Saturday 30 November 2013

Weekly Update #7: '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, 29 November 2013)
As of Wednesday the 27th, George had determined that there were still 12 "problem children" pages remaining, after comparing his own Kinko's generate proofs to Lebonfon's 600 dpi proofs (Xerox). So, 19 down, 12 to go. The 12 pages are all in HIGH SOCIETY:
  • page 29 (panel 1 is the problem);
  • page 210 (panel 5 is the problem);
  • page 213 (panel 2 is the problem);
  • page 219 (panel 2 and 5 are the problems);
  • page 220 (panels 6 and 7 are the problems);
  • page 221 (panel 2 is the problem);
  • page 223 (panel 1 is the problem);
  • page 226 (panel 1 and 2 are the problems);
  • page 228 (George indicates that he is not "100% happy" with the entire page but is working on it); 
  • page 230 (panel 2 is the problem); and
  • page 231 (panels 1 and 2 are the problems)
except for page 301 (panel 8) in the CEREBUS volume.

Note that almost all of the problem panels are in "The Night Before" which was shot from the original artwork since, until selling the splash page through Heritage Auctions last year, I still had the complete issue #36 in the Cerebus Archive.


Friday 29 November 2013

Teaching Cerebus

Commission: The Newlyweds (2006)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 
(Click image to enlarge)
(responding to Tim O'Neil's Cerebus presentation, 28 October 2013)
...Hearing about your Cerebus talk and going over your powerpoint got me thinking about how strong your argument for Cerebus as an addition to the canon is. Given how strong your argument is, it seems likely that someone will eventually make the argument for teaching Cerebus, and it might as well be you.

It seems like you're running up against two issues that need definite answers if Cerebus is going to be taught as a canonical work, so I thought I would throw out some provisional answers to see if they were any use to you. The two issues I'm referring to are the theme of the work, and the historical signficance of the work's reception. Definite statements on these issues will provide the "hooks" necessary to teach the work to coming generations. So here are my thoughts on these issues.

In terms of a theme, I'd argue that Sim offers a profound depiction of turn of the century masculinity. He lays out the world of failed celebrity, womanizing, drinking and futile quests that have replaced warfare and establishing a household for so many of us. His treatment is all the more significant for being laid out in a language of superheroes and sword & sorcery that has become a dominant rhetoric for turn of the century masculinity.

With respect to this theme, some of the most powerful stories come in the second half of the work, after Sim's turn to the dark side. His treatments of the Rolling Stones, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway engage with some of the most important images of 20th century masculinity, in an intelligent and ironic fashion, and his depiction of the collapse of Cerebus' and Jaka's relationship as they starve in the wilderness vividly depicts feelings shared by all of us who've tried to manage household finances without sufficient income. He only deals with sports as a theme quite late in the work, but in a way that is indispensible to the work as a whole. I lost him during his biblical criticism stories, but there may well be material there that would reward a second reading of the whole work. In any case, it would reward scholarly attention, even just to resolve the issue of why he was doing it.

I feel less clear about the controversies involved in how Cerebus was received, as the question seems to me not so much why Sim was such a misogynist (why not?) as to why his work would be so intensely scrutinized by an audience with feminist sympathies. It was, after all, a parody of Conan the Barbarian using aesthetic tools adapted from Howard the Duck. While such an approach would signal to pop-culture obsessed young men that here was someone who was taking an intelligent approach to their deepest concerns, it would also seemed perfectly designed to keep any female reader at a distance. The misogyny seems obvious enough right from the beginning. The biggest change is that Sim develops his misogyny into a more explicit philosophy, just as he does with so many other aspects of masculinity that he depicts.

One way to understand what happened when Sim's misogyny went from being implicit to being explicit is to consider the figure of Jaka, since she is a character who acquires a detailed and sympathetic back story, without leaving her roots in male fantasy behind. As the princess who discovers her deepest self in exotic dancing, she is, to a large degree, that wonderful fantasy of the pulps, the stripper with the heart of gold.

Jaka's role in Sim's analysis of masculinity seems clear enough. As an impossible woman whose love for Cerebus bore no relationship to her social status or attractiveness, she served as the perfect foil for Cerebus' inability to love anyone. Her beauty and inexplicable devotion to Cerebus located the failure of the relationship completely within the hero's character.

At the same time, Jaka was open to an alternate reading, as an ideal for a post-feminist fan-girl audience. To emphasize her attractiveness, Sim gave Jaka a back story that made her both socially ideal (as strippers are not) and sexually available (as noblewomen are not). Unfortunately, in post-feminist popular culture, this combination, despite its origin in male adolescent fantasy, has become an ideal for teenage girls to achieve. Girls who read X-Men and Spider-Man, found in Jean Grey and Mary Jane Watson a combination of attractiveness, social acceptability, and self-determination that seemed to overcome the contradictions between traditional sexual roles and feminist aspirations.

The mainstream publishers have welcomed this feminine audience, leading us to the seeming promised land of a femininity rooted in male pulp adolescent fantasies. We end up debating how to make women more welcome in a fantasy world that they ought to deconstruct. Ultimately, this is only possible because of the decades of experience the mainstream companies developed in distracting their audiences from the conflicts of their fantasies with real life.

As an independent creator, Sim lacked the commercial scruples necessary to maintain the pretense that Jaka's unusual social situation was anything other than a fantasy rooted in the adolescent male gaze. When he began articulating an explicit philosophy of art to enshrine this adolescent male gaze, his female fans were forced into the same experience that his male fans had been in from the beginning. As we wannabe Conans were forced to view ourselves as a pig, his female fans realized that they were identifying with a fantasy of a profoundly sexually alienated artist. Had they not become accustomed to such identifications over years of reading pulp-derived fantasy and superheroics, the shock would probably not have been as profound.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Cross Hatching

Glamourpuss #15 (September 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Comic Book Daily, 12 July 2011)
Cross hatching is like a bottomless pit. You can go finer and finer and finer with the pen. I’m already training myself to use an absolutely brand new Hunt 102 pen nib so it's the absolute sharpest it can get. Then you can do vertical, horizontal. Then you go 'if I just do one diagonal it'll look so much better.' And then you get that done and you go 'if I just do the other diagonal it’ll look so much better'. And now I’m going how do you get in between the diagonal and the horizontal and that’s when you know you've pretty much lost your mind...

...I got the first [diamond ring] done and I went - 'no no no this is billionaire diamond rings'. So I took the nicest diamond ring and I enlarged it about 20 or 30 per cent, just the gem, and kept the ring the same size.

That's one of the processes of discovery that went on with Glamourpuss, finding out stuff that is really cool to draw in the Al Williamson, Stan Drake, Neal Adams sense. Diamond rings is one because of all the facets the more you copy. Here's the grey area so you cross hatch that. Here are the sharp reflections so you put that in black. Same thing with the perfume bottles. Man, now I know why women like perfume bottles - some of those are just absolute works of art in themselves, you look at it and go that would look really good -- Ya, but it'll also take about a day and a half to get all those facets in there. Sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it's not. I haven't done a perfume bottle in a while -- thanks for reminding me. I will do a perfume bottle coming up real soon...

Glamourpuss #3 (September 2008)
Art by Dave Sim

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Richard Bruning's Cerebus Ads

Ad for Cerebus #37 in The Comics Journal #73 (July 1982)
Designed by Richard Bruning
Ad for Cerebus #38 in The Comics Journal #74 (August 1982)
Designed by Richard Bruning

Richard Bruning is a freelance graphic designer. 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).

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Stefano Gaudiano's Kafka

Kafka (Renegade Press, 1987-1988)
by Steven T. Seagle & Stefano Gaudiano
(from an intervew at Comic Book Resources, 14 November 2013)
...That takes me back. [Kafka] was my first professional work. When I was sixteen I started self-publishing with a couple of other artists in the Denver, Colorado area where I was living. It was 1983 when we started, so basically you had Cerebus, Elfquest, First Kingdom, American Splendor and a handful of other independent comic books out. The black and white boom hadn't hit yet. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out at exactly the same time I started self-publishing. A lot of people got the notion, "Hey, we have this distribution system" -- at the time there were half dozen different distributors selling to comic book stores -- and people started realizing what Dave Sim and Wendy Pini and Richard Pini were doing. You could make a comic book, send it out to distributors, bypassing publishers. Honestly, our book wasn't very good but we sold some copies, maybe 1,200 or something. After self-publishing for about two and a half years I met Steve Seagle and if you read the Image edition, we talked about that experience in the back of the book. I was in college and because I'd already had the experience of producing a quarterly comic book religiously, this black and white anthology, I felt confident going in and saying yeah I can handle drawing a miniseries. He'd already sold Kafka as a concept to Renegade and was just looking for an artist, and the editor liked my work. That was my first professional assignment where I made a little money drawing comic books. It was a pretty great experience, and I loved seeing it repackaged by Steve's company, Man of Action, through Image. Marco Cinello added graytones to the black-and white art and did a brilliant job adding a new dimension to the work...

Stefano Gaudiano is currently one of the premier inkers in comics, collaborating Michael Lark  for long runs on Gotham Central and Daredevil. In addition to his inking, Gaudiano has worked as a penciler on a number of projects and his very first professional comic work, Kafka, was re-released by Image Comics in a new edition in 2013. Gaudiano's new project is joining Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's  The Walking Dead.

Monday 25 November 2013

Little Murders

Cerebus #107 (February 1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Charles Brownstein's Feature, 1997)

...The whole point of getting Cerebus to the moon to talk to God - or listen to God - was to impart a lot of information in a hurry. If you want a character to impart a lot of information in a hurry, Mel Brookes is not your man. I needed a monologist. I didn't have to think too long before I came up with Lou Jacobi as the Judge in the film adaptation of Jules Feiffer's Little Murders play. It was an interesting process, trying to come up with someone approximating an omniscient figure for the end of Church & State... I must've replayed my videotape of his monologue in Little Murders a hundred times to get the inflection, the rhythm, the phrasing - and then having to add my own dialogue in, using Lou Jacobi's gestures and expressions and Jules Feiffer's run-on sentences...

Sunday 24 November 2013

BBC Censors Dave Sim's 'Doctor Who' Covers

(by fax, 22 November 2013)

Changes To The 'Doctor Who' Covers:
...The BBC told [IDW to make the changes]. It's work-made-for-hire so the covers are the BBC's property. I told Ted Adams [IDW CEO] not to worry about it... A smooth working relationship with 'The Beeb' is more important in case they have another property IDW wants...

Creators Bill Of Rights:
...pretty much everyone has disowned the Bill Of Rights including its author, Scott McCloud, because it is a very different environment than it was. There was, I suspect, a subtext of "If worse comes to worst, we'll all just work for Kevin and Peter!" This was pre-Tundra, or course. And there should have been then -- and should be now -- a greater emphasis on Creator Responsibilities (See: 'With Great Power Comes...') starting with on-time delivery of "no excuses" work. And as per the Doctor Who covers, if it's work-made-for-hire you don't have any rights, so don't let it bother you.
Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #9 (IDW, 2013)
Original cover artwork (left) and final printed cover (right) 
Art by Dave Sim
Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #10 (IDW, 2013)
Original cover artwork (left) and final printed cover (right)
Art by Dave Sim
Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #11 (IDW, 2013)
Original cover artwork (left) and final printed cover (right)
Art by Dave Sim

Saturday 23 November 2013

Weekly Update #6: '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, 22 November 2013)
Progress! As of 19 November, Lebonfon has mailed XEROX 770 2400 dpi proof copies of the most critical "problem children" pages -- CEREBUS volume pages 53, 146, 198, 296, 297, 299, 300, 301, 302 and 408 and HIGH SOCIETY pages 25, 29, 36, 182, 195, 210, 211, 213, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 226, 228, 230, 231, 318, 391, 412, and 470 -- to George Gatsis at his new Black Diamond Effect offices in Toronto. Once in his possession, George will be able to compare Lebonfon's proofs to his own proofs and recalibrate his digital files as necessary.

Also this week, Ted Adams, IDW CEO and publisher, volunteered the assistance of IDW's own production department if we find ourselves in need of another set of eyes on the remaining "problem children" pages. I'll wait to hear what George has to say.

IDW also announced this week that HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO/DIGITAL -- the HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO BOOK plus computer-screen compatible digitization (lower resolution than needed for physical printing) -- will be shipping in an "up market" gift box format in May of 2014 priced at $19.95.


Friday 22 November 2013

Watchmen & The Origins Of The Graphic Novel

Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life Of Alan Moore (Aurum Press, 2013)
by Lance Parkin
(from Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life Of Alan Moore, 2013)
The first graphic novels were usually fairly slim albums, self-published by the artists, advertised in comics fanzines and hawked at conventions. But by the early eighties, Marvel and DC had got in on the act with original graphic novels that often used existing characters, like the X-Men book God Loves, Man Kills or Jack Kirby's Fourth World book The Hunger Dogs. But these were all new stories. Even series like Camelot 3000 and Frank Miller's Ronin, the comics closest in form to Watchmen, were never intended to be collected in one book. If you wanted to read them, you bought the back issues. Comic shops dedicated most of their floorspace to the section where their customers could catch up on comics they had missed. Fans might have to pay a premium for 'hot' comics they'd been foolish enough to ignore on original publication, but that was all part of the game. Ronin was published in 1983, but the collected version was not released until 1987, thanks to intense interest in Miller's work after The Dark Knight Returns. It would be fifteen years before Camelot 3000 was collected. There were digest-sizes reprints and 'graphic albums' - usually oversized replicas of the first appearance of popular characters or a repackaging of movie adaptations - but there weren't any books which collected recent comics.

Alan Moore would reasonably have expected the twelve issues of Watchmen to be published and for that to be that; when he signed the contract, there was not a single precedent to suggest otherwise. He, Gibbons and DC all fully expected that within a few years all rights would revert to the creators. Even as the early issues of Watchmen went on sale, however, the game was changing. One catalyst was Dave Sim, creator and self-publisher of Cerebus The Aardvark (1977-2004) a series which had transformed from a pastiche of Conan and Howard The Duck comics into a literate, complex discussion of religion and politics. Sim had been publishing slim collections of old material for a number of years, but found that keeping supply matched to demand was a challenge, and his printing bills were expensive. In 1985, DC began negotiating to publish graphic novels of the Cerebus back catalogue, and offered Sim $100,000 and a 10% share in royalties and merchandise. This looked like an extraordinarily good deal for Sim, but he was unhappy at having to sign over so much control of his intellectual property. He came up with the alternative of self-publishing thick 'phone-book' paperbacks collecting twenty-five issues at a time, which would be far easier to keep in print. Sim published a 512-page volume, High Society, in June 1986, and by cutting out every possible middleman he had earned himself $150,000 within weeks. He would become a champion of self-publishing, putting his money where his mouth was by supporting dozens of ventures.

The corporate publishers, though, could learn the lesson of Cerebus: there was a market for collections of recent comics, and DC, would soon reap the rewards.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Creators Bill Of Rights 25th Anniversary: Chris Roberson

iZombie & Cinderella
Art by Michael Allred & Shawn McManus
(from, 28 May 2012)
There's been a lot of discussion in comics circles the last few months about "creator's rights", certainly more public discussion that I can remember happening in recent years. But I find that many of these discussions–whether involving comic readers, creators, or other industry professionals–often get mired rather quickly in impasse, in which the participants are largely talking past each other without doing much to debate the actual issues under discussion. Naturally, that’s a risk in discussing any contentious issue with people who don’t all share the same position, but in the specific instance of creator’s rights in comics I think it’s especially problematic for one simple reason: people often have very different definitions in their heads about just what constitutes "creator's rights", and may in fact be having two completely different conversations without realizing it.

As a general term, "creator's rights" can seem like a fairly nebulous concept. If we’re talking about someone creating something entirely new, their rights as the creator are fairly well defined (in the United States, at least) under existing copyright law. But often times when people invoke “creator’s rights” in these discussions they are talking about the rights of people who have done creative work for publishers under work-for-hire arrangements. And those creators do have rights, but they can be far more subtle and nuanced.

However, even under the more stringent of work-for-hire arrangements, the person who sits down to write or draw a new comic actually starts out with all of their rights intact, and only surrenders those rights through contract and negotiation with the employer, in exchange for some sort of consideration (eg. a paycheck). That is the essential role of contracts between creators and publishers, to establish what rights the creator is assigning or surrendering to the publisher. But if the creator is not aware of their rights at the outset, they may not even fully understand what it is they are signing away.

And in addition to the rights of the creator as legally defined by intellectual property law in the United States, there is another set of principles and ethical standards that, in an ideal world, creators would be able to count upon. These are probably best described as “moral rights,” which are included in legal definitions and protections in many other countries, but not in the United States except in certain narrowly-defined scenarios (such as outlined in the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990). But while moral rights are not legally guaranteed in the United States, many creators still consider them an essential element of creative control.

Intellectual property law, contract negotiations, moral rights… the tangle of issues which fall under the general umbrella of “creator’s rights” can be daunting. Fortunately for us, this is not the first time that these issues have been discussed in the comics field. We have been here before. But if comics as a field is to move forward, we as a creative community need to have better memories. We need to remember the battles that have already been fought and won, so we don’t keep fighting them over and over again.

What we need is a Bill of Rights. And lucky for us, we already have one.

The Creator’s Bill of Rights was drafted by Scott McCloud in 1988 with input from the attendees at a creator’s summit organized by Dave Sim, Kevin Eastman, and Peter Laird, including Richard Pini, Michael Zulli, Larry Marder, Rick Vietch, and Steve Bisette. The Bill was inspired by conversations that had surrounded the earlier Creative Manifesto that Sim had drawn up with input from many of those same creators, as well as Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and Frank Miller.

The Bill was the topic of considerable discussion for a time, but while it continues to spark the occasional debate, I feel that it has largely been overlooked by too many in the comics field, and especially among younger creators.

Chris Roberson is a novelist and writer who has worked on several comics titles for DC and Vertigo, including his own co-creation iZombie. Famously in April 2012, Chris Roberson announced that due to ethical concerns, he was no longer comfortable working for DC Comics. The remarks very quickly spread throughout the comics internet, and quickly led to DC terminating Roberson’s contract.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Creators Bill Of Rights 25th Anniversary: Stephen R. Bissette

Tyrant & Aardvark (Cerebus #159, June 1992)
Art by Steve Bissette, Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Comics Reporter, 4 May 2005)
Personally, I don't find the Creator's Bill of Rights all that fascinating a document, except in a fun, dormitory hallway discussion kind of way. In fact, I've always thought conceiving of rights in that manner a potentially harmful thing, and therefore question its usefulness.

(from The Comics Reporter, 22 May 2005)
Personally and professionally, Tom, those of us who make livings or partial-livings as creators have to move beyond "dormitory hallway" discussions on these matters at SOME point. That you haven't isn't indicative of the relative worth or worthlessness of the Bill. A small group of us did move beyond "dormitory hallway discussions" back in the 1980s, and precious few seem to have taken it much further. That isn't indicative so much of the wisdom of our conclusions or the Bill as it is the paucity of attention or discussion since, which seems to me rather astounding and unconscionable given the accelerated, measurable value of intellectual properties and unslakeable appetite of ever-consolidating corporate entities since 1986.

If you require cultural validation before moving this 'chat' beyond that "dormitory hallway," when as slight a confection as the Malibu-published Men In Black can provide the source material for a feature can finally redirect the entirety of the Marvel stable of properties into the top-ten boxoffice draws in history, the rights and fates of those who conceived of those properties are certainly deserving of scrutiny -- as is the potential of any property. Men In Black was less than a footnote in comics before the movie; how, then, can you rationally argue that "Universality can loosen the tether from historical circumstance in a way that lifts the discussion of rights out of the real-world dialogue that gives it power and immediacy." Hopefully, this discussion is lending some "real-world dialogue," and hence context, to the Bill and its relevance. The fact that there is considerable weight to your next sentence -- "In economically exhausted circumstances, creator rights thus too frequently becomes seen as something to bargain away rather than as effective, worthwhile and even just circumstances for which to fight" -- doesn't mitigate the necessity for discussion and debate; it in fact begs the question, "Why aren't YOU invested in this discussion?"

If nothing else, the lowest common denominator is that the Creator Bill of Rights provides a previously nonexistent 'checklist' of rights sold in most creative/business transactions, and that alone is of great value as a barometer and/or negotiation tool. Pragmatically, you've got a point: still, if "economically exhausted circumstances" lead a creator to sign anything to land the overdue rent check in exchange for work completed (as I did with Marvel's blanket work-for-hire contract in 1978), it's still worthwhile for identifying what one has parted with, and hopefully won't again. In that regard, the only power the freelancer maintains is the power to say "no," and walk, the Creator Bill of Rights be damned.

I'd welcome more discussion of your concluding brush-off -- "I thought it was a somewhat dubious rhetorical tool back in 1988, and still think so today. I'd rather we'd had the manifesto" -- if only to define "rhetorical tool," and why it was and is of dubious value; your just saying so tells me nothing, save your opinion, making you the "rhetorical tool," if you will. I also want to remind you that the manifesto did see print, should you care to revisit it. It was greeted with deafening indifference and silence, outside of those who subsequently joined the fray and rolled up their sleeves to work on the Bill.

Though I know full well I now sound like (shudder) a Republican senator, let's see your manifesto, Tom, please, or at least articulate your views more fully. Your ongoing dismissal of the Creator Bill of Rights as somehow inherently inert and beneath notice, sans meaningful debate or any proposition from anyone of anything comparable in almost twenty years, is indeed typical of "dormitory hallway discussion." After all, we've all been living out of the dorms for decades, haven't we? In the real big bad world, the Creator Bill of Rights is still as valid and relevant as ever.

Stephen R. Bissette is a comics artist, perhaps best know for his collaboration with Alan Moore and John Totleben on the DC comic Swamp Thing in the 1980s. Tom Spurgeon is The Comics Reporter.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Creators Bill Of Rights 25th Anniversary: Denis Kitchen

Art by Denis Kitchen (left) & Will Eisner (right)
(from The Creators Bill Of Rights, May 2005)
[Will Eisner and I] spoke of it briefly on a couple of occasions. It was not something that, frankly, we took very seriously, though we understood and appreciated the sincerity and idealism behind its creation. There was a point in my early career when I would have unhesitatingly signed it. Will's autobiography of getting onto the business is appropriately called "The Dreamer." Most of us have been dreamers, but at some point you have to face the realities of art, life and commerce. I was so anxious to be fair to other creators when I started Kitchen Sink Press in 1969-70 that I literally gave all my profits to other artists and was unable to draw a penny in salary for the first couple of years. So I know very well what it's like to be both a starving artist and a starving publisher.

I think Will's quote below comes from pragmatism; from being on both sides of the equation (being a creator, running a packaging house, and being a publisher) and from a long life of observing human nature, particularly with respect to employees, free-lancers, partners and competitors. Of course he believed in creators' rights. No one was fiercer in demanding them for himself, way before almost anyone else in the field. But he understood that there has to be a balance of rights. The C.B.R. was a political statement without a real effort at balance.

In the "old days" of the industry, publishers had all the power and often used it ruthlessly. If the Creators' Bill of Rights was actually enforced, you'd have a very tough time finding anyone who would want to be a publisher. Will and I both saw the original (has it been updated?) CBR as generally naive and unrealistic.

You earlier asked me a question about Will's religion or lack of. It is my experience and observation that there are both moral people who go to church and moral atheists. There are hypocritical Christians, Muslims and Jews and there are amoral non-believers. My point is that mere titles are often meaningless. Creators (look at Todd McFarlane) are just as capable of mistreating other creators and there are many publishers (William Gaines, for example, or, I dare say, Kitchen Sink Press) who were fair and equitable with creators. There are publishers who are creative and creators who are uncreative. There are creators who rip off publishers just as there will be retailers who rip off distributors. I believe that creators will gravitate toward publishers who give them fair deals, pay them properly, provide a creative environment, respect their innate rights, give marketing support. and other tangible benefits in what ideally is a partnership to bring ideas to the marketplace. Supporting such publishers and avoiding whenever possible bad publishers is a realistic strategy for creators; and, likewise, smart publishers will find it in their best interests to nurture, support and reward good creators. It doesn't have to resemble class warfare.

The Creators' Bill of Rights is an interesting concept, and one worth healthy philosophical debate, but at the end of the day it is pie-in-the-sky. Pragmatists like Will and myself, who have seen all sides of the business, assiduously protected our own rights, and understood that both creators and publishers need rights and incentives. It's all about balance.

Denis Kitchen is an American underground cartoonist, publisher, author and agent, and the founder of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Will Eisner (1917-2005) is the writer/artist of The Spirit, A Contract With God and many other fine graphic novels.

Monday 18 November 2013

Creators Bill Of Rights 25th Anniversary: Erik Larsen

Savage-Vark Head-Sketch (2012)
Art by Dave Sim
(from The Creators Bill Of Rights, August 2005)
The Creators' Bill of Rights was always a puzzle to me. It seems as relevant to me as eight random human beings hanging out at a street corner getting together and making rules for mankind. It’s not as though anybody put them in charge of anything or have any reason to acknowledge or adhere to their rules. Those who drafted and signed it, talk about the Creators' Bill of Rights as though it’s a document of some historic import, I'll grant you, but outside of those who signed it -- I’ve never had it brought up or even mentioned in passing to me by anybody in the industry. And really, I’m not sure why anybody should mention it. To call it a Creators Bill of Rights is a bit of a misnomer. It ISN'T a Creators Bill of Rights -- it's the conditions under which these eight (or however many it was) individuals are willing to do business. Anything more is presumptuous at best and arrogant at worst. What makes these individuals feel as though it's their place to speak for the rest of us? It may be a good thing to keep in mind or be aware of when a creative person is negotiating a contract with a publishing company but I think its impact in the industry is, frankly, minimal at best. Heck, I've never read the darned thing. Like I said -- it hasn't come up. Which isn't to say that the people involved aren't all good guys -- I just think that this isn’t really something that can be hammered out by eight random human beings hanging out at a street corner -- it's something that is to be decided in negotiation between a creator and a publisher. At the end of the day, the Creators' Bill of Rights real value may come from simply spelling things out in a form people can understand and utilize in their negotiations with a potential client. I think it's a little na├»ve to expect everybody in the industry to salute it like they would a flag and hang on its every word. 

Erik Larsen is the writer/artist of Savage Dragon and was one of the founders of Image Comics.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Creators Bill Of Rights 25th Anniversary: Scott McCloud

The Northampton Summit Participants
Left to Right: Ken Mitchroney, Mark Martin, Michael Dooney, Steve Lavigne, Peter Laird (sitting)
Kevin Eastman, Ryan Brown, Michael Zulli, Richard Pini, Scott McCloud, Larry Marder
Dave Sim, Rick Veitch, and Steve Bissette. (Not pictured: Eric Talbot and Gerhard).
Art by Scott McCloud
(taken from Scott
The Creators Bill Of Rights was written in November 1988 for a two day "Summit" of comic book artists held in Northampton, Massachusetts. The meeting had been suggested by Cerebus creator Dave Sim and hosted by local heroes Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Summit was a follow-up to a July meeting in Toronto which produced a "Creative Manifesto." Some of us found the Manifesto a bit scattered, so I wrote a rough draft of a proposed replacement. That replacement, "A Bill of Rights for Comics Creators" was accepted quickly at Sim's suggestion. The rest of that day was a non-stop argument about the document's wording.

The Bill never generated much noise in the industry and I wouldn't want to exaggerate its influence, but it provides an interesting snapshot of our attitudes at the time, and of the climate that was fueling self-publishers, progressive business people, and artists trying to reinvent the comics industry. A few years later, several top-selling Marvel artists would break from the pack and form a new company called Image, shifting the debate from rights and principles to clout and competition, but both developments would share a common premise, still relevant today: that comics creators already have the right to control their art if they want it; all they have to do is not sign it away.

I was invited in large part because I knew Laird and others through an APA I'd created called The Frying Pan. At my suggestion, Beanworld creator and "Nexus of all Comic Book Realities" Larry Marder was invited too. Larry flew out from Chicago to our place in Arlington, Massachusetts shortly before the meeting. I had the rough draft of the Bill ready but not typed yet. I vividly remember hammering it out on my old manual typewriter as Larry read my notes back to me, right before we rushed out the door to catch a succession of buses and trains to Northampton. While waiting for the bus in Springfield, we found a copy shop and photocopied my hastily typed hand-out. It was also on that trip that I showed Larry my notes for a comic book about comics that I had been working on for a few years.

After the first day of debates, everyone stumbled out of the Hotel Northampton into the cold New England air to walk the five or so blocks to dinner. I remember Larry and I lagged behind a little. I had argued with Dave Sim about every imaginable issue that day as if my life depended on it, but walking to dinner, it all seemed pretty distant already. Larry and I talked more about my notes for the comic book about comics. I asked him if he thought those ideas would mean a lot more in the long run than anything I could accomplish in Northampton. He said yeah, they probably would.

When those notes became Understanding Comics it was Kevin Eastman's money that paid me to finish it - money he and Peter had earned because they refused to give away their creation the way so many artists had before them.

Scott McCloud is a cartoonist and comics theorist best known for his comic series ZOT! and his non-fiction books about comics theory: Understanding Comics (1993), Reinventing Comics (2000) and Making Comics (2006).

Saturday 16 November 2013

The Creators Bill Of Rights 25th Anniversary

A Bill Of Rights For Comics Creators
As drafted at the Northampton Summit, 17 November, 1988, with contributions from: 
Steve Bissette, Ryan Brown, Michael Dooney, Kevin Eastman, Gerhard, Peter Laird,
Steve Lavigne, Jim Lawson, Larry Marder, Mark Martin, Scott McCloud, Ken Mitchroney,
Stephen Murphy, Richard Pini, Dave Sim, Eric Talbot, Rick Veitch and Michael Zulli.
(taken from Cerebus #116, November 1988)
(from The Creator Bill Of Rights, April 2005)
...There was a lot of debate about what rights Gerhard had which sort of blew up in their faces when I said that as far as I was concerned Gerhard had the right to reproduce his own work. If he wanted to do his own Cerebus trade paperbacks he had the right to do that without asking my permission because his work was on the printed pages and -- because the book was still in progress -- he also had the right to get someone to write and draw his Cerebus comic that he would do the backgrounds on. There was no way that Kevin and Peter -- or Richard Pini who was also at the Northampton summit -- were going to agree with that, but to me it was a basic ethical question. Gerhard started out getting a page rate, then he became a salaried employee (like me) and then he became a 40% partner in the company. Again, there would have been nothing illegal about just paying him $80 a page and getting him to sign a contract saying that I own everything he did, but to me it would have been unethical and it would have been progressively more unethical the more work that he did. When you have tied your fortunes to one book, as Gerhard had, and that situation goes on for more than two decades, you are -- again ethically, not legally -- entitled to share in the success of that book. I think it would be worth framing that in more specific terms -- how long you have to work on an established book before you get a share in the revenues, how large that share should be after how long a period of time and at what point you should get join ownership, and so on. But there was no interest in even discussing it. In fact I was just laughed at for bringing it up and Gerhard was treated as a joke by everyone else whenever I cited our business relationship as the most ethical way to do business in a creative partnership. Which I thought was very short-sighted. A successful comic book intellectual property is a long-term proposition, stretching over the course of decades. It doesn’t make sense to me to treat a decades-long creative participation in the same way you do a freelance assignment that someone knocks out over a weekend which, it seemed to me was what Kevin and Peter and Richard Pini chose to do with Mirage Studios and Warp Graphics. In that sense, yes, definitely there was a schism and there’s no doubt in my mind that it was seen as my fault because I wasn't flexible enough or I was too much of a purist. But, again, if I had caved in on the point and said that "Ethically it doesn't matter how you treat someone working on your intellectual property. That's up to you because it's your intellectual property," which was the consensus view, that would've meant that there was no one representing what I considered to be the more ethical position. It would certainly have been more lucrative on my part to just 'go along with the consensus': I could've kept my own salary and most of Gerhard's as well. But, I suspect that in that case Gerhard wouldn't have stuck around until issue 300. How many people in 2004 were still working on Elfquest and the Turtles who were working on them in 1988? This happened a lot. Steve Bissette used to say that I just went around forming these coalitions and then blowing them up. I think the record shows that I would stick to what I considered the more ethical position and when people saw that I couldn’t be persuaded to see things their way, they abandoned all discussions with me. And the reason, most times, that they abandoned all discussions with me was because they didn't want to think of themselves as people who made unethical or less ethical choices. The point to me was always the overriding ethic that was under discussion, not how unhappy it made someone else feel when I disagreed with them or how happy it would make them feel if I would abandon my position and agree with them. It didn't matter to me who was happy with me or unhappy with me. I had a larger obligation to make sure that I was setting what I saw as good ethical precedents for future creator-publishers to follow or to ignore as they chose.

Weekly Update #5: "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, 15 November 2013)

From George Gatsis this week:
"I miscommunicated Josee's 'solution' fax to Dave as an actual solution.

I already used this process on a number of pages months ago -- pages which have been in Lenbonfon's possession for some time -- some of which have a moire pattern and others which don't -- on the proofs and printed pages Lebonfon sent us. 'Re-screening' is a basic Photoshop process for moire problems.

I'm still working on getting accurate proofs done by companies other than Lebonfon."
So zero progress this week, zero progress last week and zero progress the week before.


Friday 15 November 2013

Dressed For Success

Dressed For Success Jam (1993)
Art by Dave Sim & Jeff Wasson
(Click image to enlarge)
The original art for Dave Sim and Jeff Wasson Cerebus Dressed for Success Jam '93 poster was originally completed to raise funds for the ComicBook Legal Defense Fund and is on sale at Heritage Auctions - bidding end 23 November 2013. Dressed For Success was a black and white digest comic from the early 1990s by Chris Howard and Jeff Wasson of Toronto's Egesta Comics, before moving online here.

UPDATE: Chris Howard discusses 'Jamming With The Earth-Pig' here.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Objectivist Spider-Ham

The Objectivist Spider-Ham (2009)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Comic Book Artist #9, Twomorrows, 2000)
...Despite the fact that Steve Ditko was obviously a hero to the hippies with his psychedelic Dr. Strange work and for the teen angst of Spider-Man, Ditko's politics were obviously very different from those fans. His views were apparent through his portrayals of Mr. A and the protesters or beatniks that occasionally surfaced in his other work. I think this article was the first to actually point out that, yes, Steve Ditko did have a very right-wing agenda (which of course, he's completely entitled to), but at the time, it was quite interesting, and that probably led to me portraying [Watchmen character] Rorschach as an extremely right-wing character...

...I can look at Salvador Dali's work and marvel at it, despite the fact that I believe that Dali was probably a completely disgusting human being [laughter] and borderline fascist, but that doesn't detract from the genius of his artwork. With Steve Ditko, I at least felt that though Steve Ditko's political agenda was very different to mine, Steve Ditko had a political agenda, and that in some ways set him above most of his contemporaries. During the '60s, I learned pretty quickly about the sources of Steve Ditko's ideas, and I realized very early on that he was very fond of the writing of Ayn Rand...

...I had to look at The Fountainhead. I have to say I found Ayn Rand's philosophy laughable. It was a "white supremacist dreams of the master race," burnt in an early-20th century form. Her ideas didn't really appeal to me, but they seemed to be the kind of ideas that people would espouse, people who might secretly believe themselves to be part of the elite, and not part of the excluded majority. I would basically disagree with all of Ditko's ideas, but he has to be given credit for expressing these political ideas. I believe some feminists regard Dave Sim in much the same light; they might disagree with everything he says, but at least there is some sort of sexual-political debate going on there. So I've got respect for Ditko...

...Steve Ditko is completely at the other end of the political spectrum from me. I wouldn't say that I was far left in terms of Communism, but I am an anarchist, which is 180° away from Steve Ditko's position. But I have a great deal of respect for the man, and certainly respect for his artwork, and the fact that there's something about his uncompromising attitude that I have a great deal of sympathy with. It's just that the things I wouldn't compromise about or that he wouldn't compromise about are probably very different.

Even if they have morals you don't agree with, a person with strong moral code is a person who has a big advantage in today's world.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Colleen Doran: Remastering 'A Distant Soil'

A Distant Soil (Remastered)
by Colleen Doran
(The remastered edition of A Distant Soil Vol 2 ships in December 2013. Order your copy now!)
(from the A Distant Soil blog, 6 November 2013)
Allan Harvey is doing an unmatched job on our restoration. AMAZING work. I have not seen any black and white tone work getting the kind of care and attention we are getting on these volumes! 

Check out this quality! On the right, the source material. On the left, the restoration:

There are other restorations and reprints of black and white comics which use tones, but we have either acquired every single page of original art OR gone into the art, removed the toned areas with very careful digital selections, and then replaced them to match the original tones and tone quality perfectly. No effort has been spared. I have not seen black and white restoration this good anywhere else. All praise to Allan!

Another example: Allan goes in between every single one of these speed lines and carefully removes the tone. This is meticulous work!

The original scan is on the left, and the clean scan is on the right. After cleaning out all the flawed tone, Allan replaces it with a clean digital tone, which you can see in the final, published work. The tone may not look flawed to the naked eye in this shot, but when reduced for print, without this restoration it would create a moire pattern.

Dave Sim is also doing extensive restoration on Cerebus, but he is working from scans without doing the cleanup and replacement of tones we’re doing on A DISTANT SOIL. He has an extensive blog post about the mutual challenges we face HERE. Our solution for A DISTANT SOIL is far more expensive and time consuming, but it yields better results. I sincerely doubt this could be accomplished with the 6000 pages of Cerebus, but we wish Mr Sim the best of luck.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Tribute Art Round-Up No.6

Mike Flesh (2013)

Long Tom (2012)
A little satirical comic I commissioned decades ago by the then recently-graduated professional artist Kenneth Lambert. Those of you who have read "Aardvark Comment" in the old Cerebus comic will know exactly what I am talking about. None other than artist Ivan Brunetti found this hilarious.

Rev'd Seventy Six (2013)
A random sketch which I plan to mail to Mr. Sim along with a short letter of thanks for being a profound influence on me (as well as making Puma Blues possible).

Monday 11 November 2013

Norman Mailer's House

Cerebus #207 (June 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from I Stayed In Norman Mailer's House...,, May 2013)
I didn't really know why I'd been invited to stay at Norman Mailer's house. My knowledge of the late writer was limited to what I'd gleaned from a quick skim through The Fight (Mailer's excellent account of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's Rumble in the Jungle) and the obligatory Wikipedia scan. 

Even going on these limited preconceptions, there were certain things I didn't expect to find in Mailer's former home. For example, an attic study full of hundreds of books on Hitler, the Forrest Gump soundtrack on cassette and the complete set of Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark graphic novels all seemed like unusual cultural touchstones... 

(Submitted by Sandeep Atwal)

Sunday 10 November 2013

Missing Artwork Search!: Glamourpuss #23, Page 3

Glamourpuss #23, page 3
Art by Dave Sim
(via email, 10 November 2013)

Hey Tim,
Dave had asked me to scan and send the Zootanapuss pages I have at 600 dpi RBG and send them off to Ted Adams at IDW Publishing for the Zootanapuss Artists Edition (which I did), but he thought I had two Zootanapuss pages, when I only have one (the other one is a glamourpuss swimsuit page). So he asked me if I wouldn't mind asking you if you could send out a request for the missing Zootanapuss page so whoever has it could send a scan of it to Ted. (I'm attaching a pic of what it look likes. glamourpuss 23, page 3 I believe).

Dave was sure I had it, but said it might be a sign of age that he forgot who it was sold to (in that old Cerebus voice) ("gum gum gum. That Eddie Khanna. Yes sir. He has my Zootanapuss pages. gum gum gum." was the impression he did). I told him that even though I know it wasn't me, he now had me thinking that it WAS me he sold it to. In fact, even though I AM 99.999999% sure I don't have it (I only have 2 1/2 pieces of original art of his), there's that 0.000001% doubt where I'm thinking, 'Well, maybe I DO have it.' Even though I don't. I really don't. I'm pretty sure. Gum gum gum indeed.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Weekly Update #4: "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, 8 November 2013)
Our Project Director at Lebonfon, Josee Michaud, has come up with a potentially game-changing 11th hour solution. Quoting from her 5 November e-mail to George:

"remove the dot scan in desired areas [the] recreate new pattern using a layer... if you're using Photoshop to create the new pattern, you need to: 1. Create "layer"  2. add Color  3. choose % (example: Black 33%)  4. IMAGE/MODE/BITMAP change "RESOLUTION" to your preference (minimum 12000 dpi) the "METHOD" use: "HALFTONE SCREEN". When making your changes/tests please use "POSITION 12" and send to us for proofing."

George will be trying this out on a few of the "problem children" pages this weekend.

If it works, this could become the Michaud Solution for restoration of mechanical dot screen pages from the pre-computer age of comics.

Stay tuned.


Sunday 3 November 2013

Gone Fishing

Cerebus #211 (October 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

'A Moment Of Cerebus' will return Sunday, 10 November 2013.

Being Gene Day

Master of Kung Fu #111 (Marvel Comics, 1982)
Pencils by Gene Day, inks by Rick Magyar 
(Click image to enlarge)

Today, 3rd November 2013, is the 31st anniversary of Gene Day's death -- he will have been dead for as long as he was alive. Dave Sim's full obituary for Gene was printed in The Comics Journal #77 in 1982.

(from a 1986 quote reprinted in Cerebus Archive #11, December 2010)
...I wanted to be just like Gene Day. Practically from the day I met the guy. What was one of the best ways to be Gene Day? Work with different people on different projects. Keep your hand in. Try something else. Make it work. Develop it. Send it out. Keep sending it out. Work on other things while it dries...

Howard Eugene Day (1951-1982) was the Canadian comic book artist best known for Marvel Comics' Master of Kung Fu and Star Wars series. Dave Sim credits Gene as his earliest and most influential mentor, and the inspiration for his own self-publishing efforts. In February 2009, the Shuster Awards received permission from Gene Day's widow, Gale, and brothers to name the annual Gene Day Award For Self-Publishing in his memory. Gene was inducted into the Shuster Hall of Fame in 2007.