Sunday, 11 November 2012

Dave Sim: A Tribute To Craig Miller (1959-2012)

I was sorry to hear about the death of Craig Miller who had been associated with Cerebus as far back as THE CEREBUS COMPANION and was one of the exhibitors at the Spirits of Independence stops in Austin Texas (19 Feb 95) with his funny animal title, RENEGADE RABBIT -- and its "Day of Greatness, Age of Consent" parody cover.  My correspondence with Craig was voluminous for a while there -- I have an inch-thick stack of faxes on the book shelf in the office -- through the short, multi-year history of FOLLOWING CEREBUS.

His publications were always interesting.  I had (and have) zero interest in David Lynch and his movies and TV shows but I always read WRAPPED IN PLASTIC from cover to cover when it came in and always found something edifying in its pages.

Craig seemed to, finally, fight his way out of an extended period of writer's block with his article on The Three Davids -- Lynch, Foster Wallace and myself -- which appeared in the last issue of FOLLOWING CEREBUS.  Personally, I couldn't think of a more unlikely trio but, hey, anything which would trigger Craig's former unending, effortless stream of insightful commentary was more than "fine by me".  I encouraged him to write more on the subject -- to make it a recurring FOLLOWING CEREBUS motif -- if that was where he saw productivity "daylight".

That was really the last I heard from him as FOLLOWING CEREBUS co-publisher.

He used to sell the CEREBUS trade paperbacks on the Win-Mill website, relaying "once in a blue moon" orders by fax.  As happens a lot with me, suddenly his fax number would no longer receive. In our last phone conversation a few weeks back, it took several visits by technicians to get it up and running again (the latest bunch having to undo everything the previous bunch had done) (again, not atypical of my situation).  I had been trying to contact him to tell him that I could no longer afford the time and money to mail out the (usually) individual books (usually) at inflated international rates.

Hard to believe I'll never again get a photo Christmas card of him with Jennifer, his beloved daughter.

The last (five? six?) years of his life, he had been engaged in a never-ending battle for shared custody of Jennifer with his ex-wife who kept having him charged with the same crimes the child-custody people and the courts kept finding him innocent of. Every few months he'd report that he'd been cleared of the latest charges and his legal travails were finally behind him. I always hoped that would be the case but (as I suspected) it never was.

He would send cheques every once in a while to cover FOLLOWING CEREBUS royalties and trade paperback sales. I never kept track. I knew he was having to sell his ever-diminishing comics collection to pay his relentless legal fees. Whatever he could sell of FOLLOWING CEREBUS he was more than welcome to keep.

I've just sent a fax to Gene Lane telling his father, who I assume is his executor, (the fax machine indicates it went through: whether he actually GETS it is another matter) that I'd like to assign all my own rights to FOLLOWING CEREBUS to Craig's estate and to, hopefully, get an advance from someone on a COLLECTED FOLLOWING CEREBUS that might clear up some outstanding child custody legal bills or -- preferably -- that the rights and any revenues be kept in trust for Jennifer (jointly with John Thorne, Craig's Win-Mill co-publisher) until she reaches her age of majority.

(Just BTW, my own pre-arranged funeral documents went up in smoke at Sandeep's place.  I kept meaning to mention this.  It would be helpful if someone, on hearing of my death, could contact the Waterloo Regional Police at 1-888-420-1777 and have them contact Schreiter-Sandrock Funeral Home, 51 Benton Street 519-742-4481 and tell them that I prearranged my funeral in January, 2004 -- right after I finished CEREBUS --  I also have a funeral plot that I purchased at Woodland Cemetery, 119 Arlington Blvd. around the same time.  I never got around to buying the gravestone -- I'm only "zoned" for one that lies flush with the ground, just "name and years".  There are no "family and friends" in my case, so it would save some confusion if someone could make note of this. Thanks!)

Craig had a LOT of interests in pop and general culture and a pretty close to encyclopedic knowledge of each.  Conan -- he went to REH DAYS in Cross Plains numerous times, often with Jennifer -- TWIN PEAKS, BUFFY, 1960s Marvel Comics, the US Space Program.  I was always extremely flattered that CEREBUS made his list and that he was -- inexplicably -- as enthusiastic as he was about devoting a magazine to CEREBUS even in the midst of the deafening radio silence that met the book's conclusion in March, 2004.  The deafening radio silence persisted -- and persists -- to this day, but Craig was really the first besides me and Gerhard to experience it on a daily basis.  He reacted with characteristic good humour but the issues became harder and harder for him to put together since he had to write virtually everything that I didn't.  And then LITERALLY everything when I decided I was the problem and that I needed to withdraw from public view.

Like the last ten years of CEREBUS, though, it was always extremely gratifying to get the new issue in, to read it and say, "This is good work.  Craig and I did good work."  Or, with the last one, "Craig did a great job on this."  That's really ALL that could be said but, as with MINDS, GUYS, RICK'S STORY, GOING HOME, FORM & VOID, LATTER DAYS, THE LAST DAY, JUDENHASS, glamourpuss, CEREBUS ARCHIVE and CEREBUS TV, it was enough.

It HAD to be.

Fare thee well, Craig.  It was a pleasure having you along for a few years on this long, weird ride while it lasted.  I'll always consider our 2004 to 2010 correspondence a centerpiece of the CEREBUS ARCHIVE correspondence files and I'm sure future generations -- way, way, WAY off in the future -- will agree. 


Michael A Battaglia said...

I almost wish I hadn't heard about the custody issues, it just adds to the bad news. It is so deeply painful to have to go through something like that; having the mother of your own child question your love for the child and your capabilities as a father when there is no cause for such a thing outside of the mother's ego, and of course it only hurts the child, making the mother something worse than merely selfish.

I had the very weird experience of corresponding with Craig via email while house-sitting for the actor who played "Ben Horne" on Twin Peaks (R. Beymer). It was fittingly surreal, and the actor's unsettling painting/sculptures (dark, giant paintings with vacuum tubes and plastic fetuses glued onto the surface) served as a kind of eerie, depressing backdrop. In short, it seemed every bit like I was IN an episode of Twin Peaks while conversing with the writer of the Twin Peaks fanzine. Ironic note - I discovered Craig through Following Cerebus, not Twin Peaks.

Craig seemed like one of those people that just radiated likeability, to the degree that if anyone had issues with him, they only needed to look in the mirror to get to the source of those issues. May you rest in beautiful peace Craig Miller.

Gidi Anselm said...

I'm a big fan of Cerebus, of David Foster Wallace and to a degree am interested in David Lynch as well. That article sounds fascinating, could you possibly post it?


Max Southall said...

Craig had just sent me new video footage with his voiceover for inclusion on CerebusTV and was preparing other visual materials to be edited into it.

Gerhard and I had just been discussing Craig last week while Jan and I were visiting Ger and Shelley at their country abode. I had proposed to Craig that Following Cerebus #13 be an "All-Gerhard" issue, including articles and interviews about his latest projects - Craig was totally enthused by this and we were getting together all the materials for what was supposed to come out by next summer. I was also somewhat secretly planning to get an article in there that focused on Craig's own original work.

Somehow, we'll use all these things in an upcoming episode. I would particularly like to get in contact with John Throrne, Craig's copublisher.

Mateor said...

I have what I believe to be a full run of Following Cerebus here at the house.

I really enjoyed the middle of that run, took days to get through an issue. I especially liked the issue on copyright and IP

Depressing, as Michael said, to hear of real-life struggle behind it all. Unsurprising, as usual, to see the extra mile gone by Dave to do the next right thing upon the news.

The homage covers were absolutely out of this world.

Jeff Seiler said...

I had the privilege of speaking over the phone with Craig several times during the run of Following Cerebus, although I never got to meet him in person even though we lived just 40 miles apart during much of that run.

I always knew that I could call him ANY time and that he would be unfailingly friendly and polite.

A brief mention should be made of the kind tribute and generosity of Dave Sim. He is always the consummate gentleman, something that cannot be mentioned enough.

Following Cerebus will be sorely missed. Enjoy your greater reward, Craig.

--Jeff Seiler