Monday, 17 February 2014

Slabbing Cerebus: An Eye-Witness Account

In March 2004 CGC Grader Paul Litch supervised the signing of the 'Dave Sim File Copies' of Cerebus before they were sent to CGC’s Sarasota offices for grading and encapsulation.

Dave Sim & Gerhard Sign The File Copies Of Cerebus
(Photo from Following Cerebus #1, July 2004)
(from CGC Vol 3 #3, March 2004)
I consider myself a Cerebus fan. I love the artwork, I love that it is not really about an aardvark. I love the monumental stature of it. I love that this comic can humble a person. I love the diehard D.Y.I. integrity (and insanity) of self-publishing for 26+ years. I love the stubbornness of freedom shown not only by an aardvark, but by its creator as well. I am a fan.

I never would have imagined getting that phone call from Peter Dixon asking if I wanted to go to the Aardvark-Vanaheim studio in Kitchner, Ontario to witness a Signature Series signing and possibly do the Dave Sim File Copies. The first words out of my mouth, "Is Dave Sim going to be there!?!"

There was a pause. Peter replied, "No, Pauly, I figured I was going to sign them all myself." I can still hear him laughing at me.

Fast forward to March 12th, 2004. Flight delays due to snow in Cleveland delayed me for an hour and a half. Peter and Kevin Boyd pick me up at the airport and we head off for Kitchner, an hour away. We had tentative plans to go out that night with Dave Sim, but I was worried because my delayed flight put us in Kitchner at 11:30 pm. Luckily, he was still up for it. Chicken wings, pierogies, fried dill pickles (I had to try them) and a couple of pitchers and we were all planning the "Bank Heist" (as Dave dubbed it) for 8:30 in the morning.

We arrived at the studio and I tried to stay focused as I saw the most breathtaking pieces of framed original art covers from throughout the Cerebus run hung around the studio walls. Gerhard arrived shortly after us and we quickly got to work. Dave and Gerhard sat for the signings while the three of us un-bagged then re-bagged the file copies. Trying to keep up with two artists that are used to deadlines is not an easy task.

The five of us worked in silence for a while. Personally, I was still stunned that I was there. I could barely control the fanboy. "You're here representing Comics Guaranty, don't screw it up by geeking out," I kept telling myself. But Dave and Gerhard broke into the easy banter of friends and smiles abounded. Dave asked me many straightforward questions about CGC, which I was more than happy to answer. He was very excited about our Registry and the news that we were planning on including Cerebus the Aardvark into our sets so that collectors can track and rate their "Dave Sim File Copies." But the best part was just talking about comics; what we owned, what we regret selling, who our favorite creators are and were, which lead to reading aloud some of the tribute letters from CBG about the late Julie Schwartz.

We worked from 8:30 am to almost 8:30 pm with just a soda break. Peter Birkemoe, owner of The Beguiling, an underground comics store in Toronto, arrived at midday with a small television crew. So Dave not only had us to deal with, but he also gave an interview with, and wrote a three-page scripted scene for, Book TV, a popular Canadian Cable show. All the while he was signing file copies between takes.

It seems an understatement to say that it was a busy day. Dave & Gerhard signed approximately 20 copies of issues #65 to #135. Dave signed approximately 20 copies of #2 to #64. There are 10 Dave Sim File Copy #1's. He also opted to sign the other copies of the first issue that he has bought over time for the Signature Series. Plus they signed 100 copies of Cerebus the Aardvark #300 that Peter had pre-screened himself for the best copies. All told, we did approximately 2800 "Dave Sim File Copies" all signed for the Signature Series.

How did they look? Amazing. So far we have done two copies. The Cerebus #300 numbered 1/100 was CGC certified a 9.8. We also certified the highest graded CGC copy of Cerebus #1, which Dave has chosen to auction off for ACTOR at the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon. This copy is an astounding CGC certified 9.4 with WHITE pages. Other issues of the file copies that stood out in my mind as extremely high grade were the first 10 or so of the run, including some very rare issues like #21, and the never reprinted #51. The Wolveroach issues were also stunning and I can't wait to see how they do.

By the end of the day we were all drained and quite amazed that we had done what we set out to accomplish. Gerhard had left after his part of the signings and after he had helped us a bit by taking some photos. The rest of us enjoyed a very nice dinner with Dave, one of his long time friends and the new owner of Now and Then Books, one of the oldest comic book stores in North America. It was a great night and the end of an exhausting and rewarding day.

One thing kept resonating through my mind the rest of the weekend. Before all of the chaos that befell us once the day got into full swing, Dave broke that awkward silence by saying, "You know, I got CGC right away. I read about it and I got it. You guys are for people who want the best of the best."

Dave Sim is correct; we are for people who want the best of the best and the extraordinary. It is an honor that he chose CGC for his file copies, the best of the best of his life's creation. Thanks Dave, on a personal level, for allowing this fan to be a part of it.


David Birdsong said...


Russell Duffy said...

Waddya mean I'm jealous of your visit to the studio?