Saturday 31 December 2011

Please Consider Signing The Petition

As at 31st December 2011, 319 people have signed the petition confirming that they do not believe Dave Sim is a misogynist. Whether you agree or disagree with Dave Sim's wider views, please consider showing your support for one of the comics medium's most unique talents by signing the petition. Some of the people who already have are:

Stephen R Bissette (81):
Cartoonist, writer, fellow Spirit of Independence traveler, longtime CEREBUS reader, TABOO co-creator/co-creator/publisher/co-publisher who was originally bankrolled by Dave, and artist who owes a debt of thanks to Dave.

Michael Peterson (90):
Dave Sim has been an inspiration for over ten years of my life - and I most decidedly do not believe that he is a misogynist, an opinion I can hold after fully reading his essays and correspondence, and in contradiction to vague smear comments of all varieties.

Tyrone Biljan (91):
Dave has been and continues to be a great guy to me personally. He's never talked negatively about women in my presence.

Suley Fattah (100):
Dave has always been a gentleman whenever my wife and I met up with him.

Amanda Meadows (102):
Huge fan slash woman. If he feels this is necessary than so do I. 

Thadeus Zebroski (110):
I appreciate the medium of comic art and especially the work Dave Sim has done in Cerebus. While he has been critical of feminist ideas I don't believe Dave Sim is a misogynist.

Paul Weil (116):
Criticism does not denote fear or hatred...

John W. Hacker (119):
I've had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Sim several times over the years at different conventions. I found him to be a pleasant and intelligent fellow who was very interested in talking to the public about any number of subjects. Dave and I have vastly different views on politics, religion and several other subjects. While he does have very strong opinions about women and women's roles I'm convinced that the man is not a misogynist.

Gary Spencer Millidge (122):
Writer/artist, Strangehaven
I think if Dave Sim was a misogynist then he wouldn't have any trouble admitting it. So I don't believe he is. I even looked up what it meant.

Mel Smith (132):
I don't believe Dave Sim is a misogynist " in fact just the opposite. I believe Dave Sim has stood for nothing more than pure fucking artistic genius since day one in 1977! I have seen Dave fight for many, many, many people in and out of the comics family and to think some turds would treat a man of his grace this way makes me sick. I am proud to call Dave Sim my friend, mentor, and idol without whom I would never had published Gumby Comics or any other projects for that matter. Respectfully - Mel Smith

Dave Fisher (135):
I met Dave several years ago, and actually did some work for him before reading even a single page of Cerebus (he says sheepishly). His reputation preceded him of course, but IMO is ridiculously exaggerated. Dave is a thoroughly decent, stand-up human being. I have since read some Cerebus, but more than anything my opinion has been formulated by several challenging & stimulating sit-down conversations with Dave at his home. If I believed that Dave was truly a misogynist, I would find him loathesome and not waste my time, any more than he wants to waste his time and energy engaging disagreeable narrow-minded people who despise him. Sim has some very, very strong opinions, and I don't agree with all of them, but I do believe my own world view is better informed and sharpened for having his challenging thoughts and opinions expressed to me without apology or fear. Do I believe Dave has strong opinions against feminism Absolutely! Do I believe he hates women No, I honestly don't believe that to be true.

Stephen L Holland (168):
Owner, Page 45 comics shop, Nottingham, UK, I do not believe that Dave Sim is a misogynist and I have nothing but contempt for those ignorant and illiterate few who have caused such a disproportionate stirr/tsunami amounting to character assassination over the last fifteen years.

James Owen (170):
Colleague and Friend. Dave and I disagree about many things, but I do not believe he is a misogynist. I realized that the reasons I have not signed the petition to this point have more to do with my differences with others on the periphery than they have to do with Dave. And were I to be asked in person what he asked for in his letter, as his colleague, I would not decline to support him. If it was presented to me at face value that he needed the support of his friends, I would not decline to have his back. Because whether or not Dave is still my friend, I am still his.

Logan DeAngelis (224):
President of, a long time Cerebus reader, and admirer of Dave and his works.

Brian K. Smith (229):
Comics fan and self publisher of small-press comics. To see one of our mediums greatest geniuses treated so disrespectfully, and to have one of comics greatest achievements swept under the rug is embarrassing. I've always loved comics since I was a kid because of the no-rules freedom of expression they offer. Too bad so many don't see it that way. Fuck them, I still do.

James Loh (230):
As a kid growing up reading comic books, Cerebus showed me what the medium was capable of, and as I've grown older, how few creators, at least in the mainstream, rise to the challenge. I do not believe that Dave Sim is a misogynist/hates women, and I find no evidence of this in any of his writings. People have inaccurately described a very talented man clearly and concisely laying out his opinions as being hateful, when I would argue that Sim's opinions have been expressed without any malice, or emotive statements. You may disagree with him, you may STRONGLY disagree with him, but to respond with such anger as to label a man a misogynist is discrimination in itself; to hate a person for their difference of opinion. 

John Garvin (276):
Labels like this, whether applied to Dave Sim or anyone else, are politically-correct bullshit attempts to censor freedom of thought, let alone freedom of speech. Cerebus, probably more than any other comic, has had the greatest impact on me as a creator and artist, and Sim should not be marginalized just because his views on gender, cosmology or ??? piss off the intelligentsia who are currently in vogue. Shame on everyone who wants to ignore 300 issues of complex storytelling because they deem the author "unclean."

Bill Willingham (282):
Writer of Fables and other books and stories.

Terry Phelps (288):
Dave Sim is not a misoginist, he's just made an in-depth and fascinatingly idiosyncratic stand on the issue of the dark side of feminism. Let us remember that feminism is a political movement. It is not "women", and it is not a vunerable victim to be protected from "brutish men". As a man who came of age during the birth of 70's femisim, Sim's courageous and heartfelt position is a unique testament to the social effects of a widespread and oft-irrational social movement that sought to disenfranchise talented young men like himself. Those who criticise Sim ought to do a self-check. You can go to one "women's studies' lecture and call yourself a feminist. Cheap entry. What Sim has done - whether you subscribe to every detail in Sim's worldview or not - is to compose a highly detailed and thought-through philosophical response to an overwhelmingly more powerful political movement than his lone voice. Regarding such a unique viewpoint, one is hardly going to agree with every aspect. But this effort will rank as one of the first sustained, complex responses in the postfeminist world to the unaknowledged evils of the feminist socio-political machine. I can't pretend to understand or agree with Sim's religious views. But I'm sure his social commentary will inform generations to come.

Kevin Eastman (294):
Co-creator Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A proud friend and a huge fan!

Friday 30 December 2011

The Scariest Comic Book Moments Ever

Cerebus #136 (July 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from the 2010 article at Prism Comics: Part 1, Part 2)
My final offering of the scariest moments in comics comes from Dave Sim's series Cerebus, in the final installment of the extraordinary Jaka's Story. The story ran from issues 114 to 136, ended in 1990 and spanned nearly two years in the telling. Unlike in my previous examples, I will be sparse in the details on this one. Suffice it to say that the journey of the titular character is not an easy one. We follow her in her day-to-day life with her well-meaning but relatively clueless husband Rick in their isolated existence with scattered encounters with their reserved grocer and demonstrative neighbor. Cerebus the aardvark arrives and injects himself into Jaka's life in the hopes of winning back her love, something we know will never happen. The story is peppered with flashbacks from Jaka's past, written in lengthy and lurid prose in emulation of an author from a long ago time. The stretches of prose are accompanied by exquisite illustrations by Sim and Gerhard, making the comic appear to be regularly interrupted by a late 1800s storybook. The flashbacks at first seem intrusive and unwieldy, but in very short order draw the reader in, much like any good ghost story told in an intimate setting.

The matriarchal society of Cerebus's world forces itself into Jaka's life just as she begins to find herself and she, her husband, and her neighbor are attacked by female soldiers and imprisoned during a time when Cerebus, the only one who could have protected them, is gone on an errand. Jaka's stay in prison is arduous and painful, and we suffer it with her. At the story's climax in issue #136, both Jaka and Rick, the husband from whom she had been separated during her time behind bars, are brought before the villain of the picture, a woman known only as Mrs. Thatcher. This woman knows something about Jaka's past that was not covered in the lavish flashbacks and she intends to bring it to light.

What follows is one the best, and most intense, examples of comic book storytelling ever depicted. Using every aspect of the craft, from facial expressions to gestures to sound effects right down to the very size and shape of the lettering in the dialogue balloons, Dave Sim leads us down a path of suspense and growing unease as he has his villain do her work. She speaks, she has her massive female guard prevent Jaka from doing the same, and Mrs. Thatcher addresses Rick while her words do what all the best - and worst - horror stories do. They get inside your head.

Upon realization of what he's been told, Rick, ever the loving and doting husband, crumbles and is utterly destroyed, and we are undone along with him. Even Rick being escorted to freedom is shattering to see, and the final pages, illustrated with no captions or dialogue whatever, shake the reader to the core. As to the content of those pages, of Thatcher's scheming, and Jaka's secret, I will say no more. Pick up the story and read it for yourself. Just brace yourself beforehand. 

Following the conclusion of that storyline, Sim released T-shirts which read "I survived Jaka's Story". The statement could not have been more telling. And yes, I bought one. Those who had not followed the story thought the shirt was in reference to its length, or the extensive use of prose pages within the text. I knew better. I had followed the story of this remarkable young woman, slowly fallen in love with her, and bore witness to her emotional destruction. That, my friends, is scary.

T-Shirt Design: I Survived Jaka's Story (1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Thursday 29 December 2011

Howard The Duck

Howard The Duck #8 (Marvel Comics, November 1980)
Art by Dave Sim

(from an interview in The Comics Journal #82, July 1983)
...that was Marvel's serpent-in-the-garden phone call. Marvel is well known for their serpent-in-the-garden phone calls. Just when you get set on what you're going to do, Marvel phones up and asks if you want to work for them... For me it was a phone call from Bill Mantlo, saying that they had decided to do try-out pieces for Howard The Duck to be used as frontispieces, and they were paying real money for them, and it could be whatever I wanted to do. "How Dave Sim would handle Howard The Duck." And I did that for the experience of it, for the exposure; I mean, nothing succeeds like Marvel in fan's eyes. Like being able to tell them I did a story for Epic now. For a lot of them it's like you really exist now. Before you were off in a Never-Never Land. I think it was after that that Lynn Graeme called and said that Bill Mantlo had quit Howard after I had done the page (just a coincidence) and that they liked the page I did. Would I be interested in writing it? And at the time I had just decided to go monthly with Cerebus. If the phone call had come two months before I would have thought, "Well, great, I'll write Howard The Duck one month and do Cerebus the other month." They didn't have any interest in me drawing it, which - this has been a lot of the drawback with a lot of places. If you want to get to Dave Sim you best bet is to ask him to draw something for you and tell him that you're not crazy about his writing since I've heard the other side so many times.

I never really actually "almost wrote" Howard The Duck. I decided against it after about five seconds.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

A-Z of Awesomeness

C Is For... Captain Britain Cuddling Cerebus
from the A-Z of Awesomeness (2009)
Art by Neill Cameron

My name’s Neill Cameron, and I make a living by writing and drawing stuff. Why not go and look at some of it? My Mecha Action Schoolgirl Comedy Opus Mo-Bot High appeared in weekly children’s comic The DFC, and I’ve recently been working on some comics stuff for Panini, the BBC and a couple of educational publishers. Anyway, a recent rash of deadlines had left me feeling a little tired and burned out, so I decided I needed to just draw something for myself. Something fun. Something… Awesome. Which brings us here.

This project was inspired by my friend and fellow creator Garen Ewing, (whose book The Rainbow Orchid is being published in a couple of months by Egmont UK and is going to be absolutely fantastic, incidentally). Last year Garen did an A-Z of Comic Strip Characters, drawing a character each day based on suggestions from Facebook. I thought this looked like a fun challenge, and decided to give it a go myself, but widening out the remit from just comic strips to characters from the wider world of pop cultural entertainment: film, animation, TV, literature… anywhere, really, so long as it meets the basic requirement of being AWESOME. I decided it would be fun to encourage people to include imaginative alliteration in their suggestions. As you will see, this rapidly got completely, spectacularly out of hand. It ended up being a lot of fun, with over 600 people joining the Facebook group and coming up with all manner of insane suggestions every day.

You can now buy poster-sized prints of the A-Z of Awesomeness, with all profits being donated to SSNAP (Support for the Sick Newborn And their Parents), a charity which supports the Intensive Special Care Nurseries (Neonatal Unit) at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. It's a place and a team of people to which I owe more than I could ever hope to repay in this lifetime, but maybe a few quid from selling some silly posters will make a start. 

Neill Cameron is a UK-based writer and comics artist who has illustrated projects ranging from Doctor Who, Thor and Transfomers to Shakespeare and comics about traffic safety. His first graphic novel, the giant robot school comedy epic Mo-Bot High, is available now as part of the DFC Library series. Neill is currently working on new projects combining dinosaurs, pirates, monkeys and numerous other Things That Are Awesome for new UK weekly children's comic The Phoenix, launching on 7th January 2012.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Following Cerebus With David Petersen

Cover art for Following Cerebus #12 (2011)
Art by Dave Sim & David Petersen

(from David Petersen's Blog, 23 August 2011)
Back in 2007 I was asked by Dave Sim to do an interview for his magazine Following Cerebus. In the process of the interview by correspondence Dave also asked if I'd like to do a Cerebus/Mouse Guard jam cover. Well after several years, the issue has been released and I can share the process of the cover art (which I now cringe at in terms of inking & coloring crudeness).

Dave sent over the inks for his piece. The idea he had was to have Cerebus waking up to find guardmice climbing on him. I told Dave to ink his piece in fully, that instead of jaming on the layout, just to finish his own drawing and inks, so the styles would only look different between the characters, not from the top to bottom of the image.

I drew & inked my mice on a sheet of bristol on the lighbox with a printout of Dave's inks behind it. That way I was able to match up the contact points where Saxon's sword is touching Cerebus' nose, the mouse feet touch Cerebus' belly etc. It also allowed me to get the shadows to fall in the right spots on the fence and Cerebus himself.

I merged the inked pieces together in photoshop and edited out the inkwork where the two pieces overlapped. Then I colored the piece. The colors look a bit over-saturated and over textured to my eye now, but I do remember at the time wanting to do less texture on Cerebus than the mice to push the idea of two different artistic styles coming together.

Monday 26 December 2011

Frank Thorne

Red Sonja & Ghita by Frank Thorne

(from Dave Sim On Parody & Copyright, Following Cerebus #3, February 2005)
Frank Thorne was very enthusiastic about the Red Sophia and Geet-a parodies, which meant a great deal to me at the time, because he was such a huge success at the time with Red Sonja. Just completely over-the-top in sending me colour sketches and fan letters. I can't even imagine how much mail he must have been getting at the time. I think he singled me out for a little more that an average amount of attention because I had done an interview with him for CANAR back when he was working on Korak, Son Of Tarzan at DC in the pre-Sonja days. He was always seen as the poor man's Joe Kubert, so I think he appreciated my level of interest and, certainly, I took a lot of inspiration back in 1978-79 from the fact that an artist who had been seen as a second-stringer and an also-ran could suddenly have a hit after years of being a marginal figure in the field. [Laughs] It never happened for me, but it did help to keep me going that it was at least possible.
(from the introduction to issue 3 in Swords Of Cerebus Vol 1, 1981)
A struggling professional needs Frank Thorne - be they elf or aardvark. I mean, Frank loves everything... without qualification or inhibition. Phone the guy to talk and he laughs. He laughs when you say hello, he laughs when you ask him if he's rich yet. He laughs when you tell him you haven't got money for groceries and your mother needs an operation (this last part is made up of course). Frank sends you sketches. Bizarre little Pantone and flair jobbies. I got a sketch when I sent him #1. I got a sketch when I sent him #3. I got a cover for #7 just for sending him xeroxes of the first ten pages. I got another sketch when I won the Alley Award. The most recent sketch was for the Ghita parody in #19. I still have to do Son of Tomahawk, Mighty Sampson and Dr. Guy Bennet (who?). By the end of the decade, I'll be able to wallpaper the cat's room with Frank Thorne artwork... and yes, it is true, the wizard was drawn so he looked like Frank.

Buy Frank Thorne books at Fantagraphics Books, Dynamite Entertainment and Dark Horse.
Cerebus #7 (December 1978)
Art by Frank Thorne

Sunday 25 December 2011

Kim Thompson: "Good Aardvark Art"

Cerebus #1-12 (December 1977 to October 1979)
Art by Dave Sim, except #7 by Frank Thorne

The following review of Cerebus #1-12 by Fantagraphics Books publisher Kim Thompson appeared in The Comics Journal #52 in December 1979. It was the first major review the Cerebus series received and The Comics Journal was not known for handing out praise lightly.


High points in comics art frequently have odd geneses. Carl Bark's magnum opus sprang from the use of established characters from the Disney canon, one of the most limiting and repressive environments imaginable. George Herriman's masterpiece began as a postscript to an otherwise not terribly distinguished strip called The Family Upstairs. And Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's finest creation originated as a near throwaway in a moribund comic, Amazing Adult Fantasy.

From such unpromising beginnings sprang Uncle Scrooge, Krazy Kat, and Spider-Man, three high-water marks in comics history. It should therefore come as no great surprise that a strip mingling a funny-animal protagonist and a backdrop begun as a line-for-line pastiche of Roy Thomas and Barry Smith's Conan should have developed into one of the best comics of the late 70s. Cerebus The Aardvark has surmounted its origins, both stylistic and thematic, to stand on its own two (rather tubular) feet as a delightful and admirable work of art, and is busily propelling its creator, Dave Sim, to the very forefront of artists currently working in comics. If he is not already recognised as one of tomorrow's masters, it is, I think, because he is not busy writing trendy, opportunistically "relevant" stories or filling his pages with semi-legible, self-conscious stylistic posturing. Instead, he has chosen to put his ever-increasing craftsmanship in the service of telling a straightforward and articulate manner, highly entertaining and witty stories featuring well-developed and affecting characters. Cerebus is (and I do not say this lightly) a true heir to Carl Barks's duck stories. What Barks and Sim have in common, and what so few other creators, particularly nowadays, seem to have, is honesty vis-a-vis their creations. Barks wrote straight from the heart; Sim, once he'd shucked off the initial parodic shallowness in Cerebus, seems similarly sincere. It is tempting to say that at some point characters "take on a life of their own," but that would be doing their creators an injustice. What people like Barks and Sim have is the sensitivity to develop an almost organic feel for their characters that is far removed from (although not totally incompatible with) coldly intellectual manipulation. Gerber never succeeded with Howard The Duck, for instance, because he was insistent on using him to make points in his stories, and worse, making certain that the readers  were fully aware of that he was using them to make those points. Claremont hasn't succeeded in doing it in the X-Men because the devices are too obvious and too calculated. Like good dancing, good characterisation has to be virtually sublimated into the subconscious - if you're still counting "one, two, three" and concentrating on your feet, you've got a was to go.

Despite lapses early on in the canon (such as the second issue, where Cerebus stabs a defeated opponent for a gag - a deliciously blackhearted gag I would have relished in any other context, but here a jolting bit of nastiness), Cerebus and his various supporting characters have acquired dimension. This is doubly remarkable given the fact that most of them (Elrod, Red Sophia, the Cockroach) began as parodies: once Sim had turned the originals inside out, he found that the resultant contortion had its own charm and took off from there. Sophia is still a trifle uncomfortable (probably not least because of the moderately unhealthy nature of her Marvel counterpart and inspiration), but Elrod's portentously amiable goofball persona has divorced itself from its parodic aspects and is no longer a spoof of Elric (except visually), but an original and appealing character.

And, of course, Cerebus himself is a delight. Tempering his initial sullenness with a wicked sense of wit, Sim has evolved Cerebus into a sterling protagonist, with a sharply defined personality, bringing to light traits both positive (keen intelligence, humor, persistence, inventiveness, and an underlying - sometimes far under indeed - ethic) and negative (greed, sarcasm, drunkenness, rudeness, and a coldness toward everyone he meets, usually laced with a deep contempt) and usually staying within his own boundaries. Sim has been coy about how and why an aardvark is doing a Howard the Duck number on Conan's world (his attempts at providing a theological background for aardvarks in #5 and #7are not, I think, to be taken quite seriously), and it doesn't really matter any more than what a dog, mouse and genderless cat are doing beaning each other with bricks in a surrealistic landscape. Sim has wisely kept the "Why... y-y-you're and aardvark!" stuff to a minimum, forsaking it altogether where it would impede the story flow.

Quite apart from the great charm of Sim's characters, the efficient command of of the comics language evident throughout the series is one of its major assets. Sim displays that rarest and most precious of talents: a clean, uncluttered, pleasant story-telling style that is neither overly flashy (the more excessive Byrne jobs), stilted (Gulacy), stolid (Starlin), or hackneyed (the Buscema Brothers [John and Sal]). The layouts of Cerebus provide an object lesson in fluid narrative: viewing the page is like being navigated through busy streets by a skilled driver.

Sim uses the vocabulary of comics with such lucidity and craft that the techniques, most of which are frequently paraded about with no good reason (when not directly misused) by lesser talents, are perfectly integrated. Sim knows exactly when to use split panels, tilted and odd-shaped panels, silhouettes, triptychs, zooms, and does so so expertly that these techniques blend into the fabric of the narrative to create a seamless tapestry of images.

Well, almost seamless. Sim is capable of flubs  as well as anyone else. For instance, the rooftop sequence in #11, it is never quite clear when and how the Cockroach gets down to the street; the rest of the sequence however, flows so smoothly that I didn't notice the lapse until the fourth reading. When the merchant wakes up on page 11 of that same story, Sim reverses viewpoints at an inopportune moment: the penultimate panel on the preceding page establishes Cerebus stage right, Merchant stage left; in the first panel on page 11, Cerebus is startled by a voice coming from stage right; and in panel three, the Merchant and Cerebus are again in their original positions vis-a-vis one another.. Where Sim blows it is panel one, where the reversed angle gives the impression that Cerebus is being startled by a voice from behind, ie in a room different from the Merchant's.

But these and other weaknesses are, given Sim's youth, quite pardonable. Better to commend him for his adeptness at sustaining mood with abstract and semi-abstract renderings in the background, for example. Smith kept the reader informed as to Conan's whereabouts by ceaselessly littering the decor with elaborate architechure, sculptures, and decorative wallpaper. Sim, aware that this more often than not diverts the eye from the basic flow of the action, frequently draws page after page set against a background composed of vey simple designs - mostly  simple pen strokes - after establishing the decor in the opening shot. Despite some goofs that crop up here, too (the 'marble patterns' during the fight with the Panrovian in #9 are coarse and distracting, for instance), this technique serves Sim, who can indicate a persistent rain storm merely by filling the page with vertical lines, very well indeed.

Sim's rendering, originally a curious scuffle between Smith-pastiche and his own nascent style, is becoming more efficient and less derivative. There is still a curious stylistic clash between Cerebus, who is deliniated with the clean-cut clarity of an animation cell, and the rest of the book, but it works remarkably well, and in fact facilitates continuity by making the protagonist stand out graphically (although an argument could be made that when the protagonist is only three-foot, furry, long-snouted character in the series, one does not really have to go out of one's way to make him stand out graphically). In the latest issue, Sim has adopted the use of zipatone and seems to have gone a little nuts with it. Aside from a personal prejudice in favour of artists who can do their rendering without cutting and pasting dot designs on their pages, I think it has lost him a bit of his individuality, although I suspect that practise will allow Sim to master the technique and add it to his repertoire of comics tools. Issue 12 is a bit dark and muddy here and there, thus graphically inferior to its immediate predecessors, but it shows a considerable amount of promise.

One very unfortunate aspect of the book is the covers. Sim's gift for comics art does not extend to cover art; they are neither effective action scenes nor effective parodies of such, and are mostly awkward and ill-conceived. (There are also commercially not very sound: why does #12, which features Elrod, have a cover illustration of Cerebus fighting two anonymous goons?). In addition to this, the colour separations are simply awful; sloppily cut and with no attention paid to angling the screens so as to avoid moires. If Cerebus is not selling as well as it might be, much of the credit must go to its unappealing exteriors.

But I recommend Cerebus heartily, warts and all. And those who scrutinise the alternative press in search of future masters, and then delight in charting their progress, would do well to follow Cerebus as well. Because Sim is here to stay - if we are fortunate.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Your Card...

Your Card... (2006)
Art by Dave Sim, based on Mr. A by Steve Ditko

Friday 23 December 2011

Cerebus #301 (?)

Cerebus #301: Christmas Card Illustration
Art by Dave Sim

(from an interview, The Coast, 20 September 2010)
The only way I would revisit the character - and here's a Coast exclusive for you - is if I was to do a miniseries or graphic novel, Cerebus: The Afterlife, which I have a few mental notes floating around in my head about. I might have to wait a few years. People were squeamish enough about seeing Cerebus in his old age, not wanting to think about getting - or being - old. Speculations on an afterlife would really push some hot buttons, I think.

Thursday 22 December 2011

New Releases: December 2011 & January 2012

Glamourpuss #23
by Dave Sim
It's the knock-down, drag-out battle to the death you've been waiting for! High Fashion models versus Zootanapuss & Bunny, The One Rabbit Wrecking Crew! Only one faction will survive and the other will be exiled forever from the pages of glamourous! Subtitled "Crisis on Infinite Aardvark-Vanaheims," you won't want to miss a minute of the action in this multi-part thriller which will change the shape of the Aardvark-Vanaheim Universe for all time (or at least until sales are, once again, in the toilet) - it's like the classic two-part Hulk versus Thing only better because all the action takes place in smartly tailored clothing and features a really cute bunny! The history of Photorealism in Comics section continues with the events of September 6, 1956.
On sale: 25 January 2012
Available from your local comics shop

Cerebus Archive #17
by Dave Sim
An examination of Quack! #3 (1977) cover featuring The Beavers and what seemed to be, at the time a real breakthrough for Dave Sim and his brand new weekly newspaper strip. Excerpts from Quack! publisher Mike Friedrich’s, letters of the time demonstrates that Sim was oscillating between wanting to be a good team player at Star*Reach and not wanting to have his creativity messed with by an editor/publisher. His views have changed substantially since that time. Find out how.
On sale: 27 December 2011
Available from ComiXpress

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Master Of The Balletic Arts

Doctor Strangeroach Commission (2006)
Art by Dave Sim

(from The Blog & Mail, 21 November 2006)
...Ger brought in Sean M's commission request for a Doctor Strangeroach, a la Steve Ditko. I told Ger to give him the number here and I'd talk to him about it which I did just a little while ago. He's one of those really good art collectors who likes to give artists a lot of latitude. Major Steve Ditko fan so I wanted to know what his level of compulsion was. I don't remember a lot about Dr. Strange, but I did remember that they changed his costume pretty quickly after he first appeared in Strange Tales #110. It was sort of a subdued blue number to begin with. Sean mentioned that the amulet used to look different, that it actually had something sculpted on it, a figure or something. I had definitely forgotten that part and wished I had some reference to check (yes, I know, if I was hooked up to the Internet I could just Google it and there it would be). He told me about another artist who's working on a commission for him where it's going to have all these giant disembodied floating eyes with devouring maws. Because we're talking about Steve Ditko, I instantly get a definite mental image. Sean said that he had mentioned it to his wife (who shares his love of comics, lucky guy) and she said, "How could an eye have a devouring maw?" I think you have to have grown up with Steve Ditko for that to be second nature. So, all right, now I'm getting the range and this was what I was interested in - Steve Ditko's way with drawing otherworldly dimensions. Nobody else even comes close. And he's going to give me the latitude to do whatever I want in that way, so specific preference for the earliest Doctor Strange over the later Doctor Strange.

(Via FPI Blog and AW Yeah Comics!)

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Mrs Henrot-Gutch

The first appearance of Mrs Henrot-Gutch, Cerebus #57 (December 1983)
Art by Dave Sim

(on 'Giles' cartoons, The Comics Journal #100, July 1985)
They're just one-panel cartoons, but it's this English family, it's been running for, God, like 25 or 40 years. Maybe even longer than that. And, one of the best characters in the strip is the grandmother character. And when I was trying to think of a mother-in-law for Cerebus, it had to be the most difficult, grotesque, belligerent, obnoxious, self-centered individual I could think of, and she kept popping into my mind. So, well, what the hell, I guess that's Cerebus's mother-in-law.

Read more about Carl Giles (1916-1995) and his cartoons at Giles Cartoons and the British Cartoon Archive.

Monday 19 December 2011

Lost Kisses

Extract from Lost Kisses #11 (2009)
Story and words by Brian John Mitchell, art by Dave Sim

The complete Lost Kisses #11 is available to read as a free downloadable pdf. Also available to read online are Lost Kisses #1-10 by Brian John Mitchell.

Sunday 18 December 2011

What Ever Happened To...?

Cerebus vs The X-Men
Art by Dave Sim

The proposed Cerebus / X-Men cross-over of the 1980s unfortunately never got beyond the initial planning stages between Dave Sim and X-Men artist Paul Smith. The relevant pages from Dave Sim's production notebooks can be viewed here...

Updated 17 March 2012:

(from the Bendis Board, 9 February 2008)
All that exists of the Cerebus/X-men crossover is notes in one of my notebooks at the time. Chris Claremont and I both got invited to a store signing in Prince George, British Columbia so we decided we would plot the whole book on the way out on the plane. This really involved me taking dictation from Chris to make sure all of his stuff was covered -- I could figure out where the Cerebus stuff would fit in on my own and bounce it off him later. It's really in such shorthand note from that it's virtually incoherent.

It became obvious talking to Jim Shooter that this was a project Marvel was doing to keep Chris happy. Whatever Chris wants Chris gets, but they -- as a corporation -- really didn't think the book would sell worth s--t. I could see their corporate point, but it certainly deflated any real interest I had in doing the book. It had "file in a drawer marked 'H-freeze over'" written all over it.

I suggested it to Chris at Maplecon in Ottawa in front of a bunch of people. As anyone in the business can tell you, there are a lot of projects that sound really good over a few drinks after the Saturday of a Con that are in the "WHAT was I THINKING?" category when you get home and remember how much of your own work you have to do. 

Saturday 17 December 2011

Back & Forth: Steve Bissette & Dave Sim

In December 2010 and January 2011, Dave Sim invited comics writer/artist Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing, Tyrant) to discuss his experiences in the field of self-publishing and the battle for creator's rights. A wide-ranging 15-part chat ensued: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Highlights from the discussion include:

(on creator responsibility - part 1)
I was curious as to whether you had come to any definitive conclusions about the whole Spirits/Creator's Rights experience now that we're far enough past it to achieve a species of overview. Personally, I think there should have been more emphasis on Creator's Responsibility: that you have to deliver what you promise when you promise it and that the good results flow from that. I had to laugh at Erik Larsen's sheer disbelief at the outright lies he got when trying to work with other creators on Savage Dragon. That seemed the core misapprehension on my part: that if you created an environment and assisted people in that environment they'll respond to that be being reliable. Living the Dream will overcome human lethargy and procrastination. But creativity is both an attractive and a repulsive fact in the creator's life because it devours your life. I work 12 hours a day six days a week. It's not hard to see how that would repel most people.

(on terminating his business links with Gerhard - part 3)
The split with Gerhard was, on his side, pretty acrimonious, although I'm not sure how much of that was a theatrical aspect of his credo "There's no problem too big that you can't run away from it." He wanted Absolutely Out and named a dollar figure that I accepted immediately -- can you imagine the grief I would take for haggling or even making a counter-offer? Probably not from Gerhard, but I think posterity would have judged me quite harshly.

(on brush techniques - part 5)
It really is something you can only teach effectively in person -- the "skating" verses "walking" quality of brush inking. Kids when they're learning to skate try, basically, walking on the ice. It's what they're familiar with. It takes a lot of practise to lose the fear of slipping and to understand what smooth and controlled slipping is like. It's the best analogy I've found for "fear of the brush".

(on his pre-Cerebus early work - part 8
...if anyone showed me work as completely amateurish as what I was producing in 1972-73 and said, "Listen, this guy is thinking about dropping out of high school to do this for a living," I would seriously encourage him not to do that. And -- as it turned out -- I would have been completely wrong.

(on Tundra - part 9)
I think it was Larry Marder who pointed out that Kevin [Eastman, Tundra publisher] lost a lot of money on Tundra because he had never been a free-lancer and, consequently, paid a lot of big ticket advances figuring people would deliver and then got stiffed any number of times. The Image guys, with a freelancing background, knew that you make most, if not all the compensation "back end" to ensure the work is actually delivered.

(on compensating Gerhard - part 11)
As far as I know, Gerhard is the only background artist in the history of the medium to actually be credited as such and to be designated as co-creator... It was unprecedented [transferring to him 40% ownership of Aardvark-Vanaheim]... and I suspect that guys who have used background artists - Stan Drake on Heart Of Juliet Jones and Leonard Starr on On Stage - in a comparably lucrative situation would have said I was nuts.

(on Renegade Press - part 13)
Eclipse and A-V -- later Renegade -- published TOO MANY TITLES and died of cash flow starvation. Deni went out of business owing Preney $250,000 which -- oddly enough -- is about how much money they were short when they finally went out of business a few years back. I'm just saying. I never owed Preney anything because I kept the business side confined and kept well within my means.
Tyrant & Aardvark (from Cerebus #159, June 1992)
Art by Steve Bissette, Dave Sim & Gerhard
Auctioned for the benefit of the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund

Other 'Now I'll Ask You One' Conversations:
Dave Sim & Jimmy Gownley
Dave Sim & The Kitchen Brothers

Friday 16 December 2011

The Animated Cerebus

The Animated Cerebus Portfolio (1983)
Art by Dave Sim

(from the introduction to The Animated Cerebus Portfolio, 1983)
It was last August when, after a tentative offer by an animation studio to look at any proposals for a Cerebus animated film, that I finally sat down and tried to picture what a Cerebus animated film would be like.

Actually, like a number of people I have talked to, I at first thought that High Society would make a good feature length animated film. Of course, that was before Elrod and Jaka and Lord Julius and the Cootie started popping up. I either had to abandon the idea of doing it as a film, or try to talk someone into printing up programs to hand out at the box office to explain who everyone was.

It was at this point that I decided the best course of action would be to write a story that took place before #1, which would avoid complicated introductions for the major characters or (shudder) new versions of their first appearance for the sake of filmic continuity (double shudder).

Well, I wandered around for a few weeks after that, complimenting myself on being such a clever chap. Yes sir, that was the best way to go. It would all take place before #1. From there I tried to start on a 'treatment'. A quick five or six paragraphs that would have every producer of animation who read it rolling in the aisles (or behind his desk). Something witty and at the same time poignant. Hilarious but thought provoking. It took me a could of weeks to figure out that those five or six paragraphs don't exist, which returned me to square one.

Then I thought of the idea of producing a portfolio of short vignettes that would appear in the film. Just quick little stories that would give people a clearer idea of what kind of a film it was I intended to make some day. I finally had a goal that was clear enough that I could sit down and give it a try.

So, there I sat tapping a pencil on the edge of the dining room table, trying to do a thing I absolutely hate trying to do: writing pictures.

A Well Equipped Bar
(view the animation online at Comicrazys
Please don't read this until you've looked at the story... not that anyone would, but who knows? Somewhere out there, is some disturbed individual (a lot of them are Cerebus fans, you know) who upon opening this portfolio decided to read the fine print before he looked at the pictures. Well, whoever you are, this is your last warning. Don't read this until you look at the plates. Onward.

I started sifting through the Earth-Pig's past (he does have one, I just haven't spilled the cat all over the bean bag yet) going over locations and incidents. Naturally the one that came up the most frequently was 'the bar', 'the tavern', 'a corner table'.

I heard a joke some years ago (like, when I was ten) about two fellows having a bet that no one in the bar would dare drink the contents of the spittoon nearby. There is an elaborate description of each patron of the bar having a try. So and so tries and he barely tilts it up before he gets sick. So and so tries etc. etc. Finally one guys drinks it all down. and one of the first two fellows says, "that's amazing. How can you do that?" The answer is the punch line and for the life of me I can't remember it. But it was this story that my mind strayed to (as is its wont when forced to write pictures). I had this over-riding feeling that if I could just remember the punchline, I would have the ideal vignette. After twisting my limited grey matter this way and that I had a sudden burst of insight. The punch-line wasn't the key element. The key element was the profound chord that the words "drink the contents of the spittoon" strike in the human animal. I did a quick sketch of the first frames, then jotted down little notes like (2) looks left (3) looks right (4) tiptoeing. The next day I went in and drew it. One down.

Add One Mummified Bat
(view the animation online at Comicrazys)  
It was Deni who suggested the idea for this one. Deni always suggests ideas when I'm chewing the drapes and the carpet and threatening to go out and drink myself into oblivion. Sometimes it works. "Why don't you do one about the time he was a magician's apprentice? Everyone wants to know about that." She was right, so I told her it was impossible and that I had already thought of that and why didn't she go somewhere and publish something.

Fortunately I had a mouthful of broadloom so it didn't come out clearly enough for her to take offence.

I thought about it tapping my pencil on the dining room table, picking broadloom fibres out of my teeth. I always pictured Magnus Doran's studio as one that Gene Day had drawn years ago for an animation sample. The picture was dominated by a bubbling cauldron, while the over-laid cells were of a magician gesturing over his head with his arms. Gene never took it any further and I always wondered what would have come out of that cauldron. I decided it would be a gaseous spirit like one in The Wizard of Id.

This story featured the youngest Cerebus I had drawn to date. Looks nice in a turtleneck, don't you think?

His First Sword
(view the animation online at Comicrazys)
I went through a number of ideas before I came up with this one. Again. Not much to say about it really.

I had recently seen a Fleischer Popeye cartoon that I recalled quite vividly from my days as a wee tad when I would watch an hour of Popeye every morning. All the action took place in a blacksmith shop as Popeye and Bluto competed in shoe-ing horses. So Bluto  was very much on my mind as an archetype Blacksmith as I contemplated young Cerebus eagerly awaiting the completion of his first sword. It's also something of a comment on the mentality of those enamoured of articles of destruction. But primarily it is just another incident in the young earth-pig's life.

The cover was originally going to feature 'His Sixth Birthday', but I decided you weren't ready for that young an aardvark yet. Maybe in the next portfolio.

All of these vignettes happen before the opening credits in that grand and far-off dream of a one-hour special hovering in the back of my mind.

Most of it is still pretty hazy at this point, but one thing is for sure. It won't have a single heart-warming moment in it.

Take that, Walt.

Dave Sim, February 18, 1983
Kitchener, Ontario

Thursday 15 December 2011

Anything Goes!

Anything Goes! #3 (Fantagraphics Books, March 1986)
Art by Neal Adams

(from the essay 'Neal Adams, Niagara Falls & Other Forces Of Nature' in Following Cerebus #9, August 2006)
It's no stretch to say that for the wannabe photorealism school comic-book creators of my generation, Continuity Associates - 9 E. 48th Street: I think I could forget my own address sooner than forget that one - was like the Kennedy White House and King Arthur's Round Table combined. To be one of the Crusty Bunkers, working elbow-to-elbow with THE Neal Adams, learning from the master and, under his patronage, gaining entree into Marvel and DC, being handed plum commercial assignments - fanboy dreams were made of this. Of course, that's how it was seen by those of us who hadn't a snowball's chance in hell of ever being part of it. (I'd drift off to sleep picturing Neal Adams at his drawing board peering at the cover of Quack No.3. "This guy. Get me this guy on the phone. I want him here and working by the end of the week").
Quack! #3 (Star Reach Productions, 1977)
Art by Dave Sim & Steve Leialoha

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch & Roy Thomas on Glamourpuss

The 'Photo-Realism' School: Alex Raymond, Stan Drake, Al Williamson & Neal Adams
From Glamourpuss #1, 6 & 11
Art by Dave Sim

STEVE BISSETTE (Swamp Thing, Tyrant):
(from the Back & Forth discussion with Dave Sim)
My excitement at Glamourpuss when I saw the first issue (and thank you, too, for the special unsolicited mailing of the zombie cover issue; I never thanked you when you sent it, which was my bad) was the gobsmacking fact that you were (a) doing an essay on inking in comics form, and (b) you were teaching. Of course, you’d been actually doing that for a long time - I was among your most bone-headed students, remember? - but you didn’t see it as such. Clearly, The Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing (in all its incarnations and editions) was and is that, too. And a mighty fine, insightful teacher you’ve been in Glamourpuss, too. It was a pleasure to catch up last year on the whole run to date, and see where you took it (I don’t have a local comics shop, and finally just direct-ordered a set from your publisher and partners on this venture).

RICK VEITCH (Brat Pack, The One):
(from the Glamourpuss #2 letters page)
Hey Dave, thanks for sending the preview copy of Glamourpuss. Parts of it really spoke to me. I mean that not in the old log-rolling manner of buddy-buddy authors promoting each other's books, but that your meditations on exploring craft REALLY SPOKE TO ME. Glamourpuss is the first comic to unpack process from the inside out. It stands apart from Scott McCloud who is on the outside looking in (if that makes sense). One thing about Raymond and those who followed him, is that they were unabashed ladies men. I've always seen their fluid brush and linework as a zen-like extension of their innate horniness. So I've got to ask, since you've gone public with your own celibacy, if that lust factor plays any part in your approach to mastering the Raymond style?

ROY THOMAS (comics writer/editor):
(from the back-cover of Glamourpuss #1)
Dave has taken his fascination with the modern style of fashion art and photography and utilises it in issue #1 to examine the Alex Raymond/Rip Kirby school of comic art, with a few side trips along the way involving too-tight shoes, sweat glands, and Mahatma Gandhi. Hopefully, he's found a way to seduce a new generation of post-super-hero graphic novel freaks into reading and perhaps synthesising his knowledge and opinions while they think they're just looking at a bunch of fashion models in exquisite clothes. And all because of his self-stated intention to make his new major post-Cerebus project "cute teenaged girls in [his] best Al Williamson photo-realism style."

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Critics On Glamourpuss

Glamourpuss #14 (July 2010)
Art by Dave Sim

Here’s Glamourpuss #1. Beautiful images of 20 year old models in fantastic clothes all done in his best Al Williamson photo-realism style. And whatever else you can say about Glamourpuss, I wouldn’t think anyone would be able to doubt it’s an absolute work of artistic beauty. Because through all of his years as Dave Sim; evil genius comics mastermind, people did tend to forget that he was also Dave Sim; bloody good artist. His illustrations here are just perfection, with a mix of styles as the page demands. But everything in the book just looks sublime. Also of note, as always, is his use of lettering. Sim should, if nothing else, go down as one of the most creative letterers in the comics business. It’s toned down slightly here from some of the absolutely incredible and radical work in Cerebus, but it’s still inventive and downright clever how he plays with his typography and lettering... As a book full of extremely pretty pictures, Glamourpuss works. As a book looking at the technical qualities of an art style I think (from my non-artistic point of view) that it works. As a book chronicling the development of the photo-realistic style in the 50s and 60s it works as a piece of journalism. Finally as a wacky parody of high fashion magazines it... well, it sort of works.

Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss is one of my favourite regular comics. A grand departure from Cerebus, it’s a strange brew of the history of inking and photorealism styles in comics through the twentieth century, with Dave Sim first reproducing the pages in question, then taking those relearned skills to reproduce fashion magazine images, upon which he places a self-knowing satire on the magazines and those who write and read them. It’s an immersive experience, educational and amusing in equal measure. And no one’s reading it. Fix that, people, fix that.

 ...a scrupulously cultivated, astute and thrilling analysis by an artist of a visual style and its masters... what Glamourpuss offers, what Sim is able to present, is compelling. Here are comic strips and panels in slow motion, enriched by informative commentary and authoritative explication woven together with industry scuttlebutt and the medium’s history. The results are so cumulatively engrossing and persuasively intriguing that although I can never recall glancing at Rip Kirby or The Heart of Juliet Jones in the funny pages while growing up, I’ve snapped up the recent Kirby reprint volume from IDW and have been likewise tempted by Classic Comics Press’ inaugural release of their The Heart ofseries.

An appreciation of the photo-realism thread in comics wrapped in a parody of fashion magazines, Glamourpuss is a book to be consumed on several levels. As a scholarly work, it provides a unique depth and insight into the lives and works of Alex Raymond, Al Williamson, Stan Drake, and other artists whose contributions to the medium are immeasurable. By copying from the best-possible sources, Sim shows a glimpse of what long out-of-print strips might look like with restored fidelity, tuned to brush lines the thickness of a single hair. It is, of course, still Sim's art. Copies of copies of copies doesn't equal the real thing. So while it's Raymond's art that Sim is appreciating, we're appreciating his. It doesn't take much time to be reminded that whatever else he may be (more on that later), he is also a virtuoso of the medium. In both his translations of the photo-realists' works and fashion magazine photos, he brings depth, character, and flair to each image. Usually with those maddeningly meticulous cross-hatchings that helped define his style in Cerebus. Even the layout and flow of the book is impressive, and the design and digital production work of Sandeep Atwal smooths the reader's ride from parody to narrative to appreciation and back again. Each issue is a visual experience from cover to cover.

(from the Wednesday's Haul blog, May 2008)
...You see, it is all about fashion and beautiful women. Well, that and the men who were perfectly able to capture them in ink during the fifties and sixties. Dave Sim’s first major published work since Cerebus isn’t about politics, religion or the sexes but about Alex Raymond, All Williamson, Neal Adams and John Prentice, the photo-realist comic strip artists who are Sim’s idols and inspiration. One part history lesson and one part art lesson, Glamourpuss is Dave Sim’s very public attempt to define elements of these artists’ work and to learn how to become one of them. And what better way to do that than by trying to draw beautiful, fashionable and glamorous women in their photo-realistic style... In Glamourpuss Sim remains as much up and center, hijacking the narrative by the second page to turn the book to be about himself and about his artistic heroes. Dave Sim ruminating on his favorite artists is a lot easier to accept and digest than his ruminating on gender roles ever was. And as he’s writing about these artists, he’s recreating panels of theirs. The book is filled with Sim’s attempts to recreate and learn from some great artwork of the photo realists. Sim admits that they’re tracings of Prentice’s or Williamson’s work but he’s trying to pull them apart and put them back together. He’s attempting to learn from them. He then applies those lessons to his own artwork through recreating photographs out of fashion magazines in pen, brush and ink.

(from the Flotsam & Jetpack blog,  August 2008)
It's no surprise to me that Dave Sim’s new project Glamourpuss lampoons the world of fashion, and the magazines that cover that sphere. What does surprise me is that he mixes the satire with an amiable and rather cute sort of cartoonist geekery. At one moment he’s being pretty funny narrating the vapid thoughts of a high fashion model, the next he's griping while giving a historical rundown of Alex Raymond's rapidly disappearing thin lines. In the weirdest sort of way, this dynamic makes Glamourpuss a very personal work, though not with the intensity that usually accompanies such items. It's not intense — it's jolly. Glamourpuss is personal in the sense that it is a comic book representation of one side of a conversation you would have with Dave Sim if, in fact, you were having a conversation with him about the photo-realism cartooning style that kept being interspersed with a few giggles at the expense of haute couture.

(reviewed by Jarett Kobeck, October 2009)
...Best comic ever?

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Monday 12 December 2011

The Making Of Glamourpuss (one of them anyway)

Glamourpuss #2, July 2008
Art by Dave Sim

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.