Thursday 31 January 2013

Comic Arts Patrons #15-20

(Click Image To Enlarge)
This really came about because of discussions between Lon Allen at Heritage Auctions -- an early signatory of the petition -- and myself on ways we might acknowledge the valuable contribution that comic art patrons -- make that Comic Art Patrons -- make to the economic well-being of the comics field.  I asked how much of a 'firewall' there was between Heritage and their buyers. Could I, as an example, do a drawing of Cerebus for their top fifty or top 100 buyers and have it forwarded to them? Could I get just their first names to personalize it to them? It had never come up before so there were discussions at the executive level. They decided that No, even giving out the first name would be a bad idea since it might lead the buyer to wonder what other information they had given out. Good point. But they did agree that they would forward the drawings. Lon and I discussed how many drawings I should do and he suggested probably not more than twenty. So that became the number. Which moved it, in my own mind, from a head sketch to a more finished piece. I basically took some of the illustration board scrap that I get with the pages I get cut (it's $15 a sheet so that should probably be 'scrap' in quotation marks) and I did 'No.20'. I was smart enough to know to work backwards, lest I go 'No.10 -- that's enough for me.'

No.20 was done in May 2012 and then Kickstarter took off which devoured the next four months of my life. In the interim I had decided to do the pieces in tiers. No.15 to No.20 at one size and No. 10 to No.14 at a slightly larger size, No.6 to No.9 at a slightly larger size, Nos. 2 to 5 at a slightly larger size and then No.1 significantly larger.

It was one of those projects that just telescopes on me. It seems like I'm never going to get done. Then I had to get 'montage' prints of all 20 so each recipient could see what all the others looked like. I was very glad when they were all finally 'out the door' on November 9th.

I was afraid that the 2011 date was in danger of being two years past by the time they got them!

I also decided to try selling a few pages of HIGH SOCIETY through Heritage as THE HIGH SOCIETY COLLECTION in their February auction catalogue. Hopefully one or two of the twenty will be interested in putting in a bid on one of the pages -- including the splashes for No.44, No.36, page 20 of issue 35 (with Cerebus changing into his candidate suit for the first time) and the 'Cerebus takes a thoughtful sip from his fingerbowl" page from No.26. Lon said he's sure all 20 would have heard of me and CEREBUS. We'll see.

Own a piece of Cerebus! Dave Sim is auctioning 10 pages of High Society original art at Heritage Auctions. Internet bids can be placed until 21 February, or you can bid in person at the live auction held in the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, 2 East 79th Street, New York on 22 February.  The pages being auctioned are:
(Click Image To Enlarge)

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Gene Day: In His Own Words

Shang-Chi Pin-Up (Marvel Fanfare #25, March 1986)
Art by Dave Sim
(from 'Gene Day: In His Own Words', 1981)
...I don't like doing character design, so that sort of puts me in awe of doing new characters. I'd never done any character design up until I started on Kung Fu. Number 107 is the first villain I ever drew in my life. I just don't do that kind of thing. But it's always nice to get a piece of the action. On the whole, if I'm working on something like Shang-Chi or something, no, of course not, because I didn't come up with it. It wouldn't say so. I wouldn't say it means that much to me. My home is the house that Marvel built. It's their money that gives me all the pleasures in life that I have now. Before them I didn't have too much. Everybody runs around thinking that every character they come up with is going to be worth a mint, and nine out of ten times, the character is worth a dime and a doughnut. Once you're hired to do it, my only advice would be that you'd better do it to the absolute best of your capabilities. You know, there'd be no point in cutting back on the quality of your work simply because you don't own it. It's not going to do you any good.

I'll tell you what the biggest problem is: Wanting to do your best but not having the time to do it. Theoretically, it takes about two weeks (to produce a book). That's the pencils. Maybe two weeks, but it never works out that way. I'm always late with my pencils, I'm slow at them, and I always seem to get the dead-end jobs, the tight jobs, with inks. The last day I had off, really physically had off, was last Christmas. If it's near the first and its not too pressing, (I’ll work from) probably around eight am to ten pm...

Howard Eugene Day (1951-1982) was the Canadian comic book artist best known for Marvel Comics' Master of Kung Fu and its Star Wars licensed series. Dave Sim credits Gene as his earliest and most influential mentor and the inspiration for his own self-publishing efforts. From 1985 to 1986, Deni Loubert's Renegade Press published four issues of Gene Day's Black Zeppelin, an anthology series primarily featuring stories and painted covers Day completed before his death of a coronary on 23 September 1982. From 2002-2006, Dave Sim and Gerhard created The Day Prize, an annual award given to a comic creator chosen by them from the exhibitors at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) held in Columbus, Ohio. In February 2009, the Shuster Awards received permission from Gene Day's widow, Gale, and brothers to name the annual Gene Day Award For Self-Publishing in his memory. Gene was inducted into the Shuster Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Poly-Bagged, Gold Logo & Hologram Card

Unused cover for the 'poly-bagged, gold logo, hologram card' Cerebus Number Zero (1993)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Monday 28 January 2013

The Diamondback Turtle

Cerebus & The Diamondback Turtle (1992)
Art by Dave Sim
This is the original art for an illustration of Cerebus the Aardvark talking to the University of Maryland's mascot, the Diamondback Turtle. It is signed "for Diamondback", which is the name of UM's student newspaper, as well as a fictional card game invented by Sim for Cerebus. The art measures 13.5" x 11.5", with slight blunting at the corners, and a noticeable crease in the lower left corner. Otherwise, this piece is in excellent condition.

Sunday 27 January 2013

What's With Those Glamourpuss Covers?

Glamourpuss #18 and #20 (March and July 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
(from the editorial, Glamourpuss #3, September 2008)
A lot of people have asked glamourpuss, "Why do the models on the covers have their eyes crossed and their tongues sticking out?"

(BTW, no one actually asked glamourpuss that. No one has actually asked glamourpuss anything about this stupid magazine. Better start faking some enthusiasm people. If glamourpuss walks, her alimony cheques are going with her and this funnybook is toast. Word -- as glamourpuss' Obama-supporter friends put it.)

For years, when glamourpuss has been reading her fashion magazines (twenty subscriptions and still climbing!) she'd see how thin the models were, how beautifully the clothes fit them, that the clothes had no stains on them or dropped or pulled threads or tears, that the clothes were brand new, beautifully colour-coordinated and the whole time glamourpuss was oogling the clothing, glamourpuss would have a sudden overwhelming feeling that the model was making a face at her ("Nyah, nyah! I'm thinner and more beautiful than you are and so are my clothes.") Even when glamourpuss would look back up the page at the models face and see her ordinary model face (bored usually avec "You want acting, honey, you pay for acting: for $50k an hour all you get is clean hair, 'tude and that's it.") as soon as glamourpuss looked away she was sure the model was making a face at her again.

Dr Norm once asked glamourpuss why she though that was.

Isn't it obvious? (glamourpuss replied, wondering not for the first time why she was paying this much an hour to someone so inutterably clueless) If glamourpuss was that thin, that beautiful and that well dressed, glamourpuss would be mentally crossing her eyes and sticking her tongue out at every woman who looked at her, aussi!

Glamourpuss (assisted by Dave Slim) published 26 issues of the Glamourpuss magazine between April 2008 and July 2012.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Larry Marder: Nexus Of All Comic Book Realities

Backcover, Cerebus #167 (February1993)
(from '20 Years of Cerebus', Feature #4, 1997)
Once upon a time, long, long ago, I was pawing my way through a box labelled "Underground" at a neighborhood comics shop in Chicago. Not too long before this, I discovered Elf Quest in the same store, in the very same box. So with a long shot hope, I was again looking through this "Underground" box hoping that lightening might strike twice. I was lucky. I did. I scored a Cerebus #10. I took it home and was immediately hooked. It quickly became one of my favourite comics.

Because during this time, Dave was actively creating a cult, not just around his book but himself also, I naturally wanted to meet him. And sure enough, he was listed as a guest at the Chicago Comicon (the year escapes me at the moment - but it was the year the fire marshall shut the place down because of the Dr. Who fans) and I was one of the fans milling around outside the hotel dumbfounded that I couldn't get in. I did manage to sneak in the next day, but the table that had Dave's name on it stayed empty the few hours I was at the show. "Oh well. Just wasn't meant to be," I shrugged.

Fast forward a few years to Easter weekend 1984, the place Oakland, California. The event - Petunia Con. A gathering "Dedicated to Cerebus and all things Independent" This small event looms so large in the history of alternative comics that it is slipping into the realm of myth but it was the place where my project, Beanworld, was discovered. It's also where I finally met Dave Sim. I'm pretty sure Dave didn't know who I was (or was trying to be) beyond being a letterhack when he invited me (and my not-yet-then wife) Cory to come to his suite where the party for Guests was to be. (I wasn't a guest - I was an attendee). Well, I went in the door to his room to wide-eyed fan and I left MANY hours later... something more. For all intents and purposes that was the moment when I realised that after all of these years of struggling with Beanworld that I was "in" and Dave Sim had been one of the few that had held open the door.

My path crossed his on a few occasions over the next 7 or 8 years, most memorably at the 1986 San Diego Comic Con and the 1988 Creators Bill Of Rights Summit Conference. I remember being really quite during most of it, watching Dave and Scott McCloud debate their opinions over creators rights. I didn't speak until the second part of the Summit - the part no one ever talks about or even remembers. The discussion about distribution and marketing. Advertising was my career then and an area where I considered myself the most informed person in the room. I talked about the philosophy of advertising a little and that was about it.

Flash forward to to 1991. I'm working at Moondog's in Chicago as Marketing Manager. Dave decided to do a tour in 1992 and called me out the clear blue sky. He said he remembered some of the things I had said about advertising and asked if I would consider helping him market his upcoming tour. It was a great moment in my life, an opportunity to repay my debt to him for blazing trails with Cerebus and providing a map that Beanworld and so many other books had later followed.

Our professional and personal relationship really grew from there. Oh sure, there have been ups and downs, and the fact that four years after I came to Image Comics that we are still speaking to each other is an amazing testament for our personal relationship in and of itself!

I love talking to Dave. Sometimes I'm sure he's crazy as a loon, but he's always as wise as an owl and sly as a fox. His keen questions and biting asides have always kept me grounded during my sometimes-flighty Image career. The influence that Dave Sim has had on me, first professionally and then personally over the years is impossible to measure.

I'd like to finish by saying, I think he is doing the best work of his career right now.

Larry Marder is best known as the creator of the comic-book Tales Of The Beanworld. Between 1993 and 2007 he served as Executive Director of Image Comics and President of McFarlane Toys, only to return to the Beanworld, after a decade-and-a-half's hiatus.

Friday 25 January 2013


Star*Reach (1974-1979)
Covers by Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin and Frank Brunner
(from a letter to Scott Berwanger, 23 February 2004, reprinted in 'Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004')
I'm afraid I had to laugh when you accused me of taking an arrogant approach with Cerebus... I can understand why you would see me as arrogant. Part of that happens when you have lived with that sharpened focus for as many years as I have is that you get used to telling people what it is that you see, without running it through "society check" first. Again, I think this was part of my job description: because I didn't have editors or advertisers telling me what I could or couldn't say, I seemed obligated to tack as close to the truth (as my perception of it coalesced) as I could. My creative freedom had to be used to say what I saw the creatively "unfree" not being able to say. If I shied away from it, I would be as much as admitting that creative freedom was unnecessary (which, you may or may not recall, was actually a theme that was debated in the comic-book field back in the 70s when Star*Reach and those "ground level" comics were coming out - why is it that when anyone in mainstream comics is given creative freedom, they end up just doing the same thing they're doing in the mainstream, only the girls are topless?) that it was a central part of human nature to shy away from subject matter. I hadn't realised the deep doo-doo you get in by taking the contrary view: that creative freedom has to count for something, that there are things worth doing in print that haven't been done and won't be done in the mainstream. And actually I resisted the anti-feminism thing as long as I could, until I started seeing feminism creeping in everywhere (in the sense of idealised unrealistic portrayals of women as opposed to what I saw as their actual value in society). At that point I had to face the fact that I either had to tackle it and suffer the consequences or accept the fact that I was shying away from the largest thing that I could use my creative freedom to address (the largest until I read the Bible and the Koran, anyway). Yes, sure. That's going to be seen as arrogant in certain quarters.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Steve Peters: A Cerebus Reader In Crisis

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #4 (2009)
Cover art by Dave Sim with Steve Peters
The main feature of this issue is a story by me, entitled "Me Vs. Dave Sim"; it is the story of how I began corresponding with Dave Sim in the early '90′s, and how we had a disastrous falling-out a few years later.

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #4 is available from Effing Magnifier Publishing and you can read a preview here.

Elizabeth Bardawill: A Cerebus Reader In Crisis

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #3 (2008)
Cover art by Dave Sim
My portrait is on the front. Dave did a really nice rendering of me and I actually was able to use my rusty graphic arts skills in assembling the digital art for the cover. PLEASE NOTE: No, my nose isn't really that perky, but I'm not complaining and yes, I squeed like a 15 year old fangirl when I got it in the mail.

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #3 featuring an 8-page comic by Elizabeth Bardawill is published by Effing Magnifier Publishing.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Billy Beach: A Cerebus Reader In Crisis

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #2 (2007)
Cover art by Dave Sim
(from the HARDtalk Virtual Tour at Terminal Drift, 4 October 2012)
...The last vacation I took was when Cerebus ended and I flew to Italy to stay with Billy Beach and his wife and two kids. Billy also signed the petition. I LIVE in absolute and total peace and quiet so a good vacation is a that non-stop family thing. Don't worry about making conversation, you'll be lucky if anyone can HEAR you most of the time. What are they doing now? Screaming their heads off. Aren't you, like, worried? Shouldn't we see what they're doing? Oh, no, that's just "doing gymnastics on the living room furniture" screaming. A nuance with which I am, to say the least, wholly unfamiliar...

I suppose my intended theme for the work has to do with the way that Dave and I perceive warnings differently. He perceived a warning in the mishaps of his journey, while I doubted those events were really any kind of warning at all. On the other hand my internal warning system or conscience is more finely tuned to highlight what I view as participation in any kind of pagan worship, while it seemed to me that Dave's conscience was not then affected by those considerations. So, Dave's negative vibe of the journey from Canada is juxtaposed against my negative vibe of the visit to Loreto. I don't know how well that theme is expressed in the comic; probably not very well. You'll have to evaluate that for yourself.

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #2 is published by Effing Magnifier Publishing and is available from Cerebus Fan Girl.

Jeff Seiler: A Cerebus Reader In Crisis

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #1 (2006)
Cover art by Jeff Seiler
Cerebus Readers In Crisis #1 is based on a true story, as told by Larry Hart, that happened to Jeff Seiler when he went to south Texas to work his summer, non-teaching job in 2005. This comic was written by Jeff Seiler and penciled and inked by Larry Hart.  Jeff Seiler did the cover art, which was computer colorized by Jeff Tundis. Dave Sim contributed one page of interior art and the cover lettering. Cerebus Readers In Crisis #1 is published by Effing Magnifier Publishing and is available from Cerebus Fan Girl.

(from a fax to Dave Sim, 13 April 2007)
There seems to be a little misunderstanding concerning the "Effing Magnifier" phrase as it applies to Jeff Seiler's project. The nickname applies to Jeff Seiler, not to you. At SPACE 2005 we met up with a young woman who was crying over her boyfriend. She had gotten leave from the military and spent all her money on a bus trip from, I think, Illinois -- only to be blown off by her boyfriend who had apparently moved on. She was at the hotel because that's where said boyfriend worked. So, Jeff Seiler befriended her, apparently because he likes short blonde girls with double jointed knees -- hey, who doesn't? Anyway, we (Jeff, me, Margaret, Matt Dow and Paula) became responsible for this "lost soul" and our morning turned into an effort to raise money for her return trip bus ticket, and Matt Dow ended up giving her a ride part way home on the way back to Minnesota. During this time I turned to Seiler and, in joking fashion, called him a "f#@%ing magnifier" because, obviously, we were all in super geeked out Cerebus mode.

Amusingly (to me anyway) your post from yesterday threw Seiler into a tizzy for neglecting to tell you the inside joke/story behind the "Effing Magnifier" company name and having possibly offended you, or at least caused you to reach an incorrect conclusion through the power of assumption. And now it's a matter of public record that Seiler was an unwitting tool of YHWH, etc, etc, etc

Anyway, I tried to tell him that it would at least be an interesting topic for conversation at SPACE and not get all worked up over it, but, well... you know Seiler:)

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Lower Interest Rates Or Death!

Cerebus #40 (July 1982)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Obsessions, Hard Truths, & A Plush Aardvark, Comics Bulletin, 19 January 2013)
The awesome, but hilarious scenes at the convention when they're negotiating and everyone's making their speeches and they're hanging Elrod by his feet and lighting him on fire, to attack the people outside and then my favourite phrase ever in Cerebus: 'lower interest rates or death.' Sim's storytelling chops are breathtaking; I mean Sim really got to be an amazing cartoonist and then he continually improved his storytelling throughout his entire career. I think High Society is probably the most relatable. Church and State starts really nicely too; it's got that great couple of issues with Wolveroach (a Wolverine parody for which Sim was accused of plagiarism by Marvel), but also that really nice storyline with Cerebus and the Countess, which at the time when I read it seemed like the most mature relationship I'd ever read in comics.

Jason Sacks is the publisher and owner of Comics Bulletin

Sneaky Dragon Podcast

(from the comments on Sneaky Dragon Podcast #44, 7 October 2012)
...despite my hesitations and back-tracking during the show [listen here] (sometimes it’s hard to marshall my thoughts on the spot), I do admire Dave Sim a great deal. Not just for his lettering, which is very good (and which should be available from Comicraft – get right on that, Richard and JG, would you?), but also for his synthesis of Will Eisner and Mort Drucker for much of Cerebus, his great, great writing and plotting, his sense of humour and his sheer tenacity and testicular fortitude to do what he did.

One point I wanted to make during the episode, but couldn't fit in edgewise, was that in some ways the Reads section of Cerebus suffered from the once a month time lag. I think that Sim began to think and plot in novel lengths and the issue to issue pacing began to suffer. If you read Jaka’s Story and Reads, and then read Women and Flight, the violence of those stories will knock you right between the eyes after the torpor of the preceding stories – or if you prefer, stately pace. Something that didn't really come through with the monthly comics at the time (although admittedly I'd jumped off the comics scene bandwagon around that time and stopped buying any comics so I missed it anyway)...

(Post submitted by Sir Boltagon. Thanks!)

Monday 21 January 2013

"The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond" Update - January 2013

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

(from the Kickstarter Updates #137 & 138, 14 January 2013)
...See, I've kind of backed myself into a corner on [THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND]. It's basically a roughly 300 page uncompleted narrative and I really need to complete it. That's not something you can just leave hanging with an "ah, well -- maybe someday". The biggest problem that I'm facing right now is that I don't know how long it is. I'm still writing it and visualizing it. This is the third month of taking the corrected pages from glamourpuss (expanded, edited, modified and adjusted) and reading them through from the beginning. This is a VERY different way of writing a book from what I did with CEREBUS where it was all forward momentum. 20 pages done every month and they stayed done. Because I had 20 more pages to do next month, running ahead of the freight train for 26 years. In this situation, there really is NO deadline so I'm actually able to write it as you would a book. Creating it and revising it on an on-going basis.

Eddie Khanna who has been amazingly helpful with the research (I mean, AMAZINGLY helpful) had a one-hour phone conversation on Saturday because he has absolutely buried me in research materials and we absolutely needed to talk. Mostly me reassuring him that it is fine that he is doing so. It takes some to keep up with it, but there are so many really good nuggets of material I couldn't even consider saying STOP EDDIE! which is what he was worried about.

I'm doing four covers for IDW a month to help pay the bills and then spending the rest of the month working on the book. I was sick just after Christmas so that slowed me down for the last couple of weeks. But even that was good. I had whatever I had six years ago and one of the things is an inability to organize things. So, I basically started inputting the script into my laptop in the Kubert lettering font. Boom boom boom, the actual "Strange Death of Alex Raymond" section (Part Five as far as I know) picking up where I left off in glamourpuss No.26. It would take me half an hour to figure out "where next?" But I would and then find that part in my notebooks and input that. Sometimes I had to look for twenty minutes to find one caption, but then I would find it. And re-reading now that my head isn't full of wool, it actually works. Or seems to.

But, to repeat, I STILL don't know how long the book is. No idea. Conservative guess, it could be another 200 pages -- maybe 300. Well, I'm slowing down and while I was doing glamourpuss I was down from my CEREBUS-high 240 pages a year to 120 pages a year. So even with a ballpark guess we're talking about two or three years' worth of drawing once the book is completely written. And no idea how long it's going to take to write it.

It's a structurally more effective way to do it than when I was doing 10 pages every two months in glamourpuss and also doing CEREBUS ARCHIVE and CEREBUS TV. Theoretically, once the book is written I will be basically drawing full time. IDW covers alternating with STRANGE DEATH pages and hopefully getting better at a style -- photorealism -- that is way out of my comfort zone.

I just wanted to make a point of saying THANK YOU for the donations to The Dave Sim Fund... THAT'S helping a lot. $1, $5 and $10. If YOU can keep up over the next year or two with what you've been doing so far, hopefully we can make this work. You, me, IDW and every once in a while Diamond with a book order and the HIGH SOCIETY downloads at 99 cents.

What I'm trying to avoid is getting trapped in "the advance game". Whatever advance I might get for the book would have to last a year or two years and I doubt I could get an advance that big. So I have to get much further downfield just with the revenues that are coming in before I even think about shopping the book around. That presents another problem...
Glamourpuss #14 (July 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
...There are a lot of variables here. I am getting slower. It took me nine days to do four covers this month (I was sick, but hey...) which, fortunately, IDW Editor-in-chief Chris considers fast. And he likes the covers. But if there is initial "slippage" that's where it's going to occur first: instead of taking the first week of the month, it takes the first HALF of the month (or close to). Likewise if the revenue from four covers proves not to be enough. Then I have to do more covers and that comes out of STRANGE DEATH time. This is like an investors' report or a team owner's report. I think I'm okay, but I am 57 so -- as the people who are making it possible for me to continue with this -- I want to give you an honest overview. It's also starting to have intonations of UNDERWATER and TYRANT -- Chester Brown and Steve Bissette's books which they were both chugging away on and suddenly both books just started growing from the inside out. Which led Chester to shelve UNDERWATER and start LOUIS RIEL (and to make sure he had a finished script for the 12 issues before he even started drawing) (so that's what I'M doing: I don't start drawing the book again until I have a finished script, however long that takes). I couldn't blame you if you don't want to risk $5 or $10 on that right now. I'm hoping to have a definitive "this is how many pages it is" ballpark figure as soon as possible. But it is evolving while I'm NOT working on it. Coming back to it this month, I thought, "The beginning needs work." So, that's what I thought I was going to do. Turned out the beginning doesn't need work. It just needed to be two parts. Instead of PART ONE: THE INVENTION OF PHOTOREALISM, I suddenly saw that it was PART ONE: FOSTER & CANIFF & RAYMOND (OH, MY!) (and, yes, there is a weird tie-in with THE WIZARD OF OZ but much further up ahead in THE HEART OF MARGARET MITCHELL section) (if I have room -- I'm only including the absolute "A" material at this point) and PART TWO: NIGHTINGALE, NIGHTINGALE TEST PATTERN & NIGHTINGALE DARK: THE REFINING OF PHOTOREALISM. That actually took care of a major concern: that I was giving short shrift to Raymond's inking (which is what this all started from). Like going into the month thinking you need major surgery and find out you only need a couple of stitches. Quite a relief.

And the UNNAMED section I talked about last time. I told Eddie what it was called and what it was about and there was this long, dead silence on the phone. "Um, yeah, you might want to be careful about that." Not something I didn't already know. But Eddie is the world's biggest Dave Sim -- as opposed to CEREBUS -- fan. So, if he says that, I think my gut instinct is pretty good.

[Eddie asked me if I was enjoying working on it. Which was an interesting question. The predominant sense is that it has to be done. You don't leave a 300+ page book and just move onto something else. If everything continues to fall in the right direction and I can keep my head above water and actually figure out HOW LONG long the darned thing is and then finish the script and be able to draw EXCLUSIVELY at THAT point I can definitely picture myself enjoying myself. When I have a page count, I'll have a ballpark idea of how long it's going to take to do it. And because I won't be doing anything BESIDES the IDW covers and THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND -- no CEREBUS ARCHIVE or fashion side of glamourpuss (*SOB*) or CEREBUS TV -- I might even be able to get my annual page count UP from the 100 or so pages a year that I can (sort of) guarantee right now (God willing).
Glamourpuss #14 (July 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
And it is a luxury to be able to fine-tune and polish a long piece of work like this, in a way I could never do on CEREBUS. Always moving ahead but always doubling back. The same thing I reported before. You fix as many things as you can and every time through you find other things to fix that have been sticking in your mind for the last two months. And every time going through saying "Oh, I fixed that. Good, that needed fixing."]

So the UNNAMED section was the section I was researching today. Nothing heavy: just about eight Google searches. ONE of which led me seriously down a rabbit hole where I found an interview with a guy I previously could find NO information about no matter where I looked, but whose work I've been crazy about since I was, like, ten. A SIXTY-PAGE interview. "This is why we DON'T have the Internet at home." Like I had died and gone to heaven. This is HIM this is HIM talking about his career. Maybe he'll talk about the project I'm looking for. He HAS to! Well, no he doesn't. He got to it on page 57 and dismissed it in one phrase.

But, combined with everything else that I got on that project, I'm pretty sure it's now a completely separate book. In the (I admit it, largely unlikely event) that THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND actually sells some copies eventually, well, this would be the perfect follow-up. IF I want to follow-up THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. I might just want to do covers for IDW. Or just sit in a corner gumming my oatmeal. Gum Gum Gum.

...Also, they are VARIANT covers. So, please, don't be crazy. You have to order, like 20 copies of some of the books to get the VARIANT cover. I'm not really in "cover artist" category. I'm in VARIANT cover artist category. Offhand I can't think of ANYONE who can afford to buy a Dave Sim variant cover. Tim will be running all of them on A MOMENT OF CEREBUS. There it is. You've got it. Print it out onto slick paper if you want and put it in a comic bag with a backing board. NO. DIFFERENCE. I mean, serious reality check: NO. DIFFERENCE. If you want to read the comic book, buy the comic book and put the printed out copy on slick paper on top of it.


I'll tell you all about the cover as IDW releases them and sends them to Tim for AMOC. Stay tuned. And the original art will be auctioned by Heritage Auctions. Every IDW cover in their weekly online auction. We're coordinating it right now. Chris says he will know six weeks out when the issue's street date is and that will be the date of the art auction (if Lon is able to coordinate it at Heritage, which I'm sure he will). God willing, 48 covers a year. It's all to buy as much uninterrupted STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND time as possible. Speaking of which, I'm going back to the house to get back to it.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond'.

Sunday 20 January 2013

IDW Covers: Popeye #12

Popeye #12
by Roger Langridge, variant cover by Dave Sim
IDW, $3.99
On Sale: April 2013

Drawing POPEYE was a dream come true. I used to watch at least an hour of POPEYE every weekday morning as a pre-schooler. My mother used to tell the story of me pointing in the windows of stores downtown and saying "Buttaflow".."Buttaflow". And she's asking "Where? Where do you see the butterfly." It took a while but she figured out that what I was saying was "Buffalo" and that I was pointing at was the number "4". The Popeye cartoons aired on WSEN, channel 4 Buffalo -- which they announced at every station break with a big 4 on the screen. The syndication package was the old Max Fleischer cartoons mixed in with the later ones. I had them all memorised and would go to sleep reciting the dialogue in my head. Like I say, this is before the age of 5.

Dave Fisher, with whom I collaborated on CEREBUS TV -- downloads hopefully coming to sometime in 2013 -- had a collection of the old Fleischer Popeyes on DVD so I spent a day over at his place watching them. genetic memories, DNA level. I was particularly struck by one where Popeye, tired of housework, goes to an agency to pick out a wife (Bluto does as well and of course they both pick Olive Oyl). There were all these pictures on the wall of prospective brides who were all in a back room just sitting and waiting for someone to pick them. And I can remember thinking, "Oh, so THAT'S how it works. Dad went to a place like that and picked a picture of Mum and they got married."

I hadn't gotten the disk of reference material from Chris at that point, so I figured I'd start with the Popeye cover. Most people in comics are "Segar POPEYE" as opposed to "Fleisher POPEYE" people, so I figure I had better try and strike a balance which proved to be easier said than done. I ended up spending pretty close to a day and a half just trying to compose the thing, while referring to volume 8 of the old Fantagraphics collections, the only one I own (1932-1934). That was why I went with an archetypal Segar bad guy (although that in itself became a problem since the Segar bad guys were always two head taller than Popeye and you need to have your lead character at least yay big on a cover). And then I wanted the facial expression to change while keeping the same likeness. Which Segar didn't really do. So I had to refer to different faces, eyes and eyebrows. Then when I got to inking it, I figured I had to change the density from Segar's really open density to a modified-Segar (a Segar beard would just be three or four brush strokes) while still keeping it Segar-like.

Oh, I forgot the crowd. I sent the tracing paper original to Ted Adams [IDW's CEO]. I figured a good way to make it Segar-like was to do a Segar crowd where it's all the same face but they're overlapping. More like wallpaper than a crowd. But as I was inking the foreground it was already going grey with all the pen lines on "Big-A Jerk Mazurka". I thought about fading them out but I was already having trouble figuring out my ink densities and that looked like another headache as I was coming to the end of day number two.

I had the same trouble with the "ARF ARF ARF ARF" where I tried to ink a Segar-like halo around Popeye's head which just wasn't working. So I kept darkening it and darkening it inking over the radiating pen lines until it's virtually gone. I had the same mental picture of having to do that with the crowd, making them darker and darker and darker. At that point, my Wally Wood voice liked in: When in doubt, black it out.

"Big-A Jerk Mazurka" seemed like a good Segar style name. He was very big on puns. It wasn't until I was a good day and a half in that I went: "Mm. You don't want to be doing that. This is work-made-for-hire. Anything you do on here, King Features owns." Then I told myself I was being paranoid.

So Chris faxes me that everyone really liked the cover, Ted Adams wants to buy the original, King Features liked it and the writer liked it so much that he's writing a back-up story for the issue around it. I faxed him back that with my luck Big-A Jerka Mazurka will end up being the next Harry Potter and all I'll have is my now long spent cover rate to show for it.

All of the IDW covers will be auctioned by Heritage Auctions in their weekly online auctions the same week that hey are released. Chris says he will know the release date about six weeks ahead of time. Starting bid is $1... ALWAYS.

Saturday 19 January 2013

IDW Covers: Judge Dredd Year One #2

Judge Dredd Year One #2 of 4
by Matt Smith & Simon Coleby, variant cover by Dave Sim
IDW, $3.99
On Sale: April 2013

November 20th, Chris faxed me: "I loved the way you did that first cover. Could you keep that motif for all four issues?" He also included some info on the storyline including "The Portal" -- which  I won't get into, since IDW, I'm sure, would like all of you to buy a copy. And a character named Riorden. So I asked for reference, pretty much knowing the answer: it hadn't been decided yet. Covers are done at least five months ahead of publication because of the PREVIEWS deadline. So, no Riorden and I needed to just do a generic portal.

So I did a rough figure of Dredd overtop of my traced logo lettering from the cover of #1, making sure that enough of him would be showing through the letters so you could know it was him. As soon as I got his right hand and forearm done, I went, "Oh Steranko." Such a happy coincidence I even broke out of the one side of the "Y" so all of my Steranko fingers would show. Once I see it that way, that's the way I'm going to do it. I started inking little oval Seranko dots along the lines disappearing into the vanishing point. And then intentionally overdid them so it wouldn't look like I was slavishly DOING Jim's inking. Except for the four I did behind Dredd's right/Steranko/Hand. My own little "Steranko corner" of the cover.

I'm still getting used to drawing for colour. The "What" and "Through" sort of disappear behind all of those inked ovals but I'm assuming the colourist can take that into account just by choosing colours that stand out (I haven't seen the coloured version yet -- Tim just lets me know that IDW has released a new one and I write about the original b&w. I like what they did on the other two, though, so I'm not trying to do "colour immune" covers as much. While still trying to do actual drawing instead of relying on the colourist for how the finished cover looks: a real temptation in our computer colour world).

I'm still trying to master the distended mouth (inside "one") which Neal Adams made his own -- and which I suspect Neal got partly from Joe Kubert. I can never figure out if the heavier, bolder strokes need to be brush or pen. Here I did some of them with a Windsor-Newton Series 7 #2 brush and some of them with Gillott 303 pen. The lighter strokes are Hunt 102. The tiny little figure: this is the second time I thought that I should just pencil and ink it "twice up" -- 200% of the size it is here -- on a scrap piece of illustration board and just have the IDW production guys put it in in Photoshop. And this is the second time I decided, Oh, what the heck and inked it the size it is with a magnifying glass and a fresh Hunt 102 pen nib. I'm seriously considering getting one of those magnifier lamps that jewellers use and that Will Eisner got eventually. Holding a magnifying glass in one hand while inking with the other is for the birds.

Oh hey -- I forgot to mention this to Chris: to get the "The Portal" shadow lettering in the bottom right corner completely accurate, I reduced the outline lettering on the photocopier to about 50% and then filled in the letters with ink and then put it on the cover with double-sided tape. Only the connection between the "T" and the "A" was so thin that the "A" and "L" are skewed right. Can you get the production guys to redo it in photoshop and touch up the receding lines? It's not going to REALLY look like a shadow unless everything is exactly 50% of the outline lettering and in exactly the same configuration.

Friday 18 January 2013


Cerebus #156 (March 1992)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Cerebus #159, June 1992)
Sedra left him; departing in the night with one of his slaves. He had entrusted her with the formula for his narcotic foodstuff, never once considering that the knowledge made her independent of the absolute control he wielded over Imesh's populace. She left him a short note that was distant and impersonal. His heart broken, he drove the entire population of the city out through a series of underground passageways which he then sealed with structural collapses. Now totally and completely alone, he dismantled the scaffolding around his half completed monument with his bare hands over the course of several weeks... K'Cor has sunk into dementia of the commonest sort; holding conversations with a Goddess for whom he is less than a joke; he will end his days broken and without significance.

(from the Cerebus Yahoo Group Q&A, January 2005)
What K'Cor was attempting to build was a giant DNA molecule, a double helix, but he didn't have much in the way of a three-dimensional sense so that's what it came out looking like. Po was responding to the intent behind it, on the spiritual level and, there’s my sense of humour again. If you are a human being (or an aardvark - let's say "physically incarnated") the danger with attempting to live a spiritual life is that you can only know it imperfectly "through a glass darkly" so your assessments become imperfect and vaguely (or sometimes specifically I'm sure) ludicrous. "There is a great deal of laughter but it's very high up and very far away." K'Cor was guided by his insights, whether he was inhabited by a higher consciousness or spoken to in his dreams or, more likely, a drug victim. You make your own choices. I suspect I was unconsciously showing myself what it was that I was about to choose - to spend twenty-six years building this giant monument which might prove to be something or might not - that might be useful as a "stairway to heaven" or prove to be as valuable as a giant two-dimensional model of part of a DNA molecule. Time will tell.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Tribute Art Round Up #4

The Comics Journal #70 (January 1982)
Art by Stu Potts
Art by Dean Haspiel
Art by Tyler Crook
Art by Rich Bernatovech
Cerebus #75 Cover Recreation
by David Branstetter

Wednesday 16 January 2013

An Empty Chair Through A Window

Cerebus #203 (February 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 
(Annotations for Cerebus #203, Cerebus Wiki)
In Cerebus' dream he sees an empty chair through a window. He think/says that there is 'one chair. one empty chair.' Someone else says 'a what?' and he thinks 'She never hears Cerebus when he says that.' Cerebus responds 'One empty chair.' and 'We've been here before' and thinks to himself 'She hears Cerebus wrong.' and someone else responds 'well of course you have -- this is --'. The next panel reveals that the person he is talking to is Astoria. Cerebus thinks 'No -- not just Cerebus -- both of us. We've been here before. We always have this conversation. It's always falling apart. They're not here. They're not here... well...'. The dream is a foreshadowing of the events in issue 264 when Cerebus returns to Sand Hills Creek with Jaka.

As to whether the dream was a signal? Yes, definitely. It was time, or rather past time. This is how the happy homecoming is going to play out because it's too late to play out any other way. The event was preordained in a real sense. He had obviously had the dream before and my own theory is that we all have these sorts of super-reality core moments in our lives that we visit and revisit and usually forget in our dreams The moment is on the cusp of the watershed moment when he crosses over from Jaka as Core Reality to Jaka as Regretted Mistake. His dreaming mind cast Astoria in the role because his unconscious dreaming mind was aware that this was an unhappy event and would be incapable of seeing any event that included Jaka to be an unhappy event even though every event in his life that included Jaka or someone who looked like Jaka had been and would continue to be an unhappy event. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." "Huh?" The severed ear is on the wrong side because I made a mistake, which I have admitted before and which presumably I will have to admit every time we discuss the reflection in the window. I made a mistake and put the severed ear on the wrong side in the reflection. Ger didn't catch it, so there it is.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

The Making Of Judenhass

Judenhass (2008)
Art by Dave Sim
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(ComicsComics, 3 February 2011)
Lou Copeland, who did the "tech" side of Judenhass, forwarded me a printed out copy of this article, which I found interesting enough to violate my acquiesced-to pariah status... since the genesis of Judenhass was structural along the lines of what Mr. McCulloch is discussing in his article, originating late in the Cerebus storyline with what I would describe as "Excerpt narrative". The idea being that you have a master drawing of some intricacy and detail from which you excerpt images. If you excerpt the images in (there's really no language for this yet) "sequential adjacency" from left to right across the master drawing, you effectively are doing a "pan shot". The extent of the overlap determines the "speed" of the pan shot.

The subject matter - the Shoah - came late in the proceedings. I was looking for a subject which lent itself to this sort of "master drawing"; "excerpt narrative"; "sequential adjacency" approach, but the original idea was: how few master drawings would you need to do in order to produce a satisfying "read"? The fewer the master drawings, the more time could be devoted to each one and the greater the level of photographic detail that could be applied to each image.

Close-ups presented an obvious problem because if you just enlarge an image past, say 120% then the density of the lines became incompatible with the adjacent images. This increased the number of master drawings. Any enlargement at 150% or larger need to be traced off and re-inked at the appropriate density. Or enlarged as a photocopy with the then "too thick" lines whites out and replaced with lines of an appropriate density.

I experimented with the structure again with the mini comic Lost Kisses #11, using a half dozen or so master drawings to create 40 or so individual panels.

The biggest drawback is the computer time involved which is why I don't use it as much on glamourpuss as I originally intended. The process of cutting and pasting the individual panels, fitting them within panel borders, making all the panel gutters the same width... well that was Lou's part of it, so he can address the subject better than I can. If Judenhass was selling thousands of copies a month and I could pay Lou for all his time and work then I could start thinking of projects with similar structure. In a way it's unfortunate that I picked a subject that just rubs the comic book public the wrong way which has led to a "baby with the bathwater" loss of the structure which I think is a valuable tool and pretty close to what Mr. McCulloch is talking about here - cinema on paper, a kind of strange wedding of film, comics and animation.

I just want to write and draw, not run a sweat shop which is what I think would be involved to optimize the structure: a team of cut-and-paste guys able to do, say, 15 to 20 panels each a day on computer from thumbnail storyboards, with computer lettering and scripts which which indicated successive percentages of enlargement and reduction, pan shot measurements to establish durations and speed, backgrounds and figures dealt with separately and then integrated. I think you could definitely do a plausible Bernie Krigstein or Jim Steranko narrative that would LOOK drawn (because it would be drawn, just mechanically composed into pages) and, depending on how good your team was you could maybe do five or six pages a day, every panel of which would look like the master artist drew them. Because he or she would have.

Monday 14 January 2013

Committing To 300 Issues

Cerebus #100 (July 1987), #200 (November 1995), #300 (March 2004)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Feature #4, 1997)
What do I hope coming generations will take from my use of the freedom that I've had? I hope there will be a few individuals who will try to navigate a very large work, try and succeed. I hope we're coming out of the morbid societal mindset that I grew up in. "What if you get hit by a bus?" Certainly in 1977 it was considered ridiculous to plan your life around anything. We were all going to die in a nuclear war. The earth would be uninhabitable by 1990. Computers would eliminate print and "art programs" would provide all of our creative needs - just hit a button and create your own Rembrandt. AIDS would sweep the world and 90% of the world's population would be cadaverously strewn in the gutters of the cities. North America would be covered in ice or inundated with water. The ozone layer would be wiped out and we'd all die of radiation poisoning.

It was very peculiar, ridiculously optimistic for a twenty-one-year old to make pans for the rest of his life as if he was going to live to be forty-six or, even stranger, to imagine that the world he would inhabit at the age of forty-six would bear even a vague resemblance to the world he inhabited at the age of twenty-one.

Faint hope, but it would be nice to think that there would be a few twenty-one-year old artist-writers who would view the year 2030 in 2004 the way I viewed 2004 in 1977 - as being well within the confines of their normal life expectancy and worth considering on its own terms as a virtually guaranteed reality. Put it another way, how many times can Arthur C. Clarke be wrong before we can dismiss him as an unrealistic crank? How many years until the world's population really accepts that the world of Star Wars has about as much chance of coming into existence as Judy Garland's Oz does? It's an extension of my own optimism, certainly, to hope that even a few individuals would be able to differentiate between hallucination and reality, but the freedom is definitely there for the taking for anyone willing to try to perceive more accurately than conventional belief allows. There is no way for me to convey what the experience of working  on page 4,000 of a 6,000 page story is like - how worthwhile it is, how gratifying it is, what different layers of perception are implied. So, if it's going to happen again for someone, that someone is just going to have to have the same instinct that I had back in 1977; times a-wasting, the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step, blah, blah, blah. But at least the possibility is within their grasp - as opposed to antigravity shoes or a hovercar or a condo on Mars which would all would have been widely-perceived as having a greater likelihood of existing than say, issue 225 of Cerebus.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Storytelling In Comics

Will Eisner, Dave Sim & Archie Goodwin
North Carolina Comics Convention, July 1984
(from the 'Eisner Goodwin Sim' panel talk, Will Eisner's Quarterly #4, 1985)
I think it's largely an instinct sort of thing. I read a review sometime ago of a comic, discussing it from the standpoint of dancing, insofar as that if you're still going "One, two, three, step" then you haven't quite got it. If you've got it, you can watch somebody walking down the street and break the action into panels with the correct pacing for what you're trying to get across. It has to be practically second nature. It has to be the way you see things...

...Even more than describing it as storytelling, it's story involvement. It's not just to communicate a story to someone else, but to have them lose the context. It's like being at a good movie. After a while you forget you're watching a movie to the extent that you're involved. That's what makes for good storytelling. If I'm reading a comic book and gradually start reading faster and faster, I'll have to go back later to see how they did it. The best storytelling is involving enough that you don't stop and admire the technique as you're reading it. It moves you along.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Paul Grist: Flag Waving

Paul Grist Comics: Kane, Jack Staff & Mudman
(from 'Flag Waving', Jack Staff #5, Image Comics, May 2004)
And it's goodbye to Cerebus, which reached it's 300th (and final) issue in March of this year. Cerebus is probably the comic that has had the biggest influence on my life. I picked up my first copy (issue 39) from Oddessy 7 in Manchester back in the Autumn of 1982. I read the issue that night and then went back to the shop the following day to buy all the others issues they had in stock. Cerebus was the comic that made me want to do my own comic and made me thinking that self publishing was a Very Good Thing. So much so that when I eventually did launch my own self published comic, Kane, the stories were set in the 39th precinct of New Eden.

I really don't think people realise how much Dave Sim actually changed the way things are done in comics. Cerebus was the first comic (as far as I know) that collected single issues into trade paperbacks as a way of keeping the issues in print. A lot of other people producing their own comics are only there because Dave Sim showed that self publishing was not a vanity option, but a practical viable way for a creator to get their work out to their readers. Okay, so there's been an awful lot of rubbish produced in the name of self publishing over the last 20 years, that's not Dave's fault - but there's a lot of good stuff out there that wouldn't be there is Cerebus hadn't shown it was possible. I first saw Jim Valentino's work in the back of Cerebus. Without Cerebus there probably wouldn't be Bone. Or Strangers in Paradise. It's probably not stretching the point to say there wouldn't even be an Image.

And I haven't even begun to talk about the story itself, a Conan parody which soon became a very individual vision. I'm really not a critic so I'm probably not the best person to write commentary on the story - all I can do is recommend that you try it yourself. It's regarded as being a bit 'controversial' and 'difficult' in recent years - so why not try one of the earlier funny books? High Society (covering issues 25 to 50) is probably a good place to start - but then I like the Marx Brothers more than the Three Stooges. The writings great, sharp and funny - and the arts great too - and when Gerhard comes in half way through the Church & State collection...

What can I say? After 300 issues Dave Sim has left the building.

Paul Grist is the UK-based writer/artist of the comics series Kane, Jack Staff and Mudman. For many years he self-published his comics before moving to Image Comics.

High Society Digital: #1-25 Now Available!

Cerebus #26-50 (May 1981 - May 1983)
By Dave Sim
Only 99 Cents per issue

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

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