Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sim on Ditko

Amazing Adult Fantasy #7 (Marvel Comics, December 1961)
Art by Steve Ditko
DAVE SIM:
(from a review of Amazing Adult Fantasy #7, Blake Bell's Blog, 15 May 2012)
This batch of five stories, all from the same issue (sporting one of the greatest pre-super-hero Ditko covers in Marvel’s history – even the colouring is great!) interested me because they’re all in the same category as “There It Is Again!”

All are scripted by Stan Lee and it’s as if he cracked the Ditko code and figured out the exact overall story tone that was required to get a Ditko Iconic job. I suspect there’s a story behind all of these ending up in the same issue.

Looking on the bright side, I can envision Stan Lee, as I say, cracking the Ditko code and writing four High Iconic Ditko stories to appear in the same issue. Looking through a more jaundiced lens, Stan Lee had no idea what was going on and over a period of time just ended up with four High Iconic jobs and decided What the hey! And put them all in the same issue. The job numbers that appear on the splash pages aren’t completely sequential (V-391, V-392, V-393, V-395, V-396) but pretty close. It might be something as simple as a deadline crunch and Ditko picked out the five scripts that he thought he could draw the fastest.

If we assume (as I do) that solo Steve Ditko is the REAL Steve Ditko, I suspect these stories gave him his first taste of iconic story-telling and told him this was where his creative heart was and where he needed to go when he opted for a smaller audience and complete creative freedom.

“Why Won’t They Believe Me?” actually delivers the goods. Good build-up, good red herring on the second to last page and good actual twist ending. “The Last Man on Earth”, nah, “Witch Hunt”, nah, “Journey’s End” yeah.

I’ve just spent the last half hour flipping through all of them, admiring the artwork, the composition, the story-telling, the pin-stripe suits. If you’re a major league Ditko fan, you couldn’t go wrong bidding on a reading copy of AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #7 on eBay.

Dave Sim reviews 1950s and 1960s Steve Ditko comics at Blake Bell's Blog, and you can read more Steve Ditko comics for yourself in the Blake Bell edited Steve Ditko Archives series published by Fantagraphics Books (Vol 4 due in May 2013!).

Saturday, 30 March 2013

DitkoMania

DitkoMania #77 (2009)
Art by Dave Sim
BLAKE BELL:
(from Blake Bell's Blog, 6 May 2012)
...Dave Sim [read his] review of my 2008 Ditko bio/art book, Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko... in a phone conversation that was one of the most emotional comic-related moments in my memory.

I had hit upon Cerebus in 1987, just after issue 105 (of 300) and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Easily moved to my favourite current comic, easily moved Dave into that trinity alongside Ditko and Everett.

Dump me on a desert island with nothing other than Ditko's run on Spider-Man, and Cerebus #11 to #136, and I'd be entertained for life.

And Dave was the 1980s equivalent of Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols: a legit, street-cred, no-nonsense rock star/shepherd. He was the Jack Kirby equivalent of his generation; the "Godfather" of the indie movement, influencing and inspiring too many creators to count. That all changed when Dave let his point of view on gender relations all hang out in Cerebus #186.

I bring this up because the consequences of that POV informed my 2008 phone conversation with him. Dave didn't look fondly upon the Deni Loubert/Dave Sim chapter of my first book, I Have To Live With This Guy!, from 2002. Still, two subsequent meetings had buried the hatchet. That led to various exchanges including what was this whirlwind of a conversation re: Ditko.

Dave felt (correctly so) that Ditko had been consistently belittled, insulted and relegated for his Randian viewpoints mainly because the whole world just wanted Ditko to roll over, do Spider-Man and Dr. Strange again, and have his blood sucked for where "all the bodies are buried" at Marvel.

This 2008 conversation started well. Hey, when one of your heroes says about your book, "I think that Strange and Stranger is probably the best book of its kind that I’ve read," it's tough not to feel a sense of accomplishment. But as the reading of the review unfurled, and Sim clearly was empathizing with the arc of Ditko's career that had been deeply informed by the expression of his philosophical viewpoint, the tone began to change, and my momentary sense of joy sank with each passing word out of Dave's mouth.

When Dave finished reading the review, there was a prolonged silence. Ever been caught in the ocean's undertow, spun upside down? Was I offended? No, not really. Had my balloon burst? Maybe a little, but it certainly gave me pause to think and re-examine my motives based on this new perspective (especially when delivered in such a heart-felt manner).

It was the follow-up that I won't forget. Dave elaborated on how he felt Ditko had been treated by fans, the press, and the industry, and it became increasingly clear that he was talking about himself too. A wave of sadness came over me as Dave became choked up, especially while relating my "tip of the cap" to him in the Acknowledgments section.

I had put in there that my admiration was unending for Cerebus #11 to #136, in a similar fashion to Ditko's Spider-Man run, and he questioned if that was not read as a back-handed complement - similar to how Ditko views people who like his corporate comics vs. that from his own independent mind. I stood up for myself on this point, saying that my love for that part of Cerebus was an objective fact and that it was unfair to categorize my comment as a negative commentary on his personal beliefs that came out in full force in issue #186. Just as I had criticized Ditko's later work for being too didactic, for letting the message overwhelm the story, I believed the same had happened with Cerebus to the extent that my enjoyment, while never stopping me from buying the book to #300, did decrease in a comparative sense. I also opined to Dave that I don't think Ditko would appreciate people buy his Objectivist-heavy work just to support him because "he was Ditko". An acquaintance of Ditko once told me that Ditko had said he'd rather read a review of someone who hated his work than someone licking his boots, and I think that stuck with Dave as an appropriate counterpoint to his argument offered in the review.

I must have been channeling the Holy Spirit because I think the way that I conveyed myself broke through his defenses, in terms of sobering him up to the fact that he was being judged solely on the merits of his work, and not on his socio-political beliefs, and that this was rare for him in the past 10 years. It was clear to me that this had taken a toll on him: going from likely the most "he's my guy" figure in alternative comics to pariah/outsider.

I think we left the conversation with a better understanding of the other person's point of view. What else can you ask for? We've had some interactions since, but none for awhile and I wish I had the time to sit down and re-read Cerebus from start to finish for the first time in a decade. My other "dream book" to write would be Dave Sim and The Rise of the Independents just because I'd get to read those books again and bask in the glow of that era where everything seemed possible if you were an indie creator. We were going to triumph en masse over Goliath. Sim proved you could make it all on your own: a complete artistic vision, and business model, from start to finish, no interference in that vision from anyone (including a dwindling fan base). That's why comics are #1 for me. Can any other medium allow a creator the ability to get their vision across in such an unfiltered manner, from concept to consumer...?

Full details of how to purchase Steve Ditko books can be found at Ditko.Blogspot.com. Strange & Stranger by Blake Bell was published by Fanatagraphics Books in 2008. The Ditkomania fanzine has just published its 90th issue and is essential reading for all Steve Ditko fans.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Norman Rockwell Exhibition (2007)

LitGraphic: The World Of The Graphic Novel
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
10 November 2007 to 26 May 2008

LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel examines the development of sequential art through its practitioners. Their work continues to suggest new ways of seeing: wordless narratives by 1920s woodcut artist Lynd Ward and modern-day commentator Peter Kuper; revolutionary underground comix by R. Crumb and humorous, personal Girl Stories' by Lauren Weinstein; the visual thrill of works by Mad Magazine co-creator Harvey Kurtzman and Breathtaker co-creator Marc Hempel; and the pioneering art of Will Eisner (Contract with God), Dave Sim (Cerebus), and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise). The exhibition features original book pages and studies, sketchbooks, and videotaped interviews with graphic novelists.

DAVE SIM:
(from The Blog & Mail, 22 June 2007)
Here's a little bright light in the Pariah King Darkness that showed up late in March. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA (which has me humming James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" all day whenever I read it even though I'm not sure if the line is "From StockRIDGE to Boston" or "StockBRIDGE to Boston"). Naturally, being the Pariah King of Comics I smelled a trap when they asked for the loan of High Society and Church & State Vol. 1. Usually in that case it's a set-up. I'm supposed to get all excited that someone wants to exhibit my artwork and then I find out that they just wanted copies of the books to flesh out an "Other Graphic Novels You Might Enjoy" part of the show while the actual artwork that's exhibited is the usual Fantagraphics suspects. So, I basically gave them the Comic Shop Locator number and suggested they find a store in their area who can order the books for them. Then intentionally forgot all about it.

Well, no, they did want to exhibit artwork and they actually wanted to exhibit a fair number of pieces... It is extremely gratifying, given that Norman Rockwell was the Pariah King of Painters most of his adult life, looked down on and sneered at as a magazine illustrator by the likes of Jackson Pollock. Fortunately he had a few years there where people with a lick of common sense could see the difference and actually began to treat him with the respect he deserved all along and, of course, today the ranks of those who look down on Norman Rockwell are probably as thin (but no less vocal) as they've ever been.

Gives a Pariah King hope, it does.


...The back wall of the exhibit was covered with perhaps a dozen (maybe less) pages from Sim and Gerhard’s Cerebus. A huge cover to the first Church & State collection, a number of pages from Jaka’s Story, and a couple pages from later books. Gerhard’s backgrounds are extremely impressive at this size, and I was interested to see how Sim had gridded out the guidelines for his lettering (horizontal and vertical lines, that’s not conventional I don’t think). I also noticed that the wavy panel borders used throughout Jaka’s Story were some kind of pasted on screentone-like substance. Looks like it was put on after the inking, which explains the perfect edge on those panels.

...Several pieces of work from Cerebus creator Dave Sim also found their way into the gallery, including selections from Jaka’s Story, Church & State Vol. 1 and Form & Void. The page that really caught my eye was a spread from Jaka’s Story that featured an almost entirely white winter scene, with a bundled-up child being led away from a solitary, snow-covered bench and playground horse by her equally bundled-up guardian. Neither character’s face could be seen beneath the scarves and jackets, and the field of white in the background dominated the spread and gave the environment a desolate feel.

...There are other seminal works on the development of the graphic novel. One of the best examples is the collaborative work of Canadians Dave Sim and Gerhard. Sim's comic character Cerebus - a corruption of Cerberus, the mythical hound from hell - began in 1977 as one of the first self-published independent comics. It was originally written and illustrated by Sim for the first few years, but he eventually teamed with Gerhard, whose background art became one of the hallmarks of the series. Cerebus' success led to a slew of independent comics in the 1980s and was one of the first running comics to be collected into the modern graphic novel format. On display are panels from Jaka's Story, one of the series many story arcs. The exacting detail in the work - ink on board - as well as the great use of black, white and gray half-tones gives the work a stand-alone, cinematic quality.

Meeting Artists: Dave Sim, Peter Kuper, Howard Cruse, Marc Hempel, and Mark Wheatley all had work in the exhibit and attended the opening. I spent a few minutes and had good conversations with each, during which we said nice things about each other. Dave was great, and Peter and I turned out to have a mutual friend in Editor Charlie (not as big a coincidence as it may seem; Charlie knows everybody). Even artists much cooler, better, and more experienced than I admitted that showing their work in the Norman Rockwell Museum was something of a career highlight, which made me feel a bit less like a freshman at the senior prom.

...I walked back to the main building and met up with the official NR archivist, whose name I can’t recall because it was told to me in a room full of shiny things Rockwell. He led Dave Sim and myself down to the archives and allowed us to look through a few of the hundreds of boxes of Rockwell papers, reference photos and letters. The entire collection is being cataloged and transfered to digital format, a massive undertaking. I saw some wonderful things in there and, as an artist, I can only tell you it was inspiring to get a behind the scenes peek at the man and his methods. We all swapped Rockwell stories, but the archivist had the best stories of all.

...Dave [Sim], Lenny and Jeff T were downstairs with a museum employee and someone that looked like Terry Moore (and yes, later I found out it was Terry). The employee showed us around the Norman Rockwell Museum’s archives, where they host all of his fan mail, articles, magazines with his covers, etc. He stated the pictures had all been digitalized and put into a database, and the originals were in a freezer for storage. Later when I was talking to the museum curator she stated that they wanted to get the database online so others could view them also.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

1977 to 2004: "You Think About That"

Cerebus #1 (December 1977), Cerebus #300 (March 2004)
STEPHEN HOLLAND (PAGE 45):
(from a review of Cerebus #300, 2004)
1977 to 2004. You think about that. And then you tell me that this single story written and drawn by one man and his virtuoso landscape artist - month in, month out, with a beginning, a middle and an end - consistently entertaining, provocative and beautiful to behold... You tell me that this is not just a significant achievement, but the very fucking pinnacle of a relatively infant medium, which will be virtually impossible to surpass.

Go on. You sit there and have the temerity, the impertinence, and the self-incriminating illiteracy to find me one other contender to that throne.

The fact that any other letterer could possibly win an Eisner in any given year, shows how vacuous and bankrupt those awards are.

There are approximately six other creators who could give Dave Sim a run for his money in terms of inspiration, innovation, intelligence and storytelling capability combined: Los Bros Hernandez, Chris Ware, Jim Woodring, Eddie Campbell, and - if he could draw - Alan Moore. There are hundreds of others whom I admire wholeheartedly, but few of them come close to those air-thin heights, and not one of those aforementioned creators has accomplished a quarter of what Dave Sim has achieved in the awesome, demanding, infuriating, and wit-ridden epic that is Cerebus.

That the man has contributed an equal and unparalleled measure to this industry is irrelevant to be sure.

But the fact that Dave Sim is not universally regarded as the very finest comicbook creator to this point in time, is a crime of unbelievable, culpable and fundamentally ungrateful ignorance.

If, you know, you're asking.

Stephen Holland co-founded (with Mark Simpson) one of the finest comic stores in the UK - Page 45.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Divine & The Infernal

Storyteller #1-9 (Dark Horse, 1996-1997)
by Barry Windsor-Smith
 DAVE SIM:
(from Following Cerebus #11, 2007)
...the title of BWS's series Storyteller is so unfortunate. It suggests that BWS is the same as, say, Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, making things up but not getting attached to any of them. That's why I asked Neil about magic and included the discussion in issue 186. "There's something there." There. Not here. Neil can come up with realities that beggar the imagination, but they're lies. Well, yes, they can be. They can choose to plumb their imaginations and indiscriminately just SAY STUFF for the sake of saying stuff and getting paid for it and have people getting off on their writing. But, to think that BWS is in the same category is to completely blur the distinction between a lie and the truth. BWS only draws and writes what he knows to be true, as he experienced it. But the grail is always Absolute Truth. For Neil and Alan, all stories are true.

It's my addition to the mix to suggest that that's exactly the difference between the Divine and the Infernal. BWS and I may be completely wrong in what we infer, but we infer from experience, and we are concerned both with our experience of reality and Reality and with attempting to communicate it as accurately as possible within our limited  human means even if that means we are seen as the lowest form of human life: lunatics.

If Neil or Alan got a really good idea for a jolly great story that would shake the reading population to their booties and have them wrapped around the block to buy it at Barnes and Noble, that would be an inherently good thing. Write it! What could be better? Whereas BWS and I choose to destroy our professional reputations by communicating the truth as closely as we can convey it. I knew that Latter Days and Rick's Story and The Last Day weren't going to be big box office. Exactly the opposite was the likely result. But it was more important to tell the Truest Story I Knew and possibly destroy the franchise in which I had invested a quarter of a century than to just try and find the biggest box office idea I could come up with and graft that on to what I had so far, To just SAY STUFF and hope that The Last Day would hit number one on the New York Times Best Seller List.

On the contrary, being number one on the New York Times Best Seller List is far more likely to mean that you are a liar, because an attractive lie is always going to be more popular than a hard truth.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Barry Windsor-Smith's OPUS

OPUS Vol I & II (Fantagraphics Books, 1999-2000)
By Barry Windsor-Smith
DAVE SIM:
(from Following Cerebus #11, 2007)
...I can't think of any lifelong body of such unreservedly brilliant work that has exacted quite so obvious and terrible a psychic toll on its creator. All the sacrifice of blood and spirit and sweat and the frankly-admitted-to tears, the defence of self in a moment of weakness ("I can't go on. I am only human") that in turn becomes a lifelong indictment of self ("only human") and what-might-have-been's.

Like every other artist who bought a copy, I have a Get Out Of Jail Free card. I'm free to detach myself from the human toll documented on nearly every page and just make use of the inspiration of the rendering, the colour choices, the composition, the variations, the detail, the mixing and matching of media. It's a Feast and an entirely Moveable one. Page after page after page after page. Even when I try to focus on the narration the illustration are impossible to ignore. What was it Oscar Wilde said? "To cure the soul with the senses, and the senses with the soul." Nonsense advice and a recipe for a precipitous fall from grace. Still I can enjoy Picture of Dorian Gray for its own sake - The End - and never have to endure or revisit or contemplate the two years of hard labour that it directly led to.

And BWS toils on, framing and attempting to answer the questions he perceives as having been directly posed to him more than thirty years before, paying exorbitant tolls when exorbitant tolls are called for, persevering, gravitating to themes, reworking ideas that existed on a higher plateau in their BWS rough pencil stage than most of us - including Jack Kirby - could ever have hoped to aspire to on our best day... or week ... or month. The first Artemis and Apollo was quantum levels beyond our grasp and our limited abilities and each successive version only dwarfs that first one. What he considers to be "dashed off" colour sketches, most artists of my generation would be pleased to consider a finished cover painting.

And still he aspires. Of all the people who passed through the halls of Marvel Comics in the legendary 1960s, he above everyone else warrants that epithet which doubles as the Latin motto of the state of New York:

Excelsior. Ever Upward.

Barry Windsor-Smith's OPUS is a series of deluxe, hard-cover volumes presenting a fascinating selection of classic, rarely seen, and previously unpublished art by BWS. Integral to this rich retrospective of drawings, paintings, and graphic storytelling work from throughout Windsor-Smith's career are autobiographical texts, titled Time Rise, which explore the ideas and anecdotes behind the art and far beyond, offering intriguing insights into the remarkable experiences of one of comics' and graphic arts' most acclaimed creators.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Trading Eggshells With Zulli

Cerebus #175 (October 1993)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from Dave Sim Collected Letters 2004, page 559)
Actually this was an entirely fictitious nature that I romanticized to an unnatural degree of subtlety and comprehension of metaphor that you would never find in a woman as attractive as Jaka. It was a kind of submissiveness and a gesture of friendship from a patron to an artist, her way of saying the Zulli had been more important to her then just "hired help". Because of the formality implied by the social gulf between them, that's very difficult to communicate. So what she was indicating was that his picture had been instrumental in helping her break out of her shell that she had been in. The fact that she imitates his wallpaper design in an obviously amateurish way on the eggshell expresses to him that she is aware that she could never have come close to having created the picture that he did and exactly how wide the disparity is between the two of them in that way and that she freely acknowledges that, thus putting herself irrefutably on a much lower plan than himself in a way that would be impossible in her privileged world and doing so with a token that can always remind him of those two facts. He helped her to break out of her shell and she will always be beneath him on the creativity scale. "Here, this represents me, when compared to the way your picture represents you. I can't even get one part of the wallpaper right." And then Zulli responds by sending her an amateurishly hand-carved ebony box whose lid doesn't fit properly, his message being: We're all amateurs at most things. I can tell that it was no easier for you to produce the wallpaper pattern on the egg than it was for me to produce it on the side of a box and, as you can see, the results are comparable. I'm no more a carpenter than you are a painter, so let's both have a keepsake to remind us of those humbling facts. In fact, I want you to have half of the egg. You worked too hard on it to give it up entirely.

To complete the story, she should have sent him back the lid to the box, inverted, and lined with one of her own best silk handkerchiefs to hold his half of the eggshell, so that in both instances the eggshell half would be free, instead of enclosed.
Cerebus #193 (April 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Thirty Cameras

Backcover Photo, Cerebus #178 (January 1994)
Photo by Tim Young, Fantastic Store, London
DAVE SIM:
(from an interview with Sandeep Atwal, Filler, 1996)
...[At] the end of tour party in the UK in '86 I guess. We finished off in a pub around the corner from a store in London and a lot of people have cameras and at one point, Ger and I moved to the same part of the room and all of a sudden there's this whole ring of people with cameras, and there's just this white light - flash-flash-flash-flash-flash. I never have to experience that again, now I know what it's like when you're surrounded by thirty cameras all going off at the same time, and you're sitting in the middle of the white light...

Friday, 22 March 2013

IDW Covers: The Colonized #3

The Colonised #3 (IDW, June 2013)
Cover art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
I think this was the next cover that I did.  What Chris wanted was the train that Drew Moss had put in issue #1 which -- in issue #3 is full of aliens and running out of control and running over and into a bunch of zombies (I gotta tell you, I really can't wait to actually READ this story).  I couldn't find the page with the train on it, but I did have the original photo-reference file which had a trolley car.  Was that what Chris was referring to?  And then he got me the missing page from #1 and sure enough it was there.  And Drew had done it so that it looked like the trolley car photo reference but ALSO like a regular train.  Which was pretty funky.  The problem being that Drew is a much funkier artist than I am, so I'm trying to make it look Drew Moss Funky and it's coming out Dave Sim What The Hell is That Supposed To Be?

So, I decided to do the cover in stages -- let's just leave the trolley car/train aside and mull it over, why don't we? -- first roughing in the zombies in the foreground with an already established vanishing point and horizon line.  One of the things that made a difference with this cover was, by this time, I had seen the colouring for the cover of THE COLONIZED #1 and I had gone, "Oh, okay. There ARE computer colour effects that DO work.  You can 'fuzz out' the light on the tractor beam to enhance the effect."  So I was less concerned with establishing the texture of the light with pen lines.  Not 100% sure but reasoning with myself that I could do a really dark foreground and a lighter middle ground when I got there and the colourist would Get It right away. So, I inked the foreground very dark -- near silhouettes -- and even incorporating the lines of the vanishing point into the inking on the figure on the left.

I like the fact that zombies are stupid.  But I thought just getting mowed down by the train was pushing the limits of stupidity even for zombies and I thought they should be armed. But zombie-stupid armed. Like, they'll stop this train with a tire iron or a brick (and then knock the guy's eye out winding up with the brick: You GO, Zombie Lady!).

Doing the backgrounds on these covers has definitely given me a greater appreciation for what Gerhard did all those years.  I mean, you really have to visualize the entire interior of the train.  Where the floor goes, where the driver's seat is, how far back it needs to go to fit a human being in there, where the door would be, where the seats go, how high up they go, where the windows start.  And then most of it -- once you draw the aliens -- just isn't there.  Fifteen minutes tight-pencilling the seats on the left side of the car (your left) and all that shows is a couple of pen lines between two of the aliens.  And you KNOW no one is going to look at the finished cover and go, "Wow do those TRAIN SEATS ever look AUTHENTIC!"

The problem with strict adherence to horizon line and vanishing point is that it does tend to make motion -- train-out-of-control "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" extreme motion -- kind of sedate no matter what you do.  The rest of the cover was supposed to enhance the motion effect on the Tire Iron Zombie (soon to be a spin-off series from IDW!) and I'm not sure that it does even though I inked all of the middle ground grays with pen-lines following the lines going into the vanishing point.

I started wondering if there was a good way to "strobe" the light coming from inside the car or on the large headlight on the front -- duplicating it smaller and smaller back to the vanishing point.  Basically doing what Krigstein did with the subway train in "Master Race" but doing it with colouring.

That's something you'd have to talk to the colourist about.  How difficult would this be to do?  I'm not crazy about vanishing points myself and now I'm going to get the colourist doing algebra?  "Let me see. If the train is receding in size roughly 8% for every quarter inch of distance from the foreground of the train, then that would mean the headlight would be strobing backwards at an 8% reduction per quarter inch or 12% reduction for every 3/5ths of an inch. Assuming you want three strobes vanishing into each other, hmm."

Poor colourist.  So I was thinking of Poor Colourist when I drew the alien in the top section of the cover with the brick coming straight at him, reflected in the glass and surrounded by refracted light.

THINK FAST! Pardon? SMACK!!

Ooops. Too late.  As you can see by the primary image.

Jeez. And he was such a GOOD colourist, too!

Sorry, Bud. Next?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

IDW Covers: Judge Dredd Year One #3

Judge Dredd Year One #3 (IDW, June 2013)
Cover art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
I had a brainstorm -- while I was working on David Philpott's "Church & State Wall" commission a couple of years ago -- of getting an oval picture mat cut for myself at the framing place at the Frederick Street Mall and then using it as a template to create the outline for an oval commission.  A way of breaking up the wall which was composed of square and rectangular pieces.  So, it's just sitting there and every once in a while I think: I really should USE that for something, again.  And I just happened to think of that while I was standing at the light table with the JUDGE DREDD YEAR ONE full cover logo lettering, thinking: what can I do here that would be interesting?  And the mat was sitting behind the pad of tracing paper. And I thought, oh how about an oval inset?  I can do the full sized lettering outside and then reduced lettering inside.  And then I thought, wow, it would be great if I had different-sized ovals.  And I thought, well, why not just reduce the oval on the photocopier?  And then reduce the lettering by the same amount?

So that was what I did, tracing off the successive ovals and then the successive lettering and then transferring them and then inking them.  And by the time I had the effect created, I had room for just this little dinky figure of Judge Dredd in the lower right.  It looked cool, but I had this vision of Chris Ryall saying, "Uh, Dave, we're paying you to DRAW a cover with SOME lettering, not LETTER a cover with SOME drawing."  And then cutting my rate to whatever he would figure they were paying for lettering (if 90% of the lettering today wasn't done on computer).  Oh, well.

Trying for an "All-Out Neal" (if you have to ask "Neal who?" go to your room) cover I hit it lucky with the figure, starting with Dredd's left arm. It looked like a Neal arm from the git-go, all the way down to the semi-clenched curled-in fingers and thumb. So then all I had to do was to stick a Neal-like figure in behind it and then Not Screw It Up in the inking. A Not Screw It Up cover is always more satisfying to work on than a How Can I Save This? cover.

Where I really slowed down was on the background.  I had a background roughed in but it was just a rough sketch that I was trying to rough in and then tighten up.  And, as Gerhard can tell you, backgrounds don't WORK like that. You don't do it roughly and tighten it up like you do a figure. You need to start with the horizon line and a vanishing point and a ruler and put all the straight lines in and then draw the background within that context.  Duh.  A duh I never managed to get past.  I know ROUGHLY where the vanishing point is.  So I worked for a couple of hours with my rough vanishing point.  And then finally erased everything, put in my vanishing point and horizon line and straight lines and I was off to the races.  The intact MegaCity One in the outside ovals and the MegaCity One in ruins in the inside oval. VERY Neal, I thought. "Carmine? I've got your STRANGE ADVENTURES cover done."  

And when I got my fax from Chris he was VERY happy with it, remarking that it looked like a lot of work but that the fans would appreciate that. Not a word about cutting my pay rate.

So I'm tempted now to just letter my covers and leave dinky little spaces for the characters.

And only do bizarre other-worldly backgrounds where there are multiple vanishing points and only vague non-ruler ink lines.

Uh, not really.  What I'm learning to do is to put way more time in on the vanishing point and the horizon line at the outset.  But I am -- as Gerhard can tell you -- a VERY SLOW learner.

Most of this one was inked with a magnifying glass and a brand new Hunt 102 pen nib and diluted black ink.  I've really got to get one of those magnifier jeweller's lamps for the drawing board.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Being A Perfectionist

Cerebus #147 (June 1991)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from Comics Interview #107, 1992)
We try to do the best we can and our theory is if you're not happy with it you've always got another page tomorrow that you can do better on. That's about the extent of our reasoning on the influence of each other's work.

There does come a time when you've got to tell the other guy, "Don't worry about it. You don't like it? Fine There's always going to be stuff that you are not going to like. Try harder on the next one." The Melmoth cover that has Oscar sitting out front of the cafe and it's sort of light pinks and light mauves and whatnot and the shadow of the birds going up the wall - I didn't like my part of that when I had it done, [Gerhard] didn't like hie part of it when he had it done and then he coloured it and he didn't like that. Then the separations came in and that was even worse, and then the printed copy came in and that was even worse. But then Michael Zulli called a month, a month and a half ago, and he said be sure to tell Ger that he really liked that cover. So, what are you going to do? The one cover that Michael singles out to say, "That was just amazing" was, as far as we were concerned, something that just didn't pull together.

Sometimes it's got nothing to do with the cover, really. It's just whatever's going on in our lives at the time, but we don't know that because we are both going through whatever's going on at the time. A particularly lousy issue of the Comics Buyers Guide is enough to throw me off for the rest of the day. You know what I'm saying. Not that there's anything wrong with the Buyer's Guide, but a particularly bad mix of letters or news headlines, "The Industry Triumphant", "This Week's New Improved Robin", "Hologram Covers - the Wave of the Future". It can make you feel physically ill.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Celibacy & Ascetic Living

Cerebus #178 (January 1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from the Cerebus Yahoo Group 2004-2006, reprinted in Dave Sim Conversations)
I always saw [Suenteus Po's ascetic lifestyle] as an unattainable ideal. Even when I was a complete pagan and aware of forces that existed in the universe and the hidden nature of things I was aware that celibacy and ascetic living were efficacious. I was, however, still mired in my own "Acquired Tastes" phase... I was always very self-isolating and solipsistic. I never connected with anything in any way that approached the way I connected with comic books so the world always seemed like a series of transparently fake portrayals which only served to make me more interested in reality and in finding a way to perceive more accurately. Suenteus Po and I shared a motivation in that. But I was still at the mercy of my hormones...

Monday, 18 March 2013

Picking Up The Football

Cerebus: Church & State Vol 2 (1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from an interview wih Sandeep Atwal, Filler, 1996)
You either mature with age or you die. When I see the extent to which I've been able to alter my own reality in Cerebus, when I see the ability to change or awaken aspects of other people's reality through things like issue 186, it's like that's the point.

That's the purpose and then the actual point and the actual purpose is what does somebody do by picking up the football that I left on the field with 186 and run further down the field the same way I did with Elvis and the Beatles? It's like, okay, you guys, that was mind boggling what you did. Way, way, way beyond anything I can compare with what I did. But in other areas you didn't do shit, you didn't do anything for creative freedom. You didn't do anything to keep those parasites and vultures in the record business away from artists. So I don't get known quite as much as an artist as you guys did, at least I'm handing off a better business and the creativity to the next guy and go, "OK, here's the stuff you know what not to do. Here's the stuff where this is just fucking bullshit. It doesn't matter what flavour they give it this month, it's still fucking bullshit and now you've got the football. Now, run for the goal line."

Dave Sim continues to self-publishing the 16 collected volumes of Cerebus, and has been an out-spoken advocate for creative freedom throughout his career, notably via The Creators Bill Of Rights and The Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

IDW Covers Auction: Cerebus Attacks

Mars Attacks: Zombies vs. Robots (2012)
Art by Dave Sim
SOLD: $1,250 (+19.5%BP)
Auctioned: 24 March 2013
DAVE SIM:
(from the Kickstarter Update #145, 7 March 2013)
...RE: The Dave Sim Fund. Donations are still coming in and are much appreciated. Another $400 since Feb 25 (part downloads, part donations but I consider it all Dave Sim Fund money. "Get that STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND thang DONE.") Things are looking up. I haven't gotten the money from the Heritage Auction yet, but I did get a royalty cheque from Alexander Street Press (about $1,000!) and it SOUNDS as if my Italian publisher is back on his feet (at a different company). But, it's 2013 -- I don't count on ANY payment until it actually comes in and the cheque clears. On the donations front -- if you have bought or plan to buy ANY of the IDW variant or incentive covers, as far as I'm concerned, that lets you off the "donation hook" PERMANENTLY. No, seriously. ANY CEREBUS/Dave Sim fan who does that particularly (with the CEREBUS ATTACKS cover which Nate told me cost him, like, TWENTY DOLLARS from his online retailer).  Well, that's performance above and beyond the call of CEREBUS duty (as well as INSANE!).  But insane in a very nice way if it keeps me on IDW's radar screen as someone who can still move some funnybooks in his near-dotage. But I still think you're better off just downloading the cover and sticking it in a plastic bag with the regular issue.  It's. Just. A. Cover.

Now I'm working on trying to generate interest in the Heritage Auctions weekly auctions of the IDW cover originals. Signing and numbering 5 copies of the printed copy. "Heritage 1/5; Heritage 2/5, Heritage 3/5..." -- hoping that that will be an incentive to bid on the cover (starting at $1, as always at Heritage!): whoever is the winning bidder then has 5 copies to sell to recover some of his or her investment (or "investment", as the case may be). The first cover is CEREBUS ATTACKS and it goes "under the hammer" at HA.com between March 17 and March 24. This will be my primary means of making a living in 2013. The cover rate, plus whatever I can auction the original for.
One of the BIG reasons for that (being my primary means of making a living, I mean) is that -- although George and I are making progress on the CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY volumes, remastering and tweaking and re-tweaking and re-re-tweaking pretty much every page, every time we get to the point of being done, we both see a bunch of other things that really need doing...

...But (and here's the point I was driving at) CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY are the life's blood of Aardvark-Vanaheim and always have been. I've got orders backed up from Diamond back to last August for both titles. And I still have no more idea of WHEN the two books will be ready to go to press... than I had last August when I SURE didn't think we were looking at seven months just to get NEAR to finished. That's a long time to coast on life support. It's actually WORKING OUT. But we are definitely skimming the treetops as we're coming in for a landing. The printing bill for the two books will be roughly $20,000. Jeez. Bill Schanes (I'm informed) Diamond's VP of Purchasing (and the "go-to" guy for goosing up CEREBUS trade paperback sales when needed) (like in this case) is retiring at the end of April.

You don't suppose it's BECAUSE of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY do you?

"That's it. Seven months. I've HAD it.  I'm too OLD to deal with this s--t, Sim. Pope Julius didn't take this much grief from Kirk Douglas."

No, I'm sure it isn't.  (Uhhh)  But it sure would be nice to get them both back into the Diamond Star System BEFORE Bill retires. We'll see how it goes.

And then there's THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.  Hopefully I can also get some work done on that this month.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Chocolate-Face Grace

Chocolate-Face Grace (2008)
Art by Dave Sim

ROB WALTON:
(from the Chocolate Face Girl blog, 21 December 2008)
Dave Sim had a little surprise for Grace as we dined into the wee hours of the evening long past beddy-byes (don't tell mom!) at the all too posh Metropolitan Hotel last night: Seems Glamour-puss is a fan and she commissioned Dave to do this very special portrait of Grace "in the style" so to speak. We were all very pleased and there were blushes and kissy-kissies all around. Thank to Dave and Glamour-puss for taking time away from a brutally hectic schedule to this drawing of Grace.

Dave Sim and Grace Walton discuss The Three Stooges in this YouTube clip:


Rob Walton is the cartoonist responsible for Ragmop and the Cerebus Low Society project. Chocolate-Face Grace was a weekly mini-comic by Rob and Grace Walton: a comic about a father and daughter written by a father and daughter.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Cerebus #6: 22 Pages Of Original Art

Cerebus #6 (October 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
All 22 pages sold at auction for $15,850 (February 2013)
N2WDW:
(from a post at The Collectors Society, 28 February 2013)
I just won this on Comiclink -- the full interior art of Cerebus 6 that introduced Jaka! This is my largest comic purchase I've ever made, but honesty I can't believe I got it for $15,850. I started thinking it might be possible when the highest bid was only $6,000 about 5 days ago, well short of the reserve of $15350. It only passed the reserve earlier this evening, at $15,600. I figured everyone was waiting for the end of the auction to bid, as was I (although I hoped I was the only person watching it). I entered my best bid with 45 seconds left, sweating bullets that my internet would go down. My highest bid was $23,000. But I was the only bidder and got it at the next increment, at $15,850.

I can't tell you how happy I am to get this. If I had to pick my favorite series, it would be Cerebus. There are alot of other candidates, like ASM, FF, Strangers in Paradise, Jon Sable, Grell's Green Arrow, Miller's DD, Bone, etc., but if I had to pick one, it would be Cerebus.

With most titles, I would have a hard time picking out my favorite issue. But for Cerebus, for me, it's clearly #6, the introduction of Jaka. This issue has a great mix of humor and romance and a bit of action (in a 3 Stooges kind of way). It's also a great example of Sim's early art and shows some innocence, much different from his more refined art later, especially once Gerhard joined him and he was relieved of dealing with the backgrounds.

But especially, this is my favorite because of Jaka, who next to Gwen Stacy is my favorite female love interest. But truth to tell ASM 31 is not that great an issue as regards Gwen -- she's introduced, but that's about it. But Cerebus #6 is all about Jaka. On top of that, Jaka is such an integral part of the entire 300 issue Cerebus story. That's not really the case with Gwen.

So, I can't believe I now own the original art of my all-time favorite issue of my all-time favorite title! How often does that happen? I feel like toasting with apricot brandy!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Chester Brown: Back & Forth

The following extract is taken from an interview with graphic novelist Chester Brown (Ed The Happy Clown, Louis Riel, Paying For It) posted at TCJ.com in May 2011 in which Chester discusses the end of his friendship with Dave Sim. This is followed by a response from Dave Sim.

=========================

TCJ.Com
I wanted to ask about another cartoonist. I was reading your back-and-forth with Dave Sim in the Cerebus issues.

Chester Brown:
Oh my. [laughs]

And there was one part where you say that Cerebus 186 was an influence on your thinking about romantic relationships. Can you say to what extent, or how?

Let me see. Up until that point, I just kind of accepted [that] everyone’s supposed to have a girlfriend and that’s the natural order. If you don’t have a girlfriend, you’re a loser. That’s what men do, they either have girlfriends or they marry - well, as long as you’re heterosexual. So, reading Cerebus 186, even though I didn’t agree with all the misogynistic views - I didn’t agree that women are inferior, all that stuff - still, here was a guy who was looking at male-female relationships in a different way. It kind of showed me, you don’t have to think like everyone else thinks about these things. Part of it was that I respected Dave a whole lot, and I knew him, and I thought he was very intelligent. That issue of Cerebus was a bombshell in a lot of ways. Like a lot of people at the time, I wasn’t sure, “Is he kidding? Is this a joke? Is he serious?” But it got me re-evaluating the whole male-female dynamic, and thinking about it in a different way, even if my conclusions are different from Dave’s. At that point I was right in the middle of my boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with Sook-Yin. Up until that point, if Sook-Yin had broken up with me, I probably would have been totally depressed and despondent. But when Sook-Yin did break up with me - even though I didn’t want to break up with her, I was totally happy in that relationship - because that [Cerebus issue] changed my thinking about relationships, I think that’s one of the reasons why when she did break up with me, I was able to accept it without being emotionally upset about it. At one point, when I was originally starting to do this book, I was going to go through my whole sex life: losing my virginity, and my girlfriends, and everything. And of course I’m still good friends with two of those girlfriends, Kris and Sook-Yin. So I started to write this script and I thought, “I should probably get permission from them.” [laughs] So I asked them, “Can I do this book?” And neither of them wanted me to do the book. They were like, “Well, you can’t write about our relationship, definitely not.”

So did that take you aback for a little while?

Well, that meant I had to rethink the book. “Okay, I can’t do stuff about the girlfriends. It’ll have to just focus on the prostitution stuff.” But if I had done the book about my whole sex life, then all that stuff about reading Cerebus 186 and how that changed my thinking, all that would’ve been in that book. And I still could’ve put that in, to some degree, in [Paying for It]. I was considering, at a certain point, having Dave as a character in the book, in the way that Seth and Joe are, because Dave and I had lots of discussions about prostitution, and he was very disapproving.

He would want you to conserve your energy or something, right?

Well, he disapproved of paying for sex. He thinks women shouldn’t have jobs. He wants them at home getting pregnant and raising children, not out in the world having jobs. And so prostitution, for him, is just another job that keeps them away from their real role in life. That’s why he disapproves of it. So I was considering having us talk about all that kind of stuff. But at a certain point I decided not to put him in there, which turned out to be a good idea once our friendship fell through. Then I would have felt funny about getting his permission for depicting him in the book.

If you’re okay with it, we should clarify why your friendship fell through. I don’t know if it’s something you’re comfortable talking about, or…

Oh, I’m completely comfortable talking about it. Well, he believes, apparently, that he’s not a misogynist, and I think it’s pretty clear that he is one. That didn’t bother me - I’m totally willing to be his friend despite the fact that, you know, he’s a misogynist. But at a certain point in time he decided he was fed up with people considering him to be a misogynist, and that he didn’t want to deal with people who thought he was one, so he set up that petition on the internet. I think it reads, “Dave Sim is not a misogynist,” and if you agree with that then you sign that petition. So he sent me a fax asking if I could sign that, and I sent back a relatively long letter by fax - I think it was maybe a page and a half or so - where I explained why I wasn’t and how I hoped we could still be friends anyways, that it didn’t influence or affect my thinking, I still liked him as a person and respected his work as a creator and all that sort of stuff. And that upset him apparently. I think he would deny that he was upset by that. I mean, he claims that he very rarely feels emotion. But we had a fax exchange back and forth - I don’t know if you’ve read those. He sent them to someone and they were put up online, so it’s documented. So there was this fax exchange back and forth, and I realized this was getting us nowhere, and a friend - the cinematographer John Tran, another friend of Dave’s, who I know here in Toronto - we were talking on the phone. I was asking him if he was going to sign this petition, and he said he didn’t feel like he could sign it either. But we thought, rather than dealing with him on the phone, or sending faxes or whatever, it would be better if we just dealt with him in person. We were like, “Well, okay, let’s drive up to Kitchener and get together with him.” And it seemed pretty clear from the tone of his faxes that if we phoned ahead, he would just say, no, don’t come. So we decided we would just drive up to Kitchener and knock on his door, which we did. I had been so used to dealing with Dave - with the Dave that I knew, a friendly, affable guy - and that’s who I was expecting to deal with when he opened the door. And although he agreed to come out with us and have a coffee with us, he seemed very angry. I mean, like I said, he claims to not feel emotion, but he seemed angry. He wasn’t yelling or anything, but he had a scowl on his face. John was making small talk - he had a film that was opening around that time, Daddy Tran. So I think he was talking about the opening night of the film or something, and Dave just cut him short and was like, “John, that has nothing to do with me,” or “What does that have to do with me?” [Rogers laughs.] In a very angry tone. The whole conversation was kind of like that: confrontational, and angry on his side. He just wanted to deal with this issue - whether or not we considered him to be a misogynist. So it was unpleasant and basically confirmed that we were no longer friends.

So there’s been no contact since?

No. I was even wondering - because I send out these Christmas cards every year - should I send him a Christmas card? He sends out those form letters to people who try to write to him, and I think it says in there, “If you’re not willing to sign my petition, please don’t bother me with trying to get in contact further.” So I was like, “Okay, if he says that, I should respect his wishes.” With this book coming out, I do mention him in the afterword to the book - I was wondering, should I send him a copy of the book? I haven’t decided one way or the other on it. But, yeah, that’s where things stand with me and Dave.
DAVE SIM:
(from a fax, 4 March 2013)
Chester leaves out the fact that he called me to invite me to help judge the Doug Wright Awards that year, at Seth and Brad McKay's behest. This happened right after I had gotten Margaret Liss, Cerebus Fangirl, to put the I don't Believe Dave Sim is a Misogynist petition together. I told him that I couldn't go to the ceremony because even though I don't think I'm a misogynist, you have to respect a 99% consensus in a democracy. I also said I would give a "bye" on signing the petition to whom ever would be the "civilian" -- i.e. non-comics judge -- that year. But, as comic-book people, I would need to have Seth and Brad and Chester all sign the petition. Chet said that he would check with them and called me back shortly thereafter and said the answer from all three was definitely no. Okay, no problem. But it did make me wonder, if you think I'm a misogynist why would you ask me to help judge a prestigious award like the Doug Wright Awards?

I wasn't angry when Chester and John Tran came to Kitchener, but I was VERY uncomfortable since I didn't want to invite two people into my home who think I'm a misogynist. Chet's quite right. If they had phoned, I would have said, "Don't come". Actually, because I don't answer the phone, I would have just deleted the message. No offence intended, I just misunderstood. I would never have had anything to do with either of you if I thought you believed I was a misogynist. Sincere apologies for the misunderstanding.

Also, I have never required anyone to ask my permission to use me or my work as a raw material in another creative work. It's on the indicia page of every trade paperback and has been for some years.

I would have offered my own recollection of Chet's and my conversation sooner if I had been made aware of the interview previous to this. Unfortunately in the political climate that dominates the comic-book field that doesn't happen. People just read what someone writes about me and don't ask for my version of the story. That's really sad, but it's just how the comic-book field is, I've discovered. I didn't know about the interview until I read the footnote in COMICS JOURNAL No. 302.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

You Think It's Easy Being Pope?!

Cerebus #72 (March 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Monday, 11 March 2013

Cerebus #23: "Nothing Fails Here"

Cerebus #23 (December 1980)
Art by Dave Sim
TCJ.COM:
(from a review by Tucker Stone at TCJ.com, 8 February 2013)
Cerebus #23: An excellent issue of Cerebus that consists almost front to back of the character seated in a bed, listening to the goings on around him. Opening with a standard sex comedy set-up - a wounded Cerebus is taken in by a bunch of buxom young women being looked after and lorded over by a crotchety old crone, and the ladies almost immediately begin to persuade our hero to get his good leg thumping - Sim quickly twists it into something way more interesting by forcing a larger story to wedge itself into the gag. It’s even more intriguing when one considers the timing - a higher price is on this issue, the beginning of the longer, more serious business is upon the comic, and all of that is here, in the microcosm of one issue. It’s also a brilliant looking thing, a comic that takes place in dark rooms, between the light that escapes the blinds, amongst the stoic, unbending faces of the old woman and Cerebus himself. After indicating that the young women are, in fact, desirable, Sim shutters them off to the sides and corners, barely depicting them again, preferring instead to close in on the faces of the drunken forces of an outside world that would do them harm. Nothing fails here.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Dave Sim Conversations

Dave Sim Conversations is published by University Press of Mississippi and available now from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk. Edited by Eric Hoffman and Dominick Grace, Dave Sim Conversations is a collection of interviews spanning 1982 to 2006. A complete list of the interviews included in the book can be found here. Eric and Dominick kindly forwarded the following Q&A they pre-prepared for UPM's publicity department.

What drew you to Dave Sim's work?

Dominick Grace:
Several things drew me to it. One is that, as a Canadian, I tend to want to check out work by Canadian talents, so Cerebus automatically was something I needed to try out, once I heard of it. I first heard of it in The Buyer's Guide for Comics Fandom (later renamed The Comics Buyers' Guide), which gave glowing reviews to early issues and, more importantly, ran the one-page Prince Valiant parody strips Sim did early on as a promotional tool. As a Hal Foster fan (Foster was another Canadian, incidentally), I was predisposed to like this strip, and Sim did a great job of affectionately skewering that classic strip. It was a short step from there to Swords of Cerebus volume one--another attractor was that Sim made the early issues available in such an inexpensive and accessible format--and the current issues of the comic; I got the first Swords volume and issues 13-17 (the then-current issue) all around the same time and was quickly won over mainly by Sim's humour and deadly parodic skills.

Eric Hoffman:
When I began reading Cerebus I was still quite young, 13 or so, and was mainly interested in superhero comics, notably Alan Moore, John Totleben and Stephen R. Bissette's Swamp Thing. An employee of the comic shop I frequented showed me an issue of Cerebus that included a Swamp Thing parody and I was immediately struck not only by the clever dialogue but also the overall weirdness of the work (in that issue, the character Cerebus, an anthropomorphic aardvark, is perched atop a floating mountain made almost entirely of carved faces spinning through space on some unknown trajectory while engaging in a conversation with a three-headed monstrosity composed of equal parts wizard, Swamp Thing and Marvel's Swamp Thing-esque Man-Thing). Also of note was the cover design, a simple photographic image of a moon, and the interior artwork, particularly the detailed line work of Sim's collaborator, Gerhard. It was quite unlike anything else I had seen - and this sometime after the height of the black and white comics explosion of the mid-1980s.

What makes Cerebus stand apart from other comic book works?

Dominick:
Several things make Cerebus stand apart. One of the most significant is its scope. Sim was way ahead of the curve on using comics to develop long, complex narratives that stood up well to (indeed, really demanded) rereading when major arcs were completed. Another, and perhaps the most significant one, is its graphic innovations. There are few cartoonists with so complete a command of the panel, the page, the sequence, the long narrative in comics form--even of often invisible elements of cartooning such as lettering. When Sim hit his stride, almost every issue of Cerebus was not only hugely entertaining but also a master class in how to do innovative, medium-expanding comics. Gerhard's contribution to this aspect of the book cannot be overestimated, by the way; his sophisticated command of spatial relations and masterly draughtsmanship ground the funny animal protagonist in a fully realized world.

Eric:
When I first read Cerebus, I became thoroughly addicted, as the work came out in mostly monthly doses with little to no break in continuity (moreover, the 100 or so issues that came out before I started reading it were available in collected format and in bi-weekly reprints). I continued to read Cerebus for several years until my interest in comics waned. When I came back to the comic some ten years later, the first thing that jumped out at me was how Sim and Gerhard's work had progressed, in particular Sim's skill as writer, letterer and caricaturist and Gerhard's layouts and detailed line work. Going back and reading the material I had missed - some one hundred issues - was absolutely enthralling and engrossing. I can't say that any other comic, which if it does last for any length of time regularly changes creative teams and dispenses with continuity whenever possible, provides a reader with a similar experience.

Where should readers new to Dave Sim's work begin their explorations?

Eric:
Personally, I think it's always best to begin at the beginning, with the first Cerebus volume. It generally gets short shrift among fans, and it has been customary for readers new to Cerebus to pick up the second volume, High Society. I've never understood this. For one, the first volume does contain what is now called "The Palnu Trilogy" which must be read first in order for High Society to make perfect sense. Also, the work does marvellously display Sim's stunningly vast improvement in skill as artist and writer (it covers just over three years' worth of work) and there are a number of plot points and characters introduced in this work that are crucial later in the series. Finally, the comic is a painfully amusing send-up of popular 1970s comic books, most notably Conan the Barbarian and Howard the Duck. Like much of Cerebus, it helps if you are familiar with what he is lampooning, but, like Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, is not necessary to enjoy the work.

Dominick:
Actually, I would recommend starting with High Society. It does suffer a bit from plot points carried over from  the first volume, but not so much that it should really impede reading, and its general level of accomplishment is much higher. Besides, now is  a good time to be getting it, what with IDW contracting with Sim to release a digital version including lots of extras.

Did you have to work much with Dave Sim on this project, and if so, how did he contribute?

Eric:
This collection developed organically out of the collection of essays I'd edited, Cerebus the Barbarian Messiah: Essays on the Epic Graphic Satire of Dave Sim and Gerhard. I'd originally contacted Sim to obtain rights for reprints for that book and he was quite willing to grant them, which is to be expected considering his view that anyone engaged in what can be considered a new, creative work does not require his direct permission. But I got it anyway (other publishers have different views than Sim). I'd long admired University Press of Mississippi's Conversations with Comics Artists series and wanted to build on the Barbarian Messiah book with a collection of interviews. Again, Sim was quite straightforward in granting rights to reprint images and so forth, but that was about the extent of his involvement in either of these books.

How did you go about selecting images to accompany the interview selections?

Eric:
Well, there were two ways, actually. Many of these interviews, notably the Spurgeon and Bernstein, were published with a number of images with reference to the topics being discussed. We decided to forgo many of these illustrations and to provide our own selections, in part to assert this book's autonomy and position as a largely new work despite nearly all of the content being otherwise previously available in some form or another (though most of it out of print). Primarily, we followed suit by choosing images we felt best illustrated a certain topic or theme being addressed in the interview. In some cases, we chose images simply because we had a particular preference for them; for example, Dominick was quite adamant that we include images of Mick and Keef, Sim's caricatures of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Dominick:
I'd just add that, without trying to be programmatic about it, we tried to ensure that we produced images from across the run of the series, so that readers get to see samples of Sim and Gerhard's work from early on, from the middle of the run, and from late in the run. We ended up including images from most if not all of the individual collections.

Were there any interviews you wanted to include but could not?

Dominick:
One that leaps to mind is an early interview conducted for The Comics Journal, by Kim Thompson. It's a great, wide-ranging one, but also massive (as many Sim interviews are) and would have taken up a huge chunk of the available space. As it is, since interviews with Dave Sim do tend to be expansive, this book has fewer selections than some others in the Conversations series, so to include the Thompson one, we'd probably have had to cut two or three others. We opted instead to include only one, later Comics Journal interview, conducted by Tom Spurgeon shortly after the appearance of issue 186 of Cerebus and ranging extensively over Sim's career and grappling with his ideas. (The Comics Journal is, of course, one of the most consistent sources of insightful, expansive interviews with comics figures--perhaps the most consistent source--so it needed to be represented in our collection.)

Eric:
I for one would have liked to include some later interviews dealing with Sim's post-Cerebus work (notably Judenhass and glamourpuss) but as Dom says space was a concern and also the interviews included seem to have Cerebus as a natural focus, it being Sim's only major work and the bulk of his professional output to date. To include some of the later interviews, however fascinating, would have seemed a bit tacked on.

Why is a collection of Sim's interviews necessary? 

Dominick:
A collection of interviews is necessary, I think, because, like old floppies, these original records also often tended to disappear quickly into back issue bins, or oblivion. Comics and comics-related materials are often ephemeral. Many of the interviews we've included are inaccessible, or very hard to find, even for studious collectors--and even in these days of eBay. In a few cases (e.g. the Sandeep Atwal interview) the only reason we were able to include a piece at all is that we happened to have copies in our own collections, and in other cases, we had to rely on the great Margaret Liss, who probably has more Sim-related material than anyone else (visit her website at www.cerebusfangirl.com). And it's important, even essential, to look at these records because they present Sim in his own words. Given the controversies that dogged the latter years of his career, I think it's important to get back to his own explanations of his work and his ideas, rather than relying solely on what others have to say about him--which is often, to be frank, unfair to the work and to the man.

In what way has Sim's work changed the industry or the art form?

Dominick:
Sim made the graphic novel, as opposed to the floppy, the format of choice for comics, I'd argue. Pre-Cerebus, comics reprints were rare, and even rarer in book form--especially of new material,which in most instances was consigned to back issue bins within months (even weeks) of first appearing and had to be sought out and paid for through the nose, if you weren't lucky enough to be in on something when it started. I doubt we'd have the plethora of long serials designed to have clear endings, or the increasing number of original works produced at novel length, today without Sim's example.

Eric:
I'd add that without Sim's example such creators such as Frank Miller and Alan Moore would likely have continued working for the major publishers for a longer period of time and such works as From Hell and Sin City might have appeared in considerably different form.  Creator's rights would have been a more marginalized concern in the comics industry during the 1980s without Sim's presence as a viable self-publisher/alternative.  I'd say in part because of the example of Cerebus (there was also DC's well-publicized lawsuits over creative ownership of Superman, Jack Kirby's struggle to recover his original artwork from Marvel and Steve Gerber's lawsuit with Marvel over ownership of his character Howard the Duck), both DC and Marvel began to take creator's rights more seriously and to reconsider their very unfair and outdated contractual terms concerning restitution for creators - allowing creators to retain their rights, paying percentages as opposed to per-page pay rates, and so on.

What position do you believe Dave Sim occupies in the comic industry today?  Ultimately, what sort of legacy do you believe Sim has contributed to the comics field?

Dominick:
I think that the controversial nature of what Sim has had to say about feminism and to a lesser extent about religion has unfortunately marginalized him, at least to some extent. That said, many comics luminaries, both long-standing and more recently emerging, have acknowledged Sim's mastery of the medium (even when they object to Sim's ideology). He is recognized as a master of the comics form, though his influence is probably not as obvious as is that of some other comics masters. Certainly, one does not tend to see many Sim clones or imitators, as one has seen over the years with other figures, such as Neal Adams, Kirby, Eisner, and so on. Sim's more sui generis--a unique figure like Ditko, or Gene Colan--instantly recognizable, hard to imitate, but definitely foundational. In some ways, it's hard to imagine a figure more different from Sim than Chris Ware, for instance, but when I read Ware, I can't help thinking that his innovations with layout and format would have been unlikely without a precursor like Sim.

Eric:
I've already mentioned Sim's impact on creator's rights and certainly that has had a major impact not only on how comics creators publish and market their work but also on what kind of work creators choose to publish.  Cerebus is a long-form work ne plus ultra - there is literally nothing else like it in the discrete, monthly comic format (the closest form that comes to it is manga - a form with which Sim said he has little familiarity - and yet manga is designed to be read quickly and involves a more cinematic structure than its Western counterparts, most notably Cerebus which, with its many text interpolations, is a decidedly literary comic book).  Anything exceeding Cerebus' length is necessarily compromised by a variety of factors and always to the detriment of its tone, narrative structure and stability and even comprehension.  As Dom notes, the medium has somewhat regrettably shifted away from monthly comics as a viable publishing option for many creators and publishers -   the budgets are too tight and the work loads too demanding - in favor of graphic novels or longer collected works (and monthly comics are almost always written with an inevitable paperback collection of 6 or 10 issues in mind), so it is my feeling that, at least for the time being, Cerebus will remain an entirely unique work for its medium.

© University Press of Mississippi. Used with permission.