Sunday 15 April 2012

Bill Marks & Seth

Cerebus #92, November 1986
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the Eddie Campbell Blogspot, 4 August 2011)
I didn't pay much attention to Sim's Cerebus for a long time, until the mid-'80s when I noticed that it was cut from quite a different cloth from the others... It would be wrong to say that it didn't take itself seriously, more correct to say that Sim didn't see taking things seriously as being at odds with having Groucho Marx shuffling around in there, or Mick and Keef from the Rolling Stones. In the genre of high fantasy, this would normally be felt to have broken the spell somewhat. Our consumer culture conventionally wants its fiction in general and its fantasy in particular to come packaged along with all the stuff for putting it together, like IKEA furniture. But with Cerebus I looked for issues in which actual people were hauled in. And it was to play their own part and not that of a character. I always felt that Sim saw in a person a way of diverting the thrust of his story rather than fitting in by way of an inoffensive cameo. An early favourite of mine was issue #92 (November 1986) which had a caricature of the comicbook publisher Bill Marx, with whose imprint there was a possibility of me getting involved. Reading an issue of Cerebus is certainly no way of giving a person an audtion, but I just had to look.

...Caricature is one of the foundational cartoon skills. Sim presumably studied the work of Mort Drucker in Mad, but until Sim, nobody had integrated caricature into a narrative so well since the great Walt Kelly in Pogo. (in this case however, he obviously didn't know that Seth was going places or he'd have paid more attention to the face than the voice).
Cerebus #92, November 1986
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Note From The President, Cerebus #92, November 1986)
The springboard for this story-line was a dinner that I enjoyed, courtesy of Harry, at the Now & Then Books 15th Anniversary party. Also in attendance and seated directly opposite were Seth and Bill Marks of Toronto's Vortex Comics artist and publisher of Mister X respectively. There was this Leo Gorcey voice (Bugs Bunny to the age-impaired among you) that Ger and Bill and I fell into when discussing Bill's attitude towards creative people (like Los Bros. Hernandez whom he still owes considerable sums of money to for their work on Mr. X).

"Say I know! I'll git an ottist. Dat's it. Yeah. An ottist. I'll let him have all de fame an' I'll take all de money. Dat should woik. Ottist's is so stupid."

Having rattled your cages repeatedly on the subject of criminal exploitation of creative people by business people you might find it odd that I think there is anything funny about this. But the difference is what I find funny. Bill Marks makes no pretense of being a den mother (a la Diana Schutz, Cat Yronwode) or father-figure (a la Richard Pini). He is a hustler. But he is honest about it. Shameless, but very very funny.

...I don't recall hearing Seth say more than five words so I had to improvise his voice. I decided to use Diana Schutz's.
Cerebus #92, November 1986
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

1 comment:

Eric Hoffman said...

Funny, I was just thinking about this scene with Bill Marks and Seth and wished I had commented on it in Barbarian Messiah. It's one of Sim's more memorable commentaries on the conflicting interest and publishers and, let it be said, damned hilarious to boot.