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.
Last week we saw the fleshing out of an individual issue, issue #114 in JAKA'S STORY, and a couple pages from that issue, which showed us how Dave would sketch out an idea and then hone in the fine details of the dialogue and layouts in his notebooks. This week it is page 840 from CHURCH & STATE II, or if you're following along in individual issues - issue #93 page 4.
|Notebook #7, page 72|
The first thing you can see is how the page on the other side bleeds through on page 72 of notebook #7. When I was scanning the notebooks, I wanted to ensure that I got all the detail on the page - from the lightest pencil mark to the darkest sharpie marker. This also resulted in whatever bleed through there was showing up as well. One can make out Cockroach in his Secret Sacred Wars Roach incarnation. The sketches are roughs for Dave's homage to Frank Miller's cover for Batman: The Dark Knight #2, which is the cover for Cerebus #93.
But when we focus on this page of the notebook, we can see the dialogue for page 4 of issue 93.
The conversation is between Bishop Powers (1, 3) and Lord Julius (2, 4, & 5) and the 'she' in the conversation is Astoria, who is being held prisoner. Dave has the conversation broken up by panel, and when we get to the fifth and final panel, Lord Julius' dialogue is crossed off several times. This is the finished dialogue in the book for panel #5:
"Say, do you mind if I tag along? This sounds like the chance-of-a-lifetime to discuss a restructuring of my alimony payments..."
Dave went through several iterations of the punch line: "...some jointly held property we've been quarrelling over" to "...our joint bank account" to "...reducing my alimony payments". Rather than having the ex-couple having joint ownership of something, Lord Julius is the one making the spousal support payment to Astoria. Lord Julius, Grand Lord of Palnu, to whom everyone else comes to asking for a reduction in interest rates, even he is paying his ex-wife, leader of the Kevilist (re: feminist) movement, money. A good punch line and one that still makes me chuckle. I chuckled again when I read Dave's different iterations in the notebook - even Lord Julius can't get his alimony reduced, just restructured.
Along with having the final punch line written out, the next page in notebook #7 has a rough for page 4, and it is pretty much panel for panel with the finished page. The one difference? Dave put the final punch line's word balloon above Lord Julius' head rather than below it.
|Notebook #7, page 73|
There are also some sketches of Lord Julius from the same page, and some sketches and dialogue for the next page in the issue. It makes me wonder if Dave had the notebooks out when he was working on the actual pages, or if once it was in the notebook, he had the concept he wanted set in his mind and just went with his memory of it.
Margaret Liss is The Cerebus Fan Girl and maintains the Cerebus Wiki.