Monday 25 May 2020

Aardvark Comment: Adam Beechen part five/Al Nickerson part...I lost count...

Hi, Everybody!

Before we get to the "back of the book stuff", a quick update from the Kickstarter for the Remastered Cerebus #1:
Hi everyone, Today brings a big update as we enter the last week of the campaign which ends a week from tomorrow.We and Dave have considered all of your feedback and suggestions and have come up with some great offerings. Just to be clear, everything we are offering is being produced exclusively for this Cerebus No. 1 campaign. None of these items will be made widely available or reprinted later on. How many we make of anything will be based on the number of orders received.To add any of these to your pledge, simply click on the button "Manage Your Pledge" on the campaign page and manually add the additional cost of each each item you are getting on top of what you have already pledged. We will confirm your add-ons when we send out the surveys at the end of this campaign.1. STRETCH BUNDLE (All 7 physical items) - Even though all of you are already getting 1 of every stretch goal, some of you may want multiples to collect or share with your fiends. As with all of the add-ons, the price of the first item covers additional packing and shipping costs on top of your pledge with each second item and up seeing a reduced price. For example, the first poster is $15, the second is $5. That means that if you want  to add 2 posters then the pice is $20, 3 posters for $25 and so on...2. COMIC SHOP POSTER - This 11x17" single-sided poster is available to everyone. Posters will be mailed rolled in tubes. If you missed it, we posted the printed proofs in the previous update (#9), it's a show stopper!3. ENAMEL CLOISONNÉ PIN - This is the first Cerebus Cloisonné pin to be offered since 1992, and features Cerebus right off the cover of issue No.1!4. CEREBUS HEAD SKETCH - It's been a long time since Dave offered head sketches but he wanted to make them available for this milestone release. The sketches will be completed in the ink of Dave's choice, and the heads will be of his choosing. Maybe you'll get a Cerebus No. 1 head on a Cerebus No. 1 comic? Your sketch will come on a platinum copy that will be numbered separately from the standard numbered edition. This may be your only opportunity to ever get a Cerebus head sketch by Dave on this book, and we are happy to offer them!If you have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to post on the comments section or you can send us a private direct message.Thank you all for your support!
If you want clarification or pictures, just click over to the campaign. They got all that stuff over there.

Mail there, or just Fax: 519 576 0955. Or email me at and I'll take care of it. (That's how this one worked!)

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. [I read it, it's a good story -Matt]
Adam Beechen's question to Dave (in case you forgot...):

CEREBUS continues to stagger me in many ways, but one of the most profound is its sheer size and the duration of its production. You did it. Like you said you would from the very beginning. Twenty-six years. Three hundred monthly issues. Like clockwork. All of those issues fit into the larger narrative framework, the characters are consistent (and if they change, it’s a sense of evolution, not an arbitrary left turn – It’s all motivated), and I never have the sense that you “took an issue off” here and there.
Your work on CEREBUS strikes me as a pretty unbelievable act of commitment, conviction, determination, sheer will, imagination and love. I work on a contract-to-contract basis. I write a script for this show as a freelancer, and then I move to that show and write a script for it. If I’m under contract to produce or story-edit a series, it’s for a limited period of a couple years at the absolute most. All of which suits me fine – I enjoy playing in other creators’ sandboxes. And I respond well to deadlines placed upon me, much better than I do to self-imposed deadlines. But after a few years on the same series, I can itch for new material on which to work.
Of course, I’ve never sold a series I created, and I might feel otherwise if that were the case. I hope I get to find out. Even so, I’d like to tell so many different kinds of stories over the course of my career, featuring many different kinds of characters. I don’t know that I could come up with a “vessel” of a framework story that could encompass all of them, the way CEREBUS encompassed multiple stories of a range of styles (illustrative and textual), all the while maintaining the central thread of Cerebus’ journey. If I did, there would probably still be times when I wondered if the narrative grass wasn’t greener somewhere else.
So, my question(s) to you becomes this (these):
Do you have a sense of where that drive, that commitment, within you comes from? And how hard or easy was it to maintain over the course of the 26 years?
Was there ever a time when you wanted to just walk away entirely before reaching 300? If so, how did you overcome it? Did you have mornings when you sat down at the drawing table and just said, “Ugh. I am just not in the mood for this.” If so, how did you fight through that?
Was there a time when you thought, “No one’s forcing me to do this every day, every month, every year. I’ll just take a couple months off. Just a couple. I’ll come back rejuvenated and get right back into it.” If so, what kept you from heading down that path?
Were you ever seriously tempted to step away from CEREBUS, temporarily or purposely, to pursue other projects that you’d either create or that someone else had created?
In short, how did you cope with CEREBUS fatigue and outside distraction?
If these are questions you’ve answered a hundred times before elsewhere, I apologize – I haven’t seen or heard those interviews – and I hope the way I’ve asked them here might give you a different approach or angle to answering them than you’ve had previously.
Dave Sim's answer to Adam Beechen's fourfold question above is being serialized this week [Not really, I only really post three times a week, since Margaret, Hobbs, Oliver, and Dave each take a day for me. So "a week" can take three weeks if I play my cards right -Matt] on AMOC.  Link to PART ONE.  Link to PART TWO.  Link to PART THREE. Link to PART FOUR.


Anyway, the original Gil Kane interview "jumper-cable moment" for me was where Gil talked about comic books lacking adult values. Words and pictures together. Well, he said, political cartoons were words and pictures together but they had the adult values comic books were lacking.  That was like a "jumper cable" jammed into my brain because I had been doing political cartoons as part of trying to build a freelance career and I had been clipping Wright cartoons and Oliphant cartoons and Wiley (arguably the best guys at the time) cartoons out of my parents' TIME magazines and really studying them. 

It was cartooning and it was writing and it was illustration simultaneously.  As illustration, it was at least as far into the page as Neal Adams was going -- that detailed, with that many levels of rendering depths and design, spotting of blacks, pen and brush contrasts -- but it was a completely different kind of thinking. Parodic and satirical but not in the juvenile way of MAD magazine.  It was adult cartoonists doing cartoons for adults. And not in the PLAYBOY or Robert Crumb-in-porno-mode "dirty little boy" "adult" sense.  It was the Emperor's New Clothes -- here's where he's naked and here's why he's naked -- done in words and pictures. 

So I saw Gil's point more vividly than most people would. WHY (all in caps) do we NOT (all in caps) have this in the comic-book field? No idea WHY, but the flip side of that was WHY NOT? Be either a) the one to do it or b) one of the ones to do it?

Which was a very different form of Elvis Presley. Still careerist, but in service to the same kind of sensibility that informed political cartoons. Really Say Something. Be Succinct. Be Acidic. But be Adult.

The point that I missed was that that takes you out of the Elvis Category. You can make a living at it but Really Saying Something. Being Succinct. Being Acidic. Being Adult. is no way to get rich. Political cartoonists are protected by their newspapers. Elvis housed within Colonel Parker.  Elvis is populist. Everyone loves Elvis.  In order to do that in the comic-book field you have to be naturally aligned with the market in the first place.  Elfquest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spawn would have that natural alignment and the exact distance between those intellectual properties and Cerebus was the reason I wasn't going to be the Elvis Presley of Comics. 

We're not really talking about how things ended up.  But, how I hoped they would end up and the choices I made to try and make them end up that way is very much a core element of your questions, Adam.     

JIGSAW PUZZLE PIECE #3 - I was collecting Truths -- irrefutable verities -- which I always try to do right up to the present day.  One of those was, as a cartoonist, the best you can hope for is to create a Marquee Character. If you're lucky enough to get SUPERMAN you only get one SUPERMAN. If you're lucky enough to get a PEANUTS you only get one PEANUTS.  It's, from a human perspective, a completely unpredictable lottery. Hundreds of thousands of cartoonists creating hundreds of thousands of characters. Lightning only strikes once, so if it strikes you DON'T EFF IT UP (all in caps).

And by EFF IT UP my best intel was 1) don't sell it to someone else 2) don't get distracted from it by other things 3) do it yourself and maintain the quality: don't do "fill-in" issues and don't let other people do "fill-in" issues 4) don't, tstructurally get yourself into a situation where someone is telling you how to do it.

I understood all of those things consciously -- supra-consciously -- years before I drew Cerebus as a cartoon mascot for Aardvark-Vanaheim.  I didn't know the Truths I was collecting were about Cerebus -- or, rather, CEREBUS -- but when CEREBUS started to happen (as opposed to me starting CEREBUS: when I started getting response from casting my bread upon the waters) all of these Jigsaw Puzzle pieces of mental armour clicked into place and stayed in place. I WILLED them to stay in place.

It's necessary to see JIGSAW PUZZLE PIECES #1 #2 and #3 as interconnected as they were and are. Because that's the answer to your multi-levelled question, Adam.  DON'T EFF IT UP at the level I was dealing with it, wasn't a DON'T EFF IT UP NOW -- LATER WHEN YOU'RE RICH YOU CAN EFF IT UP.  It was DON'T EFF IT UP AT ALL. EVER. Because only one out of every so many hundreds of thousands of cartoonists gets one of these and if you get one, you ONLY get one.  And there are a lot more ways to EFF IT UP than to get it right.  Your life becomes essentially a series of bottlenecks trying to make you EFF IT UP. 


Dave Sim is the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, which ran for three hundred issues from December 1977 to March 2004 (and is available digitally here.) His latest project is The Strange Death of Alex Raymond (a fundraising Edition is available, details on how to get it here. And there is a Kickstarter for the Remastered version of Cerebus #1. His OTHER latest project is the ongoing Cerebus in Hell? (Daily strips are posted here, and the next #1 is Green Dante/Green Virgil (which should be in stores by the end of the month)). The newest CiH? #1 to order is The Amicable Spider-Vark. And every Friday he posts a video "update".

"Say, wasn't Dave doing one of these with Al Nickerson?" By George, you're right! Here's last time where Al answered Dave's questions, which means it's Dave's serve.
Al Nickerson

[Just so you guys and gals remember who's playing:

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 ( -Matt, now back to Dave:]

19 May 20

Hi Al:

Let's take this in reverse order.  You first and then Will.

I'm interested in what you might have to say about the experience of working on a graphic novel for ten long years. Having to make a living even while you're developing and refining your dream project.  Were there periods of time when you weren't working on it (and the related question: was there ever a concern that you might never get back to it?) or were you able to move steadily forward at all times?  There are a lot of guys (including me with SDOAR) in the situation of working for years on something where you can't even tell if there IS light at the end of the tunnel, let alone how far away it is. CEREBUS, once we got back on schedule in Hawaii, was really in a different category -- a monthly book.  You only have a month to do the issue so you make it as good as you can in that month.  Doing SDOAR with a "I'm not letting go of this until it's exactly what I want it to be" work ethic -- the same as I had on JUDENHASS -- is brutal in a different way.  Before you know it, Pink Floyd-like "Ten years have got behind you."  Any advice on that.

And re: Will Eisner as parent (and who knew?):  

You didn't mean to prompt this, but you definitely prompted this. 

I'm not sure that there was that much of a personal Will Eisner to know.  He was artist, writer, businessman, mentor, teacher in different sequences and he could switch hats on a dime as required.  He was Ann's devoted husband, a one-woman "'til death us do part" man and Pete's brother, definitely. The two of them -- Ann and Pete -- have the lengthiest family citations in the index.  

One of the best chapters in Bob Andelman's WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE (2016) is the shortest, "The Unknown Man" where Bob discusses the passing of Will's sixteen-year old daughter, Alice, from leukaemia in 1970. It's a particularly effective use of Bob's staccato anecdotal paragraph approach, speaking volumes in an understated way. I hope Bob will forgive me for stretching the boundaries of fair use by pulling multiple extracts from it.

It starts with a -- I have to say -- breathtaking example of Comic Art Metaphysics: the reiterative enactment:

A cartoonist working in Eisner's shop during The Spirit days had a sixteen-year-old daughter who died of cancer. The grieving father came in the office the day after she died and sat at his drawing board, crying.

"Look at him," Eisner said to his brother Pete. "If that ever happened to me, I couldn't do it."

Couldn't do what? Go in to work the next day?  Know thyself: 

Ann gave up work and everything else to care for Alice over the next eighteen months.  Will, on the other hand, buried himself in his work for the army (PS magazine)

"I only had her sixteen years," Ann said. "I lived with her at Mt. Sinai Hospital. I insisted on a cot there. I would go home when friends came in to relieve me briefly, change my clothes, and go back"

"I didn't want the doctors to tell her that she was dying," [Will] explained. "She was sixteen! When you are sixteen you are at the bloom of your youth, and you don't think that anything can really happen to you. You think 'Mom and Dad will take care of this.'"

Just before Alice died, she said to her father, 'Daddy, buy Mom a present for her birthday. Don't forget! You always forget things! Buy Mom a present."

Just when you think the story can't get any more breathtaking, there's another blow to your metaphysical solar plexus:  

Alice died on Ann's birthday.

It seems to me a Comic Art Metaphysics life-out-of-balance thing. Ann immerses herself in Alice's last eighteen months and Will retreats from it entirely…into work, making a kind of birthday gift to Ann of the dying Alice 

Not only CAN you do that, Will, you WILL do that.

His employees all come to the funeral -- and then bill Will for the overtime. Again, just breathtaking.  

"We have an autistic son," Adele [Kurtzman, Harvey's wife] said. "I think Harvey and Will had that bond -- children -- in common. When Will first came to our house and my daughter Nellie was little, I introduced them. And Will said, 'I had a little girl once, too.' It was devastating the way he said it. Harvey took solace in being able to talk to Will. Who else would understand what it's like? There's guilt, embarrassment, all kinds of feelings."

Bob's book didn't come out until eleven years after Will died.

Boy, you think you know someone. 


Dave Sim 
[I'ma just gonna leave this here. -Matt (for where, see here.)]
Next Time: Adam Beechen Part Six: Hal Foster. Al Nickerson's response to Dave.


Tony Dunlop said...

I'm speechless. This series just might be the least useless thing ever posted on the Interwebs.
Damning with faint praise, I know...

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...


Wait until Dave re-reads the scans of the Gil Kane interview from The Comics Journal I sent him.

Or next Saturday where Dave blows everybody's minds with the Cerebus storyline after Church & State that was NEVER written.

(Give ya a hint, Pope Cerebus doesn't become a houseguest...)