Tuesday 26 May 2020

Aardvark Comment Part six (The end of Dave's answer to the 4 part question from Adam Beechen, and then the next chapter in the Al Nickerson dialogue.)

Hi, Everybody!

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

"Who's the leader of the gang that's made for you and me:
A. D. A. M. um...there aren't enough letters to do this bit.
B. E. E. C. H. E. N!"
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 (if you know the words, SING ALONG!):

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 [it's been more than a week, but here's the big finish! (actually, there's more from Adam and Dave that's a-coming.) -Matt] on AMOC.  Link to PART ONE.  Link to PART TWO.  Link to PART THREE. Link to PART FOUR. Link toPART FIVE.


JIGSAW PUZZLE PIECE #4 - A particularly subtle DON'T EFF IT UP was Hal Foster saying that his last few PRINCE VALIANT pages were "lousy".  Cruel but fair...

[Foster was brutal with himself at the end. He and Gil Kane are on a panel in 1969 -- one of SPARRING WITH GIL KANE's "accidental merits" -- which is pretty much his last full year on VALIANT and he talks about how he "used up history" in the first few years of the strip. Attila the Hun, the Saxon invasion of Britain and the Sack of Rome. The biggest documented contemporaneous events in proximity to the quasi-historical King Arthur. He's very matter-of-fact about it, considering that he's discussing the legacy of his historical adventure strip (which was, at least at the time, perceived to be at least as quasi-historical as King Arthur himself) in one of the few comic-art fora of the day: Seuling's Comic Art Convention. It was obviously something he would like to have re-done, but 30 years later is 30 years later.]

…You don't just keep doing it until you can't do it anymore. Doing a half-a--ed CEREBUS -- for whatever reason, whether lethargy or boredom or old age -- was and would be EFFING IT UP. Hal Foster EFFED THAT PART UP with PRINCE VALIANT and that's Top of Mount Everest Stuff in the comic-art field -- irrefutable stature like Foster's doesn't immunize you against EFFING IT UP -- so don't EFF THAT UP. Foster did a full-page strip a week for 32 years. No fill-ins or ghost artists except on the backgrounds. He didn't EFF THAT UP.

So, that's when I set the 300-issue parameter.  Having done that, all of the scenarios you depict just don't occur.  "It's [whatever day it was, whatever issue it was, whatever page it was], which is between December 1977 and March 2004. Therefore 'miles to go before I sleep'. Get moving." You don't revisit that or rationalize that or fudge that ("I'll just take a couple of months off and come back refreshed") or you're EFFING IT UP.  And if you EFF IT UP in 1995, then you've let yourself down in a completely inexcusable way -- that you KNOW (all in caps) is inexcusable because you did all the math 20 years ago. You not only obliterate your future, you obliterate everything you built from 1977 to 1995. The further along you are, the more inexcusable it would be.  Don't kid yourself. You will get old and you will lose your chops. 

[What I didn't anticipate was the "Dave Sim vs. Feminism" thing.  Issue 186 created two realities -- or, rather, a Reality and a "reality" -- in one of them Dave Sim EFFED IT UP, completely derailed CEREBUS by not realizing that Feminism was the only Valid Reality.  Whereas, my assessment was, No, buying into that delusional mythology would be EFFING IT UP.  Like the DNA helix, those dichotomous perspectives -- one a Reality and one a "reality", which is which yet to be determined -- spiral around each other off into an (infinite?) future.]   

The soundtrack for all this is Supertramp's CRIME OF THE CENTURY album, the side that started with "Dreamer".  Gene Day and I working in his studio, Gale doing her shift at the hospital, with the stereo in the living room playing that side over and over and over.  "Can you put your hands in your head?"  "Can you do something out of this world?"  That was where it was all coming together for me. No idea what it all meant for Gene. We really didn't talk that much. We worked -- when we ate, we talked or when we went "upstreet" in Gananoque to get the mail, we talked -- but mostly we sat on opposite sides of the room, worked, and listened to that side of CRIME OF THE CENTURY.

That was what I needed to do.  I needed to put my hands in my head and do something out of this world.  CEREBUS was still two years away. I didn't have my own apartment like Gene did, I was living with my parents.  My life couldn't have been any less "out of this world" in actuality or potential.  But JIGSAW PUZZLE PIECES #1, #2 and #3 were already (to mix a metaphor) carved in stone in my mind. DON'T EFF IT UP if it gets here. DON'T EFF IT UP if you're one of the lucky ones who Gets it for some reason.

Doubling back to you talking about you and your Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces, I can understand your perplexity.  If you don't live, if you haven't always lived, within those narrowly confined DON'T EFF IT UP parameters, it's hard to imagine how you could not be tempted or distracted by other things.  But, once the 300 issues were carved-in-stone conceptually, "Ugh. I am just not in the mood for this."  was no longer an option.  Emotions -- moods -- were thrown overboard early because they were detrimental.  They led away from instead of to the goal. Emotion was just a way of making EFFING IT UP not only possible but likely. And if I allowed something possibly detrimental to become likely detrimental, inevitably detrimental was just around the corner.

John Lennon's August 1977 "Elvis died when he went in the army" and my "John Lennon died when he met Yoko Ono" fit very snuggly into that box. 

In terms of your wondering about me wanting to do something else creatively, I reacted to what I was working on and channeled that forward. 

Unable to put the Full Scope of my imagined HIGH SOCIETY into 500 pages, I mentally expanded The Next Book to what I was learning Full Scope would require: 1100 or 1200 pages. 

Discovering what Full Scope was like halfway in, I started mentally designing The Next Book as a complete contrast with that.  Things to look forward to that were as un-CHURCH & STATE-like as I could imagine while I was working on CHURCH & STATE.  Things that had never been done before in comics. Perhaps with good reason. Expanding what comic art could do, possibly to the breaking point where they were no longer comics.

Only one way to find out. 

"Can you put your hands in your head?"  "Can you do something out of this world?" 

When HIGH SOCIETY and CHURCH & STATE were done, they were no longer "out of this world". They were in the world because they had been done. I had put my metaphysical hands in my head and, to the best of my abilities, put them on paper. Then it was time to do JAKA'S STORY which was "out of this world" because it hadn't been done.  ALL THAT TEXT! IN A COMIC BOOK! WHAT IS THIS?

Whatever it is, before I do it, it's "out of this world" because I haven't done it yet.

And I'm going to make sure that what I'm doing hasn't been done before because, in my own frames of reference, that's the opposite of EFFING IT UP and the further I could get from EFFING IT UP the less likely, it seemed to me, I was to EFF IT UP.  A change is as good as a rest. The fact that each book was completely different from the previous book wasn't a coincidence, it was a job perk. 
"Wait, Adam Beechen is the leader of the gang?
When did this become A Moment of Beechen?
What am I chopped liver?" -Dave Sim
(presumably, if he ever saw this...)

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".

And now Al Nickerson's latest reply to Dave's latest reply to Al's last reply that refereed to Dave's previous reply that was a reply to Al's reply to Dave's reply. THIRD BASE!

May 23, 2020

Hi Dave,

          It’s true that I began (what was to be) THE SWORD OF EDEN graphic novel around 2010.  I was still inking for Archie Comics and DC Comics. For the most part, those two publishers kept me very busy. Whenever I had a chance to work on my creator-owned work, I would. Still, there were great chunks of time when I was not working on THE SWORD OF EDEN. But, I was never worried that I would not complete the comic. I always enjoyed working on creator-owned projects more than working on corporate-owned projects (either in comics or animation).

          My intention was to share the Gospel message in a medium that I love, to create content for Christians where they would not feel as if they were compromising their principles, and to give back to God for all of the blessings that He has poured out in my life.

          At first, THE SWORD OF EDEN was a down-loadable serialized digital comic book series titled AN ACT OF FAITH. It was sold through iVerse Media. Often, readers would ask for a printed collection. Hence, the 220-page graphic novel, THE SWORD OF EDEN. I did redraw a number of pages. Plus, formatting and proofing 220-pages for my printer wasn’t a small task. All of that ate up a lot of time.

          (The sequel, THE SWORD OF EDEN: SHINOBI, will only be about 100 pages.)

          I do recall your Hawaii trip being mentioned in the (most-awesome) CEREBUS comic book series. I seem to remember a photo of you in Hawaii where you were about to smoke something.

          Anyway, it is wonderful to see THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND about to go on sale. Can’t wait!

          I purchased my copy of WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE in 2005 when it was first published. The 2005 version does have the “Unknown Man” chapter. I’m guessing you have a later edition. Maybe the hardcover “Deluxe Edition”?

          Will did work with Bob Andelman on WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE. If I recall correctly, the idea was for Will to write the book on his own, but Bob came in as the fulltime biographer/writer.

          WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE is a very intimate, thought-provoking, and emotionally intense book. Reading about the sudden destruction of Will’s nuclear family was (and is) heartbreaking.

          The “Unknown Man” chapter chronicles another disturbing event resulting from Alice’s passing…
          When Alice died, something strange took place that Eisner never publicly mentioned until now. “The boys on the PS magazine staff came up to attend the funeral,” he said. “That weekend, they hit me with a bill for overtime as a result. It stuck in my throat like a stone…”
          What’s wrong with people?
        On Facebook, I posted a portion of your 19 May 20 letter. Will Eisner’s nephew, Carl Gropper, commented with: “Al, it looks to me like Dave Sim doesn't know the Will Eisner that I knew. If his knowledge is based on meeting and working with Will professionally and on the Andelman book he missed a lot.”

          I responded to Carl with: “Hi, Carl. Thanks for your perspective. I would imagine that you had the wonderful opportunity than most (of us) in knowing Will in something other than a professional relationship. My point in my previous letter to Dave was that, in class, Will Eisner never mentioned his personnel life. Which was fine, of course. He was our teacher. Will's personnel life was none of our business.”
          I met Carl Gropper a couple of times; once at the New York Comic Con, and the second time was at the Society of Illustrators during the “Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017” exhibit. On both occasions, I found Carl to be friendly, polite, and very supportive of reminding the public of Will’s legacy.
          I do agree with your assessment of Will Eisner, Dave.

          From my experience, I only knew Will Eisner in the capacity of his being my teacher… and that was more than plenty for me.

In Christ Jesus,

Al Nickerson

Romans 12:9 (Revised Standard Version): 9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

Al, seen here wondering what kind of funny Mickey
Mouse Club gag I'm gonna put on his photo, not realizing
that I'm really down to an Annette Funicello bit, and I
was saving that for sometime in June...
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 (www.theswordofeden.com). 

Next Time: Hobbs, the Donald Duck around here...

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Birdsong said...
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