“Neal Adams, Niagara Falls and Other Forces of Nature”
I’ve been a fan of Dave Sim and Cerebus for many, many years. I started with issue #19, way back when, and I pretty much stayed with Sim all the way through to issue #300. I recently picked up issue #1, which has been kind of a holy grail of mine for years. And I’ve read many things by and about Dave Sim, including the first eight issues of Following Cerebus. But the piece in this issue is about the most charming, fun and wonderful piece I think I’ve ever read by Dave Sim.
The entire 100-page issue of Following Cerebus is devoted to a visit that Dave has with Neal Adams, a real hero to him, as Dave, Neal and Neal’s family visit Niagara Falls, a place that Dave really loves. The result is a part interview, part travelogue, part blog entry as we really get to see inside Dave’s mind. And it is absolutely fascinating.
First of all, and most interesting to me, is the sheer love and passion that Dave has for Niagara Falls. As he takes Adams and his family through the attractions, it’s clear how much Sim knows and loves the Falls. He’s awed by the natural beauty of the area so much that I found myself inspired to visit the Falls. As Dave writes with detail and authority about the journeys of the boat the Maid of the Mist, the Cave of the Winds, the Journey Behind the Falls, and more, his writing shines with details and remembrances. Dave understands why the Falls have captured his imagination, why he’s so enchanted with them, and he does a great job of conveying that passion to readers.
Of course, to the average comics fan, the key topic of this issue is Dave’s visit with the legendary Neal Adams. Maybe because this issue is as much about two quick friends having a great time together, the article feels more like eavesdropping on a conversation than an interview. Adams tells some wonderful stories in the course of the men’s chat. Adams’s story about how he got DC to display more colors in their comics is precious. I also loved Adams’s stories about working for Johnstone & Cushing, the legendary advertising company of the 1960s. It’s obvious that that Adams was always a supremely talented artist, a real prodigy for his age, as Adams talks about the envy that older cartoonists felt for him as Adams got a newspaper strip at a very young age.
But the center of the two men’s’ conversations is a discussion of Adams’s rather unique theory of continental drift, the dinosaurs, and everything else under the sun. It’s a fairly loopy theory, but Sim does a great job of drawing all the details from Adams, listening in that kind of non-judgmental way that only real friends can have.
So in the end, Following Cerebus #9 is many things. It’s a travelogue and a conversation, a visit between two friends and a scientific treatise. More than anything, it’s an exploration of two very interesting men, Dave Sim and Neal Adams, and any fan of either man shouldn’t miss this issue.