Thursday, 19 April 2012

Getting Together With Gerhard

His First Fifth (Epic Magazine #26, October 1984)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

An extract from an interview published in the UK fanzine FA #115 in 1989:

FA: So how did you get into it then? How did you end up drawing so much of Cerebus?

GERHARD: Deni’s sister married a friend of mine. And we both lived in Kitchener, and I've always liked drawing, and Dave and I just started, somehow or other, working together.

DAVE SIM: It was the Epic stories. Archie Goodwin wanted a Cerebus story for Epic, and said "Why don't you do it in colour?" It seemed a good chance to test Gerhard out.

FA: So you just started colouring the Epic stories?

GERHARD: I was trying to do my own stuff. I was doing basically pen and ink illustrations with watercolours on top of them, of which Dave saw a few I guess, and sort of chuckled.

DAVE SIM: Oh, that's not true!

FA: A full belly laugh?


DAVE SIM: Friends of ours had a restaurant and there were two or three pieces by Gerhard in it, because a former girlfriend of his ran the place, and former girlfriends are like that about artists. I'd seen the work and the meticulous laboured crosshatching...

GERHARD: Millions of lines...

DAVE SIM: ...gradated greys and nicely water-coloured over the top of the drawings and a couple of times I'd ask Gerhard, "How long did that take you to do that?" Well, between drinking and smoking drugs and all of the other things he was doing it took him eight months or whatever. He didn't grasp that I was saying "How much working time to do all of that?"

GERHARD: "Uh, I dunno."

DAVE SIM: So I said we really should try something sometime. So I was doing Young Cerebus, so I just put him in and told him roughly what I wanted behind him and gave it to him. I thought, "if it takes four months to do it, that's fine. Four months for that page, four months for the next page, in a year and a half Archie will have a deadly five page colour story." I give it to him and modest Gerhard says, "OK, I'll take it home, see what I can do with it." He was back the day after that - you know that first page of the bar story. It was just gorgeous. So I knocked out the next page - "Do that again!" He took it home and brought it back, and by that point it was, lay them out on the floor of the studio and go "This is something really shit-hot here." Then it was just the decision... coming back from Maplecon in Ottawa with Arn Saba and talking to him, because he works with Dave Roman and three or four other people, Barb Rausch, on Neil The Horse, and saying "Don't you feel it’s not really yours if you have other people working on it?" And he said as long as it’s his ideas and he's telling them what he wants, then he figures he's still doing it. He's not physically doing it, but it's his characters, his concept and this is just making it better. It made a great deal of sense to me, so we got back - Gerhard driving back arrives some time later. I basically said to him "Do you want to do the backgrounds on the book?" That set him back a good ten or fifteen steps. It was, like, a job, on the one hand...

GERHARD: Which I didn't have at the time.

DAVE SIM: And weren’t particularly keen on having.

GERHARD: I didn’t want a job job. I was bound and determined at that point to draw for a living or starve to death. And starving to death was the avenue I seemed to be taking.

DAVE SIM: You were getting good at it too.

GERHARD: I was getting real good at it.

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