Saturday, 7 April 2018

The 300 Club

Hi, Everybody!

*sniff* *sniff* Do I smell money?
SOMEBODY WITH A LITTLE HAMMER by MARY GAITSKILL PB signed by DAVE SIM
SOMEBODY WITH A LITTLE HAMMER by MARY GAITSKILL HC signed by DAVE SIM
And check the  bonecrusher86 on the eBays to see when the next thing is up.

So a little over a month ago, somebody posted on The Cerebus Facebook group a tweet from Todd McFarlane about Spawn #286, and how he was looking forward to breaking Dave's record of 300 issues. And there was much discussion of if it even COUNTS, since Todd didn't write and draw all 300 issues.
So, I faxed up to Dave and asked:

Hi Dave,
So, I joined the Cerebus Facebook group (incognito, so as not to arouse their suspicion if they’re bitching about AMOC since the regime change,) and Oliver Simonsen shared a tweet from Todd McFarlane:
todd_mcfarlane_official Soon #Spawn will break Dave Sim's CEREBUS comic record of 300 issues of an independent comic series. TODD
And people were discussing the various aspects of Spawn hitting #300, and it got me thinking.

As the “founder” of the 300 club, how do you see Spawn hitting #300?

Is it closer to Cerebus hitting #300, or closer to Batman hitting #300?

I assume that while an achievement, Erik Larsen hitting #300 with Savage Dragon will be closer to Cerebus hitting #300, than Spawn hitting #300, right?

I guess, I’m wondering: What exactly IS the record?

300 issues from a non-Marvel/DC title?

300 issues by the same creative team?

300 issues of a creator owned title?

300 issues self-published?

Some combination of the four?

I can see the case for an asterisk for the second and fourth for Cerebus. Yes, you wrote and drew 300 issues, but Gerhard didn’t come on board until #65, which means you guys were only (ha! “Only”!) a team for 235 issues. (Which beats the Lee/Kirby FF run, and are the leaders for “Longest run by a single creative team” (as far as I know,).) And Deni was listed as the publisher for the first 70 issues, so was it truly “Self-publishing”? (I’d say yes, since you and her were a team (again, as far as I know…) right?) which means Cerebus was only (ha! again,) self-published for 230 issues (if Deni doesn’t “count”).

I mean, Cerebus IS a monumental achievement. It’s like you’ve described it, “climbing Mt. Everest”. I just wonder if publishing 300 issues of a comic you created, and had a partial hand in its production (ie: Spawn,) is the same, or more like “climbing Mt. Hood”, still a difficult task, but not the exact same thing. Yes, they’re both mountain climbing, but ya know, Everest is Everest, and Hood is just Hood…

Also, tangentially, what are the parameters for “same creative team”? The Lee/Kirby FF benchmark IS a benchmark, but how many different inkers and colorists did they have? I mean, Erik Larsen has written and drawn 235 (tying you and Ger, how about that?)  issues of Savage Dragon. But he’s had a number of letterers and colorists (no more than a dozen guys I think). Does that mean he isn’t tied with you and Ger? And when he hits #300, will it “count”?

I dunno, just some stuff rattling around my head. Made me wonder what your opinion was.

Matt


And Dave responded thusly:

Which is nice and gracious, and a TOTALLY reasonable response.

But seeing as how this is a blog dedicated to a comic that ended FOURTEEN years ago(!), nice and gracious, and reasonable aren't really our "forte".

We're more about the nitpicking, sniping, and being petty little bitches. 



So, "Yay" to Todd for almost hitting 300 issues. But much like Barry Bonds record breaking home run ball, I say there needs to be an asterisk. While Spawn is gonna hit 300 issues, it's more in line with Batman hitting 300 issues, than Cerebus hitting 300.

Erik Larsen hitting 300 with Savage Dragon is light years closer to Dave and Cerebus than Todd and Spawn. No asterisk required.

Okay, start yer bitchin' in the comments, I'm out!

Next Time: I mean, COME ON, Spawn has had how many different creative teams?

27 comments:

Uthor said...

Who gives a shit?

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Well, Todd for one, I would assume...

Matt
(Not the kind of bitchy I expected...)

Tim P said...

Great post

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Wow, you guys are kinda all over with this...
Matt

Dominick Grace said...

Spawn hitting 300 is not meaningless, but yeah, since basically Todd farmed out big chunks of it as work for hire, it's more of a Marvel/DC-level 300. Not at all comparable to 300 issues written by a single author and drawn (or co-drawn) by that same single artist plus one other person. Image really doesn't count as "independent" either, or anyway has not so counted for a very long time.

Dave's generosity of spirit in applauding Todd anyway is unsurprising.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Dom,

THIS is more of what I expected.

How is Image not independent?

Matt

Dominick Grace said...

Independent of what? When it was six guys essentially self-publishing, sure. But now, how many books do they publish? Something like 20 a month? How many of their titles have been farmed out to hired help? They're one of the top few comics companies. They're about as independent as, say, Vertigo.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Dom,

They were six guys published by Malibu at first.

And independent of... I dunno.

The "two publisher" system (which never really existed,)?

Back before Marvel killed every distributor except Diamond, you could self publish and work the distribution system and be independent. I don't know what "independent" means in today's marketplace.

Matt

Dominick Grace said...

"Independent" seems now simply to mean "not Marvel or DC." But I don't think of Image, or Dark Horse, as independent in any meaningful sense. Sure, they do publish creator-owned books (but so do Marvel and DC now). Mainly, they seem to function pretty much similarly in most respects to how a major publishing house would work.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

I'd say Image is independent in so far as you are essentially self publishing, and paying to use the "I".

Dark Horse is Mike Richardson.

IDW is Ted Adams.

With Image, you pay the 3 grand, and can do what you want.

(Unless you subcontract yourself to one of the studios. Then you do what they want...)

Matt

Dominick Grace said...

Image does have that different model, yes, but it's the whole subcontracting thing that does it in for me. If work for hire is part of your model, then you're not really independent.

David Birdsong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with Dave's gracious response.

He's definitely correct in that the more one draws the better they'll become; I never cared for Erik Larsen's art but I just checked out some recent Savage Dragons and he's improved quite a bit.

What sets Cerebus apart for me is the quality of the work, not only did Dave self-publish 300 issues, but he did his best to uncover and present the Truth, all while growing as an artist and constantly experimenting.

Savage Dragon and Spawn may go to 400 issues and while that level of consistency is impressive, they aren't in the same league at all for my taste. Which is fine, everyone is inspired differently and the realization of their own creativity is what's important.

A Fake Name

Robbie Foggo said...

I saw Charlie Adlard at a book convention a couple of years ago and he was talking about he and Kirkman having beaten the same team runs set by Kirby/Lee and Bendis/Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man. Walking Dead was near 150 at that point.

I asked if he was aiming to beat the Sim/Gerhard record of 235 issues and you could see him trying to figure out how many more years that would be and giving a shiver...

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Robbie,

How many issues of the Walking Dead did Tony Moore do before Adlard came on board?

Matt

David Birdsong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
al said...

Given that more than 3,000 people have reached the summit of Everest, I'd say Dave and Gerhard's feat is actually a more difficult task.

Most people have a much better shot at climbing Everest, than successfully publishing 300 issues of a comic.

Perhaps what Dave and Ger did is actually more in line with reaching the summit of K2 (300 successful, 80 deaths)?

Todd's accomplishment, while noteworthy, just isn't the same. Nope.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

AFN: If we're grading Dave on his success in uncovering and presenting Truth, then he's accomplished virtually nothing with his entire life. But I like Dave and Steve Gerber and other creators who show me a world that is clearly not this one.

It's easy to produce 300 comic books. All you have to do is be a professional cartoonist over a career, and you'll do it by default. How many comics has John Byrne done? Or George Perez? Or Roy Thomas? Or Bill Mantlo? Or any number of other writers or draw-ers in mainstream comics? And there are pages within the 6,000-plus page work that Dave didn't work on, but still shares creative authorship of. Clearly some criterion other than producing one page after another is needed to account for Cerebus.

Is it the sequential numbering? The canonical Cerebus is 298 consecutively-numbered issues (two of them with two numbers on them), and a number of pages from other sources. Spawn will soon have higher numbers printed on it, and The Incredible Hulk published its number-300 issue over 30 years ago. But the number on the cover isn't a sufficient criterion either. Is it the continuing character and continuity? Again, Spawn and Hulk both qualify.

It's the combination of longevity and authorship that mark the achievement. So I side with those who think Savage Dragon will someday count as beating Cerebus, and Spawn will not so count.

Cerebus certainly isn't the "the longest sequential narrative in human history". Off the top of my head, Valerian is longer in both duration and page-count. And it shares a lot with Cerebus, eg. early amateurish issues as the creators found their feet, an ongoing series that the creators eventually came to view as a single story.

In any case, while "reaching number 300" is an interesting piece of trivia, it's not a criterion that makes a comic good or bad. It just makes it a lot.

-- Damian

ChrisW said...

Todd reaching issue #300 doesn't remotely touch Dave and Ger's achievement, but Dave is gracious enough to recognize the accomplishment for what it is.

Erik reaching issue #300 will be a major accomplishment. Dave is probably the single biggest cheerleader Erik has. I may not like "Savage Dragon." You may not like "Savage Dragon." But Erik Larsen has spent the biggest part of his life doing 300 issues of "Savage Dragon" [I'm not sure what issue he's up to by now] and that absolutely deserves respect.

Anonymous said...

Damian,

"We're" not doing anything. I speak for myself alone. However you want to measure Dave's artistic work is your business. For that matter, what do you think of it? Have you ever actually noted specific thoughts on the work? Favorite parts? Disappointment, etc.?

I don't think it's easy to produce 300 issues of a comic book, even with the incredible talent of a Gerhard on your side. That comment feels like bait laid out for Jeff Seiler.

I wouldn't even say it's easy to write 300 issues of a comic and a writer can generally create faster than a good artist.

It's quite possible John Byrne (or whomever) has drawn over 300 issues of work but that's quite different from doing 300 issues of one story they've created.

cheers,

A Fake Name

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

AFN: Sorry if I was unclear; I've got a cold at the moment.

Your moving the goalposts does you no credit. Nobody was discussing the artistic worth of Dave's work. You spoke of his uncovering the presenting the Truth (capital "T", at that), which is a very different thing. I have indeed (eg. in comments on this very blog) noted specific thoughts about Dave's work and abilities, but that's not what we're talking about here.

Of course you speak for yourself, but "we" -- the participants in this thread -- are engaged in a common task: trying to figure out whether, say, Spawn or Savage Dragon reaching issue number 300 is an equivalent accomplishment to Cerebus reaching issue number 300. Some people (including myself) have expressed arguments that in the former case the answer is "no", and in the latter case the answer is "yes".

All right, I'll accept that it's not "easy" to produce 300 issues of a comic book. It's also not "easy" to treat 300 patients, or drywall 300 houses. But any professional in those fields will accomplish that over a professional career. It's not easy, but neither is it special. "Number of issues produced" is not sufficient to equal Dave's accomplishment with Cerebus.

Cerebus is supposed to be the story of one character's life. But at the time The Incredible Hulk reached issue 300, it too was supposed to be the story of one character's life; all the events depicted were supposed to have happened to the same Bruce Banner. (Marvel doesn't seem to have the same continuity fetishism these days.) I doubt anyone would think that's an equivalent accomplishment to Dave's with Cerebus (and remember, we're not talking about artistic achievement). "One continuing protagonist" is not sufficient to equal the accomplishment of Cerebus.

(Tangent: I don't think "one continuing protagonist" is even necessary. Thimble Theatre was ten years old when Elzie Segar introduced Popeye. If Dave had done 50 issues with Cerebus as the main character, and then realized that Astoria is a more interesting character and done the next 250 issues with her as the protagonist, would we say Dave did one 250-issue story? I don't think we would. "One continuing fictional world", perhaps? Then Hulk qualifies. In fact, the whole of Marvel continuity qualifies -- thousands of issues, a much greater accomplishment than 300 issues of Cerebus. But I think that's as ludicrous as Dave's "comics metaphysics".)

(continued in next comment)

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

(continued from previous comment)

Is the difference between the two the fact that Cerebus had (almost) the same creative team for its run, and Hulk did not? I think we're on to something here.

Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres spent almost 45 years -- 50 percent longer than Dave spent on Cerebus -- crafting the ongoing tale of Valerian. Like Cerebus, it's a continuous story of a character, with a definite ending, by the same creative team. (You might even claim that it exceeds Cerebus on the last point, because Christin and Mezieres were both in it from the beginning, whereas Gerhard joined the team a fifth of the way in.) Both stories were not originally intended as one ongoing and finite narrative; in both cases, the creators arrived at that decision after producing the work for a while. Have they equalled or exceeded Cerebus? I would say they have.

So to compare another comic to Cerebus, we're looking at some combination of a single fictional world by the same creative team producing a large amount of material over a significant span of time. I think "we" -- the commenters here responding to the original post -- have helped tease out what we mean when we ask if another creator or comic has equalled Cerebus (and again, we're not talking about artistic accomplishment at the moment; that's another conversation).

If anyone can tease this out further, please chime in!

-- Damian

Anonymous said...

One can't move goalposts that don't exist.

I said: "but he did his best to uncover and present the Truth, all while growing as an artist..." That's what he was aiming for, Truth capital T. I can't say if he achieved it or not but that goal, to me, is noteworthy.

Fair enough. I don't recall seeing these comments, usually you seem to be criticizing Dave's thinking but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

You said: " If we're grading Dave on his success in uncovering and presenting Truth" and that's not what I'm doing. That was why I said there's no "we."

Again I feel like you're trying to bait someone by saying Dave completing 300 (monthly more or less) issues of a comic isn't special. Of course it's special when one dedicated over twenty years to their own creative project in a field dominated by work-for-hire!

If you don't think so, oh well.

Regarding Valerian that is impressive. I don't view these things as competition. I think Sandman is impressive at it's 70? some issues.

Hope your cold has passed.

cheers

A Fake Name

Dominick Grace said...

Three hundred issues of a single comic/character by one creator is clearly an unusual if not unique achievement to date in the North American market. Therein lies what makes Dave's (and Gerhard's) accomplishment distinctive. And Todd's, not so much. Big chunks of Spawn have been by other hands. The more appropriate comparator there really is something like The Hulk.

(One could argue that 50 years of Peanuts by a single creator trumps any of the above, though, even if its page count doesn't add up to that of Cerebus.)

Ray Cornwall said...

The bigger issue, to me, is this- Spawn is nigh-unreadable, and has been for more of its publication history. And I tried. The first few years are fun, but after a while, it's just...it's no good, even when Todd hires better writers.

Savage Dragon? It's gotten better and better. Erik pushes envelopes, challenges himself constantly, and has kept that book at a high level for a long time.

I've read all of Savage Dragon, and would recommend anyone who likes Cerebus to try it. I can't say the same of most of Spawn.

Side note- Robert Kirkman is just past the halfway point to 300 with Walking Dead, but when you throw in his Invincible series (another damn good read) and his other projects...that's a hell of a career.

Tony Dunlop said...

The specific number 300 is a complete red herring. The issue is longevity and sustained dedication by a creator. "Gasoline Alley" comes immediately to mind, as do "For Better or For Worse," "Peanuts," "Prince Valiant," and no doubt lots of European and Japanese comics I'm not familiar with due to my Amurrikan ingerence.

"Hulk,""Thor," "Superman," et cetera most assuredly do not come to mind. Those are (shudder) "franchises," not sustained creative efforts.

Travis Pelkie said...

Just to chime in here to agree on Spawn hitting 300 being a lesser achievement than Cerebus, as well as that if/when Savage Dragon hits that, it will be closer to Cerebus than to Spawn in the achievement realm.

Also, in re: Image as independent, other than the books by the founders that are still there, I believe any of the other Image comics are creator owned and not work for hire at all. (Possibly not some of the Skybound stuff that Kirkman appears to have a hand in.) Spawn, Cyber Force, some of the Liefeld Extreme books have all had other creators do quality work for hire on the books in recent years (and I would argue the Keatinge/Campbell run on Glory and the Graham et al run on Prophet greatly exceeded the originals), and the Kirkman books are in the work for hire mold, I think (not sure if he shares TM and copyright with his artists, but I think for the most part yes he does). Otherwise, Image is usually picking up writers and artists who have done some books for Marvel and/or DC and let them do runs of their own creator owned books until they need to go back to the big 2 to make some actual money ;)