Friday, 30 November 2012

Comic Book Values

Cerebus #4, inside back cover (June 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
(from the introduction to Cerebus #5, Swords Of Cerebus Vol 2, 1981)
A few weeks after this issue came out, I got a call from Phil Seuling who was our biggest distributor at the time. He didn't like the issue. He said that the first four issues were great, that they had gotten progressively better -- more humor, more plot, better pacing. But No. 5 "didn't help the book. It didn't hurt, but it didn't help."... He was right...

This tied in neatly with the Gil Kane interview in Comics Journal #38 that had started me re-thinking the whole approach I was taking to doing my own comic book. The particular quote that influenced me was:
"The difference between a comic book and a novel is not labor, not effort, it's the values. In other words, there are no meaningful values in a comic book. The people in comic books are two dimensional people going through the most elementary kind of situations, not enough to sustain anybody's interest beyond an adolescent. A novel has characterization, it has suspense, it has a structured situation full of substantial values that will hold the interest of an intelligent person. That's what I mean. Those values, if they are properly translated - Harvey Kurtzman translated them into comics. His comics were literate, they were intelligent, they were humane, they were interesting, they were funny, they were everything.

For instance, political cartoons, humor strips in newspapers are written in an infinitely more adult way: they're more intelligent, they're written for adults by adults with adult humor. They're really clever, and they represent adult values and that's why adults read them. Adults read them because, regardless of the fact that they're comics, they're dealing with adult frames of reference. And comic books don't have those frames of reference."
After I finished the fifth issue I embarked on an extremely lengthy process of applying adult sensibilities to each issue of Cerebus, trying to approach every plot problem on as mature a level of communication as I could. It was not easy, and still isn't. But at the very least, I wanted to feel that each issue of Cerebus advanced our cause just that much more than the issue that preceded it. Fortunately, fan reviewers, editors, columnists and letter-writers have an uncanny knack for recognising an issue that pulls sideways instead of forwards (I knew they were good for something).

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Zolastraya

GERHARD:
Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos again and here are a few that aren't on his website.

Dave and "Zolastraya" (I forget what her real name is). This was taken in the "jam room" in a friend's attic. The egg cartons were an attempt to soften the echoes created by all the sloped ceilings.

The relationship didn’t last very long, but they did look good together in limos, didn't they?

Dawn, I think her name is, had her own comic featuring herself which she co-wrote and co-drew, I think.
Zolastraya & The Bard #1-5 (1987-1988)
by Dawn 'Zolastraya' Nash & Terry Echterling

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

High Society Digital #09 - Out Now!

High Society Digital #09 (Cerebus #34, January 1982)
Available from Cerebus Downloads
Out Now! Only 99¢

"Cerebus trying to stay out of trouble as Astoria strictly instructed him when who should walk up to the Regency but Elrod the Albino, last -- I say -- last ruler of the dying race of Melvinbone! BAD news for Cerebus, GREAT news for ME because Elrod -- I say -- Elrod dialogue practically writes itself. IMPROV, that is! I'm Dave Sim, co-creator of comics' only 6,000-page graphic novel (look at me when I'm talkin' to ya, boy) and YOU are HERE!"

People everywhere agree that HIGH SOCIETY is Award-Winning (Eisner; Harvey; Shuster, Ignatz, Wizard) graphic novelist Dave Sim's greatest and most hilarious work. It regularly gets a 5-star rating on lists of the Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time. In addition to the 20 pages of art and story, you also get everything that was in the original comic book -- Deni's Note from the Publisher, the original ads, the original letters pages, the original back cover and inside back cover.

BONUS! Original documents from the time period from Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive as well as pages from Dave Sim's original Notebooks (where he plotted and designed each issue) accompanied by Sim's own annotations.

Gail Simone: 'High Society Digital' Review

GAIL SIMONE:
(from Ape In A Cape blog, 25 November 2012)
...The issues Dave is making available digitally, to my mind, constitute a masterwork of comics. They are so good, there are only a handful of North American comics that can compete with them. When I was a kid, for a long time, I could only afford one comic a month, and that comic was Cerebus. The story being reprinted, High Society, is possibly my favorite single comics story ever... if someone were to ask me what comics to study to learn meaningful sequential storytelling, Cerebus would likely be in the top two or three choices I would recommend.

Gail Simone is a writer of comic books, including Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Welcome to Tranquility, The All-New Atom, Deadpool, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and The Fury of Firestorm.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Top 10 List To Top All Top 10s

TIMOTHY CALLAHAN:
(from When Worlds Collide at Comic Book Resources, 5 November 2012)
...I was also surprised to realize that I hadn't ever really posted an all-time Top 10. In all my years of comic book punditry, I have done Top 10s on a variety of topics, mostly in a Best of the Year Capacity, but I've never done an overall Top 10. So here it is. The ten comics I would consider my favorites, the best, or the most significant. In alphabetical order...

Cerebus:
When I revisited Cerebus last year [see links below] and did my sprint through the whole series, not many people were talking about Cerebus. There was that one Comics Journal piece that got me (and probably many other people) thinking about the legacy of the Dave Sim series, and a couple of online pieces around the same time as mine, but now Cerebus is part of a massive (but messy) digital rerelease and Dave Sim is publically courting (in his way) the book publishers of the world.

I wouldn't have ranked Cerebus among my all-time favorites before I did the massive reread/read last summer, though I was always particularly enamored of most of the issues between #100-150. But after rereading the whole enormous, hugely personal work, I can't stop thinking about it. It's a monument that can't be ignored, even if you don't believe in what it stands for.

Read Timothy Callahan's complete Top 10 list at When Worlds Collide and his 2011 Mega-Read here:
Cerebus Mega-Read: Begins (8 August 2011)
Cerebus Mega-Read: Completed (15 August 2011)
Cerebus Mega-Read: 16 Volumes Overview (22 August 2011)

Twitter Talk #5

Monday, 26 November 2012

"Barry - Go Nuts!"

Unused concept sketch for a Swords Of Cerebus cover (circa 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH:
(from Following Cerebus #10, June 2007)
I didn't use Dave's suggestion, but I really liked his pencil and marker sketch. I had it framed years ago, and it is hanging on my office wall just five feet away as I write this. One of several charming things about this sketch is Dave's notation at the bottom. I knew what Dave meant, of course, but I've always been amused at the unintended double entendre of 'Go Nuts!' It reads like a climatic insult, 'You! GO NUTS!' Also a long term prediction about my mental health, 'Barry, go nuts.' Following with 'Y'r Friend Dave,' it's almost an invitation: 'Barry, if you go nuts, I'll go nuts too. Y'r Friend Dave.'

Barry Windsor-Smith ignored Dave's cover suggestion and drew his own version of Cerebus on the front and back cover to Swords Of Cerebus Vol 5, published in 1983. Between 1970 and 1973 Barry had drawn the Marvel Comics' version of Conan The Barbarian (currently available from Dark Horse Comics), which were to become the original inspiration for Dave Sim's Cerebus stories.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

IDW Covers: Cerebus Attacks!

Mars Attacks: Zombies vs Robots #1 variant cover (IDW, January 2013)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
Any excuse to do my best Ghastly Graham Ingels / Bernie Wrightson pen-work.

You can see all of IDW's Mars Attacks variant covers at Bleeding Cool.

The Kirby Influence

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vols 1-4
DAVE SIM:
(from 'The 2000 Virtual Kirby Tribute Panel' in The Jack Kirby Collector #27, February 2000)
If I'm not mistaken there was about seven or eight years between the time Jack Kirby went to DC and when I started Cerebus, so I would have to say that we both got caught up in the idea of what you could do with the comic book form on either side of the ground zero point where the direct market came into existence. That is, with the 1966 Batman fad and comic books becoming a collectible and Pop Art and the Esquire "Comics on Campus" thing, there was a sense that comic books not only could be something else but were inevitably going to turn into something else. Meaning no disparagement - okay, maybe a little - I think Stan Lee saw that it could be a very big, fun, lucrative carnival which could be taken seriously and taken as camp and both hands could grab the dough. Not only could you run away and join the circus, you could run away and be the circus. Kirby, on the other hand, looked on it as a chance to tell epic stories and really didn't think much of the carnival side, which only makes sense. However much time Stan spent writing the stories, he had time left over and a carnival sounds like a great idea. Jack Kirby obviously slaved like a Trojan from early morning of one day to early morning of the next. He was probably more concerned about finding time to shave than where he was going to find a good carnival to hang out in. Also, he could look back at 2000+ pages of FF in 1969 and he had started considering what he was going to do on his next 2000 pages and, more importantly, how many thousand more pages in had left in him. Had he known that the direct market was only six or seven yeas away from coming into existence, he might have bided his time - or divided his time between his Marvel workload and his Fourth World epic, using the former to keep food on the table and getting the latter ready to sell to the comic book stores on a non-returnable basis. 20-20 hindsight. I knew enough not to trust any company to have Cerebus' or my best interests at heart when I decided to turn it into an epic 26-year story. Kirby didn't have that option. At the time he started the Fourth World epic he had to trust somebody and the only somebody besides the company he was working for was DC. He trusted that he would make enough money for them that they would see financing the whole epic from start to finish and then keeping it in print to be a smart idea. Of course what he didn't take into account was that a corporate motivation in hiring him away from Marvel had as much to do with hurting Marvel as it did with helping their own bottom line. From DC's standpoint, I think, Jack's departure didn't hurt Marvel enough to warrant seeing the Fourth World through - as Mark Evanier had pointed out and I believe him, the books were still profitable. It was a tragedy and it was very, very regrettable, but that is what corporations are like.

From where I sit it seems even more regrettable because, had DC seen the project through and released the first "phone books" in 1976 - a 500-page New Gods, a 500-page Mister Miracle, etc. - it would have been timed perfectly with the arrival of the direct market and, presumably, Jack Kirby would have gone on to produce another 500-page story or two before he was done with this vale of tears.

I also have a very large twinge of regret that, through self-publishing, I've been able to make a very good living doing my epic just the way I want to do it and without interference, when I consider that Jack Kirby laboured for forty years in the comic book vineyards and missed being able to do the same thing by a piddling period of time like four or five years or so when I started Cerebus. Of course DC finally recognised that it is worth treating token creators better, so that Neil Gaiman did get to finish Sandman, and with what he makes year after year off of the Sandman collections, he probably leaves larger tips than I make a year. So I guess fair is where you find it. I still wouldn't trust DC and further than I could throw the Time-Warner executive washroom.

Anyway, that's my answer to what effect Jack Kirby had on my doing Cerebus.

In the 1960s Jack Kirby (1917-1994), with writer-editor Stan Lee, co-created many of Marvel Comics' major characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk. Kirby left Marvel in 1970 for rival DC, where he created his Fourth World saga spanning several comic titles (New Gods, Mister Miracle, The Forever People and Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen), but which were prematurely cancelled before the saga was completed.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Responsible Sailing

GERHARD:
Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos again and here are a few that aren't on his website.

How not to operate a sailing vessel! When you’re in charge of a brand new, 35 foot, chartered boat, make sure you harbour a blatant disregard for safety procedures, rely heavily on the insurance you've signed up for and kiss your damage deposit goodbye.

Be sure to heel the boat as far as possible in order to scare the crap out of your unsuspecting crew.

Don't wait until the last minute to open the "we're safely anchored" champagne.

(This has been a public service announcement on how not to operate your boat. Do not try this at home. No stupid sailors or passengers were injured (much) and a small portion of the damage deposit was returned.)

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Comix Experience 1991

GERHARD:
Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos again and here are a few that aren't on his website.

A pleasant enough signing at Brian Hibbs' Comix Experience store in San Francisco, although it seems that this guy deemed it necessary to wear protective head gear in order to get Dave's autograph.

Dave autographs fresh produce! I believe it's a grapefruit.

Before the signing involves autographing various body parts, I decide to go for a walk.

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Ger & His Camera

GERHARD:
Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos again and here are a few that aren't on his website.

Geez, could my glasses BE any bigger? The Eighties, man... ya just gotta shake yer head.

A recurring theme in my photos: Ger alone in a hotel room in some strange city.

...and then there's me, just goofin' around Victoria Park.

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Dave Sim Fund

DAVE SIM:
(from Kickstarter Update #125, 12 November 2012)
...In the meantime, having to make a living, I have signed with IDW to do four work-made-for-hire covers a month.  Unlike everything having to do with CEREBUS, THAT's going smoothly.  I e-mail the covers from PostNet, I get reaction back, voucher the covers and get paid. So, I'm working on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND (when I'm not RE-RE-recording audio for George) and making some progress.  That's pretty much what I see my future as being since the earliest that George could finish HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL and HIGH SOCIETY DIGITAL is next April.  If the schedule stays the way it is now, you can make that closer to June.  So, what I picture is trying to get by with the $17K left out of the $30K and whatever I can make doing covers with IDW.  If I'm not "covering my nut" I'll do more covers (they've got 19 -- count 'em 19 -- possibles for me) and cut into the three weeks out of the month that I have to work on STRANGE DEATH...

...Rick Norwood of COMICS REVUE (one of my favourite publications, reprinting classic comic strips that he sends me for free. Thank you, Rick!) wrote recently suggesting three possibilities for my career as it stands: 1) Collect glamourpuss and the ALEX RAYMOND material as "Princess, Die!"  2) get 1,000 CEREBUS fans to send me $5 a month so I can keep working and not worry about overhead and 3) do a cover of Cerebus with Mandrake for COMICS REVUE for $100.  I'll be trying option #2  "as soon as/if" viable instructions from George arrive on how to create Paypal buttons.  I'm just going to have a "Dave Sim Fund $5" button.  I'll let you know every month how much money comes in. But, after all of my bad CEREBUS experiences over the last decade? Two decades?  I'm thinking work-made-for-hire covers, THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND and ZERO CONTACT with computers (except when I have to come back to coffee shop hell to let you know what's happening with YOUR money) is my best bet...

...Okay, back to STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.  I've just finished a new "bridge" between the Alex Raymond RIP KIRBY introductory material and the Stan Drake HEART OF JULIET JONES introductory material covering BIG BEN BOLT and TWIN EARTHS (the second and third photorealism strips).  Some good stuff in TWIN EARTHS (the "twin earth" planet is 92% women!) for the later "Metaphysical" sections.  So, TECHNICALLY I'm on page 61 when it comes to doing my roadmap.  Actual drawing, I'm still a ways away from. But ZERO CONTACT with computers.  That counts for a lot with me...

Cerebus Pole-Vaulting!

The Flaming Carrot Kickstarter Print: 'The Great Race' with the Turtles on jet packs, and Cerebus pole-vaulting into the lead, Flaming Carrot rides a flying dragon, as Hugo Ball tries to keep up on a Harley. What looks like Tickle-Me-Elmo rides behind Flaming Carrot with a completely freaked out face.

BOB BURDEN:
(via Facebook, 21 November 2012)
Wow! I just got this in from Kevin. This is the poster for the Kickstarter campaign. Originally I wanted Dave Sim and Kevin Eastman to just mail me their drawings, and I could pop them in, but Dave insisted I send the original and we should do it right. So when Kevin got it he went nuts on the thing! so much more ink on this than the original that it bumped to a higher fed ex ship rate!
The original print without TMNT and CEREBUS drawn in.

High Society Digital #08 - Out Now!

High Society Digital #08 (Cerebus #33, December 1981)
Available from Cerebus Downloads
Out Now! Only 99¢

"It's that classic love triangle we've all seen SO often in literature -- a three-foot-tall barbarian aardvark, a manipulative woman heading up her own revolutionary political movement and a six-foot Bug in a black leotard and flowing white cape -- that it practically needs its own Dewy Decimal number at the library! Sure it's a cliche now, but back then it was considered 'new' and 'different'. I'm Dave Sim, co-creator of comics' only 6,000 page graphic novel and I really do write all this stuff myself."

People everywhere agree that HIGH SOCIETY is Award-Winning (Eisner; Harvey; Shuster, Ignatz, Wizard) graphic novelist Dave Sim's greatest and most hilarious work. It regularly gets a 5-star rating on lists of the Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time. In addition to the 20 pages of art and story, you also get everything that was in the original comic book -- Deni's Note from the Publisher, the original ads, the original letters pages, the original back cover and inside back cover.

BONUS! Original documents from the time period from Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive as well as pages from Dave Sim's original Notebooks (where he plotted and designed each issue) accompanied by Sim's own annotations.

Twitter Talk #4

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cerebus Film Story-Board

Animated Film Opening Sequence Story-board
Art by Dave Sim (2010)
OLIVER SIMONSEN:
(from the What Comix blog, 24 June 2010)
Yesterday Dave Sim mentioned he had been thinking of story-boarding his original opening for "Cerebus The Movie" (from his Animated Portfolio days in the 80s, which is as far as he got before wondering "why the heck would i want Cerebus to be a movie?"). Dave Sim's opening actually sounded a lot like my first storyboard which featured a serene setting with bugs which then scatter when horse hooves ride through the scene... then cut to page 1 panel 1 of issue 1 of Cerebus galloping on horseback towards the city gates. I asked if we could use his idea for our film and today he generously story-boarded it and sent it over. Too kind. See Above. Looks fantastic! And very funny:)

Oliver Simonsen is currently hard at work completing the animated movie Cerebus: Tale Of A Fractured Destiny.

Monday, 19 November 2012

High Society Digital #06 And #07 - Out Now!

High Society Digital #06 (Cerebus #31, October 1981)
Available from Cerebus Downloads
Out Now! Only 99¢

"'Chasing Cootie' introduces the (then) latest incarnation of the Roach character -- MOOOON ROACH! Bill Sienkiewicz was a close friend of mine at the time and I came up with this parody of one of his signature characters. Who IS the Moon Roach and what IS his secret origin and who is the mystery woman he met when his gut was leaking all over her carpet? I'm Dave Sim, co-creator of comics only 6,000-page graphic novel, and I never seem to get tired of saying that." 

High Society Digital #07 (Cerebus #32, November 1981)
Available from Cerebus Downloads
Out Now! Only 99¢

"As things start to run SERIOUSLY out of control for the little grey guy, we get to know Astoria -- one of the key characters in the first two-thirds of the CEREBUS storyline -- a little better. Cerebus and the Moon Roach duke it out and Cerebus has trouble taking his own best advice: Don't Get Mad At An Elf. I'm Dave Sim and I can't believe I was able to keep all this straight in my head for the two years it took me to write and draw it."

People everywhere agree that HIGH SOCIETY is Award-Winning (Eisner; Harvey; Shuster, Ignatz, Wizard) graphic novelist Dave Sim's greatest and most hilarious work. It regularly gets a 5-star rating on lists of the Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time. In addition to the 20 pages of art and story, you also get everything that was in the original comic book -- Deni's Note from the Publisher, the original ads, the original letters pages, the original back cover and inside back cover.

BONUS! Original documents from the time period from Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive as well as pages from Dave Sim's original Notebooks (where he plotted and designed each issue) accompanied by Sim's own annotations.

Who Reviews The Reviewers?

"Wow! A Tony Millionaire Cerebus!"
The Believer #27 (September 2005)
DAVE SIM:
(from 'Who Reviews The Reviewers?' in Following Cerebus #7, February 2006)
It came as something of a surprise when word circulated in late September of last year that Cerebus had been reviewed in a mainstream magazine called The Believer. I was in no hurry to read the piece since mainstream magazines are completely in thrall to feminism and consequently bound to make vilification of Cerebus (and me) the core of their coverage. It did, however, seem oddly premature. My best guess had been that the publication of issue 300 - having passed largely without consequence - that the feminists would elect to entrench within their universally favoured high-school-cheerleader-clique approach to intellectual debate and to maintain a "zero tolerance" level of ostracism of the book (and myself) for a period of some years if not decades leaving it to their guerrilla bands of the internet to continue laying the ground-work of the "Dave Sim is insane" retrenchment of intellectually vacuous but largely effective quasi-rebuttal.

Peter Straub mailed me a copy asking me in his cover note to phone him to discuss it when when I had "absorbed it." I phoned him a few days later and basically said that - given that I was believed to be clinically insane - it really wasn't relevant what I thought of the piece. As a member-in-good-standing of the 21st century mainstream (a New York Times bestselling author who knows Stephen King and Neil Gaiman personally), however, I was interested in what he had thought of the piece and what, in his view, the journalist in question was attempting to express.

"Well," he said, thoughtful as always before giving an assessment, "I thought what he was, in effect, saying was 'What if - instead of being a miserable failure as a painter - Hitler had been a painter with the abilities of a Rembrandt.'"

It was an interesting and succinct way of putting it (something Peter excels at which was why I had asked). Indeed even a cursory examination of the article reveals such references as "an absolute masterpiece" (in the subhead), "one of the most ambitious and fully realised narratives of the past century" "a novel of (very big) ideas" "a Gesamtkunstwerk of word and image and idea" [I have no idea what the dictionary-definition of Gesamtkunstwerk might be, but from the context, I'll take it as a "plus"] "the Birth Of A Nation of comics" and asserts that "The formal symmetries and echoes within Cerebus are spectacular, especially given that every chapter has gone unrevised since its initial publication," and I'm described as "a shockingly gifted cartoonist, one of the most innovative storytellers in the history of his medium... [he] routinely pulls off technical feats that no other cartoonist would dare." Of course, it's also noted that "Sim's reputation as a world-class jerk tends to overshadow his actual work" which - given the exalted heights of praise in which the writer, Douglas Wolk clearly felt himself compelled to indulge as regards that work (I would tend to agree with Peter Straub) - would seem to require a "world-class-jerkiness" of virtually Hitlerian proportions to overshadow.

"I was wondering  if he's actually a fan and he's just pretending to be the outraged feminist because he knew that was the only way he could get the piece published," I suggested to Peter. He grasped immediately what I was saying - if it takes kicking Dave in the nuts a bunch of times, at least someone can officially go on record as saying the work itself is as good as Wolk believes it to be.

Peter didn't think so. Pushed to the wall, I didn't think so either - but there was still the inexplicable appearance of the piece itself a mere year-and-a-half since the end of the book. There seemed to be no accounting for the excessive praise in our present degraded and feminist-dominated political context. Was it even possible in the deepest sanctuaries of feminist delusion to believe that someone could be simultaneously Rembrandt and Hitler?

...Peter turned up a copy of the magazine itself for me and for the Cerebus Archive just in time for my wonderful home-cooked dinner with him and his wife Susan in their spectacular brownstone just off Central Park West in mid-town Manhattan. My first reaction to the piece in photocopy form had been "Wow. A Tony Millionaire Cerebus." To that was now added "Wow. A Charles Burns Cerebus."

Hitler or Rembrandt: once a fanboy always a fanboy.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Believer: A 'Cerebus' Review

The Believer #27, cover detail (September 2005)
Art by Charles Burns
DOUGLAS WOLK:
(from The Believer #27, September 2005)
...It is an absolute masterpiece - one of the most ambitious and fully realised narratives of the past century. And its flaws are plentiful, wide, and maddening, and penetrate straight to its core...

...Which brings us back to the aesthetics vs. politics problem. It's comforting to see first rate art that's compatible with one's own political views; but to see first-rate art that's violently opposed to one's own political views is necessary. If your sympathies are even vaguely secular or liberal - if, that is, you're reading the Believer, whose title Sim would probably find bitterly amusing - then the second half of Cerebus is an attack on you. It demands a response in the reader's mind, and if you can see past "what a total dick," you're likely to come out of it with your own thoughts about gender, power, and the nature of creation (with both a large and small C) clarified.

Any one can come up with a grand twenty-seven-year plan for a mammoth work of art, but Sim, along with very few others in human history, actually went through with it. He made the commitment to his story and spent more than a quarter of a century grinding away at it, and he finished it, exactly when he said he would. A serious, ambitious, completed large-scale work, no matter how deeply flawed it is, beats a perfectly envisioned but unrealised project every time. At the very least, Cerebus is worth reading for the same reason a grand, half-ruined cathedral of a religion not your own is worth spending time in: it's a cathedral. Take what you can from it.

Douglas Wolk is an author and critic, and his book Reading Comics won an Eisner Award and Harvey Award in 2008.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Great Rip-Offs In Comic Book History

Giant-Size X-Men #1 & Uncanny X-Men #94 (Marvel Comics, 1975)
Art by Gil Kane & Dave Cockrum 
DAVE SIM:
(from Aardvark Comment, Cerebus #169, April 1993)
I find a lot of fans are unaware that the characters they enjoy were purchased for nickles and dimes from creators and are now earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for companies. I think that sucks. At the same time, knowing that Bernie Wrightson was ripped off left right and center on Swamp Thing, I still read and enjoyed the book when Alan Moore and Rick Veitch were doing it. I think it is shameful that creators are ripped off and I think it is shameful that other creators compound the offense. To their credit, a lot of creators are realising what 'the game' consists of and are walking away from it. You can say that everyone goes into this with their eyes open but how was Len Wein to know when he created the X-Men (the New X-Men) that one day he would see them splashed all over comic book stores and television, with royalty payments large enough to buy his successor on the book his own airplane, while Len himself would not see one dime over his page rate for X-Men #94. At the same time, I'm sure he was paid top rate for writing X-Men #94 and, at the time, it made as much sense to do that as to do anything else. Fifteen years later it goes in the Siegel and Shuster file: Great Rip-Offs in Comic Book History.

From 1970 to 1975, the Uncanny X-Men title consisted of reprints due to lack of sales. In May 1975, Giant-Size X-Men (written by Len Wein, art by Dave Cockrum) jump-started the series after the five-year hiatus, in which Professor X recruits a new international team to save the X-Men. With issue Uncanny X-Men #94, the magazine was revived, (plotted by Len Wein, scripted by Chris Claremont, art by Dave Cockrum) and all of the original X-Men quit, save team leader Cyclops, and are replaced by such "All-New, All-Different" X-Men as Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Banshee, and Colossus.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ray Zone (1947-2012) RIP

AV In 3D #1 (December 1984)
3D by Ray Zone, art by Dave Sim, Arn Saba, Bill Loebs, Valentino, Bob Burden & Terry Beatty
(Click image to enlarge)
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:
(from 'Ray Zone: The  3D King Of Hollywood Dies At 65', The Hollywood Reporter, 15 November 2012)
He produced 3D adaptations of art for more than 150 comic books and worked in the movies and on Tool's cleverly packaged 2006 album 10,000 Days. Ray Zone, a pioneer in methods of converting flat images like comic books into stereoscopic images, helping to earn him the nickname "The 3D King of Hollywood," has died. He was 65. Zone, whose interest in 3D began in 1953 when, at age 6, he started reading 3D comics starring Mighty Mouse, died Nov. 13 at his home in Los Angeles of a heart attack, the International 3D Society reported Thursday... 

"The 3D Society truly mourns the loss of our community's best friend," the organization said in a statement. "Ray was our mentor and advocate. As an accomplished 3D producer, stereographer and leading scholar, he helped pave the way for all of our success today. Ray served as the society's historian and now takes his place as a treasured part of our industry's history. He will be profoundly missed." Survivors include his sons Johnny and Jimmy Ray. 

DENI LOUBERT:
(from 'A Note From The Publisher', AV In 3D, December 1984)
For those of you unfamiliar with Aardvark-Vanaheim, this book is a sample of the titles we publish. We first began talking about doing a 3-D book when Dave, Jim, Arn, Bill and I were attending Petuniacon in April. Since we had never had so many A-V artists in one place before, we spent one morning meeting for the upcoming year. We knew Pacific Comics was going to put out a 3-D book, and everyone liked the idea of using 3-D as a way to introduce people to our line of books.

Needless to say, getting this type of project off the ground took some time. A-V has always tended to attract very independent artists, and our policy of non-edited book with mutually agreed upon schedules can make a book of this sort hectic. But everyone pitched in and helped, including the master of 3-D himself, Ray Zone and the fine people at Preney Print & Litho. Each of the stories has a feel of it's own, and, I feel, an appeal that, given a chance, can reach anyone. We have always tended to have a rather non-conformist reputation. I tend to see it more as a line of books written for a select and discriminating audience. Could that be you, I am talking about? I suppose that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, make yourself comfortable. Sit back and prepare to enjoy yourself.

Cosplaylass

Glamourpuss #25 (May 2012)
Art by Dave Sim
HEIDI MacDONALD:
(from 'And Then They Came For The Cosplayers' at The Beat, 13 November 2012)
...Horrible non-fan women tempting innocent comics-reading virgins with their Pixie costumes. Now, there is a germ of truth to this based on the fact that hot women have been used to sell every product known to mankind since mankind ever existed. And there have been many complaints over the years from female professionals over "booth babes" who were obviously paid models who came to the shows to attract lonely nerds. Call it the G4 effect... and I personally don't like the Slave Leia legion because anyone who would rather dress as a slave than a rebel commander definitely is doing it for attention... but to brand all the women who like dressing as comic characters in this way really shows more issues with women than anything to do with cons or costuming...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Hawaii 1988 (4)

GERHARD:
I had stuck two rows of self-adhesive hooks to the mirrored wall in the living room where we hung the pages. I remember having a hell of a time getting those hooks off again. Sorry about the shirtlessness but it is Hawaii after all.

I had taken two shots of me leaning against the tree and they were both over-exposed so I took the slides out of their little cardboard frames, flipped one of them over and sandwiched them both together into one frame with this result.

This shot just always makes me smile. We need more smiles.

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Elephantmen #44

Trench Dreams
Art by Dave Sim
Elephantmen #44: Sleeping Partners Part Three
by Richard Starkings, Axel Medellin & Dave Sim
Image Comics, $3.99
On Sale: 14 November 2012

RED-HEADED MULE:
(from a review at Red-Headed Mule, 12 November 2012)
Once again, Elephantmen left nothing to be desired. This was another amazing issue in what is truly one of the greatest continuing stories to date. The way Richard Starkings draws on past issues and makes it relevant to the present issues is one of the many reasons why I love this series so much. There is an established timeline he draws from that makes the Elephantmen history important. THAT is something that I desire in other books. Once again we are graced with a dream sequence by the talented Dave Sim. The sequences he draws are so different that, as I am sure was intended, you can tell the dreams feel real to the dreamers at the time in which they take place. As always, Axel Medellin brings the Elephantmen world to life with vibrant colors and amazing art. This is one book I have come to enjoy over the years and I hope to for many more.

UNLEASH THE FANBOY:
(from a review at Unleash The Fanboy, 13 November 2012)
After some rather complicated issues, Elephantmen #44 begins to put the pieces together, whilst still being vague and mysterious. Still, there’s a sense of things moving in this issue, even if it dialogue heavy... This issue carries on from a lot of the previous arcs, uniting many of the Elephantmen. Its only when you see them together that you realize some of them don’t interact that much; Elephantmen can be a difficult series to get to grips with plot wise, and new comers might not feel at ease. This mainly focuses around on Trench (the Zebra). More of a fringe character recently, the series does its best to bring him into the fold. This is done via the third dream sequence shown so far. These, like previous issues, demonstrate a fantastic level of art, even if the images are very ‘static’, showing the same scene over and over. Still, with some reasonably written dialogue, its a very atmospheric couple of pages. Trench always has a certain ‘noir’ feel about him, and the writing and art captures that well, especially through its use of a moody New York at night time. Of course, if there’s one thing Elephantmen can do, its bring characters together only to leave more questions and potential plots. The dialogue is good, but its obvious suggestions towards a certain path might be too obvious for some. The dream sequences are referenced a lot, but it sometimes feels too obvious; although its hard to criticize a world full of talking anthropomorphic animals for not being realistic.

Dave Sim: Conversations

Dave Sim: Conversations
Edited by Eric Hoffman & Dominick Grace
University Press of Mississippi
$40 / £25
On Sale: 1 April 2013
Diamond ID: JAN131405
Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

In 1977, Dave Sim (b. 1956) began to self-publish Cerebus, one of the earliest and most significant independent comics, which ran for 300 issues and ended, as Sim had planned from early on, in 2004. Over the run of the comic, Sim used it as a springboard to explore not only the potential of the comics medium but also many of the core assumptions of Western society. Through it he analyzed politics, the dynamics of love, religion, and, most controversially, the influence of feminism--which Sim believes has had a negative impact on society. Moreover, Sim inserted himself squarely into the comic as Cerebus's creator, thereby inviting criticism not only of the creation, but also of the creator. What few interviews Sim gave often pushed the limits of what an interview might be in much the same way that Cerebus pushed the limits of what a comic might be. In interviews Sim is generous, expansive, provocative, and sometimes even antagonistic. Regardless of mood, he is always insightful and fascinating. His discursive style is not conducive to the sound bite or to easy summary. Many of these interviews have been out of print for years. And, while the interviews range from very general, career-spanning explorations of his complex work and ideas, to tightly focused discussions on specific details of Cerebus, all the interviews contained herein are engaging and revealing. The featured interviews include:

A Talk With An Aardvark
Maggie Thompson - Comic Fandom's Forum (1982)

Dave Sim & Gerhard
Martin Skidmore - Fantasy Advertiser #115 (1989)

Cerebus: An Interview With Dave Sim
Stephen R. Bissette - Comics Interview #107 (1992)

Original Sim: The Dave Sim Interview
Jason Sacks - Amazing Heroes #201 (1992)

An Interview With Dave Sim & Gerhard
Adrian Reynolds - Cerebus Fan Girl Site (1993)

Sim Speaks
UK Convention Panel - Comics Forum #7 (1994)

A Close Up Look At Dave Sim’s Cerebus
Tom Spurgeon - The Comics Journal #184/192 (1996)

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It
Sandeep Atwal - Filler (1996)

Dave Sim: 20 Years Of Cerebus
Charles Brownstein - Feature #4 (1997)

Dave Sim
Tasha Robinson - A.V. Club (2004)

Cerebus Yahoo Group
Selections from Online Q&A (2004-06)

Gerhard's Photos: Hawaii 1988 (3)

GERHARD:
I did a lot of snorkelling in Hawaii, and I made it part of my morning routine. (No, those aren’t fart bubbles.) So Dave included an underwater scene in the pages we were working on at the time.
Cerebus #95 (February 1987)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click Image To Enlarge)

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Hawaii 1988 (2)

GERHARD:
Geez... no wonder people thought we were gay. Ah, whachagonna do? It was the late eighties. C'est La Vie.

Best.Sunset.Ever. My drawing board was next to the balcony doors and I called Dave over to see this. He said that it looked as if Jupiter had snuck up next to us.

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Hawaii 1988 (1)

GERHARD:
Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos and I included some little captions on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos and here are a few that aren't on his website. Click the images to enlarge.

Me At The Drawing Board:
This is me at the drawing board in the condo we rented for three months in Honolulu, can of drawing fuel in my hand. The theory was; we can draw anywhere, so why not go somewhere warm for the better part of the winter? Also, without many of the distractions we had at home, we could really put our noses to the grind stone and get the book back on schedule. We cranked out an issue every two weeks for those three months.

Waikiki Beach (with Diamond Head in the background):
This was the general neighbourhood where the condo was located. Dave was very disappointed. He called it Sauble with palm trees. (Sauble Beach is our local over-crowded summer sun and sand tourist-trap.) I don’t know what he expected but I soon came to realize that the world often didn’t meet his expectations… though he liked the fact that the night clubs were open 'til 4:00am.

Rose Coloured Glasses:
Dave looking at the world through rose coloured glasses. This may have been a back cover as well. I can't check; my issues are all in a box, barricaded at the back of the attic closet.

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Twitter Talk #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It HAD to be.

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

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Craig Miller (1959-2012) RIP

MICHAEL BREAKFIELD:
(from the tribute posted at MyComicsShop.com, 9 November 2012)
This past week, the Lone Star Comics Family lost one of their own. Craig Miller, editor of Wrapped In Plastic magazine and Following Cerebus, passed away. He was much beloved by family and friends alike, and in just the few short years that I knew him, he left an ever-lasting impression on me. It so rare in this world that I find another, a kindred spirit, whose passion for comics, science fiction, pop culture and storytelling matches my own. 

Craig and I bonded over our shared love for the works of Joss Whedon and I will be forever grateful for the memories of our discussions and debates about all things Buffy, Firefly and The Avengers. Craig also introduced me to the works of David Lynch and more importantly the ground-breaking television series Twin Peaks, a show that he was extremely passionate about as any reader of Wrapped In Plastic would, of course, know. 

Craig was warm, personable, highly intelligent and a good man. He will be missed and my condolences go out to his family.

STAR-TELEGRAM:
(from the obituary notice, Star-Telegram, 11 November 2012)
Craig Steven Miller, 53, passed away Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. Memorial service: 1 p.m. Tuesday at Fielder Road Baptist Church, 2011 S. Fielder Road (corner of Fielder and Pioneer Pkwy/303) in Arlington. Memorials: In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the American Heart Association, 10900-B Stonelake Blvd., Suite 320, Austin, Texas, 78759, or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, P.O. Box 4072, Pittsfield, Mass., 01202.

Craig was born on Sept. 27, 1959, in Columbus, Ohio. He was a writer, artist and publisher of magazines, including Wrapped In Plastic and Following Cerebus. Craig also worked for Lone Star Comics and Science Fiction. He graduated from the University of Texas, Arlington, in 1982 with a degree in liberal arts. Craig was a devoted father to Jennifer, and they regularly attended church. He and his mother shared many of the same traits. They were caring, understanding and loving to everyone. "Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place." Craig was preceded in death by his mother, Ruth. Survivors: Daughter, Jennifer; father, Howard; sister, Jolene; nephews, Austin and Trevor; and special friend, Sandra.

Dave Sim's tribute to Craig Miller can be found here.