Sunday, 30 September 2012

Alan Moore: 20 Years Of Cerebus

Cerebus #239 (February 1999)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
ALAN MOORE:
(from 'Aardvark Comments: Reflections - 20 Years Of Cerebus' in Feature #4, 1997)
"Did you see the look on her face when I suggested that the whole Cirinist/Kevillist agenda is to smother the light of reason in the dark of emotion? She had absolutely no answer!"

"Dave, that's the last time I introduce you to my mother."

A difficult man to speak of reasonably, his identity so inextricably entwined with his work in the public eye, his life shuffled in amongst the pages of the chronicle to which he has devoted the larger part of it. (A chronicle which remains famously unfinished until we're already too far into the next millennium to go back: only two thirds of Cerebus, only two thirds of Dave Sim has so far revealed itself above the water line. Leviathan rises in excruciating slomo.)

This of course is the whole problem and most of the solution in one. Dave Sim the human being is not Cerebus the publication, nor is he Cerebus the character. He and his work must obviously be considered separately. And yet...

...And yet this is to ignore the creator's obvious urge to fuse, face-first, with his creation. Stacked up in one twenty-year-deep pile, the back issues reveal a sex life as geology: the bedpost strata yielding fossil seams of editorial and letters page: others, significant or otherwise, embedded in the woodpulp shale, footnote autobiography. The book becomes a sweethearts oak. The valentines obliterate each other, carved in palimpsest. Megaphone confidences shared, an intimacy twenty thousand strong. He doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve so much as wear a zoot suit made of hearts.

It doesn't end there. How can we distinguish the cartoon from the cartoonist when the sheer duration of the work, its clockwork frequency, makes it screamingly evident that this is, and canonly be, the whole of a man's life we see before us? Let's be very clear on this. If he's not writing, drawing, publishing, promoting or out someplace signing it, he's thinking of it. Even if he thinks of something else that is not it, the thing he thinks of will inevitably end up as part of it. Damn it. This is the product of his body, mind and soul, his chromosomes, his parents' chromosomes. Here's what he saves his white light for, jealously guards his precious fluids for. He means this. This is all of him transformed by alchemy to ink and off-white paper, with the central figure in unvarying moral zip-a-tone between the two. In the gray area. The twilight Carl Barks demimonde between the human and the animal. The full-drag no-man's land between the woman and man straddled revealingly by this hermaphrodite protagonist. We can't speak of Dave Sim unless we speak of Cerebus. Likewise, to write a negative review of Cerebus is to sneer loudly at Sim's choice of tie while in a public place. He and his work dissolve and merge in inextricable suspension. And, as pointed out above, as yet we only know two-thirds of either. Loneliness of the long-distance runner.

With the life and story both unfinished it's not safe, not yet, to talk about the themes, the shapes. Best wait until the last third hauls itself out of the water, see exactly how the contours of those narratives (the life, the work) resolve themselves before we say a word. All we can talk of, safely is the style. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I have always found his personal style refreshing, even charming. Then again, if he enters your living room, even the female houseplants wilfully and slowly turn their heads away; defy the basic laws of photosynthesis. When he's in France, feminine nouns avoid his lips.

Artistically, his style is less ambiguous: very few people have the chops of comic narrative down in the way Dave has them down. The almost musical arrangement of the panels, stave-like on the double-spread. Pitch-perfect grasp of character conveyed in line, whether from sable brush or typewriter. Near-atrophied genre conventions like the sound effect or word balloon transmuted in his hands become seamless components in the flowing, plastic medium of his narrative. The conjured soundscape. Verbose silences. In sum, a staggering display of heavily-considered craft, of innovation almost as a reflex. He is a master, and a monster (from the Latin monstro; or "Great Googly-Moogly Lor' Lookit That!").

Or, in the immortal words of the divine Max Miller, have a good look, Missus. You might never see another one.

Happy 61st Birthday, Deni Loubert!

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus. Deni and Dave Sim were married from October 1978 to August 1983 and Deni subsequently moved to Los Angeles to start her own comics publishing company, Renegade Press, which closed its doors in 1989. She was inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2010.

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #10

In the final issue of his self-published Glamourpuss, Dave Sim included an essay reflecting on the end of the series, and the possible end of his professional involvement with comics. The reaction online was widespread, and soon turned to a discussion of the future of Sim's earlier work, Cerebus. On a comments thread at TCJ.com, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson expressed his potential interest in republishing some of Sim's Cerebus material. Sim, arguably the most iconic self-publisher in comics history, responded to that 'open offer' in a lengthy article at TCJ.com, and indicated his willingness to negotiate with Kim on a possible publishing deal for Cerebus, albeit in the public forum of the comments section at the TCJ.com website. Got all that? Now read on for highlights from the latest postings...

JEET HEER: 
It really seems like the discussion has gone off the rails, so perhaps it would be useful to return to some first principles.
  1. An archival Cerebus project would be great to have whether from Fantagraphics for another publisher...
  2. As a matter of good negotiating strategy, Gary is exactly right that you guys should settle the big questions (format, terms, which books to reprint).
  3. I’m not sure what Kim had in mind in terms of contextual material but I would think it wouldn’t be the type of historical background available in the Annie books, the Carl Barks library, the Floyd Gottfredson library, the Rip Kirby books etc...
  4. I’m not sure what the point of all the political discussions we’re having here is... But if we think about it, there is no necessity for politics and publishing to be in alignment in this way...
  5. For that matter critics and other readers don’t have to be in sympathy with a writer’s politics to enjoy it, especially if we are talking about a work of imaginative literature. Simply as a matter of fact, a critic or historian or analyst can be fair to an artist despite ideological disagreement...
  6. ...I suspect that if Cerebus doesn’t have the audience Dave Sim would like, it’s not primarily because of politics. It may very well be because of format and accessibility...
Read Jeet Heer's full post here...

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Neil Gaiman: 300 Good Reasons To Resent Dave Sim

Cerebus #167 (February 1993)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
NEIL GAIMAN:
(from Comic Buyer's Guide #977, August 7 1992; reprinted in Feature vol 3 #4, Winter 1997)
It's rarely enough in this complex world that one can recognise the sources of things -- hologram-covered, die-cut, foil-stamped, origin issues notwithstanding. We forget where things begin.

Endings are more memorable than beginnings anyway; we remember where we were when we heard good friends were dead, while our memories of them are hazy, muzzy things.

Thus it is with a certain amount of pleasure that I find can recall my first encounter with Cerebus. I remember who and how and why I started reading. It went kind of like this: My friend Roz Kaveney has settled down a lot over the years. When I first met her, however, I was intimidated mightily. She was, and is several sizes bigger than I am, huge as Thomas Aquinas and just as large as life: all dressed in black leather (Roz, that is, not Thomas Aquinas, who was a Saint), carrying a black leather bag full of manuscripts heavy as bricks, and to top it all she occasionally wears hats. Roz also knows a lot more than me; and she doesn't believe this, so she has, since I've known her, always assumed that I know everything. Everything.

A typical conversation with Roz used to go:
Roz: ...Of course, he can't really be seen as the first of the deconstructionist revisionists, notwithstanding anything the Dickinsons or Frosts may say. Well, you've read the recent translations of the P'nanok'tian Manuscripts -- you shake your head? Oh dear, silly me, I read an advanced unpublished typescript in the unexpurgated edition that is unlikely to see print in England for the next five years if at all -- so anyway, I pointed this out to Beedle and Twoddy and they said -- you do know who Beedle and Twoddy are, don't you?

ME: Um. No.

Roz: Ah, well, Beedle is a very close friend of Sammy's - Sammy knew me when I was at Oxford, and Twoddy is currently doing 30 years to life for recklessly taking and driving away an ice-cream van... But then, most of Twoddy's problems date back to his break-up with Madeleine and Billy... I've told you about them, haven't I?

Me: Um...
Sometimes Roz would explain stuff, but usually she'd assume I knew what she was talking about. I had a mental map of Roz's world that was more or less like listening to an ongoing soap opera of truly operatic proportions (with real Valkyries). To be honest it would occasionally be a shock to meet members of the cast, who were without fail a disappointment: life-sized people of no particular distinction in whom it was hard to discern the sacred monsters of Roz's sagas.

So one day at a party we were talking about comics, which I thought was safe territory. She'd discussed fascist imagery in The Dark Knight Returns and the use of the fetish boot as helicopter in Elektra: Assassin, and then she started taking about more people I didn't know.
Roz: ...and of course you saw the Countess. Well, laying three extra plates for dinner, obviously Lord Julius is one of the dinner guests, but who are the other two, we ask ourselves...?
For a brief minute I thought she was talking about more people she knew I'd never met, then she said Cerebus, and the penny dropped. As with most conversations with Roz of that vintage, I didn't confess ignorance. Instead I made a mental note to find out what I could by our next conversation. (This method proved the easiest -- it was how I discovered authors such as Peter Ackroyd, who tend to arrive with scurrilous tales about their private lives before ever I had a chance to read their work.)

So I went off and read a Cerebus.
Looking back on it, Roz's friendship proved invaluable in coping with Cerebus. I had the same sense of being at a party where you don't know anyone, but everyone else knows everybody else.

In defence I went out and bought the six volumes of Swords Of Cerebus, (this was in the Dark Ages, before the 'phone books') and started getting more of a handle on it all. I wasn't entirely clear on how this little Barbarian Warrior had become Pope, but then Dave just brought on Mick and Keef in the regular comic, and he was just about to start his wicked Frank Miller parody...

What was strange, even then (and it's even stranger now), was how far he'd come from the first issues of Cerebus. I mean, it all started out as a charming homage to Barry Smith's work on Conan, flat Jane Morris noses and all, with a central conceit - the hero's an aardvark - that didn't seem to amount to more than a couple of jokes (smells when wet, doesn't like granola), combined with a certain deflatory logic applied to comic conventions (the ones we follow, not the ones we go to. They came later).

It was both fascinating and revelatory, how Dave grew, and learned, and kept on growing, and kept on learning: and how what he'd learnt fed back into the work.

Lou Reed (as iconic for me in my way as the Glimmer Twins are for Dave in his) made an album some years back called Growing Up In Public. Some of us are lucky, and we do our apprenticeships where no-one's watching (I, for example, spent my years learning to write in the disposable world of magazines,) and appear in public in adult form. Some of us grow up in public. Dave did.

I met Dave for the first time (a meeting chronicled in one of his Notes From The President and in a fax I sent him which ran in the lettercol) in his suite at the Savoy, back when I was still a starving journalist. (Roz Kaveney, whom I mentioned earlier, was there too. So was Escape's Paul Gravett, and my old friend Dave Dickson, a man who has drunk Jack Daniels with Keef Richards and lived to write about the bits he remembered).

Dave held court (which he does, and very well) and one by one we'd interview him, while the others would munch Beluga caviar on toast, and drink Dave's champagne (which I drank Dave's scotch diluted with ginger ale).

300 issues, he said. A 300-episode story. It'll happen.

I remember asking him what he'd do if there was something he wanted to write about, something he had to say that didn't fit into Cerebus. "I'd use a big hammer," he grinned. "I'd get it in somehow."

That was six years ago. Since then Dave has written (and drawn -- with the able assistance of Gerhard, who is one of the nicest people I've met, despite having a really unlikely last name) about eighty issues of Cerebus.

And the story's still only half-way through. That's scary.

(As an aside: I'm typing this on a train, and the man sitting across from me is talking to himself, very clearly, and quite loudly. "Bollocks" he's saying. "My first bloody project. I don't believe it. They can't bloody do this to me. Bollocks. I was going to be a bloody projects officer. Bollocks. Bloody bollocks to the lot of them..." although he isn't actually using the word bloody because this is the CGB. The word he's using is the adjectival form of a monosyllabic anglo-saxon word which rhymes with one of our commonest waterfowl.)

300 issues. Think about it. I mean, I think Sandman's daunting, at the roughly 60 plus issues altogether it'll run. And I'm only writing it. (On the other hand I've experienced one thing Dave hasn't: the terrified look in the eyes of people who've just realised that one day there won't be any more. You wait, Dave Sim. In eight or nine years' time twenty thousand people are going to start getting very nervous...)

I've met Dave three times now. Spoken on the phone a few more times. Written a couple of letters and sent faxes. Seems like more than that, but that's all.

Each time he has been, in turns, brilliant, congenial, infuriating, difficult, and, much of the time, right. Often more than one of these at a time. One of the most infuriating things about Dave is that even when you disagree with him, which I frequently do, he's thought about whatever-it-is-I-disagree-about far more deeply and exhaustingly than I have. This is dead irritating. It is even more irritating when I disagree with him utterly, and still suspect he may be right. He also has really good rejoinders.
Dave: Neil, why don't you and Michael Zulli self-publish Sweeney Todd? It's easier than stealing candy from blind babies.

Neil: Because both Michael and I are flakes, that's why. I wouldn't trust either of us to manage a lemonade stand, let alone run a comic book company.

Dave: (Proceeds to demonstrate indisputably exactly how you can run a comic-book company and self-publish using only a pencil, a telephone, a small lump of silly putty, and a photograph of Shea Stadium.)

Me: Um...
It's something like that anyway.

Dave is unique, which is a shame. He's seen how powerful the periodical comic is as a medium, and decided to go the distance. 300 issues of Cerebus. In a world in which artists can rise to prominence having drawn a handful of comics, this demands a level of commitment from the readership which is positively unheard of, and it demands a level of commitment from Dave that's positively insane. We're talking rolling huge rocks up impossibly steep hills here. Dave Sisyphus.

Dave Sim is the conscience of comics. It's a lousy, thankless job, and if he wasn't doing it we wouldn't have to invent him. We'd probably just be pleased that he wasn't around to bug us. Remember: Jiminy Cricket was squashed by a wooden hammer by the end of chapter four in the original Collodi novel of Pinocchio. Were there a wooden hammer large enough, and he did not live out in Kitchener, and were there no fear of societal retribution, Dave would probably have been squished long since.

When one talks publishing with Dave, again, he knows what he's talking about. He's published other people; he's been published by other people. He knows the pitfalls, and he tells unpleasant truths. This can be really irritating.

He still hasn't stopped learning. And he doesn't forget what he's learned.
Mothers and Daughters, the new storyline, is a delight for many reasons - one of which, for me, is that he's taken all the techniques he's spent so long honing and he's using them all at once. It's akin to seeing someone write music first for violin, then for oboe, for harpsichord, then for electric guitar. And then, just when you wonder what instrument they'll turn to next, they start to use the full orchestra, with a choreographed display of fireworks somewhere in the background.

I'm rather proud of the fact that my only written-and-drawn comic story was published in a Cerebus. I'm just as proud that one of my characters has been misappropriated by Dave for his own purposes. (Note to Dave: treat her well. She enjoys long walks and being taken to saccharine-sweet movies).

I'm sometimes a good writer. It irks me that Dave is, in my opinion (and when he's firing on all cylinders) as good as, or (okay, I'll say it) better than me, and he's had longer to be good. It also irks me that he's a far, far better artist than I'll ever be, and that he's a better publisher than the majority of us (particularly those of us who really couldn't run a successful lemonade stand).

He's offered twice now to put me on the Cerebus complimentary list, and each time I've declined. I like going into comic book stores, but these days it seems like I buy less and less each time I go in. It's good to have something I can rely on - and which, barring disaster, we'll all have for more than a decade to come.

Most of us who create comics are mayflies. We come into the wild wacky world of comics, blaze like little meteors (or not), flitter from one project to the next like small children with access to the TV remote control...

Dave's still there. He's keeping Cerebus in print. He's still doing it. He won't shut up and go away.

I'm grateful. Even when I resent it.

There are 300 damn good reasons to resent Dave Sim, and as I write this he's published over 160 of them.

Sometime in the next millennium, when kids coming onto the scene remember Sandman as a dusty old character somebody did a long time ago, like Scribbly or Binky or Jerry Lewis, Cerebus #300 will come out and Dave will stop - or at least stop Cerebus. (I tend to assume he'll go into politics at this point; although the idea of Gerhard as Jean Chretien is one I find difficult entirely to come to terms with.)

Then, when it's all done, I've promised myself I'll sit down and read the whole thing, start to finish. It may take some time.

300 issues. Hell, that's over 6,000 pages.

Hmmm.

Okay, let's scrap the title we started with. Let's make this 6,000 Good Reasons To Resent Dave Sim...
Postscript 1997: Most of this is as true as when I wrote it. However, following the sad death of the only comic shop within 40 miles, I was eventually forced to phone Dave up and ask, and am now, as of a couple of months ago, on the Cerebus complimentary copy list.

Neil Gaiman is the author of the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline and The Graveyard Book. (300 Good Reasons To Resent Dave Sim © Neil Gaiman).

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #9

In the final issue of his self-published Glamourpuss, Dave Sim included an essay reflecting on the end of the series, and the possible end of his professional involvement with comics. The reaction online was widespread, and soon turned to a discussion of the future of Sim's earlier work, Cerebus. On a comments thread at TCJ.com, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson expressed his potential interest in republishing some of Sim's Cerebus material. Sim, arguably the most iconic self-publisher in comics history, responded to that 'open offer' in a lengthy article at TCJ.com, and indicated his willingness to negotiate with Kim on a possible publishing deal for Cerebus, albeit in the public forum of the comments section at the TCJ.com website. Got all that? Now read on for highlights from the latest postings...

DAVE SIM:
Neil [Gaiman] can write AMERICAN GODS and you realize that he’s mining the same vein as Alan [Moore], but that he doesn’t believe it. It’s just a good idea for a good story. The New York Times GETS that and APPROVES of it.

Alan, on the other hand, BELIEVES it.

Alan believes in necromancy and believes he’s a necromancer. The Dialogue: FROM HELL that I did with Alan was two people discussing these things who believe that they are actual things, not just story ideas. It’s a very popular discussion that I’ve given permission to reprint several times (not really thinking permission is necessary - if you see something interesting in it, feel free to pass it on). But from the New York Times’ perspective and - I suspect - from Fantagraphics’ perspective, it would be a matter of, “Oh, now REALLY!” Not altogether different from asking the Times or Fantagraphics to take seriously an in-depth discussion about who is stronger, Thor or the Hulk? Read the full post here...

Friday, 28 September 2012

HARDtalk: The Virtual Tour #11

Today we have a couple of 'Kurt Busiek' related questions from the HARDtalk Home Team, Go ahead:

Kurt Busiek made an interesting observation recently about “the debt we owe” to you (and others) in terms of creating awareness of the importance of creator ownership. The evidence he used was that the majority of comics-derived films are of creator-owned properties. Is this what you envisaged when you helped establish the Creators Bill Of Rights? If not, what were you hoping to achieve with it?

Did Kurt really say that? That's very nice of him! He's a very talented guy.  I guess he thinks I'm a misogynist or he would have signed the petition by now. If you're talking about "what Dave Sim is owed" I certainly don't think that way. I've always had more of the sense of being BLAMED for creating awareness of creator ownership or over-emphasizing it or making people feel guilty about their own views. It -- creator ownership -- is a royal pain a lot of the time, because there are no easy answers or "one size fits all solution", awareness of it, the whole ball of wax. Mike Kitchen gave me a tour of the animation company he works at in Toronto and I told him I envy him in a lot of ways, just sitting there all day, drawing and solving technical problems.

"Yeah," he says, "But you don't own it."

"Yeah," I said, "But you get to walk away from it at the end of the day and forget about it 'til tomorrow."

The grass is always greener, I guess.  I thought we could have a substantial percentage of the field devoted to self-publishing to counterbalance the assumption that "Ottists is SO Stupid", the line I gave the Bill Marks character in CEREBUS No.92 (I think it was).  Michael Zulli actually got t-shirts made up with that line on them and gave each of us one at the Toronto Summit.  I've still got mine. Never worn it, of course, but I've got it because it was a very funny moment when he pulled them all out. 

My view was always "A certain number of us are going to have to do this on our own or we're just going to reinforce the assumption that we're all hopeless, helpless flakes who need businessmen to push us around."

What I didn't understand or anticipate was that, in a lot of way, the Internet was going to change that.  I couldn't have anticipated people like Danielle Corsetto with GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS and Scott Kurtz with PVP who were able to build a career one building block at a time and then get help where they wanted it but without surrendering autonomy and control, which are the key elements of self-publishing.  I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation if I HAD known that autonomy and control were just going to migrate onto the Internet.  Live and learn.
Do you have any thoughts on Kurt Busiek’s recent idea for Marvel and DC to back date their current work-for-hire contracts to 1931? Kurt hypothisied that this was an affordable solution for them which, at a stroke, would put the Hero Initiative out of work, as it would give a small royalty payment to many of lesser known comics creators who could badly do with the money?

Anything along those lines is a step in the right direction, but a lot would depend on HOW small the royalty turns out to be, how many people get it and how much DC and Marvel can afford it.  These are not "gravy times".  The best results happen when guys like Clifford Meth with Dave Cockrum and Gene Colan, or Neal Adams with Siegel and Shuster, goes and talks businessman to businessman to a Marvel or DC exec who can "do the deal".

But, it eats you alive. It's emotionally and physically draining on your life. I don't think I'm exaggerating.  Which is why people tend not to do it more than once or twice.

I'd like to see more done with Kickstarter, to be honest.  Raise $40,000 in a month so the guy can work on a dream project for a few months or part of a year and still be able to pay his bills.  You'd have to dole the money out, though.  A big wad of cash can be worse than poverty for someone who has never had to deal with it.  "I'll give it to my grandkids."  Well, no.  :)   It's not FOR that.  Now we have to go out and get you ANOTHER 40 grand so you can pay your bills and do your work.  "No, I'm fine. I'd rather my grandkids have it."

When I bought a piece of artwork -- a great BRENDA STARR daily -- from Ramona Fradon at one of the Paradise Shows, I asked if she ever thought of doing an autobiographical graphic novel.  "Do you think anyone would buy it," she asked.  Well, now it's a different question.  If she does a cover and two sample pages and someone does a Kickstarter campaign for her, can she raise money to work on it?  I think the answer would be a resounding "Yes!".
Okay, now we're headed over to CANADIAN COMICS ARCHIVE for a another question from Paul Slade:

I see Amazon lists Susan Alston as your co-author of Dave Sim’s Last Girlfriend. To what extent was she involved in preparing the book, and how?

Hit the link to CANADIAN COMICS ARCHIVE to see the answer to that question. More HARDtalk on Monday -- same time, same place.

HAVE YOU GOT A QUESTION FOR DAVE SIM?
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!

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #8

In the final issue of his self-published Glamourpuss, Dave Sim included an essay reflecting on the end of the series, and the possible end of his professional involvement with comics. The reaction online was widespread, and soon turned to a discussion of the future of Sim's earlier work, Cerebus. On a comments thread at TCJ.com, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson expressed his potential interest in republishing some of Sim's Cerebus material. Sim, arguably the most iconic self-publisher in comics history, responded to that 'open offer' in a lengthy article at TCJ.com, and indicated his willingness to negotiate with Kim on a possible publishing deal for Cerebus, albeit in the public forum of the comments section at the TCJ.com website. Got all that? Now read on for highlights from the latest postings...

JEET HEER:
I think Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman would both be great to have in terms of writing introductions - they know the comic book culture that Sim came out of very well but they’ve also have a large audience outside comic book culture. Actually Chester Brown also comes to mind as someone who could really champion Cerebus in an interesting way... I think the place to start with the reprinting is fairly early in the run or perhaps the beginning. Even though the initial stuff is Sim still learning his craft, it does contribute to the elaborate world-building that really comes to the fore with High Society & Church and State... Read the full post here...

DAVE SIM:
Hi Jeet!... The "world builder" angle is a good one because it’s a point of commonality for comics and literature, something not very many people do and something that tends to get an automatic salute where it comes to light. And obviously I’m need of as many automatic salutes as possible... Well, obviously Neil COULD do an amazing job on “contextualizing” Dave Sim just by expanding and updating his "300 Good Reasons To Resent Dave Sim" essay from 20 years ago, but that seems unlikely... I mean, I understand. It's like the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s but on the other side of the political fence (and in a much smaller and - generally perceived to be - less consequential environment). Any conservative or liberal COULD have spoken up in favour of Blacklisted individuals in the 1950s, but everyone knew it would be political and socio-economic suicide to do so, so no one did. I’m (at least) 385 people AHEAD of that situation with the "I Don’t Believe Dave Sim is a Misogynist" petition at ipetitions. Read the full post here...

Thursday, 27 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!...credit.  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.

HAVE YOU GOT A QUESTION FOR DAVE SIM?
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!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

HARDtalk: The Virtual Tour #9

Okay. Dominick Grace has a long, multi-part question about my career as it stands now:

Could you clarify/elaborate on the current state of your career? On the one hand, your editorial in the final issue of  glamourpuss indicates that you see the end in sight and are anticipating liquidating everything (which would presumably mean the dissolution of Aardvark-Vanaheim as a publishing entity) and leaving comics behind (though I'm not sure how serious you are about trying to find work in the Alberta Tar Sands)...

Ontario is one of the last places I would want to be if the economy keeps turning south.  If my PERSONAL economy improves, Ontario will be as good a place of residence as any.  The Alberta Tar Sands is where the Canadian economy will collapse TO IF it collapses. So, that's the answer to the last part of your question.  As to the current state of my career, it ended in May and then Kickstarter came along in June and that's what I've been doing since.  After all the expenses have been paid out of the $55,000 there's about $20,00 left which I think I'm obligated to use for CEREBUS DIGITAL 6000.  So that means I'll be making my living annotating and scanning the first volume, CEREBUS.  CEREBUS DIGITAL 6000 is "funded" in other words.  Nothing else at this point is "funded" so nothing else can be called a serious part of my livelihood, right now.

A doctor living in Texas has offered me $10,000 to fly down there and to document my religious views with a film crew and the whole works, including his minister and I've accepted.  That's really the first time that I'll be paid for something that can't be a cheque written to Aardvark-Vanaheim.  So, at that point, I'm getting paid to prep the CEREBUS volume in digital form and to answer questions about my religious views.  There's a certain amount of money coming in from Diamond, but Diamond -- for the first time since the mid-1980s -- is not in first place.  It's in third place.  If HIGH SOCIETY DIGITAL sells well it might be tied with Diamond or Diamond could suddenly be in fourth place.

...On the other, you still seem to be moving forward on the ambitious digital version of High Society, and you have had interest expressed in publishing Cerebus and/or The Strange Death of Alex Raymond from Fantagraphics, but in your response to Kim Thompson's interest, you refer to the "four companies" you're "signed with." Is this a hypothetical, or do you in fact currently have working relationships with four different publishers (excluding AV, I assume)?

The four companies are the four digital comics companies who will be selling HIGH SOCIETY DIGITAL to their customers and paying me a percentage of sales.  Comixology, iVerse, Diamond Digital and -- once the "book" is collected -- Graphicly.  That's distinct from HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO/DIGITAL -- the audio book, quasi-animated version that I'll be selling at cerebusdownloads.com.  I'm also in the advanced stages of negotiation with one print publisher and hope to have an announcement of a deal for A book -- that is, ONE book -- October 5th or 6th.

As for Fantagraphic's interest, your responses so far don't suggest you're really very interested in seriously pursuing the possibility, which makes me wonder, why not simply say no, as you did in your short answer, and leave it at that?

Well, because that wouldn't qualify as a negotiation.  One of the things I've always believed in very strongly is that public negotiations benefit creative people better than secret negotiations, but I've never had an opportunity to test that out -- let alone my belief that having as many active participants engaged as possible gives you a greater pool of ideas to draw on.  Sometimes beneficial tangentially -- like Ed Brubaker and James Owen reminiscing about the SWORDS introductions.  That material isn't on the table with Fantagraphics, but I definitely made a note in my notebook to incorporate it into the DIGITAL CEREBUS VOLUME.   It isn't something I would have come up with on my own.

Why bring the dubious concept of "literary respectability"into play?

Because I don't see it as a dubious concept.  There's only so far that you can go without, at some point, finding where you rank in the minds of those in the Quality Lit Biz.  As Kim Thompson pointed out, the NEW YORKER has been running pieces unfavourable to people like Lady Gaga whom you would expect them to be favourably disposed towards.  And that's a very recent thing that I'm seeing everywhere.  To this point, there was just no sense in trying to get a book by a conservative author a fair hearing so it wasn't "front of mind".  Just the fact that Kim would publicly state Fantagraphics' interest in publishing my work would have been unheard of even two years ago.  We'll see what happens.

Or why tie the possibility to one specific book only, and not one that, I think, even many long-time readers and fans would say can stand easily on its own outside the larger context of your work?

One of the inescapable givens is that the "larger context of my work" is TOO large.  At some point you have to start seeing it as sixteen component parts and start determining where the potential for each lies in additional with what can be done with it in totality.  The softening of the edges in the Quality Lit Biz, meant that it made sense for me to find the work of mine which had the softest edge for the Quality Lit Biz and that's the Hemingway book, FORM & VOID.

What's the basis of your belief that its connection to Hemingway will make it somehow more accessible/palatable, despite its numerous other elements that depend pretty heavily on backstory?

Hemingway is Hemingway.  The same as if you were "doing" a painter you would do Van Gogh or Picasso.  They're at the apex of names, if nothing else.  If you know nothing about the field of endeavour you still know the name.  I also think that the comic field underestimates the capacity of mainstream readers to "get" what we're doing.  A clubby kind of snobbishness.  You don't have to know who Moon Knight is to "get" the Moon Roach.  He's a super-hero but an idiot.  He thinks he's impressive and he's ridiculous. People who don't read comics "get" that.  People in the Quality Lit Biz understand "proxy".  Jaka and Cerebus represent Mary and Ham, Mary and Ham represent Jaka and Cerebus.  It's Hemingway's story through a filter of the fantastic.  That's how they understand comics in the first place: as fantasy, the fantastic, the literary context that includes Lord of the Rings at its "name" apex.  They don't need to be spoon-fed the Overstreet Price Guide.  "But you HAVE to understand all this or you won't GET the story!"

Does Hemingway really have either that much popular or that much cultural currency at the moment?  

Well, yes.  Again, he's archetypal.  There's a whole literary industry that surrounds him, not to mention the cachet of having all his papers at the JFK Library.  That's another layer of archetype that will keep Hemingway where he is.  Hemingway will never be fashionable in the same way that JFK will never be fashionable -- as, say, Robert E. Howard is fashionable:  20 years of nothing followed by a blaze of popularity.  I picked the people I "did" in CEREBUS pretty carefully on that basis.

Why not start with an easier access point?

For me, I am starting with an easier access point. This, potentially, offers an alignment of CEREBUS, Fantagraphics, the Quality Lit Biz and general readership. I don't agree with the "received wisdom" of CEREBUS in the field, although I'm certainly aware of it. One of the things that I have to fight against constantly is the "devoted Cerebus fan as expert" construct, without hurting the feelings of my most devoted readers who assume that they have my and CEREBUS' best interests at heart and if I just do things their way, I'll be a runaway success.  I give that the benefit of the doubt a lot of times, but at the end of the day, CEREBUS is mine and the primary decision-making has to be mine.

Surely the key consideration though, would simply be to find a viable way to keep your work in print and available to readers, rather than aiming for a NEW YORK TIMES review?

Not necessarily -- that's a widely-held assumption which isn't the same as an indisputable fact, which is how devoted CEREBUS fans tend, not unexpectedly, to treat it.  "If you build it, they will come."  I built it and they didn't come.  The assumption that people will generally respond well to CEREBUS in the same way that CEREBUS fans do just hasn't proved factual.  The construct, as I see it, is of a few thousand people all clustered tightly around me, staring at me intently and waiting to see what I'll do next (and hoping it's, as Brian Hibbs of COMIX EXPERIENCE put it, CEREBUS: THE HA-HA YEARS).  From outside the construct, it's just a tightly packed group of people all, evidently, staring at someone.  But neither CEREBUS nor I are visible in that construct and there's no real level of curiosity on the part of onlookers to try to figure out what all those people are staring at so intently.  They're all staring intently at someone or something.  So what?

If the alternative to such an accommodation is that your work WON'T be available in print (or digitally, whatever--I confess I am a hard copy kind of guy and would gladly buy new editions of your work of the type being batted around in the TCJ discussion), what would be the insurmountable obstacle(s) to some sort of licencing arrangement, as you've already done for foreign translations?

It's not an insurmountable obstacle, but basically all publishers, foreign and domestic, work on the same basis:  throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.  See how much of it sticks.  Obviously if Fantagraphics can throw 20 books at a wall the odds improve that three of them will stick.  Four books, the odds aren't as good.  But it's 26 years worth of my work.  I'm not really interested in having it just thrown at the wall, no matter how much of it sticks and how big a share I get of that "stick".

Is it better for your work not to be available than for it to be licenced to somebody else?

Well, nothing's unavailable in the eBay age.  Particularly as the economy keeps turning south. More people have to sell the trades for lower prices because they need money.  A person with a good job could probably buy all of the trades for $20 or $30 on eBay without breaking a sweat.  A persuasive argument could be made for drying up the supply that way:  letting the books go out of print until the trades are selling for $100 or $200 on eBay so there's a genuine demand for them.

Why not just either reject the idea out of hand or engage in a serious discussion of how it might be possible?

Because it isn't, to me, an "either/or" proposition:  either I reject Fantagraphics or I just give Fantagraphics my entire catalogue without asking any questions.  At the very least, it's useful to have a public airing of a publisher's views of how my work is viewed by them as a commercial property.  Arguably it would make sense to have the same discussion at the Dark Horse website, the Image website, the Boom! Studios website.  Here's what the execs have to say and here's what the staff have to say and here's what their readers have to say.  There are, however, only so many hours in the day.  Right now, HIGH SOCIETY DIGITIAL and HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL are scheduled and ready to launch.  That's what I'm watching on the "Situation Board" right now.  The Fantagraphics discussion is a pool of ideas to draw on.  You never know where you're going to find a missing jigsaw puzzle piece.

So far, you seem more to be toying with Kim Thompson than seriously addressing the core idea--not that there might not be some fun possible in watching the two of you dance, but given what you've said about your current situation, aren't there better things to do than engage in what looks very much like a process that's going nowhere?

Well, that's definitely not how I see it nor is it what I'm doing.  I don't consider not just GIVING Kim all 6,000 pages with no questions asked to be "toying" with him.  He has his way of viewing the comic book field and its potential and I have my way of viewing the comic book field and its potential.  We started off having what is called in Diplomatic Circles, "A Frank Exchange of Viewpoints", and now we're actually finding areas of common interest.  I think I'm moving forward pretty quickly actually.  I've already agreed to divide GOING HOME and FORM & VOID into four books which is certainly not my personal preference.  And I've agreed to lead with Fitzgerald rather than Hemingway which is also not the wisest course in my view.  I still haven't got an answer from Kim on how he would complete the sentence, "Over the next 24 years, Thompson watched as Sim and CEREBUS..."

Just finishing a sentence would seem to me to be at least a RELATIVELY easy thing to put behind us.  But, it's early yet.  We'll see how it goes.
Okay, now we're off to the CANDIAN COMICS ARCHIVE and a question from Paul Slade. He quotes TimR reacting to Kim Thompson's dismissal of the CEREBUS trade paperback format.

What’s so obviously wrong about the “phone books”? I never got into Cerebus in a big way (I do want to go back and read the early issues and give it a chance some time) but going to comic shops in the 90s, I always kind of had an affection for those things. I liked the idea of this big slab of collected comics in an economical format. By contrast, while many current reprint projects are quite pretty, I’m a little blase towards them even if I had the money to fork over.

Hit the link to CANADIAN COMICS ARCHIVE for the answer to that question... and I'll see you back here tomorrow for more HARDtalk.

HAVE YOU GOT A QUESTION FOR DAVE SIM?
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!

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #7

In the final issue of his self-published Glamourpuss, Dave Sim included an essay reflecting on the end of the series, and the possible end of his professional involvement with comics. The reaction online was widespread, and soon turned to a discussion of the future of Sim's earlier work, Cerebus. On a comments thread at TCJ.com, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson expressed his potential interest in republishing some of Sim's Cerebus material. Sim, arguably the most iconic self-publisher in comics history, responded to that 'open offer' in a lengthy article at TCJ.com, and indicated his willingness to negotiate with Kim on a possible publishing deal for Cerebus, albeit in the public forum of the comments section at the TCJ.com website. Got all that? Now read on for the highlights from yesterday's postings...

KIM THOMPSON:
Huh. I thought the “starting with GOING HOME” notion had been squelched; we must be talking at cross-purposes. To be clear, I have zero interest in starting with GOING HOME, really none whatsoever. Either the first phonebook or possibly HIGH SOCIETY. Also, I’m not at all interested in racking up a new celebrity intro writer for each volume. (For the first one, sure.) Read the full post here.

...It’s my fault, I missed the “covering GOING HOME and FORM AND VOID” line in Dave’s email, maybe through wishful thinking (or because seemingly everyone else seemed to agree that was a terrible idea). But the four books I meant was CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY each split in two. And yeah, it is a redline/dealbreaker. I wouldn’t start with any book after HIGH SOCIETY, so if that’s a redline/dealbreaker on the other side for Dave who wants to start with a later book or no deal, we can call it a day. Read the full post here.

...(1) I think Dave sincerely believes the GOING HOME strategy would be the best way to proceed. I would never cite a lack of sincerity as a failing of Dave’s. (2) Moving to accepting the idea of another publisher (let alone his longtime nemesis Fantagraphics) doing a CEREBUS edition is a huge enough shift that I wouldn’t rule out a second shift from “start with GOING HOME” to “start at the beginning,” especially given the overwhelming chorus from fans, other cartoonists, and retailers favoring the latter option as the only sensible one. (3) If Dave remains adamant, there ARE other publishers one of which perhaps might be open to his release strategy where we aren’t. Calling IDW and Top Shelf! (I doubt those uppity bastards at Drawn + Quarterly — who probably fit Dave’s semi-imaginary profile of NYT-validation-hungry prigs than Fantagraphics does — are interested, fellow Canadians or no). Read the full post here.

Don't miss all the action, as it happens, at TCJ.com.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

HARDtalk: The Virtual Tour #8

Will the Cerebus Digital 6000 project prevent you from producing new comics work, or are you happy to take a break from that for a while?

To be honest, I have no idea what's going to happen or IS happening.  It's very possible -- in the largest possible sense -- that I'm bumping up against the end of my life when it comes to annotating all of the CEREBUS notebooks and the Archive. Might well be God's way of telling me, "Uh, Dave -- life expectancy for a North American male is like 71, 72.  Either YOU annotate the stuff or it doesn't get annotated. If you start now and work hard, you can be done issue 300 the week before you kick off."

On my part, it's all guesswork.  Putting HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL together has been a real ordeal because of the crushing deadline.  It definitely took me much of July and all of August, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day to finish my side of the project -- and all of June if you include co-directing the Kickstarter campaign.  It's a debilitating experience, to be honest, spending an entire month in 1981 to 1983. So, if CEREBUS DIGITAL 6000 is even possible I really have to do an honest assessment of how I plan to do my part of this.  How many hours a day, how many days a week.  There are just too many variables right now.

If we launch HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL #1 on October 10th and get 100,000 free downloads and the following week the #27, 28, 29, 30 "ships" 5,000 "units" at $3.99, well, okay that becomes QUITE viable.  By January I should know if anyone bought it on Comixology, iVerse or Diamond Digital at a percentage of $3.99 and $1.99 for the subsequent weeks.  

Right now the problem is getting the word out. I've done a bunch of audio tweets -- me doing the HIGH SOCIETY characters voices with little blackout comedy dialogue -- for John Scrudder to use to attract attention to the launch on Twitter (which was our primary source for people finding out about the Kickstarter campaign).  I FedExed them to him yesterday and I'm going to be writing and recording more today, Monday and Tuesday and FedExing however many that turns out to be on Tuesday.

Then I'm just going to be here doing the HARDtalk interview. Maybe with 3,000 viewers, maybe just the -- however many are reading this right now.  The audio tweets need to get OUT THERE somehow, to new people, not just the 1,140 Cerebus supporters who are already getting HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL as part of the Kickstarter campaign (or who already weren't able to buy the whole package ahead of time because of financial constraints and might not even be able to afford anything besides the free download).  That's why I say that there are too many variables to answer your question.  Are the major news sites going to sign up for the Virtual Tour sometime during launch week?  Is some hitherto undetected pop culture site going to cover it? Finally get Cerebus out to the Big Bad World?

I've made the tweets as funny as I know how to make them, but as I told John, I have to block out 2012 -- which I find to be a completely humourless society -- in order to do that.  I've given him carte blanche to deep six or censor any of the tweets:  launder them right down to inoffensive pablum if need be.

So here all-however-many-of-us-we-are sit, staring at each other.  If it's still just us and we're still all just sitting here and staring at each other when the clock ticks over from October 9th to October 10th, I'll probably have a much better answer to your question.
Here's our Virtual Tour question for today over at the CANADIAN COMICS ARCHIVE:

It's a silly thing and forgive me for not seeing it 'til now, but does Red Sophia intentionally have a "Byrne-girl" face or am I imagining it?  Thank you.  

Hit the link to the CANADIAN COMICS ARCHIVE for the answer to that question, and be here tomorrow for more HARDtalk Q&As.

HAVE YOU GOT A QUESTION FOR DAVE SIM?
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!

Elephantmen #43

Art by Dave Sim
Click image to enlarge.
Elephantmen #43: Sleeping Partners Part 2
by Richard Starkings, Alex Medellin & Dave Sim
Image Comics, $3.99
On Sale: 26 September 2012

Synopsis:
Behind a wraparound cover by Prophet and King City's Brandon Graham, Hip Flask and Vanity Case enjoy a cup of tea and sympathy, and Miki meets Apostrophe. Preview here.

RED-HEADED MULE:
Once again, Richard Starkings & company have pulled off an amazing feat. Elephantmen is one of THE best books on the market today. It goes to show that not all comic books need to have super heroes in them. They just need an amazing story to catch the readers attention. Mr. Starkings is one of the industry’s best storytellers today and proves it time and time again in the Elephantmen saga.

Starting with the cover by Brandon Graham, I was immediately hooked. It has a simple, yet elegant, beauty to it. It reminds me of the painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by the Japanese artist Hokusai. Simply inspiring.

With most of the art being done by Axel Medellin (which is a brilliant artist that utilizes an astounding variety of color to bring the pages to life) and dream sequence being done by my favorite Elephantmen newcomer, Dave Sim (I LOVED THE CROSS-HATCHING!), you are once again treated with a ton of eye candy and more story than you can shake your fist at (Seriously, try it. Your arm will get tired before you are done!).

Another great thing about this book is that not only are you treated with the reason you bought it, but you also get a look at the amazing art other artists have done over the years with the Elephantmen characters. It’s always cool to see how other artists interpret characters and this is no different!

Last, and certainly not least, is a great treat!

UNLEASH THE FANBOY:
...In this issue, there’s a certain focus on Hip Flask. In particular, there is a segment that evokes the focus on Ebony in the previous issue. Unfortunately, its much shorter. Whilst the artwork in this segment is, again, a welcome break full of detail and mood, the writing itself just doesn’t compare. Ebony’s inner monologue focused on his personal feelings and cowardice towards himself. Whilst this was touching and atmospheric, Hip Flasks monologue focuses more on his base nature as a hippo. Its effective, definitely, but it doesn’t seem to connect with the character as well. Still, its something I would like to see more of in the series...

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #6

In the final issue of his self-published Glamourpuss, Dave Sim included an essay reflecting on the end of the series, and the possible end of his professional involvement with comics. The reaction online was widespread, and soon turned to a discussion of the future of Sim's earlier work, Cerebus. On a comments thread at TCJ.com, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson expressed his potential interest in republishing some of Sim's Cerebus material. Sim, arguably the most iconic self-publisher in comics history, responded to that 'open offer' in a lengthy article at TCJ.com, and indicated his willingness to negotiate with Kim on a possible publishing deal for Cerebus, albeit in the public forum of the comments section at the TCJ.com website. Got all that? Now read on for the highlights from yesterday's postings...

KIM THOMPSON:
...we do need to go back and unpack this line from you early on....

"I’d have to see deep inside your financial statements. What’s your track record for paying royalties? Are you late? Are you getting later? Who do you pay and how often?"

I have no idea what "see deep inside your financial statements" means. There are certainly no "financial statements" we have ever or ever plan to share with cartoonists or licensors, or pretty much anyone other than the IRS and our bank, so that’s a little mystifying. That’s just not the way it works.

Our "track record for paying royalties" is I expect the same as pretty much every other alternative publisher who’s not actively circling the drain, which is that we pay our cartoonists and creditors more or less on time at least to the point where everyone is satisfied. Generally you can tell publishers with a bad track record by the fact that cartoonists (a) stop working for them, (b) sue them, and (c) bitch about them in public or through the grapevine. As someone active in the field for 35 years, Dave, you saw plenty of examples of this (and subsequent collapses) over the 1980s and 1990s; you should know the warning signs. But there is no magic formula, or set of documents that you can reasonably request or ask to be given, that allows you total security on this front. So if any prelude to striking a deal with a publisher includes any sort of "deep" look into their financial infrastructure that somehow would reassure you of their stability, there is no publisher in the world who’s gonna agree to that.

I understand a cartoonist’s trepidation at the idea of entrusting his work to a publisher who might (a) collapse or (b) quit paying him (a.k.a. any publisher) - the latter being usually a prelude to the former - but when you sign on with a publisher that’s a leap of faith you have to take, buttressed by what you can tell about the publisher from information that’s out there already. Feel free to contact any of our cartoonists one by one if you want, but again, the fact that they keep giving us their books (or, if not that, working with us in one capacity or another, be it re-releasing older work or designing books for us, etc.) is kind of Exhibit A. Read the full post here...

ED BRUBAKER:
Funny, I just picked up a Swords of Cerebus off the shelf for 5 bucks, original cover price, at the comic store today. I was looking at Form and Void and trying to see if I’d be willing to start with Cerebus there, and when I put it back on the shelf, noticed one copy of Swords vol 2, which I immediately grabbed... I have ingrained memories of years of reading and rereading those issues and Dave’s notes before each chapter. I think all the way through Church and State, Cerebus is just so much fun, even when its serious. There’s great things in Jaka’s story and Melmoth, and after that, but those first 130 or so issues are my favorites. Even the letters pages were fun. Read the full post here...

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