerhard

(from Aardvark Comment, Cerebus #268, July 2001)
For the first time [Cerebus] was able to see Jaka precisely as she was and as she is and as she always would be: a spoiled, myopic, insensitive, self-absorbed and self-important harlot princess (quite apart from her position in the hierarchy of the city-state of Palnu). It was entirely his choice, as there things always are, but while he was passing time with a spoiled, myopic, insensitive, self-absorbed and self-important harlot princess, his father died alone and in the company of mere friends and mere neighbours. A loss of personal honour on the part of Cerebus that is almost unimaginable in an environment where such things matter (to say the least) a great deal. Not only do such things not happen "to the best of us," it is (in my experience) precisely the choices one makes in these situations which established the irrefutable line of demarcation between "the best of us" and "the rest of us". Personal honour demands that a son is there for his father (so long as one's father wants the son to be there. In the case of an estrangement chosen by the father, personal honour demands that the son stay away or until he is summoned by his father). Depending on one's standards (or lack of the same), one participates in wanton harlotry with wanton harlots. Human weakness is human weakness, after all. But to allow one's taste for pussy to intercede in the far larger and more important realm of one's relationship with and obligation to one's father is (in my view) to erode one's standards to those of a rutting barnyard beast. The lockout that Cerebus experienced just reminded him of the world of high standards that he came from and the extent to which his own standards had eroded.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Jaka (Then)

Cerebus #129, December 1989
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Note From The President, Cerebus 114, September 1988)
Someone took me to task for revising history and claiming that Jaka was not based on Deni. They were going by Deni's Note in Cerebus #6 which stated that the story-line was a wedding present to her. It was, but it was more or less a cautionary tale trying to inform her obliquely (if not opaquely) of strong emotional ties I still felt for the woman Jaka was based on - who became an exotic dancer (read stripper) shortly after Jaka first appeared. The emotions depicted in the drugged Cerebus reflected the feelings I had toward the mistress I had at the time Deni and I got married. Three menacing figures in that story were named, anagrammatically, out of Deni's last name and my mistress' last name (Loubert and Hitchens became Tchens, Trebu and Lohi). I was naive and ridiculous and the poorest imaginable husband material (still am) but my subconscious was at least able to dredge up what I considered a particularly interesting character out of a singularly unstable period of my life. The really interesting thing to me as the creator of Jaka is that even though I can trace her origins from Deni's wedding present to what I felt for Sally to the lingering allure of Lynn, she resembles these three not in the slightest (except for having Lynn's hair). I had a very clear picture of her from the very beginning. I always found her easy and enjoyable to draw.

But the most appealing quality about her is that she has led a simple, almost completely uneventful life (almost). Unlike most of the characters in the book there is no need to pick and choose among the myriad forces, incidents and relationships that shape a character. Virtually everything that makes Jaka Jaka can be covered in pretty short order, and the resultant person is pretty basic and easy-to-understand.

I admire the character far more than the other characters in the book. Cerebus is too much of a born loser; wilfully self-destructive. Astoria is too single-minded and humourless. Lord Julius is always "on"; the Roach too out of touch with anything approximating reality, even the Elf is too mind-lessly happy all the time. When I'm writing them I'm observing from a discreet distance. I'm interested, but not to the extent of wanting to have dinner with them or anything like that. Jaka on the other hand is someone I would happily spend a lot of time with. She embodies those qualities I always look for in a woman. She has a very simple way of thinking for which she is unapologetic. She's loaded with common sense and self-confidence. She is direct and has a low threshold for bull-shit. She has virtually no interest in material possessions though she has an appreciation of them. She is almost certainly on the top rung of the karmic ladder and won't be back for another life-time.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Cerebus Archive #7-12

Cerebus Archive #7-12 (April 2010 - February 2011)
Art by Dave Sim
(from the ComiXpress blog, 27 October 2009)
It is with great pride that I make this post. As a lifetime fan and reader of indie comics, Dave Sim's Cerebus always had a special place for me. The depth of the story, the wry wit and social commentary, the brilliant art of the book… this was the reason I read comics. As an aspiring cartoonist, I admired Dave’s championing of Creator's Rights and his groundbreaking work in Self-Publishing. This guy's day didn't end when he put down his pencil after knocking out a page; he effortlessly changed hats from creator to businessman, showing a generation of cartoonists how it could be done if you had the brains and the guts, and in many ways made the independent comic book explosion of the 80s possible.

That inspiration is a big part of what drove me to create a company in 2004 that changed the way indie comics were made. And I couldn’t be more excited that Dave Sim has brought his work to ComiXpress. Starting today, with the premier of Cerebus Archive #4, you will always be able to order every back issue of Cerebus Archive, Dave’s black & white walk down memory lane (completely devoid of rose-colored-glasses). No back issues ever go out of stock at ComiXpress, and Comic Shop Retailers are a welcome addition to this new Direct Market with a book from one of the most respected names in comics who has proven time and again how seriously he treats deadlines and release dates.

So please, join me in welcoming Dave Sim, Aardvark-Vanaheim, and of course Cerebus himself to ComiXpress. And lets all look forward to a brighter future for indie comics together.

Back issues of Cerebus Archive are always available from ComiXpress.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Joys Of Sailing

Cerebus #117, December 1988
Art by Gerhard

(from an interview in Following Cerebus #3, February 2005)
Sailing offers a lot of challenging and interesting prospects. Just the whole concept of using the wind to propel you through the water is a fascinating and elemental experience. The only sounds are the wind in the sails and the water on the hull (unless we have the stereo playing or have Rose's sister on board). When we're on a beam reach and I have the sails trimmed just right, the boat is practically sailing herself, gliding through the calm water, surrounded by the indescribable blue of Georgian Bay, in the distance the white limestone bluffs of the Niagara Escarpment rising from the deep green trees, overhead the big, pale sky streaked with soft, white clouds - well, it just makes me glad to be alive. And at night - the stars! I've had trouble finding the Big Dipper because it's lost in all the stars you just don't see in the city. Being on the bay makes me humble, awed, and thankful. And keeps me sane (saner?).

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lenny Henry

(from Lenny Henry's Blog, 9 March 2004)
I'm reading Cerebus, at the moment, we're coming up to episode 300 now and its building to the big finale. Dave Sim the writer creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, has crafted an immensely dense, challenging and at times hilarious study of a very eventful life. He started writing it in the seventies, so I should think when he's finished he'll want a good lie down.

(from Lenny Henry's Blog, 19 June 2004)
Cerebus is over! He’s finally dead and gone, and now Dave Sim can lie down after 30 years of graft, and not have to worry about meeting deadlines or being quite so obsessive. He’s finished his masterwork. Perhaps, now Dave will be able to have some fun and relax a little. 

(from a letter to Lenny Henry dated 29 May 2004, printed in Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 1)
Thanks for your fax of May 25 and the congratulations on the conclusion of Cerebus. Very much appreciated, especially the "Big respect" part. I've stood next to you, you know. As big goes, you're right up there.

(from a letter to Joe Matt dated 8 April 2004, printed in Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 1)
A few years ago, I did a revised version of a movie script that Lenny Henry had written, basically for the experience of writing a film script in the way that I did the Animated Cerebus Portfolio - to get it out of my system if I could. Which it did in both cases. Got animation and movies out of my system. Okay, I now know what that is, now I don't have to go after a deal to do animation or to write a movie script. I could cheerfully do it again, under the same terms: give me the script and I'll write my own version of it but not on a collaborative basis. I'll just redo it and give it back and you can throw all of it out, keep some of it, keep all of it. If someone offered me money to do that - to be a script doctor - I would probably do it. Only one version, though, no meetings, no revisions. My agreement with Lenny was: if the movie gets made, I don't want any of the money or my name on the film. I just want to know what it's like to do this. Nothing ever happened with it, that I know of.

(from annotation 10 in Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 1)
...I was actually very impressed with what he had come up with - the script read like a really good all-ages Hollywood film and it was a great experience to see how a movie is built and how condensed the writing needs to be. But I'm a terrible collaborator, I'm afraid, and, according to Neil Gaiman - who read my version of the script at Lenny's place - I used way too many explicit directions to the actors and actresses. Complete control freak, that's me.

Lenny Henry is a Britsh comedian and actor.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Recommended: The Man by Vaughn Bodé

The Man (1967)
Art by Vaughn Bodé

(From an interview, The Comics Journal #184, February 1996)
...Vaughn Bodé's The Man, that was an enormous influence on me looking at however many pages that is, maybe 32. Just cover, copyright page, 32 pages of story, you're out of there. That's a really effecting piece of work. It's not complicated, anybody can follow it, every time you read it you can get something else out of it.

From an interview, The Comics Journal #83, August 1983)
Vaughn Bodé's The Man, the underground that he did, I consider it a definitive piece of comic book art. I still own it and wouldn't part with it for love or money.

Vaughn Bodé's The Man is reprinted in Schizophrenia available from Fantagraphics Books.

Friday, 23 March 2012

New Mutants #52

New Mutants #52 (Marvel, June 1987)
Art by Bill Sienkiewicz
Many thanks to Jay for posting this comment in response to yesterday's post about X-Men #160:
[The S'ym character in X-Men #160] always seemed vague (at best). While obviously the name is a poke at Dave, Sym looks NOTHING like Cerebus. He wears a vest. That's all. Even Bill Sienkiewicz, who was friendly with Dave at the time, and drew Sym in a few New Mutants issues, seems to have NOT got the memo that Sym was anything even vaguely Cerebus-esque. Only years later when he did a cover had this assertion (somehow) hit him, hence the actually, and only, Cerebusish-Sym on New Mutants cover #52.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Uncanny X-Men #160: S'ym

Uncanny X-Men #160
By Chris Claremont, Brent Anderson & Bob Wiacek

In August 1982, the Marvel Comic Uncanny X-Men #160 featured a demon villain named S'ym who vaguely resembles Cerebus. A few months later, in the letters page of Uncanny X-Men #164, the intended tribute to Cerebus was confirmed:
 (via Comic Book Resources)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Madam DuFort

Madam DuFort (Cerebus #23, December 1980)
Art by Dave Sim

(from the introduction in Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6, 1984)
I decided to do a tongue-in-cheek treatment of Chris Claremont's X-Men series. Having read (and heard) so often at the time that Chris, when faced with developing a new character in the series, would ask, sometimes rhetorically but more often not, "Is there any reason this character can't be a woman?" I decided to bring in Professor Charles X. Claremont and turn the previous story-line upside-down.
Professor Charles X. Claremont (Cerebus #24, January 1981)
Art by Dave Sim

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Diary Of An Actress... Siu Ta (so far)

(from the Cerebus Yahoo Group, 23 August 2006)
Dave Sim is a friend of my husband and I. Siu Ta (so far) is a comic strip Dave created based on my life as an actor. Dave chooses some production stills or photos of the projects I've worked on and writes up the strip by episodes. He's just finished the second episode that I will send to my friend to put up on the website in a week or so. Dave's currently working on the third episode and its on a tv series I acted in called This Is Wonderland. This is just for fun for Dave as it's so different from his 26 years of working on Cerebus that he completed a couple of years ago. We have plans to do four episodes of Siu Ta (so far), at most five episodes that will be posted up in the coming months.

(from the Jinx World Forums, 25 February 2008)
I do have at least one more installment of Siu Ta (so far) to do - which is actually the first one. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) I have a lot of other work to do in the meantime so it never quite makes it to the top of the list. It was a very helpful exercise, though, in learning some basic rules of photorealism comics which is pretty much what I was doing it for.

Siu Ta is a Vietnamese Canadian actress and independent short film producer.

Click the images to enlarge to a readable version.

Monday, 19 March 2012


Judenhass (2008)
Art by Dave Sim
(from the introduction)
I decided some time ago that the term anti-Semitism (a 'coined' term of late nineteenth century origin) is completely inadequate to the abhorrent cultural phenomenon which it attempts to describe. For one thing, Arabs are Semites as well and the prejudice as it is generally understood certainly doesn't apply equally to Arabs and Jews. It was in the early stages of researching this graphic narrative that I first encountered the German term Judenhass. Literally Jew Hatered. It seemed to me that the term served to distil the ancient problem to its essence, and in such a way as to hopefully allow other non-Jews (like myself) to see the problem 'unlaundered' and through fresh eyes. Europe and various other jurisditions aren't experiencing a sudden upsurge in 'anti-Semitism'. What they are experiencing is an upsurge in Judenhass. Jew Hatered. So that's what I've chosen to call this story.

Judenhass is an astonishing piece of work. Painful and real and unflinching. I don't remember the last comic I read that made me cry, but this did.

To apply the term 'beautiful' to this book may be a misnomer considering the subject matter, but its impact cannot be denied.

JEAN SHUSTER PEAVY (sister of Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman):
Dave Sim's Judenhass is a noble enterprise, reminding us of a painful and shameful part of human history. His writing and artwork are dramatic.

Judenhass is endlessly disturbing, often unpleasant and incessantly horrifying in its stark coldness. The quotes should never be forgotten or made light of. It is why all people of good will say, 'Never again.'

As usual, trailblazing Dave Sim is way out in front. Look what he has accomplished in Judenhass. He begins at the beginning, defining his terms, as he looks at an ancient and world-wide problem from a fresh perspective.

Visit the Judenhass website.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Dave Sim: The Glamourpuss Interview

Page 45 in Nottingham is one of the best comics shops in the UK, and has been a strong supporter of Cerebus since opening its doors in 1994. In the following interview conducted in 2008, Page 45 co-founder, Stephen L. Holland, talks to Dave Sim about the launch of Glamourpuss, his first new comic series since the end of Cerebus in March 2004.
"I don’t want to turn heads, I want to snap necks."

Dave Sim is back. And just so we're clear, he's talking about his craft, not some newly discovered interest in martial arts. Four years after completing Cerebus, the longest sustained narrative in comicbook history, racking in at 300 issues and 6,000 pages of gentle-to-scathing sociopolitical satire - each written and drawn by himself with fellow Canadian Gerhard on backgrounds - Dave Sim is returning to the mainstream of comicbook fiction with a new title: glamourpuss.

Its theme? "If you don’t look good, don't go out."

Its style? "Gucci. Flat-out, no holds barred Gucci. And then just when you’re not expecting it: Vera Wang."

Its mood? "Something danceable with a really fabulous matching shoes, purse and nail polish thing happening. I mean, like, the identical shade."

And what can Dave tell us about its main character, the delirious Dior darling, Glamourpuss herself? "As little as possible – being a gentleman. I’m loathe to discuss a lady behind her back… or behind her comicbook for that matter." I'm being toyed with. If so far this sounds totally bonkers, do not adjust your sets: glamourpuss is deliciously bonkers, but it's also outstandingly beautiful and wickedly clever, messing so far with the proverbial fourth wall that we might have to find ourselves a fifth.
Parody Playground

Sim has always been an innovative force. From his constantly inventive approach to sequential-art storytelling in Cerebus to the pages' lettering whose calligraphic approach was often the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia, the man has pushed, smashed and rebuilt more boundaries in this medium than any single artist. And now he's doing it again. Laced with the sort of extras Alan Moore's League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen boasted (there in the form of a mock-archaic letter column; here in the form of faux-editorials, dietary regimes, style tips and next issue advertisements), glamourpuss is a comic that casts the illusion that it's also an artifact - a fashion magazine, edited by Glamourpuss herself - that doesn't actually exist.

"That couldn't exist," Sim corrects, "but which - through the bande desinée hocus pocus - does. Imagine a fashion magazine counselling its reader to 'pick one or at most two of the deadly C.A.N. - caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.' Anna Wintour would absolutely have kittens."

So what is glamourpuss? It's part-satire of the fashion industry, part-parody of fashion magazines and wicked wink at those who edit, inhabit and buy them. It's suspiciously well informed - I had no idea Dave subscribed to Vogue! This is someone, after all, who has retreated from the materialism of the modern world with all its traps and trappings, ditching the digital in favour of the Divine.

"The only one I subscribe to is Glamour although Vogue has its good points as well. It's not an issue of materialism, it's the purity of the core feminine voice discussing things with itself and relentlessly seeking to present its Best Adorned Self to the world photographically. There are undoubtedly better uses for $100 billion a year but, hey, it's not my money."

No, Dave's priorities lie elsewhere, like the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund for which he's helped raise and personally donated tens of thousands of dollars, including the whole of his scripting fee for Spawn #10, which in those days was considerable and earned Sim their first ever Defender of Liberty Award in 1996.
Scaling Mount Everest

glamourpuss also doubles as an extended exploration of photorealism in comics, as Dave Sim studies the work of Al Williamson, Neal Adams et al, works out how they achieved certain effects, discusses their techniques then emulates and adapts them within the comic he's creating. That's something for both professional and aspiring artists to get their teeth into. "Rick Veitch [Swamp Thing, Bratpack] says that part 'spoke to him' which I consider high praise indeed."

For Dave at least it's a departure from Cerebus, which featured a lot of caricature in the form of Mick Jagger, Margaret Thatcher and co., with Cerebus himself being an anthropomorphized aardvark. It was Gerhard's meticulous backgrounds which constituted the photorealistic elements in Cerebus.

"That's a good was of putting it, although there were later elements of photorealism in my depictions of Ham Ernestway and Jaka in Form & Void and Going Home, quite apart from the pure photorealism of the Woody Allen/Konigsberg material." glamourpuss, however, is on another level entirely. "[It's] a step up... a very large step up... from cartooning to Raymond School Illustration, the most exacting discipline among the many Comic Art Schools." His interest in this field began at least as far back as 1970 when Sim began collecting Rip Kirby strips in 1970, and in addition to Alex Raymond, he cites other influences for the art style including Stan Drake, John Prentice, Al Williamson, Leonard Starr, Neal Adams: "Everyone who spent time at the top of the photorealist Mount Everest."

I asked Dave if he was enjoying his own art lesson. "Enjoying would be a stretch. It's too nerve-wracking to enjoy. All that pencilling and then just one chance to get it right in the inking, which is 'done in a bold and spontaneous yet simple style' as Raymond instructs me, 67 years ago [Tom Roberts' Alex Raymond: His Life & Times]. It even works on me when I get it right - or, more accurately, less wrong. 'Gee, that looks like fun.' You'd think I would know better." Additional challenges include the switch from pen to brush. Also: "Remembering to dip the brush into the inkwell. Otherwise the pictures, just, you know, stay in my head."
Publishing & Promotion

Projected at this point to run for some 25 issues, glamourpuss shouldn't be as much hard work for readers as it will be for Sim. "Cerebus was a 26-year search for Truth or at least Reality. glamourpuss is intended to be a) fun b) funny and c) pretty."

This should come as a relief to those who feared that Sim had gone irrevocably serious on them. One look at the glamourpuss website [now off-line]  is enough to dispel that notion. A virtual warren of rabbit holes, it boasts posters you can download that poke fun at Glamourpuss, glamourpuss and even Dave himself: "The high fashion comicbook that's so six months ago..." "Are you sure Dave Sim did this...?" and "Buy it now while it's still at the "early, funnier ones" stage..."  For such a self-confessed Luddite, an awful lot of lateral thinking and interwebbery pre-planning has gone into the promotion of this new project. On top of the website, there have been internet chats, 4,500 copies of a Comicbook Industry Preview Edition of #1 dispatched in time for retailers to judge their initial orders, generous initial ordering incentives and an exclusive Fashion Industry Edition to entice real-life glamourpusses into comic shops to laugh at (or swoon over) themselves. Does Dave believe that creators and publishers need to do more for retailers than simply deliver the product?

"Well, I think so. Particularly in a field where 1) you know you'll have at least 500 pages of competition every month, 2) the orders on issue #1 are the precipice from which you will shortly plummet and 3) everyone is watching a different 'channel' on the internet." That's one of the reasons he's sticking to self-publishing. "You need that control if you want to do things differently. How could I get DC to pay my salary for three months strictly on promotion?"

How indeed, since DC doesn't even pay to fly its key UK artists over to US conventions? But what about - if just for the sake of penetration into the book stores - Dave gave up such limited distribution rights to someone as aesthetically sound and ethically unimpeachable as Chris Staros of Top Shelf publishing, home to the next incarnations of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

"No, I’m 100% exclusively interested in keeping comicbook stores alive and flourishing. I'm probably the only publisher that doesn't sell to" Respect.
Appearances & Perception

So what can we expect from glamourpuss or even Glamourpuss herself? Sim is renowned for having planned Cerebus' first 200 issues well in advance, however much those plans may have later evolved. Is Glamourpuss going to be languidly extolling her own glorious virtues each issue, or are we going to be following her through the trials and tribulations of accessorisation to some destination Dave has in mind other than her wardrobe? "It's ill-advised to think of any real lady in terms of a destination I've found, and the truly fashion-conscious experience no trials nor tribulations in accessorising their wardrobes, do they? That's what makes them a glamourpuss. They always get it right the first time. Always."

Joined in the first issue - very reluctantly indeed - by Glamourpuss' long-term psychotherapist Dr. Norm in the form of a letter he strongly advises her against publishing but which she turns into a column (whoops), and even longer-term evil twin sister Skanko in a laugh-out-loud Dating Guide which Dr. Norm also counsels her against incorporating into the magazine ("You are so @#%!ing dead!" shouts Skanko), Glamourpuss looks set to live out both her inner conflicts and her sibling rivalry in public on paper. In fact, she appears to relish it. Constantly referring to herself in the third person singular as 'Glamourpuss', she's obviously in love with herself, with the sound of her name, and indeed with her own social status as a glamourpuss. "Hey, wouldn't you be?"

The fact that Cerebus did the same thing Sim ascribes to "Borealan dialect" but one has to wonder - because it's an unusual verbal tick to refer to oneself like that - whether it was a subconscious decision that took him by surprise, or an entirely conscious one. "It's a good marketing ploy to associate with characters who always refer to themselves in the third person. They’re like little walking banner ads."

Nevertheless, that's two consecutive works starring two egomaniacs, with both comics also prominently featuring Dave Sim as himself or "himself" as creator of the comics in question. Is Dave Sim, perhaps, an egomaniac? "Not me. I consider myself to be neither evil nor a genius, unlike the fictional Dave Sim depicted in glamourpuss. Give the people what they, evidently, want. That's my motto."

Dave, of course, is referring to the barrage of vocal outrage spread across the internet ever since a certain issue of Cerebus (#186) in which another fictional Dave Sim (Viktor Davis) came out against what he considered the excesses of feminism, then later issues in which the editorial content confirmed it as his own political stance. Branded a misogynist (Concise Oxford Dictionary definition, 1983: "one who hates all women") he's since constantly referred to himself on his blog and elsewhere as "Dave Sim, The Evil Misogynist". Why?

"I hoped to have people reflect on the self-description and really the real foolishness is in someone thinking that holding political differences with feminism either constitutes Evil or Misogyny. Turned out to be a faint hope, as we've seen."

Where Sim can’t fail in his efforts to inspire serious reflection is in his other imminent publication Judenhass (read the Page 45 review here), which has already garnered emphatic praise from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Peter Straub.

Glamourpuss is published every other month and is available from your local comic shop (and Page 45 in Nottingham, UK). Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available at ComiXpress.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Tribute Art Round Up #2

Art by Jeremy Treece (2012)
Art by Tim Odland (2012)
Art by David Branstetter (2012)
Art by Khary Randolph (2011)
Art by Don Kelly (1985 or 1986)
Art by Shonborn (2011)
Art by Sketchy McDrawpants (2010)
Art by Ayato (2010)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cerebus US Tour '92

Cerebus US Tour '92 Logo
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Aardvark Comment in Cerebus #199, October 1995)
Actually, I was the perfect recluse from about 1989 to 1992. There was a six- to ten-month period in the middle there where I didn't move outside of a ten-block radius of downtown Kitchener. I still remember the dazzling impact of being driven somewhere and there were all these trees going past the car window. When I started going out and promoting the book again - on the '92 US Tour - I realised that it provided a perfect balance to the hard solitary work of creativity in exactly the proportion I required. Work consisted - and consists - of long stretches of not seeing another living soul, being inwardly focused and passing unseen through my home town going to and from work. The personal appearances are the exact opposite. I can do brainless head sketched that tilt this way and that, the proportions wrong, the detail haphazard if not non-existent. I spend most of the time being flattered excessively, questioned about my opinion, meeting new people, getting caught up with old friends, and I can't walk five steps without being waylaid by someone who makes it very obvious that five minutes spent in my company is a Very Big Deal to them. One weekend a month, 7% of my day-to-day life. It's a great pressure release and makes me appreciate the quiet, solitude and introspection all the more.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Unauthorised Online Availability Of Cerebus

Sketch: Cerebus In Hell for Murray Roach (2006)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 17, 24 February 2012)
I don't consider unauthorised [online] availability of the 6,000 page Cerebus graphic novel to be illegal, rather I do consider it free advertising and an acknowledgement that poverty is both endemic and recurrent in our society. That is, over Cerebus' 35 year history many readers and fans of the book have purchased, sold and then repurchased the same material time and again in alternating periods of personal prosperity and personal impoverishment, that to me reflect what are now in-built patterns of modern western life - tuition and text books for the university student, financial pressures of the newly married couple, the obligations of responsible parenting both single and traditional, the expense of home-ownership, and, yes, divorce and child support - are just a few of the many reasons that Cerebus fans and readers are forced to prioritise what possessions they retain and what possessions they sell. I suspect that in the future this will become even more wide spread and it seems to me a responsible policy to both acknowledge and accommodate both realities to ensure that life long Cerebus fans and readers, and potential Cerebus fans and readers have access to the story even when they can’t afford to own the print editions.

In a day and age when literally trillions of different forms of entertainment are available with the click of a mouse the only appropriate reaction to anyone accessing your intellectual property isn't "I'll sue you!", it's "Thank you. Thank you for giving the material a fair hearing. Thank you for even considering purchasing the print editions. Thank you for investing one of your most valuable possessions... your time." There are many different views of digital downloads. My view relative to my work is that each individual's time, whatever that individual's political or economic view points, is a rare valuable and irreplaceable commodity and personal investment. So I want people to not only feel free to download my work wherever they can find it, but also to be free to do so. That will be true even if I find a way in the future to offer pay-per-view downloads. And if you do decide, whoever you are, that you want print versions of my work, there’s always the Comic Shop Locator service.

Dave Sim 'Bootlegs The Bootleggers'

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Hemingway Is All Right!

Ham Ernestway (Cerebus #252, March 2000)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from 'Notes on Form & Void' in Cerebus #253, April 2000)
I have just tonight spoken with Eddie Campbell, the marvellous cartoonist and fellow self-publisher who has scored such a great success with the collected From Hell paperback. He told me that he has rated Going Home part one as one of the greatest comic-book stories of all time, which is a very nice thing for him to say and put it in print for everyone who reads his wonderful comic book, Bacchus, to see. However, he says that he is having second thoughts, having read the first instalment of Form & Void. "You leave Hemingway alone," warned Eddie speaking to me from his home in Australia, which is a country which is far away. "Hemingway is all right." ...Eddie told me that he can live with me being a misogynist, but he cannot abide the thought of my being a philistine.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Recommended: Eddie Campbell's Bacchus

Happy Birthday Bacchus (backcover, Bacchus #5, September 1995)
Art by Bloody Dave Sim

(from A Cerebus Preview of Eddie Campbell's self-published Bacchus, Cerebus #193, April 1995)
We all have those comic books which are near and dear to us. For some reason, it requires the patience of Job to remain faithful, they come out so infrequently. The stories are read and the artwork admired with the greatest restraint - 'careful now, not too fast, Dave, you mightn't see another one for... shit. It's over.' It's hard to say if Eddie Campbell's Bacchus is in that category. There are so many pages of Bacchus stories in existence (well over seven hundred) and I know I've read every one of them. Still, the doubt lingers. Could I have missed one along the way? When was the last one that I read published? Yeah? Am I sure about that? It's so hard to tell anything beyond the fact that Gods Walk the Earth.

Did Bacchus just take Eddie's fancy one day? Or did Bacchus take a fancy to Eddie? It stands to reason. All this talk of comic-book icons, new mythological figures, super-heroes as twentieth-century manifestations of the infinite human capacity for heroic fiction. If gods so exist and they were to cast a critical eye at us wee-words-'n'-pictures folks, it's hard to imagine anything catching their attention or flattering their sensibilities at, say, the San Diego Con. One might just as well scrutinise a wall full of crayon renderings by first-graders looking for a good likeness of a mum or dad. But Bacchus - Eddie's Bacchus - is a different fella altogether. Look, he might've said in the general vicinity of the hoity-toities of Olympus, the jig is up. We're getting long in the tooth. We can't cut the mustard anymore. Instead. Instead of always making out that we're better than everyone, let's just face the music. He probably lost his train of thought, which was all right; no one was listening anyway.

Show 'em, he might have said to Eddie. That's really all he had to say. He showed it to Eddie and Eddie showed it to us. He showed it to Eddie and filled Eddie so full that it would take five life-times to put it all down on paper even if every page were covered with little Alan Moore panels.

A harmless distraction, comic-books. Go wherever the comic-book people do and one thing is certain: you can always get a seat at the hotel bar. Bacchus probably has a weakness for hotel bars for those cold, impersonal moods when you just want to watch the parade go by.

A lot of us took to old Bacchus. A handful at first (even today, most comic-book conventions look like Christian Temperance Union meetings), but always someone (usually Diana - I'm sure the irony isn't lost on the God of Wine) was in a key spot to make sure the next tale appeared somewhere. And Bacchus would sit in a concealed corner of a hotel bar and listen to the comic-book fans talking about the New Gods and the penciller Gods and the inker Gods and (the ones dressed in black) about universal icons and Eternal Heroic Myths as they hurried past. Bacchus would just sip his drink, and even if you were sitting in his lap you wouldn't see his expression change: He'd be a good lad in a poker game, old Bacchus.

How many of us are there? I wonder. Tom Fassbender at Capital is one. We cackled gleefully over the phone at one another when Eddie's solicitation came in for the first issue, All the old stories are going to see the light of day again. New one's too. How do you feel about that, eh, Bacchus? Do you care? Are you excited? Are you disgusted because bar-room tales should be left in peace? What about self-publishing? Isn't it great that Eddie's self-publishing the stories - keeping them in print? All those wrinkles don't even twitch. Deadface they call 'im.

I did a sketch of Bacchus once. Someone in a bar at a con after I'd had a few (well, alright, more than a few) asked if I'd do him a Bacchus 'some day' - he collected 'em, see? Pictures of old Bacchus by other artists. I told him (I didn't ask him, I TOLD him) to get me a piece of art paper, a pencil, an eraser, a thin black pen and a thick black pen, and a picture for reference. Most fun I've had in a bar at a con ever - and that's saying something. It wasn't until I did that sketch that I realised how inspired, how magical, how hypnotising and exhilarating a creation - ahem, a 'creation' - he is.

Of course , if it's the other way 'round, and Eddie Campbell is Bacchus' creation, you only have to look at Eddie's body of work to realise that the same holds true - inspired, magical, hypnotising and exhilarating.

Cheers, mate... and - uh - cheers, Mate.

Publisher Top Shelf Productions have announced plans to reprint the entire, long out-of-print, 1,000 page Bacchas saga in a two volume omnibus.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Eddie Campbell Comics

After The Snooter (Bacchus #44, April 1999)
Art by Eddie Campbell

(from A Cerebus Preview of Eddie Campbell's self-published Bacchus, Cerebus #192, March 1995)
...I didn't so much talk him in to self-publishing as kick the spindly legs out from under all of the half-assed reasons he had for conducting his sorry excuse for a career in the way he did right up to the present day. The kicker was the day he was explaining that he doesn't like having all his eggs in one basket, career-wise. He spreads his creativity over a number of companies so that he isn't caught short when one of them goes tits up or is late paying the bills. "Oh," I said, sneering my best highland sneer, "The Johnny Appleseed Theory." Well, Eddie cracked up. He couldn't stop laughing... he was being so serious about this crap theory of how to keep his head above water, and with one little sneer (one little sneer, mind) I had him laughing at what a stupid, half-baked, witless git he had been.

(from a letter to Eddie Campbell originally appeared in Bacchus #46, August 1999)
Dear Mr Campbell,
Regarding the April, 1999 number of your periodical page 2 of After The Snooter in which a character identified only as Sim (which I take to be myself) enters your story in panel 1, inflates to the size of a small dirigible over panels 2 and 3 before subsiding to semi-human proportions in panel 4 and achieves a passing resemblance to myself just as I depart your story in panel 5... regarding this sequence, I find I have no rejoinder suited to it and I am forced to consider it a karmic repercussion for what I did to poor Greg Hyland in an early issue of Going Home - with an extra twenty pounds or so in panel 3 for good measure. So long as you're misremembering our fateful and life-changing visit, I hope you wouldn't mind if I had a go so that between this letter and your 5 panel in-depth memoir we might make of it a two-ply tissue of lies (as it were).

My own recollection is that you were led to seriously consider self-publishing first of all while Anne was preparing lunch and she offered the opinion over one shoulder: "It sounds perfect for you Eddie, with your compulsion to control everything." (Or words to that effect - not for the last time did I get to see Anne's high ironic wit go skimming over your crew cut as you retained only the flat assertion for future study). The second was at the fag end of the visit when we had gone to the hotel bar and I had noticed that they had vintage single malt whiskey for sale by the wee dram at prices completely unsuited to young fathers but well within the price range of ne'er-do-well divorced gentlemen. I have enough Scots blood in my veins to pick my phrasing carefully: "Well, I'm getting one. I'll get you one too, if you like or you can just sit there and eat your heart out watching me drink mine."

It was a 1963 Mc-something or other. As you sipped yours, I remember your brow unfurrowing for the first time during our visit, a smile of great serenity spreading across your mug and suddenly everything I had been saying about self-publishing began to make sense to you. "I should've tried the single malt first," I remember thinking to myself, "and we could've talked about something else for the last four days."

Eddie Campbell's autobiographical After The Snooter was originally serialised in the pages of his monthly self-published comic, Bacchus, and then collected in book form in 2002. Alec: The Years Have Pants, which collects all of Eddie Campbell's Alec stories including After The Snooter, is currently available from Top Shelf Productions

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Cerebus / Bacchus Crossover

The Face On The Bar-Room Floor (Bacchus #1, May 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Eddie Campbell

(from Bacchus #1, May 1995)
First up is the Bacchus & Cerebus crossover, created by myself and the eminent Dave Sim. He was over here for the convention in Sydney and flew up to Brisbane afterwards. We holed up in a hotel suite for five days and improvised a five-pager around an old song from the 1890s (approximately) which was previously done in comics form by Kurtzman and Davis in MAD with the face in the final panel dropped in by the one and only Basil Wolverton. We booked adjoining rooms. We'd work in one and he'd smoke in the other. I'd sleep in among the debris and he'd sleep in the fog. But while we discussed the piece we were to create we walked in and out and the smoke was everywhere and I was trying helplessly to open a window thirteen storeys up. I have stipulated in my agreements with the accommodating Mr Sim that I get to pick the brand of cigarette next time as I had to process the smoke from each one after he was finished with it. The fire hose reel was situated outside our doors and became in our heads a traditional Scottish dance to be performed after completing each evening with a trip to the pub across the road. As for the work itself, we just passed the pages back and forth until it was done. Diana Schutz correctly recognised who did what but was miffed that we didn't cast her in the role of the barmaid. Steve Bissette was miffed that we did give him the role of the artist. He threatened to get even, and judging from his brilliant new comic, Tyrant, he knows how to go about it. It fairly oozes with primal danger.
The Face On The Bar-Room Floor (Bacchus #1, May 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Eddie Campbell

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Gerhard Answers 15 Questions

(from a 15-question interview with Julinda Morrow at Sequential Highway, 2 March 2012)
I don't think that I was led to being an artist. I have a strong suspicion that we are born artists and that life drains it out of us. A first grade teacher commented that her kids are all artistic geniuses; little Picassos. You just need to know when to take the drawing paper away from them before they wreck it.

I have an early memory; I was about four years old, doodling on a blackboard in a hospital waiting room. A man came in, saw what I was doing, told me that it was really good and said that he hoped I didn't lose the talent or ability to draw as I got older. I wondered how I could lose such a thing; something that seemed to be so much a part of me. When I asked him why he thought I would lose it, he shrugged and said, "People just do."

...My schooling consisted of high school art and drafting classes most of which I didn't go to. My training was drawing as often as I could and working on over 4500 pages of Cerebus with Dave Sim. On the job training... Dave was the one in charge of writing the story. My contribution was limited to finishing pages he had already started. But I certainly witnessed firsthand and close up the near-limitless possibilities for storytelling. My own first attempts can be seen on my website on the 'Stories' page.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Third Quarter

The Third Quarter (backcover, Cerebus #225, December 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

All profits from the sale of the The Third Quarter poster (sold via comic-book stores at $15 signed and $10 unsigned) were donated to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The First Half

The First Half (backcover, Cerebus #150, September 1991)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

All profits from the sale of the The First Half poster were donated to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Norman Kingsley Mailer (1923-2007)

Kingsley (Cerebus #207, June 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

The author Norman Mailer (1923-2007) makes a cameo appearance in Cerebus #207 as Kingsley, drawn by Dave Sim using an Al Hirschfeld illustration style. Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) was an American caricaturist best known for his black and white portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars. Hirschfeld is known for hiding the name of his daughter, Nina, in most of the drawings he produced since her birth in 1945. The name would appear in a sleeve, in a hairdo, or somewhere in the background. Sometimes 'Nina' would show up more than once and Hirschfeld would helpfully add a number next to his signature, to let people know how many times her name would appear.

(from the letters page in Cerebus #225, December 1997)
If you check your Guys volume, pages 139 (top panel) and 140 (second panel), you will see two 'Ninas' in the former picture - one at the bottom of Kingsley's right sideburn and one upside down in his hairline - and one 'Nina' in the latter picture - again in Kingsley's right sideburn.

(from a letter to Norman Mailer dated 18 March 2004, reprinted in Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 1, 2005)
The tipping point is that I am finally done with my epic-length work, so I can rest easy at least that I am not sending [Reads, Guys, Form & Void and selected essays] to you for your endorsement. While the work was still in progress that might very well have been a motivation that I was hiding from myself (an existential self-doubt, to use a Mailerism). Now, that isn't the case. Now, I can be, at least reasonably sure that if, heretofore, I have had the bad literary manners to dedicate a book [Reads] to someone without asking his permission first (which I suspect is the real world protocol) and compounded that breach of good etiquette by not sending the dedicated book to him for nine years after is publication I am, at least, equally and reasonably sure that my motives would not be so transparently suspect as they might have been nine years ago when I was only a couple of hundred pages past Cerebus' projected halfway point. I wanted to make it to the end on my own. Then I wanted to acknowledge your... unimaginably large... contribution to my own life and work once I was past the finish line.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cerebus Archive #1-6

Cerebus Archive #1-6 (April 2009 - February 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Cerebus Archive #16, October 2011)
...of course, here in 2011, this all seems terrifically beside-the-point in discussing my career. All that seems pertinent in discussing January of 1977 is the "magic moment" when I first created Cerebus. That's one of the big reasons that I'm doing Cerebus Archive - to explain what was important and what wasn't important at the time. "Magic moments" happen - but usually when your focus is elsewhere.

Back issues of Cerebus Archive are always available from ComiXpress.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Recommended: Strangehaven

(from the introduction to Strangehaven Vol 1: Arcadia, January 1998)
It is so very rare, you see, when you are in the business to find a story that can absorb all your attentions when it arrives in the mailbox. So very rare to find a story where you can just drop right back in and pick up the thread of the story and find out "what happened next" -- knowing full well that the author is going to raise more questions than he answers in the course of the current instalment. Or maybe trade you one-for-one as reader. For every answer you get another question. To me, anyway, those questions are far more interesting and far more intriguing than any questions I might have of what goes on behind the painted scenery and what everything and everyone was before Gary made it his own in the pages of the book you are about to read.

Strangehaven Vol 1-3 by Gary Spencer Millidge is available to buy from Top Shelf Productions.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sim's Legacy

Sim's Legacy: An Appreciation by Gary Spencer Millidge
Strangehaven #16 (June 2004)

(from a letter to Gary Spencer Millidge dated 18 June 2004, reprinted in Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 2)
Dear Gary,
Well, I got the latest issue of Strangehaven and I have to tell you that one of the entertainments I most look forward to is your annual "how this year slipped out from under me, this time" editorial and text pieces. Your description and illustrations of the Simpson's contribution you provided for Bart Simpson's Treehouse Of Horror was particularly engaging in this regard: Now, he not only spends a lot of space telling us why he's late, he even shows us examples of it. I mean, that was one of the things that always kept me on the monthly straight and narrow. Any sign that I did anything else if I was late and I'd think the backlash is going to kill me and the book. Of course, you're a lot closer to reality than I am, I think. People just take it for granted that comic books are late in the same way that no one expects a rock band to come on stage remotely close to 8pm because that's what it says on the ticket.

So imagine my surprise as I start from the back of the book and then come across your full-page tribute to Cerebus. Absolutely amazing and, of course, Ger and I are both very, very grateful for your kind and extravagant words on our behalf and on behalf of our work.

My first thought was I only hope there isn't a backlash against you for breaking so dramatically from the prescribed comic-book party line which allows only for reactions on a narrow spectrum between outright shunning on the one side and damning us with faint praise on the other. My second thought was, "Oh, well, even if there is, I won't find out about it until next year at this time."

All kidding aside, I am very pleased with what you wrote and look forward to bagging and boarding it for the Publications section of the Cerebus Archive.

Thanks again.

Strangehaven Vol 1-3 by Gary Spencer Millidge is available to buy from Top Shelf Productions.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Sound Of A 1956 Corvette

Glamourpuss #23 (January 2012)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Cerebus TV, Season 3 Episode 11, 13 January 2012)
I even went a little crazy on the speciality lettering sound effects [in Glamourpuss #23], reasoning that there's a whole different quality of sound in a confined space like a garage... in the same way that a garage is a little darker (actually a lot darker), which meant layers and layers and layers of cross hatching... The sound of a 1956 Corvette starting up inside of a garage - what would that look like? "What would that look like?" Er, pretty complicated. Yeah, evidently. By the time he was throwing it in to reverse and backing the car out of the garage, I couldn't wait to get outside where there were no sound effects.

Glamourpuss #23 is available now from your local comic shop.
Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.