Friday 31 January 2014

Tarim's Eyes

Vocals by Georgina Leahy
Music & lyics by Chris Mullings

The Making of 'Tarim's Eyes'

"Me, slinky wannabe and cerebus the aardvark :)" ~ Georgina Leahy

Thursday 30 January 2014

Absolute Artistic Freedom

Cerebus #162 (September 1992)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Idler, Spring 2004)
...When all the dust has settled, Sim's greatest achievement may be seen as his success in maintaining complete independence for so long. By ensuring that the lion's share of the book's income comes directly to the people who create it he has managed to parlay a small but loyal readership into absolute artistic freedom and a higher standard of living than most conventional comics artists could hope for. Cerebus has never been a top-selling book, but that has clearly never been Sim's measure of success.

He addressed this point in the farewell letter to Cerebus readers which appeared earlier this year."I find it difficult to view the twenty-six-year-and-three-month Cerebus project as a failure," he wrote. "The fact that Ger and I enter our respective retirements unencumbered by any debt, the fact that we have never been forced by financial necessity to relinquish any part of our absolute control over Cerebus as a creative work and the fact that I am typing these words in a 100-year old Victorian house fully paid for by our joint creativity is a source of no small gratification."

Wednesday 29 January 2014

The Notorious Issue 186

Cerebus #186 (September 1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Idler, Spring 2004)
...Circulation of the monthly book grew steadily over the first ten years, settling at between 30,000 and 37,000, and remaining in that range for most of 1986 and 1987. Black & White comics went through a major recession in the years that followed, and Cerebus sales suffered as a result. By July 1989's Cerebus 124 - the last issue in which Sim carried a circulation figure - sales were down to 24,500. Some of the lost readers would have simply started buying the phone book collections instead, but others must have abandoned the title completely.

There have been times when Sim seems to have gone out of his way to alienate readers - most memorably with the notorious issue 186. Sim summed up his argument in that issue's essay with an image of "the female void and the male light". Men, he said, represented reason and women represented emotion. Reason was a far more reliable tool, and yet had been comprehensively defeated by emotion to form a world where what one thought was accorded far less importance than what one felt. Men remained the main source of "light" in the world - that is, of creativity, discipline and rationality - but many had cravenly abandoned these virtues in return for the promise of sex.

No good could come of this. Any man who succumbed to "merged permanence" - Sim's term for marriage or long-term cohabitation - would find his spirit drained away by his leech-like female partner. "If you merge with that sensibility, you will share in its sickness," Sim wrote. "No matter what you pour into it, it remains empty; no matter how much you reassure it, it remains afraid; no matter how much of yourself you permit it to devour, it remains hungry. If you look at her and see anything besides emptiness, fear and emotional hunger, you are looking at the parts of yourself that have been consumed to that point."

Sim knew full well that Cerebus was one of the very few comics to attract female fans, so he must have realised also that the essay would cost him readers. His decision to plough ahead regardless reveals a heroic degree of bloody-mindedness. It's impossible to say how many Cerebus readers quit the book as a direct reaction to 186 and the furore that followed. What we do know, however, is that by the time Sim wrapped up issue 300, he had a total of only 7,000 Cerebus readers left to thank.

When all the dust has settled, Sim's greatest achievement may be seen as his success in maintaining complete independence for so long. By ensuring that the lion's share of the book's income comes directly to the people who create it he has managed to parlay a small but loyal readership into absolute artistic freedom and a higher standard of living than most conventional comics artists could hope for. Cerebus has never been a top-selling book, but that has clearly never been Sim's measure of success...

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Glacial Pacing

Cerebus #190 / #196 (January / July 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from The Idler, Spring 2004)
...The 300-issue structure he had chosen gave Sim the luxury to tell this story as slowly as he pleased, and he was approaching November's 1995's Cerebus 200 by the time he revealed many aspects of his 1979 vision to Cerebus readers. It was not until issue 179, for example, that we learnt a surprising fact about Cerebus' sexuality. We had to wait until issue 190 for Sim to tell us about the "kitchen knife incident" and until 196 to discover that he had reinterpreted Cerebus' early life to place one of the little fella's key decisions in the off-stage moments between issues 3 and 4.

This glacial pace has led many Cerebus readers to abandon the book in frustration, but Sim insists the boring bits are there for a reason. "To me, it's a matter of contrast," he said in 1985. "If nothing happens for three issues, then you know that, in the forth issue, there will be a revelation. There's no question that reading a single issue of Cerebus is not likely to convince someone to buy the book regularly. But let someone read ten issues in a row, and I might as well be pushing heroin."

Monday 27 January 2014

Richard Corben

Den & Rip In Time (Fantagor Press)
Art by Richard Corben
(from 'A Cerebus Preview' in Cerebus #146, May 1991)
I remember when Richard Corben appeared on the comics scene in the early l970's. It was a remarkable time. The undergrounds were just beginning to make an impact outside of California. A big article on them in Playboy (December I970) seemed to legitimize them enough for wider distribution. Wide enough to include Reid's Books & Magazines at the comer of King & Ontario streets in Kitchener. Fanzines were also having something of a renaissance. I was subscribing to RBCC and got to see a fair number of the "prozines" (as they were called) at Capt. George's Memory Lane store in Toronto. At the intersection of fanzines. undergrounds and the mainstream interesting things were taking place; Witzend, Berni Wrightson's Badtime Stories, Kenneth Smith's Phanmsmagaria, Phase magazine. It was the beginning of this-thing-we're-all-in-that-no-name-seems-to-stick-to: ground level, alternative, independent.

And at the center of all that, we have Richard Corben self-publishing (yay!) Fantagor number one in 1970. There really wasn't a tangible marketplace at the time and it would be a few years before he self-published again, but I do remember that first issue and what an odd-ball thing it was. I always felt a little funny putting my Corben books in with my undergrounds. He didn't seem to fit there any more than he did in the overgrounds. Or the fanzines. He was a unique stylist who defied catergorization. He did things with light and shadow no one else did. He drew women with enormous breasts: bigger breasts than anyone else. Later when I started getting laid I found out that he got them right, too. Only Corben could do enormous breasts that looked like the real magilla.

I remember the first time I read Corben's Rowlf; one of the most beautifully rendered (both writing and drawing) black and white stories I have ever seen in my life. When I spoke with Mr. Corben to get info for this introduction he reminded me that Rowlf first appeared in a FANZINE for God's sake (Rudi Franke's Voice of Comicdom). You never knew what Corben was going to do next. A story done in wash would be followed a month later by one on duo-tone artboard would be followed by an airbrush job (more airbrushes were sold to Corben "wannabe's" than any other group in the 1970's I'd reckon). Then full colour airbrushing. He was disowned by the underground fans as "too slick, too commercial" and disowned by the Marvel and DC fans as "too undergroundy".
Cage, Banner, Haunt Of Horror (Marvel Comics)
Art by Richard Corben
Having weathered several publishers over the years (including JimWarren, the Mother of All Scumbag publishers who, according to Mr. Corben's best information, became an illicit arms dealer after getting out of the comics business. No big surprise. He had the personality for it.) Richard Corben is now a confirmed self-publisher; including ten issues of Den, the Jeremy Brood graphic album with Jan Strnad, the Son of Mutant World series, Rip in Time. He even self-published his own 90 minute live-action video The Dark Planet. He keeps most of his work in print and available from Corben Studios...

But the really big news is that Mr. Corben's newest title, Horror in the Dark, is starting in June and it's going to be a monthly. That's right! Corben Studios charges into the Nightmare World of the Thirty-Day Deadline (Welcome!) You could hear the mighty flexing of creative muscle even over a long-distance phone-line. It's a limited series which will run at least six issues with reprinted back-up stories of Mr. Corben's earlier work (issue one features the eight-page "Lame Lem Love" which I’ve never seen) as well as work by Strnad, Jones, Raul Domingo and others.

They're also reprinting Den in a l00 page full colour book that will retail for $14.95.

Final thoughts from one of the comics medium's indisputably truly Great's?

"I hope everyone buys it."

Amen, Mr. Corben, sir.
Hellboy (Dark Horse Comics)
Art by Richard Corben
Richard Corben is the comic book artist who first became known for his comics featured in Heavy Metal magazine in the 1970s - Bloodstar, Mutant World and Den. Since then he has worked on various titles for Marvel and DC Comics and in 2009 he won "Best Finite/Limited Series" Eisner Award, for Hellboy: The Crooked Man and in 2011 he won "Best Single Issue/One-Shot" Eisner Award, for Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil. He was inducted in to the The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2012.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Saturday 25 January 2014

Cerebus: In My Life - Dave Kopperman

Dave Kopperman is a New York City-based graphic designer / comics artist / web-designer. Be sure to check out his Subway Rambler Blog.

How did you discover Cerebus and how long did you read it for?

I started when I was 15 with issue 81 (coincidentally the start of Church & State Vol II, a division in the series I still regard as somehow important). And, of course, I bought it monthly from that point until #300.

Cerebus came to my attention when the owner of the comic store where I worked part-time bemoaned the sudden runaway success of the Ninja Turtles, and said that Cerebus was a truly great book that deserved the attention Eastman & Laird were instead getting. I want to give a shout-out here to the owner, Marge Feuerstien - she didn't press it into my hands, but the regard in which she clearly held the comic and Sim's work made enough of an impression on me that I immediately wanted to pick it up. And beyond simply being an amazing comic in its own right, Cerebus was a gateway drug for me from comics as escapist superhero fare to the thing lying below, the medium of comics as vehicle for creative expression.

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

Creatively, the only cartoonist as influential on my understanding of the comic medium as Dave Sim, is, (appropriately enough) Scott McCloud. And McCloud had to write an entire manifesto to do it. Mostly, the thing I absorbed from Sim and Gerhard (talking in McCloudian terms, here) was the surface combination of beautifully animated characters against a meticulously realized pen & ink world, and the formal aspects of the work - the moments where Sim did things that could ONLY be done in comics, to great effect. I think it's actually a major challenge if you're a cartoonist to read Cerebus and not be influenced by Sim as a storyteller. The only problem is that he made it look effortless, and I assure you that it takes a lot of effort if you're anyone else.

And of course, the sound effects, which (as you can see) I had no shame in ripping off.

Do you have a favourite scene or sequence from Cerebus?

It's a little difficult to pinpoint a single favorite scene - the book was so varied over such a length of time that there are moments and issues that stand out for completely different reasons. So I'll have to winnow it down to four:
Cerebus #76 (July 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Church & State Vol. I - The Death of Weishaupt:
I didn't read this one until the collection was released, but it blew me away and still speaks to the thing that attracted me to the book in the first place - the impossible-to-describe sense of mystery. Ultimately unknowable. Like the comic-book equivalent of the faint smell of incense in an echoing church. It suddenly added layers and layers of depth, seriousness and meaning to the narrative, and it still feels like the book kicking into high gear.
Cerebus #260 (November 2000)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Going Home/Form & Void - Trapped In A Tent:
So much of this longer book was excellent beyond belief, and while I'm still blown away by the Fitzgerald run, the real standout issue for me is the 'trapped in a tent' sequence. Dave has in recent years been somewhat dismissive of his formalist successes, but the use of so many different effects available only in comics really reveals him as a true master of the form.
Cerebus #273 (December 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Latter Days - Cerebus attempts to make his escape from the Sanctuary in total darkness:
Another formalist masterwork. Telling a visual story with no visuals in the traditional sense, and just using panel borders and lettering to indicate the space and flow. Pure genius. Both this issue and the tent issue rely on lack of images for their effect, and both are equally powerful. They could be used as the basis for an entire course (or at least lecture) in the underlying mechanics of visual storytelling.
Cerebus #284 (November 2002)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Latter Days - Woody Allen drawn in a Robert Crumb-style:
Although I found (and still find) the exegesis of the Torah very tough to read and ultimately unrewarding, the visual aspect of the book and sense of Sim's growing interest in broadening his inking technique makes it a favorite to revisit, and it's a wonderful summation of Sim's stunning ability as mimic of other artists' styles.

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

I always recommend Cerebus to anyone interested in comics, especially comics as art. It stands pretty much at the very top of the great works that have been produced in the medium. I do generally issue a caution about the undeniably polarizing aspects of the later work, knowing that it took me a long time to come to terms with it myself even as a die-hard fan (and a confirmed secular humanist and feminist). Even though my monthly relationship with it ended in 2004, it's clear that this work - like a handful of other great works in all media - is something that I'll have an ongoing relationship with for the rest of my life.

Friday 24 January 2014

Dave Sim's Letters: Meeting Steve Ditko

Ditkomania #91 (June 2013; Available as a free PDF)
Cover by Javier Hernandez
Edited by Rob Imes

Hi Rob,

Wow. Issue #90 [available as a free PDF] definitely comes right out of left field. I can't wait to read the letters of comment on this one.

I share a number of Ron Frantz's opinions and am diametrically opposed to numerous others, but -- having had the privilege of spending an hour talking with Steve Ditko OUTSIDE his studio (i.e. in the hall) a few weeks back -- I do feel compelled to provide a 2013 update, while avoiding violating Steve's well-known and (in my case) well-regarded sense of privacy.

If the neighbourhood in which he has his studio could be regarded as "dodgy" back in 1977, it's certainly nothing of the sort in 2013. The New York City clean-up of the area in the 1980s and 1990s is legendary and justly deserving of praise. Likewise the interior of the building.

The lobby is modern and clean and there is an on-duty security guard/receptionist in front of the bank of elevators which are well-maintained, modern and clean. I only saw Steve's floor, but it's in the same category.

And I don't mean "clean for New York City." The Hotel Pennsylvania where I stayed is in that category, the door jambs on the rooms showing signs of repeated attempts at forced entry, the paint chipped, etc. All part of the local charm, for me, and I felt perfectly safe. For New York City.

Steve Ditko's office building is quantum levels above that.

Venturing into borderline sense-of-privacy violation (forgive me, Steve!), I have to say that Steve is the best-dressed, best-groomed octagenarian in whose company I have ever spent time. He even edges out Will Eisner in that category (which is really saying something if you know how well-dressed and well-groomed Will was!).

Steve's environment and Steve's appearance were, to me, at striking variance with what has been presented to Ditko fandom over the years.

I also found him gracious, hospitable, engaging and extremely patient ... and sharp as a tack. Just for the record.

Aside from that, great issue! We all owe Mr. Frantz a great debt for committing his version of this aspect of comics history to paper, I think. Even where and when we hold views diametrically opposed to his own.


Box 1674, Station 'C'
Kitchener, Ontario N2G 4R2 Canada

This letter first appeared in Ditkomania #91, the magazine devoted to Steve Ditko, creator of Mr. A and co-creator of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Ditkomania #92 is now available (which includes Dave Sim's three-page review of Steve Ditko's Laszlo's Hammer), and can be yours for just $2.50 postpaid in the USA ($2.60 postpaid in Canada or Mexico; $3.40 postpaid for the rest of the world). Payment can be made via Paypal to 'robimes [at] yahoo [dot] com'. 

(Thanks to Michael Hoskins for the heads-up!)

Weekly Update #15: '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...
Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
30th Anniversary Signed & Numbered Edition
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

As of Saturday the 18th, my fax machine stopped receiving faxes so I've had to reconfigure how I do these Weekly Updates on the progress of the CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY reprintings.

Which is, maybe, all for the best because posting directly here, gives us all more flexibility in including participation of all of the "stakeholders".  What I'm picturing is Tim running these updates every week and then everyone involved having a chance to post their comments after the post.  I'll come in here to the coffee shop every Friday and download the comments for the previous week and then look at them and comment on them the following Friday.  So, I'll always be a week behind all of YOU in knowing what's going on.

In the list of "stakeholders", I'd include, first, all of the CEREBUS readers, fans and collectors who are waiting for the books to arrive in stores.  Second, the store owners who are waiting for the books for customers that (in many cases, I'm sure) they only HOPE are still interested in buying them. In both cases, I sincerely apologize for the unbelievably lengthy process of getting the books as fully restored as possible and back into print.  For those of you who just want to, you know, VENT at this point, please feel free (within the reasonable limits that Tim has established in keeping this a venue for calm, rational discussion) (and for which I think we all owe Tim a great debt of thanks).

Third? A three-way tie: George Peter Gatsis who has given so unstintingly of volunteer time he can ill afford in getting the books restored to the best of his ability and continues to shepherd those restorations every step of the way.  I hope he will post any comments he has on continuing events in this lengthy process.

Diamond Comic Distributors which has gone far above and beyond the call of duty in keeping the purchase order for 1100 signed and numbered gold logo HIGH SOCIETY's "live" many months after it would have, in the normal course of events, have long ago been voided.   Their support across the board has been remarkable and gratifying is very, very much appreciated.  ANYONE at Diamond who has anything to contribute to the discussion is more than welcome to do so.

And Imprimerie Lebonfon who continue to work with me and George AND Diamond to see that the books get printed.  We're -- tout ensemble -- always glad to hear from notre amis de Val d'Or. Bien sur, n'est ce pas? 

The latest news comes in the form of a phone message from Patrick Jodoin at Imprimerie Lebonfon (Bonjour, Patrick!) notifying me that the General Manager of Lebonfon is sending me a letter notifying me of what they will be charging Aardvark-Vanaheim for correcting the signatures that contained unacceptable reproduction the last time we had gotten to this stage: unbound printed copies sent to George and myself for approval.

I confess, this surprised me a little, because I thought -- over the course of the last few months --  George had made a very persuasive case that the problem with the printing originated with inadequate proofs -- scanned at 300 dpi instead of 600 dpi.

However, in these situations -- "first time through this particular mill" -- in this case, the "mill" being the printing fully restored books,  I always like to err on the side of flexibility.  I can certainly understand Imprimerie Lebonfon being loathe to just write off the ENTIRE first attempt to produce viable unbound, printed copies.  But, at the same time I don't want to set a precedent that every time an unsatisfactory printing job is produced Aardvark-Vanaheim ends up having to pay for the parts that are unsatisfactory.

I have to anticipate "where this is going" and I can't rule out the possibility that the next set of unbound printed copies will have residual -- or new -- flaws.  Hopefully, far fewer.  And, hopefully,  we are far closer to having approval by George and myself in the not far distant future.

But CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY are, in all ways, just the beginning. The next book that needs to be restored -- more tweaking than full restoration according to George's preliminary notes to me when I sent him Lebonfon's last printing -- is READS, and then CHURCH & STATE I and then CHURCH & STATE II.  A massive undertaking and one that I'm not looking forward to as a one-man operation if Aardvark-Vanaheim has to absorb all or even most costs involved in correcting unacceptable printing.

So, I'm hoping that Imprimerie Lebonfon can take the same longer view and that we -- in company with Diamond -- can work out some way to recover Lebonfon's COSTS in producing the parts of the books that George and myself have deemed unacceptable, with Aardvark-Vanaheim paying PART of those COSTS and Diamond perhaps agreeing to take a larger quantity of books than they would otherwise be inclined to take and to pay for that additional quantity over a series, of say, quarterly payments, the quantity matching, in terms of dollar amount, a third of the additional costs incurred by the need for corrections.  And that Lebonfon would accept comparable instalment payments for their out-of-pocket COSTS which, I'm sure, we ALL -- tout ensemble (encore une fois) -- understand that they want to recover.

I realize it's unusual to negotiate these sorts of things in a public forum, but there is a downside to "the buck stops here":  the longer this goes on, the more people are going to be inclined to "blame Dave Sim". Which I understand.  Which is why I try to do EVERYTHING with complete openness and transparency.  I don't mind taking responsibility...or blame..."the buck DOES stop here"...but I also like people who are GENUINELY interested (as opposed to "gawking at the traffic accident" interested) to GENUINELY know what's going on at all times where that becomes necessary.  And I really think that has been necessary since the date when Diamond Comic Distributors' Purchase Order for the GOLD LOGO SIGNED AND NUMBERED HIGH SOCIETY would have, without internal intervention -- (and thank you again to Tim and Matt and all concerned) -- been voided, last August.

Thus, these weekly updates.

Progress this week on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, issue No.4, page 11, page 12 and 13 completed, additions begun to page 14.

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.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Meet The Comics Press: Following Cerebus

Following Cerebus #1-4 (2004-2005)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Meet The Comics Press, The Comics Journal #271, October 2005)
In this magazine's "Sayonara Cerebus" seminar (TCJ #263) I opined, among other things, that Dave Sim's recently concluded epic would subsequently benefit from some fresh, ongoing material presence in comic shops and bookstores. The finished title could use - and would certainly support - some kind of extended, tangible booster shot of insight and dry goods to keep at bay the inevitable slippage in a fickle public's attention, the out-of-sight dismissal through which a completed work becomes a closed work.

So far the three issues of Following Cerebus have admirably risen to the task. The (roughly) quarterly, comic-sized magazine is from Craig Miller and John Thorne, the same duo who complied two issues of the Cerebus Companion back in the earlier '90s; publisher Win-Mill Productions additionally releases Wrapped In Plastic, devoted to David Lynch and his Twin Peaks, and Spectrum, on pop culture creations that might inspire analogous fascination for followers, the most prominent of which appears to be Buffy The Vampire Slayer. From this collection of titles and subjects, it appears obvious that the line has a tradition in maintaining an editorial balance between fannish devotion, credible commentary and creator sufferance or, as here, generous cooperation. Such governing poise is particularly important with Cerebus and his originator.

Each issue has offered substantive material relating to Cerebus' content and intent, to the industry at large, and to Sim's thought on an irrepressible range of subjects, not necessarily in that order. The 48-page instalments are bound by that dexterous editorial stance, propelled by a sincere, developed regard for the material, and spiced by a fanzine's giddy inclusiveness.

Miller and Thorne's keynote editorial appears in the premiere issue where they grapple with the highly relevant matter of who gets to interpret artistic works and the implications of the most readily available answers. Their prose is congenial and their rationale down-to-earth. Their conclusion - that we get to respond to and interpret art, however much those reactions differ in degree, sophistication, or impact - is likewise sensible and functional. They then proceed on their initial exploration of a Cerebus-related matter undertaken without Sim as authoritarian tour guide, that of the running mystery of the "something fell" episodes throughout the comic.

Every issue of Following Cerebus features at least one interview with Sim and so far there have been interviews with consummate artist Gerhard, the latest entirely devoted to sailing. All issues but the first have included an "About Last Issue" response from Sim which tends to further clarify or elaborate on preceding topics. Sim's participation in this follow-up capacity proves unique and invaluable (I'm not wholly convinced that 'Something fell' isn't the singular obsession of a mere handful of Cerebus readers, and that it just so happened that one of those readers turned out to be the co-producer of Following Cerebus").

The inaugural trio of issues of the magazine have also included interviews conducted by Sim with Barry Windsor-Smith from 1973 ("What's so good about illustrators? Just because he's called a bleedin' illustrator doesn't mean he can draw any better than anybody else") and Harvey Kurtzman from 1974. The latter is accompanied by a transcript of a speech Kurtzman gave in Toronto and packaged within the nominally themed issue addressing parody, censorship, copyright and trademarks. (The fourth issue is planned as a tribute to Will Eisner).
Following Cerebus #5-8 (2005-2006)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
As any good zine of this nature, there is a grab-bag largess to its features, which include ranging news reports, a sporadic letter column, and portfolios of art from diverse sources, including even a "lost" story from the aardvark's early history. The covers by Sim and Gerhard have been sensational, particularly issue thee's trrifecta which pays homage to classic comic covers of the past.

The title of that article of mine back in TCJ #263 was "Can Cerebus Survive Dave Sim?" and seems just as relevant a question to ask in the case of Following Cerebus as well. The magazine benefits handsomely from Sim's participation. The collaboration appears to stem from an admirable working relationship arising from good will, support for mutual goals, and cultivation of common ground. With so strongly opinionated and outspoken, so autonomous an industry and creative maverick as Sim, tact and reciprocal integrity would seems to be an absolute must. Sympathetic interests confirmed, a slippery slope beckons, one dropping away from forbearance and tolerance toward compromise, accommodation and concession. At some point matters of journalistic responsibility are inevitably going to be raised and the less one appreciates the social, political, or religious point Sim presently espouses, the quicker those questions are going to bubble up.

To take an indicative if comparatively innocuous example, issues two and three have included "Dave Sim's Favourite Buffy Pic This Month" where he gets to deride at some length selected publicity stills of Sarah Michelle Gellar by illuminating the secret messages encoded in her expression and posture (he leads off in his second instalment, "This gentlemen, is what I used to know as Shopping Emergency Face"). Gratuitous, mean-spirited, and polemically fatuous, the feature undermines and diminishes the position that elsewhere Sim, I'm sure, would rather have readers take seriously. Worse, it's not funny. (But as a collateral benefit, he gets to tweak his hosts for a topical preoccupation of a sister publication.) A more telling indulgence is shown Sim during the opportunity to display his clairvoyance, through footnotes, as he reads the minds of Kurtzman and his audience during the course of that Toronto speech.
Following Cerebus #9-12 (2006-2011)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Sim can make fine use of the latitudes of Following Cerebus, revealing himself as a conscientious, thoughtful creator who has scrupulously considered, well-articulated insight into Cerebus and the matters it addresses. The pity is that Sim is ever ready if not eager to vault the rim and descend into a personal snake pit of personal beliefs cobbled from his readings and buttressed by firsthand experience. It would be easy - real easy - to quote some of his disturbing humdingers here, but the counterclaim of "taking things out of context" seems more valid for him  than for most (I think it may be a matter of his sincerity, however woeful that may strike me and many). Yet one of his remarks seems fair game as both clear statement of his purpose and all-points alarm for the rest of us: "a lot of what I'm doing is just 'reading into the record' for the sake of future society".

As for approaching Cerebus as a formidable and rich artistic creation, those who have or can reconcile themselves to Dave Sim's present state of mind and method will find Following Cerebus a valuable source of information and an aid to discernment. Others will find the magazine as an invitation for Sim to yank  as furiously as ever  at his own petard. But at least in this forum and through the format Miller and Thorne have devised, they have made it easier  for the reader to separate the wheat from the ergot.

Following Cerebus #1-12 were published by Craig Miller and John Thorne's Win-Mill Productions between 2004 and 2011. Most of the individual issues are still available to buy here.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Eddie's Kickstarter Rewards

Cerebus Sketch (March 2013)
by Dave Sim
Cerebus Sketch (July 2012)
by Dave Sim
(Submitted by Eddie Khanna. Thanks!)

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Dave Sim Is Joe DiMaggio

Cerebus #74 (May 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Comic Art Fans, 30 July 2009)
Comic artists can be easily compared to baseball players. Just like in baseball, where you need the five "tools" to be a good player (power, average, baserrunning, fielding, throwing), in the comics field many talents are required if you want to become a complete artist. For instance, Mark Bagley is an artist very good at hitting frequently, and frequently reaching base - some kind of Ichiro Suzuki, I would say. The Image guys of the early 90's all had power, like Sammy Sosa, or McGwire: but definetely did lack of consistency, or fielding abilities (tipically, the ability of tying up decent storylines), and I could add that, just like Sosa and BigMac, maybe their power was a little bit "inflated" - not by medicals, but by market. Fielding was perfect during Byrne's tenure of Fantastic Four, and Byrne throws towards home base were always powerful and accurate: he always got what he wanted, aiming for the target (silver age grandeur) and reaching for it. At the same time, maybe he was lacking for power, since we had to wait for Terminus before he was able to create "some" new villain: just consider for comparision that McFarlane shaped Venom two months after taking control of Amazing Spiderman. In the history departement, Kirby was Babe Ruth (the greatest hitter, specialized player, reshaped the game). Stan Lee was Ty Cobb (incredible numbers, wicked competitor, not everything he did was appreciated by other players). John Romita Sr. was Lou Gehrig (always present, always delivered).

Dave Sim is one of the greatest artists, one of the greatest writers, and has showed to have the greatest consistency (27 years of consistency, no less): he is the ultimate and prototypical five-tools player. He expressed during his tenure on Cerebus even some unusual but very important side talents. For instance, he is a great letterer (an undervalued accomplishment, because lettering allows the artist to really have COMPLETE control over the page). He is a great editor, stong enough to keep himself on a monthly schedule from 1977 until 2003, smart enought to draft Gerhard out of nowhere and to involve him in the project. He is a great publisher (not just for the consistency, but even by the numbers, since at least between the first and the second third, Cerebus really was a market success story)

My point is: Cerebus series is in the comic field something very similar to the 56 games hitting streak record in baseball: an achievement that was the product of the strong will of a strong man, with no real matches before or after (closest followers stand at least 10 games behind). Differently from the other records, that "are there to be broken", the 56 games hitting streak record is widely considered by baseball experts to be here to stay. So does Cerebus: it stands, unmatched and sometimes misunderstood, very alone and very far from everything else in the comic field. Cerebus is the 56 games record, and Dave Sim is Joe DiMaggio.

And after the baseball rave, let me spend a couple of words about this page. Every meeting between Cerebus and Jaka, in the first half of Cerebus, has been, for me, unforgettable (I remember how heartbreaking was their encounter during High Society, when she gives him back his sword). The relationship between them is very interesting: I mean, Cerebus is a selfish, greedy, violent, careless guy, but his feelings towards Jaka have always been incredibly pure. Whenever he has been rude with her, this happens basically because he wants protect himself, since he understands that his love for Jaka is the only way for the cruel world outside to really, deeply, deadly hurt "Cerebus" (looks like a warrior don't fear war, but will fear love). Still, during their meeting in issue 74 Cerebus is no less than the Pope, and anyway at the end of the issue he's ready to take off is most holy robe, to follow his beloved Jaka wherever she's going.

The lines in this page are very funny. Cerebus is at his best - which is, of course, everybody else's worst. He's out of his mind because Jaka just told him that she married Rick (and when, somewhere else in the same story, Jaka notices that he should not go crazy since he married too - with Sophia - he delivers the immortal line "Cerebus was drunk!"). Even the final silent panel is very funny. I've spent a considerable part of my life reading comics, books, listening to music, watching actors in movies and on stage, and I believe that nobody was able to write or play or use the silence as effectively as Dave Sim. With silence, he was better than John Cage, better than Samuel Beckett, better than Marcel Marceau: definetely the Greatest Of All Time - just like Ali with boxing gloves (talking about Dave Sim, any sport I touch, I have to mention the champions).

Announcement: Dave's Fax Machine Broke!

As of January 20, the only way to contact Dave Sim is to leave a voice message he can respond to by regular mail or to send him a letter (which he will respond to by regular mail). He answers his mail every other Friday. Next mail answering day is January 31. Thanks!

Monday 20 January 2014

Lost In Thought

Cerebus #43 (October 1982)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Comic Art Fans, 30 July 2009)
My comics tastes had an evolution that, I bet, has been the same for many readers who were around their twenties in the middle of the 90's. I grew up loving the 80's mainstream comics, the DC and Marvel works and storylines from classic authors of the modern age (Claremont, Byrne, Miller, Adams...), and the early contribution of interesting new talents (McFarlane, Alan Davis, Jim Lee...). That taste changed after reading Watchmen and Dark Knight, in the same fashion the drinking taste changes after you swallow your first iced beer, and all of a sudden that can of Coke in the fridge doesn't seem so interesting anymore. After my late discover of Miller and Moore milestones, I was open to find out what the 90's could offer, and thanks basically to the "english invasion" GN production, and to DC Vertigo imprint, I was able to maintain my affection for comics even when I felt I was too old for superheroes. Then, finally, I found Cerebus.

If Byrne's Fantastic Four had been my can of Coke, if Arkham Asylum and Sandman were my pints of beers, then Cerebus became my bottle of bourbon. Cerebus has been, and will be forever, my favorite comic series, and I feel lucky to have started reading comics for the simple reason that I had the chance to know Cerebus: because the lone breed of readers that had a shot to fully appreciate the Cerebus series were the comic readers. Cerebus was a "readers' read": you have to appreciate the beer before you switch to bourbon.

I have been lucky to find this beauty from the High Society storyline, where so many important characters (names listed in the long dedication) are reunited in a wonderful and insightful sequence. As usual, great storytelling. It's election night, votes are being counted, and Cerebus would like to win the election, but he's fearing that he could loose against Lord Julius candidate - a real (!) goat. Astoria would like to be loved more than she is. Filgate would like to be rich. Lord Julius would like to be richer. And the Regency Elf, well... she just would like Cerebus to be an Elf himself. Emotional drama for six different characters unfolding in a single page, without wasting (or needing) a single word or baloon. When the votes for the All Star Team Of Sequential Art will be called, my ballott is for this guy - period.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Dave Sim: The BBC & Corporate Metaphysics II

In the first instalment of The BBC & Corporate Metaphysics Dave Sim explained why the BBC-inspired changes to his artwork for the IDW comic series Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time was acceptable within the 'work-made-for-hire' parameters under which it was created. Below, Dave responds to comments made to that original article by Prisoners Of Time writer, Scott Tipton and IDW colourist, Charlie Kirchoff.
For what it's worth, I absolutely loved all the covers Dave did for my book, issues 8, 9 and 10 especially! My only complaint is that I keep getting outbid on the originals! 

As the colorist on these, I was the one they asked to edit them. I cringed every time I got an email saying the BBC won't approve this, can you changed this, this, and this. I did my best to keep it looking Sim-esque, but I couldn't help but feel as if I was an accomplice to destroying a true treasure. I think #8 was the hardest. I felt he nailed that one and I had great fun coloring the original, then I was forced to edit the cover using some Photoshop trickery.

I understand that the BBC wanted to establish a certain brand consistency to the line, and I can respect that. But on the other hand, this is Dave Sim! These covers potentially could bring Doctor Who a new audience, so why not let Dave Sim be Dave Sim!

So, I want to extend my apologies to Mr. Sim for my role in editing these gorgeous covers. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have changed a line. 
Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time #12 (IDW, 2013)
Art by Dave Sim: Original art (Left) and printed version (Right)
(Click image to enlarge)
A belated thanks to Scott Tipton and Charlie Kirchoff for their comments on the DOCTOR WHO cover situation. I thought Charlie did a great job with the covers. He's definitely neck and neck with Jay Fotos as the best computer colourist I've seen. I just got digital files of Jay's colouring on STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND #1. Just gorgeous. I had a couple of LITTLE suggestions, but that's all.

It's really like being a private in the army (I keep trying to find a way to explain this). I did what I did and turned it in. The BBC told IDW what they wanted done and IDW asked Charlie to do it. And Charlie did it. There's actually a real relief to work-made-for-hire (in limited doses). As a self-publisher, I was always in situations where something was happening and I had to have two or three options in mind depending on what someone was asking me to do or pressuring me to do or whatever. The buck stops here. In work-made-for-hire, you get told what's going to happen, so you really don't have to think about it. The BBC holds trump. If the BBC was happy with what Charlie did, then that's the bottom line. Good going, Charlie. That's what we're all here for: to keep the people paying the bills happy.

I did wonder to myself, what would I have done if Chris or Ted had called and said, uh, we've got a problem with the cover. The BBC wants it changed. I THINK (I HOPE) I would have said, Okay, what do they want changed? You know, I'm new at this. Live and learn. This is why old original covers have a lot of paste-ups on them. Draw the new thing and shoot a stat, drop it on and try to blend it in. I used to have a SUPERBOY cover by Irv Novick (I think it was). [Superboy #154, March 1969]. Superboy blind, selling pencils. The Superboy was a paste-up stat of a Neal Adams piece. I think that's the way I would have looked at it. I'm Irv and Mort isn't happy with my cover so now I'm Neal and I'm fixing it. Do my own stat on my photocopier with glossy paper. I intentionally got the paper that looks like an old stat. When I'm pasting up the lettering on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, the Kubert font, it looks like stats that used to cost four or five dollars each and instead they're like 5 cents a sheet.  Now THAT's progress.

But you can't really do that. I'm not in the bullpen at IDW and I don't have Internet access. Whatever I might have done would only have slowed things down. So I definitely think of that, too. Don't be the guy who's in the way of IDW getting done what they need to get done.

I do have a call in to Heritage Auctions (actually a fax) asking them to check the coverage here on AMOC. I've got the last five DOCTOR WHO covers and can they (how do I put this? I thought) give me some suggested wording for an auction? Specifically saying, I don't want them to make it sound as if there was something wrong with the covers. But I also didn't want it to sound as there was anything wrong with the BBC or IDW. I mean, I'm riding coattails here. I get to associate with DOCTOR WHO, something that has a much higher profile than I do. IDW gave me the covers to do because I asked if I could do some covers. I think I might have the Heritage guys flummoxed.

I mean what ARE the covers now? Are they unpublished covers? Well, no, most of them or part of them was published. Are they semi-published covers?

Mike Kitchen and I were talking about it when I was visiting him and Erika and the kids over the holidays and the closest we got was "I don't have the right to reproduce these covers, so whoever gets the original art has the only example of the cover as I did it."

But that still sounds funny for an art auction.  Huh? What are you saying here?

No rush. I'll let you know what we're going to do when I know.

Okay, back to STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND No.4 page 11.      

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.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Dave Sim's Letters: China, Scripture & Chester Brown

Yummy Fur #21 (Vortex Comics Inc, 1990)
by Chester Brown
28 January 06

Billy Beach
Porterccannti MC

Dear Billy,

Thanks for your letter of 04/01/06. I appreciate it especially with your present schedule. China seems to be cropping up everywhere in microcosm and macrocosm these days and it makes sense that as an English speaker you would find a spot as intermediary. Sandeep Atwal recently got a job writing speeches for the president of the University of Waterloo and I asked him if there were any areas where he was uncomfortable -- writing words that he didn't agree with. "China" was his answer. The university is developing more links all the time with China at various levels and Sandeep counts himself in the "deeply ambivalent" camp given what China self-evidently is. Any thoughts on this score on your part?

Thank you very, very much for the Loreto material which I speed-read the day they came in (Election Day here, as a matter of fact -- yes, another one) and will be going back to read more thoroughly as soon as I finish the copy of the oral biography of Harry Truman, Plain Speaking, that D.B. Little sent me (among other books). On this first go-through what jumped out at me was the fact that there is no tradition in Nazareth of there having been a holy house but that rather the "mother of God" lived in a cave. I defy anyone to speed-read past on observation like that. Say WHAT?! Seems to conform to my YHWHist theories. Where else would the "mother of God" live but inside the earth? I figured that the most interesting part of the story would be buried somewhere in all of the literature and that seems to be the case so, again I can't thank you enough for shipping all this ore over here so I could find my nugget. More as I read the material more thoroughly.

My belief that the Jews hold The Writings as unscriptural and not just lesser Scripture enters in because of the demarcation. The fact that there's the Law and the Prophets and then there's The Writings means that they are different things, ergo one is superior to the other and when you weigh Genesis and Isaiah against Ruth and Esther it seems obvious to me which is which. In my own view there is no such thing as Scripture and Lesser Scripture. There is only Scripture and Non-Scripture. This is our same disagreement shaded slightly differently on the distinction between the Gospels and the Christian commentaries of Paul, both of which you consider Scriptural and only one of which I consider Scriptural. Likewise in Islam. There is the Koran which is Scriptural and the Hadith -- the sayings of the Prophet -- which are non-Scriptural. Most of the Islamic fundamentalists who call for the eradication of Israel are those who include the Hadith with the Koran as Scripture (Muhammad was a virulent Jew hater which I assume he got from those parts of the Koran which were dictated to him by YHWH who seems never to have gotten over the fact that the Chosen People chose to disobey him/her/it so relentlessly: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"). The Jews, I think, would be very wary of calling The Writings scriptural since the Book of Esther has been pretty definitively proven to be a Babylonian myth adapted during the Diaspora with the names changed from pagan names to Jewish names. Not quite as "over the top" as say the Apocryphal Book of Judith (which reads like Red Sonja) -- and edifying in its own archetypal way -- but quite a ways off the beaten track from what I think any sensible student of the Jewish scriptures would consider to be sound observance. My own suspicion is that the success of Christianity with the purity of the four Gospels compelled the Jews to amputate the chronology somewhere less self-evidently diluted (and deluded) than II Maccabees and Malachi was elected. I might take issue with their pick, but not the self-evident need to make a clear cut.

On the subject of "It was then that men began to call on the name of the YHWH" I enclose the relevant footnoted passage from Westerman's Genesis 1-11 26a, b and c -- which I think make the case pretty irrefutably given the perfect tense means that the action has already taken place. I also enclose Westerman's own dissembling and twisting and back-flips and contentions to try to make the passage mean something else which is, evidently a popular pastime. Obviously I would maintain that my own views -- which developed from what the text says rather than what I wanted the text to say (something of a universal theological vice from what I can see) -- are the more accurate. Time will tell.

It's probably better that you don't celebrate Christmas given the content of Chester [Brown]'s Christmas card this year. A statue of Seth sitting on the commode is along ways from "O Holy Night" for those of us who lean more in the direction of "O Holy Night" as I'm sure you'll agree. As to picking up more of his work, well, it's all good. He's presently working on a new printing of The Little Man which you should be able to find in late spring, early summer (his deadline is the end of January) in the better stores in the UK on your next visit. Of particular interest is the individual issues of Yummy Fur and Underwater (which you'll have to go schlepping for in the back issue bins) long out of print that contain his adaptations of the Gospels of Mark (completed) and Matthew (still to be completed). His angry Jesus of his Matthew adaptations is the one that I picture in my head now. A lot of his work has scatological and unattractive elements so you might want to read I Never Liked You before The Playboy and The Playboy before The Little Man and The Little Man before Ed the Happy Clown in descending order of -- in my view -- potential offensiveness to a Jehoah's Witness. The new book he's starting on is about his sex life which is exclusively with prostitutes which he sincerely doesn't think of as a bad idea or anything that is jeopardizing his soul. We've had many interesting discussions on the subject and neither of us has budged an inch in all the time I've known him. The Liberals have been floating trial balloons in this country about legalising prostitution for a few years. I hope we turn back from the brink and Chet would like to see its plunge over that particular falls. Stay tuned.

Thanks again for the Loreto material. Hope this letter finds you and Francesca and Kevin and Emily well.

Weekly Update #14: '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, 17 January 2014) 

No word from Imprimerie Lebonfon as of 5pm today.


Finished pages 8, 9, 10 and most of page 11 of issue #4 (9 and 10 were "additions" to existing glamourpuss pages).

The X-Files Annual 2014

IDW Publishing, $7.99
Writers: Frank Spotnitz, Gabe Rotter, Shannon Eric Denton & Dave Sim
Artists: Stuart Sayger & Andrew Currie
The X-Files writer / producer Frank Spotnitz returns with an untold tale from Mulder and Scully's first stint with the FBI. When a man returns from the dead with a warning for his wife, the agents investigate and cross paths with a very peculiar priest. And in the second story, Cerebus creator Dave Sim writes his first-ever The X-Files story and first scripted licensed work in... forever? with Talk To The Hand, a nightmarish tale starring a sleeping Dana Scully. Variant cover by Dave Sim.
Release Date: April 2014

(from Bleeding Cool, 17 December 2013)
The Nerdy Show as just posted an interview with X-Files creator Chris Carter, Joe Harris, and X-Files comic book Season 10's editor Denton Tipton. It's the first joint interview they've done regarding the comic. In it, Denton reveals that there's an Annual coming out in April written by X-Files writer / producer Frank Spotnitz and Ten Thirteen's Gabe Rotter which will also feature a backup comic book story by Dave Sim, which should be fun since Dave has never watched the show. This may also be Dave Sim's first work for hire comic book in quite some time.

Friday 17 January 2014

That Russ Heath Girl #1

That Russ Heath Girl! #1
(Glamourpuss #16, November 2010)
By Russ Heath
Russ Heath contributed three covers to Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #11-13 (2010)
as well as four 'That Russ Heath Girl' pin-ups in Glamourpuss #16-19 (2010/11).
(via Press Release, 15 January 2014)
The National Cartoonists Society is very pleased to announce that legendary comic book artist Russ Heath will receive The Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual NCS Reuben Awards banquet in San Diego, California on May 24, 2014. The award, named for Terry and the Pirates creator and former NCS President and co-founder Milton Caniff, is awarded by unanimous vote of the NCS Board of Directors. It is given for a lifetime of outstanding and accomplished work to a cartoonist who has not previously won the organization’s highest honor, the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. Russ Heath may be best known for his stunningly authentic work in DC Comics' war titles such as G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, and Star Spangled War Stories, but the versatile artist has worked in an amazingly wide range of genres over the past seven decades...