Saturday, 30 May 2020

Adam Beechen, Dave Sim, and Aardvark Comment

Hi, Everybody!

So here's the NEXT round of Adam Beechen/Dave Sim dialogue. the previous round can be found of of this post.
Mail there, or just Fax: 519 576 0955. Or email me at and I'll take care of it. 

Adam Beechen's Hench is available from Amazon. (Which is were his website sends you.) Most recently, Adam wrote an eight-page story featured in the 'ROBIN 80th Anniversary Special' for DC. [I read it, it's a good story -Matt]

And this time Adam says:

May 13, 2020

Hi Dave:

I hope this finds you well – and I hope you’ve solved, or solutions have otherwise revealed themselves for, your SDOAR issues. As one of your 80 or so “patron/financiers” (only in the sense that I’ve pre-ordered SDOAR), I eagerly await the book.

Thank you very much for the in-depth answer(s) to my earlier questions. I found it (them) illuminating and satisfying. I went back and read your interview in the first issue of Following Cerebus, and saw that it touched on several things I asked you about, so I apologize for asking you to repeat yourself.

Loved the walk through the Gil Kane/Noel Sickles relationship and conversation. I have Sparring With Gil Kane, and have yet to read it – That’ll change shortly. I knew nothing about Noel Sickles, however, and, having now looked at some of his work online, I think this afternoon I should probably order a book featuring more of his art and telling me more about him. One of the great benefits of SDOAR to a reader like me is that, in addition to educating me on a period of comics history I know very little about, it’ll get me interested to learn more about, and seek out work by, artists like Drake, Raymond, Foster, Caniff and Sickles.

(On the topic of comics history, did you read Howard Chaykin’s Hey Kids, Comics! I’d be interested to know your thoughts on it.)

The level of detail in which you describe such things as the creative history of Scorchy Smith (down to Sickles’ weekly pay) and Foster’s attitude toward his later Prince Valiant work did make me crave a bibliography for all the research you’ve done on SDOAR. Perhaps you’re already planning on including one. I hope so.

I was going to ask you how, while you were working on Cerebus, you managed to read so much to the depth that you did – Russian novels, religious texts, etc. – but then I thought, “Well, 26 years is a long time – I could probably read and digest a few dense and challenging pieces of writing in that amount of time if my curiosity about a topic or a form were sufficiently piqued.” Based on the amount of detail in your comics and text writings, you strike me as someone who, when you have a question or a curiosity about something, you learn absolutely everything you can about it. I don’t picture you scanning headlines but leaving the articles unread.

Your answers to my question(s) were very interesting to me, not so much because of your thought processes regarding NOT EFFING IT UP as the point in your life at which you had these revelations and made these decisions about your creative and professional future. You had to be in your early twenties (at the latest) when you came to your conclusions in this conversation with yourself. As you say, you may not have even been aware that you were having the conversation – You were just “collecting Truths,” and they coalesced into a professional ethos a little later. Still, that coalescence happened remarkably early… and then you stayed with it.

I’m trying to think of promises I made to myself about my future when I was 22 or 23, and I don’t think they went much beyond, “make a stable living.” I made my decision to change careers and pursue writing creatively as a profession when I was 25, and even then, I left myself an out: “I’ll give myself three years after I move to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting, and if I don’t make any forward progress, I can always go back to…”

That said, while I have many friends from that time in my life who found their careers later, I also have friends who knew what they wanted to be and do from a very young age, and successfully geared their education and development toward that goal. Law enforcement, Air Force pilot, professional athlete. I imagine many people in religious service also knew what they wanted to do at an early age (in some cases, they might even describe it as a calling). Maybe decisions like your early commitment to spending a quarter-century of your professional life on Cerebus, and then actually sticking to that commitment, isn’t as unusual as I think it is – Maybe it’s just unusual to me because of the way my own journey played out.

In any case, it was interesting and helpful to me to read your experience and get your perspective, so thanks.

One last comment concerning your last letter: I’d take issue with your statement concerning the creation of a reality by way of issue 186 in which Cerebus was “completely derailed.” I think it may have created a reality in which some people felt Cerebus was completely derailed, and I do think it led to the legacy of Cerebus being at least somewhat derailed, but I think that Cerebus very definitely stayed on track to the end in that its creator told the story he wanted to tell, the way he wanted to tell it, and didn’t waver in response to the market of perceived public opinion.

Okay, that’s it for Old Business. On to New Business.

Here’s an easy one (actually, it’s two): What did you know (in relation to Cerebus’ structure and plot specifics) and when did you know it?

I know for a fact this is a question you’ve been asked (and have answered) before (I think I even asked you in an AC letter), and I’d imagine some of the answers might be found in Margaret Liss’ invaluable scans of your notebooks. But I’m hoping you might go into a few more specifics, if you’re able and willing.

When you announced the decision to cap Cerebus’ run at 300 issues, I believe “High Society” was in its earliest issues, although I may have that wrong. My memory is that the only “signposts” you had in your long-term plotting (or at least the only ones which you were willing to share) were knowing “High Society” would end with issue 50, and the series would end with Cerebus’ death. Did you have others at that point? What were some of the next signposts to come after those? Did you have a list in your mind or otherwise of other themes you wanted to explore (i.e. religion, the origins of the universe, gender relations, etc.), and if so, how specific were they at that point?

My sense is that your spirituality evolved considerably during the series’ run. I assume, therefore, that it wasn’t always in your plan to include multiple issues devoted to commentary on religious text. When did that become something you wanted to do, and how much of what you had in mind previously did you have to change in order to do that?

How and when did you select the historical figures around whom you’d go on to feature in large segments of the series, such as Wilde and Hemingway? Had you already been a reader of Wilde, or did that happen during the course of your work on Cerebus? Assuming the idea of using Wilde came to you during your work on Cerebus, had you consciously structured the series (at that point) to accommodate concepts and characters you might conceive, or become interested in, along the way?

The same questions go for figures in the comics industry. Garth Ennis wasn’t close to being active in comics when Cerebus began. Alan Moore was largely unknown on North American shores. When you had the idea to include “Garth Inniscent’s” work “Rabbi,” or create an Alan Moore-like character, there was clearly enough flexibility in the storyline to accommodate those concepts. Did you ever completely “lock” the issue-to-issue events of the book, or did you leave yourself that flexibility to the very end?

And where along the way did you come up with the pop culture figures you wanted to include? Was it a hope of yours to include Jagger and Richards, or Margaret Thatcher (okay, she’s not pop culture), in some form and were you looking for appropriate sequences in which to place them? Or did sequences inspire ideas for pop culture figures to use? As a for-instance, did you know Cerebus was going to become prisoner of a religious fanatic or a group of fanatics, and were you then struck with the inspiration to use the Three Stooges? In other words, which came first – the pop culture figures or the contexts in which they were used? Or was it a combination of the two? Was there a figure you wanted to include, but never found an organic way to bring her or him into the story?

Finally, you made mention in one early interview about wanting to do a story featuring a “Joan of Arc-type” character who hears voices and leads an army. Did that idea mutate into something else (and if so, what? Spore, perhaps?), or was it simply dropped when you felt you had a better idea or came across a theme that interested you more? If that was the case, were there other potential storylines (or historical, literary, comics industry and pop-culture figures) that were discarded, and if so, would you share what they were?

If these are too many questions, or if it’s ground you’ve trod upon too many times to revisit, I’d understand you don’t want to repeat yourself, and it’s on me to do my research. What I’m really interested in how you were turning the big-picture plotline over in your mind as you were going along, and how granular decisions such as which literary figure to use might have affected what came after them.


Dave Sim is the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, which ran for three hundred issues from December 1977 to March 2004 (and is available digitally here.) His latest project is The Strange Death of Alex Raymond (a fundraising Edition is available, details on how to get it here. And there is a Kickstarter for the Remastered version of Cerebus #1. His OTHER latest project is the ongoing Cerebus in Hell? (Daily strips are posted here, and the next #1 is Green Dante/Green Virgil (which should be in stores by the end of the month)). The newest CiH? #1 to order is The Amicable Spider-Vark. And every Friday he posts a video "update".

And his response to Adam is:

16 May 20

Hi Adam!

Thank you, sincerely, for ordering SDOAR VOLUME ONE.  The good news is that the 80 FUNDRAISING copies sold means I can print 400 so every California comic store will now get one.  WHEN they will get them depends on whether a) things get back to normal and b) how normal things will get back to being.

In the meantime, I'm going to do more writing on AMOC about CEREBUS on the (perhaps mistaken) assumption that that's the best use of my time  [Oh it is Dave, it is...-Matt]

Having flipped through the NOEL SICKLES book IDW did which IDW sent me, definitely clarified for me "Okay, this is what Gil was so excited about."  Sickles was a major name in the slickest of the slick magazines and Gil was quite interested, across the spectrum, in all of the high-end literary and visual things being done.  Sickles did a comic strip Gil could never have done and follows it with an illustration career "to die for".  If you buy the IDW SICKLES book, it's all in there. 

I had no idea Howard Chaykin wrote a book. The HOWARD CHAYKIN: CONVERSATIONS book from the University of Mississippi Press (which includes my interview with Howard) satiated my interest (and didn't include Gil's brutal capsule descriptions of "the talent in the room" -- Norman Mailer's phrase -- which I realize now was "off the record" when Chaykin relayed it to me: at the time, because it would do Howard no good relaying it and, now, because Howard has mellowed in his own brutality).  I really just read Scripture and SDOAR research materials now.

While I appreciate the implicit compliment in "when you have a question or a curiosity about something, you learn absolutely everything you can about it" -- and, really, thank you very sincerely for that -- that isn't really possible, I don't think. I studied Fitzgerald close to exhaustively for GOING HOME -- read everything he wrote including his notebooks and collected letters and as many books about him and his work as I could get my hands on -- and that still amounts (my conclusion) to very little relative to his own 44 years of lived experience.  The human mind isn't capable of anything even approximating omniscience, so you always have to strike a balance between "exhaustive" research and human overview.  If you go in too deep your work is going to lack overview.  Too much overview and your work is going to be shallow.

DIGRESSION There are newspaper articles where "if you've read the headline you've read the article", particularly when they feature mostly speculation. I tend to read more opinion pieces at the moment than "could" "possibly" "might" and "arguably" COVID-19 space filler (which I'm afraid is all I see the COVID-19 coverage as being: how do we cure a more severe form of the common cold? Given that you've had no success curing the common cold SPOILER ALERT you can't), because opinions -- particularly secular humanist opinions -- are, at least, interesting.

Most of the time, my best inference is that their soul is in anguish because they've cut themselves off from God and they spend most of their time trying to find mundane human things to attach their anxiety to.  "This is what I'm upset about, this is why I have insomnia and I'm drinking too much and watching too much TV and getting angry and depressed." It's what the newspaper represents to me: here's what everyone thinks they're anguishing about today in 2020.

I think the problem is that they're used to distracting themselves 24/7 from the state of their soul and they're used to having unlimited self-distracting options and now they have limited self-distracting options. Whatever they can't have right now -- a baseball game, a sit-down restaurant meal, a concert -- is what they think they Need.  What they think will Save Them. Mistaking the pleasure centres in their brains for their soul.  It's like an interesting day-to-day constantly evolving light show except it's what everyone (besides me) perceives as Reality and will be the basis of my incarceration and "treatment" if they ever figure out that I'm out here and fundamentally disagree with them. Majority rules and the majority view right now would be far afield from a "derailed" CEREBUS vs. "not derailed" CEREBUS question. For the vast majority the question is "Is CEREBUS hate speech?" And since the majority criteria for that is "Yes" then incarceration and "treatment" are all that I have to look forward to.  Glad to have you as a fellow dissenter, though. END OF DIGRESSION

The conundrum of human "knowledge" is that we reach maturity late. I binge-read Dostoevsky in my teens. In your teens you don't really have a context for Dostoevsky.  You know it's really well written and evocative but you haven't lived enough to know what it is that he's evoking. A few decades later your short-term memory starts to go.  How many books can you read in between there? Compare that to how many books there are to read.  Ratio of 1:1,000,000? That's optimistic. How much do you retain?  Even a favourite book you've reread a few times, if it's been a few years since you've read it, could you get a passing grade on a book report?  I know I couldn't. 

It always comes back to Scripture for me now. Genuine Depths as opposed to "depths" or depths. The unimaginable profusion of non-Scriptural written and creative works seems to me the best argument against them as a free will leisure- time choice. If the best you can manage in your lifelong reading is to read one out of every one million books available to you, that means that the odds that you're reading something edifying are the same odds you would have buying a lottery ticket. And I include in that commentaries ON Scripture.  Why would I choose what a human being has to say about the word of God over God's word itself?  
The short  preliminary answer to your new question is that the Debris Field on CEREBUS is enormous. More on this in a moment.

The short secondary answer is that I was trafficking in Verities and exemplars.  "You die alone, unmourned and unloved". To move that from a subjective plot point to an objective Verity requires an irrefutable exemplar: Oscar Wilde. I didn't have Wilde in mind when I wrote the Judge's line but Wilde was needed to emphasize that judgement pronounced upon Cerebus with the Oscar character in JAKA'S STORY -- who, like Wilde riding the crest of his IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST popularity, "alone, unmourned and unloved" seemed an impossible fate -- contrasted with the disgraced post-debacle Sebastien Melmoth in MELMOTH. "A man's fate is fastened about his neck" as it says in the Koran.  

Garth Ennis and Alan Moore were the best current exemplars of what I was talking about when it came time for their respective appearances. It's a way of saying "I'm not just talking about this. I didn't just make this up. This actually exists."  But it was also "of its time".  There was always a fusion of THIS month and THIS year with the thematic point I was trying to make. Subjective because, like any human being, I have my own checklist of iconic presences.  By the mid-1980s Sid Vicious and Nancy actually made more sense than Prince Mick and Prince Keef for the societal contrast I was going for, but I had clearer idea of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' public personas and more of an interest in capturing that.

I was glad I could get Norman Mailer in there but, no, there were no historical personages that I wished I had done.  It went from the Verity to the character -- "who exemplifies this?" -- not the other way around.

Okay, to the Debris Field.     

I've explained, in a very cursory way, the process that took place between issue 12 (when I decided to do 156 bi-monthly issues) and 14 (when I decided to 300 monthly issues) which answered the structural question How big is this canvas that I'm working on going to be? Roughly 6,000 plus pages. And how I began to imagine the scope of that as I was finishing up the groundwork issues that led into HIGH SOCIETY -- which I imagined, at the time, to be my 500-page version of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, only in my case the two cities being the two aspects of the Upper City of Iest with the Eastern Church of Tarim at one end (the locus of Iestan religious faith) and The Regency Hotel at the other end (the Iestan political and economic locus).  With Cerebus as this magnifying presence, part metaphysical electromagnet (enormously powerful in a hidden way, wildly disproportionate to his physical size) and part metaphysical iron filing (he's very, very small), starting on the one side and inexorably being pulled to the other side.

Which, as a CEREBUS reader, you recognize as a rough description of the 86- issue (ONE eighty-six, in a manner of speaking) HIGH SOCIETY, CHURCH & STATE I and CHURCH & STATE II Trilogy.

As I was building that mentally, all of those events were intended to take place in a single 500-page graphic novel.  Political HIGH SOCIETY and Religious HIGH SOCIETY (two different forms of "High" elevation) which the reader wouldn't "get" until the pull of the Church had been fully exerted somewhere near the mid-point of the 500 pages.  And I've described how, as I started the mental high-altitude mapping of the political side of the story, I realized that if I was going to do my imagined construction --  a burlesque of Theodore H. White's THE MAKING OF A PRESIDENT 1960 about JFK's presidential political campaign with Richard Nixon's MY SIX CRISES grafted onto it -- even chopping it as fine as I could, that was going to take up all 500 pages.

Okay, all this you know. Which brings us to how this applies to the Cerebus Debris Field. 

After the fact -- particularly well after the fact: we're coming up on 40 years later -- it's necessary for me to adopt truncated-to-the-point-of-complete-inaccuracy explanations of "what that did" because even the most interested CEREBUS fan has limited attention span and interest.  "Explain this to me, but do it in a paragraph or two because after that my eyes start to glaze over."  Well, okay, I've grown up in public, I'm completely familiar with that effect.  So, here's your two paragraphs (see above).

What's missing from the explanation is that figuring out the limits of 500 pages didn't happen overnight.  For a good year and a half from the issues 14 to 16 "Palnu Trilogy" to the "Chasing Cootie" sequence I was still mentally just "playing out fishing lines" on the political/religious HIGH SOCIETY on the (then) safe assumption that 500 pages was 500 pages and therefore I had virtually unlimited room.          

I say "(then) safe assumption" because no one had ever done a 500-page graphic novel. I was the guinea pig.

Originally, at the apex point -- Cerebus the Pope -- he's conquered the political half of the city as Prime Minister and the religious half of the city as Pope -- becomes disgusted and quits, using his absolute authority to commandeer three large ships and goes from being JFK/Richard Nixon to John Paul II to Christopher Columbus crossed with SHIP OF FOOLS. He's still dressed as the Pope but he's running around The Docks outfitting the ships as the Upper City and Lower City convulse around him.

The comedic appeal to me as the writer, was Cerebus thinking that he could effect this level of change and then run away from it.  His thinking is solid as far as it goes. No one's going to follow him -- virtually everyone thinks that he's going to sail off the edge of the world, wherever that is "out there" -- but the point that he misses is that The Circus he thinks he's running away from, in microcosm, is going with him. You still need a crew and the only crew you can get are the craziest and greediest people available who are slavishly following The Charisma That Transformed Iest. He manages this long ocean voyage and everything enacts itself in the same way on the ships. He gets to the New World and everything enacts itself in the same way after he conquers that.
[This one. -Matt]

(DIGRESSION The only reason I remembered that is because at the convention shown on the back cover of #114, a black man asked me about why there were no black people in CEREBUS and I explained how a lot of the book was in flux and I used the ocean voyage to the New World storyline as an example of "what that does" when you need to jettison a giant chunk of narrative. Which, at the time, had been only four or five years before. "It would have been interesting to have a black man as the captain of Cerebus' ships," resonating with the New World being associated with African slavery.  I couldn't think of anything immediately up ahead -- most of the next 50 issues were JAKA'S STORY and that had already been "cast" and my early glimmerings of The Big Cirinist Book was also #CEREBUSSOWHITE -- I did say that I wasn't a tokenism type of writer. I wasn't going to create a black character just for the sake of having a black character in there. I did hope that didn't come up again because we're certainly in a time period where all white writers are caught between the rock of #CEREBUSSOWHITE and cultural misappropriation -- "how DARE you as a white writer pretend to have the lived experience to write a black character?" The interesting thing there is that when I did a birthday picture of Lenny Henry back in 1998 I put a 30% tone on him and thought, "Hmm. That means Cerebus and Cirin and Suenteus Po are, arguably, black."  Which means the voice actor for Oliver's CEREBUS film should probably be black.  James Earl Jones channeling a seriously steamed George C. Scott? END OF DIGRESSION)      

All that had to go. 

I could already see that Religious HIGH SOCIETY -- whatever that was now going to be called -- had to be roughly twice the size of Political HIGH SOCIETY.  How many pages would the ocean voyage take up?  How many pages in the New World?  I didn't want to JUST do politics and religion and adventure for 6,000 pages. The idea of the 6,000 pages was to do a lot of different graphic novels. The as-yet largely unimagined Ur JAKA'S STORY was a square peg that wasn't going to fit in that round hole.

How much "went"?  That is, how large was the Debris Field? I couldn't even hazard a guess on that one. How much conscious, unconscious and semi-unconscious writing can you do in a year and a half when your problem is always not writer's block but holding back writer's flood? 

The Notebooks are the Notebooks. "And it was here that he mapped the whole thing out".  Well, no.  The Notebooks were the monthly dress rehearsal for what was already written and some condensation of future material into a line or two. A lot of listing of the available issues and what goes into them, reduced to a few words. Look at the blanks and start filling those in, mentally. Sketch something and see if that helps you see it more clearly. Figure out where the holes in the plot I'm about to enact are -- I can't redo the issue or the page so it needs to be fixed now -- and try to think of something funny and interesting with which to plug them.

There are long stretches where there is no Notebook dress rehearsal because I didn't need it. THIS one I KNOW how to do. THIS ten-page section I can do in my sleep. THIS five-page section has been "done" for about eight years. 

But, the actual process of plotting the whole thing, imagining the visual and literary tone -- where it got serious and how serious it got;  where it got funny and how funny it got -- was all being worked out in mental compartments marked "future".  JAKA'S STORY had an overall shape and tone and approach attached to it -- this is the KIND of graphic novel I want to do here -- long before I wrote anything down.  Anything that wasn't JAKA'S STORY was thrown overboard. I was reiterating, unknowingly, Hal Foster's choices on PRINCE VALIANT.  You can't have a giant battle scene every week. You have to alternate quiet human level narratives with the buildup to the sturm und drang and the sturm und drang itself.

The "Joan of Arc" character is a good example. That was a matter of "Well, thematically, that concept fits CHURCH & STATE but I have a much clearer idea of what Religious HIGH SOCIETY needs to look like now that I've done Political HIGH SOCIETY  and how much room there is to play with".  If I bring in a separate Joan of Arc character, it's going to distract from the hell-bent-for-leather forward momentum of the Ascension taking place.  The solution to that was to make Astoria the Joan of Arc character.  It is a distraction -- the whole episode distracts Cerebus from his Ascension just as much as Seth's painting does -- but it's a contextual distraction. It fits the story because it doesn't fit the story. Astoria was always the driving force behind Cerebus-as-politician and Cerebus-as-Pope and Astoria was always in Cerebus' way.  The Cerebus-as-Pontius Pilate/Astoria as Joan of Arc; Astoria as female Pope/Suenteus Po as Jesus Christ reiteration was a neat solution to that.  Was Joan of Arc the female equivalent of Jesus Christ? being the Larger Question metaphysically.  Is Astoria Joan of Arc? being the lesser plot point.  

As I developed a more precise idea of how much can comfortably fit into 500 pages, the Debris Field on the later books got smaller.  But there was always a Debris Field of manifold un-pursued narrative tracks.  All of them long-forgotten because they weren't part of the final narrative.

If whatever-it-was wasn't going in the book, I stopped writing it mentally long before the Notebook stage and made no effort to remember it. In fact, I made a conscious effort to not remember it. I had more than enough to remember with what was already and with what was becoming CEREBUS canon. And a readership with an obsessive focus on those details. Anything that was "out" needed to be forgotten -- immediately and completely -- because there was an omnipresent danger of remembering something that wasn't in the book as being in the book and then having to spend the rest of my life explaining it.       

I had learned that lesson from Robert E. Howard's experience with CONAN. There are inconsistencies in his CONAN chronology because he took it for granted that he was writing one-off pulp magazine short stories -- here today, gone tomorrow. I knew better because REH fandom had spent decades pulling his stories apart and mapping them by the time I was reading them.  People take their sword-n-sorcery very seriously.

It, accidentally, made the CEREBUS story imitative of the metaphysics of physical- incarnation free-will life choices where we experience time in an illusory way as being sequential when, in the fourth dimension (the spirit realm) events in space- time all occur simultaneously.  I was making (and am making) my own choices which lead where they lead, one choice at a time, even as I was making those choices for Cerebus and the other characters.  An event began as a series of possibilities that had to make it to the Notebook stage but hadn't "happened" until it was drawn and lettered on a finished page. For twenty-six years things passed from the potential event compartment in my brain into the kinetic event compartment in my brain.      

Okay, now it's YOUR turn.

Realizing that there are professional limits to what you can say publicly about your progress on bringing HENCH to market in Hollywood, what can you say, specifically and in detail, in a public forum like this about the experience so far?  Never spit in a well from which you might have to drink, but I'm kind of hoping that there are -- unnamed -- studios to which you won't be returning anytime soon and experiences unique to the various developmental discussions that would be valuable in and of themselves to other indy creators contemplating striking out along that route. 

I've always said that Kevin and Peter's approach with the TURTLES is the gold standard.  The TURTLES was a one-off gag that they "ran with" so their attitude toward Hollywood was to treat it as just another aspect of their deal with Surge Licensing, first with the animated TV cartoons and then with movie(s).  You're more likely to get a cartoon show or a movie made if you sign off on it completely.  Indy creators tend to picture it as signing with a studio who will then allow them to become Walt Disney and oversee and overlord every aspect of production. Which never gets very far.  Someone running a viable studio didn't put in the years and or decades developing it as a business to then vacate the C-Suite and let you move in because you're in love with your characters.  The more of a "helicopter parent" you are to your intellectual property, the less likely it will ever be a cartoon or a movie.

As they say in the university exam papers (so I've heard, anyway): Discuss (please: why don't they ever say "please"?)

"Cerebus in the New World"?

Mind. Blown.

Next Time: Oliver. And then on Monday: Six more pages from High Society, because I need to lie down..."Cerebus in the New World"?

CiH? Daily Strip #40

From the Head Office in Kitchener, Ontario, it's TODAY'S Cerebus in Hell?!!!:

Friday, 29 May 2020

SPIDER-VARK promo (Dave's Weekly Update #341)

Hi, Everybody!


Everybody say "Thanks Sean!" for the logo.

Not the way I would have done the Promo for The Amicable Spider-Vark:
What's he do in the dark?
Hey look, he's got eight hands,
That's two more than issue 101 Spider-man,
Look out,
Here comes the Spider-Vark!
Is he smooth?
Listen dude,
Chicks get wet for his attitude,
Can he make your lady moan?
He never leaves the bar alone,
Hey, there!
There goes the Spider-Vark!
In the chill of night,
At your girlfriend's place,
It sure ain't right,
That look on her face,
Totally Amicable Spider-Vark,
Wealth and fame,
He's got lots,
Gives your girlfriend the major "hots,"
To him, life's a great gang-bang,
Wherever the hot chicks hang,
You'll find the Spider-Vark!
But hey, that's just me.
GIF by Birdsong.

And early results in the 2020 High Society Presidential race:
(Dunno if you can still order Blue State Red State Cerebus or None of the Above, check with your LCS.)

The Strange Death of Alex Raymond Fundraising Edition, if you'd like to get a copy of the book a year(? or more?) before it goes to press AND at the same time, fund Dave's California sales trip (rescheduled for whenever California opens for business), mail a check for fifty dollars American to :
Box 1674 Stn. C
Kitchener ON N2G 4R2 CANADA
Or, go to (where you can still get "The Best Deal in Comics" all 16 volumes for $99 Canadian!) and click the one time donation button (there are three of them $1 $5 $10, click any of them, and adjust the quantity to $75 (or $80 if you're using the $10 one,) (the price is higher because uses Canadian monies...) Then send an email to to let him know how you want your name spelled. This ends on SUNDAY!!!

The Kickstarter for the Remastered Cerebus #1 (which is already funded, at this point more money means more extras.) Campaign ends on Tuesday. The most recent update:
Greetings backers!
We want to start off by expressing our deepest, heartfelt gratitude, as today we hit 450 backers! When we launched this campaign we had no idea what to expect, but whatever our expectations, we didn't predict such overwhelming, positive support for our Cerebus No. 1 project! Thank you thank you!
We are a little under 5 days from the end of this campaign and wanted to let you know that on our last day, next Tuesday, June 2nd, we will update Dave every hour for the final 8 hour stretch which is Noon to 8pm EST. Our updates to him will include, the status of the campaign, and any comments or suggestions from any of you in the comments section of the main page. Dave will respond hourly to our updates which we will also post in the comments section. With Cerebus No. 1, 1977 on everyone's minds, it's a good time to shake out any thoughts or comments you all have about the early days of Cerebus, We cannot guarantee that Dave will respond to every single comment, suggestion or question, but we do guarantee that he will read them all, and respond to as much as he can.
We are working hard behind the scenes getting all the books, cards and extra's ready for production, some of which goes into production as early as tomorrow! Future updates will include photos as the finished goods arrive, ready to go out to all of you!
Thanks again and have a good night/day... wherever you may be!
Dave and Ger art for sale. This ends on Tuesday too.

And The Coronavirus Trilogy: CRISIS IN INFINITE QUARANTINE, BATVARK: CORONAVIRUS, SUPER CEREBUS VS COVID-19, and the fourth part from Free ComicBook Day: The League of Extraordinary Corona. And the Daily Cerebus in Hell? strips. Which have been written and assembled for you at no cost, so if you wanna maybe buy some High Society Red State buttons, or Blue State buttons that'd be great. Supplies are limited, when they're gone they're gone. And, word 'round the campfire is that Diamond is opening and shipping around May 20th, either way, Green Dante/Green Virgil is the next Cerebus in Hell issue to ship. And as the video told you, the new one is The Amicable Spider-Vark.

Next Time: Aardvark Comment and Adam Beechen. And Dave drops some BOMBS in this one. Like "the phonebook I was GONNA do after Church & State instead of Jaka's Story" level bombs. Good thing Dave's calling me on Thursday so I can be gobsmacked...

CiH? Daily Strip #39

From the Head Office in Kitchener, Ontario, it's TODAY'S Cerebus in Hell?!!!:

The Amicable Spider-Vark is available to order now!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

CiH? Daily Strip #38

From the Head Office in Kitchener, Ontario, it's TODAY'S Cerebus in Hell?!!!:

Suffering You'll Have No Trouble With

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

In last week’s entry, She's Got the Devil in Her Heart, we looked at two pages from Dave Sim’s twelfth Cerebus notebook, pages 128 and 130. They showed some stuff for Cerebus #110. Let’s continue with that and look at pages 131 and 132:

Notebook #12, page 131

Notebook #12, page 132
On page 131 it looks like Dave wrote a long stretch of storyline down and continued it onto page 132. Then it would appear that he went back and did some mark-ups, though I’m thinking some of those happens as he was writing them. The blue pencil about halfway down the page – directly across from where the text ‘111 JUN’ is – says ‘Here next being here’ probably happened at a different time.

This text is what the Judge is telling Cerebus while they “walk” on the moon. And the end of this monologue on page 132 we get some extra bits of info that don’t make the finished page. The Judge says “The Michelle you were first involved with has died in childbirth.” He then goes on to spoil Jaka’s Story but with a character who is dead: “You end up living with Jaka and her husband in the most uncomfortable of situations as dictated by Weisshaupt.” Well, unless Weisshaupt planned that would happen to Cerebus. . .

Then the Judge speaks one of the most famous lines in Cerebus: “You eventually die un-loved and un-mourned.” Wait. That isn’t right. . .

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Green Dante Green Virgil: In Stores Today?

Benjamin Hobbs:

Everything is slowly reopening, so GREEN DANTE GREEN VIRGIL might be at your LCS today! Let us know in the comments if you were able to pick up your copy!

Now available to order from Diamond: The Amicable Spider-Vark #1!

Promo strip courtesy of David Birdsong.

 Next Time: A tale as old as time! The Cover of VAULT OF CEREBUS!

CiH? Daily Strip #37

From the Head Office in Kitchener, Ontario, it's TODAY'S Cerebus in Hell?!!!:

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

CiH? Daily Strip #36

From the Head Office in Kitchener, Ontario, it's TODAY'S Cerebus in Hell?!!!:

Aardvark Comment Part six (The end of Dave's answer to the 4 part question from Adam Beechen, and then the next chapter in the Al Nickerson dialogue.)

Hi, Everybody!

Mail there, or just Fax: 519 576 0955. Or email me at and I'll take care of it. (That's how this one worked!)

"Who's the leader of the gang that's made for you and me:
A. D. A. M. um...there aren't enough letters to do this bit.
B. E. E. C. H. E. N!"
Adam Beechen's Hench is available from Amazon. (Which is were his website sends you.) Most recently, Adam wrote an eight-page story featured in the 'ROBIN 80th Anniversary Special' for DC. [I read it, it's a good story -Matt]
Adam Beechen's question to Dave (if you know the words, SING ALONG!):

CEREBUS continues to stagger me in many ways, but one of the most profound is its sheer size and the duration of its production. You did it. Like you said you would from the very beginning. Twenty-six years. Three hundred monthly issues. Like clockwork. All of those issues fit into the larger narrative framework, the characters are consistent (and if they change, it’s a sense of evolution, not an arbitrary left turn – It’s all motivated), and I never have the sense that you “took an issue off” here and there.
Your work on CEREBUS strikes me as a pretty unbelievable act of commitment, conviction, determination, sheer will, imagination and love. I work on a contract-to-contract basis. I write a script for this show as a freelancer, and then I move to that show and write a script for it. If I’m under contract to produce or story-edit a series, it’s for a limited period of a couple years at the absolute most. All of which suits me fine – I enjoy playing in other creators’ sandboxes. And I respond well to deadlines placed upon me, much better than I do to self-imposed deadlines. But after a few years on the same series, I can itch for new material on which to work.
Of course, I’ve never sold a series I created, and I might feel otherwise if that were the case. I hope I get to find out. Even so, I’d like to tell so many different kinds of stories over the course of my career, featuring many different kinds of characters. I don’t know that I could come up with a “vessel” of a framework story that could encompass all of them, the way CEREBUS encompassed multiple stories of a range of styles (illustrative and textual), all the while maintaining the central thread of Cerebus’ journey. If I did, there would probably still be times when I wondered if the narrative grass wasn’t greener somewhere else.
So, my question(s) to you becomes this (these):
Do you have a sense of where that drive, that commitment, within you comes from? And how hard or easy was it to maintain over the course of the 26 years?
Was there ever a time when you wanted to just walk away entirely before reaching 300? If so, how did you overcome it? Did you have mornings when you sat down at the drawing table and just said, “Ugh. I am just not in the mood for this.” If so, how did you fight through that?
Was there a time when you thought, “No one’s forcing me to do this every day, every month, every year. I’ll just take a couple months off. Just a couple. I’ll come back rejuvenated and get right back into it.” If so, what kept you from heading down that path?
Were you ever seriously tempted to step away from CEREBUS, temporarily or purposely, to pursue other projects that you’d either create or that someone else had created?
In short, how did you cope with CEREBUS fatigue and outside distraction?
If these are questions you’ve answered a hundred times before elsewhere, I apologize – I haven’t seen or heard those interviews – and I hope the way I’ve asked them here might give you a different approach or angle to answering them than you’ve had previously.

Dave Sim's answer to Adam Beechen's fourfold question above is being serialized this week [it's been more than a week, but here's the big finish! (actually, there's more from Adam and Dave that's a-coming.) -Matt] on AMOC.  Link to PART ONE.  Link to PART TWO.  Link to PART THREE. Link to PART FOUR. Link toPART FIVE.


JIGSAW PUZZLE PIECE #4 - A particularly subtle DON'T EFF IT UP was Hal Foster saying that his last few PRINCE VALIANT pages were "lousy".  Cruel but fair...

[Foster was brutal with himself at the end. He and Gil Kane are on a panel in 1969 -- one of SPARRING WITH GIL KANE's "accidental merits" -- which is pretty much his last full year on VALIANT and he talks about how he "used up history" in the first few years of the strip. Attila the Hun, the Saxon invasion of Britain and the Sack of Rome. The biggest documented contemporaneous events in proximity to the quasi-historical King Arthur. He's very matter-of-fact about it, considering that he's discussing the legacy of his historical adventure strip (which was, at least at the time, perceived to be at least as quasi-historical as King Arthur himself) in one of the few comic-art fora of the day: Seuling's Comic Art Convention. It was obviously something he would like to have re-done, but 30 years later is 30 years later.]

…You don't just keep doing it until you can't do it anymore. Doing a half-a--ed CEREBUS -- for whatever reason, whether lethargy or boredom or old age -- was and would be EFFING IT UP. Hal Foster EFFED THAT PART UP with PRINCE VALIANT and that's Top of Mount Everest Stuff in the comic-art field -- irrefutable stature like Foster's doesn't immunize you against EFFING IT UP -- so don't EFF THAT UP. Foster did a full-page strip a week for 32 years. No fill-ins or ghost artists except on the backgrounds. He didn't EFF THAT UP.

So, that's when I set the 300-issue parameter.  Having done that, all of the scenarios you depict just don't occur.  "It's [whatever day it was, whatever issue it was, whatever page it was], which is between December 1977 and March 2004. Therefore 'miles to go before I sleep'. Get moving." You don't revisit that or rationalize that or fudge that ("I'll just take a couple of months off and come back refreshed") or you're EFFING IT UP.  And if you EFF IT UP in 1995, then you've let yourself down in a completely inexcusable way -- that you KNOW (all in caps) is inexcusable because you did all the math 20 years ago. You not only obliterate your future, you obliterate everything you built from 1977 to 1995. The further along you are, the more inexcusable it would be.  Don't kid yourself. You will get old and you will lose your chops. 

[What I didn't anticipate was the "Dave Sim vs. Feminism" thing.  Issue 186 created two realities -- or, rather, a Reality and a "reality" -- in one of them Dave Sim EFFED IT UP, completely derailed CEREBUS by not realizing that Feminism was the only Valid Reality.  Whereas, my assessment was, No, buying into that delusional mythology would be EFFING IT UP.  Like the DNA helix, those dichotomous perspectives -- one a Reality and one a "reality", which is which yet to be determined -- spiral around each other off into an (infinite?) future.]   

The soundtrack for all this is Supertramp's CRIME OF THE CENTURY album, the side that started with "Dreamer".  Gene Day and I working in his studio, Gale doing her shift at the hospital, with the stereo in the living room playing that side over and over and over.  "Can you put your hands in your head?"  "Can you do something out of this world?"  That was where it was all coming together for me. No idea what it all meant for Gene. We really didn't talk that much. We worked -- when we ate, we talked or when we went "upstreet" in Gananoque to get the mail, we talked -- but mostly we sat on opposite sides of the room, worked, and listened to that side of CRIME OF THE CENTURY.

That was what I needed to do.  I needed to put my hands in my head and do something out of this world.  CEREBUS was still two years away. I didn't have my own apartment like Gene did, I was living with my parents.  My life couldn't have been any less "out of this world" in actuality or potential.  But JIGSAW PUZZLE PIECES #1, #2 and #3 were already (to mix a metaphor) carved in stone in my mind. DON'T EFF IT UP if it gets here. DON'T EFF IT UP if you're one of the lucky ones who Gets it for some reason.

Doubling back to you talking about you and your Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces, I can understand your perplexity.  If you don't live, if you haven't always lived, within those narrowly confined DON'T EFF IT UP parameters, it's hard to imagine how you could not be tempted or distracted by other things.  But, once the 300 issues were carved-in-stone conceptually, "Ugh. I am just not in the mood for this."  was no longer an option.  Emotions -- moods -- were thrown overboard early because they were detrimental.  They led away from instead of to the goal. Emotion was just a way of making EFFING IT UP not only possible but likely. And if I allowed something possibly detrimental to become likely detrimental, inevitably detrimental was just around the corner.

John Lennon's August 1977 "Elvis died when he went in the army" and my "John Lennon died when he met Yoko Ono" fit very snuggly into that box. 

In terms of your wondering about me wanting to do something else creatively, I reacted to what I was working on and channeled that forward. 

Unable to put the Full Scope of my imagined HIGH SOCIETY into 500 pages, I mentally expanded The Next Book to what I was learning Full Scope would require: 1100 or 1200 pages. 

Discovering what Full Scope was like halfway in, I started mentally designing The Next Book as a complete contrast with that.  Things to look forward to that were as un-CHURCH & STATE-like as I could imagine while I was working on CHURCH & STATE.  Things that had never been done before in comics. Perhaps with good reason. Expanding what comic art could do, possibly to the breaking point where they were no longer comics.

Only one way to find out. 

"Can you put your hands in your head?"  "Can you do something out of this world?" 

When HIGH SOCIETY and CHURCH & STATE were done, they were no longer "out of this world". They were in the world because they had been done. I had put my metaphysical hands in my head and, to the best of my abilities, put them on paper. Then it was time to do JAKA'S STORY which was "out of this world" because it hadn't been done.  ALL THAT TEXT! IN A COMIC BOOK! WHAT IS THIS?

Whatever it is, before I do it, it's "out of this world" because I haven't done it yet.

And I'm going to make sure that what I'm doing hasn't been done before because, in my own frames of reference, that's the opposite of EFFING IT UP and the further I could get from EFFING IT UP the less likely, it seemed to me, I was to EFF IT UP.  A change is as good as a rest. The fact that each book was completely different from the previous book wasn't a coincidence, it was a job perk. 
"Wait, Adam Beechen is the leader of the gang?
When did this become A Moment of Beechen?
What am I chopped liver?" -Dave Sim
(presumably, if he ever saw this...)

Dave Sim is the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, which ran for three hundred issues from December 1977 to March 2004 (and is available digitally here.) His latest project is The Strange Death of Alex Raymond (a fundraising Edition is available, details on how to get it here. And there is a Kickstarter for the Remastered version of Cerebus #1. His OTHER latest project is the ongoing Cerebus in Hell? (Daily strips are posted here, and the next #1 is Green Dante/Green Virgil (which should be in stores by the end of the month)). The newest CiH? #1 to order is The Amicable Spider-Vark. And every Friday he posts a video "update".

And now Al Nickerson's latest reply to Dave's latest reply to Al's last reply that refereed to Dave's previous reply that was a reply to Al's reply to Dave's reply. THIRD BASE!

May 23, 2020

Hi Dave,

          It’s true that I began (what was to be) THE SWORD OF EDEN graphic novel around 2010.  I was still inking for Archie Comics and DC Comics. For the most part, those two publishers kept me very busy. Whenever I had a chance to work on my creator-owned work, I would. Still, there were great chunks of time when I was not working on THE SWORD OF EDEN. But, I was never worried that I would not complete the comic. I always enjoyed working on creator-owned projects more than working on corporate-owned projects (either in comics or animation).

          My intention was to share the Gospel message in a medium that I love, to create content for Christians where they would not feel as if they were compromising their principles, and to give back to God for all of the blessings that He has poured out in my life.

          At first, THE SWORD OF EDEN was a down-loadable serialized digital comic book series titled AN ACT OF FAITH. It was sold through iVerse Media. Often, readers would ask for a printed collection. Hence, the 220-page graphic novel, THE SWORD OF EDEN. I did redraw a number of pages. Plus, formatting and proofing 220-pages for my printer wasn’t a small task. All of that ate up a lot of time.

          (The sequel, THE SWORD OF EDEN: SHINOBI, will only be about 100 pages.)

          I do recall your Hawaii trip being mentioned in the (most-awesome) CEREBUS comic book series. I seem to remember a photo of you in Hawaii where you were about to smoke something.

          Anyway, it is wonderful to see THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND about to go on sale. Can’t wait!

          I purchased my copy of WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE in 2005 when it was first published. The 2005 version does have the “Unknown Man” chapter. I’m guessing you have a later edition. Maybe the hardcover “Deluxe Edition”?

          Will did work with Bob Andelman on WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE. If I recall correctly, the idea was for Will to write the book on his own, but Bob came in as the fulltime biographer/writer.

          WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE is a very intimate, thought-provoking, and emotionally intense book. Reading about the sudden destruction of Will’s nuclear family was (and is) heartbreaking.

          The “Unknown Man” chapter chronicles another disturbing event resulting from Alice’s passing…
          When Alice died, something strange took place that Eisner never publicly mentioned until now. “The boys on the PS magazine staff came up to attend the funeral,” he said. “That weekend, they hit me with a bill for overtime as a result. It stuck in my throat like a stone…”
          What’s wrong with people?
        On Facebook, I posted a portion of your 19 May 20 letter. Will Eisner’s nephew, Carl Gropper, commented with: “Al, it looks to me like Dave Sim doesn't know the Will Eisner that I knew. If his knowledge is based on meeting and working with Will professionally and on the Andelman book he missed a lot.”

          I responded to Carl with: “Hi, Carl. Thanks for your perspective. I would imagine that you had the wonderful opportunity than most (of us) in knowing Will in something other than a professional relationship. My point in my previous letter to Dave was that, in class, Will Eisner never mentioned his personnel life. Which was fine, of course. He was our teacher. Will's personnel life was none of our business.”
          I met Carl Gropper a couple of times; once at the New York Comic Con, and the second time was at the Society of Illustrators during the “Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017” exhibit. On both occasions, I found Carl to be friendly, polite, and very supportive of reminding the public of Will’s legacy.
          I do agree with your assessment of Will Eisner, Dave.

          From my experience, I only knew Will Eisner in the capacity of his being my teacher… and that was more than plenty for me.

In Christ Jesus,

Al Nickerson

Romans 12:9 (Revised Standard Version): 9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

Al, seen here wondering what kind of funny Mickey
Mouse Club gag I'm gonna put on his photo, not realizing
that I'm really down to an Annette Funicello bit, and I
was saving that for sometime in June...
Al Nickerson is a comic book artist, writer, and self-publisher. Al is an alumnus of the School of Visual Arts. He has been a professional comic book artist since 1994 for folks such as Warp Graphics, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Archie Comics. As an animator and designer, Al worked for Sesame Street, MTV Animation, Nickelodeon, and Marvel Entertainment. He has self-published creator-owned comic books including THE ARGGH!!! CHRONICLES 2000 EDITION and NIHILIST-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS. Al is currently self-publishing THE SWORD OF EDEN graphic novel ( 

Next Time: Hobbs, the Donald Duck around here...