Monday 31 December 2012

'Liberals' vs Real Liberals

Cerebus #179 (February 1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from 'Dave Sim Responds To The Fantagraphics Offer' at, 29 September 2012)
...I DID hope there might be a voice or two expressing gratification coupled with appreciation that, as an example, Jeet Heer (who is probably the furthest to the left in the comic-book environment) and Dave Sim (who is probably the furthest to the right in the comic-book environment) were able to clarify their differences while also remaining focused on the subject at hand: said 6,000 page funnybook. I mean, that's the mental image I've always had of the comic-book field in general, people respectful of differing and particularly minority viewpoints, my confidence that the Angels of Our Better Natures will prevail more often than not in those situations and we accept that it's a given that political differences between people will always exist and that it is a given that people of good will and good conscience will always assess the available facts and come to radically different conclusions. And that that's how it should be.

That's what democracy is all about, Charlie Brown.

I myself am gratified that the temperature seems to have dropped considerably here on the Internet, just plotting my personal experiences with it, from the (...metaphorical) lynch-mob psychology that took hold after No.186 [in 1994] and then "Tangent" [in 2001] (compelling Bill Willingham to give me a phone call out of the blue: "Are you aware of just how BADLY you're being tarred-and-feathered on the Internet right now?" Well, yes, more by the complete radio silence that had descended around me than by anything of which I was specifically aware...

During my online promotion tour for glamourpuss back in 2008, the temperature seemed to have come down a number of degrees. But, I did insist on sequestering the discussions of feminism. I'm interested in feminism as a political movement and the various ways it expresses itself. I read a LOT of politically correct news items and commentary. But, I don't think EVERY discussion needs to have feminism at its core. But it became obvious that there was a division in the comic-book field which I would describe as liberals and Real Liberals. And it seemed to me that the Real Liberals were deluding themselves that those self-identifying AS liberals thought the same way they did: that they believed in pluralism and open discussions and tolerance of minority viewpoints and that this was what 98% of the comic book field was like. I mean, I thought that way, myself until the evidence suggested that the percentages were far, far away from where I thought they were. I wanted, for obvious reasons, clarity of what my situation was.

Given that all I was REALLY interested in was clarity, I finally thought the best recourse was the petition. If you think I'm a misogynist, that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. If you don't think I am, please sign the petition so I know and can limit my social contacts to people who are not deeply offended by my existence...

And that's where that one stands. But I have to say that I have been gratified that there hasn't been that impulse to force feminism into every discussion about HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL and discussions of other publishing opportunities for me and CEREBUS that I saw in 2008. Those INTERESTED can go to BLEEDING COOL and read... my best current thinking on the subject of whether men are superior to women...

Please consider signing Dave Sim's iPetition.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Dave 'n' Ger: Living The Dream

Back-cover photo, Cerebus #87 (June 1986)

Saturday 29 December 2012

Cerebus vs Madmen

Glamourpuss #18 (March 2011)
Art by Dave Sim
For the first time since Cerebus #300 in March 2004, Cerebus returned to comics in 2011, in a ten-page sequence in Glamourpuss #18, trying make sense of the celebrity, movie and music culture of 1950s America.

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Friday 28 December 2012

Four More Years!

Poster: Four More Years! (2000)
Art by Dave Sim

Thursday 27 December 2012

A 'Dave Sim' Sketch by Bill Sienkiewicz

Sketch: Dave Sim by Bill Sienkiewicz (1984)
Cerebus #65 (August 1984)

High Society Digital #13 - Out Now!

High Society Digital #13 (Cerebus #38, May 1982)
Available from Cerebus Downloads
Out Now! Only 99¢

"It's PETUNIACON DAY TWO and there is no shortage of unanswered questions, like: IS Cerebus going to be sketching rocks today? WILL Lord Julius answer a direct question about interest rates on the "Us and Them: Eradicating Them" panel? And WILL Elrod accept Cerebus' challenge to determine who is the better sword fighter, mano a aardvarko? I'm Dave Sim and -- as the co-creator of comics' only 6,000-page graphic novel -- I'm willing to bet you often wished that Marvel and DC would spice up Comicon with something similar."

People everywhere agree that HIGH SOCIETY is Award-Winning (Eisner; Harvey; Shuster, Ignatz, Wizard) graphic novelist Dave Sim's greatest and most hilarious work. It regularly gets a 5-star rating on lists of the Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time. In addition to the 20 pages of art and story, you also get everything that was in the original comic book -- Deni's Note from the Publisher, the original ads, the original letters pages, the original back cover and inside back cover.

BONUS! Original documents from the time period from Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive as well as pages from Dave Sim's original Notebooks (where he plotted and designed each issue) accompanied by Sim's own annotations.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

"The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond" Update - December 2012

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

(from the Kickstarter Update #132, 13 December 2012)
...What I've done so far is to strip all of the HISTORY OF PHOTOREALISM IN COMICS pages out of individual issues of glamourpuss (#1 to 26), building a rough approximation of "the graphic narrative thus far". Then I went through making the most obvious corrections, reading it critically and making notes of trains of thought I pick up on later in the story and putting in new page numbers. Also looking to natural breaks in the narrative, dividing it into separate sections. Originally, three sections, each of which I've been carrying around in its own Silver Age comic bag to make sure all the pages stay in order and that I only have one part of the book out of the bag at any given time. The plan is to do that at the beginning of every month after I've done the IDW covers. The experience here in month #2 has been that doing it that way, I'm getting more "finicky" about what I want to correct because all the obvious things have been corrected. So that leaves the ones that I stared at the first time through and decided "Oh, hell: skip it." No, let's not skip it, let's fix it. Good example: capital "i's" in the Kubert lettering font. A natural typo because it's, you know, ALL caps for the most part. Only the capital "i" actually looks different -- serif instead of non-serif. So I circled any captital "i" in the middle of a word (and I'm still finding those). But then there would be a capital "i" at the beginning of a sentence. Hmm. Well, that SHOULD be a capital "i", right? But it looked funny. The only place a capital "i" looked right was as the personal pronoun. But I decided to leave it. But the second time through, I went, well, no, it LOOKS wrong and it's very subtle so the odds are it's going to dislocate you the reader unconsciously. Was that true? Yeah, I decided it was true. So this month going through I circled all of those. But there are a number of things like that where I have the advantage of 30 days to mull it over unconsciously and to have it "front and centre" when I go back to it.

I'm also doing "bridging" pages -- new transitions where I thought the original transition was too quick for what I was trying to say. "It needs a 'beat' here". So I'd do a sketch of it and tag it "new page" and put it in sequence. Reading THOSE this second month, I seriously missed the tone of the sequence so I have to rewrite them in month #3. Always working to smooth the whole thing out.

So, by the middle of month #1 (November), I had four basic sections:

The idea being that I then had the structure and all I needed to do was to get all my "ducks in a row" and drop them into one of the four sections. For instance, section 1. ends with a missing bridge: the second and third photorealistic strips (BIG BEN BOLT and TWIN EARTHS). I originally credited HEART OF JULIET JONES with being the second photorealistic strip. Oops. Having gotten all that done, then I just started writing out everything I knew about the book, 12 hours a day, six days a week. Pretty much without a break. This part. Then this part. Then this part. Just whatever came back to me. After a couple of weeks of that...

[which included my trip to Texas over American Thanksgiving where my host, the surgeon, owned all of the issues of glamourpuss but hadn't read any of them, got swept up in THE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND by way of medical misinformation in "Alex Raymond's Last Ride". Oh. Never occurred to me. The two "narratives of record" are riddled with mistakes: why would I think they got the medical stuff right? Got him to spell everything SLOWLY. He showed me citations on the Internet and in his textbooks. The guests are all arriving for Thanksgiving and we're hunched over his laptop looking at newspaper articles about the accident which he's having no luck copying, so I'm transcribing them by hand. Um, "T", maybe you should get showered and changed? Naw, they're more like family than friends.

The trip really did help because there was nothing there to distract me from writing the book while he and his wife were at work. And I got to watch the Texas Longhorns (HOOK 'EM HORNS!!) lose to TCU 20-13 AT the U of T stadium with "T" and brother "T" and "B" -- and WTF text messages from his lovely wife "M" watching on television at home. American college football on Thanksgiving -- how cool is that?]

...I thought, "I have to start dividing this up into the 4 sections" more than anything because just writing everything out was getting relentless and mind-numbing. But, as I started doing that -- reading over my notes, again and again -- I realized that there were more distinct sections than I had originally thought. THAT was interesting. What am I seeing here? The first four sections remained but then segued into (tentatively!):
8. Um -- I don't want to alarm anyone, so let's call this one UNTITLED for the moment

Not since I had the strange sense that the Glimmer Twins, Prince Mick and Prince Keef, were about to take over CHURCH & STATE have I had the impression that I was possibly losing control over my own book with part 6 there. Starting with new research materials from Eddie Khanna that APPEARED to confirm my suspicions about the relationship -- or, rather, "relationship" -- between Margaret Mitchell and Ward Greene. Condense, condense, condense. What is this SAYING? Okay, got it under control (sort of). Reading it and getting the gist. Yes, but what is this SAYING? "And the moral of the story is...?" What? Got most of the ball. Close enough for government work. Opposite field single I might be able to stretch into a double. We'll fix it in post-op. To mix several metaphors. More Margaret Mitchell stuff from Eddie. This is getting closer to it. This is what my internal compass has been pointing at. But how do you condense this without writing another 100 pages? Graphic Novel Skill Sets 101. DAAaarrr.

MORE Margaret Mitchell stuff from Eddie. MARGARET MITCHELL REPORTER. Her pre-GONE WITH THE WIND Atlanta journalism. Rodolph (original spelling) Valentino, some laugh-out-loud funny pieces (I mean, eighty years later), like getting dropped out of an office window in a bosuns chair so she'd know how the Stone Mountain sculpture was going to be accomplished. All 4 foot 11 of her. I'm not going to get anything SPECIFIC out of this, I knew, but there comes a point where you have to read that sort of stuff. 330 pages, big type, lots of space between the lines. Took about six hours. Yes, THE HEART OF MARGARET MITCHELL is definitely worth a section of the book. But it has to be CONDENSED.

Okay, that brings you up-to-date on my progress on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND (since you're helping pay for it!). Now I'm going back to the house to read the book she wrote in high school that seems to be a linchpin I've been looking for (and which Eddie was pretty excited about when he read it: at first he wasn't going to send it to me, just the annotations accompanying it. Having read the annotations, I sent him a postcard saying I think I need to read the whole thing.) (Which arrived the day after he had read it and decided the same thing.)

Remember! $1, $5 or $10 donation buttons at We'll see how long we can keep this going. It really is down to all of you.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Aardvark Berserk!

Aardvark Berserk
Limited edition, four colour poster (1978)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Note On The 16th Printing Of Cerebus Volume One

This printing marks the first time that I've directed fundamental corrections and restorations to be made in the original material since first producing it more than thirty years ago, a choice precipitated by George Gatsis making me aware of flaws which resulted from the conversion of the original photographic negatives to digital files several years ago (itself made necessary by the worldwide computer revolution which eliminated the possibility of continuing to print the trade paperbacks via the traditional negative/metal plate web offset printing form).

I have been advocating for some time that publishers of classic comic strips should be updating each successive printing of their collections with high quality scans from original artwork which has surfaced in the interim and came to the conclusion that I needed to "practice what I preached".

[I had tended not to because, frankly, I didn't think my earliest artwork on Cerebus warranted it. I was an enthusiastic amateur or -- at best -- a semi-professional and find it very hard to look at the work at all closely. So, I've pretty much just approved each successive printing after no more diligent checking than to make sure all the pages are in the right order.]

George Gatsis developed the CEREBUS PAGES IN THE WILD program to try to track down as many original pages as still exist and which we could gain access to. A complete list of the original pages incorporated into the 16th printing appears on

Click image to enlarge
Depending on the page, the reproduction has been modified digitally to provide for greater or lesser contrast and brightness. Page 541 is a good example of lesser contrast where the original brush strokes in the areas of solid black are now visible while leaving the black solid enough to keep the effect from distracting the casual reader. Light shadings of the original pencil -- never properly erased, a recurrent flaw of mine -- on Sump Thing's features are likewise retained. It's much closer in appearance to the original artwork, in other words.

Click image to enlarge
Partway between greater and lesser contrast, we have the background greys on pages 527, 529 and 530 which were produced by means of "spatter" -- loading up a toothbrush with india ink and flick flick flicking it over the surface after masking off all the areas that needed to remain white -- the "poor man's airbrush". Just looking at the exponentially higher reproduction which has resulted from the digital scanners ability to "see" and translate these effects into 0's and 1's and to retain them with 100% accuracy in the printing stage as compared with the same effect on the surrounding contemporaneous pages derived from the original photographic negatives... well, it gives you a good idea of why we hope that more artwork still exists from that issue and can be located at some point.

All of the digital scanning from original source materials for the volume was performed by Alana Wilson at 1200 dpi or higher under George Gatsis direction and then George himself "tweaked" each digital file for the greatest possible coherence, to make sure all detail was brought out as clearly as possible. A copy was then printed out for me of the digital files so that I could offer further guidance where a page, in my view, had gone too dark or too light.

Click image to enlarge
Some limited restoration has also been performed by George. Limited in the sense that none of the actual drawings have been in any way modified but purely mechanical flaws have been corrected. As an example, where holes or breaks have occurred in the 30% mechanical tone that was used on Cerebus, and where the break doesn't appear overtop of an actual ink line (which would necessitate recreating a 1981 ink line in 2012), neighbouring 30% dots have been digitally cloned and imported to the area in question under high-powered magnification so they could be matched up seamlessly.

Panel and caption borders which had broken up or faded have, likewise, been restored by digitally "cloning" the lines that remain and grafting them directly onto the empty areas. This has been avoided with the word balloons which are not composed of straight lines and which I, therefore, consider part of the artwork which can't be successfully restored because I don't draw them that way anymore. 2012 Dave Sim can't "do" 1981 Dave Sim or "correct" 1981 Dave Sim without superseding him, so 2012 Dave Sim is keeping his pen and ink to himself.

The Cerebus logo on page one was imported and reversed to white from a period logo rather than trying to restore the second generation photographic negative shot from an already degraded photostat.

The only other form of restoration which I have authorized (and which, arguably, can be considered "borderline" defacement) is the restoration of the original lettering where that has faded by "cloning" adjacent letters and substituting them for their missing counterparts. It's at least "borderline" defacement because the "D" that you see is not the specific "D" that I put in place thirty-five years ago. However, weighing in the balance the resulting improved coherence and readability, I tend to think that there is great validity in the "trade-off". The lettering on page 206, as an example, has been a thorn in my side since issue 9 first came in with the page in this same degraded form -- and which turned out to be a flaw in the negative itself, a fact which I didn't discover until after I had already sold the original page. The white gaps in the patterned ink hatching in the background of each panel might be the next thing "fixed" in the 17th printing but I haven't decided if it would constitute a lesser or greater form of borderline defacement if the few areas that have reproduced well are cloned and "wallpapered" or if I did fill in the blanks by hand (the pattern is pretty basic and can't be done in a substantially different way even by Old Geezer Dave). Or, with any luck, that page will come IN FROM THE WILD before the 17th printing becomes necessary.

Many thanks to George and Alana for their tireless work on this volume. If you own any of the original pages from the first 25 issues which don't appear on George's list, please see his specifications which follow the list and, if it all possible, help us to "swap out" one more second generation copy for a first generation one.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Gerhard's Photos: Page 45

Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos again and here are a few that aren't on his website. 

Aardvarks Over UK Tour '93:
A trip to do a signing at the amazing Page 45 in Nottingham co-founded by Stephen Holland and Mark Simpson, "a comic shop whose goal has always been simple: to bring the widest range of quality comics and graphic novels available into contact with as many new people as possible, and to do so with a warmth, honesty and informed eloquence in a relaxed, welcoming and professional environment".
L to R: Me, Serious Dave Sim, Sombre Stephen Holland (seated) and Solemn Mark Simpson.
I have no idea why I’m the only one grinning like an idiot.
Back-cover Cerebus #177 (December 1993)
Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Gerhard's Photos: The 'Flight' Flight

Jeff Tundis had posted a bunch of my old photos on his Art of Gerhard website quite a while ago. I've just started going through my old photos again and here are a few that aren't on his website. 

March 1993: We needed to sign 5,000 copies of the Flight trade paperback and decided that it would easier to for us to go to Preney Print in Windsor than for the mountain of books to come to us. So we chartered a plane. This definitely tops out our "rock star" days of limos, fancy hotel rooms and bar tabs as long as our arm. We had reasoned that for us, at that point, time was more important than money and the less time we spent on the road, the more we spent at the drawing board. I got to sit up in the cockpit with our pilot (who let me fly for a bit) while Dave crashed out in the back.

We had decided not to try to autograph 5,000 printed and bound books. They would be just that much more difficult to maneuver. So we signed the first untrimmed and unbound group of pages (oddly enough know as a "signature"). As you can see, signing over five thousand signatures is no laughing matter.

Here we are with our stack of 5,110 signed signatures ready to be bound. We had signed extras in case there were problems in the binding and shipping process. Which there always are.

Dave had finished signing first and was talking with Kim Preney about where to go for dinner. Kim said he would go call a cab and as I was scrawling my last few "Gerhard"s, I saw myself write "CABhard" instead.

Gerhard provided background art to Dave Sim's cast of Cerebus characters between issue #65 (August 1984) and #300 (March 2004) - contributing to over 4,700 pages of comic art, as well as numerous Cerebus covers and illustrations. Keep up to date on all of Gerhard's current projects at his blog and website, including details of his new book, The Wish.

Friday 21 December 2012

Barry Windsor-Smith vs Jack Kirby

Young Gods (2003) and The Freebooters (2005)
By Barry Windsor-Smith 
Available from Fantagraphics Books
(from a letter to Barry Windsor-Smith on 16 March 2004, Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 1)
I think the colouring on Storyteller may prove to be one of it's greatest legacies: I have no aptitude and consequently, very little interest but I think it will serve as a textbook of how accomplished on-the-fly water-colouring can be in capturing the mood and tempo of the early Marvel Comics while bringing the look to a more adult level. With that many elements to pull together on a monthly basis, you certainly explored the outer realms of go-GO-GO which I think many people underestimate as a critical element of Kirby's own manifold successes. At one level, of course, it would be described as 'hacking'. But to me, at the deeper and more important level it is an inherent quality of 'this end' of the comic book medium. Kirby didn't really become KIRBY until he was producing eight to ten pages of finished pencils a day. It made him and arguably it broke him as well when he tried to make the transition to DC and to do it without Stan [Lee]. You shouldn't underestimate, I don't think, your own unique composition of being Jack and Stan rolled into one. No one has ever suggested seriously that Barry Smith lost his way when he didn't have Roy Thomas to write his cations and word balloons anymore. This is no small thing, no small advantage that you hold. Kirby was out of his depth almost immediately and what was worse I don't think that he ever understood how out of his depth he was. It must have been maddening to realise that what Stan Lee did effortlessly, Kirby couldn't do in a month of Sundays. As I just wrote to someone recently, Stan Lee was a more deferential collaborator than he's given credit for. He worked around other people's pencils, he tailored his story to the images on the pages in front of him. The story not only flowed, but the captions and word balloons fit comfortably. Contrast that with the many who came after who filled every square inch with verbiage. You have that skill. Your stories read very smoothly. The awkward transition from one balloon to another where you read them out of sequence (which happens to all of us) is very much below the industry average in your work and the reader always works with you in those situations. The narrative flow is sufficiently compelling that it doesn't pull us out of the story. I wish I could find a way to really emphasis this to you (maybe italics?): you have a structural benefit to your work that Jack Kirby completely lacked. A very rare combination. At the same time, I think it must be said, that you and Kirby share a blind spot: the belief  that if your work is profitable for a company that the benefits will accrue to you. And you both experienced very hard lessons in that end of things. How much of Kirby's work was in print when he died? How much was he being compensated for it? How much of his work was tied up in petty legalisms and red tape - or just plain gone because no one knew where the negatives were or who owned the reprint rights to them?

Thursday 20 December 2012

Doing The Right Thing

(from a letter to Jamie D. Buckley, 17 June 2004, Dave Sim's Collected Letters Vol 2)
People who try to "live their dream", in my experience, tend to be seduced rather easily by whatever seems the most dream-like in their vicinity. I'm scarcely pointing fingers in this situation - for a period of time in the late eighties, barrelling down Highway 401 in the back of a stretch limousine while having sex with my girlfriend and drinking a good vintage Dom Perignon champagne seemed to me that was "living my dream". Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth. Anything that makes you feel as if you've just consumed an entire chocolate cake in one sitting isn't a dream, it's a nightmare. At the same time that I was doing that, I had a script for the first issue of Ricky Robot written by Jerry Siegel, the man who created Superman. I had drawn a two-part Cerebus preview of the character and I was well aware that I was pretty much his last chance at the brass ring. No one else would publish his work besides Eclipse Enterprises, which had likewise printed a token offering, The Starling. Both scripts had circulated everywhere in the burgeoning direct market.

In retrospect, I certainly wish that I had foregone any number of sexual episodes, any number of girlfriends, any number of binge-drinking nights and drug-smoking and drug-snorting days and used half of all that completely wasted time, money and energy to give at least an honest try at bringing Mr. Siegel's creation to market. It would have required a certain amount of problem-solving, rounding up a certain number of creative volunteers to collaborate on the artwork, all of us doing the jobs required as a hobby, just, basically pitching in. And in the end, it probably wouldn't have sold beans. It wasn't very good. It was mawkish and sentimental and outdated for the 1960s, let alone the 1980s. And, of course, it wasn't Superman, which is the problem Mr. Siegel faced all of his life, from the time that he found out that he had signed his creation away and  there was no getting it back. That sort of lightening never strikes twice.

But, there's no question that anyone making a living in the comic book field - in whatever decade - owed Jerry Siegel a monumental ethical and spiritual debt which none of us - together or separately - could ever begin to repay, but which none of the cartoonists and publishers of my generation, very much to our ineradicable shame, ever made more than a half-hearted attempt to repay [in] the only way that would have meant anything to Jerry Siegel: One more shot at the big time.

So, I hope you understand my point. "Doing the right thing" is infinitely more important than "living your dream".
Ricky Robot: The Creation Of Ricky
Cerebus #64/65 (September/August 1984)

Written by Jerry Siegel, art by Dave Sim

Wednesday 19 December 2012

The First Fifth Prints

The First Fifth: Plates #1-3 (1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from an essay posted at The Beguiling, July 2004)
This was a recent discovery in unearthing the Cerebus Archive, several complete sets of The First Fifth series of prints which Ger and I did in the unsettled days when Aardvark-Vanaheim, Inc. had just been permanently divided into my Aardvark-Vanaheim imprint and Deni's Renegade Press imprint. Among the various clauses we had mutually agreed to: I agreed not to contest or compete for any of the services of the cartoonists or of the books we had been jointly publishing to that point; I agreed to assume all of the debt incurred in the publication of The Animated Portfolio (roughly seventeen thousand dollars owing to my serious overestimation of the incentive value of a low price, $12.00 for 45 colour plates) and we agreed to divide the cash-on-hand between us. This essentially allowed Deni to start with a clean slate and encumbered Aardvark-Vanaheim with a debt-to-assets ratio of about three-to-one...

So, one of the first things I chose to do was something I had been loathe to do from the beginning: to essentially reverse the structure of the Animated Cerebus (an excessive number of prints, 45, for a dramatically low price, $12) and to rush into production a modest number of prints, 6... for a cost of  what I considered at the time and still consider today to be an excessive amount of money, $100; $300 for Gerhard’s hand-coloured version (of which there is only one copy of the original 30 sets in the Cerebus Archive and, no, you can't have it): in this case a series of six prints, each of which would represent ten issues of the 60-issue "First Fifth" of the 300 issues we were shooting for. Print one, issues 1 to 10, print two, issues 11 to 20 and so on up to issue 60. They sold well enough to pay off many of our most pressing debts and to pay down a chunk that was owed on the Animated Cerebus, bringing our debt-to-assets ratio down to something more manageable, in the range of 1-to-1, rather than 3-to-1.

At the time, I really didn’t think much of the series - probably a residual impact resulting from the unattractive motivation in doing them in the first place - so I was surprised to find how much the ensuing two decades or so had brightened them up in my eyes. They are, quite distinctly, in Ger's and my mid-eighties style which is something I obviously just couldn't see in the mid-eighties as anything but the style I was looking at every day on the wall as we produced the monthly book. It was one thing to do over-sized ambitious works like Cerebus’ Six Deadly Sins when it was my own time I was occupying, quite another thing to shoot for something that ambitious with someone who was still getting used to a monthly schedule (Ger, I mean, who already had his hands full with the trial-by-ordeal of producing 30 hand-coloured editions of the set).  Looking at them now, I can see that I was gradually losing my late-seventies early-eighties over-rendered brush style - where I was using a lot of brush (as I've already mentioned, rather ineptly) and attempting to imitate brush effects (equally ineptly) - and was, instead, coming to accept that I was a Hunt 102 pen-and-ink guy through-and-through and that I was, by 1985, learning to deal with the pen nib on its own terms as its own instrument and not as a brush substitute or a means of imitating a brush line. And Gerhard - just about a year into his work on the book - was quickly losing his choppiness and uneven densities which were better suited to the illustration schools of the previous century and was starting to understand how sharply defined the parameters of a picture needed to be in the comic-book field. The combination of our styles  was still coming into and going out of focus...

(critically speaking: on plates 2, 3, 5 and 6, I’m going too far into the simplified and stylized Sienkiewicz pen line that I didn’t have the artistic knowledge to carry off but which was, at least, permanently weaning me off my brush and Gerhard is still oscillating between a balanced series of textured pen lines on plate 1 and 3 and an overuse of "pebbly" letratone on plates 4, 5 and 6 which he could probably have done more pleasingly with pen lines in the space of time it took him to cut out all the individual rain tracks and leaves)

...but it was more often in-focus than out of focus by 1985. 

Anyway, it was with genuine gratitude to the art-buying Cerebus readership (many of whom are still with us and still bidding on Cerebus pieces today as they come onto the market) that The First Fifth "worked" in the way it very much needed to if Ger and I were to have a fighting chance of making it to the mythically-distant issue 300. We sold out virtually all of the black-and-white series and the colour edition in a little over a month and were able to pay off a sufficient number of debts to ensure that all we had to focus on was keeping the book as good as possible and on schedule.

The First Fifth: Plates #4-6 (1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 
(Click Image To Enlarge)

Tuesday 18 December 2012

High Society Digital #12 - Out Now!

High Society Digital #12 (Cerebus #37, April 1982)
Available from Cerebus Downloads
Out Now! Only 99¢

"How many times have you wondered to yourself -- or out loud -- 'If you could cross a political convention with a comic-book convention, what would that be like?' My best guess is that it would be a lot like PETUNIACON in this very issue of HIGH SOCIETY. Political delegates! Panels! Bribery! Elrod 'bunny' sketches! Cerebus 'tree' sketches! I'm Dave Sim, co-creator of comics' only 6,000-page graphic novel, and I hope I can count on your 99 cents!"

People everywhere agree that HIGH SOCIETY is Award-Winning (Eisner; Harvey; Shuster, Ignatz, Wizard) graphic novelist Dave Sim's greatest and most hilarious work. It regularly gets a 5-star rating on lists of the Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time. In addition to the 20 pages of art and story, you also get everything that was in the original comic book -- Deni's Note from the Publisher, the original ads, the original letters pages, the original back cover and inside back cover.

BONUS! Original documents from the time period from Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive as well as pages from Dave Sim's original Notebooks (where he plotted and designed each issue) accompanied by Sim's own annotations.

Monday 17 December 2012

It's Okay Not To Like Dave Sim

Cerebus #219 (June 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from 'Dave Sim Responds To The Fantagraphics Offer' at, 29 September 2012)
...I'm not sure what the point of all the political discussions we're having here is. Lurking behind the discussion seems to be the assumption (perhaps on Sim's part and that of his allies) that whoever publishes Cerebus should share Sim's politics. There is the further assumption that the best person to write an introduction to Cerebus is someone who is broadly simpatico not just with Sim's aesthetic aims but also his politics and very idiosyncratic worldview. But if we think about it, there is no necessity for politics and publishing to be in alignment in this way. Chris Oliveros [Drawn & Quartely publisher] is far from being a libertarian, but that doesn't prevent him from doing an excellent job keeping Chester Brown in print. Fantagraphics publishes cartoonists with a diversity of political points of view: Carl Barks was classical conservative and Peter Bagge is a libertarian, as is (if I remember rightly) Rick Altergott. I actually don't know the politics of most Fanta cartoonists (or most cartoonists in general). In literature, James Laughlin during his distinguished tenure at New Directions published many writers of the right (Ezra Pound, Celine, Mishima, Kenner) but also many liberals and radicals (George Oppen, W.C. Williams, Guy Davenport). Aside from his first two books, William F. Buckley almost always worked with liberal editors and publishers. As a Hemingway expert, Sim is probably aware that Maxwell Perkins didn't necessarily agree with the politics of his authors (who in any case had divergent politics).

For that matter critics and other readers don't have to be in sympathy with a writer's politics to enjoy it, especially if we are talking about a work of imaginative literature. Simply as a matter of fact, a critic or historian or analyst can be fair to an artist despite ideological disagreement. Hugh Kenner was a conservative Catholic in the National Review mould, but he was wonderfully appreciative of Louis Zukofsky and George Oppen, left-liberal Jews with a strong Marxist past. The socialist Irving Howe was equally insightful, and even good-naturedly affectionate, when writing about Kipling. And Fredric Jameson's Marxism hasn't prevented him from being a persuasive advocate on behalf of Wyndham Lewis, who can fairly be described as a fascist fellow traveler. Back when he was a radical, Christopher Hitchens wrote very good appreciations of several right-wing authors (Anthony Powell, Waugh, etc). Speaking for myself, I'll say that I have a very high regard for all sorts of writers and cartoonists whose politics I don't share: Harold Gray, for one, also Ditko, Barks, Bagge, and Chester Gould. Not to mention T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, and countless others).

All of the authors mentioned above are writers who have politics that are far more repugnant to most people than Sim's (here is Larkin's political manifest: "Prison for strikers / Bring back the cat, / Kick out the n*****s – / How about that?"). Yet they remain in print and have an audience (as do on the opposite end of the spectrum communist writers like Neruda and Sartre). So I suspect that if Cerebus doesn't have the audience Dave Sim would like, it's not primarily because of politics. It may very well be because of format and accessibility. The types of people who would like an epic world-building graphic novel aren't going to like the format Sim is offering it in (and may very well not want to step into a comic book store). So the best move forward for Sim is to negotiate with a publisher like Fantagraphics (or someone comparable) who can bring Cerebus out in a more accessible & popular format.

Jeet Heer is a Toronto based journalist who focuses on arts and culture. He is co-editor, with Kent Worcester, of Arguing Comics: Literary Masters On A Popular Medium (University of Mississippi Press). With Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros, he is editing a series of volumes reprinting Frank King’s Gasoline Alley (Drawn and Quarterly), and he has written introductory essays to George Herriman’s Krazy & Ignatz (Fantagraphics).

Sunday 16 December 2012

It's Okay To Like Dave Sim

Cerebus #217 (April 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(the following article first appeared at The Artifice on 21 November 2012)
Dave Sim is one of the most polarizing figures in the comic book industry today. His political and religious views have earned him a place out on the fringes of society and have driven him to withdraw from public life. Sim's massive talent and contributions to the industry overall deserve wider recognition. So when I say "like Dave Sim", ultimately I mean his amazing body of work. For those of you turned off by the man, here are five reasons to allow yourself an opportunity to discover (or rediscover) the life's work of a master of the art form.

5. Melmoth
The elephant in the room creatively speaking is Cerebus, Sim's 6000 page narrative that ran from 1977 to 2004. Given there are 300 issues to choose from, is hard not to point to several sections of this amazing series but I have decided to highlight one of the better collections. Melmoth tells the story of Oscar, a supporting character seen in the previous book Jaka’s Story. Based almost entirely on firsthand accounts of the last days of the great Oscar Wilde, this is a deeply emotional and harrowing story. The personal pain of the characters is almost too much to bear. Knowing that these events actually happened to real people makes this book stand out in a medium where the superficial and artificial are the norms. Cerebus himself is almost entirely absent, making this book a good place for the uninitiated, and the end of the book leads directly into the next collection drawing readers deeper into the world of Cerebus. Melmoth is the darkest of the books visually speaking and the sparse art leaves you feeling like you have visited something from a half-remembered dream. Normally the world of Cerebus is visually rich and complex, but here the heavy shadows and negative space cover this world like a shroud. Certainly not the funniest of the books (the first 100 issues or so are where you will find most of the humor) but to my mind, the most satisfying. The later books became somewhat bogged down in the controversy surrounding Dave's beliefs, but the first 200 issues are a joy to read and Melmoth was a creative high point.

4.  The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond
The Strange Death of Alex Raymond was a co-feature in the Glamourpuss comic and has not yet been collected in a single volume. In fact the story has not yet been finished and may never be. As long as you can get past the story not having an ending, finding the original issues to read what is available is truly worth the effort. The story is a somewhat fictionalized account of the late comic creator, Alex Raymond's, last days and is a stunning work of Sim's photo-realistic line art. While Sim has said that this is still a learning process for him that is not evident in these amazing pages. Mixing the photo real with more traditionally styled art creates a real treat for the eyes and a very interesting story for the brain.

3.  Lettering
'Lettering' I hear you ask? How can the lettering be a major factor in a comic? Or at least why should we care? This is easy to explain. In such a visual medium if you are not using every tool in the toolbox, you are failing to exploit the medium to its fullest potential. It would be like Maxfield Parrish or Vincent van Gogh painting sunsets with only one color. The artwork is only part of the story in a Dave Sim comic. Power, inflection, timing and even mood are all conveyed in the lettering of one of Dave's works. The page comes to life in ways an ordinary comic cannot and humor works particularly well when lettered by Sim.

2. The Ugly Personal Lives Of Artists
The personal lives and opinions of artists are rarely pretty. Every great genius in history has had issues in his life just like all of us. But with exceptionally creative people, things get a bit more complex. Dave Sim is not a popular person thanks to some of his more extreme views. However, society cannot ostracize one creative person for their beliefs while worshiping another without becoming a hypocrite. If crazy behavior or questionable lifestyles were means for dismissal from comics the short list would start with Wally Wood, R. Crumb, Al Capp and Steve Ditko. Add in 'socially awkward' and you can eliminate virtually every great creator in the medium. Comics is an industry of outcasts. Then again take the truly great from any creative medium as examples. If you set aside those people with mental issues, haunted minds, controversial opinions or even criminal behavior our museums and movie theaters would be very dull. Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen and Andy Warhol are just a few that came to me in the time it took to type their names. There are literally hundreds of examples of people whose art has touched us, but whose socially unacceptable behavior would be abhorrent to us. In my opinion let the art speak for itself.

1. The State Of The Industry
The current state of the industry is debatable as is the financial health of many creators. However, consensus is conditions are much better now for creators and Dave Sim had a lot to do with that. The Creator's Bill of Rights that he helped draft in 1988 was largely mocked at the time due to the power structure of the industry. Many artists and industry executives thought it was just too radical to be a good thing. Twenty years later much of what was in that document has been quietly adopted as industry standard practices. On the publishing side, the trade paperback format was not new when Sim started releasing the "phone book" collections of Cerebus, but the early success of those volumes cemented reprint collections as a viable sector of the market.

I hope these reasons are convincing enough and there are many more examples that can be applied to just about any person who is controversial. Artists have issues and are not always the easiest people to get along with, but most creative people will tell you that what they want you to see and appreciate is the art not the person behind it.

Taylor Ramsey reviews comics old and new on his blog Terminal Drift, and contributes articles to The Artifice.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Seeing Sound #10: Wordless Comics

Epic Magazine #26 (Marvel Comics, October 1984)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from the 'Eisner Goodwin Sim' panel talk, Will Eisner's Quarterly #4, 1985)
I think that's a lot of what you have to determine as you're going along: How much of the proportion is the writer and how much of the proportion is the artist? It will change from page to page. There are definitely pages where I feel much more like a writer - the reason for a particular page is for the writing. There are other pages where - while it's true that I'm writing pictures - it's the pictures that are going to bring the ideas across. Very often that can be the most difficult thing to do. The stories I'm doing for Archie [Goodwin]'s Epic magazine, I've set myself the boundary of not having words in them. That can be very difficult. You can't sit there and jot down lines of dialogue and eventually get the context from that. You have to start making pictures in your head, trying to create funny images that will play off each other.

Do you have a favourite example of Dave Sim's innovative lettering in Cerebus that you'd like to see featured here on A Moment Of Cerebus? Send in your selection (the issue and page number will do), together with a brief explanation of its appeal/impact on you, to: momentofcerebus [at] gmail [dot] com

Toronto Cartoonists Workshop: Comics Lab - Cerebus 'Low Society'

The Toronto Cartoonists Workshop is a learning environment where aspiring cartoonists can study with working professionals. The Comics Lab is a forum where teams of freelance writers and artists are assembled to create and publish a professional comic book. Comics Lab simulates the working environment of a freelancer at a mainstream comics publisher with each freelancer working under the guidance and tutelage of series editor Rob Walton. Each course under the Comics Lab banner will deal with pre-existing characters and concepts thus adding the additional complexity of working with an established property. The winter 2013 version of Comics Lab will feature characters from Dave Sim’s Cerebus.

With the editor acting as mentor and tutor, each writer is asked to submit a minimum of two script ideas for publishing consideration. The editor will then ‘green light’ one of the ideas after which a full script will then be developed. Rough layouts are then created and the storytelling, characterization, continuity and visual dynamics are improved and polished. Artists use the maximized layouts to begin the process of creating completed pencils and inks.

No prerequisite is required however each student must submit sample writing and art pages before being accepted to Comics Lab. Students must be able to adhere to strict deadlines. All prospective students should familiarize themselves with the Cerebus property prior to submissions. More details...

Special thanks to Dave Sim for graciously allowing us to use his characters for this special project!

Where: 587A College Street (at Clinton), Toronto, ON, Canada, M6G 1B2
When:  Thursday evenings 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 17 January to 28 March 2013

Friday 14 December 2012

Seeing Sound #9: "This Is Going To Sting A Bit..."

Cerebus #224 (November 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
In this page, the reality of what is actually happening is conveyed in the speech balloons - Joanne is carefully cleaning Rick's small head wound - while the visuals depict how Rick is experiencing that reality - being chained in hell and attacked by a demon.

Do you have a favourite example of Dave Sim's innovative lettering in Cerebus that you'd like to see featured here on A Moment Of Cerebus? Send in your selection (the issue and page number will do), together with a brief explanation of its appeal/impact on you, to: momentofcerebus [at] gmail [dot] com

IDW Covers: The Colonized #1

The Colonized #1 of 4
by Chris Ryall & Drew Moss, covers by Dave Sim
IDW, $3.99
On Sale: April 2013

Where there's aliens, there's zombies! The Colonized explores the arrival of these strangely interwoven threats in a secluded separatist town in Montana. In the Carbon Falls Collective, Huxley Robertson is dealing with the passing of his father and pushing against old guard objections as he attempts to push the separatist camp into becoming a fully sustainable green town. As if circumstances weren't volatile enough, a craft full of alien explorers inadvertently re-animates the town's dead! Throw a rogue ATF agent into the mix, on the hunt for the town's weapons cache, and let's just say this is a bad time for the otherwise sleepy Carbon Falls Collective to be cut off from the outside world. A potent mix of horror, drama, and black humor. 

Exploring the idea of ultimate outsiders like aliens landing in a separatist community and then having both besieged by zombies sounded like ripe territory for commentary-free chaos and some thrilling Drew Moss artwork, but then when Dave Sim miraculously signed on to do covers, it made it all coalesce into something even bigger and better.

Chris said that he was doing a creator-owned 4-issue mini-series called THE COLONIZED and was I interested in doing the covers? He described Drew Moss' designs as "a kind of '50s Wally Wood sci-fi aesthetic... in brief, aliens and zombies and militia men... I always like something that can be a good representation of the series, since the image often has to function as both an ad for the series and also the eventual trade paperback design... I envision a big, bold 1950s blocky "IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE!" sort of treatment that clues people in to the tone of this (it's largely played straight, not for laughs). And he offered me 50% of my cover rate if I would draw the logo.

I told him I couldn't DRAW the logo for that -- I'm not Don Simpson, I have no idea how to make all the outlines the same width in 100% accurate perspective -- but I could DESIGN a logo for that. So, I decided to pitch my "comic store display" concept: you only see the top third of the book on the rack and it's all just a big mass of coloured lettering unless it says BATMAN or SPIDER-MAN -- everything else is just "Look At My Big Colour NOUN" "No Look At My Big Colour NOUN!" So why not just have an interesting complete image visible in the top third with just the edge of the logo showing. The logo's a third of the way down the cover so the cover goes IMAGE LOGO IMAGE. It's a theory. Chris is editor-in-chief and its his book. He'll tell me. Pencilled and inked it on tracing paper and then shot it down on the photocopier to comic cover size, pasted it up, copied it again and faxed it to Marci (who deserves a raise by the way: I'm sure her job description said nothing about shlepping faxes around the office from technophobe Luddite  Canadians) and Chris liked it! Easiest money I ever made in the comic field! Now I just had to wait for THE COLONIZED reference to come in the mail on disk. All I needed was one good, grabby wide-angled image that would fit OVER the logo.
Chris sent me the scripts for #1 and #2, Drew's character designs and the pencilled and inked first 9 pages of #1. I focused on the latter (not wanting to ruin the story for myself by reading that far ahead on the script). Page 3 was what I was looking for: the scene where the aliens "abduct" a "corpse". The two-panel transition where the spotlight tractor beam crosses the Cemetery ironwork, the UFO hovering over the tombstones and the spotlight/tractor beam lighting up the scene. I added in the actual zombie rising up in the tractor beam. That did it for the strong "upper third" visual. For the "lower two thirds" visual I decided to make use of the "double size" length of the aliens arms to really make the eye travel by using three of the arms as parallel constructs and further emphasizing it with the zombie's arms stretching out like Boris Karloff in FRANKENSTEIN along the same parallel axis.

I was thinking "Neal Adams stylized realism/photorealism" but as usually happens with me, as soon as I had the aliens pencilled -- which is what I started with -- I went "They look like Joe Kubert aliens". Whatever artist I first see that tends to be how I end up drawing it. I decided to put a fourth alien in the extreme foreground to counterbalance the "left right" dominance of the parallel line construction. The one alien is pointing and looking up at HIM and HE'S looking up at me, going "Joe Kubert aliens? JOE KUBERT aliens?"

The zombie took a long time and many takes and I couldn't figure out why. I was still trying too hard to make it look like Neal and thinking I was being pulled back to Joe. No, the zombie needed Wrightson/Ingels.  All zombies need Wrightson/Ingels. Don't try to fight it. I'd know better for the cover of #2.