Wednesday 29 February 2012

The S-indie-cate

The Sindiecate is a website where each week a group of artists create an image related to a new theme. Between 6-11 February 2012 the choosen theme was Cerebus.
I chose this week’s topic, Cerebus. I think it’s a brilliant piece of storytelling. And impossible in today’s marketplace. A slow-paced story with strong, complex characters and delicate artwork. I recommend Jaka's Story or Women for example. Granted you would feel that you are jumping in the middle of a longer story yet within a few pages you’ll be sucked in. As a foot note I should mention Dave Sim. Much has been said about his sociopolitical views. Don’t let labels spoil a good reading. Creator and creation are different things.
Cerebus week, not much to say, just a few things:
  • Cerebus is one of the greatest accomplishments in world comic history. 27 years commited to one project. (when was the last time you commited to something for ONE YEAR?)
  • Dave N' Ger achieved art symbiosis perfection. I mention Gerhard because he's so great, often forgotten when discussing Cerebus, but without Gerhard there's no Cerebus.
  • Dave Sim is The Greatest Letterer In Comics History, I think that's a no contest, if you have doubts, flip through Guys and tell me otherwise.
  • Cerebus is a great read, like nothing you have read before, and very very entertaining, even the second half of the series where most people think Dave went crazy. I read Latter Days and I see a couple of creators at the top of their game.
I was in high school when I started reading Cerebus, in the middle of the High Society story arc. It was witty and cynical and hilarious. I didn’t understand half of the humor (I was fourteen years old!) but the storytelling was brilliant, and I always admired the texture effects Sim and Gerhard accomplished with crosshatching. Most of my sketches are digital, but I busted out a nib pen for this one! I only wish I had the kind of fluid line Sim and Gerhard achieved.
Cerebus! Thought I’d play around with Graphite for this one.
No, I’m not being cheeky by leaving the background blank to tribute an artist who has someone else draw his backgrounds for him. I’ve got an INSANE amount of work to do this week and this weekend so this, unfortunately, is as far as I got. The other bit of bad news is that I didn’t even get a chance to read Cerebus yet! So you folks will just have to go by the recommendation of the fine Sindiecate members below. I’ll be catching up on my Cerebus reading next week and, maybe, I’ll be able to get the rest of this piece sorted out.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Remembering Frank Frazetta

Varkzetta Sketches (2010)
Art by Dave Sim

(promoting the Cerebus TV special on Frank Frazetta, June 2010)
There's never been before and never will be again a Frank Frazetta in the world of comics. If Michaelangelo had been fired by Al Capp, as Frank was, there might have been thought balloons on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! ...All of us in "The Comic Book Nation" owe so much to Frank's genius...
Commission: Bonfire Of The Super-Heroes
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(discussing the commission Bonfire Of The Super-Heroes at Cerebus Art)
Intended to be the centrepiece of a triptych, this is Bonfire Of The Super-Heroes. The specific request was for Cerebus a la Frank Frazetta's Conan The Destroyer cover art, only in this case with Jaka holding onto one leg and Red Sophia holding onto the other. This is a good example of getting your money's worth. Once I had the Cerebus, Jaka and Red Sophia figures done, that left the question of what the pile of dead adversaries was going to be and I tried just roughing in a few corpses (it's a pretty vague aspect of Frazetta's original painting. There's an arm sticking up and a rib cage, but that's about it). Ger and I did one of these commissions years ago, that consisted of Cerebus standing atop a pile of dead Smurfs so, really hating to repeat myself… that was when I got the idea of doing Marvel and DC characters. A natural gag. Of course, if that had been part of the request, I would have said we needed to get more money for it, but since it was my idea, Patron A is basically getting a bunch of extra characters for free. It's not a guarantee that that's going to happen but I'd have to say that it happens a lot more often than it doesn't.

Monday 27 February 2012

Jamming With Chester Brown

From a 19-page jam comic in Cerebus World Tour Book 1995
Art by Dave Sim & Chester Brown

(from Cerebus World Tour Book 1995)
Chester Brown and Bob Burden were both guests at one of those We're Going To Do The Definitive Toronto Con Toronto cons that happen, it seems, just about every other weekend. I went down to get them and bring them back to Kitchener (Toronto people just HATE it when I do that) to work on a jam story. Bob broke a tooth and went home early, so it was just me and Chet. I ruled up a page, put border tapes on and asked him to draw the first panel. Then I sat down and did the second panel. Then he did the third panel. We kept the story going by mail (until, unfortunately, the 1992 US Tour planning knocked it off my list of priorities). We'll get it going again. Chet suggests that we get some other guys in on it, which sounds like a good idea. Don't know WHOM we'd get, but it sounds like a good idea. I feel safe in saying that, whatever happens, the story will never make any sense. That's half the fun right there.

I told Chet I'd send him a cheque when I asked him about printing the story here [in Cerebus World Tour Book 1995]. He said the thought hadn't occurred to him. So I told him I won't be sending him a cheque and not to think about it anymore.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Cerebus For Dictator

T-Shirt Advert: Cerebus For Dictator (Cerebus #23, December 1980)
Art by Dave Sim

The Cerebus For Dictator T-shirt is currently available from Graphitti Designs.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Too Much Coffee Man

Too Much Coffee Man #22 (2005)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 15, 11 February 2012)
Well, I can't think of anything more appropriate for episode 99 of the television show that is largely caffine powered. I have one large coffee every 10 days on Cerebus TV Day and it gets me through the sometimes 18 to 20 hour stretch. What could be more appropriate than Too Much Coffee Man and Shannon Wheeler’s new omnibus Too Much Coffee Man collection from Dark Horse Books... I'll always appreciate Shannon giving me honest paying work in the aftermath of Cerebus coming to an end. I'm pretty sure it wasn't what the Portland, Oregon resident was thinking of for the cover of his War issue – Too Much Coffee Man as a member of US Forces.

Was Too Much Coffee Man's appearance in Guys (pages 234-235) - an unauthorised appearance! - my audition for Shannon picking me to do a Too Much Coffee Man cover? I don't know. See, I was doing all these indie-comics characters - my versions of them - in Guys and I thought "How the heck do you work a guy with a giant coffee cup on his head into Guys?" I decided to make him a salesman for Too Much Coffee Liqueur – Pure Coffee & Pure Alcohol! Too Much For Me Please! - see what I thought was "A guy named Too Much Coffee Man, you figure he's got to be talking a little faster than he does in Shannon's strips." So it's just him and Cerebus sitting up way late, Too Much Coffee Man drumming his fingers, shaking his foot up and down real quick.
Cerebus #211 (October 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Friday 24 February 2012

Squinteye The Sailor

Cerebus Jam #1 (April 1985)
Art by Terry Austin, Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the introduction to Squinteye in Cerebus Jam #1)
Terry Austin is known for drawing Popeye into the backgrounds of comic book pages. Fortunately they are usually pages he is working on so no one gets upset. Terry got the pages with border tape, lettering, finished Cerebus figures and roughed in Popeye and Bluto figures. All of Squinteye's costume detail, wooden leg and dead jeep were Terry's innovations pencil and ink. Quite simply, Terry is the best, cleanest and most versatile inker in the business. Period. Gerhard did everything else, but his love of the sea slowed him down to about a half page a day pace. He's such a Spunky.

(from a letter to Dave Sim published in Cerebus #153, December 1991)

Dear Dave,
This is a belated thank you for your return of the artwork from Cerebus Jam #1 and to finally pass along this xerox from my sketchbook of that period. I've have had it sitting around the studio for a month or more, but it took the arrival of your recent Cerebus reprint issue with your own Squinteye sketchbook page that provided the push for me to finally bundle it up and get it out of here and into your hands.

It is the page where I sat down to hammer out what the finished version of Squinteye would be after receiving your pages with 'Squinkeye' sketched in. Finding extra room on the page after finishing up, my mind turned to other cast members ageing and what effect that might have. I decided Olive would rebel against growing older by dressing younger, hair dye and (carrying it to the extreme, of course) joining a punk band. Bluto's incarnation came after dinner at a local Mexican restaurant with Bret and Pat Blevins. We were seated near a too-loud, 3-piece suited, chain smoking, martini-swilling commuter-type who made dining a chore for the rest of us by his determination to have more BIG FUN than anyone else in the room and make sure that we all knew it too! At some point I realised he was Bluto, shaven, cleaned up a bit, but still a bully... Swee'pea, I realised would want to rebel against his adopted daddy when he hit his teen-aged years, eschewing violence for a more sedate philosophy.

Anyway, I was amused when I ran across this page recently and I thought I'd pass it along to you be way of saying thanks. Feel free to print it somewhere if you'd like (and your lawyer deems it prudent...)

Your current work continues to interest and oft-times astonish. You and Ger do a consistently fine job.

Thanks again for all the comics!
Squinteye preparatory sketches (circa 1985)
Art by Terry Austin

Popeye Vols 1-6 by E.C. Segar are available to buy from Fantagraphics Books.

Thursday 23 February 2012

New Releases: February & March 2012

Glamourpuss #24
by Dave Sim
Things were getting pretty heated last issue with charges of homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia being thrown around in the Zootanapuss and Bunny vs. High Fashion Models smackdown leading to this 'Sudden Death' issue. Who 'buys the farm' as glamourpuss comes to the end of its fourth year? glamourpuss? Zootanapuss? Bunny? Plan Nine from Mogadishu? Junkie Haute Couture? Find out on page 10! Also, in the 'History of Photorealism' section, Stan Drake and Alex Raymond tool around Westport, Connecticut and environs in Drake's ill-fated 1956 Corvette.
On sale: 28 March 2012
Available from your local comics shop

Cerebus Archive #18
by Dave Sim
Dave Sim takes a closer look at his work on The Beavers in Quack #4, using preliminary sketches and correspondence with Quack editor and publisher, Mike Friedrich. How did Sgt. Duck of the Mounties and Duck Trek begin to lead him, even subconsciously, in the direction of Cerebus (then less than a year away)? Also, in the "TMI" section, Sim finds himself necking with his then 18-year-old future sister-in-law when Deni is away on vacation with her parents. A good example of how his (up 'til then) simple life was getting way more complicated.
On sale: 29 February 2012
Available to pre-order now from ComiXpress

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
The Ultimate Collection Vol 2

by Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, Dave Sim & Others
IDW Publishing
The classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action continues in the second volume of IDW's Ultimate Collections. In this outing, uncover issues #8-11, along with the Michaelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello "micro-series" one-shots, presented in an oversized hardcover. This volume reprints TMNT #8, originally first published in 1986, with Cerebus character art and dialogue by Dave Sim.
On sale: 27 March 2012
Available from and

Wednesday 22 February 2012


Like-A-Looks (Cerebus #138, September 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the introduction to Cerebus #137-138 in Cerebus #0, June 1993)
Stories have circulated since World War II that Adolf Hitler had a number of look-a-like imitators that the Nazis used for public appearances when it seemed that there was too great a chance of danger to send the real Adolf. Much of the Illuminati mythology concerns itself with the fact that General George Washington was replaced by Adam Weisshaupt some time before he was made the first President of the United States. There have even been reports that Winston Churchill and FDR did the same thing.

Altogether unlikely, but it does make a great theory. Since I have far too much time on my hands, I started thinking that that would make a very neat explanation of why the Grandlord of Palnu would have a painted on eyebrows and a moustache. As can be seen from the 'mirror scene' in Duck Soup, anyone wearing the right clothes and having painted on eyebrows and a moustache is going to look like Groucho. What if that was Lord Julius' plan, so that he could always have a look-a-like on hand if he wanted to go away on vacation. I had even toyed with the idea of writing a story at some point in which Lord Julius is interviewing candidates for like-a-look and if they can keep up with him verbally so that by the end of the interview he can't figure out whether he or they is/are the real Lord Julius they're hired... The upshot of the whole enterprise was to show people that the Lord Julius in a dress [who appeared in Jaka's Story] was not the real Lord Julius. The first three letters I got on Like-a-Looks all said, "Loved the story; but why was Lord Julius wearing a dress at the beginning?"

You can't win.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Oscar Meets Lord Julius

Cerebus #125 (August 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the introduction to Like-A-Looks in Cerebus World Tour Book 1995)
One of the few moments of comedy relief in Jaka's Story occurs when Oscar (based on Oscar Wilde) has a run-in with Lord Julius who, inexplicably, is wearing a dress. I quite liked that. The idea of Lord Julius in a dress attempting to flee Iest in the face of the Cirinist (matriarchal fascists) invasion and take-over. In the few pages that I set aside for it, I got to have a little sport with Oscar Wilde's well-known weakness for the aristocracy (the very soul and essence of composure in the rest of the story-line, he degenerates into a fumbling, bumbling obsequious sycophant in the face of a chance meeting with the legendary Grandlord of Palnu. Naturally, Lord Julius makes short work of him. I wrote the dialogue, I know it off by heart and it still makes me chuckle when I think of it. Nice feeling.) as well as doing a variety of facial expressions in the space of a handful of panels that the restrained nature of the rest of the story-line would not permit.

Of course then the mail started coming in. "Was that the real Lord Julius?" "What's he doing in Iest?" "How did he get there after the invasion?"

Monday 20 February 2012

The Synchronicity Triptych

The Synchronicity Triptych: Original art for Cerebus covers #74-76 (May-July 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Sold at auction for $10,100

(from The Synchronicity Triptych Essay, 2003)
The covers of issues 74, 75 and 76 - the Synchronicity covers - was the first time that I realized the extent to which Gerhard's backgrounds really "ground" the book, giving it a solidity and a "look" all its own and keeping my (infrequent at these extremes, anyway) experimentation less jarring, less "over the top" looking. The three covers get progressively more stylized and experimental as they go along. The picture of Jaka in the background of the yellow cover is flat, a series of geometric shapes (the bottom of her skirt is virtually horizontal). I thought that was as far out to the "design" edge from the "illustrative" school as I could go without falling off. Once Gerhard had put in the background, his solid room, done with accurate perspective (except for the arm of the sofa, where he’s trying to get the perspective to compensate for the horizontal bottom of Jaka’s skirt: I drive him nuts with things like that) and put the flat yellow over top, highlighting the darker areas with a sepia tone and adding white highlights with paint, it just looks like a traditional illustrative Cerebus cover. Since I was trying to be very "cutting edge," I bore that in mind when it came time to do the next cover. The picture of President Weisshaupt on the cover of issue 76 is, consequently, the most "un" illustrative picture I've ever done in or on Cerebus, where I really allowed myself to go completely over the edge, not giving a moment’s thought to anatomy, but instead going for a completely dessicated, virtually inhuman picture which was all emotional content. All feel and no think. "Here" I was (in effect) saying to Ger: "Try making this one look normal." At which point even Gerhard got into the "out on the edge, Bill Sienkiewicz" spirit of the thing, not even trying to create the illusion of curvature on the spines of the books on the bookshelf, just drawing and colouring them as a stack of rectangles. Although the door is done with his usual exacting precision. As soon as the cover to issue 76 was separated, I had the three covers matted and framed together as a triptych, which is how I had conceived of them in the first place, even using Bill's distinctive "initials signature" (modifying the "B" into a "D"). 

Sunday 19 February 2012

The Heart Of Juliet Jones

The Complete Heart Of Juliet Jones
by Stan Drake & Elliot Caplin
Classic Comics Press

(from Glamourpuss #9, September 2009)
It was certainly a red letter day for me when the first volume of Classic Comics Press' The Heart Of Juliet Jones reprinting arrived. The only previous effort, from Arcadia Press in the late 1980s, petered out after three volumes or so. The reproduction runs hot and cold but even second generation Stan Drake is better than first generation most-anybody-else. I strongly urge anyone even remotely interested to get their local store to order a copy or go to Classic Comics Press and get it there. Apart from IDW's proposed Rip Kirby reprinting, this is the 'complete' series that that I'm looking forward to the most. Many thanks to Charles Pelto, publisher and editor, for this long-awaited dream come true.
Glamourpuss #9 (September 2009)
Art by Dave Sim (after Stan Drake)

Saturday 18 February 2012

Cerebus The Newsletter

A Moment of Cerebus is most definitely "standing on the shoulders" of several Cerebus enthusiasts and scholars. Most notable amongst them is Cerebus Fan Girl, Margaret Liss. Between maintaining her indispensable Cerebus Fan Girl web-site, blog, Cerebus-Wiki, and the co-moderating of the Cerebus Yahoo Group, Margaret also finds the time to edit and publish Cerebus The Newsletter. Our thanks to Margaret for kindly agreeing (and finding the time!) to answer a few questions about Cerebus The Newsletter, its history and her future plans for it.
A Moment Of Cerebus:
So Margaret, if somebody sends you $12 (plus p&p) for Cerebus The Newsletter #14-21, what can they expect to read, and looking back, what have been the highlights for you as editor/publisher?

Margaret Liss:
They can always expect a newsletter which is 24 pages filled with art, articles and essays about Cerebus created by Cerebus readers for other Cerebus readers. Some of those are comics which deal with the stories that Dave didn't tell - about Sir Gerrick's linage in Conspiracy by Jeff Tundis, Jaka's death in Laid to Rest by Paul Sloboda, an elderly Cerebus dreaming about his old life in Cerebus Reflection by Brian John Mitchell and Jason Young, et al. The essays range from Cerebus fans talking about how they came to read Cerebus and why they like the series so intensely to write an essay on it - these always fascinate me as every Cerebus reader comes to Cerebus with a different set of experiences and knowledge so every essay is unique and usually presents me with a fresh perspective on Cerebus - to articles on different themes or issues in the series itself to the different Cerebus  collectibles.

The highlight for me is receiving all these materials in and being able to see them before publication.

You weren't the first editor of Cerebus The Newsletter. Can you tell us a little about its history and how you became involved with it?

The first incarnation of Cerebus the Newsletter happened when Fred Patten answered the call published in Aardvark Comment in Cerebus #14: Aardvark-Vanaheim couldn't do it, so a Cerebus reader who had the time could start it themselves. Fred published the newsletter for just over a year with issues #1 (early 1981) to #5 (early 1982). Steve Hendricks was set to be the next editor/publisher and had issue #6 about ready to go when  Deni Loubert sent Steve a letter telling him that she was concerned about the financial strain the newsletter would entail on him. So Aardvark-Vanaheim published issues #6 through 13, when Dave ended it in October 1985.
In 2008 there was discussion on the Cerebus Yahoo! Group about having in depth discussions of different Cerebus items which would then be edited together for Following Cerebus. As the last issue of Following Cerebus had been published in November 2007 and at the time there was no confirmation from Craig Miller that our efforts would be published in an issue (he later stated that he would be inclined to publish it) - when I was asked what I thought of it in October 2008, I stated "I say we just do our own fanzine." In email discussions off the list later in 2008 with Jeff Tundis and Lenny Cooper, the other two moderators of the Cerebus Yahoo! Group, we discussed the possibility of getting some items together for such a fanzine to bring with us to the group's annual gathering at the SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics) convention in Columbus, Ohio in early 2009. Jeff suggested using the Cerebus the Newsletter name from the Friends of Cerebus fan club days. I contacted Fred Patten and Dave Sim and asked permission from both to use the name for our fanzine. Jeff Tundis created a bunch of items, from a comic to the cover to an article on "Collecting Cerebus". I also did some work for it, put it together and then published Cerebus the Newsletter #14 in April 2009, just in time for the SPACE convention.

You have a team of contributors working on Cerebus The Newsletter. Can you tell us a little about them and how you all got together on the project?

I asked for contributions via the Cerebus Yahoo! Group, on the Cerebus Facebook group and on my blog. Some of them have done mini-press / independent comics work and some are just fellow Cerebus readers - they all have one thing in common: they have been inspired by the series to create a piece of art or write an essay about it. I've only solicited a couple people for artwork - commissions of Cerebus that I've requested for my personal collection and decided to share with other Cerebus readers via the newsletter.

Anyone can contribute artwork and essays to me for inclusion in the newsletter. I can only offer my thanks and five comp copies to them in return as the newsletter is sold almost at cost.
Nothing can replace the thrill of receiving a package of ‘hardcopy’ magazines in the post. However, in this age of internet and instant blogs, what motivates you to invest your time and energy into publishing/editing a physical magazine?

While there are other online venues for myself and other Cerebus readers to publish their work, nothing beats holding your creation in your hands. And while the internet would appear to have no likelihood of disappearing anytime soon, websites do vanish and the "Wayback Machine" can't keep everything in the same original format. Also no special device is required for reading a hardcopy other then eyes and perhaps corrective lenses of some sort.

What plans do you have for Cerebus The Newsletter in 2012 and / or for you personally?

Hopefully more issues. At one point I was thinking of reprinting the first thirteen issues in a small volume via a POD publisher - as finding the issues are difficult and costly. As with the newsletters, I wouldn't do it for profit, but to widen the availability of the issues to those that couldn't get them the first time around and find them hard and expensive to collect now. Perhaps if I get some feedback on a reprint volume, I'll continue to pursue it.

How did you first discover Cerebus and at what point did you go beyond just being a casual reader to a more serious supporter, ultimately leading to your Cerebus-related web-site, blog and wiki?

I discovered Cerebus with issue #114, the cover of which drew me in and the story and art hooked me. For personal reasons I gave up Cerebus for a time in the Mothers & Daughters storyline, only to come back during Guys. At that time I had given up on the mainstream comics I had read since a kid, and in Cerebus I saw something more mature and meaningful then the X-Men and JLA comics I had read. A reread of the early issues confirmed that even while I had read some of those issue already, there was another level on which Cerebus could be read.

I was looking online for a checklist of Cerebus related items, and couldn't find one. All the Cerebus  websites I found were either not updated in a while or didn't have the information I was looking for. So I created a Cerebus checklist from other sources and what I had in my collection and what I could find on eBay and in comic stores. I added a links page to connect all the Cerebus websites I could find and organize them so one could find what they were looking for quickly. The site just grew from there either due to me not finding something on the internet and adding it to the site or another Cerebus  reader didn't have the time to keep up with their Cerebus website allowing me to bring it into the CFG site - for example, the owner of the original Dave Sim Notes From the President Memorial Archive, Barry Deutsch, allowed me to take over the DSNFPMA when that area of his site went offline. I kept adding to it and Dave and Ger saw fit to allow me to reprint different texts from the series on the website.

Do you know if Dave Sim has seen or read The Newsletter? Have you received any feedback from him, and how supportive is he of all your on-line efforts?

Dave is very supportive and I can't thank him enough for all that he has given to me - both knowledge wise and materials wise. Gerhard and Dave both have given permission for me to reprint the stories you see on the site and the likes of the Notes From The President among other essays by Dave. I have sent copies of every issue of the Newsletter to Dave and the feedback is positive. He also has mentioned the newsletter and myself on CerebusTV several times - nothing makes me get a bit fangirlish than to see this:
And finally, what comics are you reading at the moment and would recommend to a Cerebus fan?

I'm picking up Dave's Glamourpuss and Cerebus Archive. Cerebus Archive is a detailed look at the creation of Cerebus - not much actual Cerebus in it during the first year, but Dave is showing us what led up his self publishing Cerebus. He just got to his meeting with Deni Loubert and the creation of the logo for the ill-fated fanzine, Cerebus the Fanzine.

I'm currently reading Terry Moore's Rachel Rising and really enjoyed his recent series Echo as well. Which now that I think about it, Glamourpuss and Batwoman are the only ongoing series that I make a point of picking up when I remember to swing by a comic store. Most of the time I'm picking up trade paperbacks online: Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, Chiaroscuro by Troy Little and Life With Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier are a few that jump to mind.

You can read more about the history behind Cerebus The Newsletter at Friends Of Cerebus and be sure to order your copies of Cerebus The Newsletter #14-21 from Margaret.

Friday 17 February 2012

The Wrong Thing

The Beavers (Quack #4, Star*Reach Productions, 1977)
Art by Dave Sim

(from page 58, The Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing, 2010)
This is a tough point to understand. It is possible to work for two years on something (I did a weekly strip for two years before I did Cerebus) and have it be the wrong thing. If it's the wrong thing, nothing will happen, no matter if you get a Xeric grant and a circulation of 20,000 copies. If there's something in the back of your head that keeps gnawing at you while you're developing one story, start putting the one that's gnawing at you down on paper. I was convinced that I was either a newspaper-strip artist, a political cartoonist, or a short story comic-book writer/artist through most of the 1970s. Then I decided I was an inker. Early on I decided I was a Playboy cartoonist because they paid several thousand dollars for one cartoon and that sounded good to me. Cover all of my expenses with one cartoon and then do whatever else I wanted with the rest of the month.

The key was that I was trying all of the options that were out there. I pursued each of them with great determination. I never quit on anything. But nothing "happened". At any point, I could have been working on a super-hero series I created for a publisher (Revolt 3000) or drawing and lettering a story from someone else’s script (Phantacea) or doing political cartoons for the local paper. In each of those cases, it went for a little while and then it died, usually in a period of a few months. Each thing told me, "Well, I guess that wasn't it." The difference with writing and drawing and self-publishing Cerebus was overwhelming. Things got in the way, but I could go over, around, or through them. That’s what told me that Cerebus was "it".

You can find out more about Dave Sim's pre-Cerebus career in the bi-monthly magazine, Cerebus Archive - back issues are always available from ComiXpress.

Thursday 16 February 2012

New Gerhard Website!

Visit the Gerhard's brand new website at

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Out Now: Glamourpuss #23

Glamourpuss #23 (January 2012)
Art by Dave Sim

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

Glamourpuss #23 is available to buy from your local comic shop
Back-issues of Glamourpuss are always available from ComiXpress.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

A Difficult Interview

Illustration in The Comics Journal 130 (July 1989)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 13, 28 January 2012)
...I gotta tell you, most of the time when you hear that someone is a difficult interview it just means that they’re not playing badminton with you. You know, "You lob it over the net and I’ll lob it back at you." It’s "I’m gonna answer your question exactly the way it occurs to me to answer it right away." I’ve done that on occasion and its usually just, "Hey, this is gonna go like a 'for real' conversation. I’m not going to play babminton with you."

...It may be a bad analogy, but I remember Dan Vado, years before Slave Labor Graphics, telling me was going through a time period in his life where he couldn’t get laid walking through a red light district with a $100 bill taped to his forehead. In an analogous sense, every comic book artist goes through periods – sometimes months, sometimes years – where its like "You say that I’m in demand... that’s great, but believe me my phone ain’t ringing off the hook and I ain’t getting a lot of emails" ...something comes along eventually, it always does if you just keep working, but no, not unusual in the least. But if somebody asks you "What is it like to be in demand?" when you’re going through a stretch where that’s not the case, that's exactly the reaction you get out of me... "It’s news to me!"

...ask me about Cerebus and High Society, that’s fine... but [sarcastically] don’t ask me about Glamourpuss and ask me to name my top 10 favourite photo-realists in the comics field and then ask me about High Society. It’s like "Oh man, we’re not going back to that are we?" It doesn’t matter who you are as an artist, what you want to talk about is the latest thing, not something you did 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, or – for some of us getting really long in the tooth – like 30 years ago. It doesn’t mean we’re a difficult interview, it means we don’t like getting conversational whiplash. "WHOAH!" You see what I’m saying?

...and definitely, definitely, you don’t want to say, "Are you doing anything else?" If I tell you, "I'm doing Glamourpuss, Cerebus Archive and Cerebus TV. It's eating my life. I work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week," please don’t make it sound as if that’s not enough! As if I should be saying "Oh, on the side I’m about half way through adapting War and Peace, but I’m doing it with turtles, its kind of a Kevin Eastman-Pete Laird kinda treatment!"

Monday 13 February 2012

Love Struck In The Rain

Images Of Omaha #2 (Kitchen Sink Press, 1992)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Between 1984 and 1995 artist Reed Waller and writer Kate Worley produced 24 issues of the erotic anthropomorphic comic Omaha The Cat Dancer. In 1991, Reed was diagnosed with colon cancer. His fellow comics pros - including some of the best-known comics artists and writers in the world - stepped up and contributed art and stories to the two-part benefit comic Images of Omaha. The outpouring of affection and respect by professionals and fans alike made Images of Omaha a success, defraying Reed’s considerable medical expenses. When those expensive procedures saved his life, it was a double victory for all. Omaha ceased publication in 1995 as the creators went their separate ways. Ostensibly retired from comics, Reed never completely left the world of Omaha behind, however; fan demand kept him busy turning out sketches and finished drawings of his beloved characters ever since the series ended. In 2003, Reed and Kate agreed to complete the story of Omaha. Kate's death in 2004 was a blow on both professional and personal levels. But - now collaborating with her husband James Vance, who is editing and fleshing out Kate's scripts for the final chapters - Reed returned to his critically acclaimed and sorely missed masterpiece, Omaha The Cat Dancer. Between 2005 and 2008, NBM Publishing published seven volumes of the The Complete Omaha The Cat Dancer. For all the latest Omaha news visit the official Omaha The Cat Dancer web-site.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Free Speeches

Illustration from Free Speeches, Oni Press (1998)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Free Speeches, Oni Press, 1998)
If we are to be a free people and if we are to set ourselves apart from those who practice and advocate suppression, censorship, the imposition of one person or group's sensibilities upon another, then we must adhere to the absolutism of our position. If the forces which are interested in suppressing or labeling or sequestering Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell are to be kept at bay, we must resist efforts along the same lines with a work like A Taste Of Cherry in Verotika #4... To give censors an inch on Verotika is to invite them to take a mile - and within the confines of that mile might well exist From Hell, Sandman, Stray Bullets, Love & Rockets - perhaps even Spiegelman's Maus or Eisner's Dropsie Avenue.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Dear Mr Mauldin

Willie & Joe (Cerebus #295, October 2003)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from a letter to Bill Mauldin in The Last Annotations, Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day, 2004)

Dear Mr Mauldin,
A recent issue of the Comics Buyer's Guide mentioned that you had had a run of bad luck lately with your health and that you might appreciate hearing from any army veterans and admirers of your work. I regret to say that I am not a veteran, but rather one of the very fortunate beneficiaries of the "blood, sweat and tears" which you and your generation so willingly gave on our behalf. So, first of all, thank you for that.

Second of all, I am very much an admirer of your work, as is my Uncle Vic, and my dad, Ken Sim. The first time I saw your Willie and Joe cartoons, it would have been in the hard-cover collection Up Front, which my uncle always had, ready-to-hand, in his bookshelf. I don't remember exactly the first time I saw your work, but - as was mentioned by you as a common occurrence in an old interview excerpted in the CBG article - I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts that it began with my uncle and my father at the dining room table quoting cations of Willie and Joe cartoons to each other and busting up laughing. Any occasion for a boy when he sees his father bust up laughing (as long as it isn't at the boy himself) is sure to excite a level of interest. Curious as to where my father would have first seen the Willie and Joe cartoons (like myself he is a beneficiary of the sacrifices of veterans but not a veteran himself), I phoned him yesterday. He knew right away, that the first time that he had read Up Front would've been a copy that he got from the Book of the Month club shortly after he and my mother were married (which puts it at 1951 or shortly thereafter)... Anyway, once I had explained to Dad the reason that I was asking about his personal history with Up Front (and once he had ascertained that I wasn't harbouring any delusions that I was going to get his copy. I am blood of his blood and flesh of his flesh, but there are - as I well understand - limits to these things), he then remarked that he and Uncle Vic know the Willie and Joe cartoons just from their captions. "Ord'nance? Ahm havin' trouble with mah shootin' arn," He said.

...I phoned my Uncle Vic this morning to get his recollections of Up Front... [and he] reminded me of your later career as a political cartoonist and that your cartoons would often turn up in Time magazine and other places illustrating articles on current events. Like most people I thought you deserved a Pulitzer Prize for your cartoon on the occasion of JFK's assassination depicting the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial weeping.

...the Willie and Joe cartoons still hold up as tip-top examples of the cartoonist's craft more than half a century later. Great composition, great expression, great body language, great execution, buoyant spontaneous brush strokes, spotting of blacks. I'll stop now before I start sporting a beret and a pointy little goatee. But to say the least, you always made the most difficult parts of cartooning look easy... If even a handful of my own readers still find my own work half so memorable decades after I have at last put down my pen and brush, I will count myself fortunate, indeed. To use the phrase which always denoted my father's highest accolade, Mr Mauldin, "Y'done good."

Hope you are feeling better soon.
Dave Sim

(from the biography posted on Bill
Bill Mauldin retired from cartooning in 1991 after an injury to his drawing hand. Stricken by Alzheimer’s disease, he entered a nursing home in 2002 . In the months before he died, old veterans and their relatives sent him over 10,000 cards and letters They thanked him for keeping their humanity alive during that most savage of wars. These tributes, more than any honor or award, rank Bill Mauldin as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. Bill Mauldin died on January 22, 2003. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Up Front by Bill Mauldin was originally published in 1945 and is one of the most famous books to emerge from World War II. In a text generously illustrated with a selection of his Willie & Joe cartoons, he describes his time serving with the 45th Infantry Division and other outfits during World War II. He received the purple heart for wounds received in Italy, where he created the majority of his Willie & Joe cartoons. Up Front remains in print and is widely available to this day.

Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front is the biography written by Todd DePastino, which was published by WW Norton in 2008. You can read a fascinating in-depth interview with Todd at The Comics Reporter, in which he discusses the impact learning about Bill Mauldin's life has had on his own.

Two collections of Willie & Joe cartoons, The WWII Years and Back Home (both edited by Todd DePastino) are currently available from Fantagraphics Books.

Friday 10 February 2012

Now I’ll Ask You One... With Jimmy Gownley

Amelia Rules!, Cerebus Governs (Reconsiders?) (2011)
Art by Jimmy Gownley & Dave Sim
Between 14 March to 26 March 2011, Dave Sim entered into a 'Now I'll Ask You One' conversation with the writer/artist of Amelia Rules!, Jimmy Gownley. The complete conversation is available to read on Jimmy Gownley’s Facebook page (head down to the 14 March 2011 blog post... but you'll need to be a registered Facebook user to read it), or you can read the first 6 parts (up to 18 March) on Jimmy's web-blog (...guess he just forgot to post the rest of it there!). Here are some highlights from the conversation:

On Promoting Other Comics (15 March 2011):
Of all the comics that I’ve promoted over the years only a handful were successful. Just because I like it doesn't mean it will sell. Just because I don't think there’s a market for it doesn’t mean there isn't. At the time I would have given B. C. Boyer's Hilly Rose the edge over Bone by a wide margin.

On Cerebus Reaching #300 (16 March 2011):
The mental image I had was of walking along an elevated sidewalk for 26 years... My job was to keep from walking off the sidewalk and plunging to my death, so I was very aware of where the edge of the side walk was and who or what in my life (not naming any names) was trying to push me off the sidewalk. "Hmm. I'm not in the middle of the sidewalk anymore. I'm close to the edge. Why is that?" You develop a heightened sense of the internal (me and Cerebus) and the external (everyone else). And a very sharp awareness that no one perceives themselves as trying to push you off the sidewalk.

On Two Positive Aspects Of The Current Comics Environment (17 March 2011):
Web comics and print on demand... The low cost to actually build a website or get a computer geek friend to do it, the ability to publish 2 or 3 times a week (or, if you’re an over achiever like Danielle Corsetto [creator of Girls With Slingshots] FIVE days a week and sometimes on the weekends)... and Print On Demand lets you test a book for a low cost – print up a couple of hundred, get a table at a small press show and then, 9 times out of 10, die a slow death. But a slow death that's a learning experience.

On Not Archiving Cerebus TV Episodes On Youtube (18 March 2011):
...the Youtube model is pretty much universal - why don't you post all 63 episodes so people can download them like on Youtube? ...If you can download something any time, you take it for granted and your "default setting" is opting out. Who has the time to watch 36 hours of Cerebus TV? Therefore, I won’t watch any of it... The closer you are to broadcast and the further from universally available download the more visible you are. You can watch a Cerebus TV episode anytime in the release week and then you can't see it. You can only watch the new one.

On His Motivation For Glamourpuss (20 March 2011):
...the Alex Raymond/Stan Drake narrative was intended from the beginning. The idea was that I would teach myself the photorealism newspaper strip riffs over the course of the first year and, presumably, be good enough at them to do a creditable job when the time came sometime around the beginning of year three. I'm getting there, but I'm no where near being in those guys' leagues. You really need to do over 300 strips a year to start having really brilliant stuff coming out. My work is too laborious. And I'm 54. I’m at the end or close to the end of my career not at the peak. Whether or not I do another narrative depends on what I find when I research the other photorealists, but I don't imagine there are many - if any - September 6, 1956 stories [the day Alex Raymond died in a car crash].

On Promoting Self-Publishing (21 March 2011):
What I was hoping to accomplish with the Spirits [of Independence] stops was to prove that all cartoonists could self-publish... so, no, it wasn't successful since it showed that very few cartoonists could self-publish and - even worse - even fewer were interested in self-publishing. For most cartoonists it was a stepping stone to something else. Self-publishing wasn't a destination it was a departure lounge.

On Productivity (22 March 2011):
It's one of the reasons that I’m so drawn to Rip Kirby and The Heart Of Juiliet Jones and Al Williamson’s work on Secret Agent X-9. These guys were forced to be very productive just by virtue of what they were doing so there's this exponential improvement, a high water mark that they hit and then hold. I think Gerhard and I did that on Cerebus. For me, the book got better and better because we worked very hard and there was no let up. As I mentioned on one of the Cerebus TV episodes, Gerhard would get page 20 done and tell me. I'd put down what I was working on and go over and look at the finished issue for about 10 seconds and then say, "Okay, take it down." And he'd take it down and get it ready to ship to Preney. That was pretty much our monthly victory lap.

On Committing To 300 Issues Of Cerebus For 26 years (24 March 2011):
There's really nothing that remotely compares to it creatively. Most people will never experience that. I traded virtually everything else in my life for Cerebus and I definitely think I came out ahead on the deal. Well ahead. If no one else ever gets to experience it, well, you can't miss what you never had.

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

Thursday 9 February 2012

Amazing Hero

Cover detail, Amazing Heroes #201 (May 1992)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the introduction to an interview with Dave Sim in Amazing Heroes #201, May 1992)
The first issue of Cerebus came out in December, 1977. The artist, writer and publisher of that comic was Dave Sim. The comic was in black and white. All of those facts made it unique then, as did Cerebus' storyline - he was a three foot tall gray aardvark in a medieval land full of humans.

As I write this it's February, 1992. Cerebus #154 is sitting on my kitchen table. The book is still pencilled, written and published by Dave Sim, now with the assistance of Gerhard. Compare that record with the record of Spectacular Spider-Man, which premiered at around the same time but which has literally hundreds of creators work on it, though still published by Marvel.

In those 154 issues, Cerebus has been a barbarian, kitchen staff supervisor, Prime Minister, ex-Prime Minister, husband, Prime Minister again, Pope and houseguest. Spider-Man, in contrast, is still that crime fighter with the webs.

The fifth Cerebus novel, Mothers & Daughters, has recently begun. The previous novels, High Society, Church & State, Jaka's Story and Melmoth, have explored such weighty topics as politics, organised religion, power, love and death. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man still just fights the good fight against evil-doers.

All of this description makes the book sound serious and weighty. At times it is. I'd put the ending of Jaka's Story up against Shakespeare in terms of its tragedy. But the series is also often quite hilarious. I'd put the scenes in High Society with Lord Julius (a Groucho Marx character), Duke Leonardi (a Chico Marx character) and Cerebus up against Monty Python or the Marx Brothers in terms of uproariousness.

In a comics world of hologram covers, short-lived hot artists with limited talents, silly crossover stories and tacky attempts at realism, Sim continues to present his complex, fascinating comic every month. He's even announced he'll be doing the book until it ends with issue 300. Eight years ago that sounded like a joke. Now it sounds like fact.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Rip Kirby Vol 4

Rip Kirby: The First Modern Detective
The Complete Comic Strips Volume 4: 1954 1956
$49.99, IDW Publishing, 2011
by Alex Raymond

(from Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 13, 28 January 2012)
I'm recording this on Christmas Eve and I gotta tell you folks, its a very merry Christmas here at the off-White House, because I just got in Rip Kirby Volume 4 1954-56 and it's a jaw-dropper. "It's all good" as they say... no scratch that, "It's all amazing!" ...Alex Raymond just got better and better over the last three years of his life, which is what we’re looking at. All of it printed from syndicate proofs. If you’re only going to have one volume of Rip Kirby in your collection, I would definitely recommend that this be the one. The really good news is that IDW is obviously working in close co-operation with Heritage Auctions and is making use of their high quality scans of the original artwork that they have auctioned over the years on Rip Kirby. Look at the lines on that mail box. Look at those lines on those car headlights. Look at the detailed fine-lined brush-inking on the lurking thug. When its a 100%, which it is on so many pages in this volume, it is a thing of beauty.
Rip Kirby concept sketches (Glamourpuss #2, July 2008)
Art by Dave Sim (after Alex Raymond)

Rip Kirby Vol 4 is available from IDW Publishing.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Pressing Problems Of The Day

Cerebus #143, February 1991
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Note From The President, Cerebus #142, January 1991)
Fellow wrote and asked me a while ago why it is that I never address the "pressing problems of the day". Probably because I don't see them as problems. Most of them are just opposing quirks (ie. we say that unemployment is a problem at the same time we are replacing people with machines; we say overpopulation is a problem but we let anyone who wants to have a baby). With opposing quirks all you can do is shrug and soldier on as best you can.

We're afraid of death which is a lot like being afraid of exhaling or falling asleep. You will breath. You will fall asleep. You will die. We've eliminated or curtailed virtually every known cause of death. 'Cancer can be beaten' but death is still inevitable. Do you know anyone on the planet we can't do without? There isn't anyone. We are all perfectly expendable. The last one you could even make a case for was Albert Einstein, and after E=MC2 we'd already gotten out of him the best that he had to offer. If all the AIDS patients died tomorrow there wouldn't even be a hiccup in the history books. If all the people with blue eyes died tomorrow we'd still be drastically overpopulated. I love, by the way, the Anarcho-witch-feminist argument against overpopulation; that if everyone in the world turned 'vegomatic' tomorrow we could support ten times the population we have now. I swear those broads won't be happy until the whole planet looks like one big Woodstock festival (minus any music or loud talking for fear we'll "wake the babies").

Check the news, man. Any night. "Twenty die in India bus catastrophe." Twenty people. Like, we won't somehow muddle along without twenty Indians ...or Mexicans ...or Canadians ...or Germans. Where is our fucking sense of proportion? Scour a globe with 5.3 BILLION inhabitants and the best you can turn up is twenty dead. If everyone lined up on the Saudi border died in the first day of fighting it would still only be a drop in the bucket. One million dead. Two million.

Childbirth is not a miracle. Life is not sacred. When you have twenty-thousand nomads huddled between two rivers in the Middle East and that's it for Homo sapiens; when one in five children is a live birth, one in ten living past the age of ten, then childbirth is a miracle and life is sacred. When the average age of a grandmother in Philadelphia's housing projects is twenty-five, to call childbirth a miracle is at the least a tasteless joke and at worst a true obscenity. 

We can feel the pressure building when we dare to look at it. "All you need is love" must have tickled Thanatos to his ice-cold, moss-covered, maggot-ridden heart. We find ourselves in a "Life Out of Balance" circumstance of boggling proportions. If there is transmigration of souls, everyone who ever lived on this planet ever is back here right now. Death is not fooled. We haven't eliminated Him. He is very, very, very, very, patient.

You know what I think happens when the last soul emerges again from some goo-gooing, placid, beatific anarcho-witch-vegetarian so that there's no more souls to draw on? I think its happened before in the distant past. Several times. On that day (I believe) we can all go out to the graveyard and watch the gray blue fingers pushing up through the sod; coming for us; for all of us. I think that's where those stories come from; and they only become popular when the time is near. Very near.

"Pressing problems of the day".

"Newspaper, radio and TV ga-ga", because nobody will just buy the advertising.

Ah, I probably don't believe half of that. The other half is still worth thinking about, though. Don't you think?