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

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