The Dave Sim Usenet interview
This is the original usenet interview with Dave conducted in 1992 in conjuction with the 92 US Tour. Jim O did all the work of getting the questions and sending them today and then posting them on usenet. I've just formated it for html.
Here's the first group of questions and Dave's responses to them. They appear in the order I received them, with only headers and other e-mail/fax junk edited out. I enjoyed having the first crack at reading them. Thanks to you and Dave for such positive and prompt interest in this experiment.
This is the first of three groups of the first round of questions. Dave gave very detailed responses, so I had to split the posting. More to follow soon.
Dave has mentioned that he would like to make this interview "democratically existential or existentially democratic." So follow-up questions are welcome. If any of these questions or answers trigger new questions in your mind, please send them to me (jim email@example.com) and I'll pass them along.
Finally, I apologize to the 80 column terminal users out there. I thought I had the original posting (I) formatted correctly, but I was wrong. Sorry about the word-wrap problems that resulted.
Alexx Kay: Are their musicians in Estarcion? We've never seen a band playing around Jaka, and there didn't seem to be room for one to be hiding at Pud's. We've heard people singing, but I can't recall *any* reference to musical instruments (discounting the fiddler from the Barry Smith "Cerebus Dreams" story). Is this an oversight, or are musical instruments something that hasn't been invented yet?
Dave Sim: Musical instruments are something that I've intentionally left out of the Cerebus story-line, although not many people have noticed. A part of it is that comics is a "mute" medium and I like to reflect that. It would be impossible to do Jaka's Story in any other narrative form because you would have to have musicians to accompany the dancing which would spoil the balance of the cast. Part of it is that I despise music unless I'm drunk or stoned. I stopped listening to it while drawing several years ago and I think this has brought a definite improvement to my work. I get a lot of music tapes in the mail, I think because people figure that with all the bands getting mentioned on the letters page that I must be a really big fan of music. Call it wishful thinking; that at some point in the distant past music didn't exist and never evolved. My own personal heaven.
Arthur C. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org): Do you have all of the Cerebus story outlined in detail up to #300, or do you just have some broad ideas?
Dave: This is the second most commonly-asked question, although the phrasing leaves something to be desired. Obviously there is a world of difference between "outlined in detail" (Cerebus number 267. Page one panel two...adjustment...suggest changing Jaka's bracelet from left arm to right arm) and "some broad ideas" (Cerebus #114 to 136...Jaka's Story...Jaka and husband...and dead fat poet...Thatcher...improvise the rest). No matter how I answer this question, people don't listen to the answer, so my patience has been wearing thin with it. I know the Cerebus story-line. It was conceived in 1979, which was thirteen years ago. Some of it is very very detailed and I know exactly how I want to draw it and I can't wait to get there. Some things are upside down and backwards and I think they fit in Mothers & Daughters, but they don't actually appear until much later on. It's a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I have all of the pieces on the table in front of me and month by month I fit them together. I don't write anything down about the current story until I begin it; although I had almost all of Jaka's Story written in my mind through the course of Church & State I hadn't put anything down on paper until I was ready to start it. Melmoth was originally conceived as a series of monologues; each of the characters taking a turn at "spilling their guts" while Cerebus sits in a catatonic trance, but primarily just Oscar going back over his life "where did it all go wrong" De Profundis kind of stuff. Once I actually re-read the Epilogue to Collected Letters and I got to the actual description of Oscar's death, I knew that that was my story. The previous notion of it was evading the actual death and since Death was the theme of the story, I switched it quite happily. The idea of the Cerebus and Oscar story-line inter-weaving through Jaka's Story and Melmoth with the two never actually meeting I was very pleased with, particularly in Melmoth where you have the virtual death (Cerebus) and the actual death (Melmoth). Also there is something that invokes a death consciousness in me about "ships passing in the night". How much of our lives are spent brushing up against people who might have become a profound and positive force in our existences if we had only turned around and said "hello" instead of just thinking about it or ignoring them entirely. Death by omission?
At another level I am being told the story as I'm working on it. Sometimes the telling is as clear as a bell and if it wasn't for the limits of my stamina (severe) and focus, I could write and draw the next five issues without stopping to eat. Alas, the next day the glass is fogged and everything that was so clear is now covered with gauze and the side of me that doubted this whole enterprise from the first page is firmly in command and I seriously consider suicide or retreating to a tropical tourist environment to pass my days drawing caricatures of tourists in exchange for beer money. I have come to realize over the last fourteen years that that doubt is shared by the majority of my readership and is universal outside of it. Those who said I'd never make it to issue one hundred haven't changed their minds and merely increase the number to accommodate my progress (What issue is he at now? One fifty-five? He'll never make it to issue two hundred). These, of course, are the same people who have bought a hundred copies of every first issue produced by Byrne, McFarlane, Liefield, et al., secure in the belief that they have arrived at the onset of a dynasty.
The short answer is that there is no way I can answer your question without disappointing you completely or sounding as if I'm evasive. It's impossible to describe what it all looks like from my vantage point. Each of the novels is constructed in the same way...a playing out of a line; a seemingly random series of events and introduction of ideas and characters for the first half of the story; followed by a winding, weaving, connecting process for the last half of the story. The structure of the whole 300 issues is the same; the first half consisting of the developing of multiple unrelated elements as mystifying to the readership as it is to Cerebus himself (one of the things that makes him sympathetic to the reader us that he shares their mystification) followed by revelation and reaction. Church & State functions as a compressed allegory of the entire revelation part of the story; Jaka's Story and Melmoth the reaction part. The four books of Mother's & Daughters function as an allegory of the First Half; Flight (book one) is Cerebus, Women (book two) is High Society, Reads (book three) is Church & State and Minds (book four) is Jaka's Story/Melmoth. One of the things I want to bring out is that explanation/revelation brings no relief. One of the saddest elements of arts/entertainment in the 20th century is that it has nothing to do with the nature of existence. As Orson Welles once said "A happy ending is dependent on stopping the story before it is done" i.e. Cerebus 44, Cerebus 88, Cerebus 129.
Arthur: Is there any reason Cerebus is an aardvark (story-wise), or is it just a neat idea?
Dave: The original idea was to capitalize on the success of Howard the Duck. There was an explosion of funny animal material in the mid-seventies, but is consisted mostly of all funny animal casts. I decided the success of Howard could be attributed to the "funny animal in the world of humans" motif. Of course by the time I was working on High Society, the larger issue seemed to be alienation and its nature. Each of us has to see ourselves as unique. We are all the single funny animal in the world of humans. Each of us has something that sets us apart or makes us feel as if we are set apart. Consequently there is, again, a ready identification with Cerebus by the reader. Most particularly since Cerebus is not a "winner" and most people don't think that they are "winners" either. John Lennon did not write "I'm a Loser" in a whimsical frame of mind I don't think. The guy who used to come on stage with a toilet seat around his neck and got into rock n roll because he couldn't figure out how they DID that to Elvis probably got a clearer look at the nature of karmic forces that I'm trying to document in Cerebus than anyone else in living memory. "Instant Karma" "No one, I think, is in my tree". Death must have come as quite a relief.
Chris (email@example.com): How much does it cost to put out Cerebus, and how many copies are printed for each issue?
Dave: The human cost is rising all the time, as well as the spiritual piper demanding payment compounded hourly. This is a difficult question to answer any other way than facetiously, since most people think I get every penny spent on Cerebus comics. It costs thousands of dollars to print the regular monthly title; tens of thousands to print the reprint volumes. We usually over-print by a few hundred copies which has meant that we always have copies in stock of the current story-line, with the exception of Mothers & Daughters which has sold out within a week no matter what we over-print by. We're waiting to see what the orders are like on the second printings.
Andrew Weiland (firstname.lastname@example.org): Where did [you] get the idea for Weishaupt's bowl cannons in Church & State I?
Dave: The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, the guy who penciled that brilliant run of Ghost Rider in the late nineteen seventies.
Andrew: Is that K'Cor on the 2nd page of Cerebus #155? If not, who is it?
Dave: Yes. That is K'Cor. He is the first move in the chess game between Cerebus and Suenteus Po in Cerebus #158, which I would be working on right now if I wasn't answering these questions.
Jerry Sweet (email@example.com): Has anyone "seriously" optioned Cerebus for an animated series recently? If you would still like to see Cerebus done as an animated series someday, how much control would you insist on exerting over such a project, say, to prevent the perversions we see with typical Hanna-Barbera cartoons?
Dave: Oh, hey, Jer. Whussup? Hey I know you. You hang around inside these contraptions, too, do you? Far out. Hey is Arthur C. Adams, like, Art Adams? Artie, is that you? Everything is so strange in here.
I never really intended to do Cerebus as an animated series. I like the look of cels and backgrounds together which is why I did The Animated Cerebus, but I am under no illusions as to what sort of treatment I could expect to get from television and/or movies with a character no one has heard of (We love the whole thing, Dave, really we do. The guys in the art department think he should be a light purple so he, you know, stands out). Taking option money would be inviting the worst of the worst possible end result. Besides no one in Hollywood would just buy the film rights, they'd want all the vomitus corporate product food rights as well; what they called at DC The Big Score (we could do a mini-series like you're proposing and you'd make a few dollars and we'd make a few dollars, but we think its a better idea to go for the Big Score). Creators don't "insist" on anything. You take the money they give you and tell everyone how happy you are. No corporation will ever pay a creator enough to sue them successfully.
Jerry: Which of your characters, other than Rick, in your opinion, is truly the least guileful?
Dave: The Regency Elf.
Jerry: Is Countess Detin scheduled to show up again in Cerebus's life at some point?
Jerry: Is there any direct influence on your work from collected folk tales, e.g. the Red, Green, Brown, Pink, etc. Fairy Books? (I mention this because much that was magical in these stories was simply taken for granted, rarely explained, and sometimes completely lacking in logic -- yet didn't destroy the pleasure of the stories.) The point of this question is to ask whether there is any true structure to the way extra-normal things happen in Estarcion, or is magic just intended as a "wildcard", or perhaps just to add extra spice to the story?
Dave: Yes, in a way, to all of that, though probably not the way you intended. I think once you become aware of magic, of the occult (in its most literal sense "the hidden") you become aware that there is a structure to it. Everything falls into patterns and the more aware you are, and the more you seek out hidden realms and meanings; the synchronistic as opposed to the coincidental, the more surprises crop up at unexpected moments and in unsuspected ways that confirms the overall impression of many voices, many rooms. Sometimes its quite terrible in a soul-clenching way and other times it's like reaching the "payoff" in F.D.'s The Idiot. You really feel like you might start laughing and never stop. I try to portray magic as I've found it in day-to-day life and I try to make it faithful to the kind of structure/not structure in which I see it functioning. Because it can't be narrowed down to specific cause/effect rules (which, when you think about it, makes it what it is) it does tend to take on the appearance of a wild card. Does it appear at the critical moment when everything is about to change anyway, or does everything change because it appears? I thought it was quite funny when Neil Gaiman started manufacturing Folk Tales. Talk about flirting with hidden forces. Or the last chapter of From Hell with Alan's giant pentagram. Bit odd to be talking about these things in the Heart of the Machine. I wonder what the Machine will ultimately make of it? Glad I'm just visiting.
Jerry: We see Iest enjoying something like an 18th or 19th century level of technology. How much of Estarcion is in fact mired in 14th or 15th century standards of living? Do you regret giving 14xx dates in Cerebus as a general indication of social and technological development, or is it just something we can and should discard as unmeaningful?
Dave: I'm the last person to recommend that anyone discard anything as unmeaningful. I only have one point of view about Cerebus. I've had a number of people describe their working model of what its all about in very effective terms that would certainly encompass everything I have com[ing] up ahead, but which in no way is what I intended. In the Cerebus chronology, I'm just trying to point out that I think we've been up here before many times in the past. We are trying to develop a culture at every point that has a proper balance of large forces. Right now I think we have too much Business, not enough Currency, too much Childbirth, too much Religion, not enough Spirituality. In Estarcion, there is too much Religion, too much Childbirth, too much Motherhood. The overall dating system is not really relevant to my way of thinking. Different things come along at different times depending on who's advocating them and how appropriate it is. Feminism is inappropriate in a world that is eliminating work. Unemployment or Machine Success. The right of every woman to have a high-paying job in an age when we have half the available jobs we had twenty years ago because of mechanization is just silly. One of the better Jests from the Upper Chess-boards. I digress. Countries after they have been going for about a hundred years come up on the Civil War phase of their existence. Canada and the Not The Soviet Union are just going through the profound cell-division the Great Republic went through eighty years into their (er...your) existence (are you all Americans in here? It's so hard to see with all the wires and shit). The wealthy areas of Estarcion (Basically Iest, Palnu City and Serrea) are many years ahead of their surrounding city-states and environments. Tijuana a half hour away from Marina del Ray if you think I'm making all this stuff up.
Jerry: The Cirinists seem very repressive indeed. Their recent executions in Iest seem reminiscent of ancient Asian styles of mass punishment, or perhaps, to make a more modern comparison, of Stalinism. Although the Tarimites had an Inquisition, what little we saw of them seemed to indicate that they were worrisome to all, but not necessarily horrendously bloodthirsty -- perhaps like the last gasp of the Catholic Inquisition at the start of the Reformation...perhaps. Do you see the Cirinists as more or less repressive in general than the Tarimites in that respect? Or are we just seeing the "normal" level of excess applied by occupying forces or purges seen in the initial stages of coups d'etat?
Dave: More oppressive. Very much more oppressive. The end result of Mothers Unchained. The centerpiece of fascism and totalitarianism is Maternal. We have always had a Matriarchy, and the centerpiece of its thinking is to make life safe for babies. If you call that "thinking". People who are otherwise reasonable adults, the moment they drop a litter begin mentally dismantling everyone's civil rights with the idea of making the world a universal nursery. We see them today most profoundly in the anti-smoking forces. Second hand smoke is dangerous so it must be wiped out! Life at all costs! Mother Theresa using one of the ancient temples of Kali to tend to the sick and the dying; BEAMING with happiness when another baby is brought to her. I'm sure we will have a very large, very charismatic Mother Theresa in the year Three Thousand when the whole world looks like India, cheerfully finding a way to keep everyone alive for another three years at whatever cost in resources and space. Did you know that medical science discovered a way to impregnate women who are past child-bearing years? That a seventy year old woman can have a baby now? I'm sure Mother Theresa is MOST pleased. Not for herself. Just the idea of more babies. I read an interview with someone close to the HUAC committee in the fifties who said the Senators for the most part, were no better or worse than your average politician, but it was their WIVES who took to the inquisition like fat little ducks to water. "What about that Hollywood producer? He's a red isn't he? Why aren't you going after him?" Mothers don't much care what happens to mothers Over There, as long as Johnny is fighting to keep her hearth and home safe. Salome was not an aberration; just the clearest possible manifestation.
Jerry: In Church & State, with the argument between Cerebus and Astoria, you twisted the pronunciations of "Tarim" and "Terim" away from what we expected, mixing them up in a way that seemed intended to play off the animus/anima idea of male in female, and female in male. Were the varying representations of Church icons -- ankhs vs. "female" symbols -- in Church & State also deliberate? Did you consciously mean to convey something, or were you just playing with symbols? Were you reading Carl Jung's writings before or during your Church & State run?
Dave: Boy. I really don't know how to answer this one. I haven't read any Jung. Clinical examination of the hidden can occasionally extract a graveyard chuckle from me, but I can't say that my sense of humour is perverse enough to sustain an interest. It's like Hawking's Beginning of Time. Skip through for the punch-lines and try not to snicker too much. There is Tarim and there is Terim. The end of Church & State contained the Judges point of view which is only a part of what I'm driving at. Mothers & Daughters will develop that a little more thoroughly and then Cerebus will be making what he will of what he was told. All I can do is keep showing how things look to me and repeating the sequence until people get it. Some won't, but that won't stop me from putting it down on paper as clearly as I'm able to. If I was able to distill it down to a few paragraphs, I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of doing the book for the last fourteen years. Male and female is at the core of our existence, our disputes and our natures; everything that our culture is made up of is derived from those two separate and distinct natures. It takes a long time and many pages to address what I see when I contemplate those two natures, particularly in the face of politically correct rhetoric.
Jerry: Were the references to Jerusalem, the space program, etc. at the end of Church & State meant to set up a meaningful link between "us" and Cerebus's world -- in the sense of being meaningful to the story flow of the entire series?
Dave: Well, yes. What I'm postulating is that we have, as I mentioned before, been up at this height before insofar as civilization is concerned. Little enough is known about the global picture of four thousand years ago, that it is not difficult to picture an entire culture rising up over the course of a couple thousand years and then doing themselves in with stupidity or by some magical cataclysm or natural disaster. I see human existence as a kind of acne on the face of the blue planet. Sometimes just a few spots here and there, sometimes a dramatic flaring. It's usually not permanent. The six foot telepathic cockroaches and the redwoods having their own distinct cultures doesn't seem too far-fetched to me. I think our aversion to cockroaches is the same that the President has when regarding the Vice President. No one wants a potential successor. With cockroaches it runs even deeper than that because they are our inevitable successors. If, several years after my death, Bank of Iest currency is discovered in some remote area of South America, I will be relishing a post mortem chuckle.
Jerry: Can we expect as much merging, mixing, and playing against expectation in Cerebus as we saw in the Illuminatus! trilogy? Or has the fun mostly drained out of those references?
Dave: I probably won't elaborate on the direct Illuminatus references, because it is more important, I think, for the people to see that we are all mining the same vein; that the Illuminatus trilogy created very little, but essentially documented many of the Hidden things which are all around us and which have followed us since Ancient Egypt and beyond. Alan Moore is definitely putting it all under the microscope in "From Hell". When I asked him if he ever worried about whether he was propagating a great lie or serving some dark force(s) associated with human existence, he said he had considered it, but "ultimately, it's a great story, and that's all that really matters." Alan has a way of being very reassuring on the subject that troubles me deeply. I think he's right though.
Jerry: What was your reaction to the comment appearing recently in Comics Journal about your occasional descents into "melodrama" in Cerebus? (Hey, I *like* the melodramatic moments, if that's what you want to call 'em! But what are they to you?)
Dave: I don't remember any reference to that in Comics Journal, but then I've always had trouble remembering either praise or criticism since neither is, ultimately, of much use in creativity. I find it hard to believe that a company that virtually mandates the canonization of the Bros. Hernandez would be making use of that particular criticism, but then consistency is not a Comics Journal virtue. The only reason Sex in the Comics was treated as anything but inherently loathsome by Gary's publication was that he himself was up to his eyeballs. The Comics Journal is like Einstein's curved space, molding itself around Fantagraphics' perceived needs and foibles, a series of rationalizations and excuses masquerading as a political viewpoint. You could hang it on the wall, but how would you ever decide which end is up?
Oddly enough I still get along with Gary, although I think his slavish pursuit of market share is going to do him in before he realizes there's a problem.
tyg (firstname.lastname@example.org): What's Cerebus' circulation these days, and why did you stop listing it in every issue?
Dave: I realized that we were the only publishers who announced what our circulation is in every issue and that seemed kind of pointless after a while. It is going up with the beginning of the Mothers and Daughters story-line. How much, I couldn't say because we have re-orders, subscriptions, direct sales to stores and sales to distributors calculated separately. It went down through Melmoth (not surprisingly) and is going up through Mothers & Daughters.
tyg: Was Oscar in Melmoth the same character who was in Jaka's Story? People have said you've answered this question differently at different tour stops.
Dave:- That was left intentionally ambiguous. If you go by the length of Jaka's hair between issues 75 and 114, Cerebus was on the moon for a longer time than it appeared, or was wandering around dazed for two years. The Oscar character in Melmoth refers to the author of Jaka's Story as a separate person. This was one of the instances where I was ambiguous with a capital "A"; manufacturing two separate, irresolvable interpretations. Nothing frustrates me more than the twentieth century adherence to the notion that you can find out what "actually happened" and that it is necessary for fiction to set out a linear, quantitative and absolute reality for the readers consumption and assurance. I think EVERYTHING is like the Kennedy assassination(s); riddled with inconsistencies, false trails overlapping stories and considerations; distortions wrapped inside fabrications and coated with lies. The sooner we get over the idea that reality isn't like this, the sooner we'll be able to put together a world that fits our circumstances as they are; not as they never were and will never be. I'm not holding my breath.
tyg: Why Aardvark Comment? I enjoyed it when you printed your responses, and I'd enjoy it if people commented on Cerebus, but the vast amount of non-Cerebus related letters have me skimming over it at extreme speed. Why not run more Single Pages or other creative material, or even just drop the pages entirely and lower the cost of the book a bit (or make more money by dropping the pages and keeping the price the same; I doubt anyone will drop the book if AC in its current form disappears).
Dave: You can't please all of the people all of the time. I have started answering the letters on the letters page again, but as soon as people start criticizing me personally and being insulting again, I'll stop again. You would be wrong in thinking that no one would drop the book if Aardvark Comment was dropped. You just aren't in the Aardvark Comment faction. You're in the Aardvark Comments Sucks faction. The most notable trait of the two groups is that they don't associate with each other and deny the other faction's existence; except as isolated whining. Both groups are of about equal size and feel very strongly that I'm the strongest proponent of their views and if they just reason with me a little bit I'll expand Aardvark Comment/cancel Aardvark Comment. May you have fans some day.
tyg: One account of a Tour stop I've read mentioned your daughter being there. I found this a bit hard to believe as you've never mentioned having a child in any of the non-fiction in Cerebus or interviews that I'm aware of. Do you in fact have a daughter, and if so, what does she think of Cerebus...and depending on her age, on the parts of Jaka's Story set in Jaka's childhood?
Dave: That would probably be Boston; and that was Izzy Greenberg, Fred Greenberg's daughter. She's eleven years old and at the age of seven was a better conversationalist than most women of my acquaintance. I'm taking her out to dinner in New York after the tour; maybe to Elaine's. She was helping us out selling Cerebus merchandise at the Boston stop.
tyg: Any chance of a Cerebus action figure in the Turtles line (hey, they did Panda Khan...)?
Dave: No. I had thought that we could do a quick Cerebus figure in the Turtles line and then just take it out of circulation after a couple of months, as kind of an inside joke. Imagine my horror when I was contacted by Kevin and Peter's agent who assumed I would be tickled to death to sign a contract (!)...I really thought that Kevin and Peter had enough clout to dictate terms to Playmate toys or whatever. I think they thought I was trying to find some way to move Cerebus into the big merchandising picture. Evidently Pete took it very personally, although I didn't find that out until very recently. It was just a "mixed signals" situation. Unfortunate.
tyg: What's your opinion on the upcoming Image line, in terms of it apparently being set up as sort of a "mainstream" Tundra? My understanding is that Malibu is doing the grunt work of publishing, but the creators will get very substantial percentages of profits.
Dave: It is very much a mainstream Tundra. In the same way that Taboo and Brat Pack are perceived as Tundra books, Spawn, Youngblood and others will be known as Malibu books. If you want to be an independent, you have to deal with the distributors yourself and have the checks made payable to your company. Otherwise you're just an employee of the company. The substantial percentage of the profits is the key difference between Malibu and Marvel as far as the industry is concerned. From the perspective of the medium, the key difference is creative control. It remains to be seen if McFarlane and Leifield and those guys have any fans of their own beyond the bogus collector's item first issues. It was conventional practice among dealers to cut orders on the Marvel books they did as dramatically as possible after the number one. If Spider-man (sans adjective) had made it to issue 50, it would probably have had the same circulation as Cerebus (any dealers in this thing want to back me up on this?). If they stick to four and five issue mini-series, they might be able to fool all of the people all of the time, but I doubt it.
tyg: Was part of the reason behind the Melmoth storyline and its relative lack of appearances of Cerebus a desire to do some work other than Cerebus? Either way, do you ever feel like there are other projects you'd like to do, but don't have the time for due to keeping Cerebus going?
Dave: No. This was a reality manufactured by R. Fiore in the Comics Journal. I think it was his review. It said that Dave Sim is getting sick of the character Cerebus. Utter nonsense, but like any other creator, you ignore the Comics Journal at your peril. People always think that they have some inside pipeline that allows them to know what creators are thinking when in reality, they have no access to any creators except for the ones they earn their living off of. What I was attempting to portray in Jaka's Story and Melmoth is those points in your life when you can't think of anything you can do to get out of the rut you're in; when it gets so bad, people literally can't see you when you're standing right in front of them. To go from the conclusion of Church & State to the frantic epilogue to Melmoth with nothing in between would be very unlike life and very like a Marvel comic.
There are other comic book stories that I want to do, but I think in the best of all possible worlds you have to earn the right to do more personal work by putting in your time on a regular feature. Will Eisner is my model on this. He's obviously not going to start doing eight pages of the Spirit a week at this point in his career. People who want him to are just being selfish. When I'm done with Cerebus, I hope to do exactly the same thing; stories that appeal to me, done at my own pace. When it's done it's done. I would hope never to draw Cerebus again at that point, except for the occasional benefit piece or whatever.
Phillip Birmingham (email@example.com): A lot of people I know who like Cerebus (including myself -- it's really great) agree on one thing: most of the letters in Aardvark Comment are really lame. Why do you devote nearly a quarter of the whole book to these, rather than making the book smaller?
Dave: The meeting of the Aardvark Comment Sucks group is down the hall and to your left. I'd warn you not to talk about your personal life, but nobody at the Aardvark Comment Sucks meeting does anyway. Enjoy.
Jeff Vogel (jvogel@jarthur.Claremont.EDU): I find it quite interesting that a person who repeatedly states he is not a feminist creates the most interesting and 3-dimensional characters in comics.
Dave Sim: Although you didn't put it as a question, I've always pointed out to people that the reason my female characters are three-dimensional is because I portray them as human beings; part good and part bad. The last two Feminist Decades gave us characters of the female persuasion who were cardboard cut-outs for the same reason that you would not read Communist or Nazi approved literature in the hopes of finding a rich tapestry documenting the human condition. Dictatorial and rhetorical movements produce dictatorial and rhetorical entertainments. Fortunately we seem to be coming out of that to a degree.
Jeff: What is the most commonly asked question?
Dave: "Why an aardvark?"
Jeff: Could we have a quick summary of the beliefs of the Kevillists? Sometimes they sound very enlightened, sometimes very frightening.
Dave: R...state-owned prostitution, pharmaceutically-assisted miscarriages, ownership of men, guaranteed minimum incomes for women over the age of fifteen and the inalienable right to self-determination within those parameters...S (Astoria, Church & State pg. 622). She accommodates a number of dissenting views and has a few of her own that she doesn't advance publicly, but that pretty much sums it up.
Jeff: Read Sandman? Whaddaya think?
Dave: Sandman is brilliant. If DC would stop treating the artists on the title as after-thoughts and interchangeable cogs in the machinery it would have had the potential to be the best written _and_ drawn title in recent memory. They're doing the same thing they did with Swamp Thing; spoiling the writer shamelessly and treating the artists like crustaceans. Why? No idea. The practice dates back to Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster evidently.
RM (bn981@cleveland.Freenet.Edu): How do you pronounce "Iest", anyway? "East"? "Yest"? "Yayst"? "Ice-st"?
Dave: Ee-est. Sometimes Ee-yest. The ones from the Lower City tend toward the latter pronunciation.
Jeff Hildebrand (firstname.lastname@example.org): What is the year at this point in the story line? Unless the snow is out of season I would guess that it is early in the winter of 1415-16 but enough unusual things have happened that it could be as late as 1418.
Dave: As of Cerebus #156, it is, indeed early winter of 1415-16.
AS (email@example.com): What work did Gerhard do in comic books before Cerebus?
Dave: Gerhard did no work in the comic book field prior to working on Cerebus. The Young Cerebus short story RHis First FifthS in Epic #26 was his first comic book work.
Bill Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org): You promised in a "Swords" intro to reveal more of what really makes Elrod tick, around 175 or so. Is that still in the game plan? (I'm sorry about the incoherent letter I sent [you] a while ago.)
Dave: Oh, hey, Bill. Whus happenin'? Don't worry about the incoherent letter. I get a lot of them. ... [U]h, yeeahh. I hadn't realized I had mentioned anything about that anywhere. We are definitely coming up on that part, but it's a little later in the story; book Four of Mothers & Daughters (RMindsS)...so it's actually in the 190's now.
Bill: The Mind Games have returned. What about Odd Transformations (or any other dream stories)? These achieve a certain lyrical, personal quality which I love. It's a rare opportunity to really see inside Cerebus' head.
Dave: Yes. Once the pace slows down a little bit in M & D (i.e. after Book One) there will be other dream sequences.
Bill: What's with the sudden availability and expansiveness? We haven't heard much from you for a while, and then suddenly a tour, a Comics Interview issue, you're answering letters in Aardvark Comment again, and now this. Has your attitude toward the fans changed or what?
Dave: No, I can't say that my attitude towards the fans has changed. It was a very heavy thing to back into a dispute with Diamond over (as I saw it) my right to sell my work whatever way I wanted to. Having said what I had to say through the whole dispute and then through the process of a Bill of Rights for creators, I really felt it was time to shut up for a while. You can get an awful reputation as an asshole very quickly by always ranting about this and that. I felt very strongly about the creator's rights issues that were coming up, so I wanted to say enough to be heard, but not enough to be written off as a crank. I was reasonably certain that events would bear out what I've been saying and if you check the Newswatch section of the Comics Journal, most of the news items since that time have fallen along familiar patterns. That's the biggest among several reasons for my keeping a low profile. There's also the fact that I like the story to speak for itself. Once you start explaining a story, there is this terrible fear that without the explanation the story won't stand on it's own; you also lock your readers into your own interpretation of what you're doing when it's always better to that they see the story through their own eyes, I think. Also, when I stopped answering the letters on the letters page, I started answering them personally. So, in a way, I was even more expansive than before. It was only since I started the tour that it became apparent that a lot of the readership took my absence personally. They didn't want me to write just to them, they wanted me to talk to everyone again.
Bill: You stopped doing individual issue titles after Church and State ended. Was this to emphasize the unity of the shorter stories (JS and M) (it certainly achieved that) or did you simply tire of the device?
Dave: I didn't much care for the structure of 20 page chapters as a rule; which doing the chapter titles made necessary. The idea of using the alternating text and comics pages in Jaka's Story to pace the whole thing out was an experiment. When I read the whole story in reprint book form, I was pretty happy with the smoothness; the fact that you couldn't tell when one issue ended and the other began. Each of the books of Mothers & Daughters will have a different structure. Book One could best be described as Hell Bent Linear.
Bill: Why did you spell the Roach's name "Artemis" instead of "Artemus"? "Artemis" is/was female.
Dave: Well, yeah. That's the point. Sort of making fun of the feminists who are using male spellings for their names (like Yves). The obvious next step is for them to start calling men by women's names. You know, RMaybe if we give them the names of carers and nurturers they'll stop being evil wicked men and become more...well, more like us perfect beings.S (bat, bat).
Rob & Steve Snell (sws1@Ra.MsState.Edu): Dave, how do you perceive the role of comic retailers in supporting independent publishers?
Dave: I like to make the distinction between RindependentS and RalternativeS. Right now any bozo (or group of bozos) who want to put out Marvel Comics but not work for Marvel can do so and be called independent. Supporting those books instead of Marvel doesn't change or improve anything, to my way of thinking. Just to give you an idea of the distinction; Cerebus, Hate, Love & Rockets are alternatives. Not just alternatives to Marvel and DC, but alternatives to Dark Horse's movie adaptation manure; alternative to LA Law, the Terminator, Steel Magnolias. Something different that isn't just something to put in between the ads. I mean, Sandman is an alternative under this definition; which makes sense to me; comics is the only medium where is is possible to produce something really idiosyncratic and have it really quite widely disseminated at a very low cost. I don't know if you guys are retailers yourselves, but I can say that the stores that have the most adult clientele and who do the best with the alternatives a) are constantly at war with the Marvel and DC titles; always looking for ways to confine them to a smaller and smaller space and b) are always on the lookout for alternatives, buying from both Capital and Diamond (and any other distributor in the area) as well as other comic book stores (raiding their quarter piles and back issue bins for hard-to-find alternative books). Store owners like that, customers tend to trust and will buy just about anything on their recommendation. You have to know the tastes of your individual customers so you can steer them away from Marvel as they get sick on the endless repetition, onto other titles that they can be interested in. Pick what you like and display it prominently, in quantity and push, push, push it.
Simon Arthur (NEUR0MANCER%MAPLE.email@example.com): How has the use of drugs influenced your work? Would there be a Cerebus without marijuana? Has LSD played any part in the creation of Cerebus?
Dave: Lots and lots. I came late to marijuana and alcohol. Both were important at various times and both have remained central to my life. I haven't smoked any cannabis (apart from a joint at the San Francisco stop on the tour) in the last year or two. If I have it, I smoke it until it's gone. It makes me very anti-social, withdrawn, paranoid. I am sure there would be a Cerebus without marijuana; the book might even have been more coherent without it. Who knows? I would never have believed that I could get through a day without a joint and now weeks go by without me thinking about it. I broke up with my girl-friend in St. Louis on the tour and I had the phone number of a Cerebus fan who wanted to smoke me up and I didn't call him. Unheard of for the old Dave.
Actually the whole nature of the story-line hit me simultaneously while I was coming down off of about a week and a half of doing acid. Epiphany big-time. June 1979. I also drew about three quarters of issue eleven on acid; tight pencilling for the first time in my life (Look Ma I'm Jim Starlin!). Can't add much to what McCartney said about it, RIt'll show you doors that you never knew were there.S But that's about it; whether you go through the door, which door you go through or whether you just spend your life standing in the doorway is up to you.
Lawrence (firstname.lastname@example.org): You talked about how we have always lived in a matriarchy, and about how society/civilization/whatever is very sensitive about protecting its infants. If this overprotectiveness is an indication of matriarchy, why is pro-choice a feminist movement? Why do women so adamantly defend the right to kill unborn children?
Dave: Well, because feminists are the anti-Matriarchy. Feminists are Kevillists, not Cirinists. Feminism largely consists of RWomen can do whatever they want whenever they want.S. They can't be kept out of male sanctuaries, but they can keep males out of their Take Back the Night Marches. They get to keep the children in the event of a divorce and the men get to pay for them. The fact that they consider a baby to be part of their body and, consequently, subject to their will reaches its natural conclusion in the power of life or death over that baby. Just as an aside, Astoria is not pro-choice, Astoria is pro-abortion. RIf you have the slightest doubt about being pregnant, terminate it.
Lawrence: [D]o you personally feel oppressed by matriarchy?
Dave: I don't feel oppressed by the Matriarchy, but then, after a few minutes contact with me, the average Mother has sized me up as Rone of THOSES. Since their only weaponry consists of a withering gaze and phrases intended to induce guilt, if you ignore both of those there isn't much they can do. I live in constant fear of the Matriarchy equation of irate mother + cop = busted comic book store, however.
Pat Hall (email@example.com): So we have a "Cerebus: The First Half" T-shirt celebrating the first 150 issues. After M&D is finished in #200 do you plan to have Cerebus dressed up in a hockey uniform for a "Cerebus: The First Two Periods" T-shirt?
Dave: What a wonderful idea. He could be holding two used tampons in either hockey glove.
Pat: In #156 you mention that _Misspent Youth_ is on your list of top ten comics. I'm sure it's not a hard-and-fast list, but what might some of your other favorites be?
Dave: Hate, Naughty Bits, Sandman, Groo, Eisner's new stuff, RFrom HellS, Flaming Carrot, Yahoo, Yummy Fur, Joe Matt's new book which I forget the name of.
Pat: I was intrigued by your comment in the previous interview about whether or not we can ever find out what "actually happened" during a particular event, JFK's assassination for example. I agree that in the "real world" where we must piece together events from the memories of different people, we'll probably never have all the loose ends tied up, and some great literature reflects this (and comics too, like _Moonshadow_). But don't you think that good literature can also be written where an omniscient narrator _is_ used, or do you really feel that the world is always so full of loose ends that it's a disservice to ever imagine, even in fiction, that we could ever know what "actually happened" in some situation?
Dave: I'm not much of one for hard and fast rules. I'm sure there is no end of brilliant works of fiction that tie everything into a neat bundle at the end without a loose thread showing anywhere. It's only my personal view that a large work of fiction like Cerebus should reflect the ambiguity and over-lapping and contradictory interpretations of reality that I see everywhere around me. It would be a disservice to my story from my viewpoint as an author, but I am quite aware that that view is very often seen as a disservice to my readership.
Pat: The other comment that intrigued me was the one about Hawking's _A Brief History Of Time_. I'm an astronomer myself, so I tend a little more toward the scientific bent than perhaps you do, but did I interpret it right that you see Hawking's thesis on the origin and evolution of the universe as not necessarily any more or less valid than any other belief system? Of course everyone is free to believe what they want, but the scientific method by which scientists have arrived at a picture of the history of the universe which is generally perceived (among scientists, anyway) to be reasonably accurate, if incomplete, did not seem to make any difference to you, which I find a little curious.
Dave: Hawking's theories, to me, are the list of facts without a binding story,whereas Genesis is a story that takes great liberty with the facts. Because they didn't know the facts. Church & State and Mothers & Daughters is an attempt to take what is known about the origin of the universe and make a more plausible story out of it. Science includes everything except the Hidden; and mistakes the Hidden for the Difficult to See. Witness the Hubble space telescope fiasco. That's what you get for trying to look up Mother's Skirts you Filthy Little Boys.
Howard Shum (firstname.lastname@example.org): [Do you have] any plans on collecting the Cerebus stories that appeared in Epic Illustrated into a volume?
Dave: We plan on releasing a volume of the in-between stories and possibly including some of the Swords backup stories, and the Epic stories in half-tone (we're not shelling out for colour printing), next year at the very earliest.
Howard: I know that [you are] mainly a self-taught artist and I would like to know what art books [you] used [or] any other things that [you] did to become the artist [you are] now.
Dave: The only thing you can do is draw every day. The comic books you admire the most are your textbook and a sheet of white paper is your classroom.
Jim Ottaviani (jim email@example.com): What are your feelings on the importance and effects of community? Isolation? On the one hand, it seems to me you've built/are building community by living in Kitchener for so long, as the first self-publisher with staying power able to truly help others get started, through the format and content of the letters page, and with your encouragement of other creators in the Singles Pages and Cerebus Previews. On the other hand, much of your work is solitary (apparently by choice and design), and Cerebus himself is very alone.
Dave: Isolation is critical. Isolation and complete silence for hours on end. If you can't hack that you can't do comic books for the most part. You have to relish being by yourself. Relish it. Community is an evasion of this, I think. I've heard all the reasons as to why you need to be in contact with other artists but all of the experiments I've seen with it have proven to be failures. I used to draw more and better usable work visiting Gene Day, but that wasn't because of the community thing; that was because he sat down at ten o'clock in the morning and drew until eleven o'clock at night. Half an hour for dinner, a sandwich at the drawing board for lunch and aside from that just cigarettes and coffee, cigarettes and coffee. If you stopped drawing to read a comic book, or quit because you got a page done, it made you feel like the biggest sloth to ever hit the medium. You'd start your next page or pencil an illustration or ink a panel of Gene's Marvel work just to keep from feeling guilty.
Community (friends, family, lovers) kept to its place and confined to a few hours here and there can, on very infrequent occasions, and to a small degree, be viewed as not destructive of creativity.
kreme (firstname.lastname@example.org): Why don't you have access to the Usenet? I would think it would be amusing for you to read all these posts, especially if no one knew you were there! :-)
Dave Sim: I really don't think computers are possible, so I don't own one. It's already getting to be quite a chore just to get through the morning mail every day. I'm sure you guys will let me know if I miss anything important.
David Wald (email@example.com): Are there any plans to (or definite reasons why you won't) release the Cerebus phone books in a more solid, hardback form?
Dave: We are a very small business entity and it costs just about every penny we make above and beyond our salaries to keep the reprint volumes in print as is. If we ever became big enough to invest in hardcover printings, I'm sure we would do it. I only do those things with Cerebus which won't jeopardize the book's financial health. Hardcover reprintings, colour reprintings of the Epic stories and reprintings of the covers would constitute an enormous and risky expense.
Hector Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org):- Do you plan to have extra printings of the issues that are in between the phone books, like issue 51 or the prologue to Jaka's Story, etc.?
Dave: At this point, I am planning a slim reprint volume which would reprint the "in-between" stuff. Issue 51, 112/113, 137, 138, Demonhorn, the Silverspoon strips, "What Happened Between Issues 20 and 21".
On the other hand, maybe it won't be _that_ slim. First we have to get all of the "phone books" to the distributors by the end of the year, so it would be 1993 at the earliest.
Hector: Will you be at MARCON? I would put you up in my living room. Only Jim, me, and Carla would have heard of you, so you can talk non-shop easily.
Dave: I'm afraid not. Only the Tour this year. Twenty-one cities in 12 months is about enough for anyone's plate who is still doing a monthly title. Also, when I go to another town, I go to talk shop EXCLUSIVELY. One of the reasons we're losing the battle to Marvel and Image and what-not is that the people who care about the medium and who can make a difference have been slacking off (myself included). "Conditions are too bad to be hip any more; It's time to start working again." (Randy Newman).
Jeremy Holstein (jholstei@skidmore.EDU): You and Gerhard seem to work well as a team on the drawing board (strike the well, your work is fucking great), but outside of that we hear much from you as the guiding force of Cerebus, but little from Gerhard. A few questions about him: Has he made a commitment to stay with the project until #300?
Dave: You're very kind.
Gerhard and I are very firm believers in freedom as an absolute.
He's free to walk out at any time, maintaining his fifty percent ownership of the work we've done together. I would no more ask him to make that commitment than I would ask him to sign a contract.
Jeremy: How much input does he have into the storyline?
Dave: None. He's a good audience and he knew the direction and ending of Church & State, Jaka's Story and Melmoth ahead of time. Mothers & Daughters I'm just springing on him one page at a time.
Jeremy: And when are we going to hear from him in his own words? For Gods sake, when does Spunky SPEAK?
Dave: Our situation has evolved to the point where Gerhard is very much the background guy on the book and in the business. What he has to say, he says in his art, which is a damn sight more eloquent than any five volumes of opinions. I would imagine he would be happy to do an interview if asked, he just doesn't get asked. Mmm. Scratch that. He'd probably do an interview if forced to, but it would just be another damn thing on his desk he'd have to pay attention to.
Jeremy: How long is Mothers and Daughters planned to run for (approximately)?
Dave: Approximately fifty issues; to issue 200.
Jeremy: After Mothers and Daughters has run its course, how many more books are planned?
Dave: One long one, which will probably get broken up into two or three small ones, but which will be one long one for all of that.
Jeremy: How are your relations with Diamond these days?
Dave: My relations with Diamond are fine and have been for the last several years. I am in regular communication with Bill Schanes about ways to improve Diamond's orders and our immediate plans. They're giving me a half hour to address the Diamond Trade Show in Baltimore in June, which is really pretty generous of them. I'm hoping to be able to talk about all the things I've learned at the warehouses and stores on the tour.
Jeremy: Goddammit, Dave. Are you ever going to explain those fucking fire-sneezes? (In Church and State, remember?)
Dave: I've been explaining the fire-sneezes for about two years now, but I promise to continue to do so, until everyone understands. Stay tuned.
Jim Ottaviani (jim email@example.com): Are there any writers that you would like to draw for, or any artists that you would like to write for? Not necessarily on Cerebus - in 2005, perhaps. Are there any past writers/artists that you would have liked to work with had you been able (or even aliveI)?
Dave: I was thinking of offering to do the last issue of _Sandman_ if Neil promises never to work for those Infernal Bastards again. I haven't because I almost definitely couldn't find the time and I'd probably develop a painful rash and locusts would devour the back yard of the Off White house. After 2004, I'd like to do a story with Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman. I wish I had done more stories with Gene Day when he was alive; you never know the clock is ticking, do you? We always meant to have a picture taken of us together, as well, but never got around to it.
Jim: A related question: What, if any, collaborative work have you enjoyed the most (besides working with Gerhard)?
Dave: Doing the Jam stories, most especially with Colleen and Will Eisner. The Flaming Carrot cross-over; doing twenty pages in ten days after having my heart broken by the same chick for the third time (stupid, stupid, stupid) was very, very rewarding. C'mon, Bob, shake a leg, we're a page and a half behind schedule.
Jim: Who wrote "And his shadow on the border of the pond...triumphant reassumption." that the Jules Feiffer character quotes as "one of my favorite authors" (page 1197 of Church & State)?
Dave: That was whatsisname from "Sons and Lovers". Not Steinbeck. Ooh, fuck. WHAT IS HIS NAME!? I hate this. The book is in the apartment, too. Blanking on a name that makes me look like an illiterate boob. Anyway it's in "Sons and Lovers", unless I've got the title wrong too.
Jim: Will we be seeing Jaka's sister ("The Beguiling") again?
Dave: Probably between issues 200 and 300.
Karen Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org): I have a question for you. Given your views on feminism, and the current storyline in Cerebus, I was wondering what your relationship was/is like with your mother? any sisters? your girlfriends?
Dave: Oh no. It's YOU again. Well, Karen, I owe you one for being one of a handful of Persons who kept me from getting hanged from a Metaphysical Feminist Lamp-post in the last couple of years (Are You Not Now, Or Have You Ever Not Been A Member of the Feminist Party, Mr. Sim).
WAS -- I was always my mother's favourite; she always encouraged any interests that I had and certainly went out of her way to accommodate and make allowances for my interest in comic books. I was left pretty much to my own devices, which was good. She used to print up fanzines for me on the copier at the school where she worked, typed up my Marvel Universe Bio stuff I used to write by the ton when I was a kid. She also threw out my Zap comics when I was about thirteen years old. I retrieved them and hid them. That was a major rift.
IS -- I have dinner with my parents once a month or so, sometimes less often
D.H. LAWRENCE!! Yahoo!! I did it!!. D.H. Lawrence.
My mother and sister are both rhetorical feminists. Not nearly as bad now as they were a couple of years back, but that's true of most of Them. Retrenching probably. When my father was in the Emergency ward a couple of years ago, I was instantly in charge. Dave, you call and see how he's doing. Dave, you talk to the doctor. What do you think, Dave. The moment the crisis stage had passed it suddenly turned into a little feminist collective again. Well, _I_ think we should do this. Well, we decided we're going to do such and so. I told them the next time they're on their own. Send me a postcard. I firmly believe that feminism can only be fought within the family, because it's the only place you can really hurt them. They need that One Big Happy Family shit tucked right next to their We Get To Do Whatever We Want Because Anything Else is Discrimination. Consequently the only Achilles Heel is the One Big Happy Family. Like the fourteen dead feminists in Montreal. Call men every name under the sun for three weeks and then have A Big Happy Family Dinner Where We All Love Each Other. (Christmas, I mean.) Psycho. Mondo psycho. My sister keeps making little overtures that we should be Good Buddies again. I can't think of a thing I would have to say to her. She's got Margaret Thatcher's false joviality down pat.
Girl-friends? Sex. If the sex is good, I can put up with anything, like most men. They're all Too Young For Me. They've only got three tricks to assert control; causing jealousy, withholding sex and beating you over the head with their fan club (TYou'd really like my friend, Steve.' I loved the line on SEINFELD when Elaine says that, and Jerry says, TI don't like anybody, why would I like Steve?'). They also all want to be liked for something besides their physical attributes. I wrote a line for Oscar in Jaka's Story that I ended up not finding a space for. "Men want to be loved for their bodies, which is funny. Women want to be loved for their minds, which is funnier."
Jeff Reilly (email@example.com): Dave, do you ever go back and reread past Cerebus issues? Or are you always looking forward to doing future issues?
Dave Sim: The only time I really go back and read Cerebus back issues is if I'm checking a story point or a costume design or whatnot. On occasion I have found myself reading a bunch of consecutive pages in the reprint volumes. It's always a funny experience when I make myself laugh with a sequence I had forgotten. I do try to keep the re-reading to a minimum so that the Cerebus story-line is more like a real life and Cerebus' life is like a life to me; remembering past events as opposed to re-experiencing them.
Jeff: Is original art from Cerebus going to be made available at any point in the future, through the mail or conventions or anywhere else? And of course many thanks for producing a work of art I not only enjoy rereading but eagerly look forward to each month.
Dave: Yes it will. This is a real problem, though. You start selling it at the conventions (as we have been doing on the Tour; $100 a page). You figure, okay, IUm doing them a favour. And then they want to know if you'll sell to them by mail. Or they want to know if they can get such and such a page. Or they want to haggle over buying three pages at a discount. They always want pages with Cerebus on them, so you end up with four pages out of the issue you could have sold fifty times over and sixteen pages that everyone skips over. Then of course you have the people who come up and whine that they ASKED you if they could have first crack at such and such a page FIVE YEARS AGO and NOW YOU SOLD IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. WeUre experimenting with auctioning pages in the back of the book, but if all that shit happens again, I'll just decide not to sell the artwork again. It really is enough to drive you mad, sometimes.
Thank you for your kind words.
Craig (CHGARNETT@amherst.edu): You mentioned that you were going to be getting back to the fire sneezes.
Dave: No what I said was I've _been_ explaining the fire sneezes for the last while, but I will keep explaining them until everyone gets it.
Craig: That reminded me of one of the other "oddities" from Church and State: Bran "notices" that four different documents written by different people in Iest all have the same handwriting: Cerebus'. While the sneezes seem to come back occasionally, the handwriting thing hasn't, and I'd love to know what was going on/what it meant.
Dave: That will be explained fully in the fourth book of Mothers & Daughters.
Craig: The order of hands for Diamondback seems to have changed. Back in Swords of Cerebus, a pair of Priestesses was a very high hand...but in the decks I got on the tour, it's not even mentioned, and when I asked, it rated someplace toward the bottom of the barrel. Is this a "different variations" thing? Thanks!
Dave: Priestess-priestess has the same ranking as it had previously; the omission was a typesetting error.
Alexx (Alexx@world.std.com): I've got a follow-up question. Since [you] mentioned in a recent installment the source for the lengthy quote in "Walking on the Moon", I got to wondering: Why isn't this credited anywhere? Traditionally, this sort of thing gets credited in the small print opposite the title page. I have no idea whether or not copyright laws require such a thing in this case, but I should think that such an ardent supporter of creator's rights would be willing to give credit where it's due. (And this, just a few issues after "With apologies to Jules Feiffer and Lou Jacobi"...)
Dave: I'm sure the copyright laws specify that this must be done on pain of an excruciating lawsuit, an extended prison sentence and a punitive financial cost. D.H. Lawrence is dead and I'm not interested in making concessions to his parasitical descendants any more than I'm interested in making concessions to Groucho Marx's parasitical descendants. I think that art should be without borders or passports. Someone on the upper chessboards decided to test me on that one with the Spermbirds "Something to Prove" cover with Cerebus on it uncredited. Get it? Spermbirds? Something way up there shooting its wad at you? "Something to Prove"? We don't believe you for a minute that you really believe in the free use of someone else's creativity so we're going to arrange this little test and we're betting dollars to donuts that you get your lawyer and crush them.
I wish all the tests were that easy.
I also wanted to see if anyone had any curiosity about the origin of the passage. You're the first.
Arthur C. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org): Is there any reason Cerebus is an aardvark (story-wise), or is it just a neat idea?
Dave Sim The original idea was to capitalize on the success of Howard the Duck. There was an explosion of funny animal material in the mid-seventies, but is consisted mostly of all funny animal casts. I decided the success of Howard could be attributed to the "funny animal in the world of humans" motif. Of course by the time I was working on High Society, the larger issue seemed to be alienation and its nature. Each of us has to see ourselves as unique. We are all the single funny animal in the world of humans. Each of us has something that sets us apart or makes us feel as if we are set apart. Consequently there is, again, a ready identification with Cerebus by the reader. Most particularly since Cerebus is not a "winner" and most people don't think that they are "winners" either. John Lennon did not write "I'm a Loser" in a whimsical frame of mind I don't think. The guy who used to come on stage with a toilet seat around his neck and got into rock n roll because he couldn't figure out how they DID that to Elvis probably got a clearer look at the nature of karmic forces that I'm trying to document in Cerebus than anyone else in living memory. "Instant Karma" "No one, I think, is in my tree". Death must have come as quite a relief.
Andrew Weiland (email@example.com): Where did [you] get the idea for Weishaupt's bowl cannons in Church & State I?
Dave: The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, the guy who penciled that brilliant run of Ghost Rider in the late nineteen seventies.
Jeff Reilly (firstname.lastname@example.org): Dave, do you ever go back and reread past Cerebus issues? Or are you always lookingforward to doing future issues?
Dave Sim: The only time I really go back and read Cerebus back issues is if I'm checking a story point or a costume design orwhatnot. On occasion I have found myself reading a bunch of consecutive pages in the reprint volumes. It's always a funny experience when I make myself laugh with a sequence I had forgotten. I do try to keep the re-reading to a minimum so that the Cerebus story-line is more like a real life and Cerebus' life is like a life to me; remembering past events as opposed to re-experiencing them.
RM (bn981@cleveland.Freenet.Edu): Everyone remembers the question of what happened between issues 20 and 21 and how it finally was resolved. What I want to know is, why did you decide to drop the plot that had been developed in the previous issues, the planned attack on Palnu, and the general who planned to overthrow Lord Julius after successfully defending Palnu. It seemed that you had put a great deal of effort into the story, introducing at least four new characters. Yet the plot was dropped like a hot potato.
Dave: That was my first attempt at breaking from traditional story-telling methods; the notion that you don't develop a plot-line unless you intend it to figure prominently in subsequent events. A giant step sideways and dragging everyone along with me. The effect I hoped for was a greater identification with Cerebus as a central figure swept along by events. From the time I introduced Lord Julius, the reader was given the impression of having the traditional over-view of the story-line; dropping the storyline was part of several efforts to make them feel as out of place and out of touch as Cerebus.
Joe Gorde (Joe.Gorde@um.cc.umich.edu):> Hi Dave. Met you at the Detroit stop, thanks for the Young Cerebus sketch! Anyway, here are some questions I didn't have a chance to ask you:
There are several scenes, especially during Church & State, when Cerebus expresses a fear of "everyone laughing at" him. Since this particular phrase is so recurrent, I was wondering how much this insecurity serves as a motivation for Cerebus' actions?
Dave: I think it's a very human trait shared by everyone; it's just magnified in those who quest after power. Which is odd, if you think about it, because figures of power are always the targets of the most merciless humor.
Joe: In a Note From the President near the end of Church & State, you say that Jaka's Story will have seven parts; what happened to the other four?
Dave: That was before I decided to play with the structure of the story, alternating the text pieces with the central story-line. At the time I said that, Jaka's Story was going to be told sequentially and was going to include her life after she left Palnu and before she met Cerebus; I'm now saving those parts for a later date.
Joe: Although you've repeatedly said that the book will end with Cerebus' death in issue 300, and that you have a good idea of the story-line to that point, how adamant are you about the 300-issue rule? Put another way, what happens if you hit issue 270 and you realize that in order to pace the story properly you'll need to end at issue 294, or, alternatively, extend it to issue 307? You're not setting a hard-and-fast end-date for Mothers & Daughters ("about 50 issues", you've said) so why do so for the whole series?
Dave: Why? Jeez, I don't know _why_. I think it would be much harder to serve a prison sentence if they told you you might get out in 2002 or it might be as late as 2005. There are quirks to the story-line (what size and shape and subject is that short one between Jaka's Story and Mothers & Daughters wasn't resolved until very late in the day). Mothers & Daughters is four very different one year boxes with two issues on the end. Why? I don't know. Why did you choose to wear that shirt today?
Joe: In Mothers & Daughters, we see that the Roach is aware of the chess game between Po and Cerebus. When did he become omniscient?
Dave: The Roach became omniscient on page 5 of issue 154. He was also omniscient at several points in the latter part of Church & State. Like anything else, I suspect that omniscience is subject to entropy and gravitation. I trust that's obscure enough an answer for you.
Ken Small (email@example.com): Hi Dave- just saw you in Royal Oak; thanks for the sketch. My question is: Are the disembodiment's of Necross, Elrod and Claremont related? It seems that all three died in Cerebus' presence, only to come back as possessing spirits. Also, has the same thing happened to Weisshaupt? Is that one of the reasons he called for Cerebus at his deathbed?
Dave You're the first one to notice this. Go to the head of the class. Weisshaupt was unaware of that effect except at an unconscious level. Consciously, it was not the reason he called for Cerebus. Unconsciously, it probably was.
Jim Ottaviani (firstname.lastname@example.org):> I found your observation about Reformers not choosing who they inspire in issue 160 excellent. Is this semi-autobiographical and in part prompted by your experiences on tour?
Dave: It's pretty self evident if you contemplate any relationship of Inspiration and Inspired. What Jesus would think of the net effect of his attempts to reform orthodox Judaism would be worth a book in itself.
Jim Ottaviani: Though this wasn't really a question but a comment (to a comment on a comment on Interview VIII+) I laughed out loud when I read it and took the liberty of sending it to Dave. He liked it too...
Karen Williams: So that means that in issue 300, when Cerebus dies, Cerebus will die in Cerebus' presence, thus meaning that Cerebus will resurrected. Now we know what Dave Sim plans to do when he's done with issue 300: CEREBUS II: The Aardvark Reborn. :-)
Dave Sim: The effect doesn't work on Cerebus for the same reason that Doug Gilmour can't get an assist on his own goal. Nice try, though.
Hope that was ok, Karen. On to the "real" questions:
Dani Zwieg (email@example.com): Dave, when you first founded your company, did you have to conduct a careful search to sure you werent in conflict with all the other companies named Aardvark-Vanaheim?
Dave: Actually, when we started the company, there was no need for a name search. Incorporating requires a name search however. There weren't too many that were even close, as I recall.
mfterman (mfterman@phoenix.Princeton.EDU): What sort of question would you like to get from your readership that you havent got yet?
Dave: I've been waiting since Jaka's Story for someone to ask if Gerhard and I are gay.
mfterman: What would be the answer to said question?
Dave: The answer to the question would be definitely not. Friends of mine in California told me that cat yronwode had been circulating that rumour. She is an absolute fiend for gossip. I remember sitting in a room at a convention where she was "holding court". It was eerie the way that people started volunteering the most sordid and unsubstantiated tid-bits once the affair got rolling. Being a direct sort of person, I have asked the individuals being discussed if there was any truth to what was said. Their reaction was, universally, uncomprehending disbelief. I've always felt that the personal lives of people in comics are outside the boundaries of discussion. I'll discuss my personal life in a forum of this kind to the extent that I want to and no further. Personal details about others you couldn't get out of me with a tractor pull.
Alexx (Alexx@world.std.com): On earth, Popes take on new "holy" names when they ascend to the papacy. It would seem that Estarcion follows the same practice, as why else would they have three (at least) "Harmony"s in a row. Did Cerebus take on a different name that was never mentioned, or is this just another part of tradition that he ignored?
Dave: Just another tradition that he ignored; including moving his Church to a hotel and addressing his followers in person. A real "pope of the people."
Jeff Odum (firstname.lastname@example.org): I saw you in September in Virginia (I was the guy who wanted a sketch of Cerebus kicking George Bush's ass). Thanks for coming out to meet the unwashed masses. I was amazed at how friendly you were and how much time you spent with each person after you've been on tour for so long. It was a pleasure to meet you and Gerhard. Thank you again.
Anyway, onto my questions, nothing too cerebral (no pun intended)...Does it worry you that you don't have any of the overall plot written down anywhere? I mean, what if you get hit in the head or something?
Dave: Very nice meeting you as well.
No, it doesn't worry me in the least. On the one hand, I have twenty some-odd thousand people willing me to stay alive. It also provides an exit clause for the upper chessboards. If I really start to become a complete pain in the ass, one large bus with failed brakes should do the trick. Structurally, by showing creators that they don't NECESSARILY need businessmen to disseminate their work and earn a living and having people with the popularity of Kevin and Peter, Todd McFarlane and others accomplish this on a much larger and more noticeable scale, I'm pretty extraneous at this point. The viewpoint has been institutionalized and now the world need only enjoy/suffer the consequences to come. Knowing what I intend to say through Cerebus, I couldn't fault anyone...er...Anyone with the ability to make brakes fail for doing so. Whatever I have finished to that point will see print. You might want to make careful note of the last panel they let me get away with.
Jeff: Has anyone ever approached you with the idea of a Cerebus game? Not a board game, but a D&D type role playing one. Maybe computer-based. Or even a basic hack & slash arcade type thing. I just think GAUNTLET (an old ATARI arcade game) with Cerebus, Bear, Elf, and Necross roaming around hacking monsters and collecting treasure would be a guilty pleasure for a lot of your fans. Let me know if you have any interest. Just a thought...
Dave: An unfortunate by-product of having one person in control; I don't really like role-playing games, so I always deny permission to anyone sniffing around after the rights. I thought of doing an election/legislature game where you had to elect a certain number of members and then pass legislation, stuffing your own bank account and others the whole time and selling the city-state of Iest down the river in the process, but the time it would take makes it a very remote possibility. I suppose if someone came up with a game that I could play and enjoy, I might change my mind. More like Monopoly with politics than some brainless thing like Nintendo.
Jeff: I personally prefer rereading the issues in the phone books, just because I hate having to stop and re-bag the just finished issue and un-bag the new one etc. I don't miss the letters much, since I'm reading for the story; if I want discussion, I'll dig up the individual issues. What I do really miss, though, are the covers. Would you consider including B&W prints of the covers in any future reprint volumes (either in their proper places between issues, or collected in the back like an appendix)? I don't think it could add too much to the overall page count, and would it would make the great cover art available to fans who can't buy all the back issues (like me).
Dave: The page counts on the reprint books are at the breaking point as is. I might have to reckon with making the covers available in some way since there are so many requests for it, but it is certainly nowhere near the top of my mental agenda. Always open to suggestions, though.
Jeff: What books have you enjoyed writing/drawing the most? Are there any that you are especially looking forward to?
Dave: Like most writers, I don't enjoy writing; I enjoy having written. Drawing and writing, I enjoyed Jaka's Story, particularly the Oscar/Lord Julius confrontation. I can tell that Snuff and Swoon are going to be a great deal of fun. Book Four of Mothers & Daughters is going to be the biggest double challenge since Walking on the Moon (for a lot of the same reasons). I can't wait to see how and if I can bring it off to my satisfaction.
Hector Lee (email@example.com): You seem to have had a large amount of painful relationships. Where do you meet these women? And are there particular songs associated with each one?
Dave: All of my relationships have been painful, but there really haven't been that many of them considering I'm approaching forty years of age. Love happens when you least expect it, so I've trained myself to expect to fall in love every minute of every day. Occasionally, I'll forget and just start thinking how much I enjoy my life; hanging out with Mike and Eric and the guys at Peter's Place and Stages, grabbing a quick sandwich, drinking like a fish a couple of nights a week; living and dying with the Blue Jays six months of the year and the Maple Leafs the other six months; talking for hours on the phone with Bissette, Marder, McFarlane and above all writing and drawing Cerebus. Then BAM! Oh no I forgot to expect to fall in love. Reading the new biography of Keith Richards I was amazed reading the description of his wife. Fortunately, she's probably the only one in the world who is like that. In my experience women want to be competitors, buddies, room-mates, Ma-dame Sim (in the grand tradition), Queen Bee, impediment, adversary, provocateur...and combinations thereof. Since I've got a housekeeper, a secretary and I eat in restaurants all the time, the most they have to offer me is sex and support; neither of which are in the top ten of priorities for the Nineties Woman. They don't want to be with me, they want to be with the me they want to change me into. Feminism has been a great blessing in that way, really, it has made women completely untempting. Plus it doesn't cost anything to stare at a short skirt or an amazing pair of eyes. I'm also old enough to realize that a sex partner will come along eventually. The longer you have to wait, the more you enjoy it.