Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Cartoon Mascot Logo That Started It All!

Cerebus Archive #16 (October 2011)
Art by Dave Sim
(from 'Birth Of The Icon', Cerebus Archive #16, October 2011)
Well down on my personal emphasis list, below freelance paying work, was any kind of non-paying fanzine work -- which brings, finally, to the cover for Deni's Cerebus The Fanzine and the cartoon mascot. It looms large in retrospect (particularly in a publication called Cerebus Archive) and the sentimentally-inclined will find  it charming that I was doing for my new girlfriend, but at the time it was just another example of what I wanted to avoid doing. The more free work I did (or work that I - this sounds very bad, but I'm afraid it's accurate - traded for having a girlfriend) the sooner my bank account would empty and the sooner I would be facing having to get a real job - not just working a few days a week in a comic-book store for wages that paid only half my rent... It just wasn't "front of mind" stuff for me -- as breathlessly awaiting Bearvers-mania sweeping the country had been. If you ask "what was on your mind when you created Cerebus?" That would be the answer: The Beavers...

...The magic moment of Cerebus' creation really came about when I was finished with my paying work for the day (or mailing out promotional fliers advertising my writing, drawing and lettering services). The [cover] illustration came first. It was pretty basic -- "how fast can I do this and still have it a plausible cover?" A girl in a flowing robe, looking mysterious and a devil or a troll or something. It was a graphic, hopefully eye-catching. But it was definitely the first thing that went down on the art board. I wasn't going to redo any part of it. Just make it as good as I could in an hour or so...

...That was when it got interesting. I called Deni (I think she was at her parents') and said "You need a company name. I'm doing the cover." And she said, "Cerebus." "No," I said, "That's the name of the magazine, like Dark Shadow Fantasy, but Dark Shadow is published by Shadow Press." "Just a minute," she said, "I'll ask Michael and Karen." She wasn't gone long and came back and said "Michael says 'Vanaheim Press'" - Vanaheim was a geographic place name in Robert E. Howard's Conan -- "And Karen says 'Aardvark Press'."

Had I been more of a graphic designer by nature or had I been seized by inspiration, Cerebus might likewise have never been created... abandoning all hope of a graphic, [I] realised that the only sensible direction was a wholesale retreat to a full-blown cartoon mascot.

Sensible because I knew how to do cartoons -- as with the cover illustration and the logo -- how to do them quickly. Quickly enough that I took time when I was done to add a 30% LT 17 dot tone (which I had on hand mostly for doing red's sweaters in The Beavers) and even took the time to cut white highlights into the medallions after cutting out the eyes (this would prove to be a significant decision if you calculate the sheer number of man hours I -- and later, both Ger and myself -- would devote to putting tone on literally thousands upon thousands of Cerebus images over the course of the next quarter century-plus). Not quickly enough that I bothered fixing it when I changed my mind about retaining the 30% tone on the sword -- so it remained part-toned and part not-toned in all subsequent appearances: the only one of which that would end up being published would be on the back cover of Cerebus No. 1.
Cerebus #1 (December 1977)
Art by Dave Sim 
(Click image to enlarge)

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