Monday, 3 July 2017

Steve Bissette's Tyrant

Tyrant #1
(Spiderbaby Grafix, September 1994)
(from 'A Cerebus Preview' in Cerebus #184, July 1994)
Stephen R. Bissette's TYRANT has been in the works for a long, long time. I don't know why it was, but I took to Steve in a big way after meeting him at a UK Comic Art Convention in London. Through financing the first volume of TABOO, we discovered together the inherent impossibility of successfully publishing an anthology of that kind. It was also my last experiment in publishing someone else's work (apart from these Previews). As Steve drifted towards Kevin Eastman's ill-fated Tundra experiment, our friendship became an ongoing phone debate about the possibility of running a publishing company on an ethical basis. It took many, many years and every permutation of the Advance Game, the Royalty Game, etc, etc, for Steve to arrive at the conclusion that it was not possible. Different things went wrong, but something always went wrong and his only choice was to capitulate or walk away. Halfway through TYRANT's first issue, Steve told me that he had worked on a page and for the first time since the early days on SWAMP THING, he felt himself giving one hundred percent. It wasn't until that moment that he realised the price he had paid in dealing with traditional companies: he had closed off a vital, creative part of himself as a defense mechanism. For the first time since his early twenties he had his full enthusiasm back and was hitting on all cylinders. It wasn't until that moment, when he told me, that I  was certain my advocacy of self-publishing was not just the egocentric ravings of a provocateur. Dave Sim and Cerebus were not an exception to be explained away (it works for Sim but no one else can do it, as publishers big and small were fond of saying in the pre-BONE days). If the Cerebus story-line is forgotten two weeks after it is completed in March 2004 I can safely say that that moment made it all worthwhile.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the comic book Stephen R. Bissette was born to draw: TYRANT!

Steve Bissette self-published four issues of his comic book Tyrant between September 1994 and January 1996, before retiring from the comic book industry. He currently teaches comics at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.


Jimmy Gownley said...

What an amazing piece of work by one of the true class acts in comics.

Jeff Seiler said...

Speaking of tyrants (or, Tyrants), happy 241st anniversary to all of my American friends. You don't look a day over 200!