Tuesday 31 January 2012

The Comics Journal #301

Cerebus #300 (March 2004)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Irredeemable: Dave Sim's Cerebus in The Comics Journal #301, February 2011)
Even though Cerebus isn't as good a book as Maus or Fun Home or Persepolis, it's much more interesting than any of them. You sometimes hate reading Cerebus, but when you're finished you catch yourself envying friends who are beginning it. I would rather reread it, and would much rather look at it, than any of those other, better books. Frankly, Spiegelman and Bechdel and Satrapi all seem to me to be minor talents who put their limited abilities to the best possible use because they each had one great story to tell. Their draftsmanship gets the job done, but it looks undistinguished and dull compared to Sim's fluid command of expression and gesture, his pyrotechnical talent and inexhaustible visual invention. Those more celebrated books are all relatively short, unified, traditional narratives, they're all memoirs (the hot commercial literary form of the last decade), and they're all about politically fashionable subjects; Cerebus, on the other hand, is a sprawling, sloppy, lopsided mess, hard to classify by form or genre or anything else, its subject resolutely uncool, and its politics are so reactionary as to be  widely regarded as hate speech or evidence of a clinical disorder. It is brilliant and hilarious and incredibly boring, very, very annoying, infuriating and beautiful, defiantly inaccessible, arguably insane, arguably, great. I'm not sure it should even be called a "book"; it's something bigger than that - a complete document of one man's artistic, intellectual and spiritual life. To appeal to mainstream tastes, it seems, comics have to compromise, conforming to more respectable literary conventions. Dave Sim is - and this is one epithet he would relish - undomesticable.

The Comics Journal #301 is available from Fantagraphics Books.

Monday 30 January 2012

Whatever Happened To Jaka?

Cerebus #265 (April 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from The Blog & Mail, 22 December 2006)
Jaka post-Form & Void? That would be a tough call and not one that I've given any amount of thought to. I would say that given that these things tend to occur in a symmetrical way, yes, I would imagine that whatever her life ended up being like it would probably have resembled Cerebus's traumatic beginning to Latter Days spinning out in a comparable "can't win for losing" way. Probably not quite AS traumatic because I would assume that she had closed off most of herself in the aftermath of the end of her marriage. The ending to the marriage was too traumatic, too brutal and with no room to manufacture an alternative happy reality in her own mind that would fit the known facts but allow her to escape the tragedy personally. No, the Cirinists do their work too well for that. The core question would be "How much in love with Cerebus was she?" which is another way of asking "How much had she closed herself off at that point?" And that I would no more attempt to answer than I would attempt to answer for which (if any!) of my own girlfriends or my wife I was their greatest and most significant relationship and for which of them I was just one of the guys they acted out their "strong, independent woman" role against - going through the motions for the sake of having a boyfriend or husband - before moving on to their next "strong, independent woman" drama with their new Best Supporting Actor. They were upset for a period of time, but then the next guy came along and it's "happily ever after" "I've never felt this way before" time again. Certainly in the case of Jaka, she wasn't wife and mother material so I think I'm safe in saying that although she thought of herself as monogamous and bonding for life, she was actually just doing the "I've never felt this way before" "Oh no its coming to an end" "Boohoohoo" "NEXT!" trip. Very possibly she just saw Cerebus as the safe option because he was always in love with her every time she saw him. There was never the remotest danger that she had lost him even when he was married to Red Sophia or when she was married to Rick. Women tend to find that incredibly boring but after a series of traumatic dramas where they win more than lose a lot of them will opt for the safe option at least for a period of time either to rebuild their egos or just to have a nice rest.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Support Cerebus TV

Signed & Numbered Print: Cape Ends (1992)
Art by Dave Sim

The signed and numbered print above (limited to 63 copies) can be yours for a $20 donation to Cerebus TV. Hurry while stocks last.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Comic Book Styles

'Comic Book Schools' featuring Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Art Adams & Bruce Timm.
from Glamourpuss #2 (July 2008)
Art by Dave Sim

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Friday 27 January 2012

Comic Strip Styles

'Comic Strip Schools' featuring Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff & Charles Schulz
from Glamourpuss #2 (July 2008)
Art by Dave Sim

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Thursday 26 January 2012


Cerebus #54-56 (September-November 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlarge)

(from an interview in The Comics Journal #184, 1996)
When it came time to do a Roach character that had the ambiance of religious fervor surrounding him, it had to be Wolverine. The fact that Marvel got so upset about me putting Wolverine on the successive covers. "It's not a parody; you are now stealing the central icon of our church," was to me revelatory. "Well, there you go. Yes, I picked the right one." I didn't realize I was going to be putting my foot in it this badly. I thought parody's parody, but you can take that chalice called Captain America and do a parody of that, you can take this subaltern and do Moon Knight, but by God don't you touch our Wolverine. That's the center of our church.

(from the essay 'Dave Sim On Parody & Copyright' in Following Cerebus #3, February 2005)
...when Marvel did Peter Porker, The Amazing Spider-Ham - I suspect largely as a warning shot across my bow over my doing Wolverroach. Essentially they did Cerebus in a Spider-Man costume. It was an attempt to play some hardball with me. You want to play cute, we can play cute too. Of course my theory, which dates from that time period, is that you protect your trademark and copyright by being good at what you do. Twenty years later on, Wolveroach is far more memorable than Spider-Ham, even though there was, in my view, a far greater level of appropriation going on in the later case.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Official Cerebus T-Shirts

Cerebus: He Doesn't Love You & Cerebus For Dictator
Available from Graphitti Designs

Cerebus in Chains
Available from World Of Strange

Cerebus Covers #1-5
Available from World Of Strange

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Oscar Wilde

Cerebus #120 (March 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Note From The President, Cerebus #148, July 1991)
The more I learned about Oscar [Wilde], the more I resented his lack of productivity. Aside from one really good play (Importance of Being Earnest) and one really good short novel (The Picture of Dorian Gray), most of his work is derivative or second rate. I like it but I think I'm objective enough to admit that very little of what he did stands the test of time for most people. I resent the fact that most of his time was spent entertaining second and third-rate intellects; or even more loathsome, the aristocracy. He is almost universally acknowledged as the greatest conversationalist of his day. In a time when the ability to hold the attention of a table of diners was a thing for which many were noted, Oscar reigned supreme. Only a handful of his stories, anecdotes and discourses have survived even as fragments (thanks mostly to the Roberts; Sherard and Ross, and Richard le Gallienne). 

And, yet, that was Oscar wasn't it?

How much better to entertain a roomful of strangers, lingering over a bottle of good wine and innumerable cigarettes, playing with notions and ideas, weaving epigrams and fables; striking just the right note with each companion so that even those who were the most scornful of him, who had arrived determined to despise him and to revile him, found themselves smiling, then laughing; charmed, captivated; having the time of their lives. 

How much better that, than seclusion and study. Why be prolific when one could be charming? Why produce when there's so much to consume?

I have to credit all the research that I did on Oscar Wilde for convincing me that I don't want to be like that. If I can end my life with a large body of completed works and a reputation as a cantankerous old hermit I'll consider my time well spent.

Monday 23 January 2012


Spawn #10, 1994
Art by Todd McFarlane, written by Dave Sim

(from the PRO/CON Speech, April 1993, reprinted in The Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing)
Image is the first sensible reaction to the basic truth of the direct market. Will Spawn always be the No. 1 comic book? No. Of course not. How long will it be at or near the top? There's no way of knowing. The critical difference with Spawn is that Todd McFarlane recognised that he was hot now, while he was working on Spider-Man. He recognised that he was making an enormous amount of money for Marvel Comics and that the percentage of that money that he was being paid was minuscule. He recognised that there was a window of opportunity now to make his future financially secure and to take control of his career. He recognised that, at Marvel, his career was out of his control. A change of editor, of editorial policy, of company ownership, any number of things could throw him out in the street at a moment's notice. If Marvel could throw Chris Claremont away after 15 years, refusing even to let him write a farewell note on the letters pages of the book [X-Men] he had made into the industry standard, what security is there? Todd McFarlane recognised that there is no security. There never has been, and there never will be.

Sunday 22 January 2012

1001 Comics To Read Before You Die

Cerebus Vol 2: High Society (collecting #26-50, 1981-1983)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(a review of High Society in 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, edited by Paul Gravett, 2011)
What stands out as one of the oddest experiments of the 1980s wound up as one of the most transformative comics of all time. Since 1977, Dave Sim had been serializing the adventures of Cerebus the Aardvark, a deft parody of Conan the Barbarian that was quickly running out of steam. With the twenty-sixth issue he dramatically changed the tone and direction of his work, thrusting his marauding antihero into the claustrophobic world of politics and high finance.

In the fictional city-state of Iest, Cerebus becomes a pawn in a highly fraught political game played against the diabolically clever Lord Julius. Aided by the manipulative Astoria, Cerebus struggles to negotiate a complex world that he does not fully understand. When the tense election is resolved, in hilarious fashion, by the vote of a single farmer in a snowy field, Cerebus finds himself Prime Minister. With his world literally turned on its head - Sim drew and printed the final pages of the book sideways - Cerebus is overwhelmed by his powerful position, enduring crisis after crisis before his government is toppled.

The image of politics Sim paints in the graphic novel is a dark one in which the primary characters are driven by vanity and greed. This is a lacerating view of human weakness, leavened by moments of humor that seem lifted from the best of the Marx Brothers's movies. Throughout, Sim experiments with new visual styles and storytelling formats, shedding his history as a simple parodist and emerging as a significant creative voice in his own right.

Saturday 21 January 2012

The Last Signing

Poster: The Last Signing (2010)
Art by Dave Sim

Mike Kitchen (the creator of Spy Guy) and Blair Kitchen (the creator of The Possum) go on a comic book pilgrimage to see Dave Sim (the creator of Cerebus) at The Last Signing, which took place at the Strange Adventures comic store in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 24 September 2010:

Friday 20 January 2012

Zootanapuss #2

Zootanapuss #2 (variant cover for Glamourpuss #23, January 2012)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Cerebus TV, Season 3 Episode 11, 13 January 2012)
I'm really hoping that Zootanapus vs High Fashion Models will help keep [Glamourpuss] alive... and so far so good. Actually, the sales on the signed and numbered [Glamourpuss variant cover] Zootanapus #2 are up from Zootanapus #1. There have been many, many days over the last three years when I never thought I would get Stan Drake and Alex Raymond to Chateau Drake on West Parish Road in West Point. Or get a chance to draw my own version of Elizabeth 'Betty Lou' Drake (nee Smith). Or put her in a few different outfits, including "Oh! Hey! What if she was in her bath-robe and curlers when they got there?" A lot of big and small emergencies that I was just batting away like flies, 'cos I’m going, "I can't believe it. I got them in the garage. Stan Drake is getting into the Corvette."

Glamourpuss #23 is available from the end of January 2011 at your local comics shop.
Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Cerebus At The Local Tavern

Cerebus At The Local Tavern (Commission, 2001)
Art by Dave Sim and Gerhard
This piece is AMAZING!! Look at the cross hatching detail from head to toe. Now get this... This piece measures 28x48 inches. Dave Sim said its the largest image of Cerebus he ever did. Gerhard went to town on this baby doing everything you see around Cerebus. Gerhard is a superhuman talent.

(via Comic Art Fans)

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Recommended: The Complete Crumb Comics

The Complete Crumb Comics Vol 1-17
by Robert Crumb

(from an interview in The Comics Journal #184, 1996)
I am consistently amazed at how lucid he was about the hypocrisy of the flower power generation while it was theoretically still going on and while it was still perceived by a fair number of people as "what we were all going to have to evolve into because this is where we are going." He was able to put on the page very, very effectively the '60s shysters and sharpies and the whole Charles Manson "Hey we can shape this to our own needs." Considering by his own admission he was fucked up on drugs the whole time, that's pretty good insight to not slide underneath it and say "Look, all I have to do is play the game these other guys are playing and the world is my oyster." He really ran against the grain. He swam against the current that favoured him and that to me is great artistic integrity. In terms of the sort of world that's two steps down and hidden behind the veil, to me that's in all of his stuff too. The Devil Girl stuff, Mr Natural and Flakey Foont, it's as much about human relationships as it is, "Hey isn't this funny that way Flakey is just drooling all over this chick?" There are so many levels of meaning. If you're just buying to enjoy the cosmetics of it, you're still going to get full value for your money, but there's a lot more story under there to me.

...when Fantagraphics started doing The Collected Crumb and occasionally going back and looking at the old undergrounds and seeing them in context... there was a lot of Crumb stuff that I had missed, but many I've carried forward through each purge of my collection since 1974. I just look at it and say "By God, there's a guy who really had his head screwed on straight at a time when it would not be a stretch to say it was impossible that anybody had their head screwed on straight."

...I can look through my favourites of Crumb's pieces and that will get me charged up, sitting down and drawing.

The Complete Crumb Comics Vol 1-17 are available from Fantagraphics Books.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Zombie Variant Covers

Cerebus Archive #1-4, zombie variant covers (2009)
Glamourpuss #4-5, zombie variant covers (2008)
Art by Dave Sim

Following a trend established by Marvel Comics, Aardvark Vanaheim released a series of zombie-variant covers to Cerebus Archive and Glamourpuss, which were offered to comics retailers as an ordering incentive (for every 10 copies ordered of the standard cover version they received a complimentary zombie-variant issue) and were available for purchase by comics readers for $15 each.

Back issues of Cerebus Archive are always available at ComiXpress.
Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available at ComiXpress.

Monday 16 January 2012

Logan & Rockets

Visions Of An Icon: Wolverine (2009)
Art by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlarge)

The illustration above was one of over 40 pieces of original artwork featuring Wolverine donated to the Joe Shuster Awards for the Visions Of An Icon Art Show by Canadian artists. The pieces were exhibited twice in 2009 - at the Joe Shuster Awards ceremony in September and at the Speakeasy Comic Art Show in November. The original art pieces were auctioned off on eBay in March 2010.

Sunday 15 January 2012

World Without Cerebus

(From the introduction to World Without Cerebus)
As a long-time fan of the Cerebus series, and given the role that Cerebus original art has played in my art-curating life, I have been, and continue to be, blown away by the contribution that Gerhard made to about 5000 pages of this story... a contribution sometimes eclipsed by the real-world drama(s) associated with the personalities, stories, and other falderal that swirled (and still continues to swirl) around creator, publisher, author, artist, and visionary Dave Sim. 

Gerhard... or as I like to think of him, Saint Gerhard the Brilliant... has responded to what I think is a simple and (thank-you-kindly) elegant idea: to feature his creative skills in a series of 100% Gerhard drawings that bring to the foreground the settings, circumstances, episodes and ideas that live in the background of the original series.

Thus: WWC - The World Without Cerebus - even without the main characters, the literal context in which they lived *IS* an independent and fully realized creative work. I have been suggesting the scenario (mainly the episode), and then Ger runs with it with some small, meagre comments from me every now and then. As an homage to Dave Sim, and following the tradition of Hirschfeld and his incorporation of his daughter's name (Nina) into his drawings, Dave's initials (DVS) are integrated into the WWC pieces.
World Without Cerebus: Collateral Damage, Torn Asunder, Fallen Idol, 27
Art by Gerhard

Saturday 14 January 2012

Now I'll Ask You One... The Kitchen Brothers

Dave Sim invited the self-publishing cartoonists Kitchen Bros. - Mike (Spy Guy) and Blair (The Possum) - to participate in a discussion to coincide with a Possum special on Cerebus TV. The conversation took place between 28 March and 8 April, 2011: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.

Highlights from the discussion include:

On Collaborating With Gerhard (Part 3):
I can't say that I lost any sleep over it but, at the same time, it wasn't a decision that you take lightly when you've already done six years and 64 issues on your own. Particularly when you're of a mind to be seen as the Comic Book Elvis or the Comic Book Frank Sinatra. Being Half of the Comic Book Simon and Garfunkel or Comic Book Everly Brothers seems like an obvious giant step down. That weighed very heavily in the one balance pan. On the other hand, I had the results on the His First Fifth strip for Epic magazine which were really astonishing for a complete rookie and which Gerhard had finished very quickly.

On Glamourpuss (Part 7):
...I'm not doing a Glamourpuss trade [collection]. The sales are so far down that I can make roughly the same amount of money doing POD [Print On Demand] periodicals as I can doing a bi-monthly comic book... I make my money from commissions and the Cerebus trades, some licensing and some foreign reprints. It would have been nice if Glamourpuss had been a hit, but its not... I make as much off of the 15 issues of Glamourpuss and 13 issues of Cerebus Archive available 24/7 from ComiXpress as I do from the latest issue of Glamourpuss Diamond is selling. Not much.

On Cerebus (Part 11):
Fiction seems crazy to me as a thing to do. There are degrees of insanity in doing fiction. An aardvark in the world of humans is pretty crazy. If -- as I tried to do -- you see it as a metaphor for alienation (we're EACH of us an aardvark in the world of humans) then it becomes less crazy. Kafka doesn't believe that a human being evolves into a cockroach. Orwell didn't believe that animals would walk on their hind legs and take over a farm. It's using crazy metaphors to comment on a world that is mostly insane but views itself as sane.

On Ink (Part 19):
...GET RID OF OLD INK. Particularly if you're using Speedball Super-Black. Diluting it and letting it evaporate to thin it and darken it was taking up a lot of time and something in the back of my head kept saying "It's the ink -- it's past its best before date"... It seems incredibly wasteful. I have a 16 ounce bottle that's still half full if not three quarters full. Yes, but for the sake of being afraid to throw away $9 worth of ink, you're adding a good half hour to forty minutes to each working day.

On Falling Sales (Part 21):
My job is to just calmly fly straight into the ground doing everything that my nearly forty years of training have taught me and, as always, trying to learn new things every day that I haven't crashed. "Keeping a tight "as***ole" as the guys put it who have been in a real firefight. No matter how bad things get, sh***ing your pants isn't going to improve them.

Other 'Now I'll Ask You One' Conversations:
Dave Sim & Steve Bissette
Dave Sim & Jimmy Gownley

Friday 13 January 2012

C-Minus Is C-Minus

Sketch: Mr C-Minus (April 2010)
Art by Dave Sim

(9 May 2010)
Dave Sim is again selling Cerebus head sketches (ball point pen on Aardvark-Vanaheim stationary) on E-Bay. The sketches can be just of Cerebus, or have him decked out as the character of your choice. The price is $25.00 U.S. and it's the second time these types of sketches have gone on sale. I found out about the offer from watching Cerebus TV -new episodes come on Friday's at 9:00 central time.  The current episode is a memoriam to the late, great, Dick Giordano, and Dave Sim talking about his Ditkomania cover (also on sale) featuring Steve Ditko's Miss Eerie. I enjoy the Cerebus TV episodes a lot, plenty of interesting comics history gets covered, and you should really check it out. [This is] the first Cerebus head sketch I got.

The above (forgive my poor scanning) is Dave Sim drawing Cerebus as Steve Ditko's Mr. A, which becomes Mr. C-! I'm a big fan of Mr. A and Steve Ditko's most recent work so no surprise that was my request. I'm thrilled with my sketch, really enjoyed the funny spin on Mr. A, and wanted the chance to get a few more. No way do I have the cash to fight it out in a art auction, so this is the next best thing. Lucky for me, by popular demand, the sketch offer was brought back I already put in my new order for Cerebus drawn as Judge Dredd, and Cerebus drawn as the Green Hornet. Eclipso (the 60s' version or the one from his own series), or Nukla were the other options I considered.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Where Is Mrs Hannon?

Cerebus #274 (January 2002)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard, additional dialogue by Nicholas Zivkovik

(from a letter to Nicholas Zivkovik dated 30 October 2001, reprinted in Cerebus 274)
I'm not sure if I ever wrote back to you about the comic strip samples that you sent me for comment back in 1993. The strip was called Kilhook ...The reason that I am writing to you now is that I hung onto the strips at the time because - although the artwork was amateurish, certainly too amateurish for a newspaper syndicate (even assuming that they might have an interest in historical fantasy) - the writing had just the right note of authenticity in the dialogue for a Dark Ages battle scene. Knowing that I had a Dark Ages battle scene coming up in Cerebus (a hundred or so issues down the road), I put your samples in with my "way off up ahead" file of reference material. Having arrived at "way off up ahead," I pulled your samples out to retread for the first time in eight years. And realized -- pretty much right away that I couldn't improve on what you had written. So I just extracted those lines which most impressed me and best suited the tone I was looking for - and then whittled them down from there (I wish I had more pages to work with, but that proved not to be the case). Anyway, I am enclosing a cheque for $100 US - which I hope will cover my unauthorised use of your material.

(from The Comics Journal #241, February 2002)
I thought it was cool. I've been a Cerebus fan for a long time. He does some cool things... It's not a project I'm pursuing to any degree. For a fanboy to be included in this, that's a cool tip of the hat.
Kilhook (1993)
Art by Nicholas Zivkovik

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Gun Fu: Showgirls Are For Ever

Gun Fu: Showgirls Are Forever (Image Comics, 2006)
Art by Dave Sim, Gerhard, Joey Manson & Howard Shum
In 2006 Dave Sim wrote Gun Fu: Showgirls Are Forever one-shot which was illustrated by Darryl Young and Howard Shum: The year is 1941. France has succeeded in Setting the world record for the quickest surrender to Nazi Germany without putting up a fight. Cheng Bo Sen is a Hong Kong cop and British Secret Service Agent. He also speaks hip-hop which no one seems to notice...

(from an interview at Comic Book Resources, January 2006) 
I've been a huge fan of Gun Fu from the beginning. Howard asked if I'd do a pin-up for the book about a month or two after issue [Cerebus] #300 came out so Gerhard and I did the parody of the James Bond movie poster for Diamonds Are Forever; 'Showgirls Are Forever' that Howard ran on the back cover of The Lost City mini-series (issue #4). I said I'd be up for it if he ever wanted to turn it into a Gun Fu story. I figured maybe a year or two later after he had done his own projects. Instead in his next letter, he just threw out a couple of ideas and I picked up on them and we were off and running!

(from an interview at The Pulse, February 2006)
I guess the most interesting thing was the challenge of getting an entire story into a single issue - something that I hadn’t done, really, since the first three years of Cerebus - 1977 to 1980. At several points I thought we were spilling over into a second issue or a mini-series, but Howard kept a tight rein on things... Howard had been sending me Gun Fu since the first issue and I really liked the very stylized, almost geometric look that he and Joey Mason had developed between them. The first issue seemed to be too closely adhering to the Manga approach of few panels to the page so I suggested that Joey try putting more panels in - basically breaking the pages into quadrants where each quadrant could still have a Manga tone to it while giving the reader four times the entertainment. As soon as he upped the panel count he seemed to push the whole thing to a new level and then I just sat back in amazement with everyone else. And I’ve been sitting back in amazement ever since... The hip-hop dialect, y’all, comin’ from an Asian character in the late 1930s - and no one appearing even to notice. That was just too funny as far as I was concerned. Howard ran a class photo in an early issue that was half black kids and about a half dozen Asian kids. I really didn’t know until just a few weeks ago that Howard was one of the Asian kids. Before that I just assumed he was black.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Tribute Art Round-Up #1

Cerebus (2011)
by Amancay Nahuelpan

Wild Cerebus (1998)
by Loren Lorente

Alone. Unmourned. Unloved. (2011)
by Christopher Mitten

Cerebus The Barbarian (2006)
by Chris Samnee

Cerebus (2009)
by Ben Templesmith

I Am A Grey Pig
by Travis Charest

Curls & Cerebus (2011)
by Carolyn Belefski

Retired (2004)
by Tim Hulsizer

Monday 9 January 2012

Diamondback Cards

Diamondback Cards (1981)
Top row: Magician, Priestess, Queen; Bottom row: King, Priest, Backcover
Art by Dave Sim

(from the essay at The Beguiling, 2004)
Oddly enough, even while we were running the Cerebus’ Six Deadly Sins portfolio ad on the inside back cover of issues 26 through 30, the only mention of the first series of Diamondback Cards came in Deni's Note from the Publisher in issue 29, indicating that they were to be offered as a fan-club premium and would be sent to anyone joining the fan club prior to the 1981 San Diego Con. Shortly thereafter we would take over the running of the fan club from Fred Patten for several years but, the inescapable fact remained that Cerebus was never really a 'fan club' type of thing. As I recall, the first series of Diamondback Cards were our attempt to give Fred something to really attract enough fans to make his efforts worthwhile - they were printed on good quality cardstock, with four-colour backs and an illustrated envelope. But it was all for naught and when we folded the fan club we ended up selling most of the decks through Now & Then Books and through the mail at $3.00 or so per pack after the distributors had ordered an initial number of decks (as Deni mentioned in her Note from the Publisher in issue 32). The direct market, at the time, just wasn't set up to sell cards in any great quantity. Kind of funny when you consider that the collectible card market virtually swamped the comic-book field for a period of time in the late eighties and early nineties.

I really worked to make the cards as attractive as possible and even incorporated the images into the Cerebus Held Hostage sequence in issue 27 (High Society pages 40 to 46) to get that 'tie-in' thing happening. In doing the hand separations on the back, I used some of the most subtle four-colour combinations I had in my separations book and made sure every one of them was cut as cleanly as I could with an X-acto knife. A subtle shade of brown, a subtle shade of ruby red. Then the cards came back and Cerebus was an albino. I had forgotten to slap a basic 30% gray on 'im.  D’OH! 

Sunday 8 January 2012

Recommended: Jules Feiffer

George's Moon (reprinted in Passionella & Other Stories)
by Jules Feiffer

(from Note From The President, Cerebus #109, April 1988)
In anticipation of doing "Walking on the Moon" inspired by the Judge in Jules Feiffer's Little Murders, I have been surrounding myself with Feiffer Totems... Passionella & Other Stories including George's Moon a major inspiration for Book Seven [of Church & State], the original stage play of Little Murders (which Steve Bissette loaned to me and is never getting back. Sorry, Steve), Sick, Sick, Sick an early Feiffer collection, the Lonely Machine and Hostileman (the best comic book work ever published in Playboy) and, most significantly, Feiffer's interview in the September 1971 issue of Playboy.

It was the first issue of Playboy I ever bought for myself... all of fifteen years old I was. At that time a dollar would buy five comic books, so it was quite an investment. It had Gilbert Shelton's Feds & Heds game in it, fiction by Irwin Shaw, Kurtzman's Annie Fannie.

But the highlight was the Feiffer interview. 
Playboy Magazine:
Right: the October 1965 issue contains Jules Feiffer's essay 'The Great Comic Book Heroes'
Left: the September 1971 issue contains the Jules Feiffer interview

Everything a fifteen year old needed to know about the world is contained in it. He talks about dope, getting laid, not getting laid, Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson, random violence, politics, the snob appeal of the Village Voice. It is amazing to see how much history has come-to-pass exactly as he envisioned it; how many insights he had into the workings of the American political system... insights that would have been dismissed as leftlib paranoia at the time (remember this was a year before Watergate) but which have gradually become conventional wisdom; common sense.

I owe an enormous debt because he answered all of the questions I had about being a grown-up and being creative for a living. The story that sticks in every comic fan's mind about Jules Feiffer is the one he relates in his wonderful book The Great Comic Book Heroes. He describes going to work for Will Eisner as an assistant. One of his first tasks was to sign "Will Eisner" to the stories and (everybody on three) he was instantly better at it than Eisner was. 

I think more than anything else, this was a major leg up for a lot of would-be Eisner's. He took the fannish delight in duplicating an idol's signature (to this day when people ask me if I'll sign their counterfeit Cerebus No. 1, I offer them a choice of Neal Adams or Frank Frazetta) and raised it from a petty ego-thing to a rich and on-going tradition. 

That Feiffer became Feiffer and not a substitute Eisner is important as well, because it ended the traditional master/apprentice relationship. A teenaged Feiffer could seek out Will Eisner Studios and offer to do any kind of work, just to be able to be there; to learn. The teen-age Dave Sim had no such option. What could I do for Feiffer? He drew his own stuff. He wrote his own stuff. He lettered his own stuff. The rest of the time he wrote novels, plays. He was self-contained. 

So I became self-contained.

And in large measure, it was because of that interview and the clarity of vision that shone through. It ends with Feiffer saying he hoped his comments wouldn't lead anyone to despair. In my case, nothing could be further from the truth and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank him publicly. Words are inadequate to describe my admiration. Suffice to say his work and his success, to me, represent the high water mark in the comic book medium. 


When I'm done Cerebus I'll probably write a play.
Cerebus #107 (February 1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Books of Jules Feiffer's comics and cartoons are available from Fantagraphics Books.

Saturday 7 January 2012

You Die Alone. Unmourned. And Unloved

Cerebus # 111 (June 1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from an interview with Amazing Heroes #201, May 1992)
It's interesting, the reactions people have to Cerebus "dying alone, unmourned and unloved". Everyone dies alone. You could have a room full of people, they could even be lying in bed with you if you want, but you're still going to die alone... A lot of what I was trying to point out with Cerebus in Melmoth is that you can be surrounded by people and still be unmourned and unloved. A lot of us delude ourselves that we are loved, and you have to say to people, "How many people do you still know, and have an interesting relationship with, that you did three years ago?"

Friday 6 January 2012

Remembering The Self-Publishing Movement

Self-Publishers Limited Edition Print (1993)
Art by Dave Sim, Colleen Doran, James Owen, Martin Wagner & Jeff Smith

(from the Boneville Blog, 4 February 2008)
It’s been pointed out in numerous places that Dave Sim, Terry Moore, and I are all returning to our self-publishing roots with new comic book series – all within weeks of each other. But what exactly are those self-publishing roots?

It’s been 15 years since I met Larry Marder, who introduced me to Dave Sim. Who in turn introduced me to Colleen Doran. Soon, along with James Owen and Martin Wagner, we created a limited edition print featuring all our characters to sign and give away to comic book store retailers.

We did this at a 1993 Diamond Comics Distributors retail show – a few months after the industry was stunned by the announcement that six of Marvel’s top artists were forming their own company called Image Comics. The resulting rumors that we might be planning to form our own super group was irresistible. This was the beginning of what would be called The Self-Publishing Movement. The craziness that followed can best be summed up by this quote from Colleen:

“There was a period of nearly three years where we couldn’t go to a convention without being mobbed. We would start at 9 in the morning and we couldn’t get away to eat – we couldn’t get away to go to the bathroom. We’d get a short break for dinner, then rush back to the hotel bar or up to Dave’s suite and sign autographs and draw sketches for retailers until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

We spent hours together on the road and in hotels, at restaurants, and at convention booths. We talked about making comics and selling them. We had radical ideas about owning and controlling our own work. I remember very specific conversations about trying to change the retailing model of comic book stores from periodical collectables to that of replaceable stock – i.e. our trade books. 

Self-publishing pretty much started with Cerebus and Elfquest in the late 70s. The success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought about visions of fame and fortune. Some of the  indie cartoonists in those heady days, lead by Scott McCloud, got together and drafted a Creators Bill of Rights. By the time The Self-Publishing Movement began, Comics – the community and the industry – was poised for anything. Hundreds, if not thousands of artists picked up their pens and had a go at making their own books.  At the height of the movement, self-published titles made up 17% of the comics market.

As I looked around the showroom at this year’s SPX, filled with hundreds of dedicated, enthusiastic indie comics creators working in every genre and every possible medium, I thought it might be fun to look back at those roots.

When I asked Larry Marder to write about it, he responded this way:

“Sure, I'd be glad to toss my 2 cents into this topic. This is a weird time anyway — you, Terry, and Sim returning to publishing with new projects and me returning to Beanworld, my only comic project. I personally do believe there is a direct line from today's creators backwards to our hopes and dreams in the 80s and 90s…but what a circuitous path!” 

As I read the essays coming in, I’m reminded how much fun we had analyzing the industry and the comics community, and making up rules as we went along. But I’m also reminded how difficult it was. Our credo was to own and control your work. Something that isn’t as easy as you might think.

I hope you enjoy this series of guest blogs:
Stephen Weiner (101 Graphic Novels, The Will Eisner Companion)
Rick Veitch - Part 1, Part 2 (Brat Pack) 
Larry Marder - Part 1, Part 2 (Bean World) 
Joshua Smeaton (Haunted)
Collen Doran - Part 1, Part 2 (A Distant Soil) 
Diana Schutz (Dark Horse Comics)
Terry Moore (Strangers In Paradise)
Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi)

Thursday 5 January 2012

Success With Glamourpuss

Reproduction of panel from The Heart of Juliet Jones by Stan Drake (7 August 1956)
Glamourpuss #19 (May 2011)
Art by Dave Sim

(from the QRD interview with Dave Sim, February 2011)
...glamourpuss [sells] around 2,700 copies every other month...

(from Now I'll Ask You One... With The Kitchen Bros, April 2011)
...my idea of success with Glamourpuss is really just being able to keep doing it. I'm reading Howard Chaykin: Conversations right now from University Press of Mississippi (which I got because they printed my interview with Howard from 1974 -- the earliest one in the book. So props for my 18-year-old-self for that!) and he mentions a couple of times that he's working in a field where the audience wants big muscle-bound guys beating each other up and he wants to draw a pretty girl talking on the telephone. That's it exactly. There's really no experience like flipping through Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and hitting The Right Photograph that just hits that same hot button with Al Williamson blond hair, Stan Drake eye make-up, Alex Raymond horizontal stripes, Neal Adams leather textures or whatever it is. I GET TO do this picture! ME! I GET TO! And then being able to read and re-read and re-re-read something like the May to September '56 Heart Of Juliet Jones 'Larry and Andy Hone' sequence both for the unconscious foreshadowing of the car accident and re-creating Stan Drake's panels. Yesterday was the August 7 third panel which is basically a landscape and a car with all of the detail filled in to black or just GONE. Putting that side-by-side with a 1960 photocopy from Syracuse University with the same mid-afternoon outdoor light patterns and shadows. And working huge: 250% of the printed size. Took most of Wednesday and a good part of Thursday. Never want to do it again but there it is. I did it! Me! It's very peculiar, no one wants to talk about these guys, no one wants to work in their styles in black and white...

Back issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Weird Crime Theatre

Weird Crime Theatre (2005)
By Kumar Sivasubramanian, Mulele Jarvis & Dave Sim

(by email, December 2011)
Back around fall 2005 Dave Sim kindly and graciously jammed on 3 pages of my (web)comic Weird Crime Theater; pencilling, inking, lettering, and ad-libbing Cerebus. The pages begin here, the full story begins here, and I discuss the collaboration here. We are still intending (as we have been from the start) to do a print version -- next year. (For real this time? Really?! Really?!??)

(from The Blog & Mail, 10 October 2006)
I don't know if it's coincidental but starting this Blog & Mail has finally caused the mail to taper off dramatically. Maybe I've scared everyone back into the woods now that they can't be certain if parts of their letters are going to end up on the Internet. And I certainly apologize to everyone - including our next "contestant" - if that makes them uncomfortable. I really don't mean any offence by it. Most of the time it just seems like a good chance to publicize some things that might otherwise not get publicized.

Like Weird Crime Theater's first two issues which I just got in from Kumar Sivasubramanian (who I'll just be referring to as "Kumar" from now on for obvious reasons) in photocopied form. He called me a while back (a year ago? Year and a half ago?) from Australia where he lives to see if I was willing to let him use Cerebus in his second issue which, at the time, was going to be published by Dan Vado's Slave Labor Graphics (which was one of the reasons that I not only agreed but suggested that I draw Cerebus myself - I've never been published by Dan Vado before!). Kumar writes the book and does the digital lettering and Mulele Jarvis does the art and the digital sound effects.

...Anyway, it's always a fun experience to work on a cross-over cameo (Cerebus is in 14 panels over three pages) and then actually read it for the first time in context months later. As it says on the title page for issue 2: Cerebus pencilled, inked, lettered, adlibbed copyright, appears courtesy of and a very special thanks to Dave Sim. I basically wrote it as if it was a career move on Cerebus' part, alternating the dialogue with Cerebus' internal thoughts about the gig ("It's a minor role. But it's one that the critics and the other publishers are going to notice - you know, like Howard the Duck in Giant Size Man-Thing or John Travolta in Pulp Fiction").

Anyway, I guess Dan's decided to stand pat with what he's publishing right now at least for the time being and told Kumar to resubmit in another six months and feel free to show the project around to other publishers in the meantime. As Kumar writes "So, unfortunately, we're back to the submission - rejection - depression cycle for the time being" - which really seems to add a whole other layer of resonance to the gag. Not only can Cerebus only get a walk-on cameo these days the producers can't even get a distribution deal from a major studio! Makes Cerebus grateful for all his trade paperback royalties. Looks like Melissa will be back to waitressing for the time being.

Kumar's so desperate he's actually talking about self-publishing!

Anyway there's two issues "in the can" if any publishers out there are interested in taking a look over the next six months. THE Dan Vado at one time was VERY interested in the project. VERY interested.

Check it out at Weird Crime Theater or e-mail the guys at mail@weirdcrimetheater.com.