Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Comics Journal #82-83

The Comics Journal #82-83 (July-August 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from the introduction to an interview with Dave and Deni Sim, The Comics Journal #82-83)
In my pantheon of Gods and Demi-Gods, I have cordoned off a special section for those people who can make me Laugh Out Loud. It's not a terribly overpopulated place. Look in the writer's division and once you've tallied up Wodehouse, Jerome K. Jerome, Keith Laumer and Ring Lardner, you'll run into problems. The filmmaker's quadrant runs a little heavier (which I credit more to the nature of the medium than to the innate superiority of the directors). But the comics section is, ironically enough, a disaster. Try as you might, you will find no more than three people in there that aren't either dead or substantially past retirement age, and only one of them is an American. That's Gilbert Shelton. I'll tell you about the first foreigner someday, but the other foreigner is Dave Sim. He writes and draws the monthly Cerebus The Aardvark comic and you may have heard of him.

In his work, Dave Sim displays the intelligence and wit of a man entirely in tune with and in control of his craft. Although he can, if one is so inclined, sift through his work and pick out mannerisms and chunks of style borrowed from elsewhere (including two sets of comedic brothers, Warner and Marx), the guiding intelligence is unique and recognizably Sim. And Dave Sim is a very funny man.

I laughed out loud at the first Cerebus I ever read, #12. It turned out to be a good starting point, since that issue, Sim acknowledges, pretty much marked the point where proto-Cerebus became the definitive Cerebus. As Sim became more ambitious, the series gained in depth and breadth: plotlines became more intricate, characterisations gained in subtlety; yet the razor-sharp, sardonic wit remained a constant. At present, Sim is finishing off a 25-part serial, High Society. It manages to combine political intrigue, comedy of manners, slapstick, and satire - Sim even claims it bears overtones of a fictional biography of Richard Nixon.

Dave and his wife Deni publish Cerebus, making it one of a handful of alternative comics published by their creators. (Elfquest is the other handy example). Recently, the Sims have expanded their publishing operation to include several other projects: Michael T. Gilbert's Strange Brew, Arn Saba's Neil The Horse, and William Loeb's Journey. They have also begun showcasing other work in the back of the Cerebus comic itself. Thus, in addition to publishing Sim's own handiwork, the couple has begun to use the aardvark's success to promote new or little known talent.

I intercepted Dave and Deni Sim on their 1982 American tour, sometime during the fall. Cozily installed in the Sim's appallingly luxurious hotel suite, we talked for well over three hours. In addition to covering Cerebus itself, the conversation roamed far afield, at one point settling into what the Journal's back issues page will no doubt refer to as "a no-holds-barred discussion of current comics in general and Marvel Comics in particular." (I can say that, because I write the back issues page, you see).
Dave & Deni Sim, 1982. Photo by Alan Hose.

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