Saturday 31 August 2013

Gerhard's Cerebus Prints - On Sale Now!

(by email, 30 August 2013)
Hello! I hope you are still having a great summer!

I've been busy but in a good way. I have been working on a series of Cerebus-related, limited edition prints and I'm ready to offer these for sale. You can check out the list on my new blog or on my re-vamped website.

I lost the old blog when I re-created the website. Technology! Your comments on the changes are always welcome.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Low Society Launch Party!

by Rob Walton & The Toronto Comics Lab
On Sale: September 2013

In Low Society, Multiple Eisner and Joe Shuster award-nominated editor Rob Walton (Ragmop) and the Comic Lab bullpen take you on all-new adventures in aardvarkian insanity featuring appearances from Red Sophia, Moon Roach, Elrod, and more. Featuring an all new cover inked by Dave Sim with backgrounds by Gerhard. Plus a host of pin-ups, laughs and surprises. Attend the launch party/signing at the Comic Book Lounge in Toronto on 7th September with special guest Gerhard. More launch party details here...

The publisher (Sean Menard) finally talked me into doing a six-pager as well, so you'll see my first new comic story since 2006! Never say never. Who ever thought the creator of the Ragmop would end up writing its antithesis, Cerebus? What a crazy world... I forgot to mention that Ger's color cover is for a print he's making to sell separately in conjunction with the book. Our cover remains in penny-pinching B&W.

Friday 30 August 2013

The iPetition: Christian Charles

(iPeteion signatory no. 413, 31 October 2012)
The utter ridiculousness of the idea that this petition even needs to exist is maddening. Dave Sim has opinions, he expressed them, this is nothing different than what the rest of us do on a daily basis. Well... yes... it is different. Dave's opinions actually have the weight of individuality and intellect behind them. Not following the herd over the cliff should be celebrated, not punished. 

Show your support for Dave Sim by signing the iPetition.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Harlan Ellison

Anything Goes #3 (Fantagraphics Books, March 1986)
Art by Dave Sim, colours by Tom Luth
(from the 'Eisner Goodwin Sim' panel talk, Will Eisner's Quarterly #4, 1985)
...I also tend to have specific individuals in mind. When I found out that Harlan Ellison was a fan of Cerebus, that raises... to the extent of saying, "hey come on, we better wake up here, because Harlan Ellison is going to read this and he's going to know good writing from bad... This one's for you Harlan. Pay attention." Yeah. Or the same as Barry Windsor-Smith. There is a certain attitude that helps me to think that, okay, these are people whose work I admire and if I know they are reading the book, I feel less inclined to say "Oh, well, this is good enough," or "This will get by." I feel more compelled to expand the borders or try something new...

Wednesday 28 August 2013

The Surface Of The Sun

Cerebus #289/290 (April/May 2003)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Blog & Mail, 20 February 2007)
...I was rather pleased with myself when I came up with the idea that for life on planet Earth, the ultimate hell is our sun beside which the interior of the earth is just a mere blob by comparison. As a God-fearing person you obviously picked up on that right away. But it's another example of how those who aren't "rightly guided" can't be "rightly guided". The earth's molten core or the convection systems on the sun: what's the difference? There is simply no sense of proportion, no sense of the enormity of what it is going to be like for tiny little souls like us to be vacuumed up by the gravitational enormity of the sun and to be trapped within it while it goes through hundreds of millions of years of excruciating contortions before ultimately collapsing in on itself. I mean, to combine that fate with the sure knowledge that at any point in the millions-of-year histories of each of our souls (taking it as a given that each soul is immortal) we had every opportunity to escape that fate and return to God and that we essentially made the wrong choices, intentionally, for those millions of years…

…and then to be blithely philosophical about that as if anything that far in the future just doesn't apply to us - what WE need to do is to win the lottery or get laid or find a way to buy a nicer car. It's like so many escalating layers of compounded misery that the mind literally can't encompass Just How Bad The Whole Thing is Going to Get. As with everything else that involves the enormous unfolding of God's plan, the God-fearing mind just fairly boggles even trying to grasp the sketchy outlines and the atheistic mind sees nothing there at all.

You know I ran across my original two-page spread of the surface of the sun that I ultimately rejected from The Last Day just a while ago. I had rejected it because it was just too chaotic and over the top. I think I've changed my mind and I'll be reworking it and plugging it into the next printing. Of course it's over the top. It's HELL! I can still feel the frisson of horror that I first experienced when I put the pieces together: My soul is immortal. Whether my soul ends up sleeping in the earth or whirling around in earth's atmosphere or restlessly (and inexplicably) haunting the garden implements section at the local Home Depot, my soul is still going to be here in some proximity to this planet and consciously aware when the sun begins to swell into a Red Giant and basically cracks the earth open like an eggshell and devours everything that ever was upon or within the earth. I'll be right there experiencing it. No escape possible.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Toronto Con 1978

Promotional Print for Toronto Con 1978
Art by Dave Sim
(from 'A Note From The Publisher', Cerebus #2, February/March 1978)
...Despite the fact I complain about it, I do enjoy meeting all these people, though. Comic book people, both the fans and the dealers selling the comics, are colourful in their own special way. For instance, on the way home from a convention in Toronto (where I was introducing Cerebus to as many dealers as would listen to me) we stopped off at a restaurant to eat.

Now this isn't just three or four fans. This is a whole vanload of fans and dealers who have just had a full day of looking at and comparing comic books. We descended on that restaurant, hungry, tired and energetic as hell about comics. There were only a few other people in the restaurant at the time and I fear they will never be the same. Gesturing wildly, and talking loudly about Road Runner cartoons and the various merits of different artists, we more than filled the place. At one point, I just had to sit back and take a good look at the scene. There was no way we could be ignored, and yet everyone there was too busy being caught up in his or her enthusiasm to notice that we were being a three ring circus for the benefit of those few patrons there.

Comics is a crazy business, but you know something? I wouldn't want to be anyplace else. That is if I had the choice. Which none of us do once the bug has bitten.

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus. Deni and Dave Sim were married from 1978 to 1983. Deni subsequently 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.

Monday 26 August 2013

Dave Sim: Pariah King Of Comics!

Cerebus #200 (November 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Blog & Mail, 20 February 2007)
Dear Dave,

Okay. I'm pissed.

Not in a "too many fermented beverages in too short a period of time" sort of way, but in an "I'm fed up to the teeth with this" sort of way.

(I'll try to keep this relatively unemotional and blessedly short.)

This whole "Pariah King" thing? It's over. You've been usurped. Big time. Rick Olney has now taken that title and it looks as if he's going to be hanging onto it for many, many years to come.

You're deposed, Dave. It's over. I mean…honestly! That was ten years ago, okay? Did you hear me, young man? You. Are. No. Longer. The. 'Pariah. King'.

My point is - go ahead and write the introduction for Troy Little's Chiaroscuro. The first edition. If comics were kids, Chiaroscuro would be your artistic grandchild. That introduction belongs to you and to no one else.

Where comics, and the quality thereof, is concerned, you have plenty of hard-won street cred. Respect for you as a comic artist and advocate far outweighs any negative sentiment still lingering. (Trust me on that. I Googled it.)


Write the introduction for Troy… please.

Yours respectfully,
Elizabeth A. Bardawill
Well, nice TRY, Elizabeth (I was chuckling pretty good when I came to the end of your letter) but I'm afraid it just doesn't work that way here in the real world. I can certainly understand you comic-book feminists wanting to change the history of the last twelve years and "wish away" or "declare null and void" the idea that Dave Sim is a pariah (now that I'm here to hector you all on a daily basis so that the feminist choices of the last decade or so vis-à-vis Dave Sim are starting in retrospect to look a little…shall we say…tactically inopportune?), but I'm afraid the evidence just doesn't back you up. The historical record is there of how I was treated prior to 1994 and how I have been treated since 1994 - all shunning, all vilification and all without one single feminist addressing or refuting a single one of my ideas whether in issue 186 or in "Tangent" or Collected Letters or any of my other writings on feminism. The point that your team missed and which your team continues to miss is that the net effect of shunning and ostracism when it is used in place of reasoned discourse and refutation - especially over a period of years - is cumulative. It would certainly be nice for your team if your recent Google search could completely undo the last twelve years like some weird feminist magic wand but, again, it just doesn't work like that. Want me to refute your charge that I'm no longer the Pariah King of Comics? No problem. How about this from Carla Speed McNeil's interview in the latest Comics Journal [#280, January 2007] (how's that for up-to-date?):
NASO: That reminds me of Cerebus. A lot of people complained about the way the story turned out. But it is Dave Sim's story.

McNEIL: Yeah, it is his story and the man's work is still worth poring over for technique. He's one of the most skilled people we've ever had. It's just that at some point he merged face-first with his own work and everything that popped into his head ended up on the page, however bizarre and obsessive.
See: "bizarre and obsessive". Those are not terms that denote respect or "street cred", Elizabeth. Those are terms of ostracism and shunning, patronization and condescension - the exact way that you treat a pariah and the core of the Feminist Party Line in the comic-book field relative to Dave Sim. If anything, any "street cred" that I have comes from the fact that a certain number of guys - still cowed and intimidated by your team and the implied threat that ostracism and vilification can be used on them as well and consequently still silent on the subject of Dave Sim - are starting to realize that you can tell feminists that they're full of s**t even if there's only one guy doing it. In a democratic society, freedom of speech is (at least theoretically) for everyone, not just for feminists, homosexuals or those who believe the genders are interchangeable. I assume that there will be more support for my views as we go along and people clue in that feminists have never been able to refute anything that I've said about them and their movement. In fact, Craig R. Johnson, managing editor of actually went public with challenging the Friends of Lulu for ignoring both me and him and the points that we're making (as we will see when we get to February 25 and the next instalment of "free rides for feminists in our society" here on the Blog & Mail). That was unexpected, very gratifying and a lot sooner than I would have thought possible considering the implied feminist threat against anyone speaking out against feminism. Back at the CSM interview:
NASO: It stopped being about Cerebus.

McNEIL: Very much so. Cerebus was one of my formative experiences. It will always be in the back of my head how brilliantly [Sim] pasted a conversation how many nuances he was able to get out with his approach to lettering. The man is incredibly expressive, but we're leaving aside what he chooses to express…
Well, of course you are, Carla, because you can't even begin to refute what it is that I'm saying and have been saying for twelve years. Instead of "leaving aside what he chooses to express" why don't you (oh, I don't know) refute the "Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast"? Why don't you refute seven of them? Five of them? Three of them? Pick one, Carla, and refute it: "This is not an impossible thing to believe, this is the sole sensible and legitimate way to conduct our society." Well, you can't. So all you can do is toe the Feminist Party Line in the comic-book field and treat Dave Sim and his work (like "The Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast" as contained in "Tangent") as if both are self-evidently clinically insane. It's the only feminist recourse. "This guy has us nailed dead to rights so all we can do is establish that shunning him, ostracizing him and treating him and his work like a colossal failure is the only sensible way to behave and hope he kills himself or he just gets forgotten on our say-so." So far, it's working like a charm. Everyone has fallen into lockstep and gotten with the program. Even the people who disagree just shuffle nervously on the sidelines and don't dare utter a single word in my defence. Hey, I'm completely at peace with that. I've got twelve years of historical record to back up my version of reality: feminism is indefensible so all they can do is attack someone personally who dares to question feminism. Twelve years so far and I assume there'll be another good twelve years of this. "Poor, sad, failed Dave Sim" being the enunciated universal consensus and everyone else shuffling nervously and silently on the sidelines.

But, let me ask you this: How do you think that's going to make your team look in the long run when the historical record actually gets examined and men discover that in a democratic society they have a right to free speech and to express an opinion on what was done to Dave Sim, Elizabeth?

Exactly the way you'll deserve to look, is my guess.

Anyway (I'm still chuckling gleefully away to myself, Elizabeth) feel free to give it another Orwellian revisionist try anytime the mood takes you and I'll bet I'll have a half dozen "poor, sad, failed Dave Sim" Feminist Party Line examples of ostracism and vilification to match whatever you happen to come up with to prove that I've only been imagining my "pariahdom".

Thanks as always for writing. I look forward to writing the introduction for the second edition of Chiaroscuro and (please try not to take this personally) I really don't give a tinker's damn what you think about my decision to pass on the first one. How about that, eh? A man who doesn't care what a feminist thinks of his choices.

What if it catches on, Elizabeth? Won't THAT be fun?

Sunday 25 August 2013

Troy Little: Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro (2007)
by Troy Little
(from The Blog & Mail, 17 January 2007 )
Troy Little sent me a POD version of volume one of his graphic novel magnum opus Chiaroscuro (which, hopefully, you can check out at the website above):
Then life happens again and I find myself the proud pop of two beautiful twin girls (3 months old!). Well, I thought maybe I'd see if I could find a publisher for my book as my time is all but eaten up. So here I am, a small POD run of graphic novels being sent to various publishers. I figure it can't hurt to try, if all else fails I'll just publish it myself. I have enclosed two copies, one for you and one for Gerhard.

Which brings me to the crux of this little note. I'm trying to gather the usual round of quotes and such from industry people for the next edition of the book. I would be very honoured if you would consider writing the forward.

I'm sure you're thinking again, "Man, this guy just keeps making bad decisions". Personally, I don't think so. As a major inspiration to my own work (which is fairly obvious) I would be proud to have your name in my book and I'll defend it to my dying breath!

Of course you're under no obligation to write anything, I can only recall seeing you do this for Strangehaven but I repeat, it would be truly be an honour to me if you would consider it. If you have any thoughts or questions on the idea I can be reached at [phone number deleted].

I wish you all the best and thank you and Gerhard once again for 300 glorious issues of Cerebus.
Well, I appreciate the tribute, Troy - particularly that "stand-alone most brilliant work" comment - but you have to realize that this Pariah King thing is no joke particularly if you're out there shopping for a publisher. See, you have to qualify anything that refers to me or Cerebus with "disturbing" or "troubling" or "challenging" or "controversial" or "thought-provoking" or other liberal euphemisms for clinical insanity that indicate that Cerebus needs to be shunned and, if possible, outlawed or you risk being tarred with the same brush. I mean, you really do. It's okay to say unqualified nice things about Cerebus here because this is really only read by the Yahoos and a handful of other folks who are actually open-minded (or looking for examples of my insanity to cite to others), but go and take a look at any reference to Cerebus anyplace else on the Internet and you'll get the idea. There is only one allowable way to think of Dave Sim and you don't want to associate yourself with that universal perception. These folks don't mess around when they set their sights on you. They will, literally, hound you to your grave. In my case, they're more than welcome to do so because it will only show in sharper relief what sort of people they are as opposed to what sort of people they portray themselves to be both to themselves and to others and Cerebus is already out there in quantities that would be very difficult to eliminate (which isn't the case with Chiaroscuro). You shun Cerebus right into the quarter bin in your store and that just makes it more likely that some kid with more brains than money is going to pick it up and not understand that being in the quarter bin is an insult. He's just going to assess it in his own frames of reference. The classic new Cerebus reader: "I had no idea what was going on, but I was hooked."

All that having been said, I was really, really impressed with what you have done with Chiaroscuro. There was definitely the same slow pace and, yes, you certainly have learned every one of my lettering and pacing tricks (Jeez, I thought the Box Office Poison-era Alex Robinson was the consummate Dave Sim magpie) in spades. But, there's a world of difference between knowing the moves as an intellectual exercise and being able to execute them flawlessly which was the case with your work (and with Alex's Tricked) as I got further and further into your book. I could see the narrative tricks that you were using but the point was no longer, as it had been in the issues #1-4 that you had sent me, the tricks themselves - "hey that works really well" - but rather the trick was doing what it was supposed to be doing: drawing me as the reader further into the story. That's probably the most difficult trick in the world to manage, to turn someone who does this stuff for a living into just another reader and, again, you definitely managed it in spades.

Obviously, it's a long story that you're telling here and the twin baby girls (congratulations, by the way) is not exactly the best harbinger I could imagine of this ever getting done, so I'm kind of at a loss for advice here. I'm almost tempted to suggest that you take the Scott Berwanger approach and just finish the story wherever and whenever you can grab a few minutes to work on it and figure that the goal line might have just been pushed somewhere up ahead where the girls go off to college in 2025 or so (trust me, Troy, it will be here before you know it).

Tell you what: let's give you a fighting chance at life, first. You find a publisher or self-publish volume one without an introduction or with an introduction by someone else and when you're established (say, on your third printing or on volume two) I'll do an introduction for you then if you still really want me to. At that point, given the level of ability you exhibit and the wide success and popularity I expect you'll have, having Dave Sim write an introduction for your book can just be written off as a strange eccentricity on your part instead of career suicide. Deal?

Saturday 24 August 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Troy Little

After a career in animation, Troy Little began self-publishing his comic series Chiaroscuro in 2000, which was eventually collected by IDW Publishing in 2007. His second book, Angora Napkin was published in 2009 with IDW and was nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award (Best Publications for Teens) in 2010. The sequel Angora Napkin: Harvest of Revenge was published by IDW in 2013 and nominated for an Eisner as well (Best Lettering). Troy lives with his family in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus and how long did you read it for?

Troy Little:
Cerebus has somehow always been in my periphery. My first encounter with the grey bastard was when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8 came out in 1986 guest starring Cerebus. I had no idea who Cerebus was at the time but I was TMNT obsessed at the time and something struck me about this character that didn't quite fit the Eastman / Laird style.

In high school I picked up a few issues of Cerebus Bi-Weekly from the cheap bin at my local comic shop. It was well into High Society at the time and I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

But the real tipping point for me was in my mid-twenties when I was so burnt out on all superhero crap that I began to mine the comic shops for an alternative to Marvel and DC. I avoided Cerebus for a long time due to the commitment factor; there were a number of very large phone books to jump into at that point. Despite this, I picked up Vol. 1 and that was it for me. I tried to pace myself but every few days I went back to pick up another volume until I ran out (around Rick’s Story) and then switched to a monthly subscription. I was completely hooked.

How has your own creativity/comics been influenced by Cerebus?

I wear my influence on my sleeve. I may have been a decade late to the party but once I got my hands on Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing there was no going back. I started self-publishing a comic called Chiaroscuro that was visually without a doubt my best effort to employ the Sim/Gerhard crosshatch style. I bought S172 Illustration board (like Dave uses!), Hunt 102 Crowquill nibs (like Dave uses!) and studied page after page from the Cerebus books to see how they handled all the amazing tones and textures and tried to ape them in my work. I’ve been included along side Alex Robinson as a Dave Sim magpie on Dave Wiki page, a compliment I take a humble amount of pride it.

In 2001 Chiaroscuro was awarded a Xeric Grant that helped get the book into Diamond and it ran for seven issues, after which I ran out of money. Determined, I kept on drawing the book and eventually collected what would have been the first ten issues into a graphic novel. I printed 100 copies and sent them to publishers and industry people I admired, Dave Sim being top on my list.

Dave was running his Blog & Mail at the time and wrote a very kind review of the book. That review changed everything for me! Ted Adams, Publisher of IDW and long time Cerebus fan contacted me, asked to see a copy of the book and before I knew it Chiaroscuro is in print in hard and softcover editions!

Since then IDW has published two of my Angora Napkin books (very not Sim inspired, I needed a break from all that hatching!) which have been nominated twice for Eisner Awards, the last of which was for “Best Lettering” – and my lettering is basically riffing of Dave’s style.
Cerebus #150 (September 1991)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?

In the beginning I was very much in line with everything Dave said and it still hold a lot of merit with me despite making the leap out of self-publishing. Times have changed and even Dave himself is working with IDW to publish The Strange Death of Alex Raymond! I’m very protective of my personal creations an have avoided all offers to sign on with a studio or company that wants to own them. I make sure I retain all rights in every situation.

There are pros and cons about all forms of publishing, but the self-publishing bug definitely bit me. I’m working on a weekly Angora Napkin web comic and at some point down the road would like to publish that myself.

The rise of the Internet and web publishing has opened venues that have fundamentally altered the world of self-publishing in the traditional form and opened the floodgates for independent creators. I wonder what Dave would be like if he was just starting out in this day and age?

Do you have a favorite scene/sequence from Cerebus?

Flight had me frantic and Minds blew mine. The former just had such intensity running through it and the great use of all those tall, thin panels really compressed time and kept the pace fast, and as a follow up to Melmoth (which I loved being a huge Oscar Wilde fan) it was such a dramatic switch. Dave really is the master of comics in my world and he put a lot of brilliant layouts in this book.

And Minds just captivated me with the whole 4th wall being destroyed. Conceptually, I was fascinated by the idea of Creator meets Creation, seeing how that played out and how on Earth does one just go back to “Real Life” after being told you’re basically a story Dave is making up.

Would you recommend others read Cerebus, and if so why?

To me, Cerebus IS the masterpiece of sequential narrative. Visually, it’s staggeringly beautiful and innovative in so many technically brilliant and subtle ways. Story wise, it’s an epic tale of a lifetime lived in way that’s never done before. Thematically it touches on so many big ideas as well as postulating a very unique perspective / theology on politics, gender, faith, control, and on and on.

It’s a big chunk of brain food to dig into for the casual reader with a short attention span but to those out there who like a little more meat on the bone it’s a fascinating creation by one of comics most marginalized yet grudgingly respected innovators.

I encourage anyone who’s serious about the medium of comics to take the plunge into Dave Sim's creation and see for themselves the potential in the medium. If you’re a comic creator, study Dave’s work and you’ll quickly see how most comics out there fall way short in just about every way. Hard work, discipline and a unique vision all contribute to making Cerebus a groundbreaking narrative worthy of a large portion of your bookshelf space.

Friday 23 August 2013

The iPetition: James Loh

(iPetition signatory no. 221, 22 February 2010)
As a kid growing up reading comic books, Cerebus showed me what the medium was capable of, and as I've grown older, how few creators, at least in the mainstream, rise to the challenge. I do not believe that Dave Sim is a misogynist/hates women, and I find no evidence of this in any of his writings. People have inaccurately described a very talented man clearly and concisely laying out his opinions as being hateful, when I would argue that Sim's opinions have been expressed without any malice, or emotive statements. You may disagree with him, you may STRONGLY disagree with him, but to respond with such anger as to label a man a misogynist is discrimination in itself; to hate a person for their difference of opinion. 

Show your support for Dave Sim by signing the iPetition

Thursday 22 August 2013

Breaking Free Of Barry Smith

Cerebus #7 Page 7 (December 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 2, 1981)
...this issue was my first radical departure from my intention to be a major Barry Smith sequel - the cross-hatching on the splash page. I was trying to find a Barry Smith-style texture that would allow me to render the webbing in two different shades. I broke down and did tight weave cross-hatching even though Smith had never used it.

Suddenly I was free.

Why -- I bet I could do anything I wanted!

I mulled that over while I opened the story on a snowy expanse of flatland. I mulled it over for three panels of priests lighting candles.

And then page seven.


A pseudo-art nouveau background design, cross-hatch shadows, warped bricks drawn with short parallel strokes, two wall decorations of differing sizes, a stuffed polar bear, two bird's eye view panels, one of which has a genuine checker-board bird in it.

I could do anything I wanted.

Reverse lettering, borderless panels, high contrast partial silhouettes.

Hey, this is neat-o!

Wednesday 21 August 2013


Cerebus #140 (November 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Note From The President, Cerebus 139, October 1990)
So here we are starting Melmoth, the shortest of the Cerebus volumes at a puny two hundred and forty pages (aww. Isn't it cute? Id's dust a 'iddle one!). Which is why it's designated as Melmoth a short story in the black box that never leaves the side of the Note From The President over yonder. This is sure to piss off all the artistes in the biz with (in Howard Chaykin's immortal phrase) the backs of their hands nailed to their foreheads, but hey around here two hundred and forty pages is a cake-walk, not a magnum opus.

This one I like a lot because it serves the dual function of distant epilogue to Jaka's Story - a kind of echo you can scarcely hear - and prologue to Mothers & Daughters (which clocks in at a hefty one thousand pages and could probably last a few rounds in the ring against Church & State). It also ends at the half-way point of the Cerebus story-line which is the finish of the Male Cycle in the story-line which switches gender (in a thematic sense) in 151. Um. What else? It's... pardon?

Is who in it? Cerebus?

Jeez that's a good one. Let me check my notes here. Mm. Nothing in 139. Nothing in 140. Dum da da da dum...

Ah. Yep. Cerebus definitely appears in this one. We just hope he doesn't hurt sales too badly.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Killing-Off Your Lead Character

Cerebus #300 (March 2004)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from a letter to Gabriel McCann, 8 October 2005)
I was aware of Doyle’s problems with getting rid of Sherlock Holmes which is why I spent twenty-five years telling people that Cerebus dies in the last issue. Even the most thick-witted will accept something if they’re told for twenty-five years. Doyle's problem was a) having a publisher with a stake in the property and b) trying to do it on the spur of the moment.

(Submitted by Gabriel McCann. Thanks Gabe!)

Monday 19 August 2013

Avengers #23

Cerebus #272 (November 2001) by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Avengers #23 (December 1965) by Jacob Kurtzberg
(Click image to enlarge)
(from Cerebus #272, November 2001)
After Jacob Kurtzberg's original cover to Avengers #23... (or 'Jack Kirby' if you prefer) (By me? He is Jacob Kurtzberg) (May God rest his soul)

Sunday 18 August 2013

One For Sorrow

One For Sorrow:
The Photocopied Editions
by Lee Thacker
(from The Blog & Mail #158, 16 February 2007)
...I also got a package from Lee Thacker, who started with the micropress model with his 800-page graphic novel One For Sorrow, which he would photocopy and then package individually as eight 100-page perfect bound chapters. As I said in my review of the project in an attempt to sell people on the 128 pounds sterling cover price: "Look at it this way - each copy will be put together by hand and autographed by Lee himself. And what do you suppose those will be going for in twenty years time when One for Sorrow finally gets the wider distribution it deserves? Yes, exactly." Well, Lee has gone the print-on-demand route and has now published One for Sorrow as two handsome hardcovers with a cover price of 40 pounds sterling each. Lee writes:
I thought I'd send you my One for Sorrow books now that they've been printed "properly", and as a replacement for the new work I have yet complete. I don't expect you to spend your valuable time reading the whole thing again, I just thought they'd look nice in the Cerebus Archive alongside the original hand made copies. I went along to an international comics event last weekend. I managed to sell a total of 5 items (none of which were my One for Sorrow books - softcover versions of Book One - 8 pounds each) but I was expecting as much so, although disappointed, I'm not too discouraged. There's another show in London in March, so I'll try again there.
It's hard to know what sort of conclusion to draw from this... The optimist in me thinks that it's a matter of the market catching up with the pioneer efforts that have been produced largely in a vacuum. How many completed 800-page graphic novels do you figure are out there? Not many I don't think. Obviously Cerebus, Finder, Usagi Yojimbo and others have demonstrated that there is a demand for longer graphic novels but I suspect at this point that the demand is not enough to overcome sales resistance on the part of retailers to move too far over in that direction. A graphic novel is still largely envisioned by the retail community as something between 70 and 150 pages with Batman in it. Outside of that construct - no fantasy or superheroic elements..., no star name cartoonist cachet - it's just too much of an uphill struggle to expect someone to pay roughly $160 US for a book in that category or for a retailer to devote the time and energy to persuade even his indy customers to take a chance on it.
One For Sorrow:
The 2-Volume Hardback Editions
by Lee Thacker
I mean, part of me thinks what Lee Thacker needs to do is to take the books to a show and set up two or three easy chairs and get people a cup of tea and just have them read the first fifty or sixty pages until they're hooked. Of course comics-buying dollars are at a premium these days and I suspect that a lot of customers still wouldn't go for it. "No thanks, mate. If you're that confident in the material half an hour from now, I'll be handing you eighty quid and I've already got that money earmarked for the Marvel Essentials volumes I'm missing." That really gets into the long-term direction of buying habits and customer interest in the marketplace. Most comic fans don't try Cerebus or Love &  Rockets or other indy books until they've exhausted their super-hero jones (along about the time that they notice that the nine Spider-man comics they're buying every month don't remotely connect with each other or make any kind of internal logical sense). With Hollywood Super-Hero Blockbusters still dominating the environment what I see is mostly a potential indy market but probably another decade down the line when everyone who got drawn into or back to comics by the first Spider-man film have hit that super-hero exhaustion threshold. At that point, I think at least potentially interest will shift to larger self-contained stories - one 800-page story with a beginning, middle and end rather than 800-pages of an endlessly continued story that never gets anywhere near to a conclusion or resolution.

It's a theory anyway.

Anyway, the One for Sorrow hardcover books are available from Raw Shark Comics... If you're a Cerebus completist, you'll have to buy volume one just to get my introduction (which Lee put together from the above-mentioned review). Not the best idea in the world to have an intro in your book by the Pariah King of Comics, but he asked very nicely and had no success selling the books up to that point so, where's the harm? was my theory. It's a really good story and maybe it can overcome that Pariah King taint... And I bet the two versions of One for Sorrow will be a Gold Star in the Cerebus Archive one day. 

Saturday 17 August 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Lee Thacker

Lee Thacker is the creator of (among other things) the 800 page graphic novel One For Sorrow, the Sim-inspired Holocaust book Yellow Stars, The Festive Fifty Illustrated, Snapshots (an anthology title illustrating a number of creator owned stories) and the ongoing Tales From The Wedding Present comic book series, written by David Gedge. He has been creating comic book stories and illustrated self published books in relative obscurity for the past twenty years.

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus and how long did you read it for?

Lee Thacker:
I was a Marvel Zombie up until I started reading Epic Illustrated and Archie Goodwin's Epic line - that really opened my horizons to different types of comic books NOT published by Marvel and gradually weaned me off my superhero addiction. I noticed an advert for Cerebus in an issue of Epic, but wasn’t quite ready to move from X-Men to talking furry animals. I then basically went from Love & Rockets to Black Kiss, Yummy Fur, American Flagg and finally - Cerebus. I’d seen a few eye-catching covers in comics shops before my ‘conversion’, most notably issue 80 with the giant stone Thrunk (‘What’s The Thing doing on this comic cover?!’) and issue 82 with the swamp/man-thing parody. Man-Thing, along with anything else written by Steve Gerber, was my favourite Marvel Comics series. However, I didn’t pick up an issue of Cerebus until a local second hand book shop I frequented had a whole load of back issues for 50p each. I took a chance and purchased a batch of issues (105-111) - the climax of the Church & State storyline. To say it was like an epiphany is a vast understatement. I was instantly addicted and spent the rest of the year tracking down every back issue I could get my hands on (this was before I knew anything about the ‘phone books’). The bi-weekly reprints were easy enough to come by, but it took a lot of searching in comic shops/second hand book shops in the Midlands to complete my collection. The first ‘current’ issue I bought would have been towards the end of Jaka’s Story, issue 129, December 1989. Cerebus became one of the few constants in my life and (apart from Love & Rockets) was the only comic book I continued to buy from around 1995 onwards. I picked up every issue each month (from 129 up to 300) from my local comic shop (and often at the brilliant Page 45 in Nottingham, where Mark and Stephen turned me on to a load of brilliant comics over the years) and savoured every issue. The Torah commentaries issues are the only ones I can say I didn’t ‘thoroughly’ enjoy, but Cerebus still remains the most entertaining, original, thought-provoking, gob-smackingly brilliant comic in the history of the medium IMHO.

Less long winded answer: In a second hand bookshop in Birmingham called Reader’s World. Fifteen years.

How has your own creativity/comics been influenced by Cerebus?

Completely. Not so much artistically as I don’t even come close to Dave and Gerhard’s talent, but certainly creatively. One For Sorrow began as a sixty page story, but after reading the first few Cerebus storylines (up to and including Jaka’s Story) I decided to expand it and it turned into my Magnum Opus. Strangely enough, all of the covers for One For Sorrow were originally photographs, preceding Dave’s use of photography for his covers by two years! I was also lucky enough to get a Single Page submission printed in the back of a Church & State reprint comic (#22) along with a cheque for $171 (the ONLY time I’ve ever been paid for my comics work!) When Judenhass came out, I set about creating my own Holocaust book, using Dave’s photo-realistic approach, this became Yellow Stars. This then led to me spending a couple of years on The Festive Fifty Illustrated, again influenced by Dave’s photo-realism approach of tracing the picture and then inking using the finest lines possible, as beautifully evidenced in Glamourpuss. Great fun! I also got in touch with Steve Peters through a mutual love of Cerebus and I contributed a number of pieces (gratis) to his Sparky comics.

Has Cerebus influenced your approach to working in the comics industry?

I’d say that it’s informed rather than influenced. Dave’s integrity and advocacy of creator’s rights was a big inspiration as well as an eye-opener. Like a lot of fans, the Guide To Self Publishing was hugely important to me, but from a creative aspect rather than publishing. Without the advice, I certainly wouldn’t have written and drawn an 800 page graphic novel. I used Dave’s idea of writing something down every day on a calendar to keep track of my creative output. For four years I stuck to this and created 10 twenty pages comics for each of those years, working in complete obscurity with my only reader and fan being my girlfriend Kirstie. I was also holding down a full time job and partying at weekends! I wish I had that much energy nowadays! I sent the photocopied issues to a number of independent publishers and heard nothing back from any of them until I was halfway through book three, when Matt Silvie of The Comics Journal got in touch and wrote a flattering review in The Comics Journal. British comics legend Paul Gravett also got in touch around this time and featured some of my original artwork in an exhibition in London. When the book was finally completed, I sent the 8 (hand made, photocopied 100 page) books to Dave Sim as a thank you for inspiring me to keep going with a very personal and non-lucrative artistic endeavour. I had a very pleasant surprise when I discovered a glowing review of my work posted on the Cerebus Fan Girl site, written by Dave. He allowed me to edit it and include it as an introduction for the first book. This inspired me to look into better printing and I settled on using Lulu (print on demand). To date, I’ve sold about 300 (yes, that’s three HUNDRED) copies of One For Sorrow. Not very impressive really, is it?! I still enjoy working on comic book art, but I’m a lot slower these days and I’ve never made much money from it!
Cerebus #107 (February 1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Do you have a favourite scene/sequence from Cerebus?

There are so many!! The first sequence that blew me away was Cerebus’ ‘conversation’ with The Judge in Walking On The Moon; Gerhard’s backgrounds in these issues are beautiful. The scenes in Jaka’s Story where Cerebus is eavesdropping on Jaka and Rick and he overhears them having sex. Elrod’s return in High Society always makes me laugh out loud, and the scene at the end where Cerebus turns to the Regency Elf with tears in his eyes always makes my eyes a bit damp. The part in Reads (issue 183) where Dave tells us he decided long ago that Cerebus would only run until issue 200 but decided to keep it a secret – that really messed with my head at the time and his description of the reader’s reaction was spot on as far as this reader was concerned. The essay ‘Tangent’ also had a profound effect on me and changed my relationships with a lot of the women in my life (I really was a member of their ‘fan club’ and it had to stop!) Also, the scene with the Sphinx baby was quite shocking and sent a shiver up my spine. The ‘Comics Journal’ interview that Cerebus reads after he’s collected every issue of ‘Rabbi’ was highly entertaining too. As I said, there are so many I could list at least three hundred more!
Cerebus #107 (February 1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Would you recommend others read Cerebus, and if so why?

I’ve bought a number of female friends copies of the Jaka’s Story phone book over the years, to mixed or no reviews. Most of the people I know have little or no interest in comics, but to anyone who DOES like comics and graphic novels, reading Cerebus should be on a list of things to do before you die. Why? Because it’s insightful, intelligent, funny, thought- provoking, and beautifully drawn – graphic storytelling at its very best.

Friday 16 August 2013

The iPetition: Ray Cornwall

(iPetition signatory no. 480, 22 July 2013):
I read all 300 issues and all 6000 pages. There's a lot of things I could say about Dave, some good, some bad. But I don't think I'd brand him a misogynist. He's complicated, anti-feminist, heterosexist, and a little paranoid. He's too quick to brand things as belonging to the "Marxist-feminist-homosexual axis". (Obviously, I don't agree with most, if not all, of his opinions in this area.) He's also a staggering comic book genius, a man who self-taught himself to become one of the best artists on the planet, a hard-working man who willed himself to produce a 6000 page cohesive, readable, funny, though-provoking narrative over four decades. And he didn't stop - Judenhass, his short follow-up work, is must reading for anyone who is interested in the history of anti-Semitism, and glamourpuss, his sadly aborted comics series, was a fascinating review of fashion, photorealism, and Alex Raymond. He's now working on the followup to that with IDW. Dave's also one of the most charitable men I've ever seen, donating large chunks of money to causes he believes in. Whether it was a six-figure check to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund or a continuing donation to anti-hunger efforts in Canada, he gives his money selflessly. He's given advice to would-be comics artists, and helped a number of artists get their start in comics. There are times when being a fan of Dave Sim is incredibly frustrating, when I've shaken my head at an emotional rant (his Tangents essay was hard to stomach). And there are other times when I've wept openly at the brilliance of his work. I've read all of his Cerebus work, and I urge anyone willing to read challenging material to do so. Cerebus might shock you; Cerebus might repulse you. But the work (and his post-Cerebus work, too) is utterly fascinating and worth your time. 

Support Dave Sim's right to free speech by signing the ipetition.

Thursday 15 August 2013


Cerebus #256 (July 2000)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click image to enlarge)
(from 'Notes On Form & Void', Cerebus #257, August 2000)
All of Form & Void's Africa sequence takes place in and around an area which was popularly known for many years as "Deepest, Darkest Africa". As Mary Hemingway pointed out in her Journal, there are few places on earth that so little qualify for their popular designations as does "The Dark Continent". Most of Africa is not dark, by all accounts, and is, rather, notable for its varieties and intensities of colour and light.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

High Society 30th Anniversary Signed & Numbered Edition

Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
30th Anniversary Signed & Numbered Edition
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
"After more than a month of negotiation, Aardvark-Vanaheim and Imprimerie Lebonfon have agreed to share in the expense of re-running 224 of HIGH SOCIETY'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY restored printing's 520 pages. We're hoping that this is the last step in bringing the book back into print and sincerely apologize to all the comic stores and CEREBUS fans that the very involved process of restoring the book has dragged on this long."

And that's all I'm going to say at this point. I'll let Tim know as soon as I have ANY more information. Hopefully not too much longer.

Life Suit Redux

Cerebus Archive #2 (June 2009)
Art by Dave Sim
Read the original 1975 version of 'Life Suit' here.
(from the teeny tiny type on the cover of Cerebus Archive #2, June 2009)
Say! That isn't Cerebus in there, is it? Well, no, of course not. Cerebus wasn't even created for more than a year after Life Suit was published. However, according to the 1984 Amalgamated Brotherhood of Comic-Book Characters Collective Bargaining Agreement he was to be featured prominently on any cover with his name in the logo. Sorry. It's one of those "union" things.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Life Suit

Life Suit
Amazing Science Fantasy #1, (Wind City Publishing, 1975)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday 12 August 2013

Comic Art Metaphysics

Cosmix (Imagine #4, November 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
Read the full Cosmix story here.
Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (2008-2012), 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, specifically focusing 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. Dave Sim has recently announced plans for The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond to be serialised in an 18-issue monthly comic-book to be published by IDW.

Tim asked me to comment on Cosmix because I didn't get to that one before I had to pull the plug on Cerebus Archive. It's, I think, a good example of what I've decided to call "Comic Art Metaphysics" in The Strange Death of Alex Raymond.  Mostly because Eddie Khanna and I both got tired of just saying: Well, whatever it is, there it goes again -- although that might be as 100% accurate as we can get about it.  The story was done, I'm pretty sure, after I had started Cerebus but definitely before Cerebus became a 6,000-page, 300-issue project (it was published in Star*Reach's Imagine No.4 in November 1978, so roughly the same time as Cerebus No.6).

The metaphysical property at work -- which I think is unique to comic art -- is that if you "incarnate" something in a comic story, it tends to incarnate in the real world as well.  Physical incarnation -- spirit housed in a physical form -- what we all appear to be -- being comparable.  We're just slowed down so that we experience time sequentially even though time is actually simultaneous: the fourth dimension (for a thorough hashing over of that refer to my Dialogue: From Hell with Alan Moore).

When you draw, say Rip Kirby in this panel, "saying" these words in 1955, it becomes permanent.  Rip Kirby always "says" that at that specific point.  Even if I don't read it until 2012.  What you're doing as an artist -- what Alex Raymond was doing over Fred Dickenson's script -- is incarnating an even more drastically-slowed-down form of physical incarnation.  There's even "free will" to a degree -- that quality where a character just won't say what you want him to say -- he wants to take a different course.  There, it's probably the artist's unconscious mind enacting/incarnating the image and words and the unconscious doesn't always want to do what the conscious mind thinks it's doing.  I've decided there are different degrees of this.  Sometimes you're just writing and drawing -- banging it out -- and sometimes there's a lot "on the line" you aren't consciously aware of. Having now read all ten years of Raymond's Rip Kirby, there's quite a bit of "Comic Art Metaphysics" that I see in there -- and Eddie's finding more examples outside of Rip Kirby every day.

The guy's totally amazing.  Alex Raymond AND Eddie.
Glamourpuss #4 (November 2008)
Art by Dave Sim
In the case of Cosmix, I think there are a couple of significant elements:  it's my first professionally published "auteur" work.  I wrote it, drew it and lettered it.  It was the first time a professional publisher, Mike Friedrich, looked at a total package by me and said, Yes, this is worth publishing (and thank you, Mike!) when it wasn't just a script or funny animals (The Beavers).  On top of that, it's -- and this is a big element of "Comic Art Metaphysics" -- a comic story inside a comic story. When you do that (my theory goes) what you're doing is inviting something larger than you to write you in the same way that you're writing your character.  Something I was completely unconscious of at the time but, arguably, this is where I backed a larger part of me into a comparable...grandiosity... to what I was writing about.

The closest approximation to what Cosmix was, as I describe it (but you notice, don't actually show much of it) being, say, a 26-year, 6,000-page graphic novel.  And I think this became of interest on the next chessboard up (as I like to call it) because it seems to promise a boffo suicide ending, or total insanity or a range of generally voyeuristic possibilities:  what IS he going to do?  Lots of speculation:  bet he goes crazy, bet he kills himself before he gets there, bet he kills himself after he gets there.  Bet he goes on a homicidal rampage. A lot of that based on a misreading of the extent of the autobiography involved: I just was never that emotional, that pain-racked OR that suicidal as the character in the story. Not even close.

[If you took Life Suit (1975), which I see as another "Comic Art Metaphysics" story created by me -- and, Tim, feel free to reprint that here if you want -- and instead of the suit automatically restoring emotional balance, you took my own character trait which did that for myself pretty much automatically here in our world -- and grafted that onto Cosmix, that would be a LITTLE closer to autobiographical.]
Life Suit (1975)
Art by Dave Sim
Read 'Life Suit' here.
But the picture seemed to stick: Dave is emotional, pain-racked and suicidal, which I think, accounts for the basic radio silence that greeted the end of the book. In a largely atheistic environment (like comics), it was kind of a "done deal":  he chose to believe in God, ergo he went crazy, the end.

I think it's on-going as well. "Okay, #300 just came out, give it a while. Bet he goes completely insane. Bet he kills himself in six months."  Six months go by.  "Okay, give it five years. He's estranged from his family, he has no friends, he believes in God, he fasts and prays and works.  Any minute now they'll be dragging him off to a rubber room.  Or he'll buy a gun and blow his brains out." Well, you know, it's been ten years (this December).  And I think the reaction now is, Yeah, well. Whatever.

Well [insert laughter here].  No, it's NOT a "Yeah, well. Whatever."  You're willfully not looking at it.  It definitely proved a point.  You scale something up that large and it will end the way it ended.  It's -- at the very least -- circumstantial evidence (or "Comic Art Metaphysics" evidence) for the existence of God.  

I think it went up, chessboard by chessboard over the 26 years and I think the smart money, the further up you went was: he'll come back to God (Who I had been away from since I was, like, 8).  He's going to see too much of the Big Context to stay an atheist.  He'll WRITE Cerebus losing HIS way and that will be the cautionary note not to let it happen to him.  Badda bing badda boom. Which is pretty much how I think it happened and why I ended up the way I am.

So, it's STILL on-going. Here we are at ten years "Yeah, well. Whatever." (Watch this neat segue!) They just closed the post office at Market Square and moved Box 1674 way to heck and gone out to Waterloo. A half-hour walk or $10 cab drive away. So I have no excuse to go out every day and get the mail. What's he going to do (fervent hoping THIS will drive him crazy, THIS will make him kill himself)? Well, no, now I'm just going to get the mail every other Friday and answer it with form letters with little notes at the bottom (the first batch went out August 2nd).  I think I was pointed in that direction. "Dave, you're slowing down. The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is taking an average of three days per page.  Answering the mail has to GO!"  So I'm doing the same thing I did the last year of Cerebus (only this time, it's probably going to be a minimum of three years).  I'll answer the mail, but when I'm done SDOA.

See, to me, that was another proof of sanity: what did I actually do when Cerebus ended? I answered the mail. And made it into a 500-page book Collected Letter 2004. And NO one registered that. Go through the 500 pages. You see any drama queen or craziness or suicidal impulse in there?

Yeah, well, Whatever.

[laughter]  So, anyway, sincere apologies that you're going to see a lot less of me around here than you have (not that you've seen that much of me as it is).  I'm going to encourage Tim to ask me to write about stuff he thinks people would like to read -- but the answer a lot of times (but not ALL the time) is going to be "No".  Not because I don't want to do it, but because I've got to get back up to speed on SDOAR and HOPEFULLY (God willing) three years from now, you'll all have a Dave Sim monthly comic to read for a year and a half.

And if you have a question I can answer in a sentence or two at the bottom of a form letter, by all means, send it along.  The longer answers, you'll just be assigned a number for my post-SDOAR mail answering session.

I'm on page 14 of issue 2, but I'm starting to really remember how to do this.

Hope a bunch of you are still here three years from now!

Thanks, Tim!

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

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.