Saturday 25 April 2020

The Unexpected Return of...Aardvark Comment?!? (And a SODAR preview.)

Hi, Everybody!

So, I got a fax from Dave (as I do, it's one of the perks/responsibilities of this gig), It started with a letter Dave got from:

As instructed, I sent an email to Mr. Beechen, and he responded thusly:
Hi Dave -

Thanks for the reply, and thank you for more of your always-kind words about HENCH. I remain grateful and flattered that it's something you've enjoyed, revisited, supported, inquired about, and even promoted (mentioning it on MoC a couple years ago) since it came out. Means a lot to me.

In a "revisitation update," I found myself unable to stop my re-read of CEREBUS after "Church and State," and I've glided ahead all the way into "Going Home," with no intention of calling it quits. So, that's about 180 issues read inside a month? I can't get over what a different experience it is to read the book this way, as opposed to month-to-month in the floppies. So much of what confusion I had while reading the book the first time has been cleared up (I think) by reading it this way... I mostly feel like I have a much better idea of the "big picture" of the book, in the sense of the history and political structure of Estarcion, Cerebus' place in that history and political structure, and how x relates to y and so on. It's not a perfect picture, mind you, but I can always go back and do this again... and I suspect I will.

Someday, I'd love to ask you some questions about your creative process while working on the book. Not questions of the, "How many pages did you lay out a day," variety, but more to do with your thought processes and development of the story itself, how you came to some of the narrative and character decisions you made, and so on. Just for my own edification. Do you think that might be possible?

Also, I noticed from re-reading some past correspondence that I promised to send you a print from TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE, the animated series I worked on a few years ago. I have a dim memory of signing a print (and then maybe smearing the signature?), but I can't recall sending it. Did I ever follow through on that?

To answer the questions you posed in your reply of 18 April...

1) I've been tempted to write another sequel to HENCH almost since the last edition came out in 2012. Given the Hollywood interest in the property at that point, it seemed prudent to keep putting out new content both to keep the property alive and to demonstrate that there could be multiple paths down which to take the character.

But more importantly, I just flat love the world that the artists and I have created, and often find myself thinking of different corners of it to explore. There's more to say with these characters, and I think I have more stories to tell. The trick is sort of the template I've established - Building a story around a tried-and-true superhero comic trope that looks at said trope from an unusual angle (as we did with the henchman's plight in the first chapter, and superhero origin stories in the second), displaying a number of familiar, repurposed images exemplifying that trope and making them fit into the story, and maintaining the very specific tone of the first two chapters.

Last year, I made the mistake of starting a script for a third HENCH chapter before I really had the story figured out, and I hit a wall about thirty pages in. I didn't have enough, and I found myself padding. The scripts for the first two chapters came so quickly, I expected it to happen the same way one more time, but it just hasn't worked out that way. I think I have a strong trope to build around, I know I have strong sequences based on that trope that I'd like to see realized, and I know it can all come out of character growth and development, other than plot necessity. I just need a plot structure that allows me to tie everything together, and I need to commit on sitting down and doing the hard work of coming up with that structure until I have it cold. I'll feel it when I have it, but I don't know how long it'll take to get there, and there's a lot of insecurity in that not-knowing, so it's easier and safer not to get into that hard work and to find other things to do. The constant struggle of someone trying to write, you know?

Anyway, to get back to your question, I want to write a third chapter for HENCH and probably end Mike Fulton's story there. A trilogy feels right. I feel like I've written the Beginning and the Middle, but the End is still out there. Once I have that, my plan is to package all three chapters together into one self-published book, so everything's in one place. I know there'll be a few readers who will, by that point, have already essentially bought the first chapter twice in the two editions that have already been published, and the second chapter once, so I want to give them more of a reason to purchase the compiled book than just getting the third chapter. So I figure maybe I'll publish some of the design and developmental work the artists have done over the three chapters, commission a new cover that might entice new readers to the property, commission a foreword and/or some cover blurbs, and commission a pin-up gallery to round it out. Then I can call it a day for Mike.

2) HENCH is still active in the Hollywood quagmire. It's now under option to its fifth production or creative entity, which is kind of amazing. Each one has had a different and fascinating take on the material, but it's been hard moving it up the production chain. The comments tend to fall into two categories: "We're not looking to do superhero stuff... Superheroes are tired" or "We already have too much superhero stuff in development." It's been frustrating, but I'm grateful there's still any interest at all, and I feel like right now it's in great hands that have a decent shot at advancing the material further than its gone previously. I can keep you posted, if you like.

3) To my great good fortune, animation is one industry that hasn't been affected too much by social distancing protocols. There's no physical production - nobody needs to be in a certain location around other people at a certain time to perform a certain task - Just about every step of the process can be performed remotely. There aren't a lot of writing staffs to begin with in animation that meet for hours a day in a cramped room with stale bagels and dry-erase boards to bang out stories, as happens in live-action. Any "story break" session requiring more than one writer can be conducted over videoconferencing sites like Zoom. It's purely coincidental, but I've actually become busier since the quarantine started than I was in the six months or so before. Not because there's more work as a result of the pandemic, but because the animation industry just continues at a pace fairly close to normal, while other industries remain at a standstill. We're especially lucky in our household that we both have not just our health, but continuing employment during the current situation. We don't take either for granted.

I suppose I've taken up enough of your day, and work calls, so I'll sign off here. Thanks again for everything - Stay safe and stay well!

He also included this photo. I call it "UNORTHODOX PHOTOGRAPHIC REVENGE!" 'cause I'm weird...
I sent that up to Dave who replied:

Which was in reply to Al Nickerson's letter:
April 7, 2020

Hello Dave,

I wanted to thank you for the wonderful review of THE SWORD OF EDEN on DAVE’S WEEKLY UPDATE. I’ve gotten a few orders from folks who only watched the video. (I imbedded a link of the YouTube video on my website,

I’m curious to know what Will Eisner would have thought of THE SWORD OF EDEN. Yeah… there’s some Jewish stuff going on in the book, but there’s a buncha super-heroes, as well. Will wasn’t always a fan of super-heroes. Although, he believed that they did have their place in comics (Sequential Art). With the current popularity of the super-hero in film and television, with today’s more mature (more sophisticated?) super-hero comics, I sometimes wonder if Will might have eventually had a better liking towards the super-hero genre.

Anyway, thanks for the kind comments concerning my graphic novel. It’s greatly appreciated. And thanks for all of your hard work discussing things like self-publishing, making comics, and Creators’ Rights. It all has been quite helpful.

In Christ Jesus,

Al Nickerson
Isaiah 53:4-5 (Complete Jewish Bible): 4 In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God. 5 But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his bruises we are healed.
And I send Dave's response to both Mr. Beechen and Mr. Nickerson, and Mr. Nickerson replied:
April 23, 2020

Hi Dave, 
Thanks for the letter.

You make some very interesting points about Will Eisner and his opinion(s) concerning the super-hero genre.

While at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), I recall Will stating how he passed on Superman before Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had taken the property over to DC/National. So, Will was very much aware of Superman before his creating Wonder Man (at Victor Fox’s request).

As I’ve stated a bunch of times before in public, my earliest memory of Will Eisner was when he said in class (September 1986): “I think comic books are far more than two mutants trashing each other.” (I always love telling that story.) Now, Will never dissuaded us from creating super-hero comics. But, he did (and very strongly) wanted to make sure that we wrote and completely drew all of our own comics. There was no assembly-line comic book-making in Will’s Sequential Art class.

A couple of years ago, I did come across a transcript of Will’s testimony in court concerning his involvement with the creation of Wonder Man. You are correct, it appears that Will did perjure himself, and that testimony was at odds with Will’s later accounts of those events. The contradictory testimonies from Will had left me quite puzzled. I then had asked someone in-the-know. Sadly, it does appear that a young Will Eisner may have felt pressured by Victor Fox to give false testimony during the Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc. lawsuit.

Still, it never occurred to me that that experience may have been part of why Will frowned on super-heroes. Thanks for sharing your insights. It’s given me more to consider in regards to Will and super-heroes.

And, thank you, I like to think that Will would have enjoyed getting a copy of THE SWORD OF EDEN, as well.

I’m very much looking forward to THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.

I hope that you had a wonderful and blessed Resurrection Sunday.

I hope that all is well.

Solus Christus.

in Christ Jesus,
Al Nickerson

Matthew 28:1-7 (Complete Jewish Bible): 28 After Shabbat, as the next day was dawning, Miryam of Magdala and the other Miryam went to see the grave. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of Adonai came down from heaven, rolled away the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. 4 The guards were so terrified at him that they trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Yeshua, who was executed on the stake. 6 He is not here, because he has been raised — just as he said! Come and look at the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell the talmidim, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and now he is going to the Galil ahead of you. You will see him there.’ Now I have told you.”
Al Nickerson is a comic book artist, writer, and self-publisher. Al is an alumnus of the School of Visual Arts. He has been a professional comic book artist since 1994 for folks such as Warp Graphics, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Archie Comics. As an animator and designer, Al worked for Sesame Street, MTV Animation, Nickelodeon, and Marvel Entertainment. He has self-published creator-owned comic books including THE ARGGH!!! CHRONICLES 2000 EDITION and NIHILIST-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS. Al is currently self-publishing THE SWORD OF EDEN graphic novel (

I haven't sent this up to Dave (Hey man I'm BUSY!) but when I do, I'm sure I'll get a response.

Anyway, as I probably didn't format this quite the way Dave expected, for the cheap seats:
Adam Beechen's Hench is available from Amazon. (Which is were his website sends you.) Most recently, Adam wrote an eight-page story featured in the 'ROBIN 80th Anniversary Special' for DC.

Al Nickerson is a comic book artist, writer, and self-publisher. Al is an alumnus of the School of Visual Arts. He has been a professional comic book artist since 1994 for folks such as Warp Graphics, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Archie Comics. As an animator and designer, Al worked for Sesame Street, MTV Animation, Nickelodeon, and Marvel Entertainment. He has self-published creator-owned comic books including THE ARGGH!!! CHRONICLES 2000 EDITION and NIHILIST-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS. Al is currently self-publishing THE SWORD OF EDEN graphic novel ( Follow/Engage with/Cyberstalk/e-bother him at or (Also:  Déjà vu...)
Dave Sim does Cerebus in Hell? (daily strips are posted at his next graphic novel, The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is available to order until May 31st (Details here.) and his previous work Cerebus the Aardvark is available here. And since I like you people, here's a preview of SODAR:
click all this stuff for biggerness.

Thanks Sean and Dave!

Next Time: Oliver. Links. Formatting. Posting. Reading. Clicking. More Reading.

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