Saturday, 2 May 2015

Cerebus: In My Life - Alex Krislov

Cerebus: Guys Party Pack
(reprinting Cerebus #201-204, September 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Alex Krislov has been freelance writer for 45 years, and has written everything from horror comics to the documentation of a nuclear reactor. He also runs the oldest Books-and-Author area on the internet since 1982. It's now called CompuServe Books & Writers.

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

Alex Krislov:
I could have discovered Cerebus right at the start, but I blew it. I was in graduate school when the first issue appeared at my local comic store in Ann Arbor, and, being a typical grad student, I was perpetually destitute. I had a choice between Cerebus and Cartoon History of the Universe. Much as I enjoyed the latter, I think I made the wrong choice that day.

Instead, I finally picked up an issue partway into the High Society storyline. I was instantly hooked, and, being employed as a magazine editor by then, I had the money to pick up back issues and the various Swords Of Cerebus compilations. That would be in the early '80s, I guess. I subscribed at that point, and stayed a subscriber through the end.

And let me add something here. Most creators appreciate their audience, but Dave Sim was unusual in how thoroughly he showed it. When there were three years yet to run, I rang up Aardvark-Vanaheim to renew my subscription. Dave answered the phone, and when I told him I'd like to simply renew for the whole three years, he told me he really appreciated it. And then he demonstrated it, by sending me, out of the blue, a sketch of Cerebus. It hangs on my office wall, next to my splash page from Howard The Duck #5.

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

How did it affect my creativity? It taught me to take chances, pure and simple. Dave Sim launched the independent comics movement, and stood up for it at a time when the whole idea was considered a bit ludicrous. Everyone who came afterwards, from the Pinis to McFarlane onwards, owes him a debt. I've written very few comics (horror for the old TSR imprint, with Steve Gerber as an editor), but being willing to take chances works in any medium.

What is your favourite scene or sequence from Cerebus?

My favorite sequence is Guys. I identify with huge chunks of it--on every level. It's a marvelous blending of humor, self-deprecation, honest self-appraisal and caricature.

Would you recommend that other read Cerebus, and if so, why?

Yes, but with caution. I tell people, first of all, that they're treading into a massive work, huge on the scale of Les Miserables. I warn them that a lot of the ideas are highly controversial and sometimes pretty difficult to wade through. But I also tell them that it's the single most important graphic novel of all time, and one of the few that genuinely deserves the name "novel." That it's a work of considerable genius, one that will change the way they read any comic, and perhaps any regular text novel. And I recommend it enthusiastically.


Beanbag Amerika said...

I had completely forgotten about those yearly calls to Aardvark-Vanaheim, where it seemed more often than not Dave answered the phone himself to take down my renewal details.

Paul Slade said...

On the sheer scale of Cerebus as a collected work, I think Douglas Wolk said it best: "It's a cathedral - you take what you can from it."

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

The full quote:

"At the very least, Cerebus is worth reading for the same reason a grand, half-ruined cathedral of a religion not your own is worth spending time in: it's a cathedral. Take what you can from it."
~ Douglas Wolk (The Believer #27, Sept 2005)