Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: Jaka's Story

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Jaka's Story opens up with a page of text of young Jaka and Nurse, and Nurse's riiiiiiiiise. And shine, Jaka. Rise and shine, Jaka. And while Dave's notebooks have a few hand written pages of him finalizing that first page, it isn't the first thing he wrote about Jaka's Story. In the same notebook as sketches for the WAP cover, the AARGH! short story and what appear to be sketches done on vacation is this first page on Jaka's Story:

Notebook 10, page 14
Jaka's Story
Leaving aside the character (for the moment) let's examine what it is that we wish to say through this particular novel. Since this is the Love Story (as opposed to the previous Political Story and Religious Story) it makes sense that this novel should bind together the central elements from of the previous two volumes in much the way that love binds two previously desperate forces and/in entities into a single force or entity/force and/or entity. We'll also be examining We must also bear in mind that love is sewn sown and sewn with the seeds of its own destruction (well maybe not necessarily, but let's say that the occurrence is altogether commonplace; for more the rule than the exception).

It is conceded at the outset that this phenomenon (the sowing and sewing) is more common in our day and age. As Cerebus loses hi its grip on the theoretical fourteenth century and strays amicability from Victorian times to Edwardian to Mutated and Unrecognizable except as Estarcion, it behooves me to attempt a slightly more realistic look at Relationships five hundred years ago bearing in mind that what I'm saying I hope will have some large measure of impact in the area of audience identification. 
I'm not sure who Dave is writing to - as this isn't in the introduction to Jaka's Story. Perhaps it is a press release? Or is he writing to someone from the future, someone almost 25 years in the future...

The next page is a couple pieces of dialogue from the phonebook, and the next pages has the issue numbers all the way up to #150 drawn out just as they appear on the cover. The next page - the outline for Jaka's Story with some storyline elements and dialogue:

Notebook 10, page 17

At this point Snatcher Ms Thatcher hadn't been created yet, with Cirin herself standing in the role of inquisitor. The concept of Jaka and Pud exchanging the three copper bits in their closed economy system is shown. And the breakdown of Jaka's Story into the individual books is right down to the issue number with even the story names being the same.

The overarching idea, then the smaller concepts and then the fleshing out of the story appears to be how this phonebook is coming to be in Dave's notebook. Next week - a look at fleshing out of Pogrom's Progress. 

Margaret Liss is The Cerebus Fan Girl and maintains the Cerebus Wiki


Dave Kopperman said...

These are really fantastic. Thanks for sharing, Margaret.

"Fucking the bartender"? Followed by three issues addressing Jaka's popularity?

Anonymous said...

I agree! Big Thanks to Margaret for sharing.

Andrew L. said...

Anyone else notice the changing of "his" to "its" in reference to Cerebus in the second paragraph?

Thanks Margaret for putting these up. They are fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the change from "his" to "its" had to do with gender; I think Dave meant to refer to "Cerebus" the book, not the character. I think it was just a genuine slip. The rest of the sentence seems to be about the milieu of the book; not the central character.

- Reginald P.

Ethan Burns said...

I noticed it too. I wonder if it's because he's referring to the series and not the character, or because Cerebus is an hermaphrodite.

Jeff Seiler said...

I had the extreme pleasure of being in the lobby of the hotel at S.P.A.C.E., in Columbus, OH, just steps away from Margaret, many years ago, when Dave and Ger arrived for the convention. The very first thing Dave did, IIRC, was to hand off some notebooks (I believe they were the first batch) to the divine Miss M. There were some other fans (readers) there, most notably Larry Hart, and we were BEGGING Margaret to let us look at the notebooks.


She was so nervous just to have them in her hands that she disappeared to her room shortly thereafter.

It was truly a seminal moment in Cerebus fandom.

I hope one day that they will be released on CD-ROM or in whatever medium they can be at that time. Not just here. Although, I suppose that we may see some of that in the High Society collection and we have already seen some of it in the reprint monthlies.

Still, just seeing those notebooks in person (but not the interiors) was stultifying.

Eddie said...

The notebooks for High Society issues are with the digital downloads for the issues, so you can read them there. Mind Games II and The Night Before Alternative dialogue were ESPECIALLY Illuminating