Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Cerebus Archive Number 7: FLIGHT (issue #2)

CEREBUS No.152 (November, 1991)
FLIGHT issue #2

"FLIGHT begins with Cerebus' genocide
of the Cirinists, 'inspired' by vengeance;
'inspired' by his love of Jaka; a totally depraved,
lunatic rampage/bloodbath with 100% audience
support. 'Kill them all!' Isn't Love grand?!"
 ~ Dave Sim


IT FALLS TO CEREBUS FANS TO PRESERVE CEREBUS.
AND, WITH EACH PASSING DAY, THERE ARE FEWER AND FEWER CEREBUS FANS.
YOU CAN ASSIST PRESERVATION BY PLEDGING OR DONATING ON KICKSTARTER.

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 7: FLIGHT

KICKSTARTER COMPLAINTS:
call Dave Sim at 519-576-0610

The Vark Knight Returns-- Loneliness is Other People, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: OCT171028

Monday, 30 October 2017

Cerebus Archive Number 7: FLIGHT (issue #1)

CEREBUS No.151 (October, 1991)
FLIGHT issue #1

"What if the Library at Alexandria
had survived into the modern age
and was then purged by The Ultimate
Matriarch? If you think The Iconic Library was just
a library, no big deal, I guess. But, The Iconic Library
was so much more than that, I think."
 ~ Dave Sim


IT FALLS TO CEREBUS FANS TO PRESERVE CEREBUS.
AND, WITH EACH PASSING DAY, THERE ARE FEWER AND FEWER CEREBUS FANS.
YOU CAN ASSIST PRESERVATION BY PLEDGING OR DONATING ON KICKSTARTER.

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 7: FLIGHT

KICKSTARTER COMPLAINTS:
call Dave Sim at 519-576-0610

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Pressed Aardvark #4: 1996 to 1997

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

PAUL SLADE:
I love researching bizarre stores from America’s past, so a few years ago I treated myself to a subscription to newspapers.com. This gives me access to a huge searchable database of vintage 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. I’m pulling out only the most noteworthy items here, which in this case means one item from an Australian newspaper and two from British ones.

Sydney Morning Herald, November 27, 1996.

I initially assumed this Australian racehorse’s name must be a typo, but it seems not. I’ve found a dozen or so mentions of him with the above spelling, but none at all calling him “Mr Cerberus”, so in this case I’m assuming the paper’s spelling is correct. As you’ll see, Mr Cerebus was a 10-1 shot here, who the paper’s tipster expected to finish third. I’ve no idea if he managed that on the day or not, but I have found the results of one 1997 race where he trailed in dead last.

***

The Independent (London, UK) November 7, 1996.

I wrote this piece myself for a special Independent careers supplement aimed at graduating students. It ran inside the back cover, the idea being to provide a slightly more offbeat piece to round off all the robustly practical advice on the earlier pages.

I took all the Dave quotes here from the various Comics Journal interviews he’s done, and dutifully acknowledged this source with a couple of lines of italics at the bottom of my copy. By the time the piece appeared, however, someone in the production department had cut that bit out. On the plus side, I did manage to include my favourite Dave quote ever. “I might be going down in flames,” he once told the Journal of his determination to remain a self-publisher. “Maybe this plane won’t fly. But, by God, this is the plane I want to go down in.”

The original material here comes from my interviews with two British self-publishers: Kane’s Paul Grist and Strangehaven’s Gary Spencer Millidge. There’s some interesting stuff there from both men on the economics of doing your own comic book – at least as they applied in 1996 – and an intriguing glimpse of how their books were then selling. Both agreed that 7,000 to 8,000 issues a month was then the threshold at which it became possible to make a reasonable living from self-publishing alone. Neither had yet achieved that landmark, though both were already comfortably above the 2,000 mark.

“I decided that other people were letting me down, and that the best way of getting a book out was to do it myself,” Grist told me. “I thought if I’m putting all this time and effort into it, it doesn’t take a great deal more time and effort to actually do the whole thing myself. There were all sorts of problems that cropped up, but they were fairly easily sorted out.”

Millidge added: “I didn’t get much reaction from actual publishers so, because of Dave Sim, I decided to give self-publishing a go, and it all just fell into place. Strangehaven has gone through the roof. It’s far exceeded my expectations.”

I sent a copy of the Independent article to Gary as I was preparing this piece, asking him what reflections it sparked 20 years on.

“Re-reading the article was a lot less embarrassing than I expected it to be,” he replied. “Of course, my sales on the periodical never much exceeded the 3,000 copies I mentioned, which made devoting 100% of my time to it impossible - which in turn led to less frequency and a slow decline in sales. The trade paperback collections sold pretty well, but there was a ‘speed bump’ there in that the cost of reprinting sold-out volumes was quite a heavy investment.

“I've struggled on since, never quite giving up, and while the monthly model never quite worked out for me, I still believe in self-publishing and being an independent creator. The opportunity that Soaring Penguin Press has offered me, to get back to producing new episodes on a reasonably regular basis (for their anthology Meanwhile...), while ultimately keeping control and ownership of Strangehaven, is probably the next best thing to self-publishing itself.

“This will hopefully enable me to bring the series to a conclusion over the next 18 months or so. And then? Maybe working with other independent publishers and even a return to self-publishing, of some description, in the future.”

Gary Spencer Millidge has three Strangehaven collections available, and is currently serialising the story’s fourth and final volume in Meanwhile... magazine. His website is Millidge.com.

Paul Grist has six Kane collections available, and has since published both Jack Staff and Mudman through Image. Follow him on Twitter @mistergrist.

***

The Guardian (London, UK), November 14, 1997.

In my more pretentious moments, I’ve been known to compare Cerebus to Anthony Powell’s acclaimed series of 12 prose novels A Dance To The Music of Time. Not that I’ve ever read Powell’s saga, but I do know that, like Cerebus, it follows a consistent set of characters through their entire lives and is structured as a series of stand-alone volumes.

Until unearthing this clipping a few days ago, I thought I was the only one the comparison had occurred to – but no. “The only serial narrative I know that currently aspires to the same dizzying scope [as Powell’s] is a monthly American comic strip called Cerebus, which recounts the saga of a sword-and-sorcery aardvark, part Conan-style Barbarian, part Balzacian social climber,” the critic Jonathan Romney writes.

At the centre of ADTTMOT is Kenneth Widmerpool, who Christopher Hitchens once described as “the most dogged and fearsome solipsist in modern fiction”. Widmerpool rises relentlessly through the ranks in business, the army and politics, but never manages to marry successfully. Eventually, his fortunes plummet and the whole sequence of novels ends with his death.

Tackling the 1997 TV adaptation, which squeezed all 12 books into just four two-hour episodes, Romney praises Dave for instead giving Cerebus a full 26 years to play out. “Cerebus, stumpy, irascible and sometimes pompous, thereby attains a sort of timeless grandeur which Anthony Powell’s equally stumpy Widmerpool, in the television Dance, simply cannot aspire to,” he writes. “It’s the music of time we’re talking about, after all; in big existential terms, a dance to the tune of eight hours just doesn’t match up.”

The picture caption takes this a step further, saying that Cerebus and the TV Widmerpool “look similar”. If I were Simon Russell Beale, who played Widmerpool for Channel 4, I’m not sure I’d be entirely flattered by that comparison.

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 PlanetSlade.com.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

T. Casey Brennan: "I Shot JFK"

"Hypothetical Cerebus"
Written by T. Casey Brennan, art by Dave Sim
(Actor Comics Presents #1, HERO Initiative ,2006)

Investigate the newly released JFK Assassination Records for yourself.
More in-depth analysis at JFKfacts.org and The Mary Ferrall Foundation.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Vark Knight Returns-- "Artistic" "Integrity", the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: OCT171028

The Deciding Vote

MARGARET LISS:
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 looked at Dave Sim's notebook #4 just last month in Decisions Decisions. As I said back then: the notebook covers Cerebus issues #41 to 45 with 99 pages out of 108 pages scanned. This past March we saw a page from Cerebus #44, the "wuffa wuffa" issue, page 59. Now I'd like to like to show you pages 57 and 58, which also show bits from that same issue.

On page 57 we see Sargent Preston Roach and some of Lord Storms'end's dialogue.

Notebook 4, page 57
The next page has more sketches of the Roach driving the sled and some tiny thumbnails of the first five pages of the issue. We also see a thumbnail of the cover to Cerebus #44, of which we see a larger sketch on page 59. That sketch however, was not to be used.

Notebook 4, page 58


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Cerebus in Hell? Contest Continues, Strange Cerebus in Stores Now!

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings all!

There's a lot happening this week, but if I showed you screen-shots of it I think most of it would only qualify as teasing. So I'll have to stick to only two pieces of news this week--

First off, and most importantly for all of you writer-types or aspiring catalogers of false trivia about fictional worlds...


The Handbook of Hell? contest continues! 

Do YOU want to write for Cerebus in Hell? Do YOU have a thousand or so words in you about a completely made-up topic related, tangentially or otherwise, to Cerebus in Hell?, its people, its environs? Do YOU have a passing familiarity with Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or DC Who's Who? Do YOU have the patience of a saint and will be able to withstand a punishing 1.5 year of delay from submission to publication?

Then what are you waiting for? Read the rules and then fire off your entry post-haste to cerebusarthunt at gmail dot com!

We've received a few very funny entries so far, but are looking for more, many more! Looking to hear from you soon.

(And a special note to writer-waiting-for-files-related-to-this-- on the way today! Sorry for the delay!)

Secondly...



Today is the release date of Strange Cerebus! Visit your Local Comic Store and pick up a copy today. If the last two issues are any indication, this one will be gone fast...

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Get Him Out of the Hotel

MARGARET LISS:
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.

The last time we looked at Dave's notebook #14 was just in August in Refuge of the Shallow and a look at Dave's sketches of Oscar. It covers Cerebus #113 through #117, and on page 35 there is a lot of writing for Oscar's story about young Jaka. 

Notebook 14, page 35
Dave would write and rewrite the text from Jaka's Story, but it is the notes in black pen on the side of the page that caught my interest:

Close up of page 35 from notebook 14
It looks as if Dave was taking all the negative comments that he got from letter writers about the High Society and the Church and State storylines.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Many Faces of Khem

Sean Michael Robinson:

It's been a busy few weeks out here in San Diego, as I wrangle the artwork and juggle the files for You Don't Know Jack issue #1 and #2, and work with Dave and Benjamin Hobbs to finish off the next half-dozen or so issues of Cerebus in Hell?

... but for various reasons, most of that is currently in the realm of un-shareable. And really, in the case of Cerebus in Hell?, you don't really want to be teased with comics you won't get to read for another year or so, do you?

So instead, let's take a brief detour in the CEREBUS ART DRAGNET.

Yes, we're still looking for scans of "in the wild" original artwork! Yes, we're still sending out certificates and our eternal gratitude! Yes, WE WANT YOUR SCANS!

Ahem.

We've gotten a few inquiries over the past two months, but only a few pages. Here's the story of one of them.

I received an email from Cerebus super-fan and regular AMOC reader David Branning. His friend, comics compatriot, and long-time Cerebus reader Steve Hay, had sadly passed away the previous year, and he was helping Steve's widow Donna sort through and organize Steve's massive comics collection. And what should he find in the process but a framed piece of familiar artwork?


David said of his friend: "Steve was a voracious reader and collector of comics, and a lover of the medium and all of its history. I think he would be very proud to see one of his pages contribute to the preservation of Cerebus!"

It's always a thrill to get pages, but particularly when we receive pages a. that are very poorly represented by the original photography (or for which the negatives no longer exist), and b. pages from people who are very eager to contribute, who see this work in the same meaningful light that I do. So this page in particular was doubly gratifying.

So I wrote to David with some details (okay, too much detail...) on how to free the page from the frame, and some scanning options...

Removing it from the frame should be easy if you decide to do it yourself. There will most likely be a brown backing paper on the rear, that's attached with staples or a little glue. This can be cut to remove. Underneath will be (most likely) little metal l-shapes that can be loosed with screw drivers, which will enable you to take the frame apart. Lastly, the art itself is probably held on the matte with tape that would need to be removed. Take a thin knife or exacto to the corner of the tape to lift it a bit before removing. Luckily Dave and Ger drew on very rugged and thick board!

Yes, a place specializing in photo stuff is likely to have a very good scanner. Asking them to "Turn off any sharpening" would help. An Office Depot or Fedex Office however will have a color printer that also scans that will do an okay job as long as they have the settings set to Color. It's not a huge deal which you end up at for a single page, as I know how to deal with scans of varying sources--just scanning it at the right res and color mode is the biggie :)

Most of the really fine distinctions/possible scan screw-ups don't apply to a page like this, as it doesn't have iterative dot tone on it, only "noise" tone. So there's a lot more leeway!

Unfortunately Heritage won't make scans for us. I've put in a lot of time trying to persuade them otherwise... however, ComicLink (a great auction site) does. So if she decides to sell through them, then give me a heads up and I'll get it from Jason Crosby, one of their employees.

And lo and behold, the scan arrived! And boy, is this page a beauty up-close.


A big slab of the scribble tone right on top, and separate secondary layers in places to capture a painterly effect, over what are some pretty uncharacteristiclly Gerhard marks/hatching. As well as some uncharacteristic Gerhard drawing. Most likely because he was working from a model-- the "many faces of KHEM" from waaay back in issue 2.


I asked Gerhard about this kind of "inherited device" when I interviewed him in December 2010.

Robinson: On 416, there’s a couple of visual devices that you inherited from issues that you didn’t work on.
Gerhard: Are you talking about the streams of light?
Robinson: Yeah. What was your reaction to those things that you were called upon to replicate?
Gerhard: Not happy. Not happy, no. It was difficult to try to emulate some of the things that Dave had done. I would have much rather he had done those streams of light, because I think he was better at it.
Regardless of his feelings about it while working on it, the "heads and skuwws" is an interesting example of something that started with a clear model but transformed pretty wildly over time to become something very different. As such, this is a pretty significant page in the artistic development of the book, and an early attempt at many of the techniques, largely-invisible to the reader, which would help Dave and Gerhard produce the book month after month.


Such as photocopies! China White! Scribble tone! Scribble tone on top of China White next to photocopies! &c &c &c

Quoting me to David Branning:
By the way, Dave's (photocopied) lettering in the upper right is most likely the only bit of drawing he did on this page. This is a great example of early Gerhard, almost if not entirely solo. (Although it's loosely based on the backgrounds of issue 2 of the series--- check out pg 45 in the first phonebook). Dave helped lay out/rough the backgrounds for the first two or so issues Ger was on, then it was mostly solo from there...




More me:

Yeah, the bigger the slabs of tone they used, the more problems there are in the restoration. The tone is shrinking every year, as a percentage of its overall area--so the bigger the tone, the more visible that shrinkage is. And the better burnished pieces of tone, like this massive one here, tend to tear as the different sections shrink away from each other, but remain affixed to the art board by the burnishing...


Special thanks to David Branning, and Donna and Steve Hay, for their time and generosity, and for sharing their Cerebus page with us.

(By the way, Donna is planning on selling this page, so if you're interested, and would like to make a preemptive offer at market value, feel free to send any inquiries to cerebusarthunt at gmail and I'll pass them on to David.)

More next week!

The Death of Cerebus in Hell? #1-- "Funny" Animal Sour Grapes, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: SEP171028

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Gone Fishing!

Cerebus #211 (October 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Normal service will resume shortly. 
Please stand by. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

On Sale 7 Years Ago: Cerebus Archive #10

Cerebus Archive #10 (October 2010)
Art by Dave Sim

DAVE SIM:
(from Cerebus Archive #10, October 2010)
...Ali Baba, Prince of Thieves was pretty much -- apart from the unconscious Judaic, Christian and Islamic subtext! -- boilerplate sword-and-sorcery... but there was definitely more going on below the surface as I was taken with -- and by! -- the idea of an epic comic-book story of my very own.

If you take the time to read my outlines for parts two and three which follow the roughs [for the first chapter], you can see the groundwork I was already laying with Theta, The One-Armed Warrior Woman (and Red Sonja knock-off). I was writing a lot of what, today in Hollywood they call backstory. I already had a major theme -- the "sorcery" was dying in this "sword-and-sorcery" environment. "Our hosts must have run short of sorcery." It would be a major theme in the early Cerebus. I had completely forgotten that Ali Baba, Prince Of Thieves was where I had first come up with it.

I was developing as many of the Forty Thieves as I could, as individual characters. One was going to be a mouthy young kid. I was going to base him on Sabu, the character played by Sabu Dastsgir in the classic 1940 film, The Thief of Baghdad... it would be a running gag that none of the rest of the thieves... or the readers... would be able to stand him. And then, five issues in, maybe ten, he would shoot off his mouth once too often and get cornered in an alleyway by persons unknown... and have his tongue cut out. Which would have been a real tearjerker both for the thieves and (I hoped) for the readers. He would go from comedy relief to core dramatic element -- totally mute for the rest of the series.

And then, just like that, it was over.

No Orb magazie.

No Ali Baba, Prince of Thieves epic comic book.

Just eight pages of roughs... outlines for parts two and three... and a lot of scribbled notes, now long-lost.

It was back to The Beavers, my hoped-for great Canadian comic strip...

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Terror in a Turgid Tool

Dave Sim's notebook thirteen Cerebus notebook, which covers Cerebus #112 / 113 and some early Jaka's story notes, has been shown here seven times previously at AMoC most recently in Playing Bingo While Wearing Tight Pants. While Cerebus #112 / 113 has a cover date of July 1988, Dave and Gerhard did work that appeared in Alan Moore's AARGH! which came out in October 1988.

The first three pages of notebook #13 contain Dave's notes for the Roach story, An Untold Tale Of The Secret Sacred Wars, that appears in AARGH! Page one of the notebook is page one from the story, with all the dialogue and sketch of the Roach about to pop a kidney.

Notebook #13, page 1
The next two pages of the notebook have the dialogue for pages two to four of the story, with some extra dialogue that wasn't use and a re-write of some of it.

Notebook #13, page 2

Notebook #13, page 3



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Cerebus in Hell-- First Seven Issues, All Sold Out

Sean Michael Robinson:

Received some additional news yesterday that I thought I'd pass on to you all...

Here is the new, updated back cover to Death of Cerebus In Hell? , which will be going to press in a week or two...

Why an updated back cover? Check out the details below.
Strange Cerebus #1 will be in stores two weeks from now, on October 25th 2017. And Death of Cerebus in Hell? #1 is available to order now! Diamond order code is SEP171028.

Cerebus in Hell Contest--the Handbook of Hell?

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings!

After a long Friday and Monday morning doing prepress for the first issue of You Don't Know Jack! (details coming next week...), I spent the first chunk of my Tuesday morning work time putting together a road map and monthly schedule for the next issues of Cerebus In Hell?

As I've mentioned before, although the online strip ended its run at the end of March, Dave never stopped producing strips, and that constant production of between seven and ten strips a week has meant that we continue to gain lead time for the series. In fact, there's currently material enough to project out as far as May of 2019. That's right, that sequence of "Cerebus Woman" you got a peek at on Friday will be published nineteen months from now, and not a day sooner.

That being said, the need for new material continues, and we continue to look for different books, and even different formats, to try on for size.

Which brings us to the current contest—

The Handbook of Hell?


The much-loved and equally maligned Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe was first published in 1983. The massive undertaking was initiated by Jim Shooter, who claimed baseball card stats as his inspiration—but I think a more obvious inspiration would be the current exploding popularity of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and other table-top role-playing and adventure games. Stats were everywhere.

And inside OFOTMU, it's definitely the minutiae that dominate.

The majority of the writing was done by the incredibly disciplined and long-suffering Mark Gruenwald, who managed to make semi-coherent narratives out of several decades of scattershot monthly storytelling.

Entries fall into a few broad categories.

Take it away, Wikipedia--
The OHOTMU detailed the more significant characters, items and locations in the Marvel Universe, itemizing them into individual entries. Individual entries usually consisted of:
  • A frontal full-body view of the character.
  • Prose text describing the character's origin, powers, and other abilities and unique traits, as well as "statistics" such as place of birth, former aliases, height, weight, hair and eye color and so forth. The original edition opted only to describe the "origins" of characters (how they acquired their powers), instead focusing heavily on detailed explanations for how those powers functioned. In the Book of the Dead supplement, however, the handbook provided entire "histories" for the deceased characters, a trend which was then adopted for the main body of the Deluxe Edition, allowing the entire life and career of the characters to be covered. Major important pieces of equipment were also given technical illustrations with breakdowns of their functions and features.
  • Example images of the character in action, taken directly from the comics themselves.


And in a move that must have delighted me as a prepubescent but I now find mostly hilarious, individual entries are also reserved for, ahem, important weapons, locations, vehicles, pretty much anything that can be viewed in a neato exploded view with lots of tech speak jutting out from it.


So, yes, the plan is to write a Handbook of Hell? , twenty (or so!) entries about assorted random characters/background characters/locations/objects/groups of people/etc. These will be primarily funny, NOT really long recitations of their lives as depicted in Cerebus in Hell? unless you're a comic genius who can make such a thing funny. Deviating from the normal course of things, in addition to the normal Dore Inferno illustrations, we'll also (most likely) be illustrating the technical objects with original drawings by myself or Benjamin (or, hey, stolen from somewhere and doctored up a bit). Just to give you an idea of where we are on this, the currently-written "object" entries include "The Whore of Babylon's Waffle Maker", lovingly labeled with the least technical language ever committed to paper. 

Want to participate? Write your entry and email it to cerebusarthunt at gmail dot com. Make me laugh (yes, this is Dave's criteria for acceptance--that it makes me laugh...) and we'll slot it into the issue! You'll receive a by-line in the issue and a cool $25.00 for your trouble.

For instance—see a random background Inferno figure who clearly has a story to tell? Give 'em an entry!

Like, say... that guy!


No, no, THAT guy!

I hope that some of the regular AMOC readers who also happen to be very fine writers will take a crack at putting together a few entries. This could end up being the strangest issue of the book yet, and let me tell you, as one of the three people who's read every single strip, that's saying a lot.


Any questions about the contest? Hit me up in the comments! And good luck!

Special thanks to Cerebus fan David Branning for the copious OHOTMU scans! It's much appreciated!

Edit:

For entries about individual characters or organizations, i.e. the really text-dense ones, I'd recommend a length of somewhere between 900 and no more than 1,200 words. For the other types of entries, take a look at the samples above for some idea of what we're looking for!

Edit Number Dos:

Can anyone name the (pretty significant) tie that OHOTMU has to Cerebus? Hint--the answer is on the credits page above! 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dave Sim: "Get A Life"


DAVE SIM:
(from the Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing, 2010 Revised Edition)
...Remember, as well, that self-publishing -- or being published in any way -- is neither a primary nor pressing concern when measured against the actual act of creativity. In a world where so much of everyone’s leisure time is taken up with viewing and/or participating in activities which, in the Bard’s words, are "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" -- television, movies, concerts, drinking, drugs, most love affairs, most sex, most conversations -- a person with an aptitude for writing and drawing should be wary of diminishing the importance of these talents and/or diminishing the role they play in his or her life. Remember that people who sneer "get a life" usually have no particular talent of their own and are unable to see beyond the limited, temporary, and immediate gratification to be had through wholehearted participation in the various "sounds and furies" available to them.

Alone at your drawing board with a stack of empty pages, a sharpened pencil, and an eraser, you are free to explore whatever you deem to be significant, to navigate the largely uninvestigated waters of your conscious and unconscious awareness, to choose when to dive deep and when to skim the surface. Pencil line by pencil line, rendered and erased, amended and enhanced, step by instinctive step you bring something into existence which you can truly call your own. If and when you can achieve a period of creative existence -- whether for a few hours after work, for an entire Saturday, or (oh, bliss) a week of vacation -- you will be experiencing the same exhilarating state which keeps me going, which keeps any comic-book creator going. For those who achieve their fullest satisfaction from creativity after an hour or two -- and then find it to be the most tedious kind of drudgery -- it is still worth visiting the world of "creativity within" for that hour or two. For those who can’t tear themselves away, who find everything else  the world of leisure has to offer to be flat and lifeless by comparison, publication can be fruitfully postponed until the time is right, and months or even years of development of writing and drawing skills can be enjoyed for their own sake. In fact, Scott Berwanger, who I have known for about ten years now, has been working on his Magnum Opus, Anubis, for all of that time and is at about the 1,500-page mark in what he thinks will be a 4,500-page story. He has chosen not to even consider publication until it’s done so as to devote all of his time and energy in his spare time from his regular job to bringing it to life. Even though it is an unorthodox solution, it many ways it seems the most sensible one for the genuinely dedicated cartoonist and a clear separation between being a cartoonist and being a self-publisher -- first one and then the other. I’m hoping that when he’s (God willing) done that his own experience will serve as an inspiration for others balancing real-world and creative needs.

It is a conventional and accurate piece of wisdom that "you have two thousand bad drawings in you, and once you get those done you start doing good ones." What is often not added - and really should be, in my view - is that there is a world of joy and gratification and surprise to be had in doing those two thousand bad drawings, watching them get less bad, watching your own style emerge, your own ideas take shape and coalesce and develop a life of their own. Enjoy it. Enjoy creativity, first, last, and always for its own sake. If it isn't fun, find a new way to do it that is fun. Satisfy yourself every step of the way. Draw what you want to draw. Write what you want to write. If you want to revise the earlier work, revise the earlier work. Your leisure time is your leisure time and no one else's - "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - and if your greatest happiness is to be had in writing and drawing comic books, you are miles ahead of most of your peers, who haven't the faintest notion of what would make them happy.

Write and draw and draw and write for their own sake and to please yourself - enjoy it to the fullest, and always pursue the avenue that seems to be the most fun, that compels you, irresistibly, to pick up that pencil and start committing your words and pictures to paper. It won't take long before you can grin and say in perfect honesty:

"Get a life? Man, I've got a life."

Monday, 9 October 2017

On Sale 8 Years Ago: Cerebus Archive #4

Cerebus Archive #10 (October 2009)
Art by Dave Sim

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Aardvarkian Gothic

Cerebus #25 (March 1981)
Art by Dave Sim

DOMINICK GRACE:
I have just had an article published called "Aardvarkian Gothic", focusing on issues 23-25 of Cerebus, in the academic periodical The Journal of Comics & Graphic Novels. The article is currently only available online and behind a paywall, but the abstract appears below. The paper was originally presented at a conference focusing on gothic and comics, so it approaches Cerebus as a work in which gothic motifs and elements are important. Anyone interested in reading the full article can contact the me at: dgrace2 [at] uwo [dot] ca to request a link for a free download. Only a limited number are available, so first-come, first-served!


"Aardvarkian Gothic" Abstract

Gothic motifs figure strongly in several storylines in Dave Sim’s Cerebus series, albeit initially for predominantly parodic purposes. One of Sim’s earliest multi-issue arcs, comprising issues 23–25, involves not merely parody of specific mainstream comic elements but also of gothic tropes. Sim’s genre-bending is one of the strengths of Cerebus, and this arc demonstrates Sim’s skill in weaving gothic elements into the book, for parodic purposes but also to serve Sim’s gestational thematic interests. Sim exploits several characteristic elements of the gothic to trouble questions of gender and representation. He reverses the standard trope of the vulnerable woman in a mysterious space, threatened explicitly with violence and implicitly with sex, by making the male Cerebus the vulnerable figure, surrounded by sexually tempting adolescent girls. The story further complicates questions of gender in its invocation of drag, climaxing its interrogation with an innovative take on the doppelgänger motif by introducing Woman Thing and Sump Thing as parodic monstrous others whose violent/sexual encounter literalizes Sim’s sexual politics, not to mention the crisis of representation sometimes seen as a key element of gothic. In doing so, he lays the groundwork for much of what will follow in Cerebus.


Dominick Grace is the co-editor, with Eric Hoffman, of the interview collection "Dave Sim: Conversations" published in 2013 by the University Press of Mississippi, as well as "Seth: Conversations", "Chester Brown: Conversations" and "Jim Shooter: Conversations". He is Professor of English at Brescia University College in London, Ontario, and the author of The Science Fiction of Phyllis Gotlieb: A Critical Reading and co-editor of Approaching Twin Peaks: Critical Essays on the Original Series and the forthcoming The Canadian Alternative: Cartoonists, Comics, and Graphic Novels, with Eric Hoffman.