Tuesday, 31 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (7)

Why do you seem to care so much what the comics community thinks of your work?  As an artist, isn't the act of creativity done for its own sake, irrespective of the public's reaction to/acceptance of it?

Very much so...and...it depends on what you mean by "care".  I care about my work, whatever it is at the moment.  If I'm typing a letter I try to type a very good letter.  If I'm doing a head sketch I try to do a very good head sketch.  If I'm writing or drawing a comic page I try to write and draw a good comic page.  I think it shows clear evidence of where my actual priorities are that that didn't change when, overnight, I went from "frequent multiple award nominee" and one of Ken Viola's COMIC BOOK MASTERS to "comics' 2nd or 3rd best letterer, exclusively" after the publication of issue 186.
The Masters Of Comic Book Art VHS, front and back cover (1987)
Director Ken Viola
My reaction wasn't then -- and isn't now -- "Oh, how deeply wounded, emotionally, am I by this rejection by my public."  It's "Do you really believe this politically-based 180-degree inverse reaction to my and Gerhard's work is intellectually sustainable in the long term?"  Dave Sim and Gerhard's MINDS, GUYS, RICK'S STORY, GOING HOME, FORM & VOID, LATTER DAYS and THE LAST DAY are ALL -- apart from the lettering -- of little to no critical value "because Dave Sim went bat-s--t insane"?

It's certainly proved sustainable over the decade -- 1994 to 2004 -- from the publication of 186 to the publication of issue 300.  And it's certainly proved sustainable over the 8 years since the last issue saw print.  But, I think the whole construct is getting a little...wobbly...along about now, and I think the Internet is a big reason behind that.  Men and women who were BORN in 1994 are 18 years old today.  They've been reared on "computer proof" -- Google it and judge it yourself.  They can access issue 186 for free at Torrents (READS volume, pages 227 to 246 inclusive) with the click of a mouse and judge for themselves.  Which I welcome them to do.

They don't rely on any -- not naming any names -- esoteric comics propagandist vehicles to tell them what to think.  They are also quite used to being told that people are "bat-s--t insane" and usually find -- as they find with Hitler and Nazi analogies -- that the problem USUALLY isn't the creative work itself, it's the over-heated rhetorical dramatics of trolls opposing it largely for emotion-based reasons...and counting on the fact that no one will actually examine the work itself but just trust to "what they've heard".  That doesn't work nearly as well today as it has for the last 18 years.

(As an illustration of the difference from "back then" to "now" bear in mind that back in 1994 when 186 was published, the term "troll" in its widely-understood "Internetian" sense didn't even exist)

...so the people who were in their teens, 20s and 30s in 1994 are -- starting very recently, now that they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s -- to have to face the question:  "You all turned troll or silently watched while the trolls destroyed the careers of the two creators of the world's longest graphic novel...over THIS?"  
The Masters Of Comic Book Art (1987):
Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, Neil Adams, Berni Wrightson,
Jean 'Moebius' Giraud, Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Art Spiegelman, with author Harlan Ellison
Okay, you've got a related follow-up question here someplace.  Let me shuffle through my thoroughly disorganized pile of papers here a minute.  Ah!  Here it is.  The next one on your list.  No wonder I couldn't find it.  It was hiding right where it was supposed to be.

My CEREBUS volumes sit comfortably on my shelves next to books by Moore, Ware, Clowes, Spiegelman, Los Bros Hernandez, etc.  Is the respect of your peers important to you?

Another very good question!  "Is the respect of Dave Sim's peers important to him?"  "Will Commissioner Gordon arrive in time to save the Dynamic Duo from King Tut's nefarious double death-trap?" Tune in tomorrow... SAME Moment of Cerebus Time. SAME Moment of Cerebus Channel and find out!

Monday, 30 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (6)

Kickstarter and digitalisation.  Technologically you've gone from 0 to 60 mph (as we used to say when that was impressive) in less than five seconds and just in time, too.  Can we please get with the e-mail, now?

I'm afraid not.  I'm still -- after having ditched glamourpuss, CEREBUS ARCHIVE and CEREBUS TV -- working 12 hours a day 6 days a week.  Just a week or so ago, I spent five of those 12-hour days answering a five-inch stack of mail.  I'm really not looking for more ways for people to have access to me.  I've had a limited experience with e-mail on the Kickstarter campaign with the "send message" function on the "backer report".  Go down the list of people I have to contact and type a short note and then -- on to the next one.  Except by the time I'm at the bottom of my list, I'm starting to get answers from the earlier people.  I measure all of this by my "coffee shop time".  How long have I been sitting here typing and Google searching and adding comments and reading comments and posting updates?  I think you'd agree that a 12-hour day is a pretty substantial working day.  Once it gets up to an hour of "coffee shop time" I'm aware that I'm using up a good chunk of my working day on what I would consider marginal pursuits.  I mean, I have it factored in as part of trying to keep the Kickstarter thing going.  But, today is a good example -- I came here for a specific purpose related to Kickstarter, logged in and saw Sandeep's update with the Cerebus Archive material and promptly forgot what I was here for.  Post a quick a hello to Richard Bruning?  Well, no -- I need to THINK of what I'm here for.

If I had this at HOME?  Forget about it.  Spent all 12 hours yesterday -- except for delivering the next batch of signed books to Postnet to be shipped to John and authenticating one of the pledge partners' CEREBUS No.1's and FedExing it back to him -- finishing the last three full figure Cerebuses on A-V stationery and starting in on the list of Cerebus head sketches on A-V stationery.  I think I have 111 of them to do.
See, I count myself lucky that I can sit out on the back porch and do them.  Alternating between that and sitting in my office in the air-conditioning and doing them.  It's a very nice office.  It's nice to be able to actually sit in it from time to time.  The last three years of working on glamourpuss, CEREBUS ARCHIVE and CEREBUS TV I don't think I made it out to the back porch more than twice and never for more than 10 minutes at a time. And the office was just a CEREBUS TV "set" for shooting episodes.
This is my fourth day of Pope, Barbarian, Barbarian, Pope, Drunk, Pope, Drunk, Groucho, Pope.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm very grateful for the revenue (VERY grateful) but there does come a point when you think your brain is going to turn to cream cheese.  Okay.  Take a break.  Down to the coffee shop.  But I've got one eye on the clock.  At home, I'd be forever pulling out my cellphone (if I had one) or checking the computer (if mine was hooked up to the Internet) for e-mail and then answering it. I'll just answer this one.  Basically avoiding work.
Also, I consider my work to be "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond".  I have a 3-subject notebook here.  Let me see: Section 1, Kickstarter.  52 pages.  Section 2.  "Strange Death of Alex Raymond".  3 pages.  I haven't drawn a page or worked on a page since June 25.  I'm pretty focussed on getting to the point where I could put in some 12-hour days on what I consider my work.  But I have to be focussed on that in order to get there.  No, I don't see e-mail as helping me to get to "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond" sooner.  Same reason I don't have the ringer turned on on my phone.  If the phone rang and I answered it, I'd have to talk to whoever it was.  Which would be GREAT since I don't really talk to anyone.  GREAT as in pleasurable.  Not so great when it comes to getting back to working on "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond".  No, better that I get a phone message and then I can figure out if I need to answer it or what I need to do about it.  WHILE I'm working.  I can't talk on the phone and do a decent head sketch.  I can, however, mull over a phone message while I'm doing a head sketch.

So, sorry.  No e-mail until I see a good reason for it.
The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond (Glamourpuss #25, May 2012)
Art by Dave Sim
Okay, time for a Tim question!

Why do you seem to care so much about what the comics community thinks of your work?  As an artist, isn't the act of creativity done for its own sake, irrespective of the public's reaction/acceptance of it?

Okay, good question.  I'll get to that one next.  Now I have some Barbarian, Pope, Pope, Pope, Drunk, Barbarian, Groucho, Young, Old, Baby head sketches to do.  See you quasi-tomorrow?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

New Releases: July 2012

Glamourpuss #26
by Dave Sim
Aardvark-Vanaheim
$3.00
In the final issue of Glamourpuss in its current format... It's Zootanapuss vs. Cosplay Lass and her Kosupure Kaos Posse. Who will win? Can Bunny face down Mr. Rat, da Killa Chinchilla? Toma dis Kitty put you in a coma? QT McWhiskers, yo butt be will kiskers? Also in the History of Photorealism in Comics, Dave Sim continues to compare the various versions of the September 6, 1956 car accident that claimed the life of Alex Raymond.
On sale: August 2012
Available from your local comics shop

Cerebus Original Art Auction

BILL SCHANES:
(by email, 6 June 2012)
While talking with Dave Sim earlier today, he mentioned that A Moment Of Cerebus is a website dedicated to all things Cerebus and Dave Sim. I had previously mentioned to Dave that I was putting a number of my Cerebus original art pages into an upcoming Metropolis Art Auction and he thought it might be a good idea if I drop you a line to maybe see if you’d be willing to mention this on the site. Here's the list of pages I'm selling with links to the auction, which ends on 13th August:

Issue #7 page 6 (1977)
Issue #18 page 9 (1978)
Issue #19 page 2 (1978)
Issue #19 page 11 (1978)
Issue #20 page 5 (1978) signed
Issue #20 page 9 (1978) signed
Issue #21 page 2 (1978)

During my 14 years of owning Pacific Comics (with my brother Steve), I purchased a wide range of main stream comic book artwork, as well as indy artists that I either had worked with, knew of, or just enjoyed their artwork. Dave fell into all 3 categories, so I was pleased to purchase these pages I believe at that years San Diego Comicon (I don't recall who I purchased them from some 30+ years ago). I was also able to work with Dave during my publishing days and I published Dave Sim's Six Deadly Sins of Cerebus Portfolio back in the day.

From 1971 through 1985, I was pretty active in buying artwork, lithographs and other comic related items (I have about 4,000 pieces in my collection - of which old comics consist of less than 100 total). I've never sold anything before and felt this would be a good time to see what the market will bear for some of my items, the proceeds of which will help me pay for some upgrades to my house.

Bill Schanes, together with his brother Steve, co-founded Pacific Comics in 1971. Pacific Comics was an early pioneer in the direct market method of selling comic books, and from 1981 was a publisher in its own right, actively promoting creator-owned properties by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Dave Stevens, Mike Grell and others. After Pacific Comics closed its doors in 1984, Bill joined Steve Geppi's Diamond Comic Distributors and is currently Vice President for Purchasing.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Video Parade

Masters Of Comic Book Art (1987):


Dave Sim on What On Earth (1994):


Dave Sim & Gerhard at #300 (2004):


Dave Sim at Space (2007):


Cerebus The Animated Movie:


Oliver Simonsen Interview:


Cerebus Kickstarter: High Society (2012):

Friday, 27 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (5)

Are you now converted to the idea of "crowd-funding" and the Kickstarter concept?  Has this changed your views on the possibilities of the Internet or do you still equate it to CB radio?

In terms of me, personally, I'm definitely convinced that "crowd-funding" and Kickstarter can definitely work well for HIGH SOCIETY audio/digital in June of 2012.  The possibilities of the Internet are pretty much limitless, I'm just not sure that they work for me or my work.  One of the things that drives things on the Internet is short-term novelty.  CEREBUS TV worked, briefly, for the first few months as it was intended to: to generate interest in e-Bay auctions of my artwork.  And then it didn't.  The bottom just dropped out of it.  I assume that Kickstarter and crowd-funding will be the same way.  It's a novelty and it's working really well for most people but not all people.  What happens when it's no longer a novelty is another question.  I do think you have to go where the people are.  Kickstarter has its own devotees just of the concept -- people who are hooked on finding cool campaigns and supporting them. This is a cool party because there are all these people here and the numbers are just rolling over and rolling over.  Who cares what the project is?  Being here is JUST COOL!  That's an exaggeration, but that's what I'm trying to think of now.

But, I'm also convinced that you can't look TOO FAR down the road.  I'm starting with the supposition that Kickstarter will still be a novelty and "where people go" through the end of the year or into 2013 so it's worth planning another campaign centred on the CEREBUS volume for 2013.  But Kickstarter could very well turn out to be a "Just Too, Too 2013" thing by 2014 and a CB radio.  CB radios were VERY popular for a while there.

I could never have imagined CEREBUS TV in 2008 and I could never have imagined HIGH SOCIETY audio/digitial in 2011.  I think it stands to reason that I couldn't possibly imagine what I will be doing for a living in 2013 just because it's 2012.  I'll know when I get there and it's time to do that thing -- whatever it is.  What I'll be doing in 2015 probably doesn't exist today even as a concept.

Stephen has his best BBC HARDtalk face on and he's literally pawing the turf, so let's give him our next question and our next cliffhanger.  Mr. Holland, sir?

Kickstarter and digitalisation.  Technologically you've gone from 0 to 60 mph (as we used to say when that was impressive) in less than five seconds and just in time, too.  Can we please get with the e-mail, now?

Don't miss all the Action when Hardtalk continues on Monday... Same Moment of Cerebus Time! Same Moment of Cerebus Channel!
Coming Soon: Cerebus TV DVDs

Thursday, 26 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (4)

Most of CEREBUS remains in print in the phone books, but will there ever be a CEREBUS MISCELLANY volume, as has been suggested before, gathering up other uncollected materials?

Sandeep was over the other day just as I was getting inundated with boxes of comics that needed to be signed for the Kickstarter campaign and I said, "You know, I'm starting to think that a 6,000-page comic book is an inherently bad idea."  He laughed, of course, but I was only partly joking.  The logistics of keeping that much material in print is pretty much overwhelming particularly in a massive economic downturn when you're in your late fifties and fading fast.  On one level, it would be great to do a CEREBUS MISCELLANY volume, a book of the covers, a colour volume.  But I also have to keep 16 volumes in print at a cost of roughly $6K to $8K a book.  I'm just a regular guy, you know.  A self-publisher.

I'm still waiting to see what I turn into now that CEREBUS ARCHIVE, CEREBUS TV and glamourpuss are all done.  The Kickstarter thing and getting HIGH SOCIETY audio-digital prepped is pretty much an all-summer project.  I've been drawing full figure Cerebus sketches on A-V stationery since 10 this morning and it's now 6 pm and I've got about 12 out of 32 done.  So you're talking two full days just to get the $175 pledge level sketches done.  I've been signing and sketching non-stop since the campaign ended June 30th and I'm making some real progress.  I'm probably halfway through.  But when it takes you three weeks to be halfway through something, you tend not to be sitting there going, "Hmm -- what OTHER massive, time-consuming, expensive-to-print project with no indication it would be remotely successful can I start planning right here, right now?"

Kickstarter worked, which made HIGH SOCIETY audio-digital possible.  So, I tend to think in terms of doing the same thing with the first CEREBUS volume.  Stick close to home.  THIS worked. So, let's do something AS CLOSE TO THIS as we can think of and let's not think past that point.

Okay, let's go back to Tim for the next question and our next cliffhanger:

Are you now converted to the idea of "crowd-funding" and the Kickstarter concept?  Has this changed your views on the possibilities of the Internet or do you still equate it to CB radio?

Don't Miss All the Action Tomorrow... or the next day or the Day After That. Same Moment of Cerebus Time! Same Moment of Cerebus Channel!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (3)

When we spoke on the phone the other day you came out as a royalist surprised that you could find no royalist sympathisers on this side of the pond. What I don't get is this: you were one of comics' most radical iconoclasts as well as innovator and your portrayal of Thatcher to me (possibly clouded by my own contempt for the poisonous cow) was as a repressive, suppressive, conniving bitch - especially when it came to art. She was the jailor to artists. We all thought you were a liberal-leftie after our own hearts. Obviously I understand from what you've written over the last fifteen years that this is no longer the case. But were we always wrong or are you just wrong now? ;)
Mrs Thatcher from Cerebus #134 (May 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Well, speaking of Uncle Alan, it was he who gave me the Mrs. Thatcher character back in those Ancient Days when he was still married to Aunt Phyllis and Other Aunt Debbie (has there ever been an example of a successful "The Couple Takes A Wife Or At Least Hooks Up With a Girlfriend"?  Deni and I tried it as well -- just bad news all the way around).  He used to do this immaculate parody of Mrs. Thatcher's intonation -- that she had a very :( voice she reserved for discussing the Unemployed or Trade Unions and a :) voice she reserved for discussing families and religious faith and so on.

I realized she was the Cirinist I had been looking for for the denouement of JAKA'S STORY.  See I thought Alan was wide of the mark (even though his impression was spot on) because he saw Mrs. Thatcher as a living caricature -- basically the same thing that he did with Rorschach in WATCHMEN, choosing to see Steve Ditko's THE QUESTION as a caricature and do his own version that way.  No, Mrs. Thatcher was a far more interesting character than that, and in the same way:  she saw very sharp demarcations between good and evil, as does Steve Ditko (as do I now -- not so much then: and at the time, I was just deferential to Alan.  He was THE Alan Moore and I was "merely Dave Sim".  And obviously since then he's become more "THE" and I've become more "merely").

Mrs Thatcher in Cerebus #135 (June 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
I mean, in JAKA'S STORY she beats Jaka cold by reading to her from Pud's diary and quoting the tavern owner who said "they'd shoot me dead as a dog" if he employed a dancer.  The whole purpose of JAKA'S STORY was to set all of these characters in motion and have them...do what they were going to do.  Jaka can only do what Jaka does, Mrs. Thatcher can only do what Mrs. Thatcher does, Rick can only do what Rick does, Pud can only do what Pud does, Oscar can only do what Oscar does. It's a conflagration just waiting to happen.  Are they wrong?  And if they ARE wrong, HOW are they wrong?  You really can't fault Mrs. Thatcher's logic, even as you think that Jaka should be allowed to do whatever she wants.  Likewise, Rick's foremost ambition is to have a son.  WANTING to have a son, who can fault that?  At the same time, he's this hopeless little boy, the furthest thing from a provider.  They all do what they do and are who they are and There Are Consequences.

You can read JAKA'S STORY as a devout liberal-leftie, but you're going to miss most of the point of what I was saying and conclude "s--t happens".  Well, it didn't just "happen" -- everyone made it happen by making bad choices and pursuing them.

From a liberal-leftie perspective, obviously I'm wrong.  Just remember, wherever you live, if you're a liberal, you're surrounded by millions of conservatives and if you're a conservative, you're surrounded by millions of liberals.  Okay, let's take a question from Eric and Dominick and have that as our cliffhanger:

Most of CEREBUS remains in print in the phone books, but will there ever be a CEREBUS MISCELLANY volume, as has been suggested before, gathering up other uncollected materials?

Don't Miss All the Action Tomorrow... or the next day or the Day After That. Same Moment of Cerebus Time! Same Moment of Cerebus Channel!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (2)

Dave, it was a pleasure to receive your random phone call the other day, habitually out of the blue.  You were funny, gracious and convivial.  It was just like old times on the signing circuit.  Your personable charm was always one of your best weapons.  Any plans now to finally come down off that cross and walk among us once more?  Even Uncle Alan gets out and about.

Uh, Stephen, I'm not ON a cross -- not even on a "cross".  I'm where I was put, unfortunately, when the "talked about/not talked about" thing kicked in "in earnest" (sorry, I couldn't resist).  I didn't call myself a misogynist and I think the charge is as ridiculous as you do, but unfortunately it's the most serious charge imaginable in our society so it has to be taken seriously.  I've been saying for some time that I'll happily revisit the question of going out in public if there are 2,000 signatures on the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim is a Misogynist" petition at ipetitions.  Not actually go out in public, but revisit the question.  Until then, we're exactly where we were eighteen years ago.  It's a painful reality for you and people like you who assume that everyone in our society is open-minded and inclusive with those with whom they disagree politically.  Carma Chan is the latest to get a "faceful" of reality when she embarked on her own campaign to get the 2,000 signatures in time for me to consider flying to Los Angeles for the debut of Oliver Simonsen's 3D CEREBUS MOVIE in November at a convention.  Carma is not one to take maybe for an answer and I have to give her full marks -- better than full marks -- she got about 15 or 20 signatures over the course of a few weeks.  Relative to the petition -- and the political climate/elephant in the room we all inhabit/are inhabited by -- that verges on the superhuman.  But, alas, it is what it is.  

It's not a cross or a "cross" and it certainly isn't the Bataan Death March.  It is, to me, a bad choice made worse with each day that goes by -- that is, NOT signing and establishing that you realize (as you and I do) that people have political differences but that political differences aren't settled by name-calling, shunning, vilification and all the rest.  You've got another question along the same lines here somewhere.  

While I'm looking for it, let me apologize for being one of those people who only phones when he needs something.  In this case, a place for Alexa to crash for the night.  I got a postcard from her saying that PAGE 45 is, indeed, the best comic store in the world and telling me how interesting it was to hear all those stories of the "pre-Biblical" Dave Sim. I'd accuse you of embellishing, but the "pre-Biblical" "On Tour" Dave Sim never needed it.  I haven't heard from her since.  Coincidence?  

Ah! here's your question now:

When we spoke on the phone the other day you came out as a royalist surprised that you could find no royalist sympathisers on this side of the pond. What I don't get is this: you were one of comics' most radical iconoclasts as well as innovator and your portrayal of Thatcher to me (possibly clouded by my own contempt for the poisonous cow) was as a repressive, suppressive, conniving bitch - especially when it came to art. She was the jailor to artists. We all thought you were a liberal-leftie after our own hearts. Obviously I understand from what you've written over the last fifteen years that this is no longer the case. But were we always wrong or are you just wrong now? ;)

Whoa!  What will Dave Sim say to that?  Don't Miss All the Action Tomorrow... or the next day or the Day After That. Same Moment of Cerebus Time! Same Moment of Cerebus Channel!
Mrs Thatcher in Cerebus #133 (April 1990)
Art by Dave & Gerhard

Monday, 23 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview (1)

Dave Sim has very kindly agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to participate in 'a-question-a-day' style interview. Thanks to Stephen Holland (co-founder/owner of the UK-based comics store Page 45), Eric Hoffman (editor of the collected essays Cerebus The Barbarian Messiah) and Dominck Grace (co-editor with Eric of the upcoming Dave Sim: Conversations) for taking turns in the interviewer's chair. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome... Mr. Dave Sim!

Okay, everyone thank Tim for being so generous at the Kickstarter campaign, waiving his Dave Sim phone call in exchange for this (these?) interview(s?).  Not sure how many questions I'll get to or how often, but I'll try to keep up. First question goes to Tim his own self:

Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about". Discuss.  

I assume this counts for half of my final grade.  Speaking from personal experience over the last twenty years, I'd have to say there's a meeting place between the two:  where you are pointedly NOT being talked about (i.e. shunned and "ignored to death") and also being talked about in entirely negative terms (i.e. when you get to the point where anything nice that is said about you is framed in terms of "While I completely disagree with everything Dave Sim says and I think we all know that he's bat-s--t insane, there's something to be said for the quality of his lettering").  Obviously, Oscar Wilde experienced that himself after the "debacle".  I'd have fled to a metaphorical Paris, but I have no idea where that might be in the comic-book world.  
Oscar Wilde in Cerebus #121 (April 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Tomorrow's question?  Or the next day.  Or the next day?  Anyway, it goes to Stephen Holland of PAGE 45 who prefaces his question with "My personal affection for Dave has never wavered, nor my stance in sticking up for him in public where it actually counts WHEN it counted most..."

PAST tense, Stephen?  Hardly!  We're still at under 400 names on the petition.  You're still in the "uncommon bravery" category, pooh-pooh it as I'm sure you will.

"But, I think it's time to introduce the man to the concept of BBC's 'HARDtalk'.  It makes for a more interesting interview when the interviewer is at least informed and wants his subject to shine."

MM.  My impression of "HARDtalk" from Tim's description is that the 'shine' comes from the sweat glistening on the subject's forehead in the 3rd Degree klieg lights.  Do your worst, copper!

Dave, it was a pleasure to receive your random phone call the other day, habitually out of the blue.  You were funny, gracious and convivial.  It was just like old times on the signing circuit.  Your personable charm was always one of your best weapons.  Any plans now to finally come down off that cross and walk among us once more?  Even Uncle Alan gets out and about.

GASP! What will Dave Sim say to that? ("Funny, Gracious and Convivial, good morning. I'm sorry Mr. Funny isn't in today, would you care to speak to Mr. Convivial?")  Tune in tomorrow. Same Moment of Cerebus Time! Same Moment of Cerebus Channel!
Alan Moore in Cerebus #239 (February 1999)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Sunday, 22 July 2012

HARDtalk: The Dave Sim Interview

From tomorrow, Dave Sim submits himself to HARDtalk, a no-holds-barred, a-question-a-day interview right here on A Moment Of Cerebus. Our guest interviewers - Stephen Holland (co-founder/owner of the UK-based comics store Page 45), Eric Hoffman (editor of the collected essays Cerebus The Barbarian Messiah) and Dominck Grace (co-editor with Eric of the upcoming Dave Sim: Conversations) - take turns each day in the interviewer's chair and give Dave a grilling that would make even The Comics Journal wince. Don't miss a minute of the action!

An Affinity For Airplanes

Cerebus #258 (September 2000)
Art by Gerhard
GERHARD:
(from the interview at The Comics Journal, December 2010)
...we were both sort of like, "How the hell do we get airplanes into Cerebus?" And [Dave Sim] knew my affinity for airplanes - I've always been into them ever since I was a kid. It's been airplanes and drawing for me for as long as I can remember. So he set the task for me to design an airship that could exist in Cerebus' world. I knew because of the sound effects on [pages] 468 and 469 that it would have to be steam-powered. And obviously it would be a balloon, so the steam could provide hot air for the balloon.

And I've always been interested in boating too, ever since I started sailing, so it was a matter of combining those elements. So I've got a hot-air balloon and a boat that uses a big wing-like or duck-feet-like paddles that uses those to push itself through the sky. This was another thing that I made a computer model of. On 524, the sequence where it's circling the falls, is the actual sequence of how the paddles move. They go flat and straight for the forward motion so that there's the least amount of air resistance, and they turn so they grab as much air as possible, and then they swing back and push the airship forward. And I had all that on a computer model, a very simple one, just to make sure I had the sequence right, so this thing could kind of paddle its way through the sky.

...this had to be something right out of left field, that only existed in Cerebus' world. Because I'd been such a fan of airplanes and flight, I was already really aware of the early steps of flight. So it was more like, "How would I have done it?" I don't actually have to physically do it myself, but in theory anyway, how would I approach it?
Cerebus #258 (September 2000)
Art by Gerhard
Read the full interview with Gerhard at The Comics Journal: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Primitive Manned Flight

Cerebus #255 (June 2000)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from the notes To Ham & Ham Not, Cerebus #255, June 2000)
When I was collaborating with other artists on short back-up stories in Swords Of Cerebus, I wanted to do one with Barry Windsor-Smith, who was and is a big influence on my work... I called Barry on the telephone and suggested that we work "Marvel-style", that is, that he would pencil the story and I would write and letter it from his pencils. The idea that I gave to him came from a story which I had heard about Leonardo da Vinci. The story was that, in his old age, Leonardo used to terrify his nurses by inflating sheep's bladders as one would inflate a balloon, blowing them up until they filled his bedroom and crowded out his nurses. I told Barry that it was interesting to me that Leonardo, who was all of his life obsessed with the possibility of "manned flight" (this taking place in the Renaissance and, thus, well before our own time, it is permissible to call it "manned flight" instead of "personned flight" or "manned or womynned flight"), would have missed so completely the obvious - hot air balloons - even when he was holding the idea in the form of a sheep-bladder-metaphor in the palm of his hand. I sketched out very roughly and verbally a story idea where Cerebus would encounter a Leonardo-like figure assembling his own hot-air balloon, which he had just invented.

When I next spoke to Barry, he was chagrined (being a verb which can only be used accurately when you are describing an English person). Barry was chagrined with his efforts on the story in that it was already many pages long (!!!!) and it did not, in his view, appear to be going anywhere. To Barry it did not appear to be going anywhere. To me, it was an unpublished Barry Windsor-Smith-pencilled Cerebus story and so it was just fine as it was and should be sent to me as soon as possible when Barry finished it. Barry demurred (a verb which also is a verb which can only be used accurately when you are describing what an English person does when he is completely and definitely chagrined). Instead Barry came up with the wonderful and delightful Cerebus Dreams short story, which is in the back of Swords Of Cerebus volume five and which has nothing to do with even dream hot-air balloons.

Many years later, when Barry's Storyteller anthology came out, featuring his The Freebooters serial... I thought I recognised, from my memory of it, his description of parts of the stillborn Cerebus back-up story in the first few pages. Among many delightful details, these pages featured two scantily-clad young women in a very imaginative "airship" that appeared to be part-boat and part-dirigible (this, possibly, being a veiled reference to a night when I and two young women - later characterised as "floozies" by Barry - actually dragged Barry to the famous New York City Danceteria during its hey-day, and, again, possibly not) (possibly not a veiled reference; the young women were definitely "floozies").

Anyway, having decided that the time was right for primitive "manned flight" to make its debut in Cerebus's world, I have chosen to repossess Barry's airship concept (and have Gerhard reconfigure the whole thing with steam power added truly and good into the bargain as well), since said debut would have prefigured by many, many years if Barry had just stuck to my original idea. If the first few pages of The Freebooters did not originate with the stillborn Swords back-up story, then using Barry's airships constitutes outright thievery on my part, and I beg Barry's indulgence in the matter (which is something that also as well you do only with English people).
The Freebooters in Storyteller #1 (Dark Horse Comics, 1996)
Art by Barry Windsor-Smith
The collected edition of Barry Windsor-Smith's The Freebooters is now available form Fantagraphics Books.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Picasso vs Rockwell

Saturday Evening Post covers
by Norman Rockwell
DAVE SIM:
(from notes on Form & Void, Cerebus #253, April 2000)
Let's say someone is holding a gun to your head and he tells you that you have to do an exact copy of one of these paintings in a week. And one of the paintings is a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and one of the paintings is a Picasso. It doesn't matter which one, as long as the Picasso is one of the ones that is just a geometric patchwork of painted shapes. So, any Picasso from Cubism onward. The Rockwell can be any Saturday Evening Post cover. Now, with a gun at your head and your life on the line, which one are you going to copy? Exactly. Because pretty much anyone can do it. It takes no talent. It is the Emperor's New Clothes.

...I have no problem with people who like what Picasso did and who call them paintings or art with a straight face. Some people eat peanut butter on pizza. What I do have a problem with is equating what Picasso did with what (as a fine example) Norman Rockwell did, since what one did was easy and stupid and what the other did was difficult and admirable.

...I have an even bigger problem with those people who try to equate Norman Rockwell with Picasso-from-Cubism-onward as if there is any foundation for discussion for anyone with two eyes to see; a still bigger problem with those people who take the concession that Picasso-from-Cubism-onwards might be creativity as well (albeit on a much lower plane of creativity) and who then reciprocate by claiming that Rockwell was a "mere commercial illustrator" and who attempt to elevate whatever it is that Picasso did not only above its sensible place in the artistic pecking order, but also and as well above Norman Rockwell; and a still even yet bigger problem with those who attempt to elevate a floor-to-ceiling canvas consisting of nothing but a giant orange rectangle with a white dot in the middle also as well above Norman Rockwell's pictures. To me, anyone who is that stupid is not worth discussing art or Art with. When you are willing to talk sensibly... about the finer distinctions between the British Academy's idea in the Victorian era of what constituted a good painting and how they were foolish to reject the Impressionists' paintings out of hand as "unfinished colour sketches" and "ideas for paintings" and to discuss Ruskin's "libel" or libel or Libel in accusing Whistler with his Nocturnes of "flinging a paint pot in the face of the public", then I am willing to see where and what you place higher or lower than I do as to what constitutes art and what constitutes Art in the world of painting. However, if you want to talk to me about Cubism and floor-to-ceiling canvasses that are one big orange rectangle with a white dot in the middle of it, then, excuse me, but all I can do is laugh and turn away after telling you to go and waste someone else's time, because, to me, you are like a drunk in a bar or a feminist: "It is not that I do not understand what you are saying. I understand what you are saying. But I think you are wrong and I will continue to think you are wrong no matter how many times you repeat the same stupid things that you keep repeating."

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Merchandise: Cloisonne Pins

Official Cerebus 'Cloisonne Pins' available from Graphitti Designs:
Cerebus The Barbarian, Cerebus The Candidate
Cerebus The Prime Minister, Most Holy and Young Cerebus.

The Puma Blues Pin-Up

Puma Plues #20 (Aardvark One International, 1988)
Art by Dave Sim

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Publishing The Puma Blues

The Puma Blues #1 (Aardvark One International, 1986)
by Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli
DAVE SIM:
(from an interview in The Comics Journal #130, July 1989)
...I've been on the other side of the fence, too. I know how annoying creators can be. Particularly when you're trying to get books out on schedule. I decided ultimately that it wasn't possible to do it. I found far too many instances where I intruded in the process, where I intruded in the creative process despite my best efforts not to just by virtue of the relationship. A good example of that was when I met the Puma Blues guys, Stephen Murphy wrote it and lettered it. He wasn't much of a letterer, and he admitted to not being much of a letterer, but I figure he'll get better with time and I think that's kind of a charming idea - a writer/letterer. Now the first thing that they did when Puma Blues moved from Aardvark-One to Mirage was to get a letterer. Then I realised that, just because I thought it was neat that he was the letterer and writer, they probably did that when they really didn't want to. As much as I was saying that I didn't intrude at all in the creative side, there I was making that decision, or being an overly influential part of that decision. Being a publisher has always been the thing that's gotten me in the most trouble relative to morality and moral questions.

Jaime Hernandez: Comic-Con Memories

Jaime & Beto Hernandez in the 1990s.
LA TIMES:
(from the article  Comic-Con Memories, 17 July 2012)
In September 1982, Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez published their first Fantagraphics issue of Love & Rockets but it premiered first at Comic-Con International in San Diego - and if you do the math you'll see why this year's convention was a special one for the illustrious family brand known simply as Los Bros Hernandez. Thirty years in the independent scene have made the Oxnard brothers a signature name at Comic-Con (not to mention the Southern California publishing and art scene) but Jaime Hernandez said it didn't get off to an auspicious start. "The first time we spotted Love & Rockets some guy was already selling it for half-off." There was a far more impassioned response at the 2012 convention as fans cheered the news about three upcoming Los Bros Hernandez releases (including “Love and Rockets: New Stories” No. 5) and a push into the digital world  - but it's fun to look back to the inky past, which is what we asked Jaime Hernandez to do with the list below.

Jaime Hernandez's list of 30 memories from 30 years of the big Con in San Diego included:

"23. I remember when Dave Sim threw parties."

Read the full list at LA Times.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Cerebus Prequels & Sequels

Epic Magazine #26 (Marvel Comics, October 1984)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
(from Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 18, 2 March 2012)
My own view with Cerebus is to leave well enough alone. The reader not only wants you to revisit the material, they want you to go back to 1981 and go back to being who you were then, and to take them back to 1981 and who they were then. I don’t think it can be done, and even if it could, I wouldn't want to do it. I want to be in 2012 and do material that interests me at age 55 which didn't interest me nearly as much when I was 25. At the same time I'm completely open to anyone who wants to do a Cerebus prequel or sequel. I won't authorise it or endorse it, but I won't try to legally crush it like an insect either. It's a risk someone else will have to take if they choose to. You'd better 'measure up' because if you don't, it's going to be a giant step backwards in your own career, but I don't think anyone could rationally blame me... if the prequel falls short.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Barbarian Messiah: Reviews

Cerebus: The Barbarian Messiah: Essays On The Epic Graphic Satire Of Dave Sim & Gerhard, is a collection of critical essays focused on Cerebus, edited by Eric Hoffman. You can order your paperback copy from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, or the Kindle edition from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Here's what people are saying about it:

Midtown Comics (21 June 2012)
Five Stars!
It's about time someone took a serious look at Cerebus, one of the most fascinating and infuriating comics ever. Included here are roughly a dozen fascinating and insightful essays on the Cerebus phenomenon, from its days as a Conan satire to its later explorations of politics, religion, feminism, love and death. Now that the whole of Cerebus is behind us, it's arguable to say that Dave Sim is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this six thousand page opus, as his interests have always driven the narrative of the comic. That he managed to make a coherent tale out of 300 issue comic book series is a testament to his resolve and/or his insanity. I for one found the essays included here a confirmation of Dave (and Gerhard, who gets appropriate attention here) skills as a comics artist and its a worthwhile compendium to the entire Cerebus opus. A useful tool for scholars and comics enthusiasts, this book is well worth the admission price.

Amazon.com (18 April 2012)
Great Essays on a Grand Work - But Too Short! - Four Stars!
A varied collection of critical essays on various aspects of Sim's masterwork, the 6,000-page epic graphic novel Cerebus. My only complaint is that there's so much to explore in that enormous work that this slim volume only scratches the barest of surfaces. Hopefully we'll see more of the same in coming years. Also, this book has helped convince me that no matter how much I disagree with his politics, Sim is not the lunatic or misogynist he's been painted as in the limited niche of the comics press. 

Amazon.com (27 March 2012):
Excellent Overview of Dave Sim's Massive Masterpiece - Five Stars!
This book serves a dual purpose: first, for the unitiated it is an excellent introduction to Dave Sim's twenty-six year, six thousand page magnum opus. For those already seasoned Cerebus readers, it is probably the most in-depth study of the work to date. I've read (most) of Cerebus several times and this book pointed out several things that passed my notice in addition to providing considerable insight into the work. This book is not a general overview, but contains about a dozen very interesting and in-depth essays on various aspects of Cerebus. The lengthy introduction provides a much-needed historical context for the work, and does a good job arguing that Cerebus is a truly original piece of work that could only have happened during a certain time and place. I found the essays on Sim's quite original lettering and the essays on gender politics to be the most fascinating, probably because those were aspects of the work that most impressed and infuriated me. Highly recommended!

Barnes & Noble (21 March 2012):
Five Stars!
A fascinating and in-depth study of a major work in comics history. The essayists here do a fine job tackling a pretty hefty subject - a six thousand page graphic novel written over twenty six years. Included is a lengthy introduction providing a biography of Dave Sim and a historical context to the work. Essays focus primarily on the structure of the work, various visual components like Sim's lettering and Gerhard's backgrounds, considerations of Sim's use of caricatures, one essay concentrating entirely on his use of Oscar Wilde, and discussions of Sim's views on women and religion. Highly recommended.

Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 30 features an interview with Eric Hoffman discussing Cerebus: The Barbarian Messiah and his future plans for Dave Sim: Conversations, a book compilation of interviews with the Cerebus creator from across the years.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work!!

Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work!!
Click image to enlarge.
DAVE SIM:
(from Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 30, July 2012)
Sandeep found this actually on the internet someplace: Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work. "Are you interested in this or have you ever heard of this?" Interested? I was darn near hypnotised. I'd seen it once decades ago before I was working on Cerebus and even though I could remember very few of them it was certainly a mental checklist that I always had in mind.

I love Wood's subheading: Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work or Some Interesting Ways To Get Variety In To Those Boring Panels Where Some Dumb Writer Has A Bunch Of Lame Characters Sitting Around And Talking For Page After Page. Guilty as charged your Honour.

I quoted from Wood's other credo in Glamourpuss #6, "Never draw what you can swipe. Never swipe what you can trace. Never trace what you can photocopy. Never photocopy what you can clip out and paste down." As I said in Glamourpuss #6, I was tempted to clip the Gilbert Ortiz photo and the Sally Forth panels, just clip them right out of my copy of Vanguard Press’s Wally’s World: The Brilliant Life And Tragic Death Of Wally Wood, The World’s Second-Best Comic Book Artist by Steve Atarger and J. David Spurlock, and just paste them on to the page. Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck.
Glamourpuss #6 (2009)
Art by Dave Sim
As Wood’s long time assistant, student and collaborator Dan Atkins said in his contribution "He got the highest rate in the industry. $200 per page at MAD Magazine where he was the most popular artist. When he quit MAD Magazine and went over to Marvel Comics, Marvel's starting rate at the time were $20 per page to pencil and $15 per page to ink. Out of respect to Wally, they paid him $45 per page to pencil and ink, but not the bonus money he was looking for."

People forget how enormous a deal it was for Wally Wood to go to Marvel Comics back in 1964. Just a huge deal. How huge a deal? So huge that on the front cover of Daredevil #5, his first contribution, there was the unprecedented caption block, "Under the brilliant artistic craftsmanship of famous illustrator Wally Wood, Daredevil reaches new heights of glory!"

So the swipe / trace / photocopy / cut out and paste down credo which certainly has come to be seen that Wally Wood was this complete unrepentant hack, an assessment that has in many was also attached itself to the 22 Panel That Always Work, I think has to be viewed through a prism of context. Here’s a guy 37 years old getting paid $200 a page for his work at MAD, he quits MAD, and even getting the top rate at Marvel. He’s now only getting $45 a page. At the ripe old age of 37 he's now got to do 4 pages for every page that he used to do, just to make the same money.

It really cuts to the heart of what a comics illustrator is. Whoever you are, if you're drawing comics, you have to draw a lot of pictures and you have to do it in a very short space of time if you want to make a living at it. Period. Which means in conventional illustrators frames of reference, any one who draws comics is, by definition because of how much drawing they produce and in what space of time, a hack.

There are mitigating circumstances. Atkins mentions that when Wood was made an offer by Tower Comics "he was actually happy to take slightly less per page, $40 per page for pencil and ink, because he practically had total control. It was his show. He also made $20 a page to write and made $2 a page off of the pages he gave others to do." It seems to me the mere fact of choosing artistic control over financial compensation takes you out of the realm of being a hack... So you can call it cynical if you want, but its also a very intelligent thing to do when you’re working with assistants. You don't want them sitting and staring at the page going, "Ah. I really don't know what to do next." Here's 22 panels that always work. Keep it next to your drawing board and if you’re sitting and staring at the page going "I don't know what I’m going to do next." Pick one. Do it. And move on.

And there you have it. Wally Wood’s 22 Panel That Always Work. Now that I've finally got my own copy of it after 30 some odd years it's never going to be too far away from my drawing board.

An official Wallace Wood Estate-authorized print of 22 Panels That Always Work is currently available from Vanguard Productions for $20.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Walking The Tightrope

Marvel Fanfare #25 (Marvel Comics, 1986)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
(from Note From The President in Cerebus #172, July 1993)
A lot of people have misinterpreted my anti-company stance, thinking that what I am saying is that they should not work for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Valiant, Mirage, Rob Liefield, etc, etc, under any circumstances. There can be nothing more beneficial on many occasions than going for a cool relaxing dip in a swimming pool. Likewise with the companies. A dip in their pool can be very relaxing, lucrative and prestigious. But you should get in and get out within a certain time frame. You don't want to live in a swimming pool no matter how cool and refreshing it is, do you? I’ve talked to too many friends in the business who started freelancing for the companies as a temporary measure who are still just freelancing twelve years later. When they finally walk away (or are thrown away), they will have nothing to show for those years apart from whatever is left of their advances, page rates, and royalties. I had a nice chat with a fellow at Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina (great con, by the way. Highly recommended.) who had just attracted the interest of Richard and Wendy Pini for their company-owned Elfquest line. Never had anything published before. As he explained it to me, he had been on cloud nine (naturally enough) at the prospect of becoming a Pro. Then he read the Pro-Con speech and was more than a little unsettled by it and wanted my advice. The best advice I could give was to decide what it was that he wanted. Did he want to be drawing someone else's characters ten years from now?, Well, no, he didn't want that. Five years from now? Two years from now? I told him that whatever length of time he decided he wanted to work on someone else’s characters, he should have that period set firmly in his mind at all times. That he should measure that length of time from the initial overture (Richard and Wendy had expressed interest a few weeks before). Always include the negotiating process in the length of time you are allotting for working on material you don't own. You might not see a script or a contract for three months. That’s three month of your 'career' that shouldn’t be discounted; three months of treading water. As I mentioned in the Pro Con speech (and I probably should have emphasized it a little more), you should always be working on material that you won and control while you are working on material that you don't own and control... If you want to walk the tightrope between work-made-for-hire and self-publishing you should always be aware of the calendar pages flipping past and which of the two is consuming most of your time both in the short term and long term scheme of things. No one can tell you what balance is right for you. Each creator has to decide the balance for him or herself.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Correspondence: From Hell

Cerebus #239 (February 1999)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
ALAN MOORE:
...Dave, this has been a very enjoyable conversation. Thank you for giving an old man the opportunity to talk about himself at such extraordinary length and in such a prestigious forum. Of course, I realise that if you really liked me then I'd have got a cameo in Guys like my slipshod, head-omitting collaborator [Eddie Campbell] but I guess I'll learn to live with it. Cerebus, as if I need to say so, is still to comic books what Hydrogen is to the Periodic Table, and is one of the only comics that I still read and enjoy regularly every month. Alright, so this is only in the hope of finding myself face down in a pool of my own vomit in some minor panel of Guys, but you must learn to take compliments graciously.

Incidentally, I had this dream of the last issue of Cerebus - the last page or so, in fact. He was ascending towards some sort of minimalist special effect, and it was in colour. I remember there was quite a bit of azure blue. That's all I can tell you.

My very best to you and Gerhard. Get over here again soon, and we can continue this conversation over cold beers and hot temporal lobe seizures.

Take care,
Alan
DAVE SIM:
...With as much grace as I can muster, thank you for your compliments on Cerebus. Of course all of the cameo appearances in Guys were self-publishers and self-published characters ...but there are three novels remaining in the Cerebus saga and my competitive nature won't allow your incarnation in your ancestrally challenged collaborator's Bacchus series stand as the definitive Alan Moore character (which it is - at the moment) in comic book land.

The correspondence between Dave Sim and Alan Moore was originally printed in Cerebus #217-220 (April to July 1997) and was reprinted in Alan Moore: Portrait Of An Extraordinary Gentleman (2003) edited by Gary Spencer Millidge and Smokey Man. The complete Correspondence: From Hell is also available to read online.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Fashion Parody

Glamourpuss #3 (September 2008)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
(from Alexa & Dave: A Conversation, 23 May 2012)
Personally, I find it very difficult to parody fashion magazine. Every time I read a fashion magazine there are things I swear they must have made up because I can't stop laughing. The impression that I have is that people are shocked by what I choose to highlight, a case of shooting the messenger. It's right here on page such and such of this magazine. I didn't make it up. I don't know if they did, but I didn't. ­­­

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Kickstarter: Day-By-Day

1,140 individuals pledged a total of $63,634 in support of Dave Sim's Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for creating a digital version of Cerebus Vol 2: High Society (and ultimately all 16 Cerebus volumes) which ended on 30 June 2012. Click the charts above for a larger day-by-day analysis of the pledged amounts.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

100 Best Comics Of The Century

The Comics Journal #210 (February 1999)
Art by Seth
RICH KREINER:
(from a letter printed in The Comics Journal #213, June 1999)
Cerebus should have been on that list. Let me count the ways.

First, there's the issue of visual accomplishment. Dave Sim and Gerhard have long been creating a comic that is simply beautiful to look at. Everything works to effect, from sumptuous settings to subtle facial expressions. The lettering is the most graphically articulate since that of American Flagg!. Caricatures are deft and merciless. The book has rigorously enforced its various paces, from agonising stop motion to hell for leather gallop; its sense of timing has been imposed more authoritatively than any other comic that comes to mind.

There's also no overlooking the epic nature of the title's run. As a story cycle, cartooning has produced few equals - perhaps some strips, but even these lack the overarching narrative scheme and momentum toward a conclusion that Cerebus has increasingly embraced. As a sprawling tale, it invariably takes up the broad social concerns of its era as well as the eternal quandaries of human existence.

Like many epics, it relies on episodic structure and thus risks being only episodically engaging or successful. As a whole, it is a particularly gangly saga, reckless even. The careening course of the narrative is a sightseer's delight, barring no excursion or accident or guest star. Cerebus is the kind of comic book diarist Samuel Pepys would have written had he been interested in fiction. And had he terrific graphic talents. And had he the disposition of Rabelais.

Actually, maybe it's just easier to imagine Sim as the Rabelais of comics, an irredeemable humanity (if informally pledged in Sim's case), apparently well-versed in the rollicking experiences of corporeal existence, who's allowed space for any object or issue that does a fly-by past his window on the world. He's instinctively let any and all of it pour in, channelled through personal interests and intellect (and impeded, say some, by same). Of course it's often threatened to swamp his life's work, but you still have to admire the fearlessness at flood stage. (The Sim/Rabelais parallel almost went without recalling Voltaire's criticism of his countryman as a "drunken philosopher who could only write when intoxicated" and of Gargantua & Pantagruel as "an extravagant and unintelligible book... prodigal of erudition, filth, and boredom.")

While I strongly believe Sim has located his narrative pole star to his own satisfaction, I've long since given up hope of understanding everything of what's going on in the comic. I do however remain highly susceptible to the dramas of the moment, the broader thematic twists and the sharper emotional turns. I read it chiefly - and could readily recommend it - for its irreplaceable humor and its sensual appeal.