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.

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