Friday 30 June 2017

"Comic Books Are The Best Medium Of Communication. Period."

Read 'Minds'
Words & Pictures Museum
June 20 - August 18, 1996

15 September 04

Dear Scott [Berwanger]:

It seems more and more obvious to me as we go along that "acceptance" is a largely-mythological concept—acceptance in the sense that comic-book people use it: that some day we might be like movies and television. I think both of those are dying in very interesting ways, dying out of a state of universal “acceptance” because of the fragmenting of society. With the growth of indy television and indy movies, more people are getting work, but the universal recognition factor is languishing. Most people who are thought of as stars (or, rather, Stars) are from the time period before the wholesale fragmentation began to take place. I think movies and television are becoming a lot more like comic books—environments where you find the thing you like and there you go, that’s your thing. Virtually everyone has an audience of whatever size and if you do it right an audience of a couple of hundred devotees and a few thousand marginally-interested people can provide you with a decent livelihood if you do right by them: be accessible, interested in discussing your own work, and supportive of the efforts directed towards you.

Translations I avoid because I’m unilingual. I don’t know what’s being communicated or how well if someone else is translating me. I tend to see translation as a different kind of creativity. You take something in one language and translate not just the words, but the underlying concept into another language and culture. Cerebus, I don’t think, is amenable to that. There are too many nuanced ideas I’m trying to get across, and it seems to me that nuance is the first thing to go when you’re changing a specific example of creativity into another example of creativity. Besides, I have enough problems with people trying to change me into a feminist in English without having to worry about how someone is attempting to do that in another language I don’t speak.

There are a bunch of us who have been trying to figure out how to accomplish a cross-fertilization between comics and other fields. I suspect virtually all, if not all, attempts could be summed up as you have summed up your own effort with comics and oil painting: “I’d have to say that it was a very marginal kind of success. Maybe not even that. By and large, the reception was only attended by family and friends, even though an ad was run in the local paper and 600 invitations were mailed to gallery patrons.” I mean, that is a success. Think of all the artists who would kill to be able to have that last half of the second sentence be true in their own cases. The number who will never have an exhibit anywhere. And I think that’s one of the “opposing poles” qualities that will keep comics and fine art at a remove from each other. You were looking to have an effect on people, to affect their thinking and their perceptions. Most gallery artists are just interested in moving the product and having a great party where they’re the centre of attention. Most gallery art is part of a network of interlocking “portrayers”: the agent, the gallery owner, the reviewer, the patron, the peer, all of whom are considered to be key players in successful gallery art. Communication, I think, went out the window a long time ago in that context.

My own experiment consisted of displaying the entirety of Minds at Kevin Eastman’s short-lived Words & Pictures Museum. What if you put a whole story up on the walls, so people could read an entire graphic novel? Answer: they don’t. You don’t read pictures on the wall, you socialize in front of the pictures with a nice glass of wine. The pictures are secondary conversation pieces. Looking on the bright side, it gave me a lot greater appreciation for the level of attention that a graphic novel gets. When you’re reading a book, the book is the entire focus of your attention. It’s something you do in isolation. You just don’t get that level of attention in a gallery setting.

We have vivid and active imaginations, so I’m sure these won’t be our last experiments with cross-pollination, but all of mine to date have pointed in the same direction: comic books are the best medium of communication. Period.

Take care,


PS: Jules Feiffer is a cartoonist best known for his strip Feiffer that appeared for years in the Village Voice. A lot of people think his work is dated at this point, but I don’t think so. It’s very squishy middle-of-the-road liberal stuff, but a lot of it is very insightful and very funny. He was way ahead of everyone else (including Woody Allen) in seeing the humour in psychiatry. Woody Allen got a lot of his stage persona from Feiffer's Bernard Morgendeiler character.

From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004: Vol 3", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

One Fondue Set Please

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.

Dave Sim's notebook #16, used for Cerebus #122 - 125, has been showcased here four times in the past. The most recent time we saw some of the 67 pages scanned for this notebook was in November of 2016 in Soul and Substance.

Somehow the cover has never been shown here in one of those four entries. And I bet you'll be really surprised to find out that it is a Hilroy notebook:

Notebook #16, front cover
The next picture is the final page scanned in the notebook, page 68:

Notebook #16, page 68
First, if you're wondering, the page not scanned was page 7. Typically I didn't scan pages if it was blank. When would I'd scan a 'blank' page? When what was on the other side showed through to the blank side.

But I digress.

As you can see, page 68 shows the "Note From the President" for Cerebus #124. Or does it? I just looked at Cerebus #124 and this isn't the NFTP for that issue. Though I think I've seen this before, I just can't place it. Perhaps someone in the comments can tell us where it actually saw print, or perhaps if I just dreamt I had read it in Cerebus. . .

Cerebus in Hell-- the Torment Never Stops, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: JUN171076

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello everyone!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is off for the week, as I try to scrape a bunch of persistent Cerebus-related tasks off the ol' work plate...

...the biggest and most burdensome of which was accomplished last week! On Friday, I finished the prepress work on the first nine Cerebus In Hell? one-shots, and approved printer proofs of the first four. The last five I'm letting marinate for a few weeks in the hopes I can look at them fresh again and catch any additional errors or other issues before they actually go off to the printer.

And if nine months of lead time isn't enough, cartoonist, art instructor and all-around awesome guy Benjamin Hobbs has been laboring away lettering and digitally compositing Dave's new strips, which Dave continues to produce at an astounding rate. 

So, if sales continue at their present rate, and barring any major disasters, we can look forward to at least a year of more Cerebus in Hell?

But, hey, order those books, kids. Have you talked to your retailer yet?

More Stuff

Most of the other things have been catching up on are a bit mundane to write about here, but there is one thing I just started into that I thought might be interesting to some folks out there. After finishing most of the restoration work on Jaka's Story, I've finally gotten around to making more jokey sequel title cards working on the OCR for the text pages of the book, to be passed on to proofreader Jeff Seiler for editing.

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, and if you're working from typeset source material, it's usually your best chance at (relatively) painlessly transfering printed text to digital text that can be edited, re-typeset and laid out in a standard layout program. Depending on the book, and the sources of materials and amount of text, we've tried differing approaches in this restoration. For instance, I've let the High Society text mostly stay as it was when it was printed, without retypesetting, as the initial typesetting looked pretty good and there were only a few errors to correct. Going Home was left as-is, as it looked fantastic and needed very minor corrections. But Reads was OCRed and the layout completed from scratch, owing to some of the oddities in the original layout and typsetting. Jaka's Story has similar issues, in that the original text doesn't look particularly good, even when sourced from the original artwork, owing to it being reduced on a photocopier and pasted on to the art board. 

So I'm going through the entire book and scanning the printed edition using Vuescan, my trust scanner software, to make a mult-page PDF, each scan adding another page to the file. I have Vuescan also set to simultaneously be performing OCR on each scan and dumping the result into a text file. When I'm done with the scanning I'll compare Adobe Acrobat's OCR results to the Vuescan results and see which will yield the best results, and then send them both along to Jeff Seiler, along with instructions on how to proceed.

And here's what the Vuescan OCR has made of the above text block:

‘=~r,;~i;;%‘   ND THEN, QITE
f.__*‘;-i’ f‘*_<‘:.\.‘ suddenly (and very
"" U“  *" calm1y),shehaddrawn
"7 _  herself up to her full
 If} “Fl threefooteightandone
  -‘ff quarter inches of
  “ *“ ' height!-lerhands,flny
and delicate like the wings of a small bird,
rose from her sides; and. inrlslng, seemed
to call forth the clamorous throng of her
mind's eye; all silent wlth anticipation;
some few smiling and nodding their
She began to tum in place.
As you can probably tell, it's not too keen on the majuscules. We'll see if the Acrobat OCR does any better!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions for future posts after I'm finally done with PTPTPA? Let me know in the comments!

Monday 26 June 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: June 2017

Tim here, filling in for a poorly Travis Pelkie, with a selection of picks from the latest Diamond Previews catalog for the discerning Cerebus reader (or basically all the comics I would buy if I had an unlimited budget). I realise Travis would have done a much better job, so lets all wish him a speedy recovery for next time! Visit Travis at Atomic Junk Shop for a wider (and probably much better) selection of reading recommendations. To see your comics featured here or at the Atomic Junk Shop feel free to send an email to Travis at: atomicjunkshoptravis [at] outlook [dot] com. 

Batvark #1
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
Ardvark-Vanaheim, $4.00
In stores: 30 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171076

The publisher says:
Two-part "Secret Origin of Batvark"; "Batvark's Credo" and finally an answer to "Is Batvark a Homophobe?" Plus reprints of the earliest Cerebus in Hell? online strips (6/24/16 to 6/30/16): first appearance of Fredric Nietzsche; King Solomon writes his lawyer; Literalistic Limbo; first appearance of Jingles, the world's greatest collector of CGC-graded Dog Comics; Avengers movies remade with an all-Kardashian sister cast; Life With Archie Civil War; and more! 

Border Worlds
by Don Simpson
Dover Books, $29.95
In stores: 16 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171635

The publisher says:
With her life in chaos and nothing left to lose, Jenny Woodlore joins her brother's ramshackle trucking business on Chrysalis, a huge floating platform on the edge of the galaxy, only to find herself in the middle of a cosmic conflict that could alter the very fabric of the universe. A dark and visionary adventure, Don Simpson's epic Border Worlds is now available in a single, hardcover volume, gathering the back-up features first published by the Kitchen Sink Press in issues #6 to #10 of Megaton Man as well as its own self-titled series and the one-shot Border Worlds: Marooned. Simpson has also added an all-new chapter that finally brings his acclaimed work to a long-anticipated conclusion. Afterword by legendary comics artist, editor, and publisher Stephen R. Bissette. 

Stephen R. Bissette says in his afterword:
...Border Worlds was launched as a back-up series in Megaton Man 6-10 (October 1985-June 1986), and they were odd companions, to say the least: Megaton Man was a spry, flamboyant, playful, upbeat parody of the dominant comic book genre (superheroes), where as Border Worlds was aloof, adult, dark and often despairing in tenor, tone, and narrative, a definite change of pace. It was also where Simpson wanted to go with his work at the time. "I decided to test the waters with Border Worlds as a back-up feature," Simpson says, "especially when Marvel's lawyers sent us a threatening letter over the alleged unfair use of their trade marks (as if anyone would confuse a two-dollar comic with a sixty cent comic in those days!). Anyway, I found my bank of Megaton Man ideas depleted around the time Kitchen Sink Press decided to end Megaton Man with issue ten and continue Border Worlds as a moody black-and-white series"...

Howard The Duck
by Steve Gerber & many others
Marvel, $34.99
In stores: 20 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171066

The publisher says:
Howard the Duck's classic adventures conclude in this riotous volume! First, Howie and Bev face the geriatric menace of the Grey Panther, and do that voodoo that they do so well! But will a Christmas miracle show Howard it's a wonderful life - or quite the opposite?! He'll win a fortune - and lose a fortune! There will be animal antics with the Gopher and...Spider-Ham?! And Howard will join She-Hulk as they wrap their heads around the Cosmic Squish Principle! Plus: Two Spider-Man team-ups for the price of one! But what the heck are the Elf with a Gun and the Circus of Crime doing here? Waaaugh! Collecting HOWARD THE DUCK MAGAZINE #8-9, MARVEL TEAM-UP (1972) #96, HOWARD THE DUCK (1976) #32-33 and SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #14-17 - plus material from BIZARRE ADVENTURES #34, MARVEL TALES (1964) #237 and SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #5.

Tim says:
This collection features the infamous Spider-Man Team-Up where Howard The Duck creator, Steve Gerber, "kidnapped" his creation, leaving Marvel with a clone of Howard and a hollow trade mark. The fascinating full story is explained here...

The Visitor: How & Why He Stayed
by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Paul Grist
Dark Horse, $19.99
In stores: 4 October 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN170030

The publisher says:
In 1944 Hellboy was conjured in a ceremony meant to give Hitler the ultimate occult weapon. Fortunately, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm was there to witness and to guide Hellboy to become the world's greatest paranormal detective. But Bruttenholm wasn't the only witness to Hellboy's arrival. This collection reveals the aliens who monitored Hellboy's arrival, and why the assassin they sent to Earth stayed his hand. Collects The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1-#5 and the The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed short story from Hellboy Winter Special 2017.

Paul Grist said:
...I really don't think people realise how much Dave Sim actually changed the way things are done in comics. Cerebus was the first comic (as far as I know) that collected single issues into trade paperbacks as a way of keeping the issues in print. A lot of other people producing their own comics are only there because Dave Sim showed that self publishing was not a vanity option, but a practical viable way for a creator to get their work out to their readers. Okay, so there's been an awful lot of rubbish produced in the name of self publishing over the last 20 years, that's not Dave's fault - but there's a lot of good stuff out there that wouldn't be there is Cerebus hadn't shown it was possible. I first saw Jim Valentino's work in the back of Cerebus. Without Cerebus there probably wouldn't be Bone. Or Strangers in Paradise. It's probably not stretching the point to say there wouldn't even be an Image...

Bernie Wrightson Artifact Edition
by Bernie Wrightson
IDW, $125.00
In stores: 18 October 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN170552

The publisher says:
Bernie Wrightson began his career in the late 1960s, just barely out of his teens, and within a decade rose to prominence as the preeminent horror artist of his generation. This loving tribute to comics' Master of the Macabre will showcase Wrightson's ground breaking work in the DC Comics Mystery books and his legendary artistic turn on Swamp Thing. Additionally, we have assemble a number of rarely seen and completely (until now) unseen treasures.

Sketch Magazine #47
featuring Colleen Doran
Blue Line Art, $6.95
In stores: 30 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN172325

The publisher says:
This issue of Sketch takes a look at comics creator Colleen Doran... from working on creator-owned projects like A Distant Soil, to working for mainstream publishers. Sketch continues to teach with numerous "how-to" instructionals from tried-and-true industry talents, and is packed with penciling, computer coloring, and marketing tips to help you become an artistic rising star. Great information, inspiration, and fun!

Colleen Doran said:
Cerebus was the most important book of the self publishing movement, and Dave Sim is the single most important person in the history of the creator rights movement. Everybody else who contributed is much appreciated, but no one was a more outspoken - or original - advocate.

by Mathilde Ramadier & Anais Depommier
NBM, $27.97
In stores: 30 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171803

The publisher says:
For some he was the philosopher of existentialism. For others the constant provocateur, the politically engaged author, the uncertain militant, the repenting bourgeois, the life companion of Simone de Beauvoir. From his first readings in the Luxembourg Garden to his refusal of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Jean Paul Sartre was all of this at the same time. 

by Lars Fiske
Fantagraphics, $19.99
In stores: 6 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171681

The publisher says:
George Grosz (1893-1959) was a German fine artist, cartoonist, and teacher who drew from pop culture, was active in the Dada and New Objectivist movements in post WWI Berlin. Lars Fiske's graphic biography channels the exuberance and fascination with line that typified Grosz's work and is a far cry from the plodding pedantry of the graphic hagiographies that earnestly clutter library shelves; it's a work of art in its own right. 

 More Diamond Previews picks at Atomic Junk Shop's regular Flippin' Through Previews column.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6: A Night On The Town

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he'd been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. This is the last of Dave's three intros in Swords volume 6, and hence the last episode of this little series too. Read all the introductions here...

“I felt like I had just discovered a gold mine in the back of my linen closet,” says Dave.
Read 'A Night On The Town' here...

But wait. There IS more... Next: The Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6 Supplement!

Saturday 24 June 2017

Gerhard: Sketching At Conventions

The length of time a sketch takes all depends on how many people come up to the table and want something signed and how often I stop drawing because I tend to talk with my hands. Shelley can field questions, guide people through the display portfolio and handle transactions but then I tend to just sit there with my head down, sketching and nodding. I like to interact with people... at least look up and smile... get the odd handshake in there... stop for a picture now and then.

The smaller, simpler sketches can take 15 to 30 minutes and the larger, more involved ones can take one or two hours or more. How much of that is actual drawing time, I have no idea. Time has no meaning at a convention.

Saturday is always the longest day and usually the busiest. I had a good breakfast before the show but between 9:30am and 7:00pm I think I had 2 bites of a sandwich and a few chips and nuts that Shelley fed to me while I was sketching. I've always disliked eating at the show table in front of everyone: 'Come to the show and watch the starving artists eat!' Plus, you don't want to get mayonnaise on the drawing.

Shelley keeps a list of everyone that has requested a commission. At the Heroes show I had six people come up to the table and get on the list before the show even officially opened. I spent the rest of the weekend trying to catch up. I don't like to take work with me back to the hotel room because after a full day at the con, I'm pretty much spent and tend to fall asleep shortly after eating. On Saturday night, I had to do 3 pieces for people that were going to pick them up Sunday morning and I managed one extra sketch done as well before I passed out. Although when I took the cap off of the thick black marker to fill in the solid blacks, the marker leapt from my hand and did a little dance on the drawing I was doing in a guy's sketchbook. (You can see a few squiggly lines in the top left of the image above.) That's when you know it's time for bed.

I had to stop Saturday and Sunday for about an hour and half each day to attend panels, although I took my drawing stuff with me and did manage to get a bit done while there.

One of the first people to come up and leave a sketchbook before the show opened said that he would be there all weekend, and so, was the last person to get his back at five minutes before the show closed.

I don't get to see any of the show except for walking in out for smoke breaks (yes, I still smoke) and I try to pop by the tables of folks I've met at other shows and say, 'Hi'. More often than not, I either can't find their table, or they are swamped with sketches and autographs, or they're not there.

There were 23 commission requests at this last show, by far the most of any show to date, and I had to take two of them home to complete. I now have 20 commissions, of all different sizes, to complete before I can go sailing.

This Heroes Convention was an amazing show and I was very privileged to be part of their 35th anniversary.   The show was ALL about comics and art. No wrestlers. No TV and movie guests. Booth after booth of people selling comics of all sorts and row after row after row of comics artists sketching, drawing, painting and cramming a bit of food into their mouths when they get a chance.

Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

Keep up to date with Gerhard's latest news at Gerz Blog!

Friday 23 June 2017

Dave Sim: Warhol, Hal Foster & The Right Of First Refusal

26 February 06

Dear Robert:

Thanks for your letter of 15 February.

I always have to temper my criticism of Warhol with the fact that he did, indeed, make a mark and that he had to swim upstream a fair distance to do so. He certainly ultimately got marketplace revenge on everyone who said that paintings of Campbell’s soup cans couldn’t under any circumstances be considered art (if nothing else) and it IS almost fifty years later which is quite a span to still have credibility. Same with bringing High and Low and Pop and Fine Art within hailing distance of each other with some interesting net effects. It did a disservice to comic books by marginalizing them as “camp” -- a catch-all category for homosexuals to put things they thought to be beneath them. But it meant that we were still there (with our pasted-on clown nose) when irony became unfashionable in the post-9/11 and comic books proved to be one of the few non-ironic environments left: A whole subculture of people who believed (and believe!) in the intrinsic nobility of guys in leotards wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes and behaving like vigilantes. You can’t get much more UN-ironic than that.

I didn’t know that Roy Lichtenstein had served under Irv Novick and I agree that would have made an interesting interview. It might worth tracking down family members and guys he worked with to see if he ever mentioned anything. It must’ve come up on a semi-regular basis from the 1960s on, you would guess.

I had no idea that Brian Kane was doing a book on Bob Peak. I was very hard on Brian, I’m afraid, at a SPACE party at the Laughing Ogre a couple (a few?) years back, going through the Foster book page by page and critiquing his choice of illustrations using a number of pieces when he didn’t have either the original or a good copy to shoot from -- the whole point of the book for me was to see Foster’s actual pen and brush strokes on slick paper and any page where he had a 5th generation copy or a bad stat instead of an original or a proof was just like an ice pick in my brain and, of course, there was too much family stuff in there for my taste. I read the book again when I was asked to deliver the acceptance speech for Foster's Shuster Hall of Fame Award last year and I realized that it was actually a very good book. It wasn’t my kind of book but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t any good. And Foster was enough of a family man (or a good husband, anyway) that Brian’s book would probably be a lot closer to how he saw himself than anything that I could have put together. So all I can do is to hope that Bob Peak is represented only by originals and clear proof copies and that I’ll get to find out the names of his children and see what his Christmas cards looked like and maybe some vacation snaps with his wife. I’ll buy it on the same basis as the Foster book. If there are only ten clear images with world-class reproduction, that will tell me how much each of them cost. I think the Foster book proved to be about five dollars a page for me. And I agree about your assessment of Arn Saba’s interview of Foster being superior. I’ve really got to dig up my copy [The Comics Journal #102, September 1985] and reread it now that you’ve mentioned it.

As regards your question of "right of first refusal" I don’t think that was really the issue that Gary addressed as directly as he did. Basically what he was saying is “Look, if the creators as a general rule don’t feel obligated to live up to their side of the bargain, there’s not much purpose in fine-tuning the bargain or inventing a new form of bargain. The problem isn’t the nature of the bargain, the problem is the unwillingness to observe the terms of the bargain.” Which I have to say was pretty astute and miles beyond my own thinking. “What are we trying not to tell ourselves here?” The answer was, as far as I can see, “Creators are generally dishonest and dishonourable people” for a number of understandable reasons. The urge to be published, period, when you aren’t being published outweighs everything else. The average creator will literally sign anything just to get his book green-lighted. Once the book is out there, the creator finds out that he could get more. He could be published by a larger publisher, he could get better terms and he goes from abjectly grateful to bitterly resentful. He thinks of himself as having been fooled into agreeing to too little. His incompetent publisher is standing in the way of his success. A little vanity goes a long way with most creators, too. No matter what his book is selling he always believes it would sell more if it was advertised more or if there was more promotion and he becomes a sucker for people who promise that. There’s no such thing as impunity, though, and I think we’ve ended up in the situation we’re in because of those collective creator decisions. Having that many creators act that extensively in bad faith over that many years brought about what it brought about -- the smaller publishers like Gary Reed folded their tents and now all the creators have is Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image none of which are known for taking a chance on unproven or marginalised talent. What Gary showed me was that the question isn’t “How can we keep the Big Four from exploiting creators?” so much as “We have no choice but to start over at square one and see if the creators behave better this time.” So far it doesn’t look very good. Using your own example, if non-famous Frank Miller becomes famous Frank Miller, he’s going to do whatever he damn well pleases and Dark Horse is going to have to just bite down on the fact that if Frank chooses to screw them there’s nothing they can do about it without looking like the heartless exploitative corporation. Where there is no way for the company to keep from being treated disadvantageously they get forced into a corner where they have to treat every project and every relationship as temporary so as to keep from getting caught with their pants down as Gary Reed was just for playing fair and square. It’s a real problem because too many of the ‘givens’ are working at cross-purposes. Creator vanity and desperation are built in to the equation. “If it’s in the best interests of my own creativity and longevity to cripple you, I’ll just have to cripple you. Sorry.” As Larry Marder once said to me “The comic-book field is filled with charming, ruthless people.” Which is really true and also built in. It can take five years to finish a decent graphic novel and the creator is going to be charming and ruthless about doing the best for himself and this book it took him five years to finish and the publishers are going to be charming and ruthless because so few projects are “in play” at any given time. A viable finished graphic novel is like bleeding meat in the water in an environment largely made up of various breeds of shark.

I’m waiting to see what else Al sends me once he has a website exclusively dedicated to Creator’s rights issues, but right now the Gary Reed model seems like the most accurate one. If the creators aren’t going to demonstrate a fundamental loyalty over fixed periods of time and a “playing fair” approach with the guys who took a chance on them -- in a general behavioural sense -- then they will have gotten what they deserved, however unhappy that makes them.

Thanks again for writing.



From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2006", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Weekly Update #188: The Pork Knight Secret

Thursday 22 June 2017

Aardvark Comics #1-- Eternal Torment, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: JUL171242.

ICYMI: Sim On Trump

(from an AMOC Comment, 21 June 2017)
...I think President Trump BELIEVES everything that he says. I think that's what got him the presidency. I think what everyone overlooks is that he lost once through the whole election cycle. In my experience -- as a political junkie of 50 years standing -- that's unheard of. HOW did he do that? Sheer impenetrable BELIEF in self, I think.

And that, I think, stems from his experience on THE APPRENTICE franchise. Reality TV is all staged. It's performance art. He spent more than a decade (no, really, THINK about that) watching himself on TV and doing different takes of anything that he didn't see as being HIM. What got the ratings, what didn't. This is what DJT looks like when he says this. This is what DJT looks like when he says that. And he learned concision. You've got 21.6 seconds to communicate this before you say "You're fired!" HOW do you say that in 21.6 seconds? (that's why he took to Twitter: "this is the only way to DO this job. This is like TV but more finely-tuned")

The Democrats are going to have to find someone who has that same skill set for 2020. What Democrat has the decade-plus experience of creating themselves on a Reality TV franchise? And is interested in the job? Pretty short list, I would guess...

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Blasphemous Lies

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.

We've only looked at Dave Sim's notebook #28 once before in June of 2015. The notebook was labeled as Cerebus #227, but covers more of Rick's Story, and as I looked at it, I saw some of one of my favorite Cerebus issues: Cerebus #244.

Pages #23 and 24 are just text, some crossed out and more written in. They would become a couple pages in the chapter called Singularity in F. Stop's novel Pleasure's Simple Life.

Notebook #28 page 23

Notebook #28 page 24
The pages are from the middle of Cerebus #244, pages 12 and 13 - or Going Home pages 258 and 259.

Pleasure's Simple Life pages 55 & 56

Monday 19 June 2017

YDKJ! Update: Ctherpes ridden Assathoth


Been plugging away at issue #1 of You Don't Know Jack: Two-Fisted Comic Store Manager for the last couple of months and am a couple small drawings away from being done.

I just finished up the most difficult image required so far for either book and figured that was a good reason to report in.

We needed a drawing of Cthulu for a gag. This was problematic for me. I have always disliked images of Lovecraftian horrors. Lovecraft is one of the rare prose writers I do like, exactly because his work relies so heavily on the formal nature of prose. He is so good at conveying impossible horrors that shatter perception so it strikes me as a betrayal of the work to inscribe an image of said impossible horrors. "A big nasty octopus thing? Ooooo, soooo scary."

Anyway, we needed a Cthulu, so I drew a big, nasty, octopus thing...

...and tried to toe a fine line between being able to still see the thing and having everything be a bit too cluttered and low in contrast to fully perceive. Besides, I know Sean Robinson will do magic with the pre-press and preserve an insane level of resolution in all of that clutter.

Even with all of the purposeful cluttering I felt the image still looked far too standard. I wanted more confusion. The phrase "fearsome geometries" popped into my head (is that a Lovecraft phrase?) so I set out to add a kaleidoscope effect to the whole thing.

Using Photoshop I messed about with some photos and created the following pattern.

That was placed over top of the drawing on a separate layer, the white areas used to select the drawing below, and the resulting selection flipped horizontally along a vertical axis. That got me where I wanted to be.

Somewhere under all of that chaos there are the strict symmetries of the kaleidoscope, but hell if I can see them, which satisfied my need to try to capture the true horror at the center of the Lovecraftian mythos as I see it, the re-consumption of order by chaos.

A very sick part of me has the urge to re-draw the whole thing as it looks with the digital shenanigans applied to it, but there are better things to do.

Sunday 18 June 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6: Cerebus #23-25

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave’s six Swords of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he’d been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. This is the second of Swords volume 6’s three introductions, so make the most of it – we’re nearly at the finish line. Also check out the full 'Swords Of Cerebus' Introductions Index.

The news Dave refers to near the end of this intro is the murder of John Lennon, who was shot dead on December 8, 1980. For more on Dave’s Rochester trip, see his intro to The Morning After.

“I had decided to make Chris X. Claremont this enormous negative force
who wants to destroy everything around him,” says Dave.

Next week: Spunky, the Charming Giant

Saturday 17 June 2017

James Kochalka's Cerebus!

"I did this drawing of Dave Sim's Cerebus for someone recently"
by James Kochalka
(via Twitter, May 2017)

Cerebus vs Sophie The Dog

Cerebus vs Sophie The Dog (2017)
Art by Gerhard

Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

Keep up to date with Gerhard's latest news at Gerz Blog!

Chester Brown: Reasons For Thinking That Sex-Work Is Wrong

Cerebus In Hell? #4 (April 2017)
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal

A Fake Name's Reasons For Thinking That Sex-Work Is Wrong 
by Chester Brown 
(first published on Patreon, 14 June 2017)

In response to my request, the individual who goes by the name A Fake Name has politely explained why he-or-she thinks sex-work is morally wrong and should be illegal over on A Moment Of Cerebus.

When I'm quoting other people in this piece, I'll do so in italics, but I'll put A Fake Name's positions in bold type, like this:
"Prostitution is damaging to men because it’s saying they can’t attract a woman on their own."
In relation to this proposition, we can broadly divide the clients of sex-workers into four types of guys.

Type One: According to sex-workers, the majority of their clients are men who are married or are in a romantic relationship. They’re not guys who can’t attract a romantic partner, they’re guys who have attracted one and yet want to have sex with sex-workers for a variety of reasons.

Type Two: Some guys can get romantic partners, but see sex-workers in-between serious romantic relationships.

Type Three: There are also guys (like me) who are not in a romantic relationship, who do not want to be in romantic relationships, and who prefer being with sex-workers. I've had girl-friends, so I know the difference between being in a romantic relationship and paying for sex, and I like the latter better. So it’s not emotionally “damaging” for me (and other Type Three guys) to pay for sex, quite the opposite.

Type Four: Of course, there are some guys who want romantic partners but can’t attract them and visit sex-workers as a substitute. But sex-work and sex-workers have not caused the problem there. The problem is the inability of those guys to attract romantic partners. Blaming sex-work for that is misplacing the blame.

(Not all clients of sex-workers fit into those four categories. For one thing, some clients are women. And some clients have unusual circumstances, like the guy who was a virgin, got cancer, and wanted to get laid before he died. His story, written by his twin sister, can be found at under the name MsLeigh, posted March 1st 2017.)
"Instead of honest self-assessment and fixing things within themselves, [the clients of prostitutes have] chosen to pay for a fleeting illusion, knowing any orgasm and accompanying feelings are based on a financial transaction, creating a mental and emotional dissonance. In place of self-improvement, putting in the effort to be a better version of themselves, thereby increasing their confidence, achieving more in life and thus attracting women they’d want to have sex and relationships with, they’ve settled for a damaging shortcut."
The assumption here seems to be that, if sex-work didn’t exist, Type Four guys would be forced to better themselves and would then be able to get romantic partners, so, therefore, sex-work is bad. The thing is, Type Four guys want romance but can’t figure out how to get it. Even if all sex-workers magically disappeared from the planet, the majority of Type Four guys would still not be able to get romantic partners. I have a friend who’s a Type Four guy who pays for sex regularly. Believe me, he put lots of effort into trying to find a girlfriend before he resorted to paying sex-workers. Sex-work wasn’t responsible for his failure with women. He doesn’t feel “damaged” by sex-work — he’s glad it gives him a way to experience sexual intimacy despite the fact that he can’t find a girlfriend.

There are actually some guys out there who were Type Four guys and who, through their interactions with sex-workers, were able to learn how to be with women, and, as a result, were then able to attract girlfriends. (There’s a story very similar to this at but it’s about a woman who was having difficulty relating to men but wanted a romantic relationship. So she hired a male sex-worker, and her experiences with this guy led her to feel “at home in my body, able to not just tolerate another’s touch, but enjoy and relish the sensation of skin on skin.” As a result, she was able to start dating and found a guy she’s now been married to for two years. Her story’s under the name Sheila and was posted on April 23rd 2017.) Far from damaging, as I've said before, sex-work often has therapeutic value.
"On top of that, men risk developing feelings for a prostitute, deluding themselves and missing out on real opportunities with the opposite sex. Unrequited love is bad enough without having to pay for it.”
It does happen that some clients fall in love with sex-workers, and such a client can imagine that his sex-worker loves him back. A lot of sex-workers wouldn’t lead on such a client, but some would — this happened to two guys I know. (Neither of them is the friend I mentioned above.) But these sorts of guys sooner or later figure out that the sex-worker doesn’t really romantically love them. (Having to continue to pay for sex is usually a clue.) If such a guy has “real [romantic] opportunities with” non-sex-workers while he's in love with a sex-worker, then he’ll likely still have real opportunities after he realizes that the sex-worker doesn’t love him. The two guys I mentioned who fell in love with sex-workers and were taken advantage of by them? Both of those situations happened several years ago. One of the guys hasn’t seen a sex-worker since then, but, even though he wants a girlfriend, he hasn’t found one in the intervening years, so I very much doubt he missed any opportunities for real love during the few months that he was in love with that sex-worker. The other guy has seen a few sex-workers since then, but not many. He’d like a girlfriend too, but knowing this guy well (he’s a friend) I can assure you that his inability to attract women has nothing to do with seeing sex-workers. I’m completely positive that he didn’t miss any romantic opportunities while he was in love with a sex-worker.

And this says nothing about the profession in general. The fact that some sex-workers can exploit the emotional vulnerability of some clients doesn’t mean that all sex-work is wrong. There are people who pretend to be in love with someone in order to marry for money, but that doesn’t mean that all marriage is wrong.
"While it’s quite possible one can switch from prostitute/client to a relationship, I’m skeptical since the beginning of the relationship comes down to: Would she have fucked you if you hadn’t pay her? […] I doubt any relationship in which the man directly pays the woman can ever be as legitimate as those who don’t, the obligation casting a shadow over any and all interactions."
I have a female friend (who is NOT a sex-worker) who has a well-paying job and, many years ago, was able to buy a relatively large condo. She met a guy who seemed very loving and affectionate. He didn’t make as much money as she did, but that wasn’t an issue for her because his personality seemed so wonderful. So they decided to live together, and he moved into her place. (Given his financial situation, he’d been renting a much smaller apartment.) They seemed like the perfect couple. Only years later did she admit to me that, as soon as he moved in, his personality changed — he became cold and unaffectionate when they were alone. She didn’t speculate about this to me, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ever loved her. It seemed to me like he'd been pretending to be a certain kind of guy in order to get her to want him to move in with her. Once that was accomplished, and he was ensconced in a nicer setting (one in which he didn’t have to pay rent), he felt able to be his real, unloving self.

What I'm saying is that financial concerns also cast a shadow over a lot of romantic relationships between people who have no connection to sex-work. There are a lot of romantic relationships between people who are financially unequal. Even romantic partners who are financially equal can and do fight over money. Despite the experience of my above-mentioned female friend, there are good romantic relationships between financial unequals. If one can recognize that that can be true for romantic relationships, then one should also be able to recognize that there are good (non-romantic) relationships between sex-workers and clients who are financial unequals.

Aside from my own experience with Denise, I’ve read many sincere, heartfelt declarations of affection for their favourite clients written by sex-workers in various books and on the internet. I don’t doubt that sex-workers can genuinely like their clients. An example can be found in this interview with Annie Sprinkle
“I had this client I’ll call Samuel. […] I saw him steadily for twenty years [….] Over twenty years you really get to know someone. […] He was someone I wouldn’t be having sex with had he not been paying me. But I cared about him deeply and genuinely wanted to know about how his life was going. […] Looking back I’d have to say it was definitely a type of long-term relationship. The only reason it ended was because I moved out of New York. He was a great guy. […] He was a client, and also a friend. Such things are more common than people might think.”
Since Annie’s relationship with Samuel sounds very similar to the one I have with Denise, I know she’s right that “such things are more common than people might think."

It’s inconsistent to use financial dependence as a reason to dismiss real connections between sex-workers and their favourite clients while ignoring that financial concerns also affect romantic relationships. If one uses financial dependence to argue that all sex-work is wrong, one should be condemning all romantic relationships for the same reason.

Another thing to mention is that the financial inequality between sex-workers and clients often goes the other way. Many of the escorts I used to see (maybe all of them) made more money annually than I did (probably much more for most of them). When I first met Denise, she was certainly earning more than I was. An individual client, even a wealthy one, doesn’t really have much financial power over a popular sex-worker who already has many regular clients.
"What about the damaging effects on women? My experience is women are happiest inside a relationship if the man is perceived as worthy of their emotion and time. Sure prostitutes can compartmentalize clients from boyfriends/relationships but I still think they want to be loved. The romantic cliches exist because they are true and fundamental to how people are. There are always exceptions […] but most women want to be in a relationship. Brazen Lee said she’s a “…romantic at heart.” So even someone who sells sex for money still retains the primal drive to date, be in love. From a strictly utilitarian point of view, most men won’t be interested in a woman who has the level of sexual partners that a prostitute has. It may not seem fair, but I’m being honest, most men would be turned off. So, by being a prostitute she’s running the risk of ruining a shot at a real, longterm relationship.”
Sex-work is wrong because sex-workers are risking "ruining a shot at a real, longterm [sic] relationship”? Not all sex-workers want a conventional romantic relationship. Some of the ones who do want such relationships have been able to find them. Still, A Fake Name is right that sex-workers who want romantic partners have challenges finding them, but that doesn’t mean that sex-work is morally wrong — it means that our society has screwed up sexual values. A Fake Name states that people have “utilitarian” reasons for not getting romantically involved with sex-workers. From a utilitarian perspective, what is a romantic partner for? Sex-workers can be and usually are loving people. The prejudice against having a sex-worker for a romantic partner has nothing to do with their value as individuals or their ability to be loving partners and everything to do with an emotionally insecure reaction to the idea of a romantic partner having sex with someone else. This isn’t something to condemn sex-work for, it’s a reason to condemn our society’s immature sexual values. A change in our values — a change that would recognize and honour sex-workers for what they do — would make it easier for them to find romantic partners (male, female, or gender-fluid, depending on the orientation of the sex-worker). (A Fake Name seems to strangely assume that all female sex-workers are heterosexual.) (Would A Fake Name be making this argument about male sex-workers? And if he-or-she wouldn’t, does he-or-she think male sex-work is okay and should be legal?)

Since this is part of his-or-her justification keeping prostitution illegal, what A Fake Name is calling for here is social engineering. A Fake Name thinks that law-makers should recognize that, because most women supposedly want to be in monogamous heterosexual relationships, the law should force women to make choices that increase their chances of ending up in such relationships. For most sex-workers, engaging in the profession earns them more money than they could get doing any other sort of work. Sex-workers are aware that their occupation reduces their chances of finding a romantic partner. The ones who want such partners know that they’re balancing money against romance and that is a choice that should be left to them. No one else can say which they should be valuing more. Law-makers should not be trying to influence the choice by making one of the options illegal.

Stripped down to it’s essential point, A Fake Name is saying that sex-workers are making a mistake in choosing money (career) over romance, but these days lots of women who aren’t sex-workers are doing that. It’s not immoral for women to choose to focus on their careers at the expense of their love-lives.
"For women, accepting money for sex is saying you have no other way to generate money other than on the most base level of existence. That’s not mentally healthy in the longterm. […] Having sex, surrendering an intimate part of themselves to men who pay for it is mentally damaging in the long term.”
The assumption here is that sex-work is base and that all sex-workers would agree that it is. That’s not the case. Here’s ex-sex-worker Norma Jean Almodovar on the subject:
“On a scale of pain or pleasure human beings can inflict on each other, if murder, rape, and torture are the worst, certainly giving another person an orgasm must be among the best. I cannot fathom how one could think that making another human being feel good for a fee could be degrading or demeaning [….] I derive a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I’m turning some guy on”. [From the 1993 book Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do by the late, great Peter McWilliams.]
A sex-worker who agrees with A Fake Name that sex-work is base might find sex-work mentally damaging, but they might not. I’m sure there are people who clean toilets for money and consider it to be base and yet aren’t mentally damaged by doing that work. What mentally upsets people is going to vary widely from individual to individual. I heard a piece on the radio recently about the high incidence of violence that nurses face and how many of them are experiencing P-T-S-D as a result. The fact that some people in a profession will experience mental health problems as a result of doing that work doesn’t indicate that the profession as a whole is morally wrong and should be outlawed.

When there’s a stigma against a certain activity that causes mental health problems in people who engage in that activity, that doesn’t demonstrate that the activity itself is necessarily “base". As I wrote in Paying For It:
“Many gays prior to the sexual revolution experienced shame, depression, guilt, and disgust about being gay. That doesn’t mean that homosexuality is wrong, it means that, at a certain point in time, homosexuality was reviled, and many gays internalized the gay-negative values of the culture they lived in. Today, many prostitutes internalize the whoring-is-bad attitude of the culture we live in. That doesn’t mean that sex-work is bad.”
Counter-balancing the potential negative mental problems is the fact that sex-work can also benefitthe mental health of prostitutes, in large part because earning good money is good for one’s mental well-being. An article that addresses this is this one by ex-sex-worker Mitzi Poesner. From that piece:
“[C]ontrary to popular view of sex work, it is not a one way ticket to a breakdown. […]

“What drove me to sex work was a need to exist without aching poverty, to have time to see my many doctors, to work on being as healthy mentally and physically as possible, and to be able to claw back my life from the jaws of zero hours contracts and gaping overdrafts. You may see those things as separate to my mental health, but let me tell you: if you have never been poor you cannot understand the grip money holds you in. […]

“Sex work was messy, dirty, weird, confusing, and scary. It took me to places I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit again. But it also scooped me out of abject poverty and enabled me to start living life with joy.”
There can be other mental health benefits to being a sex-worker. In the interview with Annie Sprinkle that I linked to above, she says this:
“My johns adored and worshipped me, therefore they empowered me. When I was 18, 19, and 20, I had a poor self-image and needed attention. It’s hard for people who haven’t been prostitutes to imagine, but I think it’s often true.”
Back to A Fake Name:
“For society I think [prostitution] could damage civilization in ways I can’t quite explicate. A society with billboards advertising prostitution would be a place further down a spectrum of degradation.”
As Norma Jean implied in the quote that I reproduced above, consensual sex is generally good for people. A society that decriminalized prostitution would be a society in which more people would be having their sexual needs met. I think there’s a lot of unrecognized healing work going on in sex-work that benefits society in subtle ways.

As for the matter of billboards, there’s plenty of sexually suggestive advertising out there already. Using sex to sell sex seems more honest than using it to sell cars or beer. Such billboards wouldn’t have to be any more explicit than advertising already is.
"I don’t think prostitution should be legal […] but nor do I think the prostitution that Chester speaks of should be bothered by those in law enforcement.”
The easiest way to make sure that “the prostitution that Chester speaks of” isn’t “bothered by those in law enforcement” is to decriminalize sex-work between consenting adults. Why not? Especially since A Fake Name was not able to come up with good reasons for keeping it illegal. Let’s review A Fake Name’s reason’s again:
  1.  — Prostitution damages the clients who can’t attract a romantic partner.
  2.  — Clients fall in love with prostitutes and miss opportunities for real love.
  3.  — A sex-for-pay relationship can’t be as legitimate as other relationships since money can influence the sex-for-pay relationship.
  4.  — Women need romantic love and are less likely to get it if they’re prostitutes.
  5.  — Being paid for sex is base, so being a sex-worker it is mentally damaging.
  6.  — Decriminalized prostitution will “damage civilization”.
Reason One isn’t true. Reason Two is unlikely. Reason Three ignores the influence of money on other sorts of relationships. Reason Four is partially true, but societal attitudes are to blame for the problem, not sex-work. Reason Five is partially true, in that some sex-workers might feel that sex-for-pay is base, and they might, therefore, find the work to be emotionally difficult, but that’s offset by the fact that many other sex-workers do not think of prostitution as base, and many of them report that the work actually improves their mental health. Regarding Reason Six, A Fake Name honestly admits that he-or-she does not know what civilizational damage could result from decriminalizing sex-work.

A Fake Name doesn’t have strong reasons for thinking that sex-work should be illegal, but I appreciate that A Fake Name has made the attempt to explain why he-or-she thinks the profession is wrong, even if I don’t find his-or-her reasoning persuasive. And I admire A Fake Name’s civil (if sometimes exasperated and weary) tone throughout all of his-or-her comments on my posts. I hope A Fake Name has a sexual partner who brings him-or-her as much happiness as Denise brings me.


In the same comments section, Jeff Seiler writes:
“While it is an old, old joke, the statement remains valid: ‘You don’t pay a hooker for sex, you pay her to go away afterwards.’ "
Yes, it’s an old joke, but it has limited validity. I’m sure there are clients who, after their orgasm, want the sex-worker they’ve hired to go away, but almost any sex-worker will tell you that a sizeable percentage (probably the majority) of her-or-his clients would be only too happy to spend as much (unpaid) time hanging out with the sex-worker as she-or-he would allow.

According to Seiler:
“The culture of strippers and sex-workers […] includes a lot of damaged people."
It seems to me that we're all “damaged” in some way. Are sex-workers more damaged than other people? Not in my experience. People are at their most vulnerable — literally naked — when having sex. We’re more likely to see the damaged aspects and insecurities of our sexual partners — particularly of partners we’ve been having sex with for a while — than of people we meet in more superficial circumstances. Yes, I can see ways that Denise seems “damaged”, but I’m sure that I seem just as damaged to her. And she doesn’t seem more damaged than the non-sex-workers I’ve slept with. She’s actually a remarkably well-adjusted person.


Damien Lloyd writes:
“I do not think Chester is correct that someone practicing in a field will automatically know more than an academic who studies that field.”
I tend to think that real learning comes from doing, not studying, so that a cartoonist who’s created comics for many years will understand the medium better than an academic who’s never created comics but who’s read a lot of them and has interviewed creators. But I can imagine that a very intelligent and well-read academic could understand the medium better than a stupid and untalented cartoonist, so I concede the point to Lloyd.

Chester Brown has been writing and drawing comics and graphic novels since the 1980s: Yummy Fur, Ed The Happy Clown, I Never Liked You, Louis Riel, Paying For It, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus. You can help provide him with a stable source of income while he works on his next graphic novel by donating at Patreon.