Monday 2 June 2014

Dave Sim: The Kickstarter Q&A

The following Q&A with Dave Sim took place on 31 May 2014 in the final hours of the Cerebus Archive Number One Kickstarter campaign, with questions being posed by the Kickstarter pledgers. The following is an edited / reordered version of the full Q&A which can be found in the Kickstarter Comments section.

Do you feel that anything is lost from the experience when someone only reads the phonebooks?

Yes, in a sense, I think that people miss a lot of the CEREBUS experience just reading the phonebooks, but then they also miss the experience of waiting for a month BETWEEN issues even if they're reading the individual issues. And it not being, you know, the mid-1980s anymore. It was definitely "of its time": Notes from the President, the newest 20 pages, the letters pages.

"You should have been there!" Dr. Winston O'Boogie

Are there any regrets storyline-wise, that Cerebus took, that looking back on it so many years later you wished you hadn't taken with the book? Not what you would do differently now, just wondering if there any paths you would've changed direction on?

That's actually a more interesting question than you would suspect, touching on predestination and free will. I mean, I pretty much decided that Cerebus being who Cerebus was, he could really only follow one path in life. His obsession with Jaka would always pull him in that direction even though it was a VERY BAD idea. That's what I wanted to show him and the reader: look, this is how this goes. And knowing that Cerebus...and the readers...really didn't CARE! They just wanted Cerebus and Jaka to be together. Well, okay. But that ends up the way that it ends up the way it ended up. Happy now? Well, it's not as if I didn't warn you. Cerebus just didn't have the personality profile to be Mr. Jaka, which is who you have to be if you're going to be with her.

What I didn't realized was that I was talking about myself as well -- creator and creation. The more I became aware of predestination and free will as realities -- make that Realities -- the more I realized that I was setting a course for myself. Given who I am -- who I AM -- this is the only way that my life could have ended up. I have free will -- I can do whatever I want, but WANT is a bad way of looking at it, I ultimately realized. I WANT to eat a whole chocolate cake every day. I really WANT to. But it's a VERY BAD idea. It was a whole new way of looking at life. Start with GOOD IDEAS -- this is a GOOD IDEA of how to live. Forget about WANT and DESIRE. Pick from the list. As soon as I started doing that, my life starting improving exponentially.

It's one of the reasons that -- although I'm not really engaged with CEREBUS at any meaningful level in my life -- I definitely think myself obligated to maintain it. Because it got me HERE. Even though HERE is probably not where most CEREBUS fans would have wanted me to end up.

Preserve the intellectual property and the environment it was created in, because I really OWE it to all of you and to all of the people CEREBUS will be important to in the years to come. 6,000 pages are going to be important to different people for different reasons. But you really can't -- responsibly -- diminish importance like that.

It made me very aware of how I think God looks at us. "I can give you that [whatever it is] but it's a BAD IDEA. It leads you the wrong way. Trust me on this one. Humour me." And that's so difficult for us to do. We're so convinced that what we WANT the most is the best for us. THIS will make it all better! Mm. Probably not. "You can get what you want and still not be very happy."

Totally understand if you don't recall, but why is the the final Election Night tally considered the Core Moment in High Society?

I don't think you can beat "Election Night" for a cliffhanger. That's one of those examples of "not really getting the same experience when you don't have to wait a month for the next one". It anticipated, I think, the 2000 election in the U.S. where you can tell that the overall Metaphysics of current Reality is reaching a state of (what would you call it?) Complete Adversarial Equilibrium? We seem to have moved a little ways out of that Reality since 2000 but for a while there it seemed that more elections were photo finishes than weren't. As with most Metaphysics, I'm not sure what that tells us, if anything, but it does seem interesting.

Since AMOC has been posting those old [Following Cerebus #3] reproduction covers, it occurred to me for the first time while looking at the Frazetta recreation: Did you get any flack from Marvel over doing the Wolveroach character (in multiples) again so many years after the "cease and desist" letter from Shooter? Or do you figure they just didn't see it, since it was a mag not a comic, or that they just didn't care after all those years?

Actually, there never was a cease and desist letter on Wolverroach, I don't think. Was there? I know Jim Shooter came up to me after a panel at a convention. I was still sitting on the panel and -- he's Jim Shooter. I'm sitting down on a dais and he's standing in front of me and we're basically eye to eye. And he leaned forward and said, "About the Wolverroach thing. Next time, give me a call and ask permission, okay?" And I said, SURE! Even though I didn't think I was going to because I was pretty sure the answer would be No. I was also pretty sure that parody was -- and is -- protected free speech. What could they do? Order all copies of issues 54-56 destroyed? All you're going to do is make for One Rare Trilogy of Comic Books.

What was the name of the tavern near the wall of T'si where Cerebus spent his time during GUYS and later as a 'barkeeper' during RICK'S STORY? I can't find mention of it anywhere. Or is the namelessness of it supposed to serve as a metaphor of all taverns / bars?

When the Cirinists took over and figured out what they were going to do with the taverns, they would have made them into "no name" environments. The idea would have been regimentation. You want a bartender who "toes the line" and you want everyone else killing themselves with alcohol 24 hours a day. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before. You know those little widgets resting against the wall on either side of the front door? That was a signal of the vacancy status of the tavern. There were "this many" beds available. Someone -- and I'm thinking the Eddie Campbell character is a likely suspect -- seeing that Cerebus didn't KNOW that, moved all of the widgets to show "no vacancy". Which is why the tavern went from busy to DEAD. Not that it really affected Cerebus. He had a lot of solo fuming and sulking to do.

What books, poems, essays, films, and albums should I find to better appreciate/understand Cerebus?

Let me see: Scott Fitzgerald, I would read THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED. Oscar Wilde PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. Hemingway A MOVEABLE FEAST. To understand the TONE of JAKA'S STORY I WOULD suggest watching the movie version of GYPSY. Jaka of JAKA'S STORY is very much based on Rose Louise. Theodore White's THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT 1960.

Norman Mailer. If you don't want to read Mailer himself, I'd suggest MAILER: HIS LIFE AND TIMES. A guy who dealt with a multiplicity of levels to Reality and how people who really only dealt with "here and now" dealt with him. Gore Vidal's essays. Those would be the most influential stuff.

"Near Durham, ON... one of my favourite shots... didn't quite make it as a Going Home cover..."
(from Gerhard's Photo Album)

Not sure if this has be covered elsewhere/when, but do you recall the reason for having photo covers for Going Home? Were they taken around Kitchener? It was such striking shift in cover design.

The photo covers were taken around Kitchener. Various places. That's one of the things that's going to be a part of the COVERS book when we get there: where all the photos were taken. Gerhard knows that stuff. One of them was taken by Rose on a visit to France. It was really a matter of both of us running out of gas. Not having to draw a cover -- and in Gerhard's case, do the backgrounds and paint the damn thing! -- was a time saver. Of course that time just got eaten up as soon as we made the decision. It was like paddling on a raft that was being eaten around us by giant sea mammals. Can we get to issue 300 and still have some of the raft left? Some. But not a lot.

Is there any news on the Cerebus Covers book coming out?

I'd be guessing as to what is going on with the CEREBUS COVERS book. I got some pages from Scott Dunbier that are very basic. I think what needs to happen is that I have to get some full-sized photocopies done of the material that's too big for my colour copier and then do mock-ups of the first 10 or 12 pages to show Scott what I'm thinking of. I want to, as an example, do an exhaustive look at the cover of #1, all the different versions and forms there have been of it, including the counterfeit and the only copy that's cut to comic-book size, the cover of CEREBUS ARCHIVE #1, the 2004 Christmas card, etc. I want to DO the cover of #1 and then never have to do it again. Scott, I think, is thinking of it purely as an art book. We have to have a discussion about it at some point. But, I think, right now everyone at IDW is more inclined for me to keep working on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND now that they can see how slow I've gotten. Let's finish one project instead of having several unfinished projects. I'm guessing. Once we have some answers, I think I can turn in a few pages of the COVERS book at the same rate as SDOAR -- basically the way that I did glamourpuss and CEREBUS ARCHIVE at the same time.

How difficult was it to put Cerebus to bed (coffin?) and move on to the next portion of your creative career?

How difficult was it to put Cerebus to bed (or his coffin)? Not really difficult at all. Again, that's a matter of predestination. When you know your character is coming to an end in March 2004, it gives you plenty of time to get completely adjusted to it. And it also gave me a better perspective on my own mortality. I have a fixed life of a fixed duration. I can't add or subtract a minute from it. In the fourth dimension, it's all already happened and it has gone a specific way. All that really matters is self-improvement. I can change anything in the construct. I haven't had a drink in 11 years but I can, if I choose, go out and get stinking drunk tonight. I either did or I didn't. The same way that I had my last drink January 24, 2003. Had you asked me at the time, "So how long do you think that's going to last" I would have said, "Probably not very long." But it turns out that it was eleven years. It was always eleven years. It will always be eleven years. God willing it's the rest of my life.

Predestination: that's what has always happened. Free will: I could have changed it at any moment in the last eleven years -- or in the rest of my life.

In terms of my creative career, when I had to start glamourpuss in order to raise money to repurchase Gerhard's share of the company, I thought, "It's too soon for this." That is, the level of animosity was still WAY HIGH! I only get one chance at a second chance after CEREBUS. 2008 was too soon. But I needed the money. It made things difficult and still makes things difficult in a way. But, Difficulty R Us. When things seem to get easier is when I start to worry. What's going on? What am I missing here?

I love seeing Cerebus in the "modern" world, like the few spots in the Guide to Publishing, or the pics of him in his hockey gear... any chance of us ever seeing him in the "real" world for 8 pages or so? After Strange Death, naturally.

It was always interesting drawing Cerebus in a modern setting. Hmm. Maybe 8 pages of Cerebus walking around downtown Kitchener? Try and pick places that might stick around for a while. Like City Hall. Market Square (from SPAWN 10) is still there, but Peter's Place burned down back in '94. I actually get my hair cut at Black and White barbers which is pretty much where Peter's Place used to be.

I'm "blue skying" I'm afraid. To the extent that I think about doing other creative work the length of time it takes for me to do it militates against something as long as 8 pages. Chris Ryall wanted me to draw the X-FILES story I wrote. Which I would have loved to do. But, 8 pages -- that's a month's work these days or close to it.

When I think of doing Other Things, now, it's usually Kickstarter pledge items. Hmm. How about a recreation of the "baby throwing page"? More bang for your buck (so to speak).

(Click image to enlarge)

I live right next to Westport CT [the scene of Alex Raymond's fatal car crash] and just wanted to let you know that if you need anything in the way of research from the area (photos or what-have-you), for The Strange Death, I'd be more than happy to oblige.

You know, I might take you up on the Westport offer. I've been in contact with the Westport Police Department and actually got some information from them, including the original accident report and Stan Drake's official statement. Both of which figure prominently in the narrative. There were a few other leads I was trying to track down through Arlen Schumer (who IS in Westport) and a friend of his. But -- to be honest -- that's a WAYS down the road from where I am. And since it's all Official Stuff that has been in place since 1956, I figure it's not going anywhere.

I've gone back and forth on the idea that it's worth my while to go down to Westport and look at the accident site. Arlen took a bunch of photos for me and...I'm not seeing it. We've talked about it on the phone quite a bit and I get the impression that it's one of those distorted environments that doesn't show up on photos the way it actually looks. Like Dealey Plaza in Dallas. It looks sprawling and sloped in the photos. But when you're there it's the size of a postage stamp. Sitting on the concrete platform where Zapruder was standing when he shot his footage and the road is Right There. Not Over There. Okay, so where's the stockade fence? Turn to my right. YI! Right over my shoulder. Again, not WAY over there. If I can justify the expense, I think I do have to see the site of the crash.

This might be a little morbid but what the hey its all in good fun, if there was one comic creator you could bring back to life and have them making comics today...who would it be?

Well as long as we're being MORBID, what about MORBID AND completely  SELF-INTERESTED? In that case, I would like Alex Raymond to come back from the dead and pick up right where he left off on RIP KIRBY. Actually, why don't we give him a few weeks in the next world and then he comes back and sees what kind of "Raymond Chops" this John Prentice kid has and hires him as his assistant?

Second choice would be Jeff Jones coming back in full "Idyll" mode and picking up right where HE (uh "she") left off.

Lithograph No.1: Neil Gaiman

If the shoe has ever been on the other foot, has a creators perceived personal politics ever stopped you from reading or caring about their work? Not asking to name names but given the whole evil Dave shenanigans wonder if that situation has ever been reversed for you.

No, I've never been in the situation where I would Not Read someone else's work because of political or personal differences. At least part of that I think is because I've always known the work more than the person, whoever the person was. It would seem really weird to me to have someone's personal or political views get "in the way" of their work. It's either good work and worth looking at or it isn't. If it IS good work, how would you change your mind about it? I think you'd have to be dissociative by nature to be able to do that. To keep various Realities in different compartments in your head. "I liked this work in 1994 but then I had to stop liking it." How do you STOP liking something creative? Gives me the creeps to even think of thinking that way.

Did the Neil Gaiman annual lithograph auction ever restart? My step-brother kindly got me the first one for my fortieth, but I've never seen another one offered.

On the question about the Neil Gaiman Lithograph, no I'm afraid that was one of the casualties of the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim Is a Misogynist" petition. I thought, Neil of ALL people! Unfortunately the list of "of ALL people!" is as long as my arm. I'm very pleased to have the hand-rendered ones in the Archive that Neil did. I think he had a lot of fun doing them. There's definitely a frustrated artist very near Neil Gaiman's surface so the idea of a defacing a "lithograph" of himself with any medium he could think of (I think he borrowed a whole box of whatever-his-daughters were using at the time: glitter, sparkles, paints).

I've still got all of the un-doctored ones in the hall closet upstairs. Maybe things will change someday.

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