Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Actions Tell All...

Cerebus #267 (June 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Weaponised Ink, 18 November 2013)
Today brought another round of discussion on Twitter about "the issues women have in comics." Because I have four daughters who love comics and have attended SDCC since they were five, and because they want to be comic creators, I lamented…
"I've always been vexed & annoyed about the treatment of women in the comic biz, but now... having 4 daughters, it flat out pisses me off..."
This set off a chain discussion on how bad it really is in comics for women and girls compared to other industries.

Which lead to this post.  Now, in case you haven't put 2 and 2 together, I'm a straight white American male. While my life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, I've always been acutely aware of the advantages that are present and available to me because of genetics and geolocation.  I don't feel guilty about this fact, but I've always felt distinctly uncomfortable when I've been in situations where "guys talk shit".  This was true in high school in the 80s when guys would insult other guys by calling them "fag". It was true when I was in college in the 90s and guys would call a female co-worker a "slutty whore".  It's still true today.

I've been working in comics professionally since 1989. On the positive side, there are more visible female comic creators in this business than anyone thought likely or possible "back in the day". On the negative side, many still have to put up with the kind of crap that was part and parcel of being one of the scant female creators in comics back in the 80s.

The other thing I've seen over the last 25 years? The thing that remains as true today as it was back then?

You cannot make surface assumptions on who's "safe" or trustworthy, because it’s frequently not who you'd expect.

Example I:
In the early 90s, I went to a fairly well known comic creator's place for a week to join a group of "rookies" in doing a marathon session to help pencil, ink, and color 24 pages in 5 days.  The mix was 3 guys and 2 girls (in addition to the aforementioned comic creator).

Said comic creator was "known" for having "progressive" ideas about female creators... that they were just as good as men, that there needed to be more of them in comics, that they needed to not put up with shit from men... and the fact that there were 2 women on the team seemed to reinforce that.  As someone who had looked up to this creator for years, it was inspiring to see someone bucking the trend, putting his money (he paid all of us) where his mouth was.  As a group, we stayed up making comics most of the 5 days, catnapping for a couple hours, coffee on constantly, loud music, laughter. It made me think, at multiple points, "this is awesome!"  The book got done, and the Comic Creator took us to a sauna/spa for drinks and "to unwind".

I can't speak for the two women, but I was certainly a bit uncomfortable when we got there and I realized "Oh, we're all going to be in this hot tub... together... naked?!"  Everyone else stripped down without hesitation, hopped in, started drinking and BSing.  I convinced myself I was being "uptight", and stripped down hopped in, grabbed a beer and tried to not feel too self-conscious.

That ended when said comic creator lifted himself out of the hot tub with an erection, and looked back and forth between the two women before asking "OK, who’s gonna help daddy out?"

My reaction was a simple and loud "What the fuck?!? Dude... what the?!?" as I scrambled out of the tub, grabbing at my clothes, determined to get away from this situation as fast as possible.  The Comic Creator lowered himself back into the tub, laughing it off saying "it’s a joke, kid lighten up!" insisting I mellow out and get back in the tub.  I didn't.  I was too freaked out... I kept feeling like "I'm an idiot, I thought we were a team, that we were all 'bonding' over comics, but..."

It was a January in Seattle, I had pulled my clothes on over my wet skin, not even stopping to dry off, and I walked to the bus station (a good 3+ miles) and went home, cold and wet and freaked as hell.  The entire 8 hour ride back I beat myself up... "The women didn’t seem bothered by it, why did you get freaked out?  You overreacted, you’ll never get another chance to work on..." Those feelings got reinforced when I didn’t get paid for the work. Further compounding the self loathing and confusion was the moment I ran into one of the women a couple years later and her first question was "why did you freak out and run off?"

Example II: Dave Sim
Now, immediately, I know a huge number of people reading this are thinking "Oh HO! What did Dave do?!" Expecting the worst.

In '92 Dave was doing a US Tour for Cerebus, and my friend Randy and I were helping him organize the Seattle stop. There ended up being a scheduling conflict, and the majority of the retailers at what was supposed to be a "one day con" bailed in order to go to Vancouver or Olympia for some event where a couple of the newly launched Image creators were appearing.  Dave responded by telling us "Let every creator in the area know that they have a table for free, get the word out, fuck having 20 guys selling back issues, let’s just make it about the creators." Dave did that even though it meant he'd eat most of the cost of the ballroom that was being rented for the show.

So the show goes off with a number of local indie creators in attendance. There's maybe 100-200 people that show up to check it out at most. Not completely a ghost town, but not bustling either.  The end result was that Dave and every creator there ended up spending a LOT of time with each person who had something to sign. A lot of original sketches got done. No one was making money, but it was genuinely enjoyable. I was sitting next to Dave when this girl approached with a portfolio under one arm. She was in her early 20s, blonde, and looked like a model. It's no exaggeration to say that she was stunning.  She walked up, and asked Dave, glancing occasionally to me and Randy, "I want to be a comic artist... I love comics, can you tell me what I should do?"  Dave and I looked at each other for a moment, expressions blank... knowing all too well what a dozen comic editors would say at that moment… before Dave said to me "Tell her what NOT to do, and I’ll look at her art."  She looked puzzled for a minute until I started talking...

"Don’t go to a 'meeting' alone in an editor, writer or artist’s hotel room, don’t go out 'for drinks' with the just the two of you so you can 'discuss opportunities', don’t go over to his house alone so he can 'show you the proper technique'..." I kept going on, and on, and on as Dave flipped through her portfolio, chiming in with the occasional addition, such as, "Remember it is 'not the way it gets done' no matter what any dirty old man tells you."

After I’d gone on for a while, Dave started critiquing her work.  It was OK, definitely in the "beginner" category.  The classic stage of "Keep at it for two years and do these kinds of things, and maybe you'll be ready."  He wasn’t mean about it, he gave very specific, helpful advice, and told her before she left "If you want to make comics, make sure you’re doing it your way." I don't know her name, I don't know if she followed through and stuck with it.

Driving back the next day, Randy... one of the few people who knows about the hot tub story... said to me "You know, everyone thinks that one Comic Creator is such a nice-guy feminist, and Dave is such a sexist misogynist, but..." and I said something like... 

"Yeah, but fucking actions tell all."

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Passing "The Bechdel Test"

Cerebus Vol 8: Women (1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
What is now known as the Bechdel test was introduced in Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled "The Rule", an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:
  • it has to have at least two women in it,
  • who talk to each other,
  • about something besides a man.
Bechdel credited the idea for the test to a friend and karate training partner, Liz Wallace. She later wrote that she was pretty certain that Wallace was inspired by Virginia Woolf's essay A Room of One’s Own... The test, which has been described as "the standard by which feminist critics judge television, movies, books, and other media", moved into mainstream criticism in the 2010s. By 2013, an Internet newspaper described it as "almost a household phrase, common shorthand to capture whether a film is woman-friendly", and the failure of major Hollywood productions such as Pacific Rim (2013) to pass it was addressed in depth in the media. According to Neda Ulaby, the test still resonates because "it articulates something often missing in popular culture: not the number of women we see on screen, but the depth of their stories, and the range of their concerns."
Dykes To Watch Out For: The Rule (1985)
by Alison Bechdel
(Click image to enlarge)
(via Wikipiedia

Monday, 21 April 2014

Famous Misogynists: Philip Roth

Philip Roth (2007)
by John Cuneo
(from My Life As A Writer, New York Times, 2 March 2014)
...Misogyny, a hatred of women, provides my work with neither a structure, a meaning, a motive, a message, a conviction, a perspective, or a guiding principle. This is contrary, say, to how another noxious form of psychopathic abhorrence -- and misogyny's equivalent in the sweeping inclusiveness of its pervasive malice -- anti-Semitism, a hatred of Jews, provides all those essentials to "Mein Kampf." My traducers propound my alleged malefaction as though I have spewed venom on women for half a century. But only a madman would go to the trouble of writing 31 books in order to affirm his hatred.

It is my comic fate to be the writer these traducers have decided I am not. They practice a rather commonplace form of social control: You are not what you think you are. You are what we think you are. You are what we choose for you to be. Well, welcome to the subjective human race. The imposition of a cause’s idea of reality on the writer’s idea of reality can only mistakenly be called "reading." And in the case at hand, it is not necessarily a harmless amusement. In some quarters, "misogynist" is now a word used almost as laxly as was "Communist" by the McCarthyite right in the 1950s -- and for very like the same purpose.

Yet every writer learns over a lifetime to be tolerant of the stupid inferences that are drawn from literature and the fantasies implausibly imposed upon it. As for the kind of writer I am? I am who I don't pretend to be...

Philip Roth (1933- ) is one of the most awarded U.S. writers of his generation.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream

(from Gerz Blog, 7/17 April 2014)
I received this commission request from Erik:
"I'd like you to design a full color cover for a fictitious Little Nemo story. As paper size I have 15x20 in mind (your Gerhard Dreams print format). I would like a dream scene with Nemo in which there are also (dreamlike) buildings and animals. And I would like you to design the lettering for the title of this 'book'."
...Thanks to Lou Copeland who saw the pencilled version of this on a previous blog post and alerted me to this amazing project -- Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream. I contacted them and let them know I was doing this commission. I said that I didn't know if they'd be interested in including this in their book. I just thought that I'd show it to them and I thought it was an interesting coincidence. I received this reply:
"Wow, what a wonderful surprise! We're enormous fans of your work, and it's both lucky and amazing (not to mention flattering) that you'd reach out to us while in the midst of a Nemo commission. Of course we'd be honored to include this in the book! It looks incredible already."
So... how cool is that?
Commission: Little Nemo In Slumberland (2014)
Art by Gerhard 

 -- See the coloured version at Gerz Blog --

(from the Locust Moon blog, 6 August 2013)
Winsor McCay was perhaps the greatest cartoonist of all time, and the Sunday newspaper strip Little Nemo In Slumberland is his most enduring creation. Detailing the adventures of its titular character in The Land of Wonderful Dreams, the early twentieth century opus is one of the most inventive and visually stunning works of American art. A century later, the comic medium is still racing to keep up with the richness, draftsmanship, imagination, and wonder of McCay's fantastic storytelling and wild Slumberland universe.

In Locust Moon Press’ upcoming anthology Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, many of the world’s finest cartoonists will pay tribute to the master and his masterpiece by creating new Little Nemo strips, following their own voices down paths lit by McCay. Contributors include Paul Pope, JH Williams III, Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack, Carla Speed McNeil, Charles Vess, Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel, Farel Dalrymple, Marc Hempel, Brandon Graham, P. Craig Russell, Jeremy Bastian, Jim Rugg, Ron Wimberly, Scott Morse, David Petersen, J.G. Jones, Mike Allred, Dean Motter, Yuko Shimizu, Roger Langridge, and Mark Buckingham, among many others.

To be published in the fall of 2014 as both a newspaper and a hardcover book at the full size of the original Little Nemo broadsheet pages (16″ x 21″), this book will celebrate McCay's endless legacy, chart his influence on generations of modern cartoonists, and most of all shine a light back on an artist who has given his art form so much, and whose work should be more widely known.

This is a love song for Winsor McCay, Little Nemo, and the limitless possibilities of comics.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Mugshots: Lady Gaga & Cerebus

Mugshots: Lady Gaga & Cerebus (2011)
Art by Dave Sim
When I was doing CEREBUS TV with Dave Sim, we were always trying to come up with revenue ideas. Unfortunately, this was the ONLY piece that we weren't able to sell. I got to keep the piece since the concept was my idea. Oh well, looks great in my collection!
(via ComicArtFans)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Weekly Update #27: George & Sean

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read  on...
Cerebus #36 (March 1982)
Art by Dave Sim
Okay, here I am!

Thanks for ChrisW and Anonymous for posting their comments last week.

The situation, unfortunately, is a lot less flexible than that.  I really can't afford to come up with ideas -- I have plenty of my own -- of what might work.  You have to calculate how much time it would take to analyze what collection of Cerebus' Greatest Hits might work.  Then what would be the best page length, cover price, etc. etc.  Then you have to see what you have in terms of digital files and whether the package is doable in that sense.  Then you have to solicit for it.  If you sell, say, 2,000 copies, that's great!  If you sell, say, 412 copies, that's not so great.  Then you have a printing bill for 2,000 copies, revenue from 412 copies and you have to store 1,600 copies that are probably never going to sell.

Not good.

And the point of doing such a package would be to drive sales on the trade paperbacks.  The retailers are not going to be impressed if they're selling a comic book or small trade that instantly raises the question:  Wow! This is really good!  How do I start reading it?

Uh, well, you can't.  CEREBUS which is the beginning and HIGH SOCIETY which is the preferred starting point are both out of print.

No, I'm afraid there's no way around getting CEREBUS and/or HIGH SOCIETY back into print. Until that happens, CEREBUS is DOA from a retail standpoint.

Progress on that front:

George sent Sean the raw digital files and George's finished digital files for "The Night Before", #36 (part of HIGH SOCIETY) and Sean is working on them.  George called and left a message saying he was sending me print-outs of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY.  Which sounded good until I thought about it and went, "No, we're past that point.  We've already determined that, one way or the other, what are called proofs in 2014 are really just one-off copies.  The ability to do an accurate one-off copy isn't in doubt.  What is in doubt is the ability to match that one-off copy to the finished printing."  So I sent George a fax saying to hang onto them unless or until we see a need for them.

So it seems to me we're in the situation of still determining what is going to be in the sample signature.  "The Night Before" is a good bet, because it was really a mess from front to back in the unbound copy that Lebonfon did.  BUT!  "The Night Before" was shot from the original artwork in the Cerebus Archive, which means it's apt to be a different matter from most of HIGH SOCIETY which was either scanned from printed copies (after the negatives went up in smoke) or from the negatives (before they went up in smoke).  So, yes, we want SOME pages from "The Night Before" but not ALL pages from "The Night Before".  I'm thinking 4 pages from "The Night Before" (I'm going to check my unbound copy and see which are the worst 4):  George's best version, Sean's best version and Lebonfon's best version (I'm pretty sure they had scanned those negatives before the fire).

And then I have to look at the other "worst cases" in the unbound HIGH SOCIETY volume and see what other suggestions I have.  Again, as far as I can see, it needs to be 4 pages from each version: George's, Sean's and Lebonfon's.  That will bring us up to 24 pages leaving 8 pages -- so two more pages of -- something -- from each version: George's, Sean's and Lebonfon's.

In that situation, I think the best idea would be to do 8 pages that have been arrived at by a different method and to have that kept track of.  This was Dean's suggestion and George's suggestion both:  if we keep track of HOW each page was produced, if we see a particularly good example, then that will tell us what tweaking is needed.

Comic Art Metaphysics being what it is, no sooner had I told George to hang onto his most recent printouts of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY than Sean phoned and said that the proofs that HE had printed out and which were on the way to me had looked good at first, but looking at them again, he had discovered that the REALLY fine lines were breaking up.

He works at a printing place so he said he has consulted with the other pre-press guys there to find out: a) why they think the fine lines are breaking up and b) what it's going to take to get the fine lines back.

So, still a very slow motion process, but if Sean can figure out why he's losing the really fine lines and we can get that nailed down as a flawless way to produce digital files, then we can start making faster forward progress.

Or we're coming closer to discovering that we're not there yet in terms of the technology:  that the fine lines that George is picking up with his grey-scaling are just naturally going to get lost if you convert to bitmap.

I'm going to make a request that comments attached to these Weekly Updates stick to the reproduction issues we're dealing with.  I appreciate that everyone has ideas as to how to make CEREBUS a success in 2014 but, as I said, that's not really where we are.  I welcome any feedback in that way at PO Box 1674 Stn. C, Kitchener, Ontario Canada, N2G 4R2.

But the primary motivation here is to, hopefully, attract the attention of people who work in the printing trade and are HUGE comic book/comic strip fans and have experience in how to pick up fine lines, grey-scaling, bit-mapping, etc.

Next Friday:  I'm going to take a break from CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY to discuss CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE as a means of fund-raising to, first of all, get Lebonfon paid for a percentage of their work so far and then start determining what we're going to do in the Restoration and Preservation end of things.  This will centre on the thing that I am 100% positive about when it comes to digital printing:  the one-off full-size photocopy 600 dpi RGB on glossy card stock as the best way to preserve the look of the original artwork.

The BEST reproduction possible, no excuses.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

Chris & Julie

Chris Ryall & Family (2014)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Ryall Files, 3 April 2014)
Me and the family as visualized through the brush of Dave Sim. Seemed appropriate to post today on my 10th wedding anniversary (even though the kid came along a couple years later). Also, it's insane for me to think that Dave Sim drew us at all, so any reason to post this, I'll take it.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Tribute Art Round-Up No.8

Fred Hembeck (1999)

Alex Robinson (2014)

Alex Toth (1982)

This is my take on Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark. The main character of the outstanding epic comic saga. Spanning over almost three decades and 6000 pages it’s the longest comic ever published. Cerebus was sculpted freehand and retopologized in ZBrush and then brought into modo for more retopo, modeling, posing and rendering. Comp done in Photoshop. I was going for a very stylized version to keep true to Dave Sim’s 2D renderings.

Joe Murray (1990)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Michael Cohen: Twenty Down, Seven To Go!

(from Comics Buyers Guide #1267, 27 February 1998)
Remember all those wonderful comics that were coming out in December 1977? Who could forget such classics as Nova #18 or Freedom Fighters #13? Two decades later, people are still talking about Spidey Super Stories #32 and The Human Fly #7. Well, those comics may actually have their fans, but the most significant comic hook that came out that year was pretty much ignored. Now, 20 years later, however, it is considered a classic.

Despite creator Dave Sim's achievements with Cerebus -- and there are many -- I would wager that the majority of comics readers have never read a single issue of the (so far) more than 225-issue run. Perhaps they have heard about that "weird aardvark comic book" but have gone no further because they were told it was too complex or they thought it was just another funny-animal comic book or because it was black-and-white or because their retailer never ordered copies in the first place.

Indeed, Sim has created a bit of a dilemma for himself by attempting a comics project of this magnitude. How do you get new readers to come on board in the middle of a 300-issue (6000-page) graphic novel! Convincing a non-Cerebus reader that an epic story about a talking aardvark is not only entertaining but is great art (which it is) is a pretty hard sell. Even if someone were willing to take a stab at the series, where should he start?

With the first issue, one would think. Although a first-edition copy of that rare issue would set you back a couple hundred bucks, there are other alternatives. In 1988 Sim started publishing Cerebus Biweekly, reprinting the early issues in sequence, complete with letter columns and all; these might be found in back-issue bins for a reasonable price. A more daring move would be to go all out and plop down $25 for a copy of the first "phone book", as these colossal compendiums are called. Titled simply Cerebus, it reprints the first 25 issues of the run. Another option would be to track down a copy of an early reprint volume, Swords of Cerebus, from 1981, which reprints issues #1-4. Does that solve the "where do I start" dilemma for the inquisitive comics reader? Actually, no, because there is a debate on whether Cerebus #1 is the best place to begin.

You wouldn't ask someone to start watching a movie in the middle or jump into Lord of the Rings with Chapter 12, so why does this question present itself here? Because the early issues of Cerebus, though clever, funny parodies of the time worn formulas of sword-and-sorcery (in particular, Roy Thomas and Barry Smith's Conan the Barbarian comic hook adapting Robert E Howard's pulp hero) really give little hint of the depth and artistry that the mature, later works would have. It would be a shame if a potential reader for the entire series was turned off by issue #2, but it's certainly possible, especially if Sim's brand of humor is not your cup of tea.

But there's lots of wonderful stuff in those early issues. Sim's drawing and writing abilities grew in leaps and bounds, as he had his wandering barbarian aardvark encounter a wide range of hysterically funny characters, broad parodies of classic fantasy archetypes: the wizard, the tavern girl, the thief, the lady warrior -- and several of these early characters became part of the regular cast of the strip.

There is a certain sentiment prevailing among the Cerebus cognoscenti that issues #14-16, known as the Palnu trilogy, are the place to start. Sim at this point had sloughed off broad parody and had established an art style and stroytelling mode of his own. In these issues, he began laying the groundwork for what would become the major focus of Cerebus for many issues: political machinations in the city-state of Palnu and, in particular its ruler, Lord Julius (Sims dead-on tribute to Groucho Marx). From here, the story start growing in complexity, planting plot seeds that had an impact on later storylines. It was around this time that Sim first mentioned his plan of having Cerebus run 300 issues, though few took him seriously on that point.
Another reasonable jumping-on spot would be the second phone book, High Society, collecting issues #26-50. While the first 25 issues were still fairly episodic, Sim here started dealing with his story, not as a series of funny episodes, but as a truly major work, grouped as a series of self-contained storylines. There was no coming in on the middle of this one; it was a wild ride, as Cerebus became involved in corrupt Iestian politics, and it followed him through a nail-biting election for Prime Minister. Along the way, Sim introduced amazing characters: the mysterious Regency Elf; The Roach, in the first of his many incarnations; and Lord Julius' niece Astoria, the brilliant behind-the-scenes manipulator of everyone and everything.

The Roach became Sim's vehicle for parodying whatever was the current trend in super-hero comics, since this schizophrenic was always assuming new identities, such as The Cockroach (a Batman parody), Captain Cockroach (Captain America), The Moonroach (Moon Knight), Wolveroach, Secret Sacred Wars Roach (Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars), normalroach (Jim Valentino's first hero, normalman, published by Aardvark-Vanaheim), Punisher Roach, and finally Swoon (Dream from The Sandman).

In High Society, Sim tackled a topic rarely touched before in comics: finance. Much of the plot. hinged on the manipulation of money: taxes, tariffs, hiring troops, buying elections, the economic juggling act that either keeps a society flourishing or plummets it into war and decay -- heady stuff for a comic book about an aardvark. Sim also embarked on innovative graphic storytelling, most notably a run of issues printed sideways and a sequence in issue #49, wherein Cerebus' drunken state was reflected in the fact that the issue must constantly be rotated to be properly read.

High Society has all the elements in place that make Cerebus a great work and is certainly a suitable introduction to it, one which will probably have the reader panting for more, including earlier issues.
Church & State dwarfed its predecessor. This story arc was so massive that it took two phone-book collections to contain it. Book 1 reprints issues #52-80, in which Cerebus is elevated from Prime Minister to Pope, due to the manipulations of the power brokers of this complex society. Sim's comics world is layered and convoluted, mirroring the real world in its subtleties, contradictions, and ambiguities. A lively debate on the intricacies of Sim's devious tangle of theologies is ongoing in the letter columns, and one of the beauties of the book is that it can be thoroughly enjoyed on the surface level, as well as afford a wealth of buried treasure for those curious and patient enough to do the excavating.

Occasionally Sim's graphic and storytelling experiments are truly revolutionary, in particular, the "Mind Game" issues (#20, #28, #63, #156, and #157), wherein Cerebus is thrust into a mysterious phantom world of disembodied objects and voices. Issue #63 is a tour-de-force; Cerebus sits almost motionless in a self-pitying, drunken stupor, while his thoughts float around him like ghosts, a technique Sim brings to outrageous full flower in the current Rick's Story storyline, wherein the "good" and "bad" Cerebus personalities engage in an endless debate inside his head.

The look of Cerebus took another interesting turn in issue #65, when Sim took on Gerhard as an assistant to do backgrounds. Gerhard soon grew to be a master of pen-and-ink technique. Breath- takingly detailed backgrounds grace every page, complementing Sim's well-drawn, expressive figures. Gerhard's work is so meticulous that he is known to have built scale models of some of the story settings, so as to guarantee absolute consistency when viewed at different angles in differing lighting conditions. Sim has since acknowledged Gerhard as a full partner in every aspect of the project.

As in High Society, Church & State casts a cynical eye of the use and abuse of power. Lord Julius and Astoria surface again, and the reader is never quite sure who is pulling who's strings or to what purpose. Cerebus seems to be at the height of power but may be nothing more than a pawn. As usual, he abuses whatever authority is given to him.

Church & State Vol. 2 (reprinting #81-111) picks up with a usurper dethroning Cerebus and follows his efforts to undergo the "final ascension". Much of the religious conflict that had been simmering in the back of the series comes to the fore here, and, as the series approaches #100, Sim drops humorous subplots and parodies and builds up an enormous bubble of tension which explodes in issues #99-102. In #102, Sim freezes time at the instant of the previous issue's climax, taking us on a tour of what is transpiring at that exact moment elsewhere to some of his cast of characters.

No one will ever accuse Dave Sim of being predictable. At the height of the tension in Church & State, Sim deflated it utterly. After a bit of slapstick, the volume ends with Cerebus on the moon, listening silently for several issues, as a character called The Judge expounds on cosmology. Though many in the puzzled readership wondered if Dave had flipped, he was introducing material which would be important thematically in the next phase. We have since learned that Sim has planned an intricate architecture for the entire series, that parts will presage, mirror, or paraphrase the themes of other parts.
Following the puzzling end of Church & State, Sim began Jaka's Story (#114-136). For someone of a literary bent, Jaka's Story could serve as an interesting jumping-on point for the series; not only is the artwork exquisite, but interspersed throughout is a beautifully composed text story concerning Jaka's childhood, written in the style of Oscar Wilde and illustrated with lush, evocative. large drawings.

Oscar himself is one of the small cast of characters in this story, as Cerebus takes refuge in the home of his old flame, Jaka, who is now married to the unmotivated Rick. Jaka dances nightly in the tavern belonging to Pud, a lonely widower, and it is the interaction between these five characters that provides the meat of the story. The counterpoint between the cinematic telling of the ongoing story and the poetic flash-backs to Jaka's past is very effective.
Sim followed up the critically acclaimed Jaka's Story with what is perhaps his least popular work, Melmoth (#139- 150). Whereas Jaka's Story focused on Cerebus and Jaka, who stand at the heart of the story; Melmoth threw readers for a loop by being, in essence, a retelling of the dismal last days of a dying Oscar Wilde. Readers were puzzled by the fact that the dying Melmoth of this story seems to be an older version of the Oscar of Jaka's Story but is actually another character completely (or is he?). Compounding this confusion was the fact that the star of the series, Cerebus, spends the length of this novel in a daze, sitting passively, clutching a rag doll, while the world swirls around him. Sim maintains that Melmoth is an integral part of the overall structure of the work.
With Mothers & Daughters (#151-200) Sim put Cerebus back in the whirl of politics and religion. The new power to be reckoned with is Cirin, the second aardvark character to be introduced (we knew from very early on that there were three), and Cerebus is an outcast in this world ruled by a religious matriarchal tyranny. The first part is entitled Flight (#151-162) and concerns itself with an uprising against the oppressive Cirinists.

Cerebus is again being manipulated by higher powers, but this time they seem to be godlike. A host of baffling manifestations appear and, as is Sim's wont, are left unexplained. But readers were overjoyed, seeing in Mothers & Daughters a return to the sword- wielding, angry Cerebus they hadn't seen in quite a while. The second volume, Women (#163- 174), gives us a closer view of life under the Matriarchy.

Volume 3, Reads (#175-186), finds Sim at his most experimental, pushing the limit of what can be considered a comic book and also the boundary between story content and editorial content. Much of Reads is pure text: at first the story of Victor Reid, an author whose troubles seem to mirror the plight of the creator in today's comics industry. Halfway through Reads, the text becomes the voice of Victor Davis, a thinly (if at all) disguised Dave Sim. It was confusing for the reader, since the kind of commentary Sim often made in his editorial pages was now appearing as part of the story. Was this fact or fiction?

The amount of actual comic-book art in each issue had ebbed and flowed but reached its nadir in issue #186, with only five pages of art. This issue might go down in history as one of the most controversial comics ever, because the text section is Sim espousing a worldview that is, to put it mildly, inflammatory.

A firestorm of discussion (if you can call it that) erupted throughout the comics media, from The Comics Journal (which reviled him on the cover) to the internet, where the issue still hasn't sub- sided.

The thread of the comics story that ran through Reads was also controversial, much of it consisting of a carefully choreographed battle between two of the main characters, very bloody, extremely long, and in more detail than many wanted to see. Sim even threw in a disturbing revelation about his protagonist.

Minds (#187-200) is the last volume of Mothers & Daughters and contains some of Sim's (and Gerhard's) strongest work to date. Minds has the appearance of pulling the curtain on many of the themes that have run through the series, and, even with 100 issues left to go, it seems in some ways to be an ending. Through most of Minds, the focus is on Cerebus alone, though Sim brings in another character whose impact is unsettling. At the end, one is really left wondering: Where can he go from here? As should be expected with Sim, the answer is totally unexpected. Minds is expansive; its territory is the whole Solar System and time itself.
The next volume, Guys (#201-219), brings the focus in tight, down to a tavern where Cerebus and a host of fellas (and a few gals) are engaged in the sport of -- well, whatever it is that goes on in taverns. Sim uses this very limited setting to introduce a whole new vocabulary of cartooning techniques, making what could have been a monotonous sequence a veritable orgy of creativity.

The biggest creative break-through here is Sim's use of word balloons and lettering, pushing their use in many new direction. Sim also pushes the use of heavily accented dialogue to the limit; essentially much of this dialogue must be read out loud to get to the bottom of what the characters are saying. Much of the humor in Guys consists of in jokes, since most of the patrons of this tavern are thinly disguised parodies of other self-published comics characters.

As of this writing, Sim is up to part five of Rick's Story (#220- 231). Readers who want to sample Cerebus but don't feel ambitious enough to hunt down any phone books or back issues may find that picking up the new issue of Rick's Story is all they need to get hooked.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Happy 55th Birthday, Gerhard!

Joys Of Sailing
Art by Gerhard
(Following Cerebus #3, February 2005)

Happy 48th Birthday, George Peter Gatsis!

(by fax, 12 April 2014)
Happy Birthday to George Peter Gatsis from everyone on the CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY Restoration / Preservation team... and grateful CEREBUS fans everywhere!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Eddie Khanna: My Cerebus Tree

(from an email, April 2014)
I wanted to send this scan of the letter and Cerebus tree I got from Dave in response to Jeff Seiler asking Dave for a Prince Mick sketch (back in 1998). Dave's responded to Jeff's request with a stipulation in Aardvark Comment in #234:
"Tell you what - if ten Cerebus fans send you a Mick or Keef sketch, then I'll send you one. Doesn't matter how bad the ten sketches are…..You send me the addresses of everyone who sends you a Mick or Keef sketch and I'll send the first ten…an Elrod bunny or a Cerebus tree on a post-it note. Their choice, Autographed by Cerebus or Elrod, even."
Not that I ever would, but I kinda wonder what a Cerebus tree would go for on ebay out of curiosity's sake. Or at Heritage Auctions (nyuck nyuck nycuk).

(from comments to Cerebus In My Life: Jeff Seiler, April 2014)
That was my first experience with writing to and getting a response from Dave. My first letter printed in Aardvark Comment (of an eventual six). For the uninitiated (or those who forgot) in #234, Dave printed my request for a sketch of Prince Mick or Prince Keef for me to frame alongside my front row center ticket stub from a Stones concert (Steel Wheels tour, St. Louis). He responded by saying if I got 10 people to send me a sketch of Prince Mick or Keef, then he would do a post-it note sketch of a Cerebus Tree or Elrod Bunny to the first ten. I ultimately got around 25 sketches (still have them somewhere) and Dave sent post-it note sketches to ALL of them. Including one Elrod Bunny "to be donated to charity" for one of the guys. That was a really fun "event" and initiated a correspondence between Dave and me that has lasted now some 16 years (with a couple of notable six-month long interruptions).

Oh, and I did get that Prince Mick sketch from Dave on Aardvark-Vanaheim letterhead. A few years later, at my first SPACE, Dave and Lenny Cooper had a very lengthy conversation about the Bible while Dave drew a Prince Keef sketch I requested because Billy Beach (who lives in Italy and who Dave stayed with for a week as a holiday following the end of Cerebus in 2004) had asked me to ask Dave for the sketch. The hair took forever, which is why Dave and Lenny had such a lengthy talk.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Merely Magnificant Moonroach

Backcover, Cerebus The Newsletter #9 (April 1983)
Art by Dave Sim

Friday, 11 April 2014

Weekly Update #26: Meeting Alain Roberge

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read  on...

Executive Summary
  1. Lebonfon offers to produce the sample signature free of charge: offer VERY gladly accepted
  2. Reduction in "to date" printing bill to be agreed upon when the sample signature has been approved
  3. Sample signature to be used to solicit printing quotes from other printers who deal regularly with Diamond
  4. Next steps in Restoration/Preservation of the entire 6,000-page graphic novel to be funded by sale of CEREBUS ARCHIVE FULL-SIZE ART PRINTS to be offered:
          a) through quarterly Kickstarter campaigns on signed and numbered prints
          b) through Diamond on unsigned and unnumbered prints which should be always available

1. The meeting went very well. I could tell that Alain Roberge is one of those people who is far more comfortable in-person where I'm pretty much the opposite: I find looking at someone's face distracting because I'm trying to picture how to pencil and ink it and quickly lose the "drift" of what they're saying.  But over the last year the entire discussion has become pretty well-trodden for me so I know where to identify differences of opinion.

But I have to say Monsieur Roberge was very accommodating, as I tried to be.  I was very pleased when he suggested doing the sample signature for free because I'd been trying to figure out how to ask.

As is usually the case, we ended up being on the same wavelength after all this time of going around in circles:  particularly, I said that hindsight is 20-20 and, when George had suggested printing unbound copies of the books for approval, what I should have anticipated was:  okay, what happens if the printing isn't good enough?  That's a lot of printing to just put in the dumpster or send to the recycling centre.  Monsieur Roberge had thought this as well, the same as me, after the fact when the damage has already been done.  So that brought us to item two on the agenda:

2.  Lebonfon needs to be compensated for the "half a printing job" that we have right now.  This is one of those obvious things that, again, you should anticipate is going to colour everything else and get on top of.  Just to emphasize the "wavelength" part of it:  I had a letter from Lou Copeland (who did the computer work on JUDENHASS) in the mail today where he was speaking as a guy whose job is doing pre-press for a living at a printer.  And he said that's one of the first things that needs to be addressed:  get THAT part of both books paid for and then we're starting with a clean slate.

As I said to Monsieur Roberge (and his Director of Business Development, Dean McCory: we're coming to you, here, soon, Dean!) I wasn't going to put him on the spot and say, Okay, how much can I get off of the original printing bill? Tell me right now.  And he was fine with that. We will arrive at a price somewhere south of where it started.

As I've mulled it over for the balance of the week (was that REALLY just Wednesday?  Seems like a hundred years ago!), what I think I have to do is to cut Lebonfon a cheque for, say, 25% of the bill on the understanding that there will be another cheque or two cheques after we've actually arrived at a way to print these books -- or arrived at the decision that Lebonfon isn't the right "fit" if that's the conclusion we come to.  If -- as wouldn't surprise me -- we realize ALL of us were wrong in different ways, then we can pretty much split the difference.  If Lebonfon was "MORE right" then they should get the full amount -- even if Aardvark-Vanaheim ends up not going with them.  Although, presumably, in THAT scenario it would make sense to go with them after figuring out how to get from "MORE right" to "TOTALLY right".  Right?

Which brings us to point three:

3.  It seems to me to make sense that, once we have gotten to "clean slate" territory --  Lebonfon has been paid for all of the work they have done to date -- that would be foolish not to do the same thing with other printers who work with Diamond regularly.  Get a printing quote and send them a copy of the sample signature and digital files and say, Can you do better than this?  How much will you charge to do better than this? And WHY do you think you can do better than this?

It's a little "high pressure" on Lebonfon, I grant you, but this, unfortunately, is the HIGHEST pressure part of this whole procedure.  It's not just a matter of getting a really nice looking 32-page signature, it's a matter of getting everything figured out about reproduction of the CEREBUS material so that we have something that works, invariably, no matter which book we're working on.

Dean jumped in at this point and said it would make sense for each person to document what he did with his part of the sample signature.  I started at A and I did B, D and E.  That way if someone does G and it solves a major problem, then we know the answer is A, B, D, E, G.  Even if no one else has done that before or it's completely counter-intuitive.

I emphasized Dean's point by pointing out that CEREBUS is a REALLY unique printing challenge.  The Big Variables are: the lines are really really tiny and there's lot's of solid black. As a Rule.  CEREBUS is less of a problem than HIGH SOCIETY for the exact reason that my lines were getting tinier at around issue 22 and by issue 26, when HIGH SOCIETY begins, they're off the charts and stay off for the remaining 270 or so issues.  Also, the title character IS dot tone.  That's very different from using tone to fill in some background space or to balance a panel.  You are always looking at Cerebus. He's the lead. If his tone is wrong, it really messes with the reading experience.

And it's 500 pages.  The "short" books are 250 pages.  That was when Monsieur Roberge said, it definitely adds to the workload.  You have x number of spots in a book with those three Big Variables where you are going to have to babysit every inch of the panel at every stage of the process.  Over 500 pages, that's a lot of babysitting.  Which is another reason that you have to get everything figured out as much as possible ahead of time.  It's a pain and it seems as if you aren't getting anywhere, but it's better to do that and Make Sure than to get 1,200 pages done and go, "Oh, wait. No -- this will work a lot better."  That's to much work to just throw away.

George made a good point along the lines of what Dean came up with: If we do every possible variation of a proof that's possible on the sample signature, then -- at least theoretically -- we should get a reasonably clear idea of what method, paper stock, settings, tweaks are suited to CEREBUS pages.  It probably won't tell you what would work with a book that didn't have the same Big Variables. But, we aren't looking for a GENERAL one-size-fits-all proofing/printing method, we're looking for a proofing method that when you get THAT right, that's how the printing is going to come out.

4.  Needless to say the price of a brand new car that I had in then bank would not buy me a brand new car today.  In fact, I had another one of those "hindsight is 20-20" things happen.  The Lebonfon inventory that Diamond bought (and thank you again, Diamond) and will be paying for over two years in quarterly instalments I ended up having to declare as 2013 income.  The books were delivered in 2013.  D'OH!  I KNEW that one!  How did I MISS that?  This is the "gift that keeps on giving", unfortunately:  not only did Aardvark-Vanaheim have a huge tax bill to pay but the company's tax instalments for 2014 are going to be based on that amount.  It's how corporate taxes work. "We assume if you did this good in 2013, you'll do just as good in 2014".  Creativity-based corporations get that whoopee cushion a lot.  Your favourite band that has a hit record that sells 900,000 copies will not only get taxed on that money the year the song comes out, but also the next year.  Which is fine if you have another record that sells 900,000 copies but if you end up being a one-hit wonder and you spend the money on the 900,000 selling record because HEY you're a rich successful band -- you're in for a surprise in the next fiscal year if that doesn't happen.  Even The Beatles fell into that one because they had such a CLUMP of gold records in 1964/65.  How many years can you have the top 8 or 9 singles for weeks on end?

Anyway, way, way, way back down here on planet earth I will eventually get the money back in 2016 but that does leave the problem of how to move forward with this on-going-and-nowhere-near-to-seeing-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel Restoration/Preservation project.

No idea if it will work, but I'm going to try doing quarterly KICKSTARTER campaigns.  A lot of you are aware of how I've been crunching the numbers and trying to figure out -- not so much how to bring in $63,000 as we did in 2012 (and then promptly had the whole thing end up costing about $72,000 because -- again, hindsight is 20-20 -- because I didn't look at what it was going to cost to SHIP all of this stuff around the world) but how to work it so that the program works smoothly this time and we can hit a sensible ratio where, if, say we bring in $10,000 (that might be optimistic), after Amazon and Kickstarter take their share, the printer/shipper gets paid, the shipping is paid, the packaging is paid for that there is...say...$3,000 left.  Well, that money goes to Lebonfon because that's the immediate problem.  They really need to get paid a chunk of the printing bill to date.  So, it might be THREE KICKSTARTER campaigns before Lebonfon has been paid and we're back at the clean slate.  Or, they could be all paid up after the first one, if that's successful.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) told me to do

a) full-sized colour photocopies of the earliest 10 interior CEREBUS pages in the CEREBUS ARCHIVE.  I had them up on the wall in the studio and Dean took a picture of me and Monsieur Roberge looking at them, so hopefully he can post the photos here.

b) do them in a plain white cardstock photo mailer

c) put that mailer and a sheet of cardboard in a bubble pack mailer

d) ALL of the prints will be signed so if you want to frame one of them, it doesn't have to be the "front one" even if it's not your favourite. Only the white cardstock photo mailer will be numbered, though.

I'll have more details about this first CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE (that's what the white cardstock photo mailer is doing to say:  as distinct from CEREBUS ARCHIVE #1, the comic book -- each quarterly campaign will be 10 pages.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO; CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE, etc.)  KICKSTARTER campaign next week. Basically you'll get an e-mail address and a "Friday at midnight" launch point to reserve the earliest numbers.  Starting with #4 -- #1,2 and 3 always go in the Cerebus Archive.  Once you've reserved a number, you get to keep that number for each successive KICKSTARTER.  You aren't obligated to.  In fact, if you get a low enough number you're more than welcome to auction it on eBay if you think you can turn a profit on the deal  :).  The e-mail address is just to make sure that it's straight ahead, first come first served.  You'll go through the actual Kickstarter site to pay, but it just makes sure that the number if covered for you.  You'll get an e-mail back saying your reservation came in and what number you're getting.  You can even reserve a specific number.  In fact, if you reserve #123 and we only sell 85 of them, I WILL sign it #123 out of 85 and write next to it "Hey, I promised him (or her) whatever number he/she wanted" so people know it's legit.

Okay, late for my prayer time, and then I have to come back and pitch all this to the Kickstarter people.

They -- most of them -- had to wait MONTHS last time, so I swore they would get "first dibs" if I ever did another one.

Looking on the bright side, there's ONLY first dibs and second dibs.

And you guys will be getting second dibs April 25 if all goes according to plan.

Or you can get in on first dibs if you can pry the e-mail address out of any Kickstarter person.  They'll be getting it April 17.

If you're a Kickstarter person, I'll see you over there around 3:30.

And I'll see the rest of you next Thursday (no Good Friday Update).

See you then!


Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

Heritage Auctions: The 'BBC Censors Dave Sim' Original Art Auction

Dave Sim is auctioning the original art for his recent IDW covers at Heritage Auctions in their Comics Signature Auction to be held in Dallas, Texas, USA, between 15-17 May, 2014. You can place your internet bid before hand from 25 April, 2014.

For reasons known only to themselves, the BBC chose to have this cover dramatically altered by series colorist Charlie Kirchoff. We think it looks better the way Dave Sim drew it originally! One thing is for sure: only the winning bidder for this piece will have Doctor Who Number Eight exactly as Sim originally rendered him for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary.

On this one the BBC didn't so much "censor" Dave Sim as replace Dave Sim with... himself!... using a blow-up of the head of Doctor Who Number Nine from Sim's #12 cover instead of this beauty. So this is, officially, the only completely Unpublished (as opposed to... semi-published?) Dave Sim DOCTOR WHO cover. A certifiable comic-book rarity any way you look at it!

An elaborate and highly detailed piece of work by Dave Sim working in his photorealism style. The BBC ended up only using only a dramatically enlarged portion of Sim's cover: a head and shoulders shot of David Tenant, Doctor Who Number Ten. What were they thinking? This marks the first time we've ever auctioned a "mostly unpublished" or "semi-published" comic book cover! Lot includes 5 signed and numbered copies of the "censored" cover comic book itself.

We've had an UNpublished Dave Sim DOCTOR WHO cover and a SEMI-published Dave Sim DOCTOR WHO cover. And here we have a MOSTLY published DOCTOR WHO cover. Only the supporting actor has been deleted on this one. Lot includes 5 signed and numbered copies of the "censored" cover comic book itself.

We didn't know what to expect when we opened this one and... Surprise! The BBC actually DIDN'T censor this cover at all. In fact, they used it as the cover of the "Prisoners of Time" trade paperback collection. It's certainly a show-stopper, depicting all eleven actors who have played DOCTOR WHO over the last 50 years. So whether you're a major Doctor Who fan or just like photoreailstic comic art, you're probably going to want to bid on this one.

Dave Sim really goes "All Out Woody" on this tribute to the original THUNDER Agents artist, Wally Wood -- even going so far as to trace the original logo! Definitely a one-of-a-kind item for anyone who's a fan of Dave Sim, Wally Wood or both.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Face To Face With The Writer

Cerebus #130 (January 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Amazing Heroes #201, May 1992)
...I surprised myself with Jaka's Story. When I conceived the novel, I had it structured around the incarceration, beginning with the Cirinists breaking down the door. I worked back from there, thinking I had to get people to care about these characters. I wanted to show them a certain amount of what Jaka is like. I wanted to create a sympathetic husband. I wanted to create a realistic marriage. I wanted Oscar Wilde to be in there. I wanted a homosexual love interest along with the heterosexual love interests in the story.

A year and three months later, when it came time to break down the door I didn't want to do it.

I was sitting there and thinking "maybe Cerebus breaks in and saves them all." Come on, Dave, I thought, you've had this story written all of this time and you want to bring in the biggest cliche going... At the same time, I wanted to do that scene, because I wanted the story to keep going. I wanted to see how all these people worked out their problems... It was very funny coming face to face with myself as a writer going, "Please don't."

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"Top 5 Mistakes At Orb I Learned Not To Repeat With Cerebus"

ORB Magazine #1 (1974)
In 1975 Dave Sim was hired by James Waley as senior editor at Toronto's Orb Magazine, which ceased publishing with issue 6 in 1976.

(from Cerebus Archive #6, February 2010)

Number 5:
Super-heroes just don't work in black and white. If you're going to do black and white comic books, stick to subject matter and characters that work in black and white (Cerebus wasn't created to be gray by accident).

Number 4:
Changing the format is a bad idea -- going from magazine size to comic book and then back again was just confusing. A mistake in instructions to the printer meant Cerebus No.1 was magazine size and I thought I was done for. I never varied the format after issue 2 and never consciously.

Number 3:
An anthology title is only as timely as its slowest contributor. If you do the whole book yourself, it's only late if you're late. I tended to be the only guy to get my work in on time no matter who I was working for (except when Gene Day was involved). Just being reliable will get you more work and sales over the long term.

Number 2:
Continued stories don't work in erratically published titles or anthology titles. 5- or 6- page installments are too short to "hook" the average reader. A continued story has to be book-length and anthologised stories have to be self-contained.

Number 1:
Starting with issue 4, Orb was distributed to Canadian newstands by Pentams Ltd. It's a standard trick to give the publisher widly optimitic preliminary "sell through" numbers (i.e. 80%) that then plummet (i.e. 20%) when finalized. By the time 5 and 6 were both in the pipeline and disaster looming. As a first-time experiment it was costly if not fatal in itself.

The addition of a colour section in the middle multiplied costs and had no appreciable positive effet on sales. Jim wasn't alone in making this mistake: Jim Warren did the same thing with Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella and so did Mike Friedrich with Star*Reach and Imagine.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Jimmy Gownley: The Dumbest Idea Ever

The Dumbest Idea Ever! (Scholastic Books, 2014)
by Jimmy Gownley
(from the Everyday Is Like Wednesday blog, 10 March 2014)
In Jimmy Gownley's The Dumbest Idea Ever, a new memoir comic in which the Amelia Rules cartoonist recounts how he first became a comic book creator, Gownley recounts his first trip to a comic book store. It's a pretty great sequence that should ring true to any comics lover of a certain age who remembers the first time they discovered there were these places where they sold nothing but comics. Most of the titles and covers featured in the scene are made-up ones, with the exception of Dave Sim and Gerhard's Cerebus. You know, the super weird comic about a donkey.

Cerebus makes an encore appearance later in the book as well, when young Jimmy Gownley is feeling a little lost and, late one night, he realizes what the existence of Cerebus signifies. You know, that you can make, publish and sell your own comic books. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Gerhard: Preliminary Drawings

Gerhard's preliminary drawing and final printed version for
Cerebus #295 (October 2003)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click image to enlarge)
(by email, 22 March 2014)
What I used to do was take the page after Dave had finished with it, lay tracing paper over top of it and then I would outline the characters, word balloons and sound effects with a fine point marker. I would then flip the tracing paper over and pencil my part onto the back. After that was done I would flip the tracing paper right side up (with the pencil side down) back on top of the original art and transfer the pencil onto the original by tracing over what I had done which would leave a light pencil image on the illustration board. I would then tighten up those light pencils, if needed, and then finally ink it. I know that sounds like I drew everything three times; that's because I drew everything three times.

Gerhard's preliminary drawing and final printed version for
Cerebus #292 (July 2003)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click image to enlarge)