Saturday 31 January 2015

Cerebus in Weird Crime Theatre

Weird Crime Theatre (2015)
The culmination of 12 years of tinkering with writer Kumar Sivasubramanian, this 150-Page Giant is a near-psychotic fever dream collection of the comic book adventures of Granikos “Granny” Kinkade and Melissa the Conqueror – two low-paid subcontractors working for the government to terminate with extreme prejudice: sasquatches, mummies, paramilitary poets, Amelia Earhart, Inca-cursed blow-up dolls, robots, demon gangsters, stoners, Sploochies (don’t ask), fishermen, Glenn Miller, rogue Russian scientists, invisible cats, and decency. 

by Mulele Jarvis
(from The Blog & Mail, 10 October 2006)
...Weird Crime Theater's first two issues which I just got in from Kumar Sivasubramanian (who I'll just be referring to as "Kumar" from now on for obvious reasons) in photocopied form. He called me a while back (a year ago? Year and a half ago?) from Australia where he lives to see if I was willing to let him use Cerebus in his second issue which, at the time, was going to be published by Dan Vado's Slave Labor Graphics (which was one of the reasons that I not only agreed but suggested that I draw Cerebus myself - I've never been published by Dan Vado before!). Kumar writes the book and does the digital lettering and Mulele Jarvis does the art and the digital sound effects.

...Anyway, it's always a fun experience to work on a cross-over cameo (Cerebus is in 14 panels over three pages) and then actually read it for the first time in context months later. As it says on the title page for issue 2: Cerebus pencilled, inked, lettered, adlibbed copyright, appears courtesy of and a very special thanks to Dave Sim. I basically wrote it as if it was a career move on Cerebus' part, alternating the dialogue with Cerebus' internal thoughts about the gig ("It's a minor role. But it's one that the critics and the other publishers are going to notice - you know, like Howard the Duck in Giant Size Man-Thing or John Travolta in Pulp Fiction").

Anyway, I guess Dan's decided to stand pat with what he's publishing right now at least for the time being and told Kumar to resubmit in another six months and feel free to show the project around to other publishers in the meantime. As Kumar writes "So, unfortunately, we're back to the submission - rejection - depression cycle for the time being" - which really seems to add a whole other layer of resonance to the gag. Not only can Cerebus only get a walk-on cameo these days the producers can't even get a distribution deal from a major studio! Makes Cerebus grateful for all his trade paperback royalties. Looks like Melissa will be back to waitressing for the time being.

Cerebus Action Figure Update

Cerebus Action Figure Prototype
by George Peter Gatsis
More updates at

Friday 30 January 2015

Frontline Wombat

Frontline Wombat (1981)
Art by Dave Sim

Weekly Update #68: Brad Pitt

Hello, everyone!

The question that stuck with me from last week was the one about "Why not just use carbon paper to transfer the STRANGE DEATH images?"  The answer is that the "transfer" part of the process is only a part of the process.  I begin the page with the text, printed out Joe Kubert font captions and word balloons on bond paper that I cut up to their approximate size and -- using good ol' fashioned rolled up pieces of masking tape on the back -- put into their approximate place.  Then I copy the images that need to be traced and put them roughly in their location (sticking the text on top).  There's usually some further enlarging or reduction that goes on looking for the "Goldilocks size".  When I've got that as close to exact as I can, then I trace the images onto tracing paper.  The advantage with the tracing paper is that it's transparent so I can see the page through it and move things around as needed.  It's a lot more fine-tuned than the CEREBUS pages where -- pretty early in the process -- it was time to start laying out and lettering in ink.  With STRANGE DEATH, because the lettering is computer printed, I can move it around to maximize the smoothness of the reading experience.  Which can be, and usually is, time-consuming (it took about three hours yesterday just to compose the page I'm working on).  It also means I can change the text right up to the last minute.  I just have to make sure the caption is the right size, trace the shape and transfer it and it's guaranteed the lettering is going to go right next to what it's supposed to go next to.  I'm not a big fan of computers but I am a big fan of computer lettering.  I'll trade "hand-done craft" for EXACT placement and extended deadline on final text any day.

WOW! to L. Jamal Walton on his colouring on the Tony the Tiger/Cerebus/Possum piece.  Yes, please on the high res copy! I'm going to get at least three of them printed out (jury's still out on whether I wanted to risk the Wrath of Frosted Flakes doing it as a Bonus Print).  One for the Off-White House wall, one for Blair and one for you.  We'll sign them to each other.  WOW! Again. And thanks for such an unselfish use of your free time!

1.  Rare break in the year as Funkmaster John begins the lengthy CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO shipping process.  Fax yesterday informed me that the UK/AUS/NZ/EU copies will be all in the pipeline by Monday at the latest.

2.  Dave Fisher is back from his fact-finding mission to the warehouse in Leamington.  "You've got a LOT of stuff down there."  Report, including photos to follow.

3.  I bid a fond farewell to HIGH SOCIETY as the last few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are put in place.  One "Next:" to be retained, the rest deleted, as the print date starts bearing down on us.

4.  Never mention Brad Pitt on a website if high-profile Hollywood investors are reading.  Words to live by.

1.  Obviously a lot of hard work is going into CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO shipping -- lessons learned about packaging and shipping methods being put into effect.  I've done the last few "corrections" to stray prints that didn't get done the right way (embossed with gold seal when they were supposed to be non-gold seal embossing, as an example) and doing a personalized set of bookplates for George Gatsis (whose bookplate design we're using this time out) which I had meant to do.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, GEORGE! Fortunately John dropped off a hundred for signing so we're "ready for anything".

As with last time, once the first USA shipments start arriving at their destinations -- with (hopefully) a "thumbs up" on our improved packaging (Let Us KNOW, guys!) -- I'll take that as the signal to begin creating the video and writing the commentary for Kickstarter CAN3 (CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE), the ten earliest CHURCH & STATE pages in the Cerebus Archive (or, I'm thinking, the nine earliest pages and the cover to No.52).

The biggest news about CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE?  The Canadian dollar on a downward trajectory that has taken everyone by surprise.  There IS a temptation to find a "beard" U.S. destination so we can charge in U.S. dollars, but that's being resisted:  instead we're looking at this as an unexpected Bonus for our U.S. Pledge Partners (USA! USA!) who will probably be saving anywhere from 12 to 18% at today's exchange rate (the banks bet against the rate going both ways -- so it's usually three percentage points "off" the current exchange rate).  It IS making it more difficult to plan expenditures right now:  all US$ are being deposited into A-V's U.S. account and only exchanged for Canadian dollars as close to the penny on "bills owing" as possible.  I really don't want to be in the situation of BUYING U.S.$ with 75 cent Canadian dollars.  I think we're okay, but I'll keep you all posted.

The OTHER biggest news on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE was in answer to people saying that there needed to be a High End Incentive.  Which I couldn't picture as being necessary when CANO had generated $34K.  How likely was it that we would surpass that?  And, as it turned out, we went well past it:  to the tune of $42K.  So, uh, Point Taken.  We'll have the same thresholds that we had last time, but THIS time, if we break the $42K barrier, then ALL of the Bonus Prints will be "in play".  Unlimited (uh, between you and your credit card company, unlimited, that is  :)) availability.

We SHOULD have had that last time, but I (for one) was just staring at the numbers in gobsmacked wonder, figuring that I would wake up any second now.

2.  Dave Fisher made good time on his road trip, leaving here about 8 am, which put him in Leamington by noon and then back on the road and arriving back by 5 pm on Monday the 26th.

I know I promise you guys a lot of reports that never end up happening (when that happens, it's because someone told me they were going to do a report and then didn't do it), but that isn't going to happen with Dave Fisher who managed to edit pretty much every CEREBUS TV weekly episode for twenty-nine years (well it FELT like we did it for twenty-nine years :)).  I really wanted him to get a visual feel for the how much inventory there is before he goes and takes a look at the storage space across the street from his place in the next couple of weeks.  He's coming by "soon" to run everything past me and then will post his photos and comments here.  Stay tuned for that.

We're also in the advanced planning stages for getting the "Off-White House Copies" bagged and boarded with their certificates of authenticity and making them available to the Pledge Partners who Own those numbers.  It's not going to happen overnight, but it IS (God willing) going to happen.

3.  Specifically, on HIGH SOCIETY, I'm instructing Sean to delete the "Next:" and "Next issue:" lines from page 48, 108 and 188.  On 208 and 432, while I agree that it changes the balance of the page slightly to take them out, I agree with whomever it was who observed that a hallmark of HIGH SOCIETY is the EXTREME use of solid black.  Which was a conscious choice on my part:  to really call attention to itself.  WAY out past Alex Toth and you can't go much further than that with solid black.

Page 288, I considered Sean's suggestion of re-lettering the "Next: Campaign" so it isn't so butt ugly (on a page that I'm, otherwise, pretty happy with how crisp it is).  But, I just don't think it can be done. Theoretically, yes, but I just don't ink the way I used to thirty years ago no matter how hard I try.  A lesson that I learned when I tried "restoring" the photocopies of "Passage" years and years ago.  And, at that point, the pages were only ten years in my "inking past". 30 years is just "unbridgeable".  

Page 372, I'm retaining the "Next: The Deciding Vote".

Partly because I like the way it looks and I do think the page would be diminished without it.

Partly, because it's the last page before the book turns sideways, so it makes sense as a unique circumstance in the 500 plus pages.

Partly because I'm looking at HIGH SOCIETY as it is, right now, in 2015 as I'm letting go of it for the last time and (feel free to roll your eyes at this part) it isn't a "clean legacy".  I'm not viewed as a graphic novelist, I'm viewed as the "Cerebus phone books" guy.  The guy who did MARVEL ESSENTIALS before Marvel did.  At best, it's a DIVIDED legacy.  To me, I thought that a major claim to being a graphic novel was having a Contents page with 25 chapter titles.  What else could be more like a novel?  But, some people look askance at that (even in the comments on AMOC).  What sort of a novel has ALL 20-page chapters?  That becomes the "phone book" argument.  I'm happy to let that sort itself out over the rest of my life and after I'm dead, but I think it doesn't skew in the direction of "graphic novel" right now.  But, it's nothing to feel bad about:  having one page that acknowledges my stature as  "the guy who invented the ESSENTIALS/SHOWCASE format" seems appropriate to me.

And (feel free to REALLY roll your eyes at this one) HIGH SOCIETY's claim to be a graphic novel rests almost completely with people who write books about the history of graphic novels: a species of literary populism.  A fair number of them include the book.  But, whatever your own list of Top Graphic Novelists is -- and feel free to picture that right now -- virtually none of them have signed the petition. So, I've been -- with a couple of notable exceptions -- expunged from the ranks of graphic novelists.  I'm considered unspeakable.  That can't be underestimated at a point where I'm letting go of the book for the last time.  Can that be maintained -- or will there come a generation of graphic novelists who will include me?

No idea.  Not really my problem.

Page 452, 472 and 492?  Interesting to read the arguments and I found much there that was persuasive, but:  Sean?  They are TOAST!

If I've forgotten anything, I'm sure Sean will let me know!

Thanks for everyone's participation and consultation on this stuff.  Goodbye, HIGH SOCIETY!

4.  Even as I was typing "Brad Pitt" last week, I was thinking, "mm. You might not want to do that."  Oh, yeah, right, I thought.

Anyway less than 24 hours later, CEREBUS: FRACTURED DESTINY Director Oliver Simonsen had faxed me a relay from one of his Hollywood investor cohorts (who will be nameless):
"Well, since you mentioned Brad Pitt in a recent post, I know Dede Gardner, for instance. When can we have a conference call with Dave regarding these matters?"
Oliver included a Wikipedia READER'S DIGEST on Dede Gardner, whose name I actually already recognized from the Arts & Life section of the NATIONAL POST.  I'm pretty sure Katherine Monk has reviewed everything she's done.

As I said last time, we're going to be making this film in a really, really unorthodox way where the voices are going to be the LAST things done and -- judging by how much trouble I'm having getting ANY block of time for working on the film -- that's looking like YEARS.  But, that runs head-on up against what I see as my obligation to Oliver. He's got MOST of a film done.  A Really Unique Circumstance for Film (centred around a NON-film guy: me) where it looks as if we're going to be able to do exactly what we want without having to take ANY business considerations into account.  CITIZEN KANE territory.  "We only get this ONE chance at it, but it looks as if we're getting that chance." I can't -- and believe me, I don't -- take that lightly.

So here's what I faxed back to relay to (name withheld):
WAY too premature for a conference call. Brad Pitt would definitely be at the top of my short list for CEREBUS' voice based on his voicing [what I should have said was 'acting chops'] the 70-year old man who "youthens" in the adaptation of Scott Fitzgerald's BENJAMIN BUTTON and the fact that Cerebus is different ages in FRACTURED DESTINY.  

Why don't you get me an address for Mr. [name withheld] and I'll send him an autographed copy of the CEREBUS trade personalized for Mr. Pitt and...for good measure...a picture of Mr. Pitt as an aardvark in his O*c*r winning role in 37 YEARS AN AARDVARK that he can take over to [production company] personally?
I was faxed the HOME address of [name withheld] while I observed my Sabbath the next day and am now hard at work on TWO pieces of art. One for Dede Gardner and one for Brad Pitt.

I'll pick up the story from there, God willing, with my reasoning on why it makes sense to do that, next week.

See you all then, I hope!

Wednesday 28 January 2015


A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Issues 57 and 58 had a reoccurring motif on the cover: the small picture with a piece of text about it on a background reminiscent of wallpaper. The small pictures all had a hand in the foreground and Cerebus reacting. Issue 59 used many of those same elements, except for the hand.

Except originally the cover was going to use a hand, Weisshaupt's hand, and the text was going to be 'Boom'. From Notebook #3, which covers issues 52 to 59:

Notebook #3 page 150
We even get an unused Weisshaupt quote as he is talking to the seated figures "Blaming the rich for poverty is like giving the poor credit for wealth. . . It simply doesn't wash gentlemen."

On page 149 we see an even rougher draft of the picture for the cover to issue 59 and an outline for the 'Boom' story:

Notebook #3 page 149
We also get a sketch of the Countess Michelle and some text that I can't make heads or tails of: "It all began at a five thousand kilowatt radio station in Fresno California. Speech to Lord Julius, Leonardi, [unknown name], D'Gan and Cerebus. How he has matured in his beliefs."

Though the 'boom' of Weisshaupt setting off a canon came a few pages earlier on page 132:

Notebook #3 page 132
The bottom left hand corner has the text that appears on page 14 of issue 61 (page 204 of Church & State I). Though the 'beats' are a bit different. Rather than have Weisshaupt immediately answer 'magic' and then have a 'blank', 'oh', 'blank', Weisshaupt is the one that has two panels of 'blank'. And rather than have Weisshaupt state he 'brought it' the issues has Weisshaupt stating he 'paid for it'. We also see Weisshaupt was going to say "By the End of 1414 I'll have 3000 of them operational."

As we know, issue 59 doesn't have the 'Boom' story, it was moved to the end of issue 61. The cover with Weisshaupt's hand wasn't used, instead we get a picture of the hotel with the small figures of Weisshaupt and Cerebus standing in the wind at the top of the hotel.

Annotating the Aardvark-- an Academic Aexercise

Mara Sedlins:

In the lead-up to High Society’s print date, a task that’s captured a good deal of my time and attention has been finalizing the thank you list that will appear in the end pages. This includes people who submitted original art scans, as well as contributors to the CANO Kickstarter, and all of the other people that made the book possible, including our $10,000 contributor, Tim F.

In order to respect people’s privacy, we decided it was important to let contributors opt in if they wanted to be included with their full name (or however they want to be represented). As a result, I had the opportunity to interact directly (if briefly) with over half of the CANO participants. My task itself was simple: 1) record whether people opted in, 2) confirm the way each person wanted their name to look, and 3) send a thank you email. But multiply this 2-minute task by 150 people, and that’s five hours of work!

Just as the time it took to complete restoration work impressed upon me the sheer number of pages in High Society, taking the time and attention to interact with even half of the financial backers really made me think about the number of people who have taken the time to help make this project possible. I wonder how common it is to thank each Kickstarter contributor by name, the way Dave has chosen to do.

A sneak peek at the High Society back matter, via our InDesign layout file

As I was mulling over what I wanted to write about this week, I discovered an abundance of existing thought about the promises and pitfalls of crowdfunding – as well a wealth of interconnected ideas that took me down a rabbit hole of internet research (what counts as paid work, who gets to decide and what that says about a society’s values and power structures; the “do what you love” ethos; intellectual property rights and internet piracy; the free culture and related movements; crowdsourcing and participatory art – let me know if any of these sound like interesting fodder for a future blog post, by the way).

But what the thank you list really drove home for me is the fact that no creative work is completed in a vacuum. Art has always been influenced by the means of production and economic support available in a given time period and location. And even the most original ideas arise within a particular cultural context, whether they’re building on or reacting to already-existing work. This led me to spend some time thinking about the already-in-the-air idea to create an annotated version of Cerebus.

Unveiling all a writer’s allusions and references might seem unimportant or even counterproductive for a work like High Society. Explaining the punch line takes the funny out of it, right? And there’s the satisfaction that comes with “getting it” on your own, the feeling of being in on a private joke. But the convention of annotating a work, or including a list of references (aka “works cited” or a bibliography) serves so many crucial functions in the academic domain that they’re not only commonplace but mandatory. Setting aside for the moment the feasibility of creating an annotated version of Cerebus, how might some of these same functions apply?
Reasons to include references in academic writing:

  • it gives credit where credit is due (the number of times a work is referenced is often used as a proxy for its level of influence)
  • it puts the work in historical context
  • it clarifies how the current work moves beyond what’s been done before
  • it acts as a reading list for readers who are new to the topic being discussed
  • it illustrates the quality and breadth of the author’s knowledge about the topic
  • it provides alternative perspectives and conflicting evidence

On the surface, academic research is very different than creative writing or visual art – but fundamentally I think the goal is the same: to uncover and communicate some truth about human experience or the world we live in. 

Satire and parody in particular have been lauded as a uniquely powerful way to illuminate the realities and foibles of a society:

"For comedy is, after all, a look at ourselves, not as we pretend to be when we look in the mirror of our imagination, but as we really are. Look at the comedy of any age and you will know volumes about that period and its people which neither historia nor anthropologist can tell you." 
– Jo Coppola (1958), The Realist (as quoted in the Wikipedia article on Satire)

… but it doesn’t work if people don’t get the joke, right?

For a book like High Society, it’s the multilayered experience of the story – the decoding of parodies, metaphors, and subtexts – that leads to a full appreciation of its value. I mean, who cares about an imaginary aardvark for its own sake, right? (Just kidding!) But a novice to the world of Cerebus (like a junior academic new to a research area) requires some context to see beyond the surface story and appreciate the subtleties of what the work is telling us.

Ideally, I see some theoretical future annotation as an integral part of the restoration process – ensuring that all the intended nuances are available to a broad spectrum of readers, both present and future.

Monday 26 January 2015

70th Anniversary Of The Liberation Of Auschwitz

Writer/Artist/Publisher ~ Dave Sim
Digital Production/Research ~ Lou Copeland
(First published by Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2008)
Free download at and

Soldiers of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front opened the gates of Auschwitz Concentration Camp on January 27, 1945. The prisoners greeted them as authentic liberators. It was a paradox of history that soldiers formally representing Stalinist totalitarianism brought freedom to the prisoners of Nazi totalitarianism.

The Red Army obtained detailed information about Auschwitz only after the liberation of Cracow, and was therefore unable to reach the gates of Auschwitz before January 27, 1945.

About 7 thousand prisoners awaited liberation in the Main Camp, Birkenau, and Monowitz. Before and soon after January 27, Soviet soldiers liberated about 500 prisoners in the Auschwitz sub-camps in Stara Kuźnia, Blachownia Śląska, Świętochłowice, Wesoła, Libiąż, Jawiszowice, and Jaworzno.

Over 230 Soviet soldiers, including the commander of the 472nd regiment, Col. Siemen Lvovich Besprozvanny, died in combat while liberating the Main Camp, Birkenau, Monowitz, and the city of Oświęcim. The majority of them are buried at the municipal cemetery in Oświęcim.

In the Main Camp and Birkenau, Soviet soldiers discovered the corpses of about 600 prisoners who had been shot by the withdrawing SS or who had succumbed to exhaustion.

Soviet army medics and orderlies gave the first organized help to liberated Auschwitz prisoners. Two Soviet field hospitals, commanded by doctors with the rank of colonel, Veykov and Melay, soon arrived and began caring for the ex-prisoners.

Numerous Polish volunteers from Oświęcim and the vicinity, as well as other parts of the country, also arrived to help. Most of them belonged to the Polish Red Cross (PRC). Dr. Józef Bellert of Warsaw opened the Polish Red Cross Camp Hospital at the beginning of February and took responsibility for running it. More than 4,500 ex-prisoners from more than 20 countries, most of them Jews, became patients at the Soviet field hospitals and the PRC Camp Hospital. The majority of them were bedridden. They included over 400 children, some of whom were Jewish twins who until recently had been used as experimental subjects by SS physician Josef Mengele.

Hundreds of bedridden patients were pulled from bunks covered in filth and excrement, and taken to clean wards. They had to be introduced gradually to normal eating. They received their meals in small doses (for instance, one tablespoon of mashed potato soup three times a day at first, with this being increased to several spoonfuls at a time afterwards). Many weeks after liberation, nurses were still finding bread hidden under the patients’ mattresses. Some of the ex-prisoners hoarded bread in this way because they could not bring themselves to believe that they would receive more the next day.

Liberated prisoners who were in relatively good physical condition left Auschwitz immediately after the Soviet army arrived there. Most of the patients in the hospital did the same within three to four months.

Some set off for home on their own, and others in a variety of organized transports (several hundred Jewish ex-prisoners from western and south-eastern Europe by way of the USSR; others went by train to Odessa and from there to Marseille; others still passed through transit camps, a variety of DP camp, in Slutsk, Byelorussia, and Chernivtsi, in the Ukraine).

Sunday 25 January 2015

'Goat' Layout Rewards

Cerebus Sketches (2015)
by Dave Sim

(from Weekly Update #66, 16 January 2015)
...Not sure what Scott and Tom will be getting for their work on the GOAT layout but I'll be sending them something today...

High Society Bookplate Ideas - Late Entries

In Weekly Update #65 Dave Sim asked for bookplate ideas for the High Society Signed & Numbered Diamond Edition. AMOC-reader ideas were featured here and here, with Dave commenting on them in Weekly Update #67. The additional bookplate ideas below were submitted before Dave Sim posted his comments -- apologies to Sandeep and Paul for the delay in getting them posted ~ Tim W.

Sandeep Atwal

Paul McKenzie

Saturday 24 January 2015

Deni Loubert: "I Turned Down Running Image Comics"

(from 'I Have To Live With This Guy' by Blake Bell, Twomorrows 2002)
...[Renegade Press] never really recovered from Glenwood going out of business. Glenwood was the regional distributor and owed me a lot of money. I owed my printers a lot of money and I brought them a lot of business. At one point pretty much every black-and-white book was coming out of Preney Print all through my recommendation.

They met with me about eight months to a year before we closed and said, "You've got a huge debt we don't think you'll ever be able to pay. We're going to forgive you the entire debt and write it off the books. We're going to say you brought us all this business, count that as payback and put you on pay in advance." I felt that was fair. If they hadn't done it, I would have been out of business then.

We took another look at the budget. I started charging more for PR and tried a lot of different things to figure out what the market wanted. We had core books like Ms. Tree, Neil The Horse and Flaming Carrot that sold well. We had books that were almost vanity press. They would sell two or three thousand, like Maxwell Mouse, that I thought should have succeeded. I wanted to do books for girls, but when I did them, they didn't sell.

You are looking around and who's succeeding are the people doing platinum covers, doing marketing techniques. We can do that, but that's not what I got into this for. This was before Image Comics, too. I felt like there was no place left for the small independent publisher who just wanted to do good stories.

In terms of how you market books, I was probably ahead of the curve. I had an instinct for it, but I just didn't have a lot of practical knowledge. Face it, I was a girl working in a factory that started putting out her husband's book.

I've learned a lot about running a business since I closed Renegade. I would have cut it back to the books that actually sold. I would have done more licensing. That really was the way to keep us afloat and I didn't recognise it at the time... I was too much of an idealist...

...Jim Valentino came to me and said, "I'm talking to Rob Liefeld and these guys to do basically what you did with Renegade. We want to form a consortium," which was what Renegade was. It was a co-op. He said, "These guys sell big numbers. You want to come run it?"

I went, "I don't want to run another comic book company for as long as I live!"

It was the wrong answer. I turned down running Image Comics because I had just closed Renegade and emotionally was not in a place to do it.

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus. Deni and Dave Sim were married between 1978 and 1983. After their divorce, Deni moved to Los Angeles to start her own comics publishing company, Renegade Press, which closed its doors in 1989. She was inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2010.

Wait... What? A Half Scale Cerebus Action Figure?

Tease... :)  On the right is the 1/3rd scale... On the left is the 1/2 scale...  OH MY by George... I've gone and done it again... :)

Friday 23 January 2015

Cerebus Meets The Possum & Tony The Tiger

Cerebus, The Possum and THE! TONY! THE! TIGER!
(Click image to enlarge)
(via John Funk via Dropbox, 17 January 2015)
The Last Undesignated Off-White House Copies Recipient: The last Off-White House visitor to access the "Off-White House Copies" was Blair (THE POSSUM) Kitchen who had some holes in his CEREBUS collection.

"Just make a list and the next time you're over, we'll go downstairs and rifle through the long boxes and then check 'my personal stash' in the Off-White House Liberry."

I think I had to tell him a couple of times but he and Rochelle (Hi Rochelle!) and the kids (Hi, "Tex"! Hi Jacob! Hi Nate!) showed up for a visit and he had the list. It was pretty funny. "#144". "Yes!" "#148". "Yes." One after another, plugging in the major holes... and then the inevitable question: "Are you sure you don't want me to pay you for these?"

I'm sure, Blair. Just give me everything with THE POSSUM on it or in it when you do something and we are MORE than even. Which he already was doing.

And then I thought a few days later, "Wait a minute -- not money but what about a speciality drawing?" So, I told him I had changed my mind. No deadline but what I'd REALLY like is something that I can put up in the Off-White House that hardcore civilians would go, "Wow! That's cool!" I mean all of the art that I have is by people they've never heard of (including Dave Who?). "Oh, yeah . Whatever." But Blair Kitchen -- Blair Kitchen did a Tony the Tiger animated commercial for FROSTED FLAKES! SERIOUSLY! Tony the Tiger! WHOA! Now, you're talking! MAJOR CIVILIAN STREET CRED!

So what I asked for was an animation cell pencil drawing of Cerebus, The Possum and THE! TONY! THE! TIGER! Like they're all in the same FROSTED FLAKES commercial!

So he did! Not, you know, right away. Cartoonists are all the same. Just get caught up on all those outside favours we promise people -- what a relief! -- swear to never say Yes to anything again EVER and, before you know it you've got three more things you've promised to do hanging over your head.

So, he finally got "Dave's cockamamie FROSTED FLAKES thing" done and off his back. He even added "inside animation" details like (I hope Blair will correct me as I'm probably getting this wrong) the chart in the upper right that indicates that this is frame #14 and that #14, #18 and #20 are done by the master animator and where the "in-between" cels need to be done by the "in between" animators.

He was going to plug a FROSTED FLAKES box into the little rectangle balanced on Tony's tail but his printer ran out of ink. Besides, it looks like a finished pencil animation drawing with just the rectangle there.

Do I have the guts to do a Bonus Print of this?

I think it would be funny if some Photoshop fan with WAY too much time on his hands mocked it up as a cel! Or done like a LIFE Magazine ad from -- say, when DID Tony the Tiger first appear? Who makes FROSTED FLAKES anyway? Do you suppose they have a sense of humour? Or am I so totally invisible that you can't even SEE Tony the Tiger in proximity to me if you OWN Tony the Tiger? That's pretty potent invisibility if you think of it. But! I love a challenge!

Okay, now that I have it scanned and TimW has a copy that you can download if you're a Photoshop guy with too much time on his hands, I can now get it framed! Not a new frame but one of the Off-White House frames that still has a drawing in it from, like, 1976. That way I only have to buy a new mat and clean the glass so you can see through it.



Tony the Tiger, the Possum & Cerebus
Pencils by Blair Kitchen, everything else by L Jamal Walton
"...because I'm a 'Photoshop guy with too much time on his hands'."

Weekly Update #67: Not Cheap

Hello, everyone!

Looking over all of the great ideas for the HIGH SOCIETY bookplate, I'm still leaning in the direction of the first option presented (that's always the way: the first "take" is usually the best):  Cerebus with his drinking bowl at the top.

Mentally, I'm deleting the bottom image -- not because it doesn't look good but just because if you haven't already read the story, it might be a turn-off for someone browsing in a comic store ("What the heck is THAT supposed to be?").

So, I'm picturing the bottom panel deleted and the HIGH SOCIETY logo in black but in behind it in the vertical space one of the vertical panels of the Regency Elf with the linework burned to a gold colour. That is, a gold image.  And then I'd sign and number on top of the area between the HIGH SOCIETY logo and the bottom of the bookplate.

It would be nice to see some "gold colour hold" options of Regency Elf panels, now that we're "almost there".

Next week, I'll discuss the "Next issue:" deletions. If I remember!

1.  OFF-WHITE HOUSE COPIES goes "front burner" again as Dave Fisher prepares for a fact-finding mission to the warehouse in Leamington

2.  Learning curve on shipping JAKA'S STORY, MELMOTH, LATTER DAYS and THE LAST DAY directly from Southern Ontario to the Diamond Star System in Mississippi proves steep:  everything needs to be RE-boxed

3.  Possibility raised of getting copies of the HIGH SOCIETY 30TH ANNIVERSARY REMASTERED GOLD EDITION TP (Diamond order code AUG120748 JAN150915) personalized through the two local Kitchener-Waterloo comic stores.

4.  Voice-work on CEREBUS: THE MOVIE, as far as I can see, will be virtually the last thing done on the movie

1.  Dave (CEREBUS TV and Kickstarter video editor) Fisher has completed his move to his new residence -- which turns out to be literally a stone's throw from the Kitchener storage facility where I had already planned to relocate the CEREBUS inventory (I'm taking that as a sign from God).  So, he already has the first long box of OFF WHITE HOUSE COPIES -- they are signed and designated -- and he is in the process of bagging and boarding them (we're going one step at a time on this).  Next week he's driving down to Leamington (which was chosen years ago because of its proximity to Preney Print & Litho) to measure the entire inventory, preparatory to moving it all to Kitchener where I'll be signing it and Dave will be inventorying it, bagging and boarding it and supervising the storing of it. And, ultimately, shipping of it to interested customers.

As I say, the OFF WHITE HOUSE COPIES will be signed and numbered first and -- if you're a Kickstarter Pledge Partner -- you will be notified as to which issues are available in your reserved number.  And then you'll have an extended period to choose to commit or not commit to buying them and be informed of the various payment plans we'll have available.

[I noted David B's concern that -- although he had been close to the first in line to be a Pledge Partner -- he chose a later number for its "Cerebus signifier" quality (#77 I believe).  Unfortunately, all I can do at this late date is to recommend that anyone who is REALLY interested in the OFF-WHITE HOUSE COPIES send me a postcard or a letter (yes, an actual postcard or letter:  I said you have to be REALLY interested) with your own Kickstarter number and indicating that you are interested in a "Lowest Number of the OFF-WHITE HOUSE COPIES".  I'll keep the information handy and -- if any Kickstarter Pledge Partner decides not to buy any or all of the OFF-WHITE HOUSE COPIES they have a claim to -- which seems likely -- then they will be offered to the person whose postcard or letter I get first, and then to the second person, the third person, etc.  I'll ask John to post this as a Kickstarter Update as well, so everyone finds out about it at roughly the same time.]    

The transition is going to be a bit of a problem since A-V will be paying rent both in Leamington and in Kitchener for however long it takes to make the switchover -- roughly $300 a month for both locations.  Nothing is cheap (you may have noticed) in 2015.  The temptation is just to do one massive "airlift" but from an organization stand-point, the books need to be moved at least roughly in a sensible order so they can be roughly in a sensible order when they get here and Dave starts the massive process of winnowing them down to the mint copies, bagging and boarding them and inserting the CERTIFICATES OF AUTHENTICITY.  Dave Fisher will crunch the numbers having $1,000 per as the ballpark figure for each U-Haul trip and this week's bill from the warehouse for shipping 200 copies each of JAKA'S STORY, MELMOTH, LATTER DAYS and THE LAST DAY by TST EXPRESS to the packaging place in Waterloo:  $276.  "Not cheap" sums it up nicely, I think.

Which makes a nice segue to:

2.  Thought we were "out of the woods" with the delivery of the bar code labels (which are easily removable without leaving a trace of adhesive or label) which are now affixed to all 200 copies of MELMOTH, JAKA'S STORY, LATTER DAYS and THE LAST DAY but then Chris B notified me that Diamond has a policy that no box can be taller than seven and a half inches high.

I don't know when the policy came into effect because Lebonfon had previously handled the books -- getting them from the warehouse in Leamington and then transporting them across the border with all of the other books they handle for small-press publishers and putting bar code stickers on everything.  Were THEY breaking down the boxes into "Diamond Compliant" sized boxes?  Nice of them if they were!

So this is another stage in the moving of the inventory:  breaking down the boxes that aren't "Diamond Compliant" and putting the books -- securely packed -- into boxes that are.  Ultimately it will be a time saver because the books will then be in boxes already labelled for Diamond with the product code, bar code, quantity, etc.  But, in the meantime, it's definitely a "make-work" project for Dave Fisher.

Not an emergency -- 200 copies should hold Diamond for a while -- but something that needs to be attended to.

3.  George Gatsis wanted to know if he was getting a copy of the 30TH ANNIVERSARY REMASTERED GOLD EDITION of HIGH SOCIETY (Diamond order code AUG120748 JAN150915) from me or if he should place a Paypal order for it.

The short answer is, Aardvark-Vanaheim won't be getting ANY copies of the 30th ANNIVERSARY GOLD EDITION.  The shipping costs from California just don't make any sense, the Off-White House already looks too much like a loading dock these days and I can't afford the time to wrap and mail books to people.

Hopefully, at some point we will be making books available by mail direct from the new storage facility, but that's not something that I see as happening in 2015.  The OFF-WHITE HOUSE COPIES first, just to get our feet wet and for Dave Fisher to familiarize himself with all of the shipping logistics that John Funk has had to learn with CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE and TWO, inventory protocols, packing, shipping options, etc.

George then prevailed upon John Funk to place an order for the book with one of the local comic book stores and to get John to pick up the book, deliver it to me for personalizing and then deliver it to George.

I've told John to make sure that he knows what he's doing since that's turning into a lot of work for little or no return.  I suggested he charge at least $10 per book on top of the $30 cover price. I have no contact with either of the local comic stores because they've chosen not to sign the petition, but I am willing to personalize copies if John is willing to pick them up, bring them to me and then take them back to the store.  What John wants to charge for that if John chooses to do that is up to him.  A phone call to one of the stores from John turned up the information that "the 30th Anniversary Gold Edition had been cancelled".  No big surprise.  But they did agree to order a copy for George and John.  We'll see if they actually do.

And that's as far as I'm going with that.

4.  Fax from Oliver Simonsen, Director of CEREBUS: FRACTURED DESTINY dated 17 January after he saw the 37 YEARS AN AARDVARK scan (and thanks to TimW for posting it!)
"I actually wanted a black actor to do the voice of Cerebus -- thought that could have really worked especially with Elrod -- but John Di Crosta did such a great job.  He also did the voice of Doctor in the TRANSFORMERS movie among other things. And Stephen Mendel, the voice of the Wizard [the Wizard character from CEREBUS No.1] has a huge list of credits including MED MEN and, in the comic book animation realm, Splinter from TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and even as Nekron from way back in Frazetta/Bakshi's FIRE AND ICE -- just to bring it full circle: now to be remade by pioneer Robert Rodriguez  :)
On a related subject: I've gone over the audition recordings from both actresses a bunch of times and I've decided that it's not really practical to use the LATTER DAYS dialogue for the character of "Foy" because, at that point, she and Cerebus are pretty comfortable with each other, which they won't be in CEREBUS: FRACTURED DESTINY. Also, the LATTER DAYS dialogue is "bantering" and it's hard to know if someone can do "bantering" if you're only getting one side of it. So we'll have to wait until I have a good chunk of "Foy" dialogue intended for the movie and -- a more central point -- an actual monologue so I can see if they've "got" the character.

Georgina, in her video audition, definitely bears a striking resemblance to Lynn Morrison, the original model for Jaka.  Not big metaphysical surprise there.  :)

STRUCTURALLY: because we're doing this whole thing on a volunteer basis and not really letting go of anything until we're happy with the results (whether it actually gets approved as a film or just does a FAREWELL TOUR of Comic Conventions), the voices are actually ALL just placeholders right now. If we go the FAREWELL TOUR route, then we can stick with everything just as we have it so far.

If, however, it looks like a good film and a good CEREBUS entertainment vehicle in my eyes when it's done, then the next stage will be getting distribution and distribution is ALWAYS helped by Star Power.

So, we'll have a completed film, from which we'll transcribe a script and then circulate the script as far and wide as possible to see who is interested in voicing whom (the exact opposite of how animated movies are made where the voices come early in the process).  We're talking YEARS from now (how many years, we don't know) so it's very possible that the voice actors and voice actresses are complete unknowns right now but could be very hot properties in 2019, 2020, 2021.  If there is "buzz" about the movie, all we would need is one major name and that will probably lead to another major name and another major name and then we have The Big Mo when we look for a distributor.

Put another way:  Jeff Seiler?  If Brad Pitt wants to BE Elrod, your voice work is TOAST.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

To Ham & Ham Not

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Notebook #28 covers issues 256 to 265, a large chunk of Form & Void, and issue #256 starts with Mary Ernestway telling her story of the time Ham and her went on safari. On page 6 Dave lays out what page from Mary's autobiography "How It Was" he was referencing, a sequence description for what it was and how many pages or panels he thought it would take in comic form:

Notebook #28 page 6
While I don't have a copy of "How It Was", nor the time to read it if I did have it, but lucky for us, Dave has written notes, To Ham & Ham Not, which he placed in the back of the phonebook. On page 721 we see that pages 499 - 500 (issue 256, pages 13 & 14) are for the Kimana Swamp, which we see comes from page 439 - 440 of "How It Was" with this description from Dave "Gerhard BGS w/voice-over" for 4 pages. Compare the two for yourself to see how they stack up.

Dave continues his outline on the next page:

Notebook #28 page 7
These two pages are the only pages that outline "How It Was" and how many pages for it  To me it doesn't look like much of it was used, as his To Ham & Ham Not notes mostly reference Mary's East Africa Journal that Dave got from the JFK Library. On page 718 in Dave's note we see the reason for this - he only had "How It Was" when starting with pages #488 & 489 of Form & Void.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

High Society Bookplate Ideas, Part the Second

Sean Michael Robinson:

In Weekly Update #65 Dave Sim asked for bookplate ideas for the High Society Signed & Numbered Diamond Edition. Yesterday, Tim ran some of the designs we've received so far. And here are the remainder!

First off, here are two designs from Tom Palmer Jr. Captions below are what he had to say about them--
 Tom Palmer: The art is from the "Ages of Cerebus" in Epic Illustrated 32 with just a bit of work to add in a box for Dave's signature. This is from a crude scan I found online. I have no idea if the original art is available so maybe a better scan from a copy of the magazine would do the job. Since this is basically a portfolio piece it translates pretty well to a bookplate; unlike any of the covers there's no trade dress to get rid of. (Technically it was drawn after the initial run of High Society...but it was done before the cover of the trade was drawn so that should count for something!)

Tom Palmer: And option two is just a montage of some of the various looks Cerebus has in the story. It was hard to find full figure shots of him that could be easily isolated, and I'm not completely satisfied with the layout but here goes...

Secondly, we had two very similar suggestions on last week's book plate post--

Ethan Burns : Cerebus at the debate doing sketches of rocks and trees with the persons name on his sketch somewhere. Alternatively elrod doing the same thing.

Travis Pelkie: I like something like what Ethan Burns said: a pic of Cerebus or Elrod signing/drawing the rocks and trees, so it looks like Cerebus is the one who signed the bookplate (which is where Dave's going to be signing it, right?).

And below you'll find two very quick mockups of Ethan's idea (with Travis' elaboration).

Got some ideas of your own? Please send them to momentofcerebus at gmail, or link to them in the comments.

If you're interested in getting a signed and numbered copy of High Society for yourself, you can preorder them now through your local comic shop. Those of you who might not have a local shop handy could also heed the words of  BBCoffey--

If you can't make it to a store, Discount Comic Book Services (DCBS) and Things From Another World (TFAW) both have it available for pre-order.

Monday 19 January 2015

High Society Bookplate Ideas

In Weekly Update #65 Dave Sim asked for bookplate ideas for the High Society Signed & Numbered Diamond Edition. Here are the entries received so far. Sean will have more tomorrow here on AMOC.

Will Collier:
My suggestion:  this panel on top (with the fragment of the left-hand panel word balloon removed), a space below for the signature, and the gold "High Society" logo below that (superimposed over a silhouette of the Regency would be even better):

Famous The Aardvark:
A few ideas.

Paul McKenzie

Sunday 18 January 2015

Short Stories In Six Words

It is claimed Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word short story that could make people cry for a bet. The wager was ten dollars, which Hemingway won with the following: "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." However, there's no hard evidence that this ever happened...
...Here’s how Mr. Hemingway described the author’s role in his Nobel Prize winning speech in 1954: "Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

I'm sure Dave is well aware of this anecdote. I'm just wondering what were/are thoughts on the story itself, the question of its validity, AND the quote discussing authors lives. Could you forward this to him?

Cerebus #251 (February 2000)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Hey Tim. I remember hearing about that anecdote. Wired magazine got a lot of authors (including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Stan Lee (insert joke about the 'Marvel Method') to do their own version (of the long list, I think I like Alan's the best)

Not sure what Dave would make of it, but my first instinct was to laugh, since I recalled Dave's notes in "To Ham and Ham Not" in the back of Form & Void where he said that Hemingway was trying to come up with a way to create more by doing less, and basically just type type typing. What better way to do that than to basically write classified ads (albeit very clever ones)?

I'm kind of surprised it moved Arthur C. Clarke to tears, but I guess that ties in with the old idea of "an infinite number of drunk typists type type typing away 6 word short stories as an expression of primitivism will sooner rather than later come up with something that will make the creator of 2001: A Space Odyssey and that scene with all the apes at the beginning cry."

Ahhh, I shouldn't be cruel; Hemingway DID write The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, which I thought was very good. It's just too bad they didn't know about fractal mathematical equations back then; otherwise he could have just used one of those as the world's shortest "choose your own adventure" story generator by having people plug in their own numbers.

Hemingway's speech about what it takes to be writer sounds like good advice to me; I'm just not enough of a Hemingway scholar to know for sure how much of it he actually followed it himself. My guess would be, probably not very much.

Hey maybe you could post that email as an Aardvark Comment, or with excerpts from the Wired article as an AMOC blog post? And if Dave has any inclination or time, he could respond to it if he wishes? 

(from Wired Magazine, November 2006)
We'll be brief: Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves. Dozens of our favorite auteurs put their words to paper, and five master graphic designers took them to the drawing board. Sure, Arthur C. Clarke refused to trim his ("God said, 'Cancel Program GENESIS.' The universe ceased to exist."), but the rest are concise masterpieces.

Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
- Stan Lee

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
- Frank Miller

I’m dead. I’ve missed you. Kiss … ?
- Neil Gaiman

“I couldn’t believe she’d shoot me.”
- Howard Chaykin

Broken heart, 45, WLTM disabled man.
- Mark Millar