Wednesday, 26 September 2012

HARDtalk: The Virtual Tour #10

You have often cited Will Eisner’s post-Spirit graphic novel career as an inspiration. Can you see yourself going the same route, producing shorter one-off graphic novels or do you still need the discipline of a monthly comic schedule?

No, a monthly schedule is completely out of the question with the material I'm doing right now. I couldn't even do it bi-monthly at the end and do anything else.

See, I went in a completely different direction from Will.  He basically simplified his style and went from, say, base 9 pages -- nine panels to the page -- to base 2 and base 3.  And then, as he figured out what he was doing, he expanded the number of panels to the page.  Carefully, to make sure he could produce quickly. He used a much rougher style, very spontaneous, moving in the direction of "the writer who draws" instead of the "artist who writes". That was his priority, the stories he had to tell about the world he came from, the people he knew, the kind of stories they and he lived.  As long as the drawing conveyed that, that was all the drawing he was interested in doing.  He wasn't going to sit and slavishly copy Jerry Grandenetti's brush strokes on THE SPIRIT to stay in the same "eye candy" range.

That's one of those things that you earn.  You gave the audience what they wanted, now there are things YOU want to do.  He was perfectly aware that everyone wanted him to put a comparable studio together, find a new Jules Feiffer, a new Jerry Grandenetti and start cranking out new SPIRIT stories.  I would have preferred that he do that.  But it was definitely Will's turn, as it's now -- or, rather, WAS up until May of this year -- MY turn.  I gave the audience 26 years and I told them in 1979 that when it was done it's done. No untold tales of Cerebus.

I often wonder what kind of pressure it put on Will to do what he wanted to do, what sort of tension it might have caused with Anne? He obviously had a nest egg from selling his business he needed to sell when he went back to comics full time.  He had some revenue from SPIRIT reprints and the other venues Denis Kitchen would find for him.  He had advances for his books, royalties from his books, THE SPIRIT hardcovers and WILL EISNER LIBRARY at DC.  It's noteworthy that DC sold the latter as soon as they decently could to Norton.  But I'm sure he went through the same thing I'm going through:  how do you make x amount of money last when it's value is eroding at a great rate just because of inflation and things like that?  No one ever imagines how expensive things are going to become.  But, give him...and Anne!  He stuck to his guns and she backed him 100% and he did the material he wanted to do without compromise or pandering in any way.

In my case, stories stopped interesting me, in the conventional sense.  I find everything about the present political climate inherently false so I have no interest in writing what I see as politically correct propaganda and that's all I see as being allowed.

So my attention shifted to the technical side.  I learned a lot drawing CEREBUS for 26 years, to say the least.  But it was still cartoony/realistic -- like Will's stuff.  But I could, as a result of what I had learned, see more clearly what, say, Williamson had done, what Raymond had done, what Drake had done. It was up out of my reach but much closer to my reach than ever before in my life.

Could I now do it, myself?

You're talking about a "next plateau up" a very high jump from where I was.  But, your eyesight eventually erodes.  This was the only time in my life when I would be able to see this clearly when I was inking:  see the line a fresh Hunt 102 or a Gillott 290 or 303 makes and direct it.  There are limits, I find.  I just can't see as far into the page and make a tiny line as precisely as Neal Adams does, seemingly effortlessly.  That's just God's gift, genius.  I got what God gave me and I developed it, but it only develops so far for me.  "Not within a country mile of Neal" about sums it up.

But, as with Will's stories about the world he knew and being able to tell them, this is -- WAS -- I keep forgetting it's in the past tense -- my reward.  The summit was the fashion stuff.  Which everyone hated and made a great point of hating out loud and emphatically in my direction as often as possible.  The History of Photorealism stuff was my sop to the market -- what I was standing on so I could reach my own personal summit, the fashion stuff and do it for 10 days out of 60.  Dave!  Come down from there! Do THIS stuff!  Not THAT stuff!  THAT stuff is HORRIBLE, BLECHH, YUCKY.

I didn't know how to tell people, it's okay -- it's dying of oxygen deprivation already.  It'll be stone cold dead before you know it.  You don't NEED to KILL it.  Sigh.  It's 2012.  It often seems that's all people live for: killing other people's things.

I originally thought that I would wait until my eyesight eroded and go back to cartoony/realistic drawing, but I suspect I won't.  I'll do that when I have to, strictly to make money.  Cerebus commissions.  Whatever you want, this many thousands of dollars.  Try to get ahead financially and put the time in on "Strange Death of Alex Raymond" and, you never know, maybe in my late seventies I'll be able to go and buy a copy of VOGUE and do some fashion stuff just for ME.  Not show it to anyone.  Why would I bother?  I get it.  You hate it, you all hate it, it's beyond redemption.

But get back to my own personal summit before I die for however long I can spend up there.
Okay, now we're headed over to TERMINAL DRIFT for a very LONG question from Gabe McCann:

"Madane Bovary c'est moi" – Gustave Flaubert.

How much of you is there in Cerebus and vica versa? Other than the Dave character who chews a carrot and draws panels do you ever appear in Cerebus in disguise or who do you think is the closest of all the characters in Cerebus to representing you or being as close to the real "you" as possible. 

Is there a real you? Do you think any of us are really 'real' in the sense that all of us put on a mask or persona when we are with others and never reveal our true selves to anyone else? If you hadn't been succesful with Cerebus or hadn't managed to make a living in some other way in the world of comics/graphic novels what would you have done with your life to make a living?

Hit the link to TERMINAL DRIFT for the answer to that question, and be here tomorrow for more HARDtalk Q&As.

Already signed up for the HARDtalk Virtual Tour are Bleeding Cool, Millar World, Terminal Drift, Canadian Comics Archive, The Comics Journal, The Beat and Mindless Ones. Add your question for Dave Sim at one of these fine websites before 10 October and if your question is chosen (they'll need to be tough, interesting questions!) you'll receive a personalised, autographed copy of a Cerebus back-issue, with a Cerebus head-sketch by Dave Sim!


Michael A Battaglia said...

Best. Cerebus Head Sketch. Ever.

Michael A Battaglia said...

I could listen to Dave talk about Will Eisner all day long. Such an amazing lineage between those two greats.

Dave is either modest out the wazoo, or doesn't realize how amazing his stuff is. I guess that's the mark of a great artist though, that strive to improve and reach new heights, never settling.

Awesome stuff here, thanks to whomever maintains this blog for giving the rest of us the opportunity to read this material, it's very appreciated.

Eddie said...

Regarding the places in Cerebus where Dave appears, here are the ones that I think I've seen (SPOILERS I guess):

Cerebus #4 (pg 82 in the first Volume) top panel top left side holding some kind of cloth at the merchant's table

Reads - Kinda but maybe not really sorta as Victor Davis and then later as Viktor Davis


Rick's Story - pg 191

Latter Days - pg 259 bottom panel carrying the picture walking backwards while the Northern Isshurians follow him hypnotized-like (I thought it was done as a thematic linkl to what he did in Reads to the reader(s), since this was just before he began the Torah commentaries)

Latter Days - as "Me" transcribing the Torah commentaries (I believe this was asked by someone from the Cerebus yahoo group during the Q&A sessions with Dave and verified, but can't I find it)

Latter Days pg 388 as the "dorky guy" as listed in the credits on pg 441

The Last Day pg 52 and 53 (as thought balloons)

There's prob lots of other ones.

Kathy Pileggi said...

I love Dave's comment about how it often seems all people live for is killing other people's things. Amazing if people could be more supportive of one's dreams throughout time. Great write-up here!

Michael A Battaglia said...

@ Kathy -
it reminds me a little bit of that Charles Bukowski poem, "Genius of the Crowd" if may be so cliche as to post it here -

beware those who are quick to censor,
they are afraid of what they do not know.
beware those who seek constant crowds, for
they are nothing alone.
beware the average man, the average woman,
beware their love, their love is average,
seeks average.
but there is genius in their hatred.
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you,
to kill anybody.
not wanting solitude,
not understanding solitude,
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own.
not being able to create art,
they will not understand art,
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world.
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete,
and then they will hate you,
and their hatred will be perfect
like a shining diamond,
like a knife,
like a mountain,
like a tiger,
like Hemlock -
their finest art.

Eric Hoffman said...

Aw, c'mon Dave, so some people didn't like the fashion stuff (personally, I didn't find it all that interesting on the surface, however much I enjoyed the artwork - I made a point of saying so publically on a few occasions - but that's my opinion and I'm entitled to it, eh?) but so what? I'd think you'd be used to the criticism . . . Ah, well. I guess it's difficult not to take it personally.

Michael A Battaglia said...

For me, the fact that it's "fashion" doesn't really matter. I mean, I'll stare at Dave's work for an embarrassing amount of time, whether it's a hippo, a super model, or a door knob. He has that "certain something" in his line-work that just makes my jaw drop and my eyes bug out. I actually love the model stuff because of how ornate the clothing and accessories are, giving him more chance to strut his stuff. But I think it really shines for some reason on animals, especially wrinkly beings like elephants and so forth.