Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Sim's LSD Breakthrough

Cerebus Vol 9: Reads (1994)
Original art for cover detail
 Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

CHRISTOPHER SHULGAN:
(from Saturday Night magazine, November 2003)
...Sim's breakthrough came via a path melodramatically retro enough to be a cliche. One day, shortly after Sim had been invited to appear at a comics convention in the eastern United States, an acquaintance gave him four or five hits of LSD. As a heavy marijuana smoker, Sim was not uncomfortable with drug use. "I had always done Cerebus stoned," he recalled, years later. "I did everything stoned." Curious about how the acid would affect his work and anxious for a release from the anxiety brought on by the impending public appearance, Sim took the drug, He liked the perspective it gave him. His work seemed effortless. When the acid's effects faded, he swallowed another tab. That first day on LSD turned into two, then three. His behaviour began to alarm his wife [Deni Loubert]. With the comics convention only weeks away, Loubert heard Sim speaking to people who didn't exist. After days cycling through moods of apoplectic rage and odd passivity, Sim found himself in the psychiatric ward of Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital. (It was Loubert who had had him hospitalized.)

Sim came to realize he had experienced a breakdown brought on by a combination of stress and LSD. When he realized the hospital couldn't hold him against his will, he left. Soon after, the ideas and inspiration generated during the acid trip coalesced into a creative epiphany that spawned his life's work: he would use Cerebus to tell the story of a life. Unlike Peter Parker or Clark Kent, Sim's aardvark would age. He'd change jobs and girlfriends, suffer setbacks, grow wise. And at the end of the run, the main character would die.

How would Sim know when to end it? The most celebrated long run by a single creative team was the 102 consecutive issues that writer Stan Lee and artist lack Kirby created for Mavel Comics' Fantastic Four, and Superman, which had had many different artists and writers through the years, had passed the mark of 300 issues a few years before. By the time he got to the convention, Sim was telling people about the grand vision he had for the story of Cerebus, which, he said, would not end until he was in his late 40s. Later in 1979, sales were high enough to warrant moving to a monthly publishing schedule, and Sim became more specific about his goal.

The story of Cerebus would last 300 issues, he said, And it would finish in March 2004...

(Submitted by Paul Slade. Thanks!)

34 comments:

Sandeep Atwal said...

That's about as cool an origin story as you can get!

Anthony Kuchar said...

Far Out, man!

The affect legal Drugs on my mind has never been that memorable(outside of Alcohol and some painkillers I was on when I got my wisdom teeth removed). Usually it's Dr. prescribes it, I take it, I feel better. I'm too much of a chicken to try illegal drugs, but if Justin Trudeau changes the law on pot then I might try it out of curiosity.

Most people who I see try and be creative on drugs end up like that episode of South Park where the boys try the same, have an amazing experience and when they check their notes in the morning they find it's nothing but scribbles.

I'm a fan of Frank Zappa. He never did any drugs other than beer, coffee and cigarettes.

Anonymous said...

I once attended a talk by Canadian author Andreas Schroeder. He related an incident when he was an undergrad: He and some friends were heavily under the influence of influence, and his cat walked into the room. He found himself noticing how black the cat was -- no, beyond black; the cat absorbed all the light in the vicinity. After wandering through poetic wonderlands of describing all the qualities of the cat's blackness, he went to his desk and distilled the swirl of thoughts onto paper.

The next day, when he reviewed what he'd written, he saw the single sentence, "The cat is black."

-- Damian

Dave Sim said...

It's interesting. Chris Shulgan has been making a pretty good (?) living in Toronto flogging his autobiography about his years as a crack-head in Toronto. Years which included the piece that he wrote about me.

The only really memorable things about being interviewed by him was when we touched on religion and he asked about my prayer. What prayer did I use? I said, "I wrote it myself. It takes almost exactly eleven minutes to recite. Would you like to hear it?" (it's printed on the inside back cover of CEREBUS No.300)

"No," he said. Oh, this is going to be a REALLY balanced piece, I remember thinking.

The other interesting thing was when SATURDAY NIGHT magazine had their fact-checker call and go over any "legally actionable" passages. One of which was about my drug dealer. "Brother-in-law", I said. "Pardon?" "The acid was a birthday gift from my brother-in-law, Michael." Long dead pause on the other end of the line. Obviously a drug dealer was more convenient in a Feminist Theocracy sense. "The wife's family" can, you see, never be deemed culpable for anything...untoward.

As good a place as any to plug Michael Loubert's bookstore, Old Goat Books in Waterloo -- which, the last I saw, he was still ABLY running single-handedly. It's a very nice place if you want to buy old books. Or if you have an outstanding warrant for a narcotics trafficker with a 1979 date-stamp on it.

Dave Sim said...

"Crazy Dave Sim" certainly has a venerable history. Particularly in Toronto.

Anonymous said...

There may be another possible explanation for a for-profit magazine calling specifically about legally-actionable passages other than that their Feminist Theocracy mindset prevents them from impugning the wife's family: they didn't want to risk getting sued by naming an individual for criminal activity. It might not be a conspiracy to discredit Dave Sim.

-- Damian

Tony Dunlop said...

Easy, now, Jeff and Sandeep...just take a deep breath...

Barry Deutsch said...

I find those contour lines along the top of Cerebus' bicep really interesting. I'd never do that, because the light source is coming from above Cerebus, and why would the top of his bicep be in shade?

But I'd be wrong, because it looks completely great. And the inking on those lines - the controlled thick to thin as the lines move up and around the bicep - is really gorgeously done.

Sandeep Atwal said...

lol...honestly, I've decided Damian just has a pathological need to bitch and whine about Dave. Kind of sad but at this point it's just amusing. I mean, seems like a fairly pathetic existence, waking up every morning and hitting Moment of Cerebus so you can say "Dave doesn't think like me so Dave doesn't know how to think." and then look up "logical fallacies" on the internet and then copy and paste them so as to appear smart without having to actually, you know, prove your point or anything...but hey, whatever floats your boat! Hey Damian see how many times you can bitch about Dave in a day, and then try and break that record!

And remember kids, as Mr. Mackey said, there's a time to experiment with drugs, and that time is called college.

CerebusTV said...

I always wince when folks say things like this in front of billions of people in an era when border officials have decided to run Google searches on any names they check - and they check all of them.

Anonymous said...

Sandeep, just out of curiosity: If Dave said the sky was green, would you run outside to check before agreeing with him, or would you agree then and there?

-- Damian

Anonymous said...

(Even I admit that my last comment was a bit snarky, but it is along the lines of a thesis I'm still working on: that alleged defenders of Dave, like Sandeep and Jeff, are in fact doing material harm to Dave's reputation and that of his work. Consider how fundamentalist Scientologists make people think less of L. Ron Hubbard. I'm still building my case for this.)

-- Damian

Erick said...

This explains reads!

Erick said...

I keed! I keed!

Erick said...

BTW
I did answer Dave's 15 impossible thingies in the post below

Anonymous said...

Barry, I'm not sure I agree. If the light source is the windows behind Cerebus, wouldn't shadows fall even on the uppper-right side of his biceps? Still, you're a cartoonist and I'm not, so perhaps you're right.

I agree that the image looks great. The detail on Cerebus's arm, and the boldness of line on his arm and legs, contrasted with the comparatively thinner lines on his face, emphasize his physicality over his personality, and amplify the threat of the sword thrust forward and beyond the closed space of the panel border. A powerful panel, and a reminder that this Sim guy is a good cartoonist.

-- Damian

Tony again said...

"...there's a time to experiment with drugs, and that time is called college."

Amateurs. By the time I hit college, I was way past the experiment phase...

Steve said...


Damian, don't forget that the sky could possibly be green due to aurora borealis.

Just saying...

Steve

Anonymous said...

Dammit, Steve! Now I've sprayed coffee on my monitor again!

-- Damian

Jeff Seiler said...

Damian, I think your post above just proves how ingrained your desire to push people's buttons is. I thought about chiming in on this post after it first went up because it was posted within hours after Dave commented that Tim is (as are you, he added) part of the CJUA. "Oh, look," I thought, "more crazy Dave Sim bullshit, that Tim posted after being called out by Dave." But, I held off, didn't comment because I also thought that the article seemed kinda fair and accurate. I thought it best to lay off of Tim and lay low.

So, what do you do? You invoke my name, even though I had purposely stayed out of this one. And you throw out some bs about Sandeep and I harming Dave's reputation, even though that is what you seek to do with the majority of your comments. You put up just enough comments about his artwork to make it seem like you're a good guy, but you attack his character (not to mention, occasionally mine) at every opportunity.

I can handle you attacking Dave. Don't particularly like it and I will defend him when I think you're being particularly snarky or are just plain wrong. Dave is a public (sorta) figure. So are you, for that matter, if my Google search of your name was accurate. (Sorry, never heard of you outside these lines.) But I am not a public figure outside of these lines. So, I would appreciate it if you confined yourself to not attacking or provoking me.

Don't you have better things to do, like your work, or even just more navel-gazing?

Jeff Seiler said...

Sorry, meant to type "not *intentionally* attacking or provoking me." There is a difference. If just your everyday, garden variety comments let your personality and the negative aspects thereof shine through, and that provokes me, well, then, I can't take that personally. After all, that's just Damian being the sort of...

well...Damian that he is. Not intentionally, but just because, you know, that's Damian.

Jeff Seiler said...

Oh, and, just to be clear and fair, Damian, I do think that your positive comments about Dave's artwork are sincere and well-intentioned.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Jeff, why can't things be what they appear to be? Why does everything have to be a conspiracy? Perhaps Tim posted an excerpt from an article about Dave and Cerebus because this blog is dedicated to those things, not as a hit piece out of revenge. Perhaps I comment here out of a desire to express an opinion or to correct misinformation, not a desire to push people's buttons. Perhaps I criticize Dave because I disagree with him, not because I desire to harm his reputation. Perhaps I praise Dave's work because I like his work, not because I want to create just enough plausibility that I'm a good guy. Perhaps it's possible to think that Dave's thinking is sloppy without thinking that he's crazy.

Or perhaps your claims are completely correct, in which case I'm impressed that your ESP is strong enough that you can divine the motivations of individuals hundreds or even thousands of miles away. I'm sorry that my ESP was deficient, and I didn't realize that you were deliberately refraining from commenting on this thread when I invoked your name.

But thank you for your last comment (04:52). May I say in return, as I have said here before, that -- for all the differences we have -- I have never doubted the sincerity of your love for Dave and your appreciation of his work. One thing I am confident we agree on is that Cerebus and Dave's other works are worthy of discussion.

-- Damian

Travis Pelkie said...

I, too, am a Zappa fan, Anthony, but I heard a fairly recent interview with Howard Kaylan (Flo or Eddie, I forget which one he is) where he said that Zappa was partaking of other substances with the band. It's disappointing to me if true, because I too am a Zappa fan who loves the idea that he was that weird without illicit substance use.

Uh, can I get to something about the post itself? Is that allowed? ;)

I could swear that once I finally got most of the back issues, I read in one of the Aardvark Comments not long after Dave's acid trip, Dave establishing that he was in it for the long haul and such.

But the book was still bi-monthly. But he had the March 2004 end date, but whatever amount of issues that would last (around 170-180, I think?).

So my question is: was there a significance to the March 2004 date, since, as I'm remembering it, it was the DATE and not the #300 that was announced at that point in time?

I thought I'd seen Dave say something more recently, though, that he figured the math wrong and was a year off somewhere, or something, when figuring to #300. Anyone remember that?

Jeff Seiler said...

Damian, I don't think everything is a conspiracy. That's why I deliberated and ultimately didn't comment on the LSD post based on my gut instinct. I do think some of your comments are deliberately to push buttons: witness your having outright admitted to snarkiness earlier in this thread. I do sometimes think Dave is a bit lax on his critical thinking, but rarely. For example, I've never been fully on board with all 15 Impossible Things, just most of them. And, I think that's because I live in a much less socialistic country than does Dave, so I don't see what he sees, along those lines.

I do have exceedingly strong extra-sensory powers. For example, I Know What You Did Last Summer and how much you shorted that waitress on the tip the other day.

See what I did just there, Tim? Sarcasm, not snarkiness.

Jeff Seiler said...

Oh, sorry, Damian. Thank YOU for your comment on my sincerity. I hope that it will lead to some hopefully greater level of equanimity betwixt thee and me. And, FWIW, I'm you tip just fine.

But about last summer... ;)

Jeff Seiler said...

Er..."I'm sure you tip just fine."

Travis Pelkie said...

Just tie his shoelaces together.

Nyuk nyuk nyuk


Aw, this new spirit of co-existence gladdens my heart, guys. Seeing Jeff disagree on something Dave's said is worth the price of admission alone!

Ugh. Can we get back to how it was? This "positivity" crap is bringing up bile into my mouth.

Heh. Kidding.

Seriously, let's all figure we want to talk about a master cartoonist and do so accordingly. YAY US!

Alex Krislov said...

I've wondered just how much influence the LSD had on Dave's thinking. Everyone has different experiences on the drug, of course. My own experience-- and I tripped dozens of times, back in the day-- was never as intense as what he's described.

Back in 1982, in the early days of the online environment, I dropped acid one night before logging on. I found myself in an online debate (yes, way back then) and wrote at least a dozen long messages. Eventually, as always happens with acid, I crashed.

The next day, on waking, I thought, "O Christ, what did I say last night?" I logged on and, with some trepidation, read over the messages I'd launched into the public pool.

No wildness. No logical errors (or, at least, no more than I'd ever commit). Not even a typo. The stuff I wrote while stoned out of my gourd read exactly like the stuff I wrote at any other time. Yes, I'm a touch-typist, but still, wouldn't you expect something to show?

So my feeling is whatever was crawling out of Dave's subconscious was already ready to emerge. Maybe taking the acid had a lot to do with that. But maybe, just maybe, it didn't.

Sean R said...

I'd be curious to hear from other Dave Sim/Zappa fans on any perceived overlap between the two. Working on a piece of writing that links the two and would love to hear thoughts about it from others.

Travis Pelkie said...

Ooh. Remind us again of your email, Sean. I have a few malformed thoughts on the topic.

Sean R said...

cerebusarthunt at gmail :)

Cory Foster said...

Alex—You're quite right that drugs affect people differently, of course. It may indeed be that Dave already had some ideas in the backlog, as it were, and the LSD was just a conduit to help make them manifest. On the other hand, of course, you can take someone like Syd Barrett, who became an entirely different person after his many trips (a lot of which were unknown—people around him dosing his tea without him knowing, apparently)...it may be that Dave falls somewhere in between, perhaps closer to one end of the extreme or other. No way to really know, but fun to think about.

Travis—That's an interesting insight. Could it be that Dave was thinking of what age HE would be in 2004, thinking that it would be a good stopping point, rather than whether having a nice round number like 300 was more important?

Sam Hughes said...

I'm glad the acid source has been cleared up. my best guess was a bob burden field trip. biggest acid head/friend of mine in college has been practicing medicine for 30+ years, so you can take the detrimental effect stories w a grain of salt (so to speak).