Wednesday, 3 February 2016

What Is Cerebus About?

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.

We've only looked at Dave's notebook #12 twice before: "Daughter of Palnu" and "Oscar". Notebook #12 covers issues #118 through 122. While looking at it again, I saw the last page of the notebook, page 98, had an entry labeled 'Note from the President #122".

So I went to my website to see if the "Dave Sim's Notes From The President Archive" has the note from issue #122 in the seventy notes there. It wasn't. So I pulled issue #122 and took a look at the note.

It was mostly a blank page and down the bottom was this:
Hey! Guess who just broke up with his girlfriend?
And then just a quick two sentence blurb on some convention they were going to be attending in the middle of August.

I pulled a couple of issues before and after #122 to see if this text ever made it in. I couldn't find it. I quickly scanned the blurbs of the notes archived at my site. Didn't see anything resembling it. So if you know where it is, chime up. Or perhaps this is the first time it has seen the light of day?

Notebook #12, page 98
A lot of people wonder what Cerebus is all about.

When John Lennon was told in August of 1977 that Elvis was dead, he said 'Elvis died when he went in the army.' John looked at Elvis and thought said 'Man. What happened? They invented the word 'cool' for you. You scared the shit out of all those sons of bitches. And then you turned into one of them. Fucking beach movies. Fucking TV specials with fucking Frank Sinatra.' And John got up there; the toppermost of the poppermost. And he bought the right to ask Elvis face to face at Graceland in 1964. 'Why don't you do rock 'n' roll anymore?' Which was a good deal more polite than it was intended around and came up with a lame 'Well, if they I found a rock 'n' roll song I liked I'd record it in a minute.' John told him 'Well, when you do, we'll buy your records again.' I don't think Elvis ever recovered.

But John knew he blew it as well. The minute they fluffed up his hair and told him to be a cute little Beatle and keep smiling and don't wear a toilet seat around your neck on stage and be nice to the press. . .actually that wasn't when he blew it. When he said 'yes' to all that bullshit. That's when he blew it.

There isn't enough money in the fucking world.

That's what Cerebus is all about.


Anonymous said...

This might be Dave's greatest legacy: proof that you don't need editors, publishers, managers, market researchers, bean-counters, or gatekeepers of any kind to create and put before an audience a work of your own singular making.

-- Damian

Jeff Seiler said...

Amen, Damian. Although, I think Deni and, later, Gerhard, did a little bit of bean-counting. So, God bless them, too.

Travis Pelkie said...

I agree with Damian. That's certainly one of the things I admire most about Dave, that he did his own thing and didn't submit it through the "ordinary channels".

Jeff, I think Damian probably meant "bean-counters" in the sense of the "hey, one book about an aardvark is making money, let's do another!" sort of pushing of product that the big 2 comic companies do. I don't think Deni expanded A-V with things like Flaming Carrot or Journey with the notion that they'd make a mint, but that they were good comics that deserved an audience. Obviously somebody needed to count the cash at some point, which was the only "bean-counting" Deni or Ger were concerned with. Not the "how do we make even more money off this property!?" style bean-counting I think Damian means.

And as to this post itself, this is the first time I recall this sort of thesis, if you will, or these examples. Yay, an AMOC exclusive bit from Margaret!

I do remember someone in the Aardvark Comment mentioning Pete Townsend and not selling your integrity because you can't get it back, though.

Jeff Seiler said...

No, Travis, I think Deni always had "big plans", so you're probably right about her "bean-counting" being expansionism. (Although, Bill Loebs is one of the genuinely nicest persons I've ever met, and "Journey" is a good book.)

As to Ger being a bean-counter; he was. He did *all* of the office work, except for signing the checks. But, he never had plans beyond doing his art and helping to make "Cerebus" a great comic book.

Dave once told me that Ger has/had always "undersold" himself. Some time later, at a WizardWorld convention, I witnessed Ger being politely confronted by a convention "organizer" telling him that he should be charging more for his autograph on the WizardWorld signature comics that he was selling for them.

And, yeah, five bucks for a reprint comic, the cover of which was drawn by Gerhard, and signed and personalized by him, might be a bit low.

So, he raised it to ten bucks.

That's just one reason (of many) why he's one of my very most favorite people. More so than, even, Dave.

(Sorry, man.)

Tony Dunlop said...

Well, somebody's got to say it..."It's about 6000 pages."


Lee Thacker said...

Amen to that! It was never published as a 'Note From The President' (I wonder why?)- thanks for sharing it here, Margaret. Dave has never 'sold out' and I expect he never will. Integrity, courage, dedication and reliability are things you can never put a price on.

Jason Winter said...

What's it about? It's about time you read it and found out for yourself!

Tony again said...

Just for the record - I love Frank Sinatra.

Unknown said...

Well, thanks, everyone -- and particularly you, Damian. No hard feelings, I hope. In retrospect, as a Baby Boomer who always saw "selling out" as SELLING OUT I think I erred a little TOO far on the side of ABSOLUTE INTEGRITY. There was a tendency to see it as, well, we have $200K in the bank, really, how much do we need? Money is for throwing at problems and $200K will solve any problem we can see down the line. We missed several points

1) that inflation is always a problem. However much money you have, its value is eroding on a daily basis.

2) gravy days are gravy days and you better grab the gravy while it's there. You aren't going to get MORE popular in your 50s and 60s than you are in your 30s and 40s. LONG before he died in 1994 (at age 76) Jack Kirby was pretty much unemployable. That's why we were all fighting so hard to get his artwork back to him.

3) The $200K tended to stay at that amount which meant, after paying the bills, we were paying ourselves pretty much every penny that came in and there was going to be a sizeable hit in revenue when the book ended

Two or three WAY overpriced portfolios a year through the 1980s and 1990s would have been a VERY good idea.

Oh, well. We gedt too soon oldt, und too late schmardt.

iestyn said...

I think Dave - to be fair to your past self - you couldn't have predicted what a financial impact the move to digital printing would have.