Tuesday 31 December 2013

Most Holy Needs You!

Are you hording rare Cerebus artwork? Do you have a stash of letters from Dave Sim?

Seriously, after over two years of daily blogging about Dave Sim and Gerhard's Cerebus I'm now scratching my head wondering if I can sustain this pace. I would like to keep this site updated everyday but I'm going to need YOUR help to do it. If you own any material that would make for a short blog post (artwork, correspondence, memories of discovering Cerebus, photos of Dave or Gerhard) please share it with other Cerebus fans. Send in anything you have to:

MomentOfCerebus [at] gmail [dot] com
Many thanks for your help,

I've checked with Dave about posting his correspondence here on 'A Moment Of Cerebus' and received the following reply: 

Monday 30 December 2013

Being Stared At To Death

Cerebus #214 (January 1997)
Art by Dave Sim
(from a fax, 24 December 2013)
Hi Tim! I think the site is working well as a (possibly) Last Refuge for CEREBUS fans depending on a) whether the trade paperbacks come back into print and b) if they sell when they come back into print (IF it's a "when"). In my situation, I have to go on the assumption that this is the start of the Long Siesta for CEREBUS which continues until long after my death... and then be however pleasantly surprised to whatever extent that proves not to be the case if that proves not to be the case.

I noticed you're getting more comments on the different posting so you may have made it past the "Being Stared At To Death" thing that Craig Miller went through with FOLLOWING CEREBUS which (as you know) can be pretty disconcerting especially when you know that there is (however small) a target audience you're reaching.

Me, I keep trying to figure out ways to make your job a little easier since you are providing a Last Refuge for MY fans. I feel as if I should be paying you the metaphysical equivalent of child support.

How about contacting Oliver Simonsen and having him relay word to all the folks working on the film: can you e-mail Tim a short "Why I'm Working On The CEREBUS 3D FILM For Free When I Get Paid A Lot Of Money To Do This Kind Of Work" along with an example of your work on the film. Also: "What I Plan To Do If Dave Sim Says "No" Which is 99% Likely To Happen".

At the very least, it's a large pool of people to potentially draw on and if they all just end up "Staring At You To Death" well, it's at least not as if you aren't experienced in dealing with that!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Sunday 29 December 2013

Wickets Revisited (Again!)

Cerebus #29, Page 20
Original art by Dave Sim (1981); Recreated art by Dave Sim & Gerhard (2006)
(Click image to enlarge)
(from Cerebus The Artvark, 2006)
Had the opposite reaction to page 20 than I had to page 19. I was already thinking this early that the Elf was just an illusion fabricated halfway between Cerebus and the real Regency Elf which meant she was something of a ventriloquist’s puppet. What’s interesting is that here she just keeps asking Cerebus "And then what?" (I made it a little more playful sounding in the recreation – like a two-year old who enjoys tormenting adults with questions that become progressively more difficult to answer ad consequently keeps repeating the question in a louder and more gleeful way) so, essentially, this is a dominant and suppressed part of Cerebus that has never actually asked himself, as a barbarian, "Well, okay, so we loot a lot of money – then what? What do we exactly want to buy?" And in a real sense all people in that situation want to buy the same thing: a quiet Elf; that is they want to buy the suppression of an inner voice that says materialism is a dead end.

Of course I had to change the last panel where he says "Shut up and play." This was a swipe of Shirley MacLaine's last line in The Apartment which I believe was "Shut up and deal." Again, my enthusiasm for a good line overcomes my narrative sense. The Elf had just taken her shot and I had used two panels to show her take it. When it's your shot, you don’t say "Shut up and play." I could fall back on "Cerebus was confused by the questioning and forgot whose shot it was," but he had just said "Your shot," a couple of panels previous to this. The player who says "your shot" is usually the one keeping track of the game for the less focused opponent. "Shut up and play" also violated the later plot point of "Don't get mad at an elf." If you’re that wary of it, you wouldn't say "shut up" even in a light-hearted way. She's a female and females are notoriously literal-minded. "Shut up" is "shut up" and "shut up" is "being mean to me." He would need to be evasive instead of direct.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Wickets Revisited

Cerebus #29, Page 19
Original art by Dave Sim (1981); Recreated art by Dave Sim & Gerhard (2006)
(Click image to enlarge)
(from Cerebus The Artvark, 2006)
Frankly, I'm more than a little embarrassed by the early material (which I try not to let on about since it is our bread and butter). I know what the stuff looked and read like in my mind's eye and ear at the time and the contrast between the mental image and the actual results on paper are sincerely mortifying. "Insanity is the last line of defense for the master bureaucrat" is an interesting observation, but it’s hardly a Lord Julius line, so I tried to fix it so it read like something Groucho Marx would say. The salesman line was indelicate relative to the personality of the Elf. You just wouldn’t say to the Elf (or ro a female of any kind) "sniffing your crotch" since they don’t hear it in the abstract the way men do. If you say "sniffing your crotch" what they is is that someone wants to sniff their crotch. I switched genders, elevated the action anatomically and "cuted" it up with the "mooing" which would pass muster with a female. "Impregnable" is not a word that Cerebus would use. As with the Lord Julius line, this is Dave Sim conveying his best current thinking on an abstract subject and completely losing his characters’ voices and personalities in the process. As I say, it's really cringe-inducing, particularly since it is exponentially more popular than anything else I did. Other things like Cerebus walking towards the reader with his tail about to hit the wickets. If you had a tail you would know to get it out of the way, I think. Trying to figure out how the robe is sitting on his body by the white stripes in the middle panel and finally giving up and drawing it properly. Likewise with him holding the croquet mallet in the second panel. It looks to me was if I got the figure done, realized I hadn't put the mallet in so I just drew it vaguely intersecting the right hand which is resting on his knee (and then had it disappear behind the outer instead of the inner panel frame as a way of showing how clever I was an hoping that would distract from the fact that there is no rational way he would be holding the mallet at that angle even if he was holding his hand at waist level, the mallet would either be horizontal or tipping the other way.

Friday 27 December 2013

The Uncollected Cerebus Stories

Selling Insurance in Epic Illustrated #30 (Marvel Comics, 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Eight Comics That Demand To Be Reprinted, Time.com, 6 August 2010)
...The Anal-Retentive Cerebus. Or whatever title you like for a collection of all the Cerebus material that didn't make it into the sixteen paperbacks that collect most of Dave Sim and Gerhard's 300-issue series. There is rather a lot of it. Some of it is gorgeous (like the full-color stories Sim and Gerhard did for Epic Illustrated); some of it is pretty significant to the overall plot (especially the Gene Day collaboration What Happened Between Issues Twenty and Twenty-One); some of it is just a lot of fun (like the collaborations with Terry Austin and Will Eisner that ran in Cerebus Jam). Meanwhile, instead of keeping this stuff in print, Sim has published two volumes of his correspondence from 2004 and a new edition of his 1997 self-publishing guide. Not the same.

Luckily for Douglas most of those missing Cerebus stories are available to read online at Cerebus Fan Girl and Cerebus The Aardvark (navigate to the 'Colour Miscellany' section). Also, the 1995 Cerebus World Tour Book reprints the Gene Day collaboration What Happened Between Issues Twenty and Twenty-One, together with other short stories that originally appeared in the Swords Of Cerebus reprint series. Cerebus #0 collects the 'inbetween' issues of the monthly Cerebus comic not included in the 16 reprint volumes (ie #51 Exodus, #112/113 Square One and #137/138 Like-A-Looks).

Sunday Comics Debt points out that Cerebus Dreams II from AV in 3D remains uncollected (but was reprinted in 2D in Following Cerebus #10). In the comments section Michael Grabowski notes that the Elfguest 4-page short story from Cerebus #52 has never been reprinted.

Weekly Update #11: '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, 27 December 2013)
The final "problem child" digital file was for page 301 -- a hint of the moire remaining -- which was corrected by George Gatsis and emailed to Lebonfon on December 19th. Josee Michaud at Lebonfon relayed word to George just before noon on Christmas Eve that a 600 dpi proof of the page had been shipped to the Black Diamond Effect offices in Toronto.

As soon as George okays the new proof, we will be on to the next stage: unbound copies of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY for George's and my approval.

Happy new year, everyone!


Thursday 26 December 2013

Friends Of Lulu

Cerebus #288 (March 2003)
art by Dave Sim, assisted by Chris Verhoeven
(from a letter to 'Friends Of Lulu' dated 24 January 1996, printed in Cerebus #206, May 1996)
"Advocating censorship of any kind would not only be against our firm belief in freedom of expression but is diametrically opposed to our goal of expanding the comics market."
...I guess I just find this confusing. Maybe it's just me. Although there have been rumblings of censorship and advocacy of censorship from people I have talked to about FoL, I take you at your word. You don't advocate censorship. It was not my intention to accuse you of advocating censorship. What I was doing was sketching the parameters of a simple program which might assist in the fight against censorship. I am alarmed by the Planet Comics bust in Oklahoma. In examining what I can do to assist the retailers and their customers to defend their First Amendment rights, the answer I came up with was "not much." I can continue to donate royalties and payments for various "outside Cerebus" projects to the CBLDF. But in terms of directly affecting the situation in Oklahoma City, the answer, alas, was "not much." I did an interview with a student newspaper in Oklahoma in which I tried to state the case for freedom of expression. But, beyond that, addressing letters to the local daily newspaper or alternative paper or what-have-you would be an exercise in futility. No one has heard of me or Cerebus in that context. My words would carry no weight -- most likely I would just be viewed as another "smut peddler" jumping to the defense of other "smut peddlers."

Because Friends of Lulu has a roster of female professionals as active members, because censorship has been linked historically with... if there was a valid synonym for "feminist," I would use it here... feminist movements, because we are very short of resources in the comic-book field which have a snowball's chance in hell of swaying mainstream public opinion to the cause of creative freedom in the comic-book field... I took a stab in the dark. As an outsider examining the situation board -- a non-American, non-CBLDF board member, a non-Friends of Lulu member.

Having put my case as eloquently as I could, I find it very disappointing that the reaction amounts to little more than the regurgitation of platitudes capped by a rhetorical cul-de-sac that amounts to little more, in my view, than "We're going to sit this one out, Dave."

The fact that no effort is (evidently) going to be expended even to determine if there is a level of interest within the ranks of the 160 or so female members of your organization to assist in ending censorship and that your seven-member board views the offhand 'enunciation' of a "firm belief in freedom of expression" to be sufficient when two retailers are apt to be imprisoned possibly for a total of eighty years (to me) belies your expressions of support for the retail community.

I mean, come on!
Friends Of Lulu Logo (2004)
by Diana X. Spinkle

Friends of Lulu (1994 to 2011) was a non-profit, national charitable organization in the United States, founded to promote readership of comic books by women and the participation of women in the comic book industry.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

"Was I Dumped For God?"

Susan Alston (2013)
Photo by John Suchocki
(from a comment posted to The One About Dave Sim by Heidi MacDonald, February 2008)
Well done Heidi! You have captured the essence of the external Dave Sim. I have to say though, as Dave Sim's last known girlfriend, that this was not the rhetoric/speak/persona he used in my presence in the almost five intimate years that I spent with him (1994-1999). He was a very contemporary thinking and emancipated guy. Yes, he had feminists issues, not unlike the anti-male rhetoric from us in the 80s, (and yes he had mother/sister/girlfriend/wife issues from his past) - but a true misogynist - not in my opinion. We discussed such things at great lengths - but I could never keep up with him on any subject - he is a brilliant well-read person, and would obsess about certain subjects for weeks at a time, reading everything he could find about whatever he wanted to know about. 

He supported my efforts as the Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, oftentimes coaching me for media interviews or writing my ‘stump speeches’ for convention appearances etc. He adored my little dog, Smutty Nose, and pampered her like a baby! He was a very romantic guy too; he would call me on the phone and sing me Frank Sinatra songs. Sometimes he 'cooked' for me! He was very fair about equally dividing time between his home and mine (500 miles apart). Sometime we would decide to connect at Cons. 

His oratory did change after he started reading the King James' version of the bible. But not at the beginning. At first he would read me passages in complete jest, his inflections and emphasis on certain words and phrases (taken out of the intended context) would have laughing so hard I had to wipe back my tears! Then, suddenly, he stopped reading to me from the bible, even though I asked him to. The bible traveled with him everywhere after that, never far from his eyes. We broke up within a year or so from the start of his relationship with the bible, when his love affair with god began. Was I dumped for god? 

I am not defending him; he did disappear into his own void for days at a time, and came out elated and refreshed. We agreed not to communicate when his hair started to grow and he began to snarl. I used to track them on my calendar, every 30-45 days, like a menstrual period! I am not sure what he did there, perhaps became his evil twin Viktor Davis. Is he bi-polar, a schizophrenic? Maybe. I'll reveal more when I publish my own book, Dave Sim’s Last Girlfriend - coming soon...

Susan Alston, the CBLDF's first Executive Director (1993-1997) and former board member (1997-1999), is a development, marketing, and communications professional based in western Massachusetts, USA. Alston began her career as Assistant Director of Marketing at Bank of Boston, then as Director of Administration at Tundra Publishing, owned by Kevin Eastman. In 1993, Tundra merged into Kitchen Sink Press, whereupon Denis Kitchen offered her a part-time position overseeing CBLDF administration. Shortly thereafter, with the onset of the Mike Diana case and a large donation from Dave Sim, the position was moved to fulltime. After leaving CBLDF in 1999, Alston took her interest in fundraising, marketing, and communications and honed them at positions with Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, VNA HealthCare, and Center for Human Development. In 2012, Alston earned her Master’s degree in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy from Bay Path College. Alston rejoined the CBLDF in 2013 serving on its newly formed Advisory Board together with Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Matt Groening, Mike Richardson, Chip Kidd, Louise Nemchoff and Frenchy Lunning.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Greezons Seatings!

Cerebus #201 (December 1995)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday 23 December 2013

"Business? Mankind Was My Business!"

A Christmas Carol
(Pencil sketch with inked lettering, March 2013)
by Dave Sim

Sunday 22 December 2013

Every Time A Bell Rings...

'A Christmas Carol' Christmas Card
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Saturday 21 December 2013

Weekly Update #10: '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, 20 December 2013)
George Gatsis uploaded the last 12 pages requiring one more digital proof printing from Lebonfon at 7:30pm December 15.

Patrick Jodion is "en vacances" but Project Manager Josee Michaud reports that the final set of proofs were shipped to George's Black Diamond Effect offices in Toronto on Wednesday December 18.

Merci et Joyeux Noel!


Tribute Art Round-Up No.7

"Cerebus without the rules of drawing Cerebus holding him back. Go Cerebus go! Stubby little bitch!"

Simone & Ajax Meet Cerebus (2013)
"I'm happy to have contributed a pin-up of Simone & Ajax meeting Cerebus and Red Sophia to the authorized Cerebus tribute, Low Society, even including a contribution from Dave Sim himself."

by Vernon Smith (2012)

Cerebus versus The Capes
by Matthew Ingerham (2013)

"This is a limited print for the G33K Art Show 2013 in Kitchener-Waterloo, my little tribute to Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark. Done completely with a no. 2 brush and India ink.Enjoy! In this pic is Starro, Magneto, Atom-Smasher, Batman, Superman, Thing, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Wolverine, Doctor Octopus, Hawkman, The Spectre, Venom, Thor, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, Wonder Woman and Galactus."

by Ramon Villalobos (2012)
"My friend Mike suggested I draw Cerebus so I did it mostly while watching the first episode of Game of Thrones so I made him wearing the stuff that not Aragorn from Lord of the Rings wears. Never read Cerebus so I hope it looks like that dude close enough."

by Tim Keable (2011)

Friday 20 December 2013

This Duck, This Aardvark

Howard The Duck
Art by Dave Sim
from Marvel Fanfare #25 (Marvel Comics, March 1986)
(from Andrew Rilstone's blog, undated)
The influence of Howard the Duck on Cerebus the Aardvark is quite staggering.

I knew, of course, that the title of Cerebus was partly a joke at the expense of 'silly animal' comics, and that Cerebus the Aardvark as a title was almost an attempt to trump Howard the Duck and [Steve] Gerber's subsequent Stewart the Rat. (Trumped a few years later with a Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, or course.) I believe that when Gerber lost control of  Howard, Dave Sim was considered as a possible replacement on the book.

But almost everything about Cerebus seems to have its origin in Howard the Duck: the cynical, world-weary persona, of course, and the central gag about funny animals in a world of humans. Howard runs for president; Cerebus spends 25 issues running for prime minister. The Howard-goes-mad issues and the dream sequences become the 'mind games' motif which gradually became the dominant trope in Cerebus. (Right down to the disembodied speech bubbles.) Gerber uses blocks of 'screenplay' to reproduce Howard's election press conferences, just as Sim does for Cerebus. Howard and Cerebus both end up in dialogues with their creators. Both do the unthinkable and have issues which consist of nothing but blocks of text. And Howard is always respectful and tolerant towards his female supporting cast.

Well, okay, the exception proves the rule.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Spirits Having Flown

Cerebus & H.R. Watson (1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Paul Pope
(from the essay Spirits Having Flown, Cerebus #207, June 1996)
It's an emotion-based world.

That was my best analysis going into the Montreal Spirits stop this past weekend. What is the effect on self- publishing of people like Teri Wood, Colleen Doran, Terry Moore, and others moving into the traditional publishing environs from self-publishing? So far, emotional. What is the emotional reaction of the retailers? Will there be a backlash against Image and its various studios? Yes. But the fact remains that a self publisher's circulation goes up dramatically when he or she takes his or her book to a company. Although Drew Hayes' numbers on Poison Elves have dropped considerably from the first Sirius issue high, they are well above his numbers as a self-publisher. There's no reason to believe that the same won't be true of Wandering Star, Strangers in Paradise, A Distant Soil, and others. I cringed while reading Teri Wood's interview in one of the slick fanzines where she describes Drew coming up to her table in San Diego and saying, "I guess you hate me now because I'm not a self- publisher." Teri said no, Drew seemed to be doing fine, and she wished someone would offer her a deal like his. Drew talked to Sirius, Sirius talked to Teri, and the deal was done. She concluded with the observation that "probably everyone now hates [her] in the self-publishing business." (italics mine).

I have no place in a world that dominated by emotion, and I should have known that.

Two self-publishers who sell around four hundred copies an issue approached me in Montreal to ask what they should do, having been approached by Caliber. They were - both afraid (emotion) that I would get mad (emotion) at them. I told them it was their decision. They should sit down and assess what the pros and cons are and make a decision based on that. They both want to keep self-publishing, but they are losing money issue after issue. They were afraid (emotion) that other self publishers would feel (emotion) that they were betraying the cause.

Self-publishing is not a cause or a movement. Self- publishing is a choice, an option. Viewed dispassionately (something that seems to be beyond most people’s abilities), it is a good way to come to the attention of the overall marketplace - fans, retailers, and distributors - for a reasonably small financial investment and a lot of hard work. Some books sell well; some books sell badly. Those that sell badly erode to the point where it is no longer feasible to continue. At that point the individual self-publisher can choose to stop, choose to keep going or choose to find a publisher, or choose to accept an offer made by a publisher. I was offered the chance to write Howard the Duck at a time when Deni and I were making very little money on Cerebus. I chose not to. I was offered a reprint deal by DC. I chose not to accept it. 

Each individual self-publisher has comparable options. You have to do what you feel (since no one thinks anymore) is right for you and for your book. I think you are better off thinking about what is right for you and for your book, but, hey...

It is impossible to abdicate from a public perception. I am perceived to be a leader, a champion, a guru, a godfather of self-publishing. That perception is inaccurate. I am a self-publisher. One. Individual. Self-publisher. I prefer self-publishing. If we get to a point where it is no longer feasible to self-publish Cerebus, Gerhard and I will discuss our options and select what we think is the best alternative to self-publishing. There have been many crisis points in Cerebus’ eighteen-year history when I have had to think very seriously about other options. In each case the crisis period subsided, and I no longer had to focus on the options available. You can trust me, however, that I never once considered whether people would hate me for my choice.

Kevin and Peter decided to go the Hollywood / merchandising route with the Turtles. Jeff Smith chose to take Bone to Image. It is not what I would have done in their situation, but I don’t hate them for it. Terry Moore was afraid (emotion) to call me and tell me that he was taking Strangers in Paradise to Homage. There was nothing for him to be afraid of. As I told him, starting back with the Toronto and Northampton summits, a number of creators worked very hard to improve condition for creators. Scott's Bill of Rights is a very tame, Mom's apple pie kind of document eight years later on. At the time, it was perceived as a rabidly radical document. What was set in motion back then has led to companies like Image and Caliber, and Drawn & Quarterly, Black Eye others following a strict policy of non-interference in creative work. The most recent improvement is the “departure clause,” which allows the creator to depart at any time with no legal consequences. That was considered a rabidly radical notion when Deni and I did not contest Bill Loebs taking Journey to Fantagraphics.

Terry thanked me for supporting his decision. 

I can only shake my head. No one listens. No one listens.

I don’t support Terry’s decision. I think it is wrong-headed in just about every way I can consider it. I support Terry’s right to make the decision. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - I think I read that somewhere once.

All that is happening is that control in the comic-book marketplace is moving towards the creators and away from the publishers and distributors. Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Scott McCloud, Kevin Eastman, Larry Marder - a whole range of people have worked over the last thirty years to improve creator rights in the comic-book field. The more rights creators have, the more choices they have and the more decisions - as a consequence - they have to make. Every day, individual creators have to decide whether to change the way they are conducting their career or to continue conducting their career as it is currently constituted.

I have said before that I don’t think emotion is a sensible thing upon which to base a decision. I would advise against making decisions based on emotion. But that is one very real option for creators, and it is the right of each creator to make decisions based on whatever he or she makes decisions on - a Ouija board if that’s what you feel is best. 

But let me just state for the record that I have no feeling about your creativity. Whoever you are. I have no feeling about your decisions. Whoever you are. I have realized that it is impossible to assist other self-publishers without being perceived as a leader, guru, godfather, or what have you. It is impossible to stage events centered around self-publishers without self-publishing becoming a “movement.” So, although I don’t share that perception of myself or self-publishing, I hereby resign that perceived position. I would appreciate it if everyone reading this would perceive that resignation - you know, really feel that I have resigned as King of the Self-Publishers or whatever title you perceive me as having had for however long you have perceived me as having had it. And I would appreciate it if you could perceive that I have no feelings about your creativity and that I have no feelings about your decisions. I don’t admire you, I don’t hate you, I don’t love you, I’m not suspicious of you, I’m not jealous of you, I’m not embittered toward you, I’m not disappointed by you, I’m not saddened by you, I’m not delighted by you, I’m not proud of you, and I’m not ashamed of you. 

Please. If you can fit only one thought, one idea into a fixed position in your emotion-ravaged lives, let it be this one thought: 

No matter what I do, Dave Sim is not going to feel anything about it one way or the other.

Do what you think is best. If you’re not capable of that, do what you feel is best.

And live with the consequences.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Paul Pope

H.R. Watson from Paul Pope's THB
Cerebus #210 (September 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from the introduction to Paul Pope's The One Trick Rip-Off, Image, 2013)
...[Paul] Pope popped into comics young, hungry, and nearly fully-formed. In 1992, at the age of 22, he self-published his debut graphic novel Sin Titulo, and followed up early the next year with The Ballad Of Dr. Richardson. Those books were both romances, heavily influenced by European comics. They address the emotional borderlands between youth and adulthood, education and experience, navigated by people entering their twenties. Both were strange apparitions in the early '90s American comics field, where the Death Of Superman and the birth of Image Comics defined the mainstream, and where Dave Sim's multi-layered fantasy influenced epic, Cerebus, and Los Bros Hernadez's literary, magical realist melodrama, Love & Rockets, epitomised the alternative. Pope's concerns didn't intersect with either camp. "You could choose to be indie/underground or mainstream," Pope recalls. "I wasn't with that. I felt, outside of the obvious options, there wasn't a lot of room for a unique voice"...

...Pope was developing his break-out work, THB, which would drop forcefully into comic book stores in 1994. THB arrived as apart of the self-publishing movement spearheaded by Dave Sim and proteges Jeff Smith, Colleen Doran, Martin Wagner and James Owen that set the stage for a wide variety of creators, including Pope, to introduce their own periodical comics into the comic book specialty market. Pope's entry was unusual even by the standards of creative diversity that were being set by Sim and his compatriots. THB was a science fiction series set on Mars that explored the adventures of teenage heiress H.R. Watson. The setting gave Pope a massive canvas for world-building where he could freely mesh influences ranging from comics to pulp fiction to economics in a holistic and adventurous way...

Paul Pope is the award winning writer/artist of Batman: Year 100, THB, Heavy Liquid, 100% and Battling Boy. Charles Brownstein is the Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organisation protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics field.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Just A Job?

Cerebus #269 (August 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(click image to enlarge)
(from The Craft Behind Cerebus, TCJ.com, February 2011)

...It was always treated like a job. In a lot of respects Dave treated it that way too. Although Dave lived and breathed this book - he was always writing and he was always thinking about it. But for me I would go in every day and it was a 9-to-5 thing. I would try to get so much done before lunch, and try to get my page and a half done by 5-6 o'clock, pack up and go home. So in a lot of respects it was a job from day one. But - especially early on - it was a learning thing and very exciting and challenging in that way. But by the time we were at Guys, at least for me, the important thing was to get the pages done by the end of the day. At the same time I had to be happy with or at least accepting of how the pages turned out. And some of the days were better than others. One of the nice things was we always had twenty nails in the wall with clips on them and when the pages were done they would go up on the wall, and you could stand back and look at what you had done that day or that week or that month. The depressing part was taking them all down and having a wall to fill up again... But like I said, some days are better than others. That early stuff. But you have to consider the time constraints. I look back on it now and look at the stack of artwork that we’ve got, you know, it’s 6,000 pages. Who in the hell does 6,000 pages? Who were those guys? How did we ever manage to do that?...

Monday 16 December 2013

"The Sacred Wars Are Over!"

Amazing Heroes Preview Special #4 (Fantagraphics, 1986)
Art by Sergio Aargones, Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Amazing Heroes Previews Special #4, Fantagraphics, 1986)
"The Sacred Wars are over," announces Dave Sim. "It's like it's down to the final two combatants. We've eliminated Nazi Germany, but that still leaves the US and USSR, who are Cerebus and Astoria."

Indeed, Book V of Church & State finds Astoria and Cerebus both trying to stake a claim to being the true Messiah. This will involve several issues of long conversations between the two, which Sim predicts will leave fans just as disgruntled as ever.

"This will be the next time that everybody decides I don't know what I'm doing - when I have four or five issues of Astoria and Cerebus talking - but I already know they're really good, so I'm not concerned. I would say, at this point, climatic events are building up towards #100, probably not specifically in #100, probably in #99 or #101, but probably around there."

The book may continue on the somewhat erratic schedule that it's had of late, or it may not. Sim admits to being a bit disheartened at the state of comics these days. "The fanzines and everything are so full of the same crap. It's getting kind of disheartening to go on. It's all this Dark Knight and Superman and revitalised super-heroes and five-issue this and six-issue that. You feel after a while that everything's passed you by. I'm going to keep going, but there's no real impetus to keep to a schedule or anything, because it's largely just this sniping sort of 'we all like to say that we know Dave Sim but  we all like to cut him down' sort of thing. These people want more mutants and funny animal parodies of Frank Miller, so there's certainly enough of those to keep them going. The only thing they can count on is that, five years from now, they'll be reading Cerebus #150, but they're not smart enough to figure that out."

No signs of Cerebus Jam #2 at this point. "I don't push creative people for the sake of reviewers," is Sim's only comment. There are also many interesting projects on tap from Aardvark One International, but expect these to suddenly appear, without warning. Fans are advised to stay alert.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Saturday 14 December 2013

Dave Sim: "My Neil Gaiman Story"

My Neil Gaiman Story
by Dave Sim
from Guest Of Honor: Neil Gaiman
(Moondog's Inc, 1993)

Weekly Update #9: '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, 13 December 2013)
It turned out that George WASN'T able to get the last few digital files last weekend because of  a greater than usual amount of work he had to do in his regular job (all of George's work is volunteer and pro bono).

He's hoping that he will get to the files this weekend and be able to e-mail them to Lebonfon on Sunday.


Friday 13 December 2013

Betrayals, Disappointments & Deaths

Cerebus #278 (May 2002)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from a comment posted at TCJ.com, 24 June 2011)
The Three Stooges material is one of the high points of Cerebus. It starts as a "wacky" treatment of the Stooges as we all know them, in character, and slowly evolves into a telling of their later lives, betrayals, disappointments and deaths. It's really quite moving, brilliantly told and even Uncle Miltie shows up! If you take this section and the Mary Hemingway diary issues, you've got a master class in comics storytelling. I've said it before, and I will again - Cerebus contains some of the all-time best and some of the all-time worst comics I've ever read in thirty years. Nobody, but nobody is making comics today the way he has. I expect this statement to continue to be true in my lifetime.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Slap Shtick

Cerebus #269 (August 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Notes On Latter Days, Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days, 2003)
...What is interesting is that the [Three Stooges] shorts, themselves are, indeed, not very good. I mean, as entertainment, if you're talking about the writing and acting - apart from the Stooges themselves who are beautifully crafted "shorthand" personalities - the shorts are terrible. The actresses especially all have that look about them: immaculate babes who are just not actresses. The Stooges shorts scream "casting couch", even for a time when all movie acting was pretty broad and pretty unrealistic. There's something "off" about each of the actresses: too tall, voice to nasal, nose tilted wrong, eyes uneven, bad posture. Amazing "casting couch" material but, I mean, Lucille Ball comes off like Katherine Hepburn in this crowd. They seem "foisted" onto the Stooges machine, as does the writing.

And machine it was. 97 shorts in thirteen year, until Curly had his stroke in the middle of filming Half-Wits Holiday in '47. And they finished the day's work without him and then brought Shemp back for Fright Night. Amazing work ethic.

I would maintain that the success of the Stooges' shorts - and unbeknownst to them, Columbia was using the shorts as leverage to get the movie houses to show Columbia's films they weren't really interested in showing, that's how wide and deep the Stooges' popularity was - was attributable to that timing, that razor sharpness and the personalities that they developed in interacting with each other. As Sterenko wrote about the 1940s Superman, he was invulnerable, even bad scripts couldn't hurt him. That was the Stooges. Most of their scripts are so badly cobbled together, so filled with non-sequiters that you would swear someone lost a page and they just kept filming anyway, taking it as a given that it really didn't matter who the girl was or why her father said that or why the chief of police waked in at that moment. It was all just so much driftwood on which to hang that immaculate ballet of Stooge timing. The script could have consisted of everyone else reading the phone book aloud and "Stooges do shtick here" and you still would have had a hit.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Comic-Book Timing

Cerebus #269 (August 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Notes On Latter Days, Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days, 2003)
...the biggest problem I faced was translating "Stooge timing" into "comic-book timing". One of the reasons that I had chosen not to use Harpo in the book when I "did" Chico and Groucho was the massive number of panels  required to do pantomime effectively. You eat up a lot of panels just having Harpo ask for directions, right? Slapstick (or "slap shtick", the original Yiddish term) is in the same category and it needed a balance of sound effects, sharp changes in posture and facial expressions, off-panel dialogue and almost exclusively forward and back "camera movement" (so the reader is compelled to do a series of "takes" in reaction to the mayhem transpiring on the page) to even approximate...

...I forgot which Stooges short I found the Moe vs Curly sequence in but it sure was tough figuring out how to do all of that Curly "hand waving" in and around Moe's face in one panel.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

"More Moe, Less Curly!"

Cerebus #268 (July 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Notes On Latter Days, Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days, 2003)
...There was no question that Curly was the pacifist character in the trio. It's one of the reasons that The Three Stooges is "guy" humour. Every guy when he's a kid has been a Curly and every guy when he's a kid has been a Moe. It's a pecking order thing. Curly knows that Moe is the leader and he knows that Moe has a short fuse, so he should be working at staying on Moe's "good side" or... "less bad" side, anyway. And he can't do it. He literally can't go ten seconds without pissing Moe off royally, usually by making a joke out of something (nyuck nyuck nyuck) that Moe is taking seriously (Schmeck! Ow!). Curly, Larry and Moe used to promote The Three Stooges shorts - and make some extra money - by touring movie theatres when the film unit was on hiatus, doing their routines live as they had done them with Ted Healy in Vaudeville...

...and Moe used to say that when he hit Curly, the people in the audience would be yelling, "Hit him back, Curly, hit him back." I may be reading too much into it, but I think there was an essential schism in the Judaic racial character being acted out between Moshe and Jerome Horowitz in those watershed moments of the 1930s and 40s. You can (and most did, and do) fault "the Moe character" for being too aggressive, too belligerent and too quick to resort to violence - like, say Ariel Sharon in our own age. But, it is equally true that the fanatical pacifistic nature of the Curly character - when it came to self-defence, being clearly incapable of anything more effective than child-like impatience, fuming in his high-pitched voice and using ineffectual hand gestures - was instrumental in leading most of a generation of European Jewry to concentration camps and to the Nazi gas chambers of World War II with an air of placid acceptance that was nearly universal.

"More Moe, less Curly"seems to me a good motto for 21st century Judaism.

As I say, I may be reading too much into it.

Monday 9 December 2013

The Three Wise Fellows

Cerebus #270 (September 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Notes On Latter Days, Cerebus Vol 15, 2003)
I made the decision a long, long time ago (relatively speaking) that The Three Stooges were going to be the link between Rick and Cerebus and the "coming to fruition" of the religious text first developed in Rick's Story, basing them loosely on the "Wise Men" of Matthew's Gospel (2:1-1:12)... Anyway, I remember coming in from a night of drinking late Friday (which is to say, early Saturday) and Channel 29, the Fox outlet out of Buffalo was running the latest Three Stooges syndicated package (their packaging has always been horrible and the new one hit a new low), so I just hit record and went to bed. When I got up the next morning and went through them, I thought, Whoa, boy. This is not going to be easy. I put the tape away on the top shelf of my linen closet and thought, I really don't envy me two years or so from now.

Well, I was right...

...It was tough. It was the toughest drawing and writing job that I had ever attempted, so it became a kind of multi-layered house-of-mirrors joke. It's hard to describe what I mean by that, but let me give it a try: what I had chosen to do was a grinding, arduous task knowing that virtually everyone would look down on the result. Sweating bullets for days and weeks on end to get it right and I knew that virtually everyone's reaction would be, "Oh, the Three Stooges, they're stupid." But, then, my work had been completely ignored since the notorious issue 186, so it became very funny to do two "highbrow" graphic novels, Going Home and Form & Void, about "highbrow" subjects, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, knowing that they would both just be ignored and then to have the Three Stooges as the apex of the pyramid.

And they were. They were several magnitudes of difficulty above Fitzgerald and Hemingway. At that point from an artistic credibility standpoint, it didn't make any difference. Artistic credibility? What artistic credibility? All I hear are crickets chirping. Seth relayed word through Chester [Brown] that I had done an amazing job capturing their body language (Chester had only vaguest idea who the Three Stooges were) and Bruce Costa, a columnist for Comics Retailer thanked me for doing right by his beloved Stooges (I sent him several Stooges tracing paper drawings as a sincere thank you).

Sunday 8 December 2013

Dave Sim: The BBC & Corporate Metaphysics

Rejected cover art for Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #8 (2013)
Art by Dave Sim
All done STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND #3. Very tough. I'm hoping it's the toughest issue because it took me a month longer than I thought it would. I checked in with the Kickstarter folks and now I'm checking in at A Moment of Cerebus.  I send Tim ideas for items when I think of them -- like The Judge from "Little Murders" piece. Great to see the monologue after all these years!

Anyway, I happened to be in the coffee shop downloading some photoreference for STRANGE DEATH #3 and saw the "BBC Censors Dave Sim" piece.

Well, no, personally I wouldn't call it censorship.  I remember when Jim Shooter was testifying at one of the rights trials (Howard the Duck? Blade? I forget) and was asked who had created whatever it was. And he said, under oath, "Marvel Comics." Which everyone gave him grief about (or a lot of people did), but, legally, it was forensically accurate. That's what work-made-for-hire is. It legally substitutes the company for the creator because there's no other way to cover ALL rights. And I never forgot that. Any time I do work-made-for-hire or talked about it, it was with my eyes WIDE OPEN about that exact thing. Which is what the IDW variant covers was all about.

Try picturing it this way. You're out somewhere with a friend and he buys a vase. And you think, Nice vase. And then you go over to his place a week later and he has it in a place of honour.  But he's painted it this -- to you -- strange colour.  And you're thinking, "It was a nice vase. What was he thinking?"  But you don't say anything, because a) obviously he painted the vase and b) obviously he thinks he improved it or he wouldn't have it in a place of honour.

Doing a work-made-for-hire cover, I get the satisfaction of a) doing it, b) getting paid for it and c) selling the original. That's it. That's the extent of my involvement.
Rejected cover art for Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #9 (2013)
Art by Dave Sim
There was, I suspect, an element of competing Comic Art Metaphysics and Corporate Metaphysics.

I thought, I think the cover will sell for more if it has a logo on it. So I traced the logo out of PREVIEWS.  And I did think for a  moment, I wonder if I should be doing this?  Because, face it, the BBC is not exactly JAZZED about a DOCTOR WHO comic book PER SE. It's part of a big across the board push for the 50th anniversary. But comic books are not HUGE any more. They're just another thing you can do with an intellectual property.

So a primary concern is going to be what? I'd say the logo. That's what they want. We live in an age where "Brand" has become capitalized and turned into a verb.  So, that's the primary concern, I think.  So they get the cover and they look at it and right away they know that it's not their logo.  It looks LIKE their logo but in a corporate context, that's just...sloppy.  Amateurish.  It's also insubordination.  Whoever IDW is dealing with is, on the ladder, Up There.  IDW is down...let's say, off to one side, yes?...and Dave Sim, pair of hands hired by IDW, is way, way, way down here. Dave Sim doing his own logo in such a way that it can't be excised because it's PART of the artwork. That's not a Happy Thing for someone Up There.

I'm guessing, but I suspect what they were doing was "dealing with it" in what is a sensible corporate way of doing things. "You have messed with our logo.  We can't tell if this was done innocently or if you're just being a little pr--k.  Regardless, you are off your turf, way above your station and you are on MY turf. So, I'm going to make sure you understand where you are in the pecking order."

It WAS done innocently in the sense that I thought, "They won't care. As long as it looks LIKE the logo, it's a comic book. The BBC is not going to lose sleep over a comic book cover by someone they've never heard of and wouldn't care if you explained Dave Sim in a one-hour lecture to them. I'm beneath notice." Yes, I am.  But the logo isn't.

I really should have pushed IDW for printed logos, but that just...isn't how covers are done now.  I'm going to be doing a CHEW cover for John Layman and I've asked him for a logo. It's easier to conceive of the cover if you can see what is going to -- bottom line -- be on there. Here's the logo, here's the price, here's the company bullet, here's how the number is going to be done. But, it's a pain to do that. Particularly when you have to mail it to the guy instead of e-mailing him a digital file.  Here! Print your own damn logo. Which is why I TRY to be somewhat careful. People take a dimmer and dimmer view of someone without e-mail as we go along. So I really need to factor that in when I decide to try doing something like work-made-for-hire covers. REALLY factor it in. This is a MAJOR pain for 21st century people.  If you really don't want to join (and I REALLY don't want to join the whole online thing), well, pay the price and stay out of people's ways.  
Rejected cover art for Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #10 (2013)
Art by Dave Sim
And in terms of Comic Art Metaphysics: when I saw the doctored covers to #9 and 10, I thought, there's a message in this, too. Here. This is all IDW wanted. This is all the BBC wanted. Big picture of DOCTOR WHO. Close-up, head and shoulders. Boom. Done. But, I'm thinking, well there are Dave Sim completists who are going to be buying WAY too many copies of this book to get my variant cover. I have to do a cover that's worth what they're paying for it. That's fine. As long as it doesn't in any way affect the Corporate Metaphysics.  It's nice of me (in a way) to be concerned about Dave Sim completists but the LOGO is a Corporate Metaphysics no-brainer.  A simple clear picture of The Star, the physical icon that is what is actually being sold (and which the BBC also owns), that's what we're doing here.  If that makes for a not very exciting Dave Sim cover for Dave Sim fans, that's really, really, really beside the point.

As soon as I thought, Hang on, maybe I shouldn't be hand-drawing the logo, I really needed to think about it.  I'm the only guy who would do that because lettering is a major part of my "skill set", but that means you have to think it through MORE thoroughly.  If I'm the ONLY guy who would do this, THINK what this looks like to someone who works at the BBC and is in charge of B*R*A*N*D*I*N*G. And, of course, by the time the #8 cover had been consolidated to a single figure from my tri-level artsy-fartsy traced logo piece, the other covers were all done and all of them had traced logos. You have to do the thinking IN THE MOMENT.

Well, that's really all I wanted to say. Pretty cool to see Eddie's Cuba photos!

Okay, I'll be back whenever I have STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND #4 done -- hopefully this time it's not going to take three months! But at least two, guaranteed.

Thanks everyone!  See you in a couple of months!

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

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.