Wednesday 29 April 2015

Uncomfortable Truth

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.

In notebook #19 Dave cover's the tail end of Reads, Minds and the start of Guys: issues #186 through 201. With only 71 pages scanned, it seems like a lot of ground to cover with such a small amount of notebook used. Most of what Dave has down for Reads is a block of text for pages. Today we'll look at when he talks to Cerebus and Cirin in Minds.

Cerebus and Cirin each end up on a square piece of what remains of the floor where the throne once stood. They are floating around in space, and Dave is talking to each of them separately. In issue #194 (page 147 of Minds) he brings them together to show how he cannot speak to Cirin. We see Dave's layouts for pages one through three of the issue on page 54 of the notebook:

Notebook 19, page 54
For page one, Dave sticks to his layout and his text, with the exception of getting rid of his first line "I know it doesn't seem like it. . ." For page 2 he stays relatively close to the layout, and for page 3, it is a bit different. Being how all of the finished page is Gerhard, Dave must've changed his mind and given some different direction - perhaps just a general outline, as the pull in shot on Saturn is still there, but the panels have changed shape and size, and Cerebus is no longer there.

Minds page 148 & 149
Dave also had scratched out some of his dialogue: "It is in your nature to be curious, to desire knowledge. It was more important to you - ultimately- to know what Jaka thinks of you. Than it is to cling to the false picture you have of her." This is right after Dave had told the story of Jaka and her time spent with the artist Zulli. But Dave changes the dialogue, as you can see above from Cerebus wanting knowledge, to Cerebus wanting the truth "definite answers to (Cerebus') questions". The line "an uncomfortable truth is always preferable to a comfortable lie" did make it in. One of my favorite lines in the series.

One the next page in the notebook, we see Dave's layout for page 4, the splash page showing Cirin lashing out at Dave. The dialogue that Dave crossed out was him stating he was a voice in Cirin's head and that she was being difficult, he would tell them both a story.

Notebook 19, page 55
He changed it so he is only telling Cerebus a story, Cirin's story. Also, on the finished page Cirin isn't on her knees, like she is here, but is standing up. Her psychic yelling disrupts Dave's thought balloons, something we also don't see on this notebook page.

Minds page 150

The Art Dragnet Continues: The Collection of James G

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings everyone!

Last Monday I got a rare opportunity to examine a large collection of Cerebus original art up close and personal.

Awesome art collector and all-around nice guy James Guarnotta got in touch a few days before to let me know he would be in San Diego, and would I like to meet up and scan his pages? Uh, yes, yes I would. So we met at a location with a large enough scanner, James with a large black portfolio. Inside? Around thirty interior pages, one cover, and several other beautiful Dave and Gerhard goodies.

Most relevant to the work at hand were James' 13 or so Church & State pages, many of which will be replacing some really poorly-photographed negatives. It was an amazing experience to see these pages up close, to see how much detail and craftsmanship were lavished on the originals, detail that up until now would be unlikely to make it to the page at all.

Check out the above panel, the beautiful stand-along composition, the way that the stairs deform under Thrunk's hand. Beautiful stuff.

James also had a sizeable amount of surprises in his collection, for instance, this early piece that went along with Dave and Ger to conventions, and was also used on the cover of a fan publication. (Or a newsletter? Anyone know?)

James also owns something I've seen very little of so far-- a four-page sequence from Going Home, notable for how deeply Dave and Gerhard were drawing "into" the page. Here's a close-up of a single panel that ends up occupying only two inches or so in the finished book. 

More than anything, the experience of seeing James' collection in person reinforced just how much was actually lost on a per-page basis in the original photography, how much can be regained with access to any original art, even in the later periods of the book. Here's a page from Melmoth, one of my personal favorite books in the series. After sitting around for 200 or so pages, mourning and eating potatoes, Cerebus has finally been spurred on to action, only to find that he might not be able to handle the consequences of his grisly attack.

Here's the full scan of the page.

In the smoke rising up from the fire, there's a series of delicate patterned lines conveying the light of the fire, the movement of the smoke, and the haze of it as well. It's some really fine texturing, some great drawing, and very appropriate to the atmosphere of the rest of the page. 

And here's the same section from the original Melmoth graphic novel.

Contrary to my initial thoughts on this last summer, when I started on this project, there is significant benefit to all the original art we have access to, regardless of the time period it's from. Currently in the weeds with the remainder of the C+S I negatives, this is reinforced over and over again, as I find fine-line information turned into little dots by problems with the photography-- clogged tone, warped pages, strange additions and subtractions. Every page makes a difference, splits the distance between drawing board and book.

A huge thank-you to James for taking the time to have his pages scanned, and to chat Cerebus with me. And a huge thank-you as well to all the art owners who have contributed so far! It's never too late to send us scans-- each subsequent printing will be improved page by page as new scans come in. 

Want to help? If you know of anyone who has pages, please let us know at 'cerebusarthunt [at] gmail [dot] com'. We received a tip last week from Tim W, our host at AMOC, that looks like it's net a nice clutch of pages. Keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Dave Sim's Once-A-Month Left-Handed Update

Howdy!  Once a month is my "Online Involvement" these days. Check Paypal ($514 this month: thanks everyone!) and the petition (599 down 1401 to go).

Nice to see all the tribute art!  In 2015, no less!

Pain-free day for the hand last Thursday and most of Friday.  I'm pretty sure that acupuncture (which someone mentioned) is on the agenda.  The thing is that if you have pain you have to go back a step, so I'm still doing the same things I was doing two weeks ago.  Oh, well, it's still only Week Five of Eight (collect them all!).  Worst Case Scenario is that A-V "collapses" around my autograph.  If that's all I CAN do, that's all I SHOULD do because that's where the money comes from.  Assembly of the SDOAR research can all be done with my left hand solo as can (I suspect) "road-mapping" what the rest of the book WOULD HAVE looked like if dot dot

Eddie Khanna and Ted Adams are having a phone discussion 5/18 about Really Worst Case Scenario: i.e. I get hit by a bus and this is as far as I got on SDOAR so what do we want the book to look like? I'll "weigh in" when I get a transcript from Eddie...

...unless I get hit by a bus in the meantime (nyuck nyuck nyuck)

UPDATE this week will start from "Can social media generate a new audience for CEREBUS?" as premise with what Jeff S. and Sandeep are working on.  Obviously Jeff and Sandeep will be soliciting feedback from ANYone who believes in social media (about the social media they believe in).

Personally, I'm focussed more on "end of life" issues since I have no idea when my life is going to end and there's a lot to get done.

Hopefully getting the staples out of my former bellybutton on Thursday, being top of mind!

[Sandeep: the appointment is 11:30 am so I might not be back at the OWH right at 12:30.  Bring a book and hang out in front of Camp David if it's sunny!]

See you next month with more left-handed fun.

Monday 27 April 2015

Tribute Art Round-Up #11

Cerebus (2015)
"I’ve been reading the Cerebus comics over at cerebusonline and have been
 really enjoying them thus far. I couldn’t resist drawing him up for one of my warm-ups."

Cerebus (2015)

Cerebus (2015)

Cerebus (2015)

Graffiti in Sydney, Australia (2015)

3D Printed Cerebus (2015)

Sunday 26 April 2015

"You Had To Be There"

(from 'Comics Shelfie' posted at Comics & Cola blog, 16 April 2015)
...Sometimes I like to talk about how much of an inspiration Dave Sim was for me as a kid in high school; Church & State vol 1 and 2 for me, being the highlight of the series. I like to talk about it because Time and the way we as a culture build mythologies around people, have degraded the work. Sometimes I wonder how much we collectively desire to assassinate ourselves and each other. How much should we expose of ourselves in public? Probably not much! Anyway, check out my bookshelves y’all!

I never finished whatever volume it was that turned into blocks of tiny text. I also imagine that if I re-read the story, it wouldn't hold up well, as it was so married to the time it was being written. The first 6 phonebook volumes or so stand in my teenage memory as some of the most formally ambitious and passionate examples of storytelling in the medium of comics. The thing I always say about Cerebus is, "It’s a work of genius, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone now." I think you had to be there while it was happening. I could be wrong though...

Saturday 25 April 2015

Cerebus: In My Life - Anthony Kuchar

Anthony Kuchar is a 22 year old student living in Ontario, Canada, who likes movies, comics and theatre, and has ambitions to participate in the arts in the future.

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus, and for how long did you read if for?

Anthony Kuchar:
I’ve been reading Cerebus for around 9 years or so. Which, in Cerebus time (30 plus years) is not a long time. I first encountered Dave's work in a copy of Church & State II I found in the discount bin at Mostly Comics in St. Catharines. Up until that point, my major exposure to comics had been old Marvel and DC comics form the 80s and Japanese Manga in the form of Shonen Jump. Previously, I had read the black and white reprint of Steve Gerber's Howard The Duck run and it pulled me right in to the concept of a funny animal in a mans world.

Over the next year or so I made my way around southern Ontario from the Silver Snail to Stratford picking up his books. I was able to pick up books 1-6 by the time I entered University for Dramatic Arts 5 years ago.

I finally got The Last Day back during last Christmas (2014). So I decided for my New Years resolution I would read one volume a month (or so, the Mothers & Daughters books are slimmer and I figure I could read two in a month).

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

Cerebus in my mind is the high watermark for what comics as a medium can achieve. Not only is the story epic in scope (attempting to tell the life story of a single individual), but it's an also deeply personal work that is being told by one author with minimal editorial interference to make it more commercial or easily accessible. It's totally, unashamedly a product of comics.

In my life, its lead me to pursue comics as a hobby/passion, and most recently I have teamed up with a comic artist friend of mine to create comics of our own. We will be exhibiting it at the upcoming Niagara Falls Comic-Con. Dave Sim is directly responsible for this.

What is your favourite scene or sequence from Cerebus?

My favourite sequence in the comic would have to be from the transition from the trial of Astoria (C&S II) to Cerebus's first ascension, when he smashes through the glass window. There's something so dynamic and powerful about that image that gets me to this day with its raw machismo. Every man wants to rip off the monkey suit and jump out the window at some point in their life!

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

This is a difficult one. In a way I try to recommend Cerebus to others, seeing as it is my personal favourite comic. But at the same time Cerebus is a very acquired taste. As that essay in The Comics Journal #301 (Irredeemable: Dave Sim's Cerebus by Tim Kreider) pointed out there are a few very big issues with Cerebus as a whole that keep it from being part of the 'canon' of "Graphic Novels". For one thing, it’s an extremely lopsided work in terms of quality. The first book is very off-putting (with the amateur art) and people only look at book one and go "uh, no way. I’m not sticking around for 15 more books of this". Then the problem is one it gets really good (C&SII to Minds), it starts to veer off into Dave's really unfiltered side. Which is good, to a point. But after issue 200 to about 290, the epic narrative of Cerebus, 'Ascension', Cirin, Jaka, Suentious Po and Astoria is dropped is almost a 300 issue "Dave's Soapbox" style book where he just starts inserting random plots about Cerebus as a bartender/boyfriend to Jaka, Dave's religious conversion, and allegories using stand-ins for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who aren't nearly as entertaining or interesting as the Oscar Wilde one was in Jaka's Story and Melmoth.

Also, and I don't mean to knock Dave, but Dave Sim and Cerebus are as inseparable as The Holy Trinity. You can't just say to people, "Well I know you might not like Dave Sim's views on gender, politics or whatever, but it doesn’t come through in his work." If you did, you would be deceiving them. Cerebus (especially the later books) is a niche (comic readers) of a niche (more artsy/challenging comic readers) of a niche (who are also sympathetic to Dave Sim) market.

As well, Dave and Gerhard's style of art (highly detailed) is out of vogue with modern popular graphic novels that focus more on abstract or expressionistic styles (Persepolis, MAUS, The Sculptor).

I don’t know if the audience for Cerebus is out there yet. Maybe they haven't been born? I don't know anybody else my age (I'm 22) who even knows about Cerebus and any story you have to start of describing as "It's sort of like Conan with Howard the Duck" is going to have a tough run of it.

Friday 24 April 2015

Gerhard: "Sitting In One Spot For Four Days"

(via email, 22 April 2015)
Sitting in one spot for four days may not sound like a lot of fun. At a slow, ill-attended show two days can seem like four. But the 2015 Calgary Expo on 16-19 April was hands down THE best organized, best run and best attended show I've ever seen. That was the unanimous consensus of every other guest and exhibitor that I spoke with.

The staff and volunteers were incredibly helpful and efficient and possibly clairvoyant; the food cart would magically appear at the first thought of a hunger pang. Yes, you read that right... they provided free food and beverages (no beer, though) for the guests. The carts were brought around to our tables on a regular basis by extremely friendly and cheerful staff. The quality and selection were top-notch, especially the Mexican salad, California rolls and Dim Sum dumplings... okay, enough gushing about the food. I never liked eating at the table in front of the public, though; feels like you're on display at the zoo or something: Come To The Show! Watch The Starving Artists Eat!

With 102,000 people filing past and with the popularity and exuberance of cos-play (formerly known as 'dressing up') the guests behind the tables got to enjoy the parade as it passed by (when we didn't have our head down sketching). We met a lot of people; some die-hard fans (one guy drove the 3 hours down from Edmonton), some had never heard of Cerebus.

One young woman stood back from the table starting over my head for quite a while. When I asked if I could help her, she pointed at the Regency print behind me and sheepishly asked if I had drawn that. I told her that I had and showed her the smaller print in my display portfolio that she could have a closer look at. She was pouring over the image and I told her that the print was available for $20. She looked at me wide-eyed and said, "I can buy this?" Dumbfounded, she handed over a twenty while I slipped a print from the case and signed it.  She thanked me, told me that she knew nothing about comics; this was her first convention and she wandered away holding her print as if it were a holy relic.

It doesn't get better than that.

We were tired and show-shocked at the end but as Shel said the next morning, "I could do another day!"

Cerebus Sketch: Finished After 20 Years!

(via Twitter, 25 April 2015)
Finally finished a sketch I have had since 1993.

Weekly Update #79: Exploring The Basement

In which Dave Sim discusses: Cerebus Archive Number Two Diamond Edition, researching The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond, and upgrading the Off-White House basement.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Mrs Thatcher

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.

In March we saw a couple pages from Dave's fourteenth notebook, covering issues #127 and #135 it gives us a glimpse into Jaka's Story.

Mrs Thatcher doesn't show up until issue #133, but Dave started doing some sketches of her on page 12 of the notebook:

Notebook #14, page 12
The top two sketches look less like the Cerebus Mrs Snatcher Thatcher and more like the Prime Minister Thatcher. The sketch to the far right between the Prime Minister Thatcher and the Cirinist Thatcher doesn't look like Mrs Thatcher at all, but someone else.

On the next page we can see the Prime Minister Thatcher covered in a see through Cirinist cover.

Notebook #14, page 12
We see here again on page 48, looking more like the Mrs Thatcher from Cerebus, and she is wearing the head piece that we've seen before, not the full head mask as seen on page 13.

Notebook #14, page 46
A couple pages later we see more Mrs Thatcher head sketches, but from the her other side:

Notebook #14, page 49

Crowd-sourcing Church & State I Revisions!

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings everyone!

Some notable activity in the past week, mainly, getting scans of much of the amazing art collection of the generous Jim Guarnotta, which netted us another 30 (!) interior page scans, and some lovely one-off art as well. More information on that next week, when I'm back in town with access to the files again.. Thanks so much to Jim, and all of our Art Dragnet contributors so far!

So, now that High Society has been released, I've been thinking about the "revision" process we went through with that book, and how we can best tweak it for future volumes.

Dave and Mara and I proof-read High Society in a pretty comprehensive way, for the first time since it left Dave's art board. As I've mentioned before, Dave rarely made any changes to the books after the artwork was shot for monthly publication. I can only recall a few changes so far-- eliminating "cut lines" at the edge of a PMT in some Cerebus interior narration, adding/extending the art in the "BOOM!" double-page spread in Church & State I to maintain the bleed that was present in the monthly book. Re-shuffling the "Goat" pages to fit the format/page order of the first HS collection.

So, as we embark on a similar analysis of the Church & State I material, I thought, what better way to go about the process than asking you, as the patrons of this work-- what changes would you make to Church & State I to make it a more cohesive reading experience? After all, it's a process that served us extremely well when revising the "Goat" pages in High Society. (thanks again, Scott and Tom!)

Things we'd be looking for--

1. any spelling errors or punctuation oddities that might be lurking somewhere (only a handful in High Society by the way) (I'm looking at you, Jeff S!)

2. Any instances of MISSING TONE from Cerebus, or the dreaded "TONED TEETH." (i.e. instances where Dave or Gerhard missed cutting out the teeth from the letratone)

3. Any other visual abnormalities along these lines

4. Any suggestions you, the fans and patrons of this book, might have regarding artwork print size and margins/gutters. We didn't end up making any changes to HS, but it's very doable this time. Any designers in the audience want to take a crack at this puzzle? I'm personally working on the problem of re-instating the full bleeds on the "Mind Game III/IV" that were present in the monthly book, and in a few other issues as well. How best to do that? How much can the artwork be expanded, and in what way, and at what cost, without changing the actual physical makeup of the book?

5. Are there any elements remaining from the monthly publication that distract from the reading experience of the whole? Banners, "...continued"s, footnotes, etc...

6. What would you like to see in the back matter of the book, besides CANO names and art dragnet contributors? Production artwork? Enlargements? Another essay?

This is your time for feedback, and any and all suggestions, so pull out those Church & State I volumes, and let's hear what you have to say! I'll talk to Dave and see if we can scrounge up some prizes for all involved. Please leave a comment with your feedback.

Monday 20 April 2015

Eddie Khanna's TedTalk

(from a Patreon Update, 12 April 2015)
...Which leads me to my upcoming TedTalk, scheduled for May 18. Shortly after Dave came back from his surgery, he told me that the whole experience gave a good opportunity to test a "Defcon 2" type of situation: i.e. Dave Sim is Dead or Incapacitated in some kind of manner that prevents him from completing The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, and determining What Happens Next. He said he'd like me to have a 1 hour conversation with [IDW Publisher] Ted Adams as if the above has happened, discussing what we see as being the next step for the project, what we think should happen, and what we think Dave would have wanted. I'll be recording the conversation using my computer and then transcribing it to send to Dave, and then he's going to add his comments, noting which parts he agrees with, which he disagrees with, and what he thinks about the conversation and our assessments and decisions (much easier this way than having to use a Ouija board if the real thing were to happen), so I'm starting to make a list of everything we would need to cover. Just from my quick email exchange with Ted, I think I can safely say we're both on the same page about the importance of SDOAR. Read the full update at

Eddie Khanna is the Vancouver-based reader of Dave Sim's Glamourpuss who began researching The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond "by mistake". Read the full story of how that happened here...

Sunday 19 April 2015

Taboo: A Financial Kamikaze Plane

Taboo #1 (SpiderBaby Grafix, 1988)
Cover art by Steve Bissette
(from an interview with Chris Dahlen at A.V.Club, 23 July 2009)
...Taboo was not self-publishing. Taboo was my first real experience with publishing. Of the work that appeared in Taboo, very little of it was mine. With Taboo, I learned about the ethics of publishing. And our deal with Taboo was, we sunk no proprietary rights or hooks into any of that material. It was one-time publication, a flat page-rate, $100 a page, and that was it. Deal over.

When From Hell the movie was made, we got nothing from it. Some people felt like that was unfair, but hey, that was the deal. The whole reason From Hell and Lost Girls and Throat Sprockets exist today is because they were made for Taboo, and Taboo, I was the midwife. I literally looked at it as that profession. My job was to facilitate the birth of something into this world, and then I’m done...

...Dave Sim forged a friendship with John Totleben and I at the Mid-Ohio-Con. And Dave laid out his whole vision of the inverted pyramid, that the whole superstructure of these businesses was built on the backs of freelancers that they were treating badly, paying badly. But they wouldn't be going home with their paycheck every Friday if the freelancers didn't get their work done, and all their income and revenue was generated by the work of a freelance pool that was at the end of the food chain, instead of benefiting from the food chain.

I was receptive to that. Not just because it was a radical thought -- and it was, at the time -- but also because it was the first thing I'd ever heard from someone else in the industry that was making sense of my real-life experiences with the industry...

...Taboo was like a kamikaze plane going into the deck of the Midway. It was a defunct business model before it started! I lost tens of thousands of dollars. Dave Sim poured tens of thousands of dollars into it that he never got back. The year I made a ton of money off 1963, I sent Dave Sim a check for $10,000. And he said "Steve, your checks are no good here. Keep it." For Dave, it was an investment he had made in not just Taboo, but a group of creators he believed in, and it ended up having a beneficial effect on comics.

But no one ever waited for a check from Taboo. My family ate macaroni and cheese some weeks, which drove my wife nuts, as you can well understand. Because instead, a few hundred dollars were going to Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore, because the work on From Hell was underway...

As a comics-artist, Steve Bissette is best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore and John Totleben on DC Comics' Swamp Thing in the 1980s, as well as his own self-published Tyrant. As editor of the horror-anthology Taboo, he published the first serialised appearances of From Hell (by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell), Lost Girls (by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie) and the still-born Sweeney Todd (by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli).

After self-publishing Taboo #1-4 through SpiderBaby Grafix, Steve edited Taboo #5-7 and Taboo Especial which were co-published with Kevin Eastman's Tundra Publishing. In 1993 Tundra Publishing was involved in a controversial merger with Dennis Kitchen's Kitchen Sink Press, which published the final two volumes of Taboo, #8-9, in 1995 edited by Philip Amara. In 1994 Kitchen Sink Press had been purchased by Ocean Capital Corp. Kitchen Sink Press was finally dissolved in 1999.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Work For Hire: "Open Up Your Eyes To What’s Going On Here!"

Comic Book Creator #6: Swampmen
Edited by Jon Cooke & George Khoury
Cover art by Frank Cho

(from an interview conducted in 2003, printed in Comic Book Creator #6 in 2014)
...But that was what had me ultimately walk away from the [Swamp Thing] series. I just couldn’t stomach working with the company [DC Comics] any longer. Part of it was the awakening to what "work-for-hire" really meant, what the real impact of that was… that all of the work the three of us had done meant, in legal terms, that Alan [Moore] was not the writer, I was not the penciler, John [Totleben] was not the inker, but pairs of hands slaving for this corporate entity of DC and that they, DC Comics, was the creator of the property. That’s the legal conceit of work-for-hire.

At the time -- and it took a while to get my head around that -- there were a number of factors and one of them was John and I were really getting to know Dave Sim over this period. Dave knew what the life of a freelancer was because of his friendship with Gene Day, and Gene was one of the great tragedies of comics. Gene wanted to work for Marvel with every fiber of his being, got to work for Marvel, and ended up dying as a result of just allowing himself to be siphoned away. You know, made all of his deadlines, got everything done, but lived on coffee and cigarettes until physically, he was incapable of living any more. One time in particular, when Rick Veitch and myself spent a number of hours with Dave at some convention we were at, Dave just spilled the whole story of Gene Day. What his friendship was with Gene, how important their friendship was, what Gene meant to Dave, and how, in Dave's view, Marvel killed Gene Day; and that he, Dave, was living for the day that he could dance on the grave of Marvel. Dave really radicalized me over time. What DC did during this period, the event that I won’t discuss, definitely pushed me into the wake-up call of realizing that Dave Sim was right.

Dave has given some very eloquent testimonials, spoken at various gatherings, a lot of that material has been transcribed and written down and published in Cerebus, and that is a body of work that should be collected and studied, because he is right. By and large, the relationship between the creative people and the publishers can be a very dangerous one. Things changed a lot in the wake of what happened to us, and the fights that my generation fought at places like DC. The people who really scored were the bigger names, people like Frank Miller. Frank really broke ground with his Ronin and Dark Knight contracts. The fact is that when Alan walked away from DC, they lost him forever. I mean he really walked. He wasn’t coming back. (It's very telling to me about what Machiavellian maneuvers had to go on for the ABC line to end up at DC, but I won't even get into that, because that’s a separate conversation for a separate venue.)

Creators like Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis benefited from the real hard-fought battles that were fought. And, in my small way, I was involved in a number of those battles. Around the time of Swamp Thing #35, as we’re getting up to #40, my personal conflicts with DC over a legal matter came to a head, and my political reorientation to the whole nature of making a living as a freelancer was affected a great deal by my friendship with Dave Sim. It wasn’t like was Dave was ranting at me. It was that DC would prove Dave’s points almost every time.

John Totleben went every year to Mid-Ohio Con, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. We would donate art to the auction, do sketches, and it was a great communal event. It was a lot of fun. Dave was at Mid-Ohio where we first met him, and Dave showed up one day at our hotel with a limo and said, "Boys, get in." And I didn’t know what to do. I didn't even know that you weren't supposed to open the door yourself when you got to where you were going, that you’re supposed to wait until the guy comes around. You know, Dave's whole thing was, "Guys, this is how the executives at the company you work for travel. [Jon laughs] Get a taste of it."

There's something wrong when the pyramid is reversed. There’s something wrong when you're the guys shelling out for taxicab fare or hitchhiking to conventions and staying three and four in a room, all the while the publishers are coming here in the limos and getting Presidential suites. Dave's whole orientation was to open our eyes to what the power dynamic was, what the reverse pyramid was, as he put it, where the whole power structure was built on the back of the freelancers, and we got a real taste of that with the success of Swamp Thing, you know? We got a glimpse that suddenly made sense to us.

We all went to New York City to meet Alan and Phyllis for the first time. There's Dave Gibbons, delivering the first pages of Watchmen, Alan and Phyllis are put up in one of the best hotels in New York City, and Dave ends up in a dive on 42nd Street where his room is broken into because he's the artist [laughs] and Watchmen is just in the early stages. It was hard to ignore the favoritism going on, and it was getting harder to ignore it any longer.

If I was called in to the Marvel office, Marvel footed the bill. If I brought in receipts for the train ticket and cab fare, I was reimbursed. But when DC called John and I in, we had to pay for travel. It took me longer to wake up to it because of the fun I was experiencing doing the work, the fun of doing the comics. So had it not been for people like Dave saying, "Listen, open up your eyes to what's going on here!" I would have remained blissfully ignorant.

I bring all that up, Jon, because that’s part of what also soured my passion of staying with the book. By the time we got to American Gothic, where it was all schematically laid out for the next 10 issues where we were going and what was going to be in what issue, the ride was over. It was that I knew 12 months down the road where we were going so there was no fun to it any longer. I remember the metaphor John used, and John’s great with this stuff. He says, "You know, we put the car on the road and now they want us to ride in the backseat." [laughs] And it was true. It wasn't a power thing. That wasn't what it was about. It was that everything the book had become was through our energy and drive and concepts; and suddenly, there was this road map and we were part of the machine. It just wasn't as fun any more, but the personal side cannot be downplayed and I take full responsibility, and always have, for my issues of deadlines, and so on, but it’s still tough to hear some of the stuff said at DC. It's pretty easy to ignore their culpability in a lot of events that went on, but that's what they did...

Stephen R. Bissette is best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on Saga of the Swamp Thing from 1983-87, and for his self-published Tyrant comic, the portrait of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the late Cretaceous period. He also edited the ground-breaking horror comics anthology Taboo, which launched From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. He co-authored the books Comic Book Rebels and The Monster Book: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and his novella Aliens: Tribes, illustrated by Dave Dorman, won a Bram Stoker Award in 1993. More recently his articles on horror films have been collected in the Blur series published by Black Coat Press and Steve currently serves on the faculty of The Center For Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. 

With SWAMPMEN out this week (from Jon B. Cooke, George Khoury, TwoMorrows, 2014), it's time to remind everyone in the community that the painted cover art to SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #34 and the final page of that issue (Rites of Spring) are STILL STOLEN PROPERTY.

These belong to John Totleben and yours truly, Stephen Bissette -- only they don't, because they were stolen right out of the DC Comics offices in 1984-85.

These are STILL STOLEN PROPERTY. Anyone owning, trafficking, trading, or harboring this original art -- SOTST #34 cover painting and the final story page -- is involved (knowingly or unknowingly) in criminal activity.

John and I also have children; mine are now adults. They are looking, too. Even after we're dead and gone, this will be sought-after STOLEN PROPERTY.

This is not going to "go away."

Stephen R. Bissette, 2014

Tumblr: All Of Cerebus For Free

All Of Cerebus, One Page Every Day
(from an article by Rich Johnston, 17 April 2015)
Cerebus is one of the greatest comic book works in the history of humanity. Initially a funny animal parody of Conan The Barbarian, it became a comic about politics, religion, life and death. And parodying anything that geek and pop culture was obsessed with along the way. Running for 300 issues, for twenty-five years, it is 6000 pages long.

And it is running, with permission of Dave Sim, one page a day on Tumblr. The first two issues are up. If completed it will take [over 16 years] to conclude. Tumblr may not even be around that long. Just consider it a daily comic book strip. Oh and it will get really good in about a year-and-a-half…

And if you can’t wait, there’s always Cerebus Downloads...

Friday 17 April 2015

High Society Figurine

(via Cerebus Facebook Group, 7 April 2015)
...animator Zeke Sabee actually had a figurine made that at Dave's suggestion was going to be made available with a limited premium edition of the [High Society Digital Audio/Visual Experience] DVD. IDW thought it a great idea and was totally onboard, but in the end Zeke's production costs of mould making and poly resin casting were too high. Now with 3D printers becoming common place that could maybe have gone very differently.

Weekly Update #78: All Good Things Come In Threes

Featuring updates on Dave Sim's contributions to the Cerebus Covers collection from IDW, Cerebus: Fractured Destiny movie, and The Puma Blues collection from Dover Books.


Unboxing Video For "High Society: Digital Audio / Visual Experience"

New to the world of computers, Dave Sim tries his hand at an unboxing video as he has heard that there is "an entire website" devoted to the pastime. Although there is no box per se, the spirit of the Unboxing Video is adhered to throughout this presentation.

8-Disc DVD Box-Set
by Dave Sim, with George Peter Gatsis
IDW, $39.99

Wednesday 15 April 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.

So way back in July 2014 we saw page 72 of Dave's notebook #7. Through that page we could see page 71, which was Dark Roach from the cover of Cerebus #93, Dave's homage to the cover of Batman: The Dark Knight #2 by Frank Miller.  

Dave started sketching some roughs for the cover of #93, a grimacing Dark Roach, on page 69. He had some different mock-ups of the title for that issue 'assassin' along with the different tries of 'Bishop to Queen Two' and 'Vortex'. Note of the three would be the actual title of the book, as Dave went with 'The Prisoner' instead.

Notebook #7, page 69
We also see the thumbnail of page 1 of issue 93 in the above notebook. Page 70 is some floating heads and dialogue for some of the first couple pages of the issue. Then on page 71 we see a couple of roughs of the cover for issue #93.

Notebook #7, page 71

Heartfelt Philosophizing at the ookstore

Mara Sedlins:

I've been back in the States for about week now and am settling back into a normal routine with restoration work. Working abroad worked out fine - but it feels like a luxury now to be back in my home office with a standing desk and large monitor. Sean told me the negative scans we have for Church & State I are looking fantastic, so I'm looking forward to working on those once I finish the original art scans I'm focusing on right now.

I suppose this is old news by now (thankfully), but I wanted to share a few thoughts related to Dave's recent health crisis. First of all, I share everyone's relief at his recovery and good wishes for his continued improvement. I also want to echo Sean's comments about the way a crisis like this puts things in perspective. In the day-to-day you become occupied with immediate concerns and small difficulties - but when you're forced to shift focus, then you see the world in a new light and your real priorities become clearer. 

The best examples of art do this too - though ideally without a trip to the hospital.

I found that travel can also produce a perception-shift, though for me it was fairly subtle. People warn you about reverse culture shock when you return home after living in another country. But when I got back to San Diego, I just felt a renewed sense of gratefulness for everything in my life - my home and spouse, friends and family (including two precious-beyond-belief baby nieces) - everyone I love and the memories I have here. 

I hope that as the recovery process continues, Dave and all those who care about him will find ways to see beauty in the impermanence and fragility of every human endeavor.

Heartfelt philosophizing aside, I did find one very specific thing unchanged when I returned to San Diego. Getting back to work on C & S I, I discovered that I really need a good reference copy of my own to work from - especially for a page like this:

As you can see, the outline of the bird has been mostly obscured by a bad ink spill. There's simply no way to clear this up without consulting the original printing. I remembered seeing a pristine copy of C & S I at a used bookstore (excuse me - a used "ookstore") a while back and returned a couple days ago to see if it was still there.

It was a fun experience to walk into this haphazard place, cramped with piles of books everywhere, nothing alphabetized (of course if I owned an ookstore, it would be compulsively organized!) - and go straight to the thing I wanted, still in the same spot I remembered from months ago.

Book in hand, I was able to finish working on the ink-spilled page yesterday:

Middle-- scanned from my reference copy. Bottom-- cleaned original art

Come to think of it, coming back from a long trip, or emerging from a crisis, or having a brush with mortality - all of these things can make the world more vivid to the senses. For example, I now realize that San Diego air has a particular, delicate scent - probably something to do with the ocean - that had become so familiar to me that I stopped perceiving it until I left and then came back again. My goal with the cleanup process for Church & State I is to give readers a similar experience of renewed vividness - to bring out details that had been obscured, to make the familiar new again.

"Cerebus: Fractured Destiny" Update

Gerhard's pencilled/inked/coloured Sanctuary (above) stunningly modelled in 3D by John Eyre (below).
Keep up to date with the latest Cerebus movie news here!