For one week only, I’m interrupting normal service to invoke editor’s privilege to do whatever the hell I like…this month’s Previews marks the end of one particular era which – for most people – has completely passed them by. Much has been said about Dave Sim and his beliefs online over the last few years, much of inaccurate and subject to the typical ‘net hyperbole. Some people, it seems, cannot separate the man from the art. Some people, it seems, do not realise that it would be impossible for a 6,000 page book to exist where one would agree with every single one of those 6,000 pages.
The question I asked the regular columnists was:
“Cerebus #300. March 2004. A testament to one man’s vision? A landmark for comics? Just another book?
I took it upon myself to email a number of other people within the industry, to see if anyone else out there had comments on this one-off event…the final word belongs – as maybe it should – to Dave’s long-time collaborator, business partner and friend, Gerhard.
Mike Collins: “I adored the first few years of Cerebus – there was stuff in there that had me crying with laughter, and I was always amazed by the plotting and character interplay.
Maybe it was the whole ’30 second read’ nature of the issues, maybe it was the text in the back, whatever, I gave up on the monthly…. I ended up buying it the collected volumes, but somewhere around the Oscar Wilde stuff I let it go. I kept meaning to go back, but I never did.
No, it’s not ‘just another book’, the damn thing is a phenomenal achievement, a bloody epic in intent and execution. It’s now going to reach 300. That is an incredible body of work for any creator…I should go back and pick up where I left off…..”
Mike Collins has worked on many properties, but my fondest memories of his work are a small Dourdevil parody piece with Alan Moore, and a touching Captain Britain story.
Terry Moore: “Cerebus is unique, a distinctive piece of work. It’s also a testament to determination. I think Cerebus has made a place for itself in comics history and will be read long after we’re gone. You can’t say that about many comic series.”
Terry Moore is Mr Strangers In Paradise…my wife got into comics through this book, ’nuff said.
Roger Langridge: “Testament to One Man’s Vision just about sums it up. Cerebus as a whole, seen as a single work, is a great sprawling inconsistent mess of a thing, but there are parts of it that shine as some of the most skilfully crafted comics ever produced. (Then, of course, there’s the early stuff, which might best be described as amateurish, and some of the later stuff is downright unreadable.) But fair play to Sim for setting out to do a work of 26 years’ duration, 6000-odd pages, and sticking to it until the bitter end. That’s a damn sight more than most people do with their working lives. And there are some books that I’m looking forward to going back and reading once it’s all over, particularly High Society, which is one of the finest comics on God’s green earth.”
Roger Langridge’s work can be most recently seen in a humorous Hellboy story in Dark Horse’s Hellboy: Weird Tales.
Vince Moore: “Yes, the completion of Dave Sim’s Cerebus is a MAJOR event in the history of comics. Sim will have drawn the most pages of a single comic in America. He will have produced the longest limited series in American comics, having spearheaded it for the full run, with assistance from Gerhard from about the mid 50 issue mark on. As one of the first three self publishers starting in ’77, he’ll be the only one to have continuously self published. Plus, in terms of craftsmanship, Sim is one of the truly unsung heroes of the form, worthy of being held in the same regard as Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Jack Cole, Moebius, Tezuka, Herge, and the other masters of the comics medium. Future artists would do themselves a serious favor by studying the storytelling of Dave Sim; don’t let the politics and philosophies of Dave Sim keep you from learning from a true master. Cerebus is a perfect example of having and maintaining a singular creative vision over the long haul. Bravo! Bravo! Encore! Encore!”
Vince Moore is the writer of Platinum Publishing’s upcoming book, Kid Victory & The Funky Hammer.
Gary Spencer Millidge: “If this is not important, I don’t know what is. For a single creator to self-publish his own comic book is any event takes an extraordinary amount of skill and dedication. To do it on a monthly basis for three hundred issues is a monumental achievement in any field of the arts. Even taking into account the assistance of his marvellously talented background artist Gerhard, something of this magnitude will never be equalled. Dave Sim also blazed the way for creators like Terry Moore, Jeff Smith and David Lapham to achieve prominence through self-publishing by his long running series of tutorials and his previewing small press titles in the pages of Cerebus, and his Spirits of Independence events. The saddest part is that Dave’s political views have often overshadowed his tremendous skill and innovation as a writer, cartoonist and letterer (of which he is by far the best in the business). From a creative standpoint, Cerebus has been a massively important event throughout its 26-year run and the fact that Dave will have finally achieved his goal of 300 monthly issues (give or take a”double-issue” or two) is simply astounding.”
Gary Spencer Millidge is the creator of the wonderful Strangehaven comic, which – although on an annual release schedule at the moment – is so damn good he is ALWAYS my first port of call at the yearly UK Comics Festival in Bristol.
Beau Smith: “At one time it was a testament to one man’s vision. Then the man lost the vision. Now he’s almost blind. And so are most of the people that used to read the book …or they’re in a rest home.
Comics is like the music business….you’re only as good as, and remembered for you last hit. It used to be we had a five-year cycle in comics. That cycle has gotten shorter. You’ve gotta hit while the iron is hot or ya end up slightly warm toast.
A landmark? Somewhat…one guy doing 300 issues of the same thing. Monthly? That’s a landmark. They still give out perfect attendance certificates in school don’t they? Well, somebody give Dave a certificate.
Just another book….nowadays….yeah. If Dave would’ve kept up his passion for the book and character like he did in the 80s it wouldn’t be just another book now. If Dave would’ve kept pushin’ the borders of comics and helped inspire other young creators to do the same, yep! But when one man carries the ball without blockers, it’s up to him if he fumbles it or takes it across the goal line.
I don’t think we’re gonna see Dave do any endzone dance.”Beau Smith writes, fights and wears tights…well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Tom Brevoort: “I think it’s an extraordinary achievement, and even if some (most?) had their problems with the material Dave was producing over the last hundred issues or so, CEREBUS remains the pre-eminent personal statement by a comics creator on the modern scene, a body of work that rivals that of Will Eisner or E.C. Segar or a dozen other notable guys I might name.
Of course, I liked his earlier, funny work better.”
Tom Brevoort edits a whole number of Marvel books, and if he’s the man who insisted Hawkeye came back into the Avengers fold, we should all bow.
Alan Grant: “I once met Dave Sim, back in the days when Batman was selling a million. He advised me to take the money and run, because sooner or later DC would cease the “young god treatment” and turn me into “a. grant–who he?”
Cerebus #300 is certainly an important event for Sim: a great creative achievement. I hope it inspires other writers/artists to pursue their own vision in the face of all adversity. Whether it’s an important event in the world of comics…I dunno. If somebody wants to start an annual Remember Cerebus Day, I’m sure it’ll be fun (and they’ve probably scheduled it already).”
Alan Grant is maybe most famous for his Batman and Judge Dredd work, personally his Judge Anderson stories kick arse, the current storyline “Half-Life” is running the JD Megazine.
Scott Allie: “Dave used to do such interesting storytelling and page design. I miss that. As for what it represents in terms of creator ownership, and Dave’s stint as the Lord of Indy Press, that’s where I think he and his creation really represent a landmark–any document of funny-book history which ignores that isn’t worth its weight in.”
Scott Allie edits and writes for Dark Horse – a trade of The Devil’s Footprints is just out, and is not only a superb collection but is an excellent story too.
Bill Rosemann: “While many may question some of Dave Sim’s views, surely all of comicdom can raise a glass and toast his dedication, determination and devotion! Cheers to you and your aardvark, Dave!”
Bill Rosemann, VP of Publishing at CrossGen, the friendliest man in comics.
William Christensen: “Cerebus is an amazing accomplishment for anyone and it will stand as one of the great pieces of sequential art in the medium. Sim is a fantastic talent and a shining example of perseverance.”
William Christensen is the publisher, editor-in-chief and general hero of Avatar Press – he also knows where to buy the best sweets.
Clifford Meth: “Dave Sim fully grokked Mao Tze Tung’s dictum that the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Now, 299 issues later, the landmark issue of this man’s–and this aardvark’s–extraordinary journey is upon us. So, at the end of the day, who gives a damn if Gloria Steinem reads your work? We’re living in a time when maniacs fly 767s into skyscrapers and airport security guards respond by checking the shoes of blue-haired old women, while the mayor of New York City bans smoking in whorehouses. It’s a rare pleasure to toast one of the artistically bold and brave. A salute!”
Clifford Meth writes stories – “Wearing The Horns” is particularly recommended, “god’s 15 minutes” is due out imminently.
Chris Staros: “Cerebus reaching #300 is an incredible accomplishment, for sure, but at the same time, I think Dave Sim’s talents were somewhat wasted by clinging to the idea of Cerebus for so long. Image if Alan Moore had decided that Maxwell the Magic Cat had to be the star of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, Miracleman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Lost Girls, Voice of the Fire and The Mirror of Love. Wouldn’t that have been too limiting? Jaka’s Story was — for me, anyway — the peak of Cerebus, and now that he’ll be free of the aardvark, I’m actually excited to see what he does next. It’ll likely be the most important thing he ever does.”
Chris Staros is co-owner of Top Shelf Publications, publishers of many fine books such as Blankets, Voice of the Fire, Box Office Poison, and quite literally dozens more.
Antony Johnston: “I remember meeting Dave Sim and Gerhard at a signing, back on the “Cerebus For President” Tour in the early ’90s, and naively asking The Dreaded Question: “Don’t you ever wonder if you’ll be able to see this through? Are you really committing half your life to this story?” Sim rolled his eyes and Gerhard laughed. The hosting retailer stood behind them, silently admonishing me with a vigorous shake of the head. This was a few weeks after the same retailer had persuaded me to buy every CEREBUS phonebook then published with the promise of a money-back guarantee if I didn’t like them, and suffice to say I never cashed them in.
But even if you don’t like CEREBUS, you have to gaze slack-jawed in awe at the achievement. Two men, telling a twenty-five-year-long story, month in month out… Sim and Gerhard have a determination and drive normally reserved for saints and madmen. Now that #300 is almost upon us, I guess it’s time to start arguing over which one is which.
Antony Johnston is a writer, perhaps his finest work to date being the just-released trade “Three Days In Europe”.
Fiona Avery: “Mr. Sim is definitely an important role-model in comic books. (Betcha never thought you’d hear that comin’ from a GRRRRL, didja?) In fact, I have followed the Cerebus books courtesy of a good friend and independent publisher at Fighting Lion Comics. Having come from the bigger / studio system (where I can only imagine the crickets following the pitch of, “I have this comic, it’s about an aardvark…”) and moving into the realm of self-publishing my stories, I have looked to Cerebus and Sim as one of a few, solid self-publishing successes. So yes, it’s a very big deal in the world of comics. Fiona thinks it’s good. Toast Cerebus in March.”
Fiona Avery will probably forever rue the day she was called “JMS’s protégé” – check out No Honor from Top Cow and push them to collect it in trade format.
Frank Tieri: Look, I’m going to be honest here– I’ve never read one single page of a Cerebus comic (no reflection on the book, I just never did). That said, I think you have to recognize the fact that Dave Sim has done this comic all by himself for all these years– and regardless of what you think of him or his book, to reach this milestone in this shitty market deserves a tip of your hat.
Plus, the fact that it’s his vision and ONLY his vision means that nobody could come up to him one day and have his character STOP FUCKING SMOKING CIGARS AFTER HE”S BEEN DOING IT FOR THIRTY FUCKING YEARS! DAMN YOU, MARVEL!!! DAMN YOU!!!!!!…. Ahem.
Frank Tieri is the ex-writer of Wolverine, and currently writes Top Cow’s The Darkness and Marvel’s Weapon X; subverting what a mutant book can be from the inside – one of my favourite Marvel books of the moment.
Warren Ellis: A testament to utter determination and vision. I mean, it pretty clearly drove the guy insane, but it’s an astonishing achievement.
Everyone should be having a drink for the guy that day.
Warren Ellis is sick of questions about Ministry of Space, still writes comics at the moment, but is also spreading his wings.
Jason Brice: “Dave Sim has shown a dedication to the medium few others can claim to have demonstrated. His achievement is monumental is scope, and with time will be acknowledged as one of the greatest undertakings in the field of comics. Superlatives withstanding, if Sim can set aside over a quarter of a century to write one comic, the least I can do is set aside a few weeks to read it from beginning to end. Therefore, I need a holiday!”
Jason Brice is the Big Kahuna of Silver Bullets, our spiritual leader and all around web guru. Or something.
Stephen Holland: “Cerebus #300.
Sorry, what was the question?
It doesn’t matter.
1977 to 2004. You think about that.
And then you tell me that this single story written and drawn by one man and his virtuoso landscape artist – month in, month out, with a beginning, a middle and an end – consistently entertaining, provocative and beautiful to behold… You tell me that this is not just a significant achievement, but the very fucking pinnacle of a relatively infant medium, which will be virtually impossible to surpass.
Go on. You sit there and have the temerity, the impertinence, and the self-incriminating illiteracy to find me one other contender to that throne.
The fact that any other letterer could possibly win an Eisner in any given year, shows how vacuous and bankrupt those awards are.
There are approximately six other creators who could give Dave Sim a run for his money in terms of inspiration, innovation, intelligence and storytelling capability combined: Los Bros Hernandez, Chris Ware, Jim Woodring, Eddie Campbell, and – if he could draw – Alan Moore. There are hundreds of others whom I admire wholeheartedly, but few of them come close to those air-thin heights, and not one of those aforementioned creators has accomplished a quarter of what Dave Sim has achieved in the awesome, demanding, infuriating, and wit-ridden epic that is Cerebus.
That the man has contributed an equal and unparalleled measure to this industry is irrelevant to be sure.
But the fact that Dave Sim is not universally regarded as the very finest comicbook creator to this point in time, is a crime of unbelievable, culpable and fundamentally ungrateful ignorance.
If, you know, you’re asking.
Stephen Holland is the co-owner of Page45, Britain’s best comics shop…he’s opinionated (no, really?), is passionate about the medium, and can be heard every month in Comics International.
Craig Lemon: “Blame Biff and Holland.
Biff because he kept on taunting me with visions of the Cerebus trades in his shop (Ace Comics in Colchester, Essex) such that I eventually sold him a huge range of comics (including Uncanny X-Men #137) and used this to fund buying the four trades (trades? Have you seen the size of those puppies? 500 pages minimum…) that had been produced to that date, and then signed up for the monthly.
Holland because Stephen Holland and his lovely shop (Page45 in Nottingham) organised an Independents Day event in a hotel in Nottingham, starring the cream of UK self-publishers plus special guests Dave Sim and Gerhard. I travelled up with my brother and my eldest daughter – a long journey, but worth it. Paul Grist was showing off Kane. Shipp and Laming had Six Degrees. The O-Men were there. As for Sim & Gerhard…I got scared. In any event, I ended up with a nice sketch in the front of my “Reads” trade, an answer to the question “Lennon or McCartney” (Sim said “Lennon”, that was enough for me!) and a few rareties that had been shipped over specially. No art though, at ten quid a time it seemed a little expensive – yeah, ten quid for a page of Cerebus art…now availability is so low it goes for five hundred dollars plus on EBAY.
Declaration of interest – I’ve been with the book since issue #114, and haven’t missed a month. When it goes in March, there will be a big hole left, such that I seriously considered quitting comics altogether after it. After all, who else has shown such uncompromising dedication to his creative vision as Dave Sim? He knew exactly what he was getting into with his controversial/radical/insane (delete as applicable) views on women and religion, knew it could adversely affect sales, that his personal rep in the comics industry might be shot forever, yet he went ahead and did it anyway…because he refused to compromise on his artistic integrity.
Another Sim story – Aardvark Comment (the letters page of Cerebus) used to be full of people’s personal stories, tales of tragedy and woe, or just interesting takes on events. I wrote to it one time at a very low moment in my life…I was really very miserable and just poured it all out in a letter to Dave Sim, sent it off to Canada from here in sunny England and felt so much better for getting it all out. A week later, Dave called my home (I always put my phone number on letters, dunno why, an affectation I suppose) to see if I was okay. Dave Sim rang me up. And get this – I wasn’t in.
In many ways, I feel married to the book, and its death will be hard to take. The first five trades (Cerebus, High Society, Church And State, Church And State II, Jaka’s Story) are up there with ANY comics story EVER published, and every other trade (fifteen in total at current count) contains at least two hundred pages of the best comics around, even if you excise the political/sexual/religious commentary. Once the book is over, there will be no really cheap way to check it out other than searching back issue bins, but I would suggest that everyone reading this asks their retailer to order one copy of Cerebus #300 for themselves. If nothing else, it’s a piece of comics history, but you might find a love affair starts with the little grey guy, and it’s only a couple of dollars. If you’re feeling flushed with cash, order the High Society trade – the first trade is a little rough at the start until it settles down, but this volume hits the ground running and doesn’t let up.
It’s just a comic, sure. But what a comic!”
Craig Lemon does stuff at Silver Bullet Comics.
Gerhard: In my opinion Dave is/was the most sensitive person I know. His mood swings could give you whiplash.
He used to take EVERYTHING personally. He would read malice into every action that he saw as a slight against him. The Leafs lost last night because he didn’t get his page done (the Leafs lost because they’re the Leafs). In GUYS, when Bear told Cerebus that Cerebus gets hurt and unhappy and mad and offended all at the same fucking time – that was Dave. `It bespeaks a self-absorption that verges on the pathological’. When somebody asked me what it was like working with Dave, I would half-jokingly respond, “What do you think it’s like working with a manic-depressive, paranoid schizophrenic, hypochondriac, misogynist with delusions of grandeur and a messiah complex?” He seemed to hate himself and yet he thought that he was above all others.
On the other hand, Dave can be the most caring, compassionate, unselfish, equitable, honour and duty-bound, thoughtful, reasoned, humorous and generous person you could hope to meet. This side of him usually manifested itself to me in the little things he’d say and do. Like the time he told me take a pat on the back out of petty cash or the day that I had what I described as an escalating hangover, and without saying anything, he went out and brought me back a bowl of hot chicken soup. He always makes sure that I get equal credit for my work on the book. He’s always supportive when I think that that work stinks on ice. He made me a partner on the book and in business. He has let me know that he couldn’t have (or at least wouldn’t have wanted to have) done this thing without me. He is trying to get through life. He is trying to better himself. He is trying to do something meaningful. He is trying to see the Big Picture. He is trying to find what is True. He has always had a different way of looking at things. I hope he always will. At times it hasn’t been easy for me, but that’s life. It’s a privilege being involved with CEREBUS and Dave.
Gerhard needs no introduction, is as modest and yet as talented as the day is long. Thanks, Ger, for allowing this piece to appear, courtesy of the Cerebus mailing list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cerebus/
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