Thursday 31 October 2013

Drawing The Covers

Cerebus #122 (May 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Comics Interview #107, 1992)
...It's very funny, there are so many covers that we get done and we think that, well, we'll just have to live with it. I don't like it, you don't like it, but I spent too much time on it and now you are spending too much time on it. We've got a whole issue to draw. I think there's more time spent on the covers than just about anything else and a lot of times there's a feeling on both our parts that for the amount of time we put into it we didn't get full value out of it. Usually, the reaction is much better from out there than our reaction is.  We do have a certain number that we like. Most of the time Ger likes what I did on it and I think it sucks. In the last while a lot of the reason there haven't been people on the covers, it's like "Take it away Ger"; let Gerhard do the cover. Just make it all background so I'll like this one - because I hate what I do on them. I'll give you a good example: during Jaka's Story, the cover where Pud is crouching down and watching Oscar and Rick through the window and you can see the reflection of Oscar and Rick on the window and you can also see Pud looking out through it, which is a very complicated sort of thing to draw. You are talking about a brilliant sunshine reflection so it has to look literally, like a painting on top of a painting. All I have to do is draw a very large Pud head and a little tiny Oscar and a little tiny Rick and after that it's just one big series of reflection problems for Gerhard...

...I'm always very pleased that people like the covers as much as they do. It's a common compliment; I just wish I liked them as much as they liked them...

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing

Cerebus Guide To Self Publishing (1st Edition, 1997)
Art by Dave Sim

(from a comments post on Dave Sim Art, 15 September 2013)
I haven't actually read your work but I did just pick up and read your 2010 edition of The Cerebus Guide To Self Publishing. Thanks for the practical advice for wannabes such as myself. I do have a suggestion for future editions though, you refer to the people that do comic art on computers as computer technicians and I think computer technicians are actually the people who repair computers, so you should probably refer to them as something else in later editions. Anyways take care, thanks for the guide, it was funny and educational.

You can read Natasha Adams's comics at the Melancholy Feat Productions blog.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Predicting Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball

Glamourpuss #19 (2011)
Art by Dave Sim
(by fax, 26 October 2013)

Ballin' Chain Grrl was one of the League Of Extraordinary Hosebags in glamourpuss No.19. I happened to be looking at the issue because I recently ran across Russ Heath's That Russ Heath Girl original from that issue mixed in with my own artwork. I thought it had been auctioned and the money sent to Russ YEARS ago. So, first I had to find the issue it was in, sign five copies and forward to Heritage Auctions. This might make a good teaser for that auction.

Regardless, I think there is no question that Miley Cyrus has more than earned Extraordinary Hosebag stature since her appearance on that awards show in August.

Monday 28 October 2013

Russ Heath: Cowgirls At War

Cowgirls At War (National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor, 1973)
Art by Russ Heath
(from Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing, 1997)
...I did an interview with Russ Heath back in the mid-70s for a fanzine and had several chances to talk with him over the course of a month or two. One story stuck with me a long time and contributed a great deal to my attitude toward doing comics. Reader's Digest version: Russ Heath's comics strip was the last thing needed for a National Lampoon project that was going to press on Tuesday, and he had barely gotten into it by the previous Friday. So they locked him up in P.J. O'Rourke's apartment over the weekend, and they weren't going to let him out until the story was done. Now, if you know Russ Heath's work at all, you know that it is meticulous and painstaking - from the Hal Foster school where you don't "fake" anything: you work at it until it looks and is right. Well, he worked all weekend, and he got the job done; compared to his preferred method of working, it was an impossibly rushed job. I asked him what the job was (figuring I'd go look up this atrocity in my spare time). He told me it was Cowgirls At War. That confused me. "I thought that was really good," I said. "It was," he said. "One of the best jobs I've ever done. I was really happy with it." That confused me. "Would you ever do something like that again?" I asked. "Never in a million years," And that confused me.

If you can be that good going fast, why go slow?

Sunday 27 October 2013

Weekly Update #2: "Cerebus" & "High Society" Reprinting

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...

(by fax, 25 October 2013)
Progress: George and I are in receipt of SHERPA 1440 dpi scan, XEROX 2400 dpi scan, Lebonfon 600 dpi which we have compared to George's 600 dpi print-out from Kinko's. The darkness in the last panel (the test page is page 12 of the CEREBUS volume) which has persisted through two rounds of proofs and the unbound printed copy (where it was much worse) is now within a more livable range. The XEROX 2400 dpi print-out is the best in my estimation.

George has inquired about the cost -- if any -- of the different versions and I've asked if we can just limit 2400 dpi scanning to "problem" pages like CEREBUS pg. 12 and to have that as part of the overall quote. We're waiting to hear back.

Tim: I'm asking George to email you the last panel on page 12 -- the 2400 dpi and the "unbound" printed version:

Thank you for your questions. The problem is the SEVERITY of the moire pattern which is -- and has been -- livable on the proofs we've received. Livable in that I don't think the average reader would notice it. The 111 pages, once printed but before binding, the moires were more pronounced so the average reader would notice them. The 35 of the 111 were the most noticeable. What we're hoping is that a combination of more accurate proofs -- the 2400 dpi XEROX -- and George "tweaking" the 35 based on the printed version and Lebonfon "baby-sitting" those 35 pages in particular will bring us as close to top quality as we can get in the Computer Age of Printing.


Friday 25 October 2013

When Ken Jennings Met Dave Sim

(from the Ken Jennings Blog, 28 October 2006)
The most interesting part of my presentation last night at the Great Salt Lake Book Festival was what happened before it. I was scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. Friday night at Salt Lake City's beautiful downtown library (currently featured in Archie comics!) And, speaking of comics, the presentation directly preceding mine was by comic artist Dave Sim. He was doing a reading from noon to 6 p.m. Yep, you read that right: a six-hour reading...

I was a huge Cerebus fan in the early 1990s, when Sim was doing some of the most complex and formally exciting work ever seen in comics, turning his odd barbarian aardvark parody into a sprawling epic of politics and religion, and leading an influential movement for self-publishing and comics creators' rights. But today, if Sim is known for anything, it’s not the invention or longevity of his flagship series. Cerebus took an odd turn in the mid-90s, with Sim himself entering the comic proper to deliver a bizarrely misogynistic monologue in which he accuses women - unthinking female "Voids" - of seeking to quench his creative male "Light" (and perhaps sap his Precious Bodily Fluids).

Though the last decade of Cerebus had flashes of the early greatness, it read to me as if its woman-hating author was becoming swiftly unhinged. This was essentially confirmed by the final book of Cerebus, in which forty pages are given over to a kooky retelling of the origin of the universe, in which the creation account from Genesis is recast as a battle between the male Creator Elohim and the conniving female deity YHWH, whom Sim calls “Yoohwhooh.” And Sim made it clear that this story wasn’t just invented for the comic. He had recently undergone a drastic religious conversion (to a religion of his own devising, mixing elements of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and became convinced that his own odd cosmology was obviously capital-T true, and the only reason his crazy-sounding ideas weren’t catching on in scientific circles was because of the “feminist-homosexualist axis” conspiring against him.

That forty-page cosmology was what he was reading (and explicating) to true believers in Salt Lake. For six hours.

At 6 p.m., Dave was supposed to have wrapped up. I had shown up early for my own presentation, with my brother Nathan and his wife Faith, because we wanted to see the post-Yoohwhooh event: Dave's brilliant artistic collaborator Gerhard talking about a gallery display of original Cerebus art. But Dave wasn’t done. In fact, at about six, Dave was only on page 22. I'm sure he would have talked right on through my event, if they’d have let him.

But Book Festival organizers finally shooed Dave and a few hardy remaining fans out into the hall, where he continued his lecture with a laptop. Someone had told Dave that I was a fan, and I was ushered up to meet him. I was a little wary. I loved much of Sim's work and had spent hours and hours of my life reading it. But what do you say when you meet a certifiable genius whom you suspect is also certifiably nuts?

I was disarmed when Dave - a little leaner, a little less cocksure, a little twitchier than when I’d last seen him at a 1992 signing in Seattle - seemed to know exactly who I was and wanted a signed copy of Brainiac. I wasn’t sure what a reclusive religious ascetic hiding out from a vast feminist conspiracy would want with a frivolous, secular book about North American trivia culture, but I told him I’d love to sign him a copy. Was he just being polite? No, he seemed oddly gratified that I knew his work. He wanted to hang out.

"It's always sort of odd," he said, gesturing at the gathered comic fans, waiting to hear the end of Genesis, "meeting someone else that’s well-known and trying to talk in a situation like this."

I'd quibble with that overly inclusive definition of "well-known", maybe, but I wish I'd had more time to spend with Dave Sim. How often do you meet an personal idol-slash-fallen-idol and find out he wants to spend some quality time? But, on the other hand, maybe it would have turned out badly. I’d have been horrified by the psychological train wreck. Dave would have seen that I’d clearly been co-opted by the feminist-homosexualist axis, and accused me of trying to snuff out his Hard Gemlike Male Flame. The relationship was doomed from the start.

But I did feel an overwhelming urge to get home and reread some of my Cerebus comics. Maybe the masterful Jaka’s Story, or the issue where the funny old guy's snowshoes say "wuffa wuffa". You know, for old times' sake.

Ken Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! and as being the all-time leading money winner on American game shows. In 2004, Jennings won 74 Jeopardy! games before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg on his 75th appearance. His total earnings on Jeopardy! are $3,172,700.

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Essential Cerebus

(100 Hours Internet Tour at Newsarama, February 2008)
I'm not sure if I can take credit for the trade paperback format. That takes in a lot of territory. You could probably make a persuasive argument that Joe Quesada and Paul Levitz, individually, at some point, looked at a CEREBUS trade and thought, "Okay, we can do much bigger volume than he can, so the cost per unit comes way down, presumably" and got Quebecor to price the "phone book" format. As far as I know Marvel was first into the pool with their "Essentials". Even taking into account that I had been doing it for ten years at that point, it still represents pretty innovative thinking (i.e. "We don't print in black and white: as far as we know our fans only buy colour...but is that, in fact, true?"). 

As these things tend to work, competition benefits everyone. You can say Marvel and DC "stole" my idea, but in doing so, they also broke down the barrier between colour and black-and-white and trade paperback vs. phone book. Their customers are, now, already familiar with what I'm doing whereas before they had no frame of reference for it.

If I had a lick of common sense I'd call HIGH SOCIETY "THE ESSENTIAL CEREBUS Vol.2" instead. Oh well, I'm not really known for common sense a lot of times.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

The Regency Hotel

Cerebus #26 (May 1981)
Art by Dave Sim
(from The Beguiling, 2004)
Iest's Regency Hotel… was modeled on the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, a stately Victorian-era hotel which is so fully integrated into the architecture of the Parliament Buildings which it adjoins that it might as well be a part of them. A uniquely Canadian quirk. It would be hard to imagine a luxury hotel abutting the U.S. Senate or Westminster. When I stayed there (as a guest of an Ottawa convention) I had to pass through several sets of doors to reach my room and my imagination took flight on the idea that your measure was taken by the desk clerk and your place in the pecking order was established by the number of doors you had to pass through to get to your room. The more doors you passed through, the lower your ranking. At some point I ran across a rather large Canadian coat of arms (which is flanked by a lion and a unicorn) and a further flight of imagination speculated that the hotel was divided into a Lion Wing (for politicians, bankers, royalty - at the time, the hotel restaurant the Canadian Grill Room was an unofficial Liberal party headquarters) and a Unicorn Wing (for artists, musicians, poets and so on). When it came time to apply this to Cerebus it seemed more fruitful to make the division between politics and religion and to apply it to the entire Upper City of Iest instead of just the hotel.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Gerhard: The Insult

Ad in Low Society (Comic Lab Press, 2013)
Click Image To Enlarge

Monday 21 October 2013

Marty Feldman

Cerebus #218 (May 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Cerebus Yahoo! Group, 20 August 2005)
'Marty' was pretty much a straight pull from my Marty Feldman-based character Martin Humble in STARCHILD. I created him in #3, and featured him regularly in more than a dozen issues (and did an 'origin' story in STARCHILD: CROSSROADS #3).

Dave was about to start pulling other self-publisher characters and likenesses into GUYS, and showed me the first pages where he - ahem - misappropriated Martin for CEREBUS #201 at the Spirits stop in Phoenix.

Later, he morphed the straightforward 'Martin Humble' into more of his "Marty' - although by the time he was doing that, the action had switched to the Starchild Tavern (even using my logo as the sign on one of the CEREBUS covers) so he was still riffing me, or riffing on me, or something like that.

At first I was flattered; then annoyed; then chagrined. I mentioned it to Neil Gaiman, who said he only got annoyed when Dave did Swoon because Dave did 'Neil' so well, and I should consider the company I was in (Neil, Frank Miller, etc...). And he was right. Dave had my patterns down cold, and in several cases, could do my own character better than I did.

Had nothing at all to do with the short Canadian guy named Serbius in STARCHILD.

Writer/artist James A. Owen self-published his Starchild comics in the 1990s. More recently James is the author of the MythWorld novels and runs Coppervale International, an art and design studio that also published International Studio and Argosy magazines.

Marty Feldman (1934-1982) was an English comedy writer, comedian and actor, who starred in several British television comedy series, including At Last The 1948 Show and Marty, and the film Young Frankenstein.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Richard Bruning's Cerebus Ads

Ad for Cerebus #31 in The Comics Journal #68 (November 1981)
Designed by Richard Bruning

Ad for Cerebus #32 in The Comics Journal #69 (December1981)
Designed by Richard Bruning

Ad for Cerebus #33 in The Comics Journal #70 (January 1982)
Designed by Richard Bruning
Richard Bruning is a freelance graphic designer currently blogging as Apple devotee iSensei. In 1979 he opened the design firm Abraxas Studio and in the early 1980s he was a key member of Capital Comics staff, acting as Editor-In-Chief and Art Director on Nexus, The Badger and Whisper, until they ceased operations in 1984. At DC Comics he was Design Director (1985-1990), VP-Creative Director (1996-2002) and Senior Vice-President (2002-2010).

Saturday 19 October 2013

Weekly Update #1: "Cerebus" & "High Society" Reprinting

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which could not faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon on the quality of proofs he has to approve prior to commiting to the printing process (as detailed on Dave Sim's last update Collections Stalled). Now read on...

(by fax, 18 October 2013)
Lebonfon has said that "If the Kinko's proof is accurate and reflects the moire we will see on the press we will accept this proof."

I'm not sure that this is progress. It could be read as Lebonfon saying "if there's a moire we'll blame the Kinko's proof for not having it on there." Which is basically what they've been saying all along: the proof basically isn't a proof in the traditional sense so they just ignore it and expect indy comics publishers to accept whatever printing they get even if it doesn't look like the proof.

George Gatsis is going ahead and getting all 111 digital files printed at Kinko's, including the 35 substandard printing files from the unbound books stage. Our position will be: this is what we expect the printing to look like. If you are unable to make the printing look like this, please let us know what the problem is and George will recalibrate his digital files to take care of the problem.

Also, Lebonfon has indicated that they have a 600 dpi XEROX printer, whereas previously they said that their XEROX printer could only do 300 dpi.

On October 16th, George emailed Patrick Jodin asking "Have you now gotten a new printer that can do higher resolution" and received no reply.


Friday 18 October 2013

Joe Keatinge: "My Creator-Owned Pilgrimage"

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State I (1987)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from an interview at Comic Book Resources, 10 September 2012)
...As a writer, my first releases were either creator-owned by me or the person hiring me for said work. I felt that it was important to finally read through a work that was so essential to inspiring people in creating their own comics. I feel we take it for granted now. Some twenty year-old in Canada self-published a Conan parody which transformed into a 6,000-page epic life story of a mercenary becoming a prime minister becoming unemployed becoming prime minister again becoming a pope becoming a fugitive becoming a bartender becoming... well, I'm finding out now.

That's over 300 self-published issues that mostly maintained a regular schedule, finishing on the month he always said it would. At this point I've had five issues of my own creator-owned book come out and that's with a publisher backing me up. It's not an easy task. To think he did it, at a time when he had to establish his own market and distribution during the 1970s when even the direct market was still a relatively new concept, is phenomenal. The fact it survived so many turbulent times -- the 1980s black and white boom/bust, the 1990s distributor wars, and so on -- just makes me even more enthralled with the achievement.

In a way, it's sort of my version of creator-owned pilgrimage, making my way through this huge work when I'm at a relative beginning point. I think it's something everyone wanting to make creator-owned comics should go through.

Its certainly been educational. Just what that education ends up inspiring, well, again, word's still out.

I will say I'm largely enjoying it though. Are there things I take issue with? Absolutely, but I think if you only read literature you won't take offense to, you're going to end up pretty boring. Even with that material aside -- again, I never hear Going Home in specific talked about. At best I hear about how amazing the lettering is in the latter quarter of the series. And yes, the lettering is some of the best the field's ever seen, but my God, these landscapes Gerhard's illustrating belong on a museum wall. The relationship between Cerebus and Jaka plays out -- thus far -- true to life; I can't stress "thus far" enough. Right now they just started hanging out with an F. Scott Fitzgerald stand-in and it's enjoyable.

I've also been surprised how much I'm enjoying things I hear people blast a lot of the time. One of my favorite volumes has been Melmoth, which is primarily about the death of Oscar Wilde. I could see how it might've been frustrating to read on a monthly basis, especially since Cerebus spends most of it in shock, but I found it incredibly engrossing. It's made me tempted to do stuff like that in my own books. There are two events I'd love to touch on, even briefly -- specifically Bud Cort finding out Ruth Gordon passed away and then the last days of Wally Wood. I've never thought of incorporating those into my own comics, but it's becoming very tempting. For now, Ernest Hemingway's incorporated into Glory as of issue #29.

Anyway, the point is: everybody go read Cerebus.

Joe Keatinge is a comics writer of Image, Marvel and DC Comics titles including Marvel Knights: Hulk, Glory, Batman Inc, Amazing Spider-Man and is the executive editor of Eisner & Harvey award-winning Image Comics anthology, Popgun.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Murphy Anderson

The First Invention Of Armour (Cerebus Jam #1, April 1985)
Art by Murphy Anderson, with Dave Sim & Gerhard
(100 Hours Internet Tour at MillarWorld, February 2008)
...The Raymond School, as filtered through some primary adherents (it was said that Julie Schwartz used to say he wanted everything in his books to look as if it was drawn by Dan Barry) used to BE the comic-book field, and now it’s something of a specialized interest. And the more realistically you draw, the more time it’s going to take to do a page so you have a much higher “burn-out” rate than you do with guys a step down on the realism scale. How many times has Adam Hughes or Frank Cho done a monthly title and for how long? Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson probably never made more than $35 a page on anything they did with DC so they had to follow the dictum: first you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast. And to put food on their families’ tables, roofs over their heads, shoes on the kids’ feet, braces on their teeth they needed to produce x number of pages to Julie Schwartz’s satisfaction every month.

Compare that to today where a top name realist guy can make his reputation onthe X-MEN or something similiar, do four or five issues and then make a good living doing prints, commissions, selling his originals, living off his royalties from the five issues, royalties off the collected version. The way the business was set up made marathon guys, the way the business is set up now it favours wind sprinters.

Murphy Anderson (born July 9, 1926) is known as one of the premier inkers of his era, who has worked for companies such as DC Comics for over fifty years, starting in the 1930s/40s Golden Age of Comic Books. With his frequent collaborator, penciler Curt Swan, the pair's artwork on Superman and Action Comics in the 1970s came to be called "Swanderson" by their fans. He was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1988.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Matisse, The Unknown Turtle

Matisse, The Unknown Turtle (2012)
Art by Kevin Eastman & Dave Sim
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from Kickstarter Update #70, 31 July 2012)
...the finished "Matisse the Unknown Turtle" print came in.  Kevin's really done an outstanding job and I can't thank him enough!! Mid-crisis and all I could do was stand there with my jaw hanging open. (Dave? Dave? You have work to do! DAVE!!?)... We have orders for 351 and Kevin and I have agreed to just take 2 or 3 for ourselves (2 for George Gatsis, one for Sandeep, one for John) to, hopefully keep the number down around 360 and SUITABLY rare for all of our $50 and up pledge partners. 

Tuesday 15 October 2013

More Kickstarter Commissions

(from Kickstarter Update #92, 22 September 2012)
1. "THE STRAND MAGAZINE" - Lord Julius and Duke Leonardi as Holmes and Watson. David and Jennifer are big fans of the 1980s Grenada Television adaptation which is why the stars' names appear in the cover "type". THE STRAND MAGAZINE was where many of the Sherlock Holmes stories first appeared.  
2. "SUENTUS PO" Alex's choice and I think the first time I've ever done a commission featuring the character, here seen meditating with his head in the Eighth or Ninth Sphere, heavily influenced by Jeff Jones and Al Williamson.
3. "JAKA EX LIBRIS" Jaka, Missy and a book is what Chris wanted. Again, heavily influenced by Jeff Jones and Al Williamson.  
4. "FIERY COMEBACK" or "UNIQUE CONVENIENCE" was purchased by a VERY prominent mainstream comics writer, anonymously, as a donation benefit piece for HERO ALLIANCE. I've borrowed the actual image for a series of prints: 
a) as "UNIQUE CONVENIENCE" it is numbered out of 10 copies and is available only to the Top 10 Number of Placement of 'The Paragraph' publicizing the HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL LAUNCH (it's named for the variety store directly below Sandeep's apartment which is where Sandeep would have ended up if he had taken a slightly longer shower and the floorboards -- which were already smouldering -- had given way beneath his bathroom

b) as 'FIERY COMEBACK" it is numbered out of 40. 37 of which will be sold by John Scrudder to benefit Sandeep, #1-#3 being retained for the Cerebus Archive and a special #0/40 being given to Sandeep himself. 

Monday 14 October 2013

Kickstarter Commissions

(from Kickstarter Update #84, 10 September 2012)
...I'm down to the last few boxes of stuff that need to go to John. Fewer and smaller boxes which is good news, indeed. I'm working on the finished ink drawings now (which I think I posted already, but in case I dreamed that part:). So far, CEREBUS THE PLASTIC SURGEON for Troy, ANOTHER DIMENSION (TO MARGARET'S TATTOO) for Cerebus Fangirl, Margaret, JAKA for New York David and getting close to being done, A PUNCTURE IN TIME (all of Cerebus' thoughts upon awaking in the Wineman Hotel at that start of issue 57's "Suddenly Sophia" because Kent wanted something with lettering AND Cerebus with Sophia's chain mail bikini)...

Sunday 13 October 2013

Cerebus & Jaka

Commission: Cerebus & Jaka (2005)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from the 10th Anniversary Cerebus Reread, 11 October 2013)
...Issue #6 finds Cerebus in the company of Turg and E'Lass, a duo undoubtedly inspired by any number of post-war comedy teams and Warner Brothers cartoons, a big dumb brute and a scheming fellow who always turns out not to be as smart as he thinks he is.

And then there's Jaka. Ah, Jaka, much beloved and much maligned.

Once drugged, or "in love," Cerebus beats a man for insulting the object of his affection, defending the honor of a stripper currently planning to dupe him. He then beats Turg and E'Lass for having threated to kill Jaka. He also takes time out from planning Jaka's and his escape to peruse an assortment of fine cloth to bring back to her as a gift. Is it this incongruous act itself that "poit[s]" Cerebus from his drugged stupor, or has the drug simply worn off?

Jaka is a... ahem... "dancer" in a tavern. Forced into duping Cerebus on E'Lass' behalf she falls in love with Cerebus instantly and agrees to run a way with him. When Cerebus in no longer under the influence she is crushed and vows to wait for him to remember his love of her and return to her.

...I don't think Jaka seems any more "real" than Red Sophia. While not a parody of a sword and sorcery character, she is nonetheless an archetype, certainty as she appears in this issue.

This is perhaps the first outright comment on the nature of men and women and love, or "love" or Love (at least as Sim sees them) in the pages of Cerebus. To Sim, "love" in Cerebus' case, and Love, in Jaka's case, has completely altered each of these characters' personalities to their detriment.

The Cerebus Re-read is an ongoing online event attempting to read (and discuss) all 300 issues of Cerebus between 7th October 2013 and 10th March 2014, being the 10th anniversary of the release of the ground-breaking 300th and final issue of the series.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Reads: "This Book Is Not Misogynistic"

Cerebus Vol 9: Reads (1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from a review at Steven M. Bari's Blog, 10 September 2008)
"I'm not here to make you feel good. I am here to make you think. And to make you think, I have to make you see." ~ Dave Sim
Reads is at the same time a spectacle of literary genius and a philosophical minefield for the politically correct. Sim entangles the reader in a series of different narratives that direct themselves toward one goal: Truth. Or truth. Or even "truth." You may certainly not agree with Sim's views on creative/intellect vs. destructive/emotion -- and especially the allocation of gender to either -- but the phenomenon he discusses is worth thinking about...

Davis/Sim provides many examples of how feeling is vile -- the best of which will ring true to anyone who has ever been in a relationship:
Reason, as any husband can tell you, doesn’t stand a chance in an argument with Emotion. There are no rules to Emotional Argument. You simply wander around in rhetorical circles until you feel Happy again. And then the argument is over.
He then applies this same argument to culture and how emotion destabilizes the rational examination of societal problems, providing a hasty and insubstantial "feeling" as the solution:
Political positions are judged on the Emotional Basis of whether they are Popular or Unpopular. Popular is good. Unpopular is bad. Most political positions based on Reason are Unpopular. Most political positions based on Emotion are Popular--provided that Emotion provoked is happiness; if the Emotion provoked is unhappiness or anxiety or uneasiness, then that political position is Unpopular and therefore bad.
I agree with this assertion. So much of American politics, and media coverage of it, is belabored in what one "feels." How do you feel about overturning Roe V. Wade? How do you feel about having a black man as candidate for president? How do you feel about a women serving as vice president? Replace the word think in any of those questions and see how your answers differ. I found myself examining the very vapidity of the questions in the first place. What does it matter how I feel about a given politician? Doesn’t it matter more what this person will do in office? Yet, the political scene is waist deep in this baseless analysis of how society "feels" at the cost of relevant thoughtful examination. The build up to the Iraq War is a current example of emotion destabilizing intellect. The majority of Americans, including the ones whose jobs it is to examine political phenomena, were swept up in the positive feeling of unleashing their anger over events of 9/11 in support of a unilateral invasion of a supposed enemy.

Yet, to place the blame solely on women and feminism, as Davis/Sim does, is a little harsh. If you ever heard of Dave Sim, you probably heard the word “misogynist” connected to him. This is the volume of Cerebus (and the specific section of the book) that many refer to as inexcusably offensive to women. Case in point:
Behind this Lesser Void of White Collar Male-Work Programs, the stultifying sameness of ass-covering and ass-kissing, the endless postponement of decision-making in favor of 'further study', 'further discussion', lies the Greater Void, the Omnivorous Engine which drives every committee, every study group, every institutionalized waste of human time and energy, in point of fact, our entire degraded society. The Wife and Kids.
The void that Sim refers to is emotion, which is feminine. He goes on to describe women's emotional control over men graphically: the man smiles submissively as the woman laps up blood and brain tissue from a gash in his head.

It's difficult to take any of these particular assertions seriously as they seem to come from a place of personal anguish. I surmise that his relationships with women have jaded Dave Sim. I have no proof of this save the text itself and what little I know of his personal life. However, we can ascertain that there is as much emotion in these passages as there is in what he is analyzing. Nevertheless, he does acknowledge that some women can and do have the Male Light of creativity and intellect -- such as Coco Chanel, Colleen Doran, and others.

Sim could have easily skipped over this section in the narrative in favor of some appealing continuation of the actual story of Cerebus. He could have simply disregarded his views on how the hegemony of suppliant emotion has deteriorated the bastion of reason and thought--and he didn’t have to label either side the "Female Void" or the "Male Light." However, where would Dave Sim be after 300 issues if he had NOT written any of these ideas down? Would he be as empty and unfulfilled as his character Victor Reid? Say what you will about this section of the book, but be sure to read it. Don't have someone summarize its aims or characterize it as baseless venom. Read it for yourself!

...The book is not misogynistic. It's the most challenging graphic novel I've ever read, and it certainly caused me to think more than any other work I've read in the comic book medium. Literarily, Dave Sim is somewhere between Oscar Wilde and Sam Kinison. He is bright and entertaining, but he's not going to please for the sake of making you "feel" good. He's writing what he knows to be true, as in "all stories are true." He may or may not have found happiness in writing Reads, but at least he has intellectual integrity.

If you agree that Cerebus Vol 9: Reads is not misogynistic, please consider signing Dave Sim's iPetition.

Friday 11 October 2013

Gil Kane

The Comics Journal #38 (February 1977)
Art by Gil Kane
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 2, 1981) was the Gil Kane interview in Comics Journal No 38 that had started me re-thinking the whole approach I was taking to doing my own comic book. The particular quote that influenced me was:
"The difference between a comic book and a novel is not labor, not effort, it's the values. In other words, there are no meaningful values in a comic book. The people in comics books are two dimensional people going through the most elementary kind of situations, not enough to sustain anybody's interest beyond an adolescent. A novel has characterization, it has suspense, it has a structured situation full of substantial values that will hold the interest of an intelligent person. That's what I mean. Those values, if they're properly translated -- Harvey Kurtzman translated them into comics. His comics were literate, they were intelligent, they were humane, they were interesting, they were funny, they were everything."

"For instance, political cartoons, humor strips in newspapers are written in an infinitely more adult way: they're more intelligent, they're written for adults by adults with adult humor. They're really clever, and they represent adult values and that's why adults read them. Adults read them because, regardless of the fact that they're comics, they're dealing with adult frames of reference. And comic books don't have those frames of reference."
After I finished the fifth issue I embarked on an extremely lengthy process of applying adult sensibilities to each issue of Cerebus, trying to approach every plot problem on as mature a level of communication as I could. It was not easy, and still isn't. But at the very least, I wanted to feel that each issue of Cerebus advanced our cause just that much more than the issue that preceded it. Fortunately, fan reviewers, editors, columnists and letter-writers have an uncanny knack for recognizing an issue that pulls sideways instead of forwards. I knew they were good for something.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Out Of Print

Cerebus Vols 1-16 (1977-2004)
by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Creators Bill Of Rights, June 2005)
...It’s very easy - and accurate - to say that we have moved in the direction of mainstream publishing but I think it’s worth pointing out that very little in mainstream publishing would be considered beneficent towards creative talent. Ask any novelist how many of his or her works are in print and available. Now that we have comic books that more resemble novels than pamphlets, structurally, we are starting to see the same net effects which have been irritants in mainstream publishing for years. You can be a household name as a novelist but if the company you are contractually bound to owns the rights to three of your novels and chooses not to keep them in print, those novels for all intents and purposes relative to your livelihood don’t exist. They get snatched up in used bookstores and on eBay - the demand far outstrips the supply - but if your publisher doesn’t see it that way there’s nothing you can do about it. Epic, a division of Marvel, published Bill Sienkiewicz’s Stray Toasters and then Marvel mutated their Epic line and then folded it with the net result that Stray Toasters has been out of print practically from the day it was released. I daresay the same would’ve been the case if I had signed with Epic to do the Cerebus trade paperbacks. It would’ve been seen as a giant step up for me to do so in the 1980s, but all of the material would have been out of print since then. To reiterate, I would rather sell ten copies of High Society a week for the next thirty years than to sell 8,000 copies of High Society over three months in 1986 and then have it go out of print. "Clout" with mainstream publishers usually means a window of opportunity at the point where you’re signing your contract. If you sign for three novels and the first one sells a bunch, the next one not so much and the third one tanks then you are not going to get offered very much - if anything - for your next three novels. By self-publishing, none of my books tanks in that irrevocable way. The Cerebus trade outsells the Melmoth trade by a wide, wide margin but - because they are both my and Ger’s works, both having taken two years and a year respectively to produce - it’s a given that we keep both of them in print. Even if a whole year went by that we didn’t sell a single copy of Melmoth, our conclusion would not be, "Oh, well. That one’s a dog - let’s never print any more of those." No, for us then it’s a matter of, okay we’ll only print 4,000 instead of 6,000 and instead of three-year supply we’ll have a six-year supply. Mainstream publishing companies don’t think that way. By virtue of the amounts of money at stake, they have to be looking for the "next hot thing". And the "next hot thing" could be Neil Gaiman twice or three times. American Gods was THE big book for the season it was released by its publisher and Anansi Boys will be THE big book for the season that it will be released - September 20, 2005 for those of you who want to circle it on your calendar. But to infer from that that getting pre-eminent attention for two successive books means that Neil Gaiman will always be in that category or that that is standard operating procedure for any publisher - they’ve offered you a really good deal for your first three books so they’ll always do so - just isn’t supported by the evidence. Yeah, if you’re 99% certain that you’re the next Neil Gaiman, you would definitely be doing yourself a disservice by self-publishing. You’ll never be able to get hundreds of thousands of copies of your work everywhere in the English-speaking world over the course of 48 hours. But there are a lot more Dave and Gerhards than there are Neil Gaimans in this world. And it seems to me a core element of being a Dave or a Gerhard is that you are better served looking after your own interests than in trying to find someone to sign a contract with who will do that job for you. And most of my advice centers on that. Your work is your work, your own interests are your own interests, and it’s a terrific risk to sign that over contractually if you look at how many things that can go wrong, how many creators who have ended up on the dust-heap of comics history because they were no longer perceived to be "hot" with their work out-of-print and unavailable. I’ve made money off of the first issue of Cerebus every day since December of 1977 and there are very few creative works whose rights have been transferred contractually about which that can be said. Can you name any? Not works that still earn money, but works that still earn money for their creators and in just that uninterrupted a fashion...

Wednesday 9 October 2013

All Time Favourite: Stray Toasters

Stray Toasters (1988)
by Bill Sienkiewicz
(from 100 Internet Tour at MillarWorld, February 2008)
...I'd have to go with Bill Sienkiewicz's STRAY TOASTERS. You can read the whole thing or you can read any three or four pages and get full value for your reading/viewing investment of time. I like his and Frank's ELEKTRA ASSASSIN, too, but mostly as the precursor to STRAY TOASTERS...

(from The Blog & Mail, August 2007)
...Am I the only person who loved this book? It was a little hard to follow in spots but I think Bill did a heck of a job on the lunatic interior landscape(s) he was shooting for. Everyone in the book from the psychiatrist on out is severely dysfunctional. Depending on how you look at it, that's either wonderful comedy or wonderful tragedy. But I did - and do - think it was wonderful...

(from 100 Internet Tour at Comic Book Resources, Febuary 2008)
...when I brought up Bill Sienkiewicz's STRAY TOASTERS at lunch the one time and you'd think I'd shot somebody's dog from the way Seth, Chester and Joe reacted. I reread STRAY TOASTERS at least once a year. It's confusing as heck but, for me it has some amazing moments...but then I like the illustration schools represented in there and what Bill is trying to do (or what I think Bill is trying to do). The use of flat colour in the lettering and the caption boxes which puts everything on TOP of the actual art. That's pretty breathtaking for me as an artist who is known as an innovative letterer. I take my hat off to anybody who can introduce a whole new way of doing work. Dave McKean came out of that. Thematically the SANDMAN covers are Sienkiewicz. Even if it's not your cup of tea, it's nothing to act as if liking it is the same as shooting someone's dog. GASOLINE ALLEY has very, very little to offer me, but I would never call it s--t.

Stray Toasters was originally a four-issue mini-series created, written and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, and published by the Marvel Comics' imprint Epic Comics in 1988. The story revolves around criminal psychologist Egon Rustemagik and his investigation of a serial killer that seems to be targeting women. Out of print since its initial publication, Stray Toasters was finally reprinted by Image Comics in 2008. You can find out more about Stray Toasters at Comics Bulletin, A.V. Club, Pop Matters, Page 45 and

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Bob's Grail Page

(from Bob's Blog at ComicSpectrum, 21 April 2013)
Has anyone gotten a real "Grail Page" of Original Art? ...Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of Cerebus and Dave Sim's art. The 1st issue I picked up was #16, off the rack at the LCS in 1980.  I was in my last couple of months of High School and I was drawn to the image with a little grey aardvark and what appeared to be Groucho Marx. I read this issue and was instantly hooked.  From that point up until issue #300 24 years later! Lucky for me, Dave Sim put out Swords of Cerebus in 1981-1982 (some of the earliest TPBs) and I was able to pick up the issues I had missed. I even picked up SoC #5 & 6, my 1st experience with "double dipping". I went on to pick up most of the back issues #s 1-15 after I graduated from college.

I bought a couple of Diamondback decks when they were advertised (based on a game introduced in one of the early issues). I picked up a plush Cerebus that a fan made & was sold via an ad in the comic. I got the Cerebus: Six Deadly Sins portfolio and the Animated Cerebus portfolio. Portfolios were big in the 80s, I bought a lot of them.  I had plates from the Cerebus portfolios up on my walls. I had the Cerebus Dictator and Cerebus the Pope T-shirts ("He doesn’t love you, he just wants all your money"). I wore these for years!

Over the years, I expanded my "double-dipping" as I bought every phonebook as it came out. These were originally sold direct by Dave Sim & you needed to call A-V on the phone to reserve your copy. You would call up & reserve the copy with them & then mail a check. I reserved copies with Dave himself & with Gerhard. In later years it was often an office assistant on the phone, but in those early days it was the main folks answering the phone & taking the orders. They let you "lock in" the # you got of each signed limited edition. I was phonebook #98 after they started doing the #'d editions. I met Dave at a SDCC back in the 1990s. I don't remember what year, I got some comics autographed & gushed about my love of the earth-pig. I regretted for years that I didn’t spring for a sketch. A couple of years ago Dave was doing sketches (advertised on the Cerebus Yahoo group) and I was finally able to get a Cerebus sketch. In 2011 I was lucky to have won a very nice inked Cerebus commission sketch in a Heritage auction.

But I didn’t have a page of Original Art from the comic itself. Boy would I love to have a page of art from a Cerebus comic, especially one featuring Cerebus himself!

In all the years I have been collecting OA I've never seen a page of Cerebus art for sale. That's not to save there have not been any, just that they never passed in front of my eyes while still available. Until July 2012. And what a page. A full page splash. The splash page to issue #17, the 2nd issue I ever read off the rack back in 1980. I pulled the 1st phonebook off the shelf and scanned though it.

Very few full page splashes with really good images of Cerebus. I'd have to say, this looked like what I would consider to be one of my personal favorite images from the 1st 25 issues. Early, but late enough that Cerebus had morphed from his original look to the shorter-snout version that carried the majority of the series.  I like this splash more than the cover to #17.

I conversed with my wife and got her permission to drop the wad of cash, promising to cool it on my spending for the rest of 2012. Then I sent in my order & crossed my fingers. Had I gotten to it before some other collector snapped it up? Around mid-day the next day the seller contacted me and let me know it was mine if I wanted it. We worked out the details & the deal was done. I was picking it up on Previews night at SDCC.

So, here it is... Thanks for bearing with me and reading my story. This page makes me very happy...
Cerebus #17 Page 1 (June 1980)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday 7 October 2013

Limited Edition Beer Steins

Cerebus #224 (November 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from a conversation with Alan Moore in Dialogue From Hell, Cerebus #217, April 1997)
...When I visited that Scots bastard Eddie Campbell (it really does take one to know one), we were both into our cups one afternoon and he started in on your scripts. You know, he would just get Anne to go through them and underline what had to be in the panel and bollocks to all your windy exposition. Having read a number of your scripts, I pointed out that you were always very good about letting the artist know that a lot of the description was for your benefit and could be used or not used as it suited him or her (hi, Melinda). Well, Eddie was having none of it and goes into his studio and roots out one of your scripts and begins a dramatic reading of one of your lengthier descriptions. Or undramatic reading, rather, by way of emphasising his own point. So, Eddie’s sitting in the kitchen droning your description, and I’m sitting on the postage-stamp-sized back porch (Campbell Enter-prises being a smoke-free environment) facing into the kitchen. Now, having just read a hundred or so pages of From Hell in photocopy form, I am as immersed in 1888 London as I’m ever likely to be, anyway, and I start disappearing mentally and psychically into your description. With Eddie droning and droning it begins to envelop me like an incantation, and I begin rocking back and forth on the white plastic kitchen chair I’m sitting on, thoroughly inside of your word-rhythms and invocations, simultaneously resentful of the sneer on the old Campbell mug and anticipating the good-natured or not-so-good-natured (both of us being Scots bastards) row that is imminent as a result of our divergent reactions. Something had to give, and it turned out to be the chair I was sitting on. One leg snaps off pitching me over backwards and hurling one of Eddie’s prized, limited-edition Guinness glass steins out of my hand - the stein bounces neatly down a half-dozen stairs before smashing into a million fragments. Of course, I’m apologising all over the place, and Eddie is crestfallen. They don’t make the glass steins anymore, do I have any idea how many Guinness he had to drink to get each one of them (as if THAT was some torturous ordeal for him), etc., etc. He had had six of them (six being the number of the Lovers in the tarot —and what else, metaphorically speaking, is the even-handed balance of a writer and artist than a literary/artistic love affair?), and now he had five (the number of the Hierophant, interpreter of arcane wisdom, which in its negative aspect is epitomised by the imposition of said interpretation without the accompanying wisdom). Served him right, I actually thought. Served him bloody well right...

Sunday 6 October 2013

Cerebus Re-Read: Count-Down To 10th Anniversary Of The End

Cerebus #61 (April 1984)
Art by Dave Sim
The Cerebus Re-read is an online event in which we will attempt to read (and discuss) all 300 issues of Cerebus between the dates of October 7th and March 10th, which is the 10th anniversary of the release of the ground-breaking 300th and final issue of the series. Hosted on ReplyAll.Me, the re-read will be conducted by webmaster Margaret Liss, Dave Sim & Cerebus afficianado Michael Hunt, and myself - comic shop owner Menachem Luchins. The platform of Reply All allows for a complete archive of the discussion the three will have AND a place for "audience" members to comment as well. Almost like a modern message board thread for the social media age.

The structure of the read will be informal, with a suggestion that readers try to finish 15-20 issues a week. The conversation will range all over the work but will focus almost solely on the content of the comic (and the inspirations for some of it) and NOT on the letter's columns, Sim's essays or other ephemera related to Cerebus. At times, attentions may end up being devoted to a single issue, at others a complete story-line encompassed in phone-book.

To get a feel for the Reply All structure and quality of the discussion there are already a few "pre-start" questions on the site. When discussing the Cerebus Re-read on social media, the hashtag will be #EPCCerebusRead.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Free Speech: Defending The Inch

'Drinking Buddies' Print
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Available exclusively from CBLDF)
(from a speech in support of CBLDF, San Francisico, 1995)
When I was asked to be Master of Ceremonies here tonight, I thought it appropriate to say a few words that might have greater resonance here, in the Bay Area, rather than elsewhere. To that end I enlisted the support of someone you've met already, and uh, I would ask you to give him another nice round of applause, Mr. Brian Hibbs of the Haight's own Comic Experience. Brian went all the way to the library for this, so we hope you enjoy it. 8 hours of infrequent cigarette breaks while prowling through newspapers on microfilm, the guy should get a medal of some kind.

June 3rd, 1909, a day of infamy in the history of this great Metropolis. On that date San Franciso became the first city in the great republic to have a genuine, official, brand spanking new, city-supported censorship board. Less than a month before, the SF Board of Supervisors, had passed unanimously, unanimously, ordinance #761. In the convoluted syntax and phraseology common to legislation the world over, it read, as follows, and you'll forgive me... when I read things like this, I tend to slip into a Groucho Marx voice:
"It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association, or corporation to display or to cause to display, or permit to be displayed at any moving picture exhibition or at any entertainment at which moving pictures are exhibited, any picture, illustration or delineation of any nude human figure or of any lewd or lascivious act or of any other matter or thing of an obscene, indecent, or immoral nature or offensive to the moral sense or [now at this point, this guy is really struggling to make a sentence, so he throws in some parentheses at this point], in such detail as to offend public morality and decency [throws another parenthesis at the end of that one], any murder, suicide, robbery, hold up, stabbing, assaulting, clubbing or beating of any human being."
Unable to make hide, nor hair of what they were talking about, the Mayor signed it into law on May 13th. Norman W. Hall, Secretary to the newly formed Board of Censorship, in regarding this dogs breakfast of alarmist incoherencies, was moved to observe, "From the above, it will be seen that the scope of the Board's action is wide." Mr. Hall is to be commended in retrospect as a master of understatement.

In its four years of existence, the Board found no fewer than 476 films to condemn, no fewer than 158 films to modify. At least four arrests were made. In one notable case, it required an arrest, a criminal prosecution, and the keen and even handed assessment of a municipal court judge to determine that a moving picture did not qualify for condemnation or modification under the (quote) "wide scope of the Board's action." That a film of a boxing match did not constitute the "assault and clubbing or beating of a human being."

The single public report issued by the Board of Censorship is a model of its kind, and I mean that in the unkindest possible way. Here's a great quote from it:
"The Board is enthusiastic in its endorsements of the moving picture, and desires to encourage its patronage by the public."
How very benign of them, how positively redundant to issue a report, in 1911 encouraging people to go see movies. It's rather like signing a petition in 1995 encouraging people to watch more television. The single public report (one pictures it descending from the hills above the city, carved on stone tablets) the single public report pontificates:
"With those moving pictures that depict positive immorality or criminality in detail there can be but one verdict... condemnation!"
The report then goes on to describe the positive immorality and criminality contained in those films in excruciating detail. By the way, shouldn't that be "a portrayal of immorality in a positive light"? Positive immorality, h'mmmm. Perhaps catching himself drooling from the corner of his mouth, the author of the report hastens to add:
"These particular pictures are mentioned not to condemn a great industry, but to impress the necessity of avoiding such productions, in order to secure the patronage of the decent-loving [I guess he means decency loving unless the Board was also in the business of rating the romantic abilities of the people of SF] self respecting public, and at the same time we have alluded to them to show the obvious importance of a careful censorship."
As we gaze back at the year of the report, 84 years distant from us, we are moved to speculate on the all consuming and disastrous effect upon the morals of the citizens of this great metropolis had the pharisees of Los Angeles, those eternal corrupters from Gomorrah by the Pacific, been able to circumvent the vigilance of the Board and inflict upon the unsuspecting, though by all accounts, decent-loving citizenry of SF, such Mephistophelean fare as, and these are the actual titles of films condemned by the Board: Saved by a Sailor, Getting Even With Everybody, The Bankers Daughter, The Way of The Transgressor is Hard, The Italian Sherlock Holmes, and my favorite - The Story of Lulu According to Her Feet.

What peril, what disaster so narrowly averted, what heroism that for a stipend of a mere $50 a year, these stalwart defenders of the public good, submitted themselves to the soul jeopardizing imagery contained in The Story of Lulu According to Her Feet. Of course there was another film that they condemned, a film banned from public display at the time of it's release, within the city limits of SF -- Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp.

It is at this point in my narrative, at this point in every confrontation with the forces of censorship, the forces of oppression, that their buffoonery, their silliness, their Keystone Cop, slapstick dog and pony show, ceases to be funny and become serious... deadly serious.

Whether you are talking about film-near-to-the-point-of-its-genesis or the comic-book-as-literature-near-to-the-point-of-its-genesis, eventually, sooner rather than later, the battle lines are drawn and the issue becomes clear.

The respective trenches having been excavated in this ancient conflict, one envisions a manifestation of creative-freedom-as-absolute, facing it's opposite number the-self-appointed-guardian-of-the-public-good, raising respectively their pointed fingers of self righteous wrath and approbation after the fashion of revival tent preachers, crying out in a unison of accusation: "If we give you an inch, you'll take a mile," and in this they are both entirely accurate.

Where the boundaries of convention are violated, the floodgates invariably open. Inadequate works, poorly conceived, execrable in their execution, having naught to recommend them but provocation for provocation's own sake of society's overly sensitive souls -- this follows in the wake of genuine innovation, as night follows day. An inch is granted and a mile is taken.

But to make room for the sublime we must defend the absurd, the guttural, the moronic, the fourth, fifth, and tenth rate. If the forces which are interested in sequestering From Hell are to be kept at bay, we must resist those efforts against a work like Verotika #4, deplorable as it is -- and the imagination boggles at what imitations Verotika itself might engender.

To give the censor an inch on on Verotika is to invite them to take a mile. The hammer blow which strikes down Verotika as self-evidently worthless trash glorifying violence against women will next descend, you can make book on it, upon Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby, or Donna Barr's Desert Peach for their portrayal of, to quote the rhetoric of the right wing, "an immoral lifestyle." Our goal is not the defense of mindless pornography; our goal is not the advocacy of creative works which degrade any group or individual. These substandard and repulsive works are not the standard we bear.

In the waning hours of the twentieth century we believe that individual choice must be preeminent, if we are to call ourselves a civilized people, a free people. Whether as San Franciscans, as Californians, as Americans, as North Americans, or as citizens of the global village. Just as no one should be forced to create, publish, distribute, display, sell, or buy comic books in violation of their personal choices and preferences, so too must it be seen as a violation of inherent human rights to impede anyone from creating, publishing, distributing, displaying, or buying the comic books of their choice.

Your assistance in guaranteeing these fundamental freedoms to choose is urgently needed; no contribution can be considered too small. A $5 contribution from each of a 100 people, a $20 contribution from each of 25 people, a $500 contribution from a single donor. Each contribution buys someone, somewhere, a minute, or an hour, or a day, of freedom from the imposition of a collective will upon the rights of them as an individual.

Neil Gaiman, and the Board of Directors of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund ask for your contribution in the name of the ideal of free expression of creative ideas, and the fundamental human right to participate in and enjoy free expression without fear of prosecution.

Help us to defend that inch and the mile will take care of itself.