Wednesday, 30 August 2017

To an Iestan Boy?

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 seen Dave Sim's notebook #18 three times already and most recently this past February in Dino's Cafe. Notebook #18 covers Cerebus #136 to 141 and had 64 pages scanned.

Dave wrote down the dialogue between the two maids in issue #138 starting on page 38 of the notebook. It matches up word for word for page for their first page in the issue with the exception of the word 'birthday':

Notebook 18, page 38
The dialogue continues for a few more pages in the notebook, and then on page 42 there are some sketches of the maids:

Notebook 18, page 42

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Barvark #1 In Stores Now, and Behind the Scenes of A Year of Hell?

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello all!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is on hold this week so I can note a few note-able events in Cerebusland, going on as I type this...

First off, at long last, Batvark #1 (of 1!) is in stores and on sale now!

Caution: Sausage Making Discussion Ahead
For those of you out of the loop, Aardvark/Vanaheim has been following up this past year's Cerebus in Hell? mini-series with a series of one-shots, each featuring a parody cover and interior gags related to that parody, as well as reprinting, in sequential order, the entirety of the Cerebus in Hell? online strip, written by Dave Sim and Sandeep Atwal. Batvark is just the first of these one-shots, each of which will be available at your favorite local comic store on the last Wednesday of every month.

So, the last Wednesday of September, you can expect to see Aardvark Comics #1...

...followed by Strange Cerebus #1 the last Wednesday of October...

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

...and on into the foreseeable future, for as long as sales hold steady.

My job on these first few one-shots was limited mostly to prepping the visuals, taking Sandeep Atwal's lettering files and image mockups and turning them into finished, print-ready files. Cartoonist Benjamin Hobbs joined me a few issues in, at first doing the digital prepress for the strips he had lettered during the initial online strip, and later pitching Dave covers for future one-shots.

Now that Sandeep has left Aardvark/Vanaheim, the work flow has changed considerably. Each week Dave mocks up a minimum of seven new strips, using the Mighty Power of his Photocopier/Fax machine all-in-one enlarge and reduce functions to, ah, enlarge and/or reduce the necessary figures and backgrounds, and then adding mockup lettering and hand-drawn or cut balloons. He then faxes these mockups to me, and I forward them to Benjamin, who puts together the finished (or almost-finished) files from the faxes, adding the lettering later, which arrives at his house via jump drive (relayed by Dave Fisher. Thanks Dave!) From Benjamin's files, I put together the layout of the issue, Benjamin and I write the rear incidental text for the issue (previously written by Sandeep and Dave) and check everything over before sending it to the printer.

A Year of Hell?

This new arrangement means a lot less redundant work, as the strip goes straight from photocopier mockup to lettered and adjusted. Other changes—Benjamin has pitched a bunch of covers/concepts for new one-shots, one for me as well, and both of us have written some new strips as well. Most selfishly, though, my favorite part of the new workflow is getting to read the new Cerebus in Hell? strips a year or so in advance of their publication.

We'd settled into a good rhythm with this work until, two weeks ago, something surprising happened. A certain American-via-West Africa folk instrument appeared in not one, but five, strips that week.

But—what was Sim saying by this sudden surely significant appearance? Was it relevant to the underlying current of the strip, as it slowly slips from gag-a-day comic to second-in-a-lifetime 26-year continuity epic? Was it a commentary on the characters, on their borrowed and transformed nature? An obscure metaphor?

A week later, the mockups for the new strips were in. The instrument was gone, nowhere to be found.

Sure, my job is basically to paste the pretty pictures together, but I wasn't about to let my income interfere with my need to score political points. What, exactly, was Sim saying by the appearance, and the just-as-sudden absence, of this instrument?

From Sean to Dave, via fax. Note I start with an ingratiating tone, so as to catch him unawares when I hit the actual critical issue:

Great strips this week—excepting the lack of banjo. Is this a banjo ban? Do I need to start a banjo ban boycott?

From Dave to Sean, via fax: 
I will leave it for greater minds than my own to determine if I'm a flat-out banjophobe or merely exhibiting latent banjoism of banjoism tendencies characteristic of my age, race and identity politics. Clearly I "present" as banjoist but that may be a culturalist idiosyncracy (Canada never having benefited from the richness of a nativist banjocentric traditiona comparable to that of the U.S.)
 If you want to "call me out" on this I'll let the above stand as my ONLY official response.
Unless #SimBanjophobe starts trending on Twitter in which case I shall endeavour to re-engage on a more abject and craven level a day or so hence.
You heard the man, banjophiles. We know what he is: the words are from his own mouth this time. Go forth and shame.

In Other, Real-er News

I was happy to see this comment yesterday from long-time Cerebus reader Michael Grabowski, who had this to say about the newly restored Cerebus Volume One, which came out this January 2017, and is in a comic store near you right now:
Seems like a good spot to comment that I finally picked up the newest printing of volume 1, and sweet heaven I am in love with how good this looks and reads compared to my ancient 2nd printing. Beautiful work making Dave's original text shine so, Sean! This edition should go a long way to getting old & newer comics readers to get into Cerebus, and from volume 1 after all.
Thanks so much for the kind words and the support, Michael. It's very gratifying to hear people have been enjoying their copies. It was so satisfying to finally get that volume in print in a way that it deserves. I've been saying for several years now that I think a big chunk of the negative reputation of the first book rests on the reproduction: it's nice to finally have a printing that makes my point. Take them out side by side if you really want to blow some minds. 

And Also...

...the Art Dragnet continues its glacially-paced work! We got a new page this week, and the story of that page is quite the doozy, so it'll have to wait until after Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is done. But in the you own a Cerebus page? Does a friend have a Cerebus page? Does an enemy with an inadequately-secure house have a Cerebus page? Well, how about sending us a scan? Contact me at Cerebusarthunt at gmail dot com for more details...

next week: Paper to Pixel to Paper Again gets really close to the finish line...

Monday, 28 August 2017

The 'Silent James' Reviews

(from a review of Cerebus Vol 1, 20 August 2016)
I started reading Cerebus for the 1st time ever recently. I know I’m tremendously late, but I have the fortune of it being freshly remastered. I picked up book 1 & 2, and just finished reading book 1 this morning.

My good friend Menachem, owner the incredible Escape Pod Comics, was very interested in my thoughts on the books & gave me the idea to draw up some sketch notes… thus the above image.

I can’t say it enough: I really love the artwork by Dave Sim. The progression happened pretty swiftly (around page 150), when he began drawing his character so incredibly animated in his movements. What I love about Darkstalkers, is the exaggerated animation sprites the characters have when they move & that’s all here in this book.

My favorite part about the entire book, is the breaking up of a scene into panels that the characters may walk through the environment. It’s a concept that never occurred to me before, I think it’s absolutely brilliant. He pushes it further throughout the story, including an abstract landscape in “Mind Game”. It’s a great way to get a lot out of a page, and it’s fun!

I always loved screen tones in manga & independent comics. It’s a simple, effective way to cover an area in a gray when your book is in B&W. I’ve cut my own screens before in the past, it’s a painstaking process but looks so cool. Zen the Intergalactic Ninja sticks out in my mind when I think of this stuff.

I won’t go into to much detail into my history w/ Cerebus, but basically, I saw it on comic shelves my whole life & was drawn to the pen & ink style, but was kind of overwhelmed with the size & number of books. I never had enough money to buy even one of those books. Over the years, many friends told me about the series & it gave me a bizarre impression of it. Many even told me to skip book 1, but I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down to read it.

I was expecting something drawn poorly that was a goofy, silly parody of Conan. Basically, “Not Another” Conan Story, if that makes sense. I never liked those “Not Another” movies. The first few chapters were like that but it quickly became it’s own world. That’s another part of what I love about it: it is it’s own world. It’s like a video game RPG, he goes to towns, finds out info, frequents taverns, gets into battles, travels around, looks for gold etc.

I’m not keen on the characters that are just parodies of someone else, except for “Sump-Thing” which is just too funny of a pun! I feel like it’s unnecessary and overused throughout. Also not a fan of any of the female characters, I wish he had put the same amount of work he put into Cerebus as he did the women.

Story-wise, I like most of it though there are a few gaps. “Black Magiking” to the end of “Mind Game” are my favorites in this one.

I really enjoyed reading book 1 and will start “High Society” soon. I know in later books Gerhard joins him to do the backgrounds, but for now I’m loving Dave Sim’s artwork on it’s own. Lookout for my review of Cerebus book 2: High Society in... however long it takes to read it! 

(from a review of Cerebus Vol 2: High Society, 25 September 2016)
I started reading Cerebus for the first time ever recently. I just finished reading book 2 High Society last night. I’m happy to say, the art continues to surprise & delight me. My favorite new items are Dave Sim’s use of sound effects as motion blurs, that idea never occurred to me. I love the use of framing & borders throughout: when Jaka shows up the first time, all the decorative borders, the scene with the guy under the floorboards that you think is in his own panels till he climbs up, and the effect of disorientation when Cerebus is drunk and the page orientation keeps flipping.

The page with Cerebus seen through all the bottles is another favorite. A completely new take on illustrating his character in many different ways. Mind Game in this book is pretty cool visually. The device he used to show echoes was brilliant & I really got a lot out of the vast simple images in some of the chapters.

The way he draws women is very poor, that hasn’t improved since book 1. I was hoping for more chopped up frames like in book 1 but there was less of that, a few scenes just had multiple Cerebus figures going through a single frame, which I didn’t like.

The story: Would it shock you if I said I preferred reading book 1? Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading High Society & am excited to start book 3 (when I save up my pennies), but I feel like he could have told the same story in less than half the pages. I know this is his style & it does speak volumes about how convoluted politics are, but as a reader I found it hard to get through sections. The visual storytelling was more interesting to me than the script, which is fine.

Silent James is a live illustrator for events and studio projects. Cerebus Vol 1 & 2 are currently available as an official FREE(!) download.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Four Seasons Of The Aardvark

The Four Seasons Of The Aardvark (2010)
Sketches by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlarge) 

When Dave was doing head sketches during the "Cerebus TV" phase, I would request multiple sketches and ask for them to be themed. Dave is a champ at taking a suggestion like this and running with it. This request was for 4 drawings, done as the four seasons. Here is what came back.

Strange Cerebus #1-- Marshalling All Malignancy, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Craig Miller "Renegade Rabbit" Art Auctions

 Ebay Original Art Auctions
(ending early September)

Craig Miller was a publisher, writer, artist, magazine editor, father, husband, son, employee of Lone Star Comics, friends to many people in the comic book publishing and comic book collecting world and so much more. He also published, co-created and wrote many of the articles in the 75 issues of "Wrapped In Plastic", a Twin Peaks and David Lynch fanzine. He published 35 regular issues of Spectrum magazine, a movie, TV and comic book fan magazine, as well as the Spectrum Special, and Spectrum Special Edition issues that came with it. He passed away about 4 + years ago. This original art is some of the very last items from his estate, which is being sold to benefit his 13 year old daughter. His Father, Howard, has been working tirelessly for 3 1/2 to 4 years to maximize the amount of money that his estate can leave to Craig's now 13 year old daughter, for which he has not only taken $00.00 for all his labor, but put anywhere from $250.00 to $300.00 per month in gas, road tolls, and so many more unaccountable expenses.
More info at

(Dave Sim's Weekly Update #155, originally posted 4 November 2016)

Related Article:
Dave Sim's Tribute To Craig Miller (12 November 2012)

Friday, 25 August 2017

Dave Sim: A Thorough Examination of 6,000 Pages

14 August 04

Dear Tim [Gagne]:

Thanks for the letter. Sorry to hear your team fell short. Actually, I have no real objection to co-ed ball. Same as if two teams agreed to play with ten-pound weights tied around their ankles or two teams decided to have an equal number of players in their 20s, 30s and 40s. As long as it’s both teams, then it’s fair. I mean, there is the problem with feeding the feminist delusion that we’re all equal, but co-ed softball is really the least of our problems in that area. If Western civilization is going to wake up, it isn’t going to be out on a ball diamond, I don’t think. 

We’ll be taking an ad or two in TCJ if I can talk Ger into it (I think I’ve got a really good idea), but I don’t think they realize what they’re walking into. "A good, thorough examination from a variety of perspectives"? How many pages do you think it would take to examine a 6,000 page story thoroughly from a variety of perspectives? How many pages do you think the Journal will devote to it? Yes, exactly.

Here’s your autographed funny book. If you get it personalized or a letter with it, you only get me. Ger's out on his boat. A little under 500 responses in the last week. Just waiting to see if we’ve crested or if there’s a snail mail tsunami on the way. We’ve got about 9,000 Sandman parody issues at the warehouse (excluding 166’s knee-slapping “Look, my sister” two-panel laugh fest), so we should be able to take whatever the Internet can dish out. I’m really surprised. I didn’t know that many people still knew what a stamp was (although it must be said that three of them have put it in the wrong corner of the envelope).

Assuming your “tomatoes” isn’t a euphemism for something else, I’m sorry to hear that they aren’t growing like they should. It’s been a cool, cruel summer all across North America from what I understand. I’ve been out in the sun every time it shows its face and have the best non-salon tan I’ve ever had in my life, not to mention taking in the local Blues festival, the vintage cars “Cruising” display and just wandering the streets. Not having to draw a monthly comic book for the first summer since I was twenty-two, I’m pretty easy to please. Plus, I was over in Italy (Portorecanati on the Adriatic coast) for a week and it never got below 34C (98F) the whole time I was there in a house with no air-conditioning. Funny how you get used to no air-conditioning, though, when it isn’t there. Same way your body can absorb -5C in the winter no problem and 20C in the summer feels chilly.


From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 3", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Weekly Update #197: Batvark, "Painting in Hell" Contest, Stuff #1

Strange Cerebus #1-- Infernal Tridents and Infinite Indignity, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Front and Back

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.

Dave Sim's notebook #17 has only been seen here on the pages of A Moment of Cerebus three times in the past, most recently in La Danseuse Marvellieux in May 2017. The notebook covers Cerebus #127 to 135 and had 72 pages scanned.

One of the things I've mentioned in the past is if what was drawn on a page bleed through to the other side, I would scan in the other side as well. I've found a case of that in notebook #17. On page 13 there is a full page sketch for the cover to Cerebus #128:

Notebook #17, page 13
And on the back of page 14, we see what bleed through to the other side:

Notebook #17, page 14
You should be able to zoom in on both images. On page 13 there are faint pencil marks around the lettering for the title block and for Oscar as well. And the finished cover:

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 27

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29

A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 27
Proofs and "Proofs"


This is the twenty-seventh (how old will I be when this is over?) installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

Last week, while discussing working with your selected printer, we left off with discussing so-called "wet proofs".

Let's define our terms.

Back in the pre-digital days, when a printer was responsible for a comparatively large share of putting together a book, before going to press books were evaluated through a process called proofing. Of course, there's still "proofing" these days, but as you might infer from my scare quotes, it's petty radically different.

In the era of film negatives, there was an easy way to communicate the look of the final book without actually going to press. The negatives, already shot and developed and ganged on flats, were used to expose a light blue, photosensitive paper, which was then developed into a blue-line positive image—the proof. Since it came directly from the negative, this proof could be used to evaluate the book as it would look, accurate to everything save the color of the ink and the absence of any dot gain that would appear on press.

A bound blue-line proof of an unpublished Magus, Robot Fighter revival comic from 1982. Thanks, weird internet!

The problem is, there's no equivalent process in the current digital era. Nowadays printers will offer to supply you with two different types of "proofs"—scare quotes intended and necessary, as neither is really useful in evaluating image quality on press.

The first of these "proofs" types comes in the form of a raft of laser printed copies of your book. The issue here? Laser printers aren't capable of outputting anywhere near the resolution of a good press, and thus all of the issues you might want to check a proof for—lack of detail in the fine areas, copious fill-in, moire in screen tone etc—you won't be able to evaluate any of these things. So you'll have a giant stack of paper with crappy-looking printing on it and no sense of anything other than "did they keep the pages in the right order?"

The second type of "proofs" available to you in this era are screen "proofs", i.e. digital files that represent the book after the printer's prepress staff have made any adjustments they're going to make.

For the first few books I worked on for the Cerebus restoration project, I insisted on laser printer proofs. I've since come to the conclusion that these tell you absolutely nothing, and you're better off insisting on screen proofs, as it's easier to check for missing or moved pages, and you can also check the files over with your preflight settings (as detailed in previous installments). 

But neither of these is really a solution to the question—what will my book look like on this printer's press?

For that, you actually need to go to press! We need what's called a "wet proof", or "press proof" or even "press test".

Not your whole book, mind you. That would be extremely expensive. Rather, ask the printer what they would charge for a press proof of a single signature, and then output the required amount of pages.

Below you'll find a photograph of a wet proof put together by Marquis, in preparation for their printing Reads last year. 

A few details might jump out at you. For instance, the images above aren't actually from Reads, but from Church and State I. The reason is simple—I wanted to be able to compare their printing head-to-head with Tien Wah, the printer that worked on Church and State I. I selected a range of pages from that volume, emphasizing pages with the teeniest, tiniest tone, pages with densely-hatched or toned dark areas, pages with large black areas: in short, pages that would expose potential flaws in the printing.

I also asked them to include several different densities of black in their test pressing, so that I could judge what density they should aim at for the finished book. As discussed in previous installments, dot gain increases as ink density increases, so asking for a range allows you to select a sweet spot where the blacks and satisfying and rich, but the visible gain is (hopefully) minimal.

I also asked the press technician to check the signatures with his densiometer and write the density value(s) on the sheet, so there's a measurable metric to ask for when discussing the job.

Once we selected a target density range, I also asked Marquis to hang onto these press sheets to refer to when they were on press for the book itself.

Below is a wet proof from Friesens. Although these are Going Home pages, this was a proof attached to the Cerebus Volume One printing they put together in December 2016 (delivered to Diamond and released January 2017). Rather than being folded and gathered, these sheets (from their sheetfed offset press) were sent to me rolled up in a mailing tube. Notice the "color bars" in the trim areas of the sheet, used to tell dot gain at a glance.

And lastly, here's the press test for Minds, which will hopefully see print as soon as Diamond has moved the rest of their outstanding inventory for the previous printing of the book. Unlike every wet proof featured here, it actually uses pages from the volume we'll be printing! Very useful, as you can sneak in any difficult pages or things you're unsure about, and actually see them in print before going to press for realsies.

Lastly, cost.

A wet proof of a single signature should cost somewhere between $100 and $250 max. If a printer quotes you an amount significantly higher than that, they either think you're a sucker or they don't want your business. Or both, I suppose. If they quote you on the high end of that, you might try a. suggesting that another printer would do it for less (this really works! especially if it's true!) and/or b. ask that it be tied to the completion of the book. That is, "it's free if we do the book. Otherwise we'll pay $250" or something along those lines. Something that makes it clear—we're both on the same side. We both want me to give you all my money. And we both want me to be happy.

And really, can you expect any more from a business transaction?

Next week: More working with printers! And all of the amazing things they can do with their presses that cost more than your house (unless you live in southern California).

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Fantastic Five?

The Comics Distributor Ad (1979)
Art by Dave Sim

Sunday, 20 August 2017

On Sale 30 Years Ago: Cerebus #101

Cerebus #101 (August 1987)
Art by Gerhard

(from Cerebus Cover Art Treasury, IDW, 2016)
"Ave Avid" - Dave and David without the 'd's. The deathly silence that met me being the first Indie creator to get to issue 100 was the first time I realised I was pretty universally hated. 'Don't get 'avid' about 'ave's' because I don't think you're going to be getting many.' Beautiful miniature painting by Gerhard.

Diamond Order Code: OCT140536

Strange Cerebus #1-- Coffee, Crullers, and Cruelty, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Pressed Aardvark #1: 1980 to 1983

1980-83 | 1984-90 | 1991-95 | 1996-97 | 2005-09

I love researching bizarre stores from America's past, so a few years ago I treated myself to a subscription to This gives me access to a huge searchable database of old American newspapers – the oldest dating back to the 1700s. On a whim the other night, I plugged the word "Cerebus" into the site’s excellent search engine, selected the years 1978-2017, and started rootling through everything that came up.

Many of the stories I found simply reported that Dave was about to attend a convention in that particular paper's home city, and then ran through all the basic facts about Cerebus for its baffled readers. Others turned out to have nothing to do with our Cerebus at all, but instead referred to some company or other which, in all probability, had simply mis-spelt the word "Cerberus" on its original charter and never got round to correcting it.

Among all this detritus, though, I did find some real gems. Some contributed just a single tiny extra detail to my Cerebus knowledge, while others opened up a whole new world. You'll find examples of both extremes here, in what I hope will be the first of a new AMOC series.


Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester NY), November 5, 1980
The earliest genuine Cerebus reference produced by my search was this announcement of the Rochester convention Dave went on to recall so vividly in his Swords of Cerebus introductions for issues 23-25 and The Morning After. He’s one of three convention guests who get a mention in the story, the other two being Mark Gruenwald and Keith Pollard. Dave’s book, we’re told, is called Fantastic Cerebus the Aardvark, which reminds me of Scorz repeatedly calling him “Famous the aardvark” in May 1981’s Cerebus 26. It was also Scorz, you’ll recall, who encouraged Cerebus to “talk at Lord Julius sewage, sewage, sewage” and to “drive it right through his brain”.


The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 9, 1981
Steven Rosen, one of this paper’s reporters, met an exhibitor called Ro-z (Jeff) Mendelson selling underground comics at a convention in Cincinnati Towers, and decided to interview him. Mendelson’s pictured in his shop, Columbus Monkey’s Retreat Space Age Variety Store, where he’s shown with a copy of Cerebus 23 on a display rack behind him. You’ll see it there sandwiched between Captain Canuck and The Cartoon History of the Universe.

Rosen canters through a few of the titles Mendelson had on display at the convention – Commie From Mars, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Mr Natural, that sort of thing – and then adds: “Mendelson can give an eloquent defence of such comics’ reason for existence. ‘They gave a freedom to express without being censored,’ he says. ‘You could be as weird as you want, as political. They represented every aspect that people didn’t want controlled.’

“Sex was certainly one of those aspects, especially in the works of the underground’s most famous cartoonist, R. Crumb. His titles are reliable sellers. But, Mendelson explained, some of the other stuff is just ‘off the wall’ humor.

“For instance, there’s Cerebus, about an aardvark who participates in sword-wielding and sorcery. And there is a series Honkytonk Sue the Queen of Country Swing. In her latest adventure, Sue gets The Beatles to reunite and convert to country and western. ‘It’s for people who want to read something totally off-the-wall,’ Mendelson said. ‘They don’t have to judge or think about it’.”


Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls SD), May 2, 1982
The paper gives no indication what the local angle is here, but takes its copy from a wire service called Gannett. We get a brief run-down of what Cerebus is, and then a quote each from Dave himself and Diana Schutz. Both of them say the kind of thing we’ve all read about the book a million times before, but that’s not to say their comments wouldn’t have been useful to newcomers, of course.

For me, the story’s most interesting nugget comes in its penultimate paragraph, which tells us “the New York State Jaycees [have] adopted Cerebus as a mascot”. This organisation turns out to be the state’s Junior Chamber of Commerce, whose motto reads: “Service to humanity is the best work of life”. Hard to imagine anyone more opposed to that philosophy than our little grey friend, isn’t it?


Quad-City Times (Davenport IA), July 12, 1982
Notable mainly for its photographs, this is another human interest piece. The subjects are Steven Lackey and his two sons Christopher and Patrick, who were on their way to a Chicago convention’s costume competition. “Patrick in a hot and hairy get-up, complete with long snout and tail, is Cerebus the Aardvark, a figure gaining quite a cult following,” the story explains.

“[Steven’s] wife Diana, made the boys’ costumes, with Lackey’s technical help. For the aardvark ensemble, they followed a basic Halloween costume pattern and added the tail, head and snout. ‘We got the material from a fabric shop. It’s the kind of stuff they use for carpeting in vans’, Lackey says. Dave Sim, the creator of ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’, will attend the convention and the Lackeys are anxiously awaiting his reaction to Patrick’s costume.”

Dave ran the Q-CT’s photograph of Patrick in costume on the letters page of Cerebus 41, together with one of Rose Hille at the same convention.


The Orlando Sentinel, November 12, 1982
It’s not the paper’s editorial content that interests us here, but an advertisement for a store called Apogee Books. Among its promise to supply “Dungeons & Dragons, Star Fleet Battles, SF and Fantasy Books”, it adds a box saying “We have Elfquest and Cerebus”. These are the only comics mentioned in the ad, and Apogee clearly thought that drawing attention to them would help to bring in extra customers. 


The Courier-Journal (Lexington KY), January 21, 1983
This rather enigmatic small ad also caught my eye. I thought I’d better redact the full phone number but, if you ask me, Patrick would have been a fool to risk calling it anyway.


Lansing State Journal, August 9, 1983 & Muncie Evening Press, August 19, 1983
Smaller newspapers have never been able to resist the temptation to profile a young comics geek in their town. Here the subject is Douglas Wolk, who went on to become one of today’s most respected comics critics.

“Comic books are a medium that has been ignored too long by people,” young Douglas tells the LSJ’s Yolanda Alvarado. “They are just grand entertainment. The story-telling techniques can frequently not be used anywhere else.” Later in the piece, he names Elfquest, Cerebus and 2000 AD as his favourite books, and says his ambition is to become a comedic actor as skilled as the sitcom star Bea Arthur.

In more recent years, Wolk has published a couple of books (including 2007’s Reading Comics) and written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Believer and many other titles. It was his 2005 Believer piece on Cerebus which coined the best advice on navigating the book’s peaks and troughs I’ve ever seen: “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,” he wrote. “Take what you can from it.”


Muncie Evening Press of August 19, 1983
I thought I’d found another youthful adventure by one of today’s top comics journalists in the Muncie Evening Press of August 19, 1983, but no such luck. The comics article there is by-lined to 18-year-old Whitney Spurgeon. Describing a trip to the Indianpolis store Comic Emporium, he singles out Elfquest and Cerebus as the two most interesting books there. “Businessmen would particularly enjoy this book, since Cerebus is the ultimate capitalist,” Whitney writes. “Although he shows compassion, greed is the overwhelming force of his life.”

Whitney’s surname immediately made me think of The Comic Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, so I contacted him asking if he could shed any light. “Did you go by Whitney in those days?” I asked. “Or maybe this is a relative who shared your interest in comics?” Tom replied: “It's my older brother Whit, who still accompanies me to conventions and takes photos for the site. He also attended the London signing and afterparty for which Dave did the UK tour t-shirts.” That’ll be the 1993 Aardvarks Over UK tour pictured on the Page 45 website.

Unlike Wolk, Whitney did actually go on to become an actor, with credits including a role on ABC’s sitcom Cougar Town. What we have here, then, are two August 1983 articles featuring families from the pantheon of modern comics journalism, covering one teenage critic who hoped to become a sitcom actor and another who would actually achieve that ambition. If that’s not an example of Dave’s comic book metaphysics in action, I don’t know what is!


The Guardian (London, UK), December 14, 1983
Britain held a general election in June 1983, and this story comes from The Guardian’s coverage of its aftermath. Its final paragraph reads: “A further 21 candidates have been reported for failing to return their expenses within the statutory 35 days. They include two of the Prime Minister’s opponents at Finchley, three candidates of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, and a Cerebus the Aardvark candidate from Oxford West.”

I should explain at this point that there’s a long tradition in British elections of fringe candidates standing in one seat or another simply to raise publicity for their single-issue cause or have a bit of a laugh. This often results in the enjoyable spectacle of a solemn Cabinet minister trying to behave with due gravitas on the stage at their local count while a rival candidate gurns away behind them in fancy dress. Have a look at the photographs here and you’ll see what I mean.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find any pictures of Oxford West’s 1983 count, but I can tell you that the Cerebus candidate there was a final-year student called Peter Doubleday, and that he scored 86 votes against 23,778 for Chris Patten, the winning Conservative candidate. He was saved from finishing dead last only by Ms R. Pinder of the Peace, Health, Freedom of Information Telecommunications Party, who attracted just 26 supporters.

You can read Mr Doubleday’s own account of his boozy, cantankerous campaign here – and jolly entertaining it is too. Much of what he says has a distinctly Cerebite ring about it, not least his occasional habit of referring to himself in the third person.

“Finally, I [find] myself at the count, having not been able to vote for myself because I wasn’t even registered, where I learn that I am left with four hours of mind-boggling tedium because no alcohol is allowed within fifty yards of the building,” he writes.

After the result was announced, each candidate gave a short speech from the stage, with Doubleday’s turn coming just after the Rights of the Unemployed candidate. “Cerebus thanked all who had aided his pathetic, feeble campaign and acknowledged the last speaker, since (as a Finalist) he was due to join the unemployed in four weeks,” Doubleday says. “Finally, he noted that, if the two main opposition parties had sacrificed their candidates, he would have cleaned up the anti- Thatcher vote as the only credible alternative.”

That last bit strikes me as a very Cerebus thing to say: “You may have vastly more supporters than me, but you’re still the one who should quit”.

I’ve also managed to unearth a sample of Doubleday’s campaign literature, which you’ll find below, plus a Google Groups message board where someone called Iain Bowen outs himself as the party’s treasurer and electoral strategy manager. Scroll a bit further down that same thread, and we come to Aston University’s Jon Ward declaring: “Vote for Cerebus or Cerebus will carve you into Albino nuggets!”. Cutlets, Jon: it’s “Albino cutlets”.

Last word goes to Doubleday himself, and is again taken from his own account of the campaign. “What did I get out of it?” he asks. “Well, it kept me sane during Finals and things in general. I got to be hailed as ‘Cerebus’ by people I’d never even seen before. I don’t know. Just count it as the nearest to the pointlessly aesthetic that I’ll ever manage.”

For more of Paul Slade’s writing – including a history of Reg Smythe’s Andy Capp strip and a look back at some notable comic book lawsuits – visit

Friday, 18 August 2017

Apologies To Bill Sienkiewicz

Cerebus #39 (June 1982)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Note From The President, Cerebus #74, May 1985)
Sincerest apologies to Bill Sienkiewicz whom I forgot to mention anywhere in Cerebus Jam #1...

My admiration for this man's work prompted me to render the cover of #39 in the Neal Adams style he was doing to perfection at that time in Moon Knight. I used a reverse Neal Adams signature parody on that cover.

The irony of doing a parody of Neal's signature as a tribute to Bill Sienkiewicz escaped me at the time. This issue I stole Bill's own very distinctive signature for the cover as a tribute, not to his ability to do a faithful and spontaneous variation on a seminal influence (it makes sense, I think, read it again) but rather for his own role as a seminal influence for a new generation of comics professionals (and aspiring professionals). As probably the single greatest influence on my thinking at this juncture of our storyline (page fourteen of this issue is page 1,500, by the way) such a tribute was long overdue. A brilliant, brilliant individual and my closet friend in the field (after Gerhard)...

Cerebus #74 (May 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

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Weekly Update #196: Jim Pinkoski Kills DC Romance

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Refuge of the Shallow

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 haven't seen much of Dave Sim's notebook #14, which covers Cerebus #113 through 117. We've only seen it four other times, most recently this past April in Thunder the Wonder Pony.

While Oscar doesn't show up until Cerebus #120, Dave drew some sketches of him in this notebook.

Notebook #14, page 55
A few sketches of a long haired Oscar along with a couple different haircuts.

Notebook #14, page 56
On the next page we get a more completed sketch of Oscar, along with some quotes. The quote " The public is wonderfully tolerant, it forgives everything except of course genius" is an Oscar Wilde quote from his book The Artist as Critic.

The name Lillie Langtree I think is a reference to Lillie Langtry, a close friend of Oscar Wilde. Looks like Dave was doing some research for the Oscar character that would show up in a couple issues.

Strange Cerebus #1- Roasting S'mores in the Hellfire, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

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