Wednesday 5 February 2014

The Caretaker

The Caretaker (1998)
by Michael Cohen & Dave Sim
I'd been an avid reader of Cerebus since issue #14 came out, and Dave's advocacy of self-publishing put the idea in my head to give it a try. When co-creator Mark Sherman and I received our shipment of Strange Attractors #1 in 1993, we sent Dave a copy and a thank-you note, not really expecting an answer. We certainly didn't expect to hear him promise that if we stick it out for four issues, he'd run a preview in Cerebus. That made us all the more determined to stick out the tough slog of getting distribution and readership, and Dave came through, with our 8-page preview appearing in Cerebus #183.

What followed was an action-packed five of years of publishing and promotion, following Dave's advice about getting out there to all the trade shows and to make pals with as many retailers as possible. Dave was kind enough to write an intro for our first Strange Attractors trade paperback Chaos Jitterbug. I had tables at the Manchester, Toronto, and Montreal stops on the Spirits of Independence Tour. Jimmy Gownley and I did an interview with Dave for CBG #1267. Meanwhile, there were lots of letters of support from Dave, and even a surprise phone call, which was one of the highlights of that whole self-publishing period.

I took on a more active role in promoting our comic and other self-published books I liked. I started the anthology title Mythography, which featured fantasy stories by my favorite indy creators. I helped put together G.A.S.P (Giant Anthology of Self -Publishers), which was distributed free to comic shops and featured short previews of a number of indy comics. I decided to follow up G.A.S.P. with B.L.I.P. (Book of Little Independent Publishers) again distributed free to retailers from Diamond. I thought that it couldn't hurt to ask Dave if he'd be interested in submitting a little story.

What I didn’t expect was Dave's offer to do a jam story. I was more than a little intimidated, but couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. I was supposed to start it off, so I settled on doing the first panel in the kind of SF/Fantasy style I was familiar with. I faxed off my panel, and was pretty thrilled to get Dave's follow-up panel, drawn in a nifty Barry Windsor-Smith style. I followed up with panel 3, thinking that we had the beginning of a nice little adventure story. When I got the 4th panel from Dave I realized that he was going to take this into some strange territory, and I was going to be in for a wild ride. Reading the two page story, it's easy to see me trying to bring the story back to a more traditional narrative, and Dave sabotaging it at every turn, letting his imagination go wild, and finally bringing it to a resolution with a 5 panel spread. That might have been cheating, but it did bring the story to a tidy 2 page conclusion.

So that's my collaboration with Dave Sim story. As far as I know, The Caretaker (as it was called) has not seen print since it came out in 1998, nor is there any mention of it on the web. Hope you enjoy it.

In 1993 Michael Cohen and Mark Sherman began self-publishing Strange Attractors, which ran for seventeen issues during the 1990s. You can read Strange Attractors for free online at Web Comics Nation.


Anonymous said...

That Jam Comic is like a Frank Zappa song given visual form. Hah.

"I AM THE ETERNAL MORON!" is even a great name for an album.

-Wes Smith

Anonymous said...

Dave wrote an introduction essay for that trade paperback collection pictured above, "Chaos Jitterbug."

-Jim Sheridan

Jim Sheridan said...

Whoops, I just re-read the article and saw that the fact I mentioned had already been stated. Well, I will just add that it is a very enjoyable comic. The TPB is Volume 1; no further volumes appeared, alas.

Anonymous said...

A fun story.

Even though Dave focuses on extended story-lines, I've always really enjoyed his vignettes -- especially in the early stages of Church & State -- and his short collaborations. A shame he doesn't do more of them.

- Reginald P.

Eddie said...

I actually laughed out loud while reading it! It reminds me a of that Rick Veitch Rare Bit Fiend with Alan Moore hunting river demons.

Who did the cover for Mythography? That looks beautiful