Saturday, 24 August 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Troy Little

After a career in animation, Troy Little began self-publishing his comic series Chiaroscuro in 2000, which was eventually collected by IDW Publishing in 2007. His second book, Angora Napkin was published in 2009 with IDW and was nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award (Best Publications for Teens) in 2010. The sequel Angora Napkin: Harvest of Revenge was published by IDW in 2013 and nominated for an Eisner as well (Best Lettering). Troy lives with his family in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

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

Troy Little:
Cerebus has somehow always been in my periphery. My first encounter with the grey bastard was when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8 came out in 1986 guest starring Cerebus. I had no idea who Cerebus was at the time but I was TMNT obsessed at the time and something struck me about this character that didn't quite fit the Eastman / Laird style.

In high school I picked up a few issues of Cerebus Bi-Weekly from the cheap bin at my local comic shop. It was well into High Society at the time and I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

But the real tipping point for me was in my mid-twenties when I was so burnt out on all superhero crap that I began to mine the comic shops for an alternative to Marvel and DC. I avoided Cerebus for a long time due to the commitment factor; there were a number of very large phone books to jump into at that point. Despite this, I picked up Vol. 1 and that was it for me. I tried to pace myself but every few days I went back to pick up another volume until I ran out (around Rick’s Story) and then switched to a monthly subscription. I was completely hooked.

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

I wear my influence on my sleeve. I may have been a decade late to the party but once I got my hands on Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing there was no going back. I started self-publishing a comic called Chiaroscuro that was visually without a doubt my best effort to employ the Sim/Gerhard crosshatch style. I bought S172 Illustration board (like Dave uses!), Hunt 102 Crowquill nibs (like Dave uses!) and studied page after page from the Cerebus books to see how they handled all the amazing tones and textures and tried to ape them in my work. I’ve been included along side Alex Robinson as a Dave Sim magpie on Dave Wiki page, a compliment I take a humble amount of pride it.

In 2001 Chiaroscuro was awarded a Xeric Grant that helped get the book into Diamond and it ran for seven issues, after which I ran out of money. Determined, I kept on drawing the book and eventually collected what would have been the first ten issues into a graphic novel. I printed 100 copies and sent them to publishers and industry people I admired, Dave Sim being top on my list.

Dave was running his Blog & Mail at the time and wrote a very kind review of the book. That review changed everything for me! Ted Adams, Publisher of IDW and long time Cerebus fan contacted me, asked to see a copy of the book and before I knew it Chiaroscuro is in print in hard and softcover editions!

Since then IDW has published two of my Angora Napkin books (very not Sim inspired, I needed a break from all that hatching!) which have been nominated twice for Eisner Awards, the last of which was for “Best Lettering” – and my lettering is basically riffing of Dave’s style.
Cerebus #150 (September 1991)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?

In the beginning I was very much in line with everything Dave said and it still hold a lot of merit with me despite making the leap out of self-publishing. Times have changed and even Dave himself is working with IDW to publish The Strange Death of Alex Raymond! I’m very protective of my personal creations an have avoided all offers to sign on with a studio or company that wants to own them. I make sure I retain all rights in every situation.

There are pros and cons about all forms of publishing, but the self-publishing bug definitely bit me. I’m working on a weekly Angora Napkin web comic and at some point down the road would like to publish that myself.

The rise of the Internet and web publishing has opened venues that have fundamentally altered the world of self-publishing in the traditional form and opened the floodgates for independent creators. I wonder what Dave would be like if he was just starting out in this day and age?

Do you have a favorite scene/sequence from Cerebus?

Flight had me frantic and Minds blew mine. The former just had such intensity running through it and the great use of all those tall, thin panels really compressed time and kept the pace fast, and as a follow up to Melmoth (which I loved being a huge Oscar Wilde fan) it was such a dramatic switch. Dave really is the master of comics in my world and he put a lot of brilliant layouts in this book.

And Minds just captivated me with the whole 4th wall being destroyed. Conceptually, I was fascinated by the idea of Creator meets Creation, seeing how that played out and how on Earth does one just go back to “Real Life” after being told you’re basically a story Dave is making up.

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

To me, Cerebus IS the masterpiece of sequential narrative. Visually, it’s staggeringly beautiful and innovative in so many technically brilliant and subtle ways. Story wise, it’s an epic tale of a lifetime lived in way that’s never done before. Thematically it touches on so many big ideas as well as postulating a very unique perspective / theology on politics, gender, faith, control, and on and on.

It’s a big chunk of brain food to dig into for the casual reader with a short attention span but to those out there who like a little more meat on the bone it’s a fascinating creation by one of comics most marginalized yet grudgingly respected innovators.

I encourage anyone who’s serious about the medium of comics to take the plunge into Dave Sim's creation and see for themselves the potential in the medium. If you’re a comic creator, study Dave’s work and you’ll quickly see how most comics out there fall way short in just about every way. Hard work, discipline and a unique vision all contribute to making Cerebus a groundbreaking narrative worthy of a large portion of your bookshelf space.

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