Friday, 19 October 2012

HARDtalk: The Virtual Tour #27

What was the secret of maintaining (the longest running?) creative partnership in comics with Gerhard and would you recommend other cartoonists to collaborate (even on sorter projects). If so, what are the potential benefits?

I'm not sure there was any one particular secret to maintaining the partnership. We were dependant on each other so, as guys, you tend to be supremely conscious of that. You can sense a problem area coming up, so you just taper off and forget it. Once something is said it can't be unsaid, so you have a lot of things that you don't say. If there's tension, you really have to assess, is there ACTUAL tension here or am I just being paranoid? If there IS tension, what is causing the tension? Did I do or say something wrong? For me, that's always been the way with people in general. Whatever pleasure I get from the company of people, I'm always aware that there's this level of tension there that seems always on the verge of them going berserk and saying "THAT'S IT!"

Gerhard wasn't just a person, Gerhard was also an idea -- the idea of someone working on this book and what was the fair way to treat him? Only it isn't theoretical, it's an actual person. So, I always tried to make sure he was compensated well, that he had the things that were important to him. You know, I didn't want a brand new car or a sailboat, but he did, so that becomes something that has to be important to me BECAUSE they're important to him. I pay him piecework rates until he proves he's reliable and then I pay him a salary and then ultimately give him 40% of the company. His contribution is so huge, you can't make it remotely work-made-for-hire.

I don't really recommend too much these days. I had a  very long conversation with Steve McNiven at The Last Signing. Very nice guy, definitely reminded me of Gerhard at that age. And he was thinking of starting a studio and since I had run a studio did I have any advice for him? He wanted to hire a friend who was an inker and go into business together. Only the guy had a regular paying gig already at a University -- but definitely seemed like he would like to make the leap into comics.

It's just him and me, so I said, "Is he married?" And he said, yes, he was married. And I said, if you're going to talk to him about it, you better talk to both of them because she's going to have a very big effect no matter what happens. It's a surreal conversation for me, because I'm basically talking to Dave who reminds me of Gerhard and giving him advice on how to deal with a potential Gerhard.

Comic-book guys are married to their work. They sort of have to be because it takes way too many hours to do a competent job and way more hours than that to get better at it. You're running ahead of the freight train. The pages need to get done. So you have one marriage competing with another marriage in a lot of ways.

It's not easy, because work is not at all like a real marriage. It IS just work. A guy knows the difference between work and relationship. Working on CEREBUS had nothing to do with my relationship with Susan. Working on CEREBUS had nothing to do with Gerhard's relationship with Rose. But for women it's a matter of seeing where the attention and time is going. There's going to be an emotional reaction to that.  And women don't want to be that way. So when they get that way, you have a double irritant:  how she doesn't want to be and how she's being.

The potential benefits are good work. Two guys who are determined to get better at what they do will provoke each other to get better without consciously intending to do it. We were at an insane level of fine pen line by the end there. He'd go fine so I'd go fine to match him, then he'd go finer to match me and I'd go finer to match him.

There tends to be an awful human toll. Most guys don't look at it that way because of the inner drive to get better and then the urge to keep getting better. But a lot of very human things go out the window.
Now let's head over to the MINDLESS ONES for a very long question from Igmus. Here's the short version(!):

I want to know why most current comics creators have personalities that are so similar to one another, and similar to their audience as well. 

Hit the link to the MINDLESS ONES for the answer... and be here tomorrow for more HARDtalk.

26 comments:

Eric Hoffman said...

I'll float it again - who is asking these questions? Is it you Tim? Or is Dave simply asking them himself? Confused . . .

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Eric,
That would be me asking all the questions this week. I didn't really think it was that important to spell that out. Does it matter?
Tim

Michael A Battaglia said...

It's great to bear witness to how much admiration Dave has for Gerhard. I hope it's mutual. Their artistic union reminds me a lot of Simon and Garfunkle, to the degree that there is something greater than the sum of their parts that happens when working together. I prefer the solo work, but I acknowledge the superiority of the collaborative effort.

Eric Hoffman said...

Hi Tim
Personally I think it serves the reader better to know who it is that is asking the questions. Whether or not it is merely a fan, or someone with additional credibility. So in that sense, yes, I think it does matter. Don't you?

Michael A Battaglia said...

I think it matters from the vantage of another publication wanting to reference the questions, if desired. In other words, let's say someone publishes a book of Dave Sim interviews down the road, and wants to use this very question; they would need to know the author, etc.

Whether or not the questions are being posed by "mere fans" or "People of Credibility" doesn't strike me as relevant, however, in this context. (It's only one question, without follow up or additional dialog, etc.).

Eric Hoffman said...

Note I wrote "more credibility" - I guess I should be used to people mis-reading what I wrote.

That said, Michael makes a good point about the usefulness of including the interviewer's name in the event someone might want to quote you.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Eric,
If it helps, you asked all the good questions...
Tim

Anonymous said...

"additional credibility," Mr. Hoffman? Would you care to explain what that means?


David Birdsong

Michael A Battaglia said...
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Michael A Battaglia said...

My real thought on the subject: it's Tim's blog and he can do whatever the #$%& he wants! I honestly never even noticed the lack of name, because I never pay attention to the names to begin with. I just speed read through the questions so I can get to Dave's responses. That's just me, of course.

Michael A Battaglia said...

Anyway... it would have been amazing to be a fly on a wall watching Dave and Ger create an issue. I'm not holding my breath, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for a Dave and Ger reunion of some type. I think it would be huge to have them get together and talk about their experiences, now that they've had several years to reflect and breathe.

Michael A Battaglia said...

Chalk it up to too much Moment of Cerebus, but I had a dream last night that Dave and Ger produced a graphic novel set in the world of Estarcion, but not featuring Cerebus. IDW published it, and Ted Adams had a blurb on the IDW website saying "we only put our logo on the spine, we didn't want to blemish the near perfect cover." And the cover was such an achievement in art I couldn't speak. It was Gerhard at his Gerhardiest, and it was just....... S T U N N I N G. No words to describe it. It was dream-stunning, if you know what I mean. And the story brought Estarcion to life, it brightened the corners of the world that Cerebus operated in, to such a degree that it seemed more vibrant and real than even Middle Earth. I woke up wanting it so bad... it's like an ache that is stuck with me. Estarcion feels unresolved to me now, like a world waiting on its God to further reveal and populate it.

Eric Hoffman said...

@ Mr. Birdsong -

I'm having a hard time understanding why you need me to define "additional credibility," but, okay, I'll bite: "credibility" meaning possessing the quality to elicit believability, on the basis that they have some authority, are well-researched and well-sourced. "Additional" as in, well, additional. A comics fan may or may not have credibility. A comics scholar or historian may or may not have more (but usually does).

Michael A Battaglia said...

Of course, with the world of Estarcion having been revealed as Earth of six thousand years ago at the end of Church and State, and with Egypt coming in to play at the end of the series, comparing it to "Middle Earth" might not make any sense.

Given that Estarcion was really just a backdrop for Cerebus, making a book about Estarcion might be a bit like making a movie about the history of the island from the TV show LOST. It doesn't really do much to service the narrative, it's just a novelty. That said, it's a novelty I'd get in line and pay money for.

I wonder how many people would be interested in seeing something along the lines of Dave and Ger doing a non-Cerebus story set in Estarcion, and if so, what they'd hope for the story to focus on (for me it would be the life story of Suenteus Po).

Michael A Battaglia said...

@ Eric

"Assumption" is the best aperitif for eating foot, but... I'm going to GUESS that David thought your comment was a little snooty and elitist, in the vein of "separating the wheat from the chaff" within the list of question-askers from the Hardtalk interview? Apologies to David for injecting my own ideas here. I'm going to guess that you (Eric) are coming from a completely different angle, one that nobody can begin to fathom, but that will be revealed at a point which yields the greatest possible amount of foot eating. Why not just explain why you think it's relevant (why it better serves the reader in light of mere fans versus those with 'additional credibility') for Tim to put his name on the interview and be done with it? =D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering Mr. Hoffman. I don't think that I have ever seen a person use so many words to describe a snob before.

David Birdsong

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hey everybody,

We all owe a huge thanks to Eric Hoffman (and Dominick Grace and Stephen Holland) for participating in the HARDtalk interview and tour. It really wouldn’t have happened without them. When Dave first suggested an online interview, my immediate reaction was to rope in other people who would ask some decent questions and lend some credibility to the proceedings.

So a huge thanks to Eric (and Dominick and Stephen) for taking part... they really did ask all the best questions! I was just happy to ride on their coat tails and asked my embarrassing fanboy questions. (It’s my last one on Monday you’ll be relieved to hear).

Also, we should be thanking Eric for the excellent book of critical essays he recently edited, Cerebus The Barbarian Messiah... and for the upcoming collection of interviews he’s putting together with Dominick, Dave Sim: Conversations.

Thanks Eric!

Michael A Battaglia said...

And of course, thanks to Dave Sim for going waaay above and beyond to answer all of those questions in a way that, really, exalted the questions.

Michael A Battaglia said...

And thank you, Tim, sincerely, for the Hardtalk interview, and, really, all the time you spend and have spent on Moment of Cerebus. It is a treasure trove for fans of Dave Sim.

Dominick Grace said...

Does the mean the Hardtalk extended interview is coming to an end? Too bad; it's been very enjoyable and informative, even for us snobs.

Michael A Battaglia said...
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Eric Hoffman said...

Tim,
For the record, and given your considerable efforts on this site (and risking a quid pro quo aspect to this exchange), I'd say you are an entirely credible source and should make it clear on your site that it is you asking Dave the questions. And they aren't at all embarrassing (and you're allowed a "fanboy" question or two - you've earned it).
Cheers,
Eric

Michael A Battaglia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I worry, Michael, that you and I may fall into that category of Dave Sim fan that bothers some folks. We admire him and support his efforts while rightly praising his amazing body of work. I know that I can come across as a Dave Sim Zealot, but I can offer no apologies for that. Dave and I have been corresponding for over 20 years and not just about comic books so I take some of the criticism of him too personally. It is hard for the modern go-along-to-get-along mentality to understand. We are dismissed as mere "fanboys" because we do not have the proper credentials to run with the established pros of the "I write about comics with big words" crowd. It gets my blood up and I take a few folks to task here and on other websites. I was just reminded yesterday by my pastor that on occasion we may feel like going off on someone. Some people do, indeed, need a good going off on from time to time, but it is probably better to let God handle that situation. Why get your blood pressure up over an opinion that you are never likely to change?

Thank you, Tim. This website (sorry, I'm old fashioned (hah!) and they are all just websites to me) for the wonderful Moment Of Cerebus. I'm very happy to find any place that allows me to follow Dave Sim's career and you have helped so much. I honestly can't even remember how I found this site. Sorry if I came across too harsh at any time.

Thanks a lot and I'll keep reading long after the HARDtalk Tour winds down.

Best,

David Birdsong

Michael A Battaglia said...

David, you're the only Dave Sim fan I can genuinely relate to.

Here's where I'm at on the subject of "write about comics with big words": If the dialog regarding Cerebus isn't spiritually informed, it can't penetrate into the work - into the spirit of the work I mean (that is to say, the core of the work), and, therefore, is utterly lacking. So, for me (in my opinion), the only meaningful conversations to develop around Dave Sim's body of work will be spiritually informed conversations. So far, not much has happened on that front.

Something else I wanted to say: I find the whole "credible interviewer vs mere fan" sentiment, expressed the way it was, in this context, to be unfortunate, as this was the first time I can recall anything like this happening, where fans and industry types all got to work together to be a part of this.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Guys,
I'm going to call time on this thread now. I think everyone has had the chance to voice their opinion and it's time to let it go and move on with your lives.
Thanks,
Tim