Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson has written and illustrated several graphic novels, including Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Box Office Poison and Tricked, all published by Top Shelf Productions. He and his work have won several industry awards, including the prestigious Eisner Award and prize for best debut in Angouleme, France. He lives in New York City with his wife and their pets, and hopes to have another book out soon.

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus and how long did you read it for?

Alex Robinson:
I read an article in a long defunct magazine called Comics Collector, which was a spin-off of the more recently defunct Comics Buyer's Guide. At the time I was about 15 and starting to grow bored with superhero comics and started exploring the alternative comics scene and the article inspired me to check it out. I went to Funny Business and bought my first two issues, which would be #65 & 67. #65 was also Gerhard's first issue and was titled "Anything Done for the First Time Unleashes a Demon." It's amazing, looking back, since anyone who read the floppies will recall that Dave Sim gave absolutely no help to new readers, but in a way I think that made me like it all the more. It was like doing a big jigsaw puzzle, filling in the pieces as I bought back issues.

I started reading it in high school and kept it up through college and adulthood, only stopping at issue #291. In retrospect this seems perverse -- to come that close to the end!

How has your own creativity/comics been influenced by Cerebus?

It's probably the most influential comic of my life. Obviously not in terms of subject matter but in terms of storytelling, format and overall business approach. When I started working on Box Office Poison I would send the issues to Dave Sim along with an apology for ripping him off so blatantly. He was always very nice and comradely about it, insisting that the things I claimed to be stealing were storytelling tools everyone uses and so on. From the start I even imagined the story running about 25 issues and always had an eye on the collection up ahead, which was still unusual at the time.

I also don't want to overlook Gerhard's contribution. You could give me a hundred years of practice and I would not be able to replicate his beautiful work but that's still the ideal I have in mind when it comes to stuff like bricks and woodgrains. It's a shame that he isn't doing backgrounds for someone else but I suppose he's earned a break!

Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?

Yes. Both the content of the comics and Dave Sim's editorials and business model really spoke to my frustrated adolescent self. I positively hated school and it seem like Dave Sim managed a way to cheat the system: no editor, no boss, complete artistic freedom. I've never been a self-publisher, other than some mini-comics, but I've always kept the lessons of Cerebus in mind and fortunately I've worked with publishers who were willing to give me a long leash.
Cerebus #80 (November 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Do you have a favourite scene/sequence from Cerebus?

Church & State was where I came in so I think most of my favorite bits are from those books. The converstation with Julius and Bishop Powers, Cerebus condemning everyone to hell, that amazing scene where Cerebus goes to visit the dying Weisshaupt. The sheer scope of that book was intoxicating. Can he really do all of this?? After reading superhero comics where the illusion of change was the order of the day ("Is this the end of the Fantastic Four??") to have a scene like Bran plunging that knife into his chest was genuinely shocking. I also like the beginning of Mothers & Daughters, since all of those characters reappearing after the more minimalist Jaka's Story and Melmoth was very exciting and seemed to building to an epic scope.
Cerebus #80 (November 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Would you recommend others read Cerebus, and if so why?

Hoo boy, it's hard to say. Obviously the book is now a part of my DNA and I'll still pick up the books and reread stuff but I'm not sure if it's something that you have to be in the right mindset to read. As I said, I was an angry teenager who thought he was smarter than everyone so the character of Cerebus -- who was an obvious outsider but still managed to outsmart everyone and, at least in those early days, was very witty -- was a natural fit. Some friends of mine have read the book for the first time as adults and my impression is that the book is just really, really weird. Even setting aside all the misogyny stuff and the Torah commentary -- and for most people outside the cult those are very big things to set aside -- it's still a book about a talking aardvark crammed with parodies of superheroes and comics biz inside jokes.

In terms of comic storytelling, yes, every cartoonist should check it out, especially if you're into the more Eisnerian-style of storytelling. Sim experimented with so many things -- silent panels, word balloons as characterization, page layouts, cover design -- that studying his work is like a masterclass in comics. 


Saturday, 29 June 2013

Kim Thompson (1956-2013) RIP

The Comics Journal #82-83 (July/August 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
(Click Image To Enlarge)
TOM SPURGEON:
(from The Comics Reporter, 28 June 2013)

...One memorable piece he contributed to the Journal in those early years was the magazine's first full-length interview with the cartoonist Dave Sim. Thompson championed Sim's comic book Cerebus almost from its conception, and would remain convinced of the cartoonist's skill -- if not various, specific beliefs Sim held -- for the remainder of his days, even offering to publish certain works of Sim in recent years (Sim debated and then declined the offer). The Sim interview ran over two issues, and featured a cut-in-half cover. It was likely not the first interview in the magazine anticipated as "The Comics Journal doing what they do with this specific cartoonist" given the publication's impressive run with a variety of mainstream comic book figures ranging from the fully invested executive to the strictly iconoclastic creator, but the Sim piece was early as the magazine began to secure a reputation for longer, more serious talks with an emerging generation of cartoonists looking to the comics medium for its opportunities for personal expression. The choices made by the publication were not automatic, even though they look inevitable in the rearview mirror. Thompson and the rest of Fantagraphics ran the risk of routinely alienating the professional community on which the magazine depended for advertising revenue, a significant chunk of its readership and access to interview subjects...

DANIEL CLOWES:
(from Tributes To Kim Thompson at TCJ.com, 24 June 2013)
...Kim had, from my vantage, what appeared to be an enviable life: a happy home, and an unending pride in his calling. He was truly a gentle, kind soul, though he always thought of himself as a bit of a punk, I think. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry, and he treated even the lowliest of adversaries with good-natured acceptance. Dave Sim has probably lost his only sane defender. Kim knew he and Gary had done something beyond what anyone could have ever imagined and he seemed continually giddy over what turned out to be an astounding and indelible achievement...

Kim Thompson (1956-2013) was an American comic book editor, translator, and publisher, best known as vice president and co-publisher of Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books. Kim wrote and published the first major review of Cerebus in The Comics Journal #52 (December 1979).

Friday, 28 June 2013

Low Society

LOW SOCITEY
by Rob Walton & The Toronto Comics Lab
On Sale: September 2013

Cerebus built a reputation for parody by liberally borrowing from popular and established comic characters. With Low Society, Multiple Eisner and Joe Shuster award-nominated editor Rob Walton (Ragmop) and the Comic Lab bullpen take you on all-new adventures in aardvarkian insanity featuring appearances from Red Sophia, Moon Roach, Elrod, and more. Featuring an all new cover inked by Dave Sim with backgrounds by Gerhard. Plus a host of pin-ups, laughs and surprises. Attend the launch party/signing at the Comic Book Lounge in Toronto in early September with special guest Gerhard. More details at: info [at] cartoonistsworkshop [dot] com

ROB WALTON:
The publisher (Sean Menard) finally talked me into doing a six-pager as well, so you'll see my first new comic story since 2006! Never say never. Who ever thought the creator of the Ragmop would end up writing its antithesis, Cerebus? What a crazy world... I forgot to mention that Ger's color cover is for a print he's making to sell separately in conjunction with the book. Our cover remains in penny-pinching B&W.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Joe Shuster Awards 2013: Nominees

Gene Day & Harry Kremer
Art by Dave Sim
The 2013 nominees for The Joe Shuster Awards celebrating Canadian comic book creators, have just been announced. The awards will be presented at a gala ceremony in Toronto, on the evening of Saturday, August 25, 2013. Full details here...

GENE DAY SELF-PUBLISHER AWARD 2013:
Named after the late Howard Eugene Day (1951-1982), this award honours Canadian comic book creators or creative teams who self-published their work but did not have the books distributed by a third party such as Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. The nominees were selected from over 40 individual publications submitted for review before the deadline of May 16th, 2013. The award winner will also receive a bursary of $500.
  • Sanya Anwar – 1001
  • Jordyn F. Bochon – The Terrible Death of Finnegan Strappe: The Claw of the Earth #1 (of 3)
  • Antonin Buisson – Tranquillement pas vite
  • James Edward Clark – Evil
  • Corey McCallum, Matthew Daley – The Pig Sleep: A Mr. Monitor Case

HARRY KREMER RETAILER AWARD 2013:
Named after the late Harry Kremer, original owner of Now & Then Books (in Kitchener, Ontario). The Awards Association maintains a list of active comic book stores and a database of recommendations, referrals and secret shopper reports. A separate Retailer Award Committee reviews the data and selects a short list of stores that have shown merit in a variety of categories such as:
  • Another Dimension – Calgary, AB
  • Amazing Stories – Saskatoon, SK
  • Heroes – London, ON
  • L’Imaginaire – Quebec City, QC
  • Paradise Comics – Toronto, ON

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

IDW Covers: Dr. Who - Prisioners Of Time #9

Dr. Who: Prisoners Of Time #9
(IDW, September 2013)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
This one was trouble from the beginning.

Going through the BBC stills that they sent me, they had three of the actor and actress with the Tardis where the photographer had obviously used a fixed camera placement and the actor and actress either improvised or were directed as to how they were supposed to look and what they were supposed to do.  So, right away I wanted to continue my motif from the #8 cover of multiple images conveying the "Prisoners of Time" quality visually. Of course, PART of me is thinking, "Well, in that case you're talking about doing three covers instead of one but you're only getting paid for one."  It's really a major problem with the creative mind that you always think of something "cool to do" before you think about how long it's going to take to do it.  And by that time it's too late: you want to do what you thought of.  Even though you're not going to own it and they'll be happy to pay you the same money for one image.  My thinking was: because of the fixed camera placement, the perspective on the Tardis is the same so I can just do an enlargement of the foreground image, a smaller enlargement of the mid-ground image and an actual size of the primary or background image. Which, theoretically, yes. Except that once you had the three Tardis' properly lined up, the picture was too wide. So, okay, I'll solve THAT by having the Tardis images overlap instead of standing in sequence. That quickly got into problems of -- well okay, I can't overlap everything so I need to do a kind of radiating effect and just pick how many elements in the foreground and mid-ground image that I need just to establish that they're there. And that got into problems of "Well how do you RENDER that?" at the inking stage. You need to have different densities.  So, as you can see, the ultimate solution I came up with was doing FOUR layers of the "POLICE CALL BOX" sign (the most identifiable element of the Tardis) but only THREE layers of the actor and actress and only TWO actual "bottom of Tardis" images. And I decided that I would render the foreground and mid-ground and then "spatter" it with white paint. Just load up the toothbrush with white paint and "flick flick flick".  Gene Day used to call it "cosmic s--t". It takes a lot of confidence because you are drawing a long time before you get to the spatter and then when you ARE spattering you have to do just enough spatter but not too much.

And I actually got that far along before I said, "Okay the upper right of the cover ends up unnaturally blank that way." So that was when I did the enlargement of the photo of the actor and actress and put that in behind the logo.

The CORE problem to the whole cover was the actress who is, as I've decided we call it in the photorealism game, an A.P.Y.L.  -- An Astonishingly Pretty Young Lady.  Which is, hands down the most difficult thing to draw in photorealism.  The actor, you have a lot of leeway.  His nose is sort of misshapen, he has character lines. If the nose is 1/300th of inch out of place it's still going to look like him.  1/300th of inch out of place with an APYL and what you have is a very bad approximation. That was one of the reasons I chose to do glamourpuss. If you're going to learn to turn photos into Al Williamson drawings, you might as well start with THE most difficult thing to do that with: APYL's. You're lucky if she's still pretty when you're done.  A good likeness is usually beyond the pale which it was in this case.  She is definitely the most iconically pretty of the Doctor's assistants over the years (now that I've seen all of them). I thought maybe the fact that I would have a much larger picture of her to work with in the upper would help. Uh, no. That's the fourth or fifth mouth you're looking at there, each one pencilled and inked on top of white-out.

No surprise she got "held over" to the next Doctor. She was marginally easier to draw in her later years but only marginally, as we'll see with the No.10 cover.

It actually worked AS a cover, I think. One of those situations where, when you're forced to admit you DIDN'T get her likeness, you never want to see the cover again. Pulling it out so I could write this, it's much better than I remembered. Three out of four quasi-likenesses with a APYL on that high a plateau of APYLness is not a bad track record. I'm very eager to see how it looks in colour.

It was a LOT of figuring when I should be mentally telling myself, "Just do a cover, hotshot." It says DOCTOR WHO on the cover, do a DOCTOR WHO and call it a day..

And I actually had the original enlargement of the background and mid-ground images and I said, "Mail it to Tim so he has it when he asks you about this" and of course I didn't. The point was that the original TWO image enlargement is actually a better natural composition than what I ended up with, and a better comic-book cover.  And it would have taken about half the time.

Live and learn. Or -- in some cases -- live and DON'T learn.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

IDW Covers: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 
(IDW, September 2013)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
Just finished the Wally Wood image above -- "Never copy what you can trace" part of Woody's credo gave me license to do just that, although it is a montage with some adjustments (Dynano was originally upside down on the famous DYNAMO cover with his legs together and he wasn't holding anything and the space ship was traced from an EC story in the IDW book and then reduced three times, traced and transferred). It ain't Woody, but I like to think it's just Larry Hama, Ralph Reese or Dan Atkins enough to get me a job with him inking background figures.

The original figure is from the cover of DYNAMO No.3 and I did have to modify it, change the lighting, etc. or forever indict myself for JUST tracing another guy's drawing and adding nothing to it.  I looked up as many good quality black and white examples of Wood's art as I could find to get the idea of the brush stroke in my head (which is the size of a horse's leg compared to what I've been working with: Adams, Raymond, Drake) and as much of the THUNDERagents stuff as I had around the studio -- mostly in books -- and noticed what THUNDER was an acronym for. The HIGHER United Nations... Oh, I am definitely tight with that. Unlike the Fiasco-On-The-New-York-Waterfront where Iran is in charge of human rights that we've got, yes, let us all pray that there IS a HIGHER United Nations SOMEWHERE.

Boy, I wasn't going to get into this, but -- what the heck -- any excuse to keep from going back to the house and signing my name another 300 times on the HIGH SOCIETY signatures, eh?

While I was working on the cover, having combed every book I had for a good Wally Wood moon shot -- I finally found the best one in WALLY'S WORLD (the more-than-kind-of-sad biography Vanguard did a few years back) -- I was sitting there inking my Wally Wood moon and I started singing -- in my head -- the "Fireball XL-5" theme song.  Just the parts I remembered (which wasn't much -- I probably last heard it around 1964 or so).  WTF?  Well, you know, YouTube. Everything's on there.  I can actually get the lyrics and see a clip of the show opening.  I even watched the FULL opening, not just the theme. Steve Zodiac.  How could you forget a name like Steve Zodiac?  "Are you ready, Venus?" I'm getting a scalp rush from these marionettes.  Oh, okay, once the theme song STARTS then I get it: all the Wally Wood moon shots behind the titles.  That was where I first knew images of the moon, so that was what I would have related Wally Wood -- and Al Williamson's -- moon drawings to, unconsciously.  Fireball XL-5.

[Must be something in the water: the next week I came back to check it out and THAT VERY DAY Neil Gaiman had posted his own version of the XL-5 theme. W. T. F.]


And I'm thinking -- you know, this really IS Woody and Al Williamson.  This is what they were all about.  The space opera heroism, but really it was about the "Venus of the Stars".  "Every time I look into your starry eyes."  The heroism was the way to get Venus of the Stars.

It was an interesting -- VERY interesting -- thing to connect with fifty years later.  Wally Wood and Al Williamson's moon was so much...nicer...than the actual moon would turn out to be.  I mean, I went to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to get Gerhard original NASA transparencies which is as close as you can get to what the moon actually looks like.  And it looks exactly the way it does in LIFE magazine.  This drab sort of brown gravel pit.

Dave, you aren't REALLY going to go all the way on this, are you?  They'll all think you're nuts.

Well, they already think I'm nuts, so what's the big deal?

It ties in with the HIGHER United Nations in  a weird way. The YHWH, if you actually follow the sequence of logic in the Bible, is the earth, the living thing within the earth. And each nation has its own minor YHWH. There's a Canadian YHWH, an American YHWH, each country.  All fronting for the Big YHWH. It's the reason America works -- E Pluribus Unum -- and the EU really doesn't.  There is an American YHWH but there isn't really a California YHWH or a Nebraska YHWH in the same sense that there's a France YHWH and a German YHWH and a Greece YHWH.

There's inadvertent comedy in the Bible and one of the best is when the YHWH tells Moses to ask the rock to give him water for the tribes.  It's the YHWH saying "I'm inside the rock and there's water in here so ask me and I'll give it to you". But Moses doesn't know the difference between God and YHWH so he HITS THE ROCK with his stick and says, "You rebels! Must I fetch you water from this rock?"

And, uh, that was pretty much it for Moses.  Tell him to ask for water from me nicely and he HITS ME WITH HIS STICK! The YHWH (if you've had occasion to read The Bible) isn't known for his/her/its sense of humour or perspective about these kinds of things.

Okay, so, it stands to reason that the moon has its own YHWH. But instead of a "make the best of it -- plants are nice" kind of water glass half full kind of YHWH like the earth is (when he/she/it isn't snuffing you because you hit her with a stick), the moon's YHWH is a kind of "I wish I was DEAD!!" YHWH.  And actually wished that hard that that's pretty much how he/she/it turned out.  This dead brown gravel pit (which actually looks romantic as long as you're, you know, a quarter of a million miles away).

What happens when you decide to scoop up some "Wish I was DEAD!!" YHWH and bring it home?  I think this passage from Norman Mailer's "Of A Fire On The Moon" (p. 377 of my paperback version) gives you a rough idea.  With perhaps the keenest reporter's eye we ever had on this planet, he documented what happened when the LEM (Lunar Escape Module) -- chock full of "I Wish I Was DEAD!!" lunar YHWHs -- docked with the orbiting Apollo 11 command ship:
"Just before that moment [the "hard dock" where the LEM joined itself to the command ship] 'all hell broke loose'.  It was [command ship captain Mike] Collins' remark, there on the transcript, but he has no recollection of saying it.  As he fired the charges, there was an abrupt, shocking and 'abnormal' oscillation.  The ships began to yaw from side to side at a rapid rate.  What an instant for [mission commander Neil] Armstrong -- did the memory of the sun flashing through the window of Gemini 8 come back to him?  What a thunder for [Buzz] Aldrin after the mishaps with the computer on the day before, what a stroke of doubt for Collins at where the mistake could be.  'All hell broke loose'.  Hell was when the unforeseen insisted on emerging.  Shivering and quivering, the ships slapped from side to side.  

"Well, it lasted for 'eight or ten rather dubious seconds' while Collins and Armstrong worked to get back in line with one another, and all the while the automatic retract was working and they finally came together with a big bang and were docked 'and it was all over."

See, only Mailer could SEE something like that in the transcript and EVEN WHEN Collins doesn't remember it (actually, I would guess ESPECIALLY when Collins doesn't remember it) say, "I don't know what that is, but that's important.  That has to be in the book."

And I'm enough of a philosophical child of Norman Mailer that I have to pass along what I THINK that is.  Even if everyone thinks I'm crazy.

My best advice?  Take all those godforsaken (literally) "I wish I was DEAD!!" lunar YHWHs and get rid of them. Shoot them off into space. If you look at the "shivering and quivering and yawing" we've been doing since the summer of 1969, I think it would probably result in exponential improvement.

And that's really all I've got to say about my THUNDERagents #2 cover (variant cover?).

And, no, I didn't watch Neil Gaiman sing the Fireball XL-5 theme. Although I did read someone's comment who said that he left off the end of the theme:  "Although I'm NOT a spaceman..."

Monday, 24 June 2013

Art Auction: The Colonized #2

Art Auction: The Colonized #2 (2013) by Dave Sim
Internet Only Bidding
23-30 July 2013
DAVE SIM:
Thank God for Google Image! You can literally just type in "horse skeleton" and there you go: it looks like a giant colourful Lost Equine Graveyard. So I basically just picked the best angle they had -- a rearing horse and then went looking for "horse and rider" -- show jumping -- and found the one that was the closest to that angle and then tweaked it so the flesh and bone dovetailed as closely as possible. [Read the full article here...]

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Roger Langridge

Comics wrtiter/artist Roger Langridge has worked for most of the major comic publishers in the English-speaking world. His self-published title Fred The Clown (collected into one volume by Fantagraphics in 2004) was nominated for Eisner, Harvey, Ignatz and Reuben Awards. Influenced by comedy past and present, classic American newspaper strips, and the commercial art styles of the early 20th century, Roger's work betrays a restless stylistic playfulness, a pessimism about human nature, and an absurdist perspective on human folly.
"Boasting superb draftsmanship, and encyclopedic knowledge of the history of newspaper 'funnies' and a hilariously mean-spirited sense of humor, Roger Landridge's retro-styled cartooning shares much more in common with Chris Ware's better-known Jimmy Corrigan strips." ~ The List

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus and how long did you read it for?

Roger Langridge:
I started reading Cerebus around the end of High Society, so I guess I joined it in the forties someplace, maybe issue #47 or so. I think I found out about it through a magazine called Comics Scene originally, and when New Zealand's first comic shop opened in the early '80s, my brother Andrew and I started to order it through the mail, along with a bunch of other titles we'd only ever heard about but never actually seen, like Kitchen Sink's Spirit Magazine.

Cerebus was definitely a big part of my comics-reading horizons widening. I kept reading it month-by-month for maybe another 100 issues or so; I started to find it hard to follow unless I read a stack of issues in one big chunk, so I would put them aside for reading at a later date and, after a while, I would just end up not reading them, as professional commitments, family life and other distractions got in the way. I bought every issue up to #300, though, because I felt I owed it to Dave to help him complete such an ambitious (and personally inspiring) work by supporting him financially. I still intend to read the whole thing at some point. The last 100 issues are still essentially 2000 blank pages to me.

How has your own creativity/comics been influenced by Cerebus?

I think, artistically, Cerebus influenced me quite a bit in my formative years. Dave's use of crosshatching and tones during the High Society era was something I essentially absorbed whole, as well as his use of design solutions to solve drawing problems (which I think he moved away from somewhat once Gerhard came on board and rendering settings accurately while still cranking out a page a day became less of a problem). I think Dave's sense of timing, comic timing particularly, was a big influence as well. There are scenes that still can make me weep with laughter even though I've read them more than once, and it's not even that the jokes are necessarily that good, it's just that they're delivered with flawless, Chuck Jones-level timing. Carl Barks is the only other cartoonist I can think of who can hit me the same way.

Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?

I expect I would not have got into self-publishing as deeply as I did (i.e. regular comic-book format, distributed-by-Diamond deep; I always made mini-comics) if Cerebus hadn't been around as an example. By the time I began self-publishing there were a few other success stories, like Bone and Strangers in Paradise, to hang my hopes on, but I think all of us knew that Cerebus was the Daddy. The Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing got a lot of my attention in 2000/2001 while I was gearing up to publish Fred the Clown.
And I think it would be fair to say that my generation of cartoonists was pretty heavily influenced by the Creators' Bill of Rights and all that surrounded it, and of course Dave was a big part of that. I sometimes get the feeling that the generation that came after me took a lot of the issues that came up around that time for granted, as if all of those problems had already been solved, but of course the pendulum's swinging back the other way now with Marvel making billions from their movies and none of the creators of those characters receiving anything, and the Before Watchmen brouhaha, and DC no longer compensating creators for the use of their characters after Paul Levitz's departure, and all that. Those issues are suddenly relevant again.

My own bottom line when I decide to take on a work-for-hire project these days is whether the characters' creators had a fair deal and/or would have been happy about other creators continuing their work, which seems to me the bare minimum you should consider. I'm sure the Creators' Rights advocacy of the 1980s, of which Dave was such a large part, laid a lot of the groundwork for the way my own professional moral compass works now.

Do you have a favourite scene/sequence from Cerebus?

It's so hard to pick a favourite sequence. My favourite book is High Society, which is full of favourite sequences. Open the book at random and you've probably found one.

Would you recommend others read Cerebus, and if so why?

Whenever anybody asks, I suggest people at least read High Society, which is in my opinion Dave's most accessible book. It was my starting point, which might be part of why it's a favourite, but I don't think it's all nostalgia; it has the virtues of not needing too much knowledge of the backstory to understand, which I don't think is true of any of the subsequent volumes, and of being the funniest of all the books. It's also way more polished than the first 25 issues, the early episodes of which can be a bit of a chore to get through and have put off a few people from persevering to get to the good stuff. Whereas High Society is solid gold from the first issue. And, as I said before, I really love (prefer, even) the more design-oriented approach to the art here. It suits the story, too; art deco solutions for an art deco environment.

If people want to continue from High Society and follow the rest of the story, that's a rewarding experience, for sure. But High Society is, for me, the essential one.


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Petunia Con: Magic In Disasters

Jaime, Mario and Gilbert Hernandez
from The Art Of Jaime Hernandez by Todd Hignite, 2010
(Photo by Carol Kovinick-Hernandez, 1984)
CHARLES BROWNSTEIN:
(from Charles Brownstein's Vapour Trail blog, 22 February 2012)
Larry Marder likes to talk about the time, back in 1984, when Berkeley hosted the sole Petuniacon, a Cerebus and alt comics focused show that he credits as his 'Passage From Virgin to Bride' where he walked in a fan and walked out a pro. The talent there was something else: Dave & Deni Sim, Los Bros Hernandez, Gary Groth, Jim Valentino, Chris Claremont, Trina Robbins, Mike Friedrich, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Mignola, and others... Larry may have been one of about 9 fans who walked in. Sometimes there's magic in disasters because a vital community has gotten together, and the fact of getting all those people who believe together is what makes the moment special.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Petunia Con

Petunia Con
Oakland, California, USA
20-22 April 1984
DENI LOUBERT:
(from A Note From The Publisher, Cerebus #62, May 1984)
This has been a busy month for Aardvark-Vanaheim. Obviously, the biggest thing was our going out to California to attend Petunia Con. I must admit to feeling a certain amount of trepidation at the thought of attending a convention that focused so intently on A-V, (and Cerebus in particular). But, as I should have known, the convention was one of the easiest ones I've attended.

One real nice surprise came when we sat down to do an 'Aardvark-Vanaheim Panel'  with Gary Groth as 'inquisitor'. I was braced for the worst, but it was probably the most enjoyable panel I have sat on. Everyone there (Dave, me, Arn Saba, Bill Messner-Loebs, Joshua Quagmire and Valentino) had a chance to say something about what they did, and defend their view of what comics are and should be. The only problem was that at the end of the 45 minutes, we were just getting started and the panel had to be discontinued. But I think that for the first time I felt the impact of publishing a line of comics. It was like I had been adopted by a second family. What a feeling to be surrounded by such supportive people! If I ever had any doubts about wanting to be a publisher, they were erased by the time the convention was over.

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus, and each issue featured her 'Note From The Publisher'. Deni and Dave Sim were married between 1978 and 1983, with Deni subsequently moving to Los Angeles to start her own comics publishing company, Renegade Press, which closed its doors in 1989. She was inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2010.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Gerhard's Prints: The Right To Reprint

Following Cerebus #10 (June 2007)
Art by Gerhard (with Dave Sim)
DAVE SIM:
(by fax, 12 June 2013)
"No one would be happier if you two (Dave 'n' Ger) could come to some sort of understanding on his attempt to blow you off like an old girlfriend, but I have not been too happy with how he ended things with you. I'm not buying prints from him." ~ from a fan letter to Dave Sim
I think Ger and I have come to an understanding, most recently when I offered him his old 40% percentage if he was willing to participate in the CEREBUS COVERS project for IDW and he agreed: it will be on a project-by-project basis.

All the way back to the Northampton Summit, I've maintained that if you have worked on something you have the right to reprint it without asking the permission of anyone else who worked on it.

I'd hope that anyone looking at the prints Gerhard has for sale would be concerned only that a) it's a piece of work they want to own a copy of b) Gerhard's signature is "value added" and c) they think they're worth the price. The same as if Kevin Eastman did a poster of one of the TMNT/CEREBUS pages and offered it for sale with just his signature on it.

I appreciate anyone feeling bad on my behalf but, in this case, it's entirely misplaced.

GERHARD:
(by email, 18 June 2013)
If someone is going to base their decision on whether or not to buy something from me on hearsay, innuendo and only one side of the story, then I say that they don't know what they're talking about. Other than one weak moment years ago on the Cerebus Yahoo Group I have refrained from commenting on the situation -- financial, personal or otherwise -- between Dave and myself and I plan on continuing that policy. I agree 100% with Dave that anyone's decision to purchase anything should be based on whether they want to own it and if it's worth the price.

DAVE SIM:
(by fax, 20 June 2013)
I did make the offer to Gerhard by mail to sign any prints that he wants me to sign and send them back to him. That would be up to him, as would compensation/not compensation. He could send 10, say, and ask me to sign them or sign and number them out of 10. Or just sign them. He could make it the entire run or if he isn't numbering them then it's an open-ended offer. Any time you need more just send them and I'll turn them around within 24 hours (God willing).

In that way it's similar to the deal I have with Todd on SPAWN 10. He sent me scans of the black and white artwork which I can print if I want without notifying him or compensating him just as he is free to reprint SPAWN 10 without notifying me or compensating me. I THINK that extends to me redrawing Cerebus so he looks more like, you know, Cerebus. It's a joint work. Maybe he wants to hire Gerhard to redo the backgrounds and water colour instead of computer colour it? That's up to him. I'd love to see it. I don't have time to do my own version right now. I have to leave post-it notes for myself to cut my fingernails :)

But I think Todd would be the first to admit that Gerhard runs circles around him when it comes to doing backgrounds. Maybe an over-sized Artist's Edition?

But I assume that would extend to Gerhard as well. If he did the backgrounds he would jointly own the version of SPAWN 10 with his backgrounds on them and he could do prints without asking Todd or compensating Todd. It just seems like common sense to me, but to everyone else it seems to be this BIG SCARY THING. Oy.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Chris Ryall, IDW Editor-In-Chief


Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (2008-2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics, specifically focusing on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette. Dave Sim has recently announced plans for The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond to be serialised in a monthly comic-book published by IDW.


DAVE SIM:
Actually, that's for THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND No.1.  It's my attempt to revive the idea of a letters page in comics. Only obviously, people -- except me -- don't send letters any more, so it will be a "tweet and e-mail" page. Only, I have no way of getting tweets and e-mails so what they're going to be is FWEETS AND FE-MAILS. That is: people will be given an address where they can tweet or e-mail Chris and he'll convert them into faxes and send them to me (a tweet that is faxed is called a "fweet" and an e-mail that's faxed is called a "fe-mail").

I thought it was, you know, very POSH to have the editor-in-chief of IDW running my FWEETS AND FE-MAILS page so I figured a good way of making sure that Chris did it and not someone else was to do a photorealistic drawing of him at the top of the FWEETS AND FE-MAILS page and have him saying how much he likes doing this in Joe Kubert font. If you look like you were drawn by Al Williamson and you're saying how much you like doing this in Joe Kubert font and you're ANY kind of comic fan, you're just going to, you know, BECOME that way. Even though it's not part of your job description and will just be a useless headache imposed on you by Dave Sim.
Chris Ryall, IDW Editor-In-Chief (2013)
Art by Dave Sim

So I found a picture of Chris on Google Image. Which turned out to be from his wedding. I deleted the suit and put him in a THE COLONIZED t-shirt. Chris has no idea how a picture of him from his wedding ended up on the Internet, but (quite reasonably, I think) he's decided the NSA is behind it.

I say: let them PROVE they didn't!

And, in an effort to go all the way back to the good old days of Julie Schwartz when he instituted the letters pages in his DC books with addresses and actually ended up creating comics fandom, we're going to be giving away artwork! Pictures of Alex Raymond drawn by Chris Ryall!!

No, wait.

That's not it.

What am I thinking?

Julie GAVE AWAY Carmine Infantino's artwork -- he didn't draw it himself! Heh heh! Silly me! So we have to stick with tradition!

No -- they'll be finished transfer pencil tracing drawings that I used in producing issue No.1 and if your fweet or fe-mail is picked to be in an issue (which Chris and I will be rating in order) you get to pick from the IDW website which tracing paper you want and I'll personalize it and send it to you along with an autographed STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND issue. Top fweet or fe-mail gets first pick.

Of course on the first issue, there won't be anything to fweet or fe-mail about because you won't have read it yet. So the FIRST ISSUE is going to be "in-house": editorial and executive staff at IDW suggesting their best 140 characters or fewer "tag line" for THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. The one I pick, gets first pick (which I'm betting will be the tracing paper of the No.1 cover). And the suggestions will be faxed to me without the name of the person who came up with it so I don't KNOWINGLY pick Ted Adams...or Chris Ryall...or Scott Dunbier...or The Amazing Marci!

I like to refer to Marci as Amazing because she's the one who gets stuck with shlepping my faxes around the IDW offices to Ted and Chris. Marci is Amazing because that means I don't have to get e-mail!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

High Society 30th Anniversary Signed & Numbered Edition: Update

Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
30th Anniversary Signed & Numbered Edition
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
It's amazing how complicated getting HIGH SOCIETY back into print continues to be. Lisa-Marie who has been shepherding the project ended up quitting and moving back to her hometown just last week. I hope it's not another HIGH SOCIETY-related casualty.  I suspect, at least, it wasn't a matter of her saying "Oh, but I'll miss out on all this HIGH SOCIETY FUN if I leave!"

Anyway, the next thing was correcting all the mistakes in the proofs which took some time: George and I going back and forth on what we can live with and what we can't live with.  Then the unbound copies of HIGH SOCIETY came in -- that is, an example of finished printing, but not bound yet.  And there were a lot of mistakes that didn't show up in the proofing stage but did show up in  the printing stage.  So, as I'm typing this on June 15th, George is going through the printed copy and the proof copy and cutting out and stapling examples together for the printer to look at.  Which is KILLING him as a CEREBUS fan. He so badly wanted to have the proof copy and the unbound copy for his collection and there he is having to cut them apart (AAAAGGHHH) and staple them together.  I think I'm going to send him mine. I am LOUSY with proof copies of the trades.

Anyway, we are down to crunch time.  How many of the signatures need to be reprinted (each 32 page section of the book -- pages 1-32, pages 33-64 -- is called a signature: there are 16 of them in HIGH SOCIETY)?  So I had George break the mistakes down by signature.  If there's only one mistake in a signature can we let that go?  Well, we don't WANT to. We WANT everything fixed but, you know, "Waahh".  What's the grown-up thing to do?

That's when I got the phone message from my Diamond rep, Matt, saying that they have the final numbers -- 702 copies -- and could I call him to discuss how many MORE copies above that I want him to get approval for.  That was part of the deal from the beginning.  Diamond can have as many as they want but there's only one printing so it has to be a lump sum.  I'm only going to do as many Gold Logo copies as they're willing to order.  So, okay, it's 2013, it's not 2005.  The economy sucks.  Let's not get greedy here.  The 702 copies will pay for about 3/4s of the printing bill for 3,000 copies.  That's a Good Deal for me.

So I phoned Matt and I said, well, it seems like a sign that it's seven hundred and TWO.  So we aren't going to do 700.  So how about if you see if you can get 750 approved?

And he laughs and says, "I've got approval for 1,100."  Okay.  Let's not quibble.  1,100 it is. So, here at the 11th hour I'm looking at a whole new situation board.  The 1,100 will pay the entire printing bill and that means that I can now look at printing an additional 2,000 copies so I have LOTS of inventory on the one of two books that I never want to have out of print.

And I can now say to the printer:  at least half of the signatures already need to be reprinted.  George will be sending you stapled together (and probably tear-stained) proofs and printed panels that show that things that were wrong did not show up in the proofing stage.  Since you already have to reprint half the book, why not scrap the entire print run -- recycle it or sell the paper to a recycling company -- and let George fix everything on THIS printing? And get paid for printing 5,000 copies instead of 3,000?

There's a risk.  That's a lot of money to shell out for inventory even for the best-selling books.  If the comics market suddenly has a convulsion or even a serious hiccup it could be a while until I'm able to sell the books I'm printing.  But, those are the kind of calls you have to make if you're a self-publisher.

And what a great A MOMENT OF CEREBUS cliff-hanger, eh?

The biggest problem is the tone on Cerebus.  Literally there are dozens of mistakes and maybe three of them AREN'T the tone on Cerebus.  I have to ride hard on the printers more than I've been doing. I accept that you can't hit 30% exactly every time out, but I really need for them to find a lower range: between say 27% and 32%.  There are just too many Cerebuses between 35 and 40%.  The other problem is scanning from the original artwork where the adhesive UNDER the tone has gone bad over the years, peeling up, bubbling or discolouring.  That's the thing that didn't show up in the proof stage but did on a number of pages in the printed stage.

Also, George, in restoring the two books has scanned the tone as a gray scale.  That gives you a dot screen on top of a dot screen and creates what is called a moire pattern:  basically Cerebus looks like he's gray plaid.  George knows how to fix that: basically you shift the pattern until it warps out to one big plaid square instead of a lot of little gray squares.  The same thing happened: ones that he had fixed on the proof stage were back to plaid on the printed page.  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the Most Plaid George has gotten pretty much everything between 5 and 10.  So, I'm trying to get rid of the 3s and 4s and living with the 1s and 2s.  Signature by signature.

ALL of it can be fixed on the NEXT printing, but we really want it fixed for the 30th anniversary edition.

Depends on how negotiations go with the printer over the next week.

Yes! A perfect A MOMENT OF CEREBUS cliff-hanger!

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Night Before

The Night Before
Cerebus #36 (March 1982)
by Dave Sim
FOLLOWING CEREBUS:
(from 'An Early Masterpiece' by Craig Miller, Following Cerebus #10, June 2007)
The Night Before is a milestone in the Cerebus epic. A good argument could be made that it is the finest of the early chapters, or at least the finest 'dramatic' chapter (ie in which humour is not a dominant element). Even now, with the entire storyline complete, it stands out. It ranks alongside other dramatic high points - say, the conclusion of Jaka's Story, the conclusion of Form & Void, and the retelling of the death of Jerome Howard in Latter Days - as superior moments. If it is not the very best chapter, at the least it deserves special recognition because Sim was just twenty-six years old when he wrote it...

...The Night Before remains a remarkable achievement in Sim's career. While he would come to master additional storytelling techniques, and his proficiency at drawing would continue to improve (the Cerebus figures are fine, but it would be several years before Sim's ability at drawing women would catch up to his ability at drawing men; indeed some of the Jaka faces are downright bizarre), this story, taken as a whole, has a visceral power that's unusual in comics. Sim later acknowledged getting praise for the story even from readers whose first exposure to Cerebus was issue 36 - individuals who had no knowledge of the history of the characters. That, as much as anything, is a testament to the success of The Night Before.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Richard Starkings

Richard Starkings is the creator/writer of Elephantmen published by Image Comics. Richard was an early pioneer of comic-book lettering with computer fonts and his company Comicraft has been an industry leader in that field since 1992. Dave Sim's recent Elephantmen short stories will be collected in Elephantmen Vol 6: Earthly Desires to be published in July 2013.
A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus?

Richard Starkings:
I remember seeing CEREBUS #1 at one of the Comic Marts Gez Kelly used to host in Leeds at a hotel near the railway station -- shame on me for not buying one there and then, although it might have been one of the pirate copies that circulated a couple of years later. I have to believe that I started to read good things about it in Martin Lock's BEM fanzine. I started buying it when I lived in Manchester near a store called ODYSSEY 7. Alan Moore was writing SWAMP THING with Steve Bissette, Howard Chaykin was putting out AMERICAN FLAGG and there was an air of independent spirit even if it wasn't necessarily independence in fact. Was LOVE AND ROCKETS on the stand at this point? If it wasn't, it was close. SWORDS OF CEREBUS sat on the shelves there for a while before I saw the Barry Smith cover on volume 5 and decided to pick up the lot. The concept of catching up on a series by reading trades was in its absolute infancy back in the 80's, but once I'd read SWORDS I immediately picked up the last few issues of HIGH SOCIETY from the rack, and I remember tracking down back issues stretching back to 25, 26 through a mail order comics supplier called CONQUISTADOR.

Do you have a favourite scene/sequence from Cerebus?
The issue that sealed the deal for me was CEREBUS #36 "The Night Before." Even if you read that issue not having read the previous 35, you can figure out what's going on between Cerebus and Jaka. It's a beautifully observed character piece with seemingly effortless dialogue and it's set in ONE room with just two people. The background -- a sea of window panels -- ebbs and flows with the mood between the two and the last page is a sword through the heart. Years later that last page bubbled up from my subconscious and informed the first issue of ELEPHANTMEN, which also ends with a gift and a teardrop.
Cerebus #36 (March 1982)
Art by Dave Sim
How has your own creativity/comics been influenced by Cerebus?
It seems very obvious to me now that ELEPHANTMEN is my creative response to books like CEREBUS, LOVE AND ROCKETS and 2000AD -- my favourite comics in the 80's. CEREBUS spawned and inspired dozens of creators to create their own characters and self publish. It seems obvious now, but back in the 70's the industry was dominated by the Big Two, and self publishing seemed to be exclusive to Underground Comics and creators like Robert Crumb. CEREBUS offered a continuous narrative with a cast of entertaining characters and a stable creative team -- something Jack Kirby's run on THE FANTASTIC FOUR had convinced comic readers was possible before Marvel and DC's approach to creative teams became more like a game of musical chairs.

Dave's bold determination to produce 300 issues of CEREBUS allowed other creators not only to conceive and create comics that they owned, but also allowed them to consider that commitment and longevity was just as important as ownership. Readers get that. We understand that we're following the gestation and evolution of writers' and artists' ideas and we're disappointed when we realize we've been sold a shallow imitation or a fill-in issue that jars with the overall tone of the creators' original intent.

The fact that Dave turned down offers from Marvel and DC to buy CEREBUS or publish colour editions of CEREBUS, or to work on Marvel and DC properties is also worthy of note. Dave didn't spend time helping to develop company owned characters to help jumpstart sales of CEREBUS -- his creator owned work can't be judged alongside a run on BATMAN or DAREDEVIL, it stands on its own merits.

Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?
I've said before that Dave's Notes from the President that ran on the inside front cover of CEREBUS were invaluable sources of information for anyone interested in self-publishing. Dave's openness about being a publisher as well as the creator was extremely useful in the pre-internet age. Conventions and comic book gatherings were not as organized or as accessible as they are today and creators working for the Big Two didn't have the same kind of information to share that Dave shared in his editorials... I'd even suggest that many mainstream comic creators today have better deals than they'd have been asked to sign thirty years ago because of the free exchange of ideas and ideals creators like Dave Sim, Scott McCloud, Steve Bissette, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird shared in the Bill of Creator's Rights. I used to distribute copies of the interview regarding Creator's rights that was published in THE COMICS JOURNAL in the mid 80's to everyone in my department at Marvel UK.

Would you recommend others read Cerebus, and if so, why?
CEREBUS should be essential reading for anyone interested in the art and form of comics and comic book storytelling. HIGH SOCIETY and CHURCH AND STATE are high watermarks in the field, and even though later volumes are more challenging reads, Dave's constantly shifting -- yet paradoxically consistent -- approach to storytelling is a marvel to behold.

Elephantmen: Ebony Dreams (2012)
Art by Dave Sim


Saturday, 15 June 2013

NIP'ORR

NIP'ORR (2007)
Art by Dave Sim
THE DOUG WRIGHT AWARDS 2007:
The organizers of The Doug Wright Awards, Canada's premier comics and graphic novels awards, are happy to announce that three of the country's best-known cartoonists, Chester Brown, Seth and Dave Sim, have created one-of-a-kind original artwork to be auctioned off during their 2007 fundraising drive. Each an internationally respected cartoonist, Chester Brown (Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography, Ed The Happy Clown), Seth (Clyde Fans, Wimbledon Green) and Dave Sim (Cerebus), have agreed to provide The Wrights with their interpretation on a unique theme: the monster comics of Jack "King" Kirby.

The revered artist behind such superhero comics as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Silver Surfer and the X-Men, Kirby had an illustrious career that stretches back to the early days of comics. Long before he came up with his popular superhero creations, he was honing his skills on Marvel's "monster comics" of the 1950s and early 1960s -- many of which have earned a cult status among cartoonists and comic fans. These pre-superhero Kirby comics featured such unforgettable characters as Fin Fang Foom, Groot!, Goom, Gagoom (Son of Goom), and Korilla, among many others. As an homage to this era, each cartoonist has taken their pen to paper and given us a unique take on a Kirby Monster. Each one-of-a-kind artwork will go up for auction on eBay beginning Monday October 8th 2007, with all of the proceeds going towards the non-profit Wright Awards. Dave Sim (Kitchener, Ontario) offers up "Nip'por" --his humourous interpretation of the work of both Kirby and Canadian cartoonist Doug Wright (who created the popular weekly strip Nipper.)

Nip'orr by Dave Sim:
This highly-detailed and masterfully executed scene imagines Nipper, the child hero of Doug Wright's comic strip, as a rampaging monster in the Kirby vein. Nipper's dad, a stand-in for Wright, looks on in parental bemusement. Ink and paint/wash on art board. The art is on board measuring 11" x 17". The art is titled "NIP'ORR" across the top and is signed "DOUG WRIGHT AWARDS 2007" in the bottom right corner, in a pastiche of Doug Wright's signature. Sim's actual signature -- "Dave Sim 2007" -- is hidden along the middle left edge of the art.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Todd McFarlane: Spawn at #250

Cerebus #276 (March 2002)
Art by Dave Sim
TODD McFARLANE:
(from Comic Book Resources, 7 June 2013)
...We're heading toward issue #250. I'll be writing #234 this week, and we've got the artwork done for up to for #241, so we're way ahead of schedule! The artist [Szymon Kudranski] and myself have been doing this book since issue #201 and he's given me forty-one issues of artwork. We'll have at least forty-one consecutive issues with the same art team. I've got to at least get to #301 so I can break Dave Sim's independent record! He's got the record for the longest running independent comic book with Cerebus the Aardvark. I've gotta beat him by at least one. It's just a little competition amongst fellow Canadians...

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Debbie Harry

The Elf As Debbie Harry (2010)
Art by Dave Sim

DAVE SIM:
(from The Beguiling, 2004)
...The look of the Regency Elf was my shameless peroxide tribute to Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry whom I adored at the time with a passion that surpasseth human understanding. A condition dramatically worsened by the acquiring of our first VCR (Beta, which I was assured was the format of the future) and a commercial tape which collected all the videos from the Eat To The Beat album (at a time when commercial videotapes retailed for around $90 each). "Dreaming" "Eat to the Beat" "In the Flesh". I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

A few years later, when Richard and Wendy were negotiating with Toronto’s Nelvana Productions to do the Elfquest animated film, Nelvana was in the middle of producing their big debut full-length animated film, Rock and Rule -- which would prove to be as lousy as its title and take them out of the full-length animated film game permanently. Anyway, lo and behold, one of the characters in Rock and Rule was voiced by Debbie Harry, who just happened to be at Nelvana on a day when Wendy was there and they met. And sometime later, Wendy is dropping this casually into the conversation over the phone.

My mouth went dry and my heart started pounding. "You met Debbie Harry?"

"Oh, yes," she snorted. "What an awful woman. She is completely anti-art."

I just let it go and we moved on to other subjects. And I always wondered what she meant by that: "anti-art".

But what a weird footnote to the creation of the Regency Elf.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Cerebus Style Sheet

Cerebus Style Sheet
Art by Dave Sim (1977)
(Click image to enlarge)
BRIAN COPPOLA: 
(from My Comic Art Museum)
How cool is this? This is the third piece of Cerebus artwork ever created. According to Dave, the first was the little logo that appears on the cover of Issue #1; the second was a sample comic page; the third was this style sheet; and the fourth was page 1 of issue 1.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Post-Agrarian Matriarchal Society


Cerebus #194 (May 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from an interview with Charles Brownstein, Feature #4, 1997)
The structure of Estarcion didn't so much collapse as mutate. I mean, I was really stretching a point and you have to bear that in mind. It was taking a series of hypotheticals with definitive answers and pretending the answers weren't definitive. How could you have a post-agrarian matriarchal society? Actually, it started with a feminist society - women on top. The tripartite "she dresses better than me and she's prettier than me so she thinks she's better than me," "She's not as nicely dressed as I am and she's not as pretty as I am so she's jealous of me," and "How you are dressed and how you look are not important" are simply unresolvable and the first two will always overwhelm the third. Which is why I had Cirin make shapeless ugly dresses with hoods a core element of her revolution. In real life, she'd only be able to get a small percentage of women to go along with it. Even if she could it would still bog down over whose eyes were prettier, a nicer shape, a better colour.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Single Man

Cerebus: The Women
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
(from an interview with Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Journal, 1996)
...I noticed in my life, going through the various romantic permutation - in a relationship, and then out of a relationship - that there were two different ways of thinking for me. I would think one way on my own, and I would think another way in a relationship. The conventional thinking about that, and the thing that really stuck in a lot of people's craws when it came to [Cerebus issue] 186 was, "Well, yeah, of course you think that way when you're alone because you're not supposed to be alone, you just haven't found the right person. As soon as you find the right person, then you become the right you." And the single you is just this victim of past experiences, a person carrying along resentments - the whole victim infection that makes up society at this point. "If you're not like us, the only reason you're not like us is this horrible thing that happened to you when you were growing up. We just have to go back and find out what this horrible thing was, pat you on the back and say, 'It's okay, the bogeyman's gone,' and you'll become like us." Because that's viewed as a universal truth - that a single man is half a couple, a couple with a person missing - it seemed worthwhile to show the view from the other side of the fence. The merged male being devoured psychically by his mate and to do it in such a way that it had the same patronising, pitying, wiser-than-thou quality that a single man gets from the "Don't you worry - someday you'll find the right person and you'll be able to be good and happy like we are." No one likes to be patronised or pitied or talked-down-to. So, as a single, unencumbered, undevoured male, I decided turnabout was fair play - husband as pitiable victim rather than single man as pitiable inadequacy.

To me, there is worth - as a distanced observer, as an uninvolved spectator - in commenting on something which a husband or boyfriend is not at liberty to comment on and is probably unable to perceive anyway: what merged permanence is like. To say that wives devour husbands is no greater an exaggeration than to say that husbands suppress their wives. In each case, I would say, the participants are the last ones to recognise the reality of the observation. The man just examining from a distant perspective, I have no vested interest. I don't have to worry about, "Oh, what's the wife going to think about when she reads this?" So it struck me as a good counter balance point. There's so much on that side, we should have a little weight to it over on this side...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

It's A Man's World

Hate #21 (Fantagraphics Books, December 1995)
Art by Peter Bagge
DAVE SIM:
(from an interview with Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Journal #184, February 1996)
...Diana Schutz faxed me the cover of Hate that [Peter] Bagge did. You know, "It's a Man's World" and Buddy Bradley as a dog. Why is it when Dave does this he's a Nazi and when Peter does it he's a scathing critic of the social milieu? Why is Robert Crumb immune from criticism? Ask Gary [Groth]. "Crumb is the subject of a successful docmentary. Crumb lives in France. Crumb gets written up in literary journals I read." [Cerebus] number 186 was singled out because it provoked a profound reaction of emotional hurt in emotional people...

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Indy Magazine: A Cerebus Retrospective


INDY MAGAZINE:
(from a Cerebus: A Retrospective by Adam White, Indy Magazine, 2004)
It works. It actually works. Cerebus is a single sustained comics narrative about the life and times of a single character, following him through his youth right up to the very end of his days. Some parts work much, much better than others and, in general, the later stuff is rather better than the earlier, but it really does work. Cerebus is six thousand pages of comics telling a single story that miraculously all comes together clearly in the end to make a single point about the nature of power, gender, and spirit. Whether that point is worth making is somewhat less clear. It is a book born of the brilliance, arrogance, prescience, skill, recklessness, self-indulgence, strong opinions, misogyny (and, yes, it is misogyny), of its creator: David Sim. It is also a book that would have failed without the stabilizing influence of the photo-realistic backgrounds created by Sim's long time partner, Gerhard. Together, these two men, the heart and the head of Cerebus, were able to create the emotional and physical reality of a world that seems, at times, more real than our own. However much its creators, particularly Mr. Sim, might protest,  Cerebus is, by its very nature, a profoundly emotional book, a work of the heart, summing up the strife of the spirit as it is glorified and terrified by the divine. In time, Cerebus will be recognized as one of the grandest achievements of comics: a unity of form and void, motion and emotion, depicting the galaxy of ways in which the human race can make itself unhappy. It is a deeply pessimistic work, though it sings its pain gracefully. It seems to look upon the universe as a colossal blunder, all the while depicting it with beauty. Certainly, the book is most successful when it is depicting that terrible beauty and depicting only; when it attempts to spell things out for us, the comic grows terribly tedious. From its early and somewhat incompetent beginnings to the masterful way with which it ends, the book holds itself together, as a wounded man might clutch his sides, pressing in his guts, in a desperate attempt to go on, even though it knows it will only die alone, unmourned, and unloved... [Read the full review here.]