Monday, 5 January 2015

Ten Years Ago: A Tribute To Mark Simpson

Mark Simpson (1968-2005) 
Co-founder (with Stephen Holland) of the UK comics shop Page 45
Founder of the Cerebus Yahoo Discussion Group.

(from the Cerebus Yahoo Group, 2005)
Before we get started here I wanted to publicly pay my belated respects to the late Mark Simpson here in The House that Mark Built. I didn't know him terribly well but there is definitely something about getting to know someone in the midst of a weeks-long event that you have no idea how it is going to "come off" - the '93 Aardvarks Over U.K. Tour (there’s a good shot of him taken by Gerhard's camera on the back cover of issue 177) - that gives you a clearer sense of the "cut of a man's jib" which is perhaps a more important and central element to the human character than those more conventional attributes we think of in regards to our associates and our friends.

Page 45 was a reasonably new experiment back then and it gave me great confidence in the possibilities presented by that experiment (now confirmed and affirmed - exponentially - many times over) to see Stephen and Mark interacting. Stephen - who could make choosing a restaurant into an ardent and critical life experience pregnant with meaning and life-altering potentialities - ably balanced by Mark: he of the dry-as-dust mordant Rule Britannia demeanour who could - with a well selected phrase or two - return any discussion to those more grounded and sensible proportions from which it had recently taken flight. I would speculate that that balance, so crucial in the early years of their collaboration, became less necessary as Stephen learned to fulfill for himself the role that Mark had so ably provided in the beginning (I suspect going back to their Fantastic Store "Rebels in the Basement" days) and that Mark had chosen to open up Page 45's "Internet Front" as a means of widening their on-going war on comic-book retail mediocrity.

It was characteristic of him that he saw a need - no one was discussing Cerebus as a creative work, they were just vilifying Dave Sim - and chose to fill it. He didn't write or phone and say, "Dave. What do you think of this idea?" The straight line he had drawn mentally between the problem he saw and the solution he had arrived at didn't pass through me so, for Mark, there was no need to bother me with it. He built the environment, nurtured it through its early days as an active participant until he was sure that it was up and running and when he was sure that the structure was sound and the concept fully entrenched, he moved on to his other areas of greater need: the unsolved problems. Not only didn't he bother me with issues of midwifery, he also didn't contact me to say "Look at what I've done for you, Dave." The pat on the head was anathema to Mark. The business of improving the comic-book field was something that was to be "gotten on with". A solved problem wasn't something that you admired and waved under the nose of others, a solved problem meant only that there was now more time to devote to unsolved problems. It had been, literally, years since he had even checked in to see how his offspring was doing.
UK Tour '93:
Gerhard, Dave Sim, Mark Simpson & Stephen Holland (seated)
And, of course, the kicker is that - had he contacted me with his solution to the problem - I would've deemed it "just some Internet crap" and told him to do whatever he wanted but that I didn't want to be bothered about it. I'm sure he knew that, too. Just as I'm sure that he had the foresight to understand that this would one day become the primary Cerebus environment after the book was done and that I would come - very, very late - to the realization of just exactly how large a favour he had done for me and Ger and for the book in creating this environment very early on so it would have time to take root before March, 2004.

It would've meant very little to him to have me acknowledge - as I am here - that he had been more farsighted than I had been. There were echoes of Mark in Stephen's voice - the part of Mark that is now as much a part of Stephen as his own personality - when I called to offer my condolences a couple of weeks back when Ger had told me the news.

[I said,] "If it hadn’t been for Mark, there wouldn't have been a Cerebus Newsgroup."

[Stephen replied,] "Well, if it hadn’t been for Dave Sim there wouldn’t have been a Page 45."

We talked about Mark very briefly and then switched to the Situation Board, how things are and what can be done about it. It was really the most effective way to honour Mark's memory. It's all that would have interested him if Stephen and I were jabbering away at each other as we were wont to do. His facial expression was always eloquent: Get to the point, it said, and then get back to work.

Even though he would've made a wry face, arched an eyebrow and said, "That…really…isn’t necessary." I'd like to propose that the headline for this mailing list permanently include a very small line beneath it reading The House That Mark Built with an icon that will take the reader to a short biography and a photo.

There you go, Mark, I got to the point and now I'm getting back to work.

1 comment:

Jeff Seiler said...

The man gives a great eulogy, that Dave Sim.

Kinda want him to do mine, one fine day.

Thanks, Mark, for beginning what we all still enjoy today.