Sunday, 30 October 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: Guys

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...The final third of Cerebus kicks off with Guys. Similar to Jaka's Story and Melmoth, Guys takes place on a small set with a small cast of central players. Almost all of the periphery bit-characters are in-joke tributes to other self-publishers. This is Sim settling back down to earth and using his book to have some laughs with his buddies. The Guys.

Issue #202 proclaims this intention to shut back off from the world and put everything into the book... From here on out Sim is just inviting us to share in his personal collection of interests. During Guys the letter column gives way to essays like "My Chat With Neil", "Comics and the Mass Medium", and a titanic interview with Alan Moore about From Hell... [Read the full review here...]

Cerebus Vol 12: Rick's Story
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day


Kit said...

Slow down on these, Carson! You're going to run out of books soon.

Martin Humble was a major character in Starchild; Owen was at least mildly aggrieved that Sim effectively took his character outright rather than doing a passing parody. He noted at the time people criticising him at conventions for stealing Dave Sim's character and thinking he could get away with it...

Mailer is drawn by Hirschfeld, but a Hirschfeld giving some concern to three-dimensional physicality, outside, and Sim indoors. IIRC, there are even Ninas hidden in the early drawings. Presumably the difference in styles indicates that the images accompanying the transcription represent his own self-image as a high iconic figure, immortalised by other media.

The louche fellow in the tie, IIRC, was a martini-sodden escapee from Very Vicky.

I don't see anything of a Campbell style on the first appearance of the Bacchus/grandmother character, apart from the slow, moody pacing. Sim's using his own line and hatching, and a very representational mode of spotting blacks, rather than the more gestural or suggestive one that might have appeared in Bacchus under the pen of Campbell or Hillyer or Mullins or Post or whoever might have been in the room, or on the other side of the world with the pages, that day.
The imprecision of "Eddie Campbell's style" is shown up in the reprise: those are still Sim lines on Bacchus face and hands, while he IS doing an absolutely magnificent version of the c. 1980-1983 style that Alec stories were drawn in (the lettering gets laxer after the first few panels). But it's not the style of Professor Bean, or of the 1986-90 Alec stories, or of From Hell, or of the 1970s not-Alec-yet Ace Rock'n'Roll Club stories, or Beem Gotelump, or the 1991-1996 Alec stories, or of Rodney, The Man Who Blew Up The World, or etc etc.

The lettering on Gently Bent, and the drawing, captures the Tug & Buster mode of Hempel's designs, but Sim's tools don't have the same impact as Hempel's heavy brushwork in that book. Those screwed-up eyes in the last panel are amazing, though, as an example of Sim replicating an element of the Tug & Buster lines.
(Note that Alec appears at the bar here, too (with the white hair of a 1996 Campbell, not the thick black brushtop of the 1970s Alec seen above - one might take this an an indication of how long has been spent in the bar by now, except that the 1970s Alec had the children of the 1996 Alec/Eddie) - he's now drawn in Sim style now that he's not the focus of his own vignette, as Mailer changed. If I had my copy to hand I'd go through and look for more examples of the style parodies slipping away as the subjects become regular denizens of the tavern.

The Anton Drek is so good - right down to the display lettering - that I wondered at the time if Simpson had inked it himself.

You don't note the use of Sagendorfy letterforms on the Squinteye and Bluto dialogue, or the specifically 1987-1991-or-so serifs on the Dan Clowes balloons. As with the appearance of Seth using Diana Schutz' voice in C&S, though, Sim appears to be putting a cod-Groth into Clowes' mouth...

Carson Grubaugh said...


This is awesome. Thank you for filling in on the in-jokes I don't have the background to catch!

BTW. All my commentaries, from Jaka's Story on, were written in a week or so back in late July or early August. I wanted to get them all done before the school year kicked back in.

Jeff Seiler said...

Dave; Spoiler Warning!: Don't read this!

"All of the subtle motivations and reactions under the surface of the conversation. Knowing that Sim probably thinks this way during most conversations makes speaking with him a bit unnerving, to be perfectly honest. What are *my* tells?"

This takes me back to July of 2011, when I visited Dave in Kitchener, prior to going up north to retrieve my belongings from the crazy Canadian lady. Dave invited me out to lunch at the cafeteria at City Hall (a very good place to eat).


Before then, whenever we talked on the phone or in person, Dave had the unnerving trait of listening without making a sound until I was done speaking. It was almost as if he was counting the words and the paragraph breaks, and only when the final word was spoken would he reply. On more than one occasion I had to ask if he was still on the line, because of his other unnerving trait of taking a long pause before replying. (If you get the chance to speak with him in person some day, you'll see what I mean.)


So, that day at the cafeteria, as we sat at the table by the window, we were talking about the difficulty I (and many, many others) had had in getting copies of the Cerebus Archive comic book. It was a hot topic for me, so I was getting worked up. Dave started to explain.


Prior to this, I had learned to mimic Dave's trait of listening thoroughly without interjecting, whenever he was speaking. So, we would have these long phone conversations where only one person spoke, at length, and then there was silence, and then the other party would speak, at length.


With whom does one speak, telephonically or face-to-face, in that manner, except for with Dave?


So, AAANYWAY, that day at the window table in City Hall, as Dave started to explain about the delays between ordering the Cerebus Archive comic book online and receiving them, I interjected something like, "But..."

It hadn't been my first interjection over the years.

And Dave immediately said, "Jeff...*shut* *up*. We don't have a lot of time here."

I recoiled, sitting up straight, but promptly zipped my lips.

And that was when I resolved never again to interrupt Mr. Sim.

(Later, on the way to Toronto, he apologized, but I waved him off.) Interrupting, even with interjections, is rude. And, I'm here to tell you that Dave, having spent his early years being slightly less than decorous, has been the very soul of propriety for many, many years now.

He probably won't appreciate me posting this, but I'm just "reading into the Record".

Carson Grubaugh said...


This is hilarious. I actually talk about the exact same experience re: phone conversations in a later commentary. I became hyper aware of my rude tendency to interrupt and how kind Dave was about tolerating the bad habit right-quick. I am trying to improve this habit in all my conversations now, but it is deeply ingrained behavior that is hard to get around. It is totally unnerving at first, but underneath the socially trained discomfort it is really extremely respectful.

Thankfully my long-time art/teaching mentor is also hyper-sensitive to these wide-spread, awful habits, so I am used to being called on acting like an unthinking jack-ass. The most recent one was he (my mentor) asked me if I wanted to come over and get some files for a class right after we got off the phone, or the next night after I got off of work. My, stupid, socially ingrained, standard response was, "I am good either way. Whichever works best for you." He scolded me for flipping the question back on him when he had just explicitly told me that either was fine for him and it was up to me. "See what you just did there? Make a damned decision for yourself." "True. Sorry. I will come over right now."

Another thing he constantly nails me on is, "...I didn't think that x,y,z..." "See what you just said? Don't admit you didn't think first. Think, then speak!"

I have been lucky to have not only a great father, but also a true mentor in my area of expertise, an art-dad. I think men really benefit from a second father figure in their discipline of choice. The more the better.

When I have talked to two of my closest female friends (both high-level, successful Fine-Art-World artists, well versed in Feminist Theory) about this they both suggested that their equivalent experience was found in having a friend who went through the training process at the same time as them. This was valued over having another woman, or man, in a position of authority train them.

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, thanks, Carson! What I've received from Dave, as my pseudo mentor, is the ability to think more deeply and to be much more precise with my words.

I mean, "God! Help!!" is about as precise as it gets. (I'm pretty sure you guys {and especially the divine Ms. M} know where that line is from, in the canon.)

Off to watch the Cubbies start their comeback now. Then it's start packing for my annual vacation from sanity in Key West.

C ya!

Jeff Seiler said...

BTW, the first guy I interned for (as a teaching assistant) turned out to be a friend of 34 years and counting. The second professor for whom I was a teaching assistant was always asking me to help him clean up his office while I listened to him bitch about how the university wouldn't grant him full tenure because they knew he liked to smoke pot.

Both great guys, btw.

I've met some very interesting people as I've travelled down the road: I was once alone in a room with Bob Hope. But that's a story for another day. Gotta go.

Jack said...

Getting back to the artwork on display... The shot at Dan Clowes always annoyed me. Maybe Dave lumps everyone published by Fantagraphics together as an evil Grothian horde of snide pretentiousness, but while Gary actually has called people "meretricious philistines" in print, I really can't imagine Clowes speaking like that. Dave may have been responding to Clowes's statement in a TCJ interview that he was immediately turned off by Cerebus because it was about "an anteater with a sword." But come on, preferring Crumb and "Young Lust" to a funny animal barbarian parody (which really was how Cerebus began) is an aesthetic preference, not a sign that he's a Margret Dumont-esque snob. Clowes seems pretty down-to-earth to me (he recently did a very entertaining interview with Marc Maron for the WTF podcast).

The Clowes parody aside, Dave's use of word balloons and lettering in that sequence and elsewhere is pretty amazing and possibly unique in comics. I think his best work by far is in the final third of the book.

Jeff Seiler said...

I agree, Jack. I think GUYS is the single best volume. And, in the latter third of the work, Dave 'n' Ger's work became seamless. (When Ger was there, that is.)

Dave Sim said...

Hi Jeff -- that was at TORONTO City Hall not KITCHENER City Hall. I wouldn't have done it otherwise -- i.e. if we had had the drive to Toronto ahead of us instead of the (ostensibly) very little time we had left until you had to be on your way to the crazy Canadian lady. You were critiquing how CEREBUS ARCHIVE worked through COMIXPRESS -- on the basis of your experience -- and I knew what you were going to say and that it didn't take into account how it NEEDED to work. And it was about ten minutes in and you still hadn't really gotten to your points. At the time, I thought I was just going to sign your books and you'd be on your way. Which would mean there wouldn't have been time for me to explain why your way wasn't going to work.

My conversational "tick" really comes from the fact that, two sentences in, I know what the other person is going to say. There really isn't anything "new" in conversations with CEREBUS fans. So, mentally, I'm already "AT" my answer, but it's both rude and irritating to interrupt someone, tell them where they were going with what they were saying and what my response is. It's part and parcel of being a walking talking CEREBUS Tourist Attraction.

It's new to them so you have to treat it as new.

I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that a CEREBUS fan has said something or asked something that I haven't heard or been asked before.

You have to experience it to be aware of it. If I ask someone about their work, it's 99.9% certain that they already know what I'm about to ask and what their answer is.

I used to be the same way with attractive women and feminism. I already knew what they were going to say but I was perfectly content to let them talk as long as they wanted because it meant that I could violate the societal taboo of not staring at women, while staring at her. I miss that. A lot.

Dave Sim said...

Jack - I had very limited experience with Dan Clowes, but the one that stuck with me was being driven to a signing or a dinner after a signing with him and a couple of the Drawn and Quarterly artists and he made a sneering reference to "Those Golden Age Guys" who do conventions.

I'm a "respect your elders" type so that definitely put him into the Elevated Snob category.

Maybe he isn't like that all the time.

Thanks for posting here!

Jack said...

Jeez, in that recent podcast interview I mentioned, he spoke about being influenced by the comics artists who were WWII vets, saying that a lot of them seemed to be working out demons from the war. Oh well, you've probably had more personal interaction with the guy than I have. I did use a urinal next to him once in San Diego, but I wouldn't say it resulted in a lasting bond.

Jeff Seiler said...

And as to my account of those memorable two days five (FIVE!) years ago:

Ah, memories! Such fleeting, floating, frangible, fungible things...

Dave Sim said...

Hi Jack! Thanks for posting again - That "working out demons" thing seems to me WAY too feminized and, to me, does a disservice to REALLY masculine guys. It definitely stuck with them and had a lasting impact and came out in their work. EVERYthing comes out in your work. But I think their, to me, ADMIRABLE assimilation of their experiences into who they were -- the masculine approach -- works far better for men than deciding everything is PTSD and going the whole psychologist route. "LET IT ALL OUT!!" Uh, no. I'm a guy. If I was a girl, I'd "LET IT ALL OUT!!" That doesn't work for me.

Of course my saying that is as a guy who is 60 years old and comes from the tag-end of a whole different NON-feminized reality that is going away as fast as we are.

Mr. Clowes' generation definitely skews in the "Let's find a reality that men AND women can agree on!" which, as I say, I think does a grave disservice to men -- can we say we're talking about Jack Kirby here? Yes? -- who didn't think that way and are never consulted when those sorts of changes are adopted. "Here, we'll just move THESE goalposts around how you've perceived yourself up until now. AWWW! Poor thing! You have PTSD."

As I say, a disservice to guys, many of whom paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedoms.

I didn't have much personal interaction with him, but there was that jarring observation about "Golden Age guys" that stuck with me.

Thanks again for posting. No hard feelings, I hope.

Jack said...

Hi Dave,

"Working out demons" was my phrase, not Clowes's, so you can call me a girly underpantsy sissy boy and allow for the possibility that Clowes is a manly man who wouldn't hesitate to take his cock out and slap the living shit out of you with it.

His point was along the lines of, "WWII inspired these guys to draw dark, violent comics," and I don't see how that's a feminized view. Whether they have PTSD or not, war veterans are likely to have a harsher worldview than non-vets like you or me and a tougher time fitting into the civilian world, aren't they? I mean, an office job seems a little anti-climactic after D-Day, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the Hell's Angels was founded by WWII vets.

No, Clowes definitely wasn't talking about Kirby, and I'm not sure the war had much to do with Kirby's particular genius. He was talking about much lesser known guys who did much darker stuff; he mentioned one guy in particular, but I'd have to go back and listen to the interview to get the name.

Jack said...

Well, I went back and listened to the relevant part of the Clowes interview, and his discussion of post-war comics artists actually would strike Dave as disrespectful and diametrically opposed to his own view of a manfully stoic Greatest Generation. Clowes describes drawings of exploding flesh, sneering Supermen, Hitler-like Jimmy Olsens, and body dysmorphia as coming from the “reptile brains” of veterans who clearly had PTSD and non-veterans who felt guilty about sitting the war out. He also singles out a horror artist named Bob Powell, who frequently drew stories about creepy scientists using monsters to imprison their female assistants, and laughingly asks, “Why wasn’t this guy arrested?” So you probably wouldn’t like him any more if you got to know him better, Dave.

I think you’re mistaken if you see PTSD as some kind of pseudoscientific bullshit designed to feminize men. If combat doesn’t have the potential to permanently harm people’s brains, I don’t know how you can explain the fact that more Vietnam vets committed suicide after the war than died during the war. But my impression is that PTSD didn’t affect WWII veterans as much as U.S. veterans of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, maybe because of the guerrilla nature of the latter three wars.

Sorry if the opening to my last post was too vulgar for this site. I just thought it would be funny.

Jeff Seiler said...

Dave, speaking as the trained psychologist that I am, I can tell you that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real thing for war veterans of both genders and for victims of sexual abuse, rape, and violent crimes. (Not to mention some other things.) If you go back to your prayer that is printed in Cerebus issue #300 (which I assume you still recite five times a day), you should remember that you are a very fortunate white man--one who never had to go fight militery battles, as am I. (Though you have fought many battles of your own, as have I.) :)

My point is that PTSD should not be dismissed out of hand. It's real, for both genders, and it can ruin a life. Has ruined lives. Saying "man up" or "grow a pair", etc., (not that you did) is ineffective (not to mention insensitive).

Feel free to use the pejorative label of Psychologist on me, but I know what I'm talking about and I've seen it first-hand.

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, Jack, we left that kind of talk back over at the Yahoo Cerebus Chatgroup.

We're much more civil here.

Most of the time,

Ya daffy bastid.

Jack said...

I also have to apologize for my line about the Vietnam suicides. I thought I'd heard it from multiple mainstream sources, but a quick Google search indicates it's complete bullshit.

Cory Foster said...

I had always thought that the Greggo character (the Sinatra-esque braggart) also had a touch of Hirschfeld in him, especially in the hands. Does anyone else see that, or am I nuts?

Dave Sim said...

Jack & Jeff - No problem, we're all three -- and Dan Clowes -- speaking from an entirely uninformed perspective, never having been in combat.

Even guys who have been in combat disagree about the effects of that combat.

Promotions in the military are, in most cases, based in no small part on behaviours and actions under combat conditions so I think you'd get some funny looks -- justifiably -- from a four-star general who got to where he is by exhibiting uncommon bravery under fire, that -- because he doesn't have PTSD or dealt with the situation better than someone who did -- he's some sort of psycho. Which I think is the prevailing feminized viewpoint: anyone who is Good At War should be locked up.

That's fine as long as China, say, doesn't decide to initiate conventional combat. In which case, you're going to need guys who don't flinch from that. And if you elbow them all out of the way because they aren't feminized enough -- which is what the G7 militaries are ALL doing -- it's too late to go out and find a bunch of new ones.

Personal opinion.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Ah, yes; Dave says, "My conversational 'tick' [he means 'tic'] really comes from the fact that, two sentences in, I know what the other person is going to say." We can clearly see that at work in his interview with Tasha Robinson at "The AV Club":

-- Damian