Saturday, 3 August 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Brian John Mitchell

"Brian John Mitchell is a regular correspondent and a very productive creator. Every second or third envelope arrives with a good half-dozen of his micro-minis in it, all of which I would rate at least 3 out of 5 stars and many of which are easily 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5 stars. One of his more interesting series which swerves from poignant to outright hilarious is LOST KISSES. It's really not politically correct, but it's hysterically funny when he's doing humour. Especially ULTIMATE LOST KISSES: THE DAILY STRIPS, his self-confessed 'bitter break-up' mini."
 ~ Dave Sim (from the 2012 HARDtalk interview)
Extract from Lost Kisses #11 (2009)
Story and words by Brian John Mitchell, art by Dave Sim

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus and how long did you read it for?

Brian John Mitchell:
My first memories of Cerebus are when I was in grade school & started going to comic shops instead of the newsstand & seeing the covers of it & I never looked at it because I assumed it was another dumb funny animal book. That it was Spider-Ham or something like that. I basically stopped getting comics when I was 18 & would just randomly get comics when I happened to walk by a comic shop when on a trip or whatever & in 2001 this comic shop owner was talking to me about what comics I liked (which good comic shop owners should always do with a customer, but seems to seldom happen) & he told me I should check out Cerebus. Over the next few years I started getting more small press comics & getting those books there was always this shadow of Cerebus as an inspiration often mentioned in their pages. So in 2007 I decided to finally check it out & I bought Rick’s Story because it was the cheapest one on Ebay at the time. Which is maybe not a very accessible starting point, but it made me want more & the next one I got was Jaka’s Story & I really liked that one a lot & I ended up buying & reading the whole series over the next year & a half.

How has your own creativity/comics been influenced by Cerebus?

I’d been doing my own comics about five years before I read Cerebus.  But I think the big influence is there’s a thing in Cerebus where it just feels like Dave Sim is telling his story & doing his work without really caring about his audience & that is kind of a secret revelation to good work – you are better telling the story you want to tell rather than trying to please anyone besides yourself. Also from being in touch with Dave or just reading The Guide to Self-Publishing & such, you realize a thing about the way to get better is just to make more work consistently. I’ve been trying to make more comics & while doing twenty books a year instead of one book a year has lead to some real clunkers, I think it’s also made me level up. It’s also worth noting that Dave Sim seems to be the only person reading all my books & enjoying them beside myself.

Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?

I don’t know. I mean, right now, it’s clear that there’s not much money in making tiny comics for a dollar. The only hope is winning either a Kickstarter or Hollywood lottery. The Kickstarter lottery I’m sure that Dave would put his blessings on.  When I had my chance to sell a comic for cartoon development for $10,000 I signed up, but the deal fell through. I thought I was selling myself short, but at the time it was worth it to me. To be honest, I’d probably do it again in hopes the exposure for one series would help one of the dozen others.

The creator’s rights stuff is still a mess in my head. At this point I feel like 50% of nothing is still nothing & that’s the current value of my work & collaborations. But I do like to think one day I’ll hit the lottery with a project & have significant positive impact on a friend’s life. I think the dilemma with creator’s rights is everyone involved thinks they deserve the money & they probably all do. I don’t know, there’s so much backlash now about the silver age & golden age characters being made into movies & the creators not getting paid while DC/Marvel rack it in, but without DC/Marvel those things would have passed into obscurity & may have become public domain so the creators would still get nothing if/when a movie was made. It’s complicated.

Cerebus #193 (April 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Do you have a favourite scene/sequence from Cerebus?

I’m a big fan of Minds. The whole part where it's being revealed Cerebus is incapable of being happy with Jaka really strikes home with me. The idea that love is not enough unfortunately rings true to me.

Would you recommend others read Cerebus, and if so why?

I recently tried to share Minds with my girlfriend & realized it is really dark & not particularly accessible, though it is beautiful. I come from a different point than most people, where I don’t like the clever comic book parody stuff as much as the Russian literature style stuff of Jaka’s Story or Minds. So I think I would totally recommend Cerebus to someone who is into modern literature or dark tragic literature, but not to the average reader or comic reader. I would say anyone who is making comics should read The Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing & Cerebus Archive (which I think was really under appreciated) & at least flip through Minds to get ideas about panel design possibilities & how to level up on lettering. As far as recommending reading the whole 300 issues, I’d say if you read two of the trades & still feel drawn to it, you should probably go ahead & do it.

1 comment:

Jason Winter said...

That seguence also struck a deep chord with me. The panels depicting Cerebus'reaction in particular really hit home.