Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Dave & Deni: "Hi, Are You Harry?"

Cerebus Archive #13 (April 2011)
Art by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlarge)
(from Cerebus Archive #13, April 2011)
The [1976 Forest Heights High School] convention was a significant event for me: my first as a guest, actually sitting on a panel with Gene Day and T. Casey Brennan. It was also the place where Harry Kremer had announced that he was renting the downstairs at 103 Queen St S. for an expansion of Now & Then Books... and where he agreed to hire me as the sales clerk for $75 a month... It was also at that convention that I first saw Deni [Loubert], but not where I first met Deni. She was in the audience at the panel I was on with Gene and Casey, which was held in an unused classroom. The panel was very sparsely attended -- the audience members barely outnumbering the panelists (6-3, 5-3?). What I didn't know at the time -- and what I didn't find out until much later -- was that she was there doing research... research for a fiction magazine she was planning at the time called Cerebus... a misspelling of Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded Hades in Greek mythology. I would suspect this is what happened: she had glommed onto Dark Fantasy at the show... (Gene would have had copies of his zine to sell -- either himself or on the Now & Then table in the foyer 'Dealer's Room')... as the incarnation of what she wanted to do: 'How do you go about doing this?' she must have asked Gene...

Whatever issues of Dark Fantasy she had picked up at the convention, it's pretty clear that once she got them back to her parents' house and had a chance to look at them and read them she had definitely decided that this was what she had wanted Cerebus to be. Somewhere around here, both Harry Kremer and Now & Then Books entered the picture. Exactly how and when I don't know. There are several possibilities.

Possibly, she had asked Gene at the convention "If I had a magazine like this, where would I sell it?" Again, in a convention context, Gene would have avoided such a large subject by retreating into generality: "Here in Kitchener, the best place would be Now & Then Books..." Qualifying this with: "You'd have to show it to Harry to see if he was interested."

Possibly, While she was buying the issues of Dark Fantasy at the Now & Then Books table she picked up or was given one of Harry's store business cards (knowing the VIP treatment girls get in comic stores today, you can imagine what it was like in 1976).

Possibly the convention didn't enter in to it, she might have bought a Dark Fantasy issue or issues at Now & Then, read it or them and then gone back, asking someone working the till about how she could sell her magazine, Cerebus, there and had been told by Harry's mother or someone, "You would have to talk to Harry."

Actually, that last scenario fits the known facts in a way that doesn't otherwise accommodate an obvious question: Why would Deni have gone into the downstairs section looking for the owner of Now & Then Books... when the only Now & Then sign was over the upstairs window? Unless she had been to the upstairs earlier in the week when the Thursday-through-Saturday downstairs had been closed and now seeing the downstairs lit up, and a guy standing behind the counter -- visible through the window -- had thought, "Oh, this must be him." Anyway, she's just gotten off work at the Forsyth Shirt Factory at the corner of Duke and Young Streets. About four blocks away. She opens the door, steps inside, closes it behind her and says: "Hi, are you Harry?"
Cerebus Archive #13 (April 2011)
Art by Dave Sim

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus. Deni and Dave Sim were married from October 1978 to August 1983. After their divorce, Deni moved to Los Angeles to start her own comics publishing company, Renegade Press, which closed its doors in 1989. She was inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2010.


Max Southall said...

That self-portrait Dave drew is based on the photo I took of him at the high school we'd both attended and where that panel was held. (I have the same brand light table as Dave, but mine is bigger!) The photo was for an article I did about him for the local paper I was a reporter at, and where I kept trying to flog The Beavers strip for him at.

Jeff Seiler said...

When I went to visit Dave's house/studio for the first and only time, in early July of 2011, when we left the house, he gave me a short tour of his other workplaces. Lo and behold, as we passed the basement of the building where the original Now and Then Comics was located, Dave said, "Huh! It's open! Turn here and park so we can go in!" As it happened, the basement was not boarded up for the first time, presumably, since Harry Kremer had moved the shop across the street. When we went in, Dave took a look at the wallpaper on the wall to the right of the entryway and said, "Oh, it's still got the original wallpaper." And then, he noticed the 2 steel support posts in the middle of the room and said, "Yes! I just drew the interior of this basement for Cerebus Archive and had to do it from memory, since this place has been boarded up for so long. I got it right!" THAT was some visit!

Jeff Seiler said...

For clarity's sake, the wallpaper was on the wall that is to the left of the Dylan poster and the posts would not be visible in this image. The room was open only because some accounting firm had bought the building and had a guy cleaning out the basement that day (said guy was just finishing up as we walked in). The chick who let us go in said that the accounting firm for which she worked was not planning to utilize the basement and would be closing it up again after that day. Heh. SOME visit.

Unknown said...

Wow, this is some amazing storytelling. I admit I haven't seen much of the Archive stuff. Does he provide a lot of new comics like this in it?