Saturday, 12 January 2013

Paul Grist: Flag Waving

Paul Grist Comics: Kane, Jack Staff & Mudman
(from 'Flag Waving', Jack Staff #5, Image Comics, May 2004)
And it's goodbye to Cerebus, which reached it's 300th (and final) issue in March of this year. Cerebus is probably the comic that has had the biggest influence on my life. I picked up my first copy (issue 39) from Oddessy 7 in Manchester back in the Autumn of 1982. I read the issue that night and then went back to the shop the following day to buy all the others issues they had in stock. Cerebus was the comic that made me want to do my own comic and made me thinking that self publishing was a Very Good Thing. So much so that when I eventually did launch my own self published comic, Kane, the stories were set in the 39th precinct of New Eden.

I really don't think people realise how much Dave Sim actually changed the way things are done in comics. Cerebus was the first comic (as far as I know) that collected single issues into trade paperbacks as a way of keeping the issues in print. A lot of other people producing their own comics are only there because Dave Sim showed that self publishing was not a vanity option, but a practical viable way for a creator to get their work out to their readers. Okay, so there's been an awful lot of rubbish produced in the name of self publishing over the last 20 years, that's not Dave's fault - but there's a lot of good stuff out there that wouldn't be there is Cerebus hadn't shown it was possible. I first saw Jim Valentino's work in the back of Cerebus. Without Cerebus there probably wouldn't be Bone. Or Strangers in Paradise. It's probably not stretching the point to say there wouldn't even be an Image.

And I haven't even begun to talk about the story itself, a Conan parody which soon became a very individual vision. I'm really not a critic so I'm probably not the best person to write commentary on the story - all I can do is recommend that you try it yourself. It's regarded as being a bit 'controversial' and 'difficult' in recent years - so why not try one of the earlier funny books? High Society (covering issues 25 to 50) is probably a good place to start - but then I like the Marx Brothers more than the Three Stooges. The writings great, sharp and funny - and the arts great too - and when Gerhard comes in half way through the Church & State collection...

What can I say? After 300 issues Dave Sim has left the building.

Paul Grist is the UK-based writer/artist of the comics series Kane, Jack Staff and Mudman. For many years he self-published his comics before moving to Image Comics.

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