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Will his masculine light remain shining?
September 20, 2012 3:25 PM   Subscribe

After a very successful Kickstarter campaign Dave Sim had started work on republishing the entire Cerebus series, starting with High Society as high quality digital comics, including all the ephemeral content left out of earlier reprints. And then a fire happened which destroyed a lot of the Cerebus negatives, which, combined with the end through low sales of his latest project left Dave Sim pondering the end of his cartoonist career. But there's hope, as Fantagraphics bigwig Kim Thompson offered to help.
I’d be perfectly happy to repackage the CEREBUS material in a more bookstore-friendly format than those fucking phone books and give the material the new lease on life it (or at least the first two thirds of it) so richly deserves.
Dave Sim is of course famous for his anti-publisher stance, having long believed the only way to keep control as a cartoonist is to self publish, which he has done ever since the first issue of Cerebus. Thompson argues that while this stance was understandable at the time:
The dynamics of the marketplace have changed so fundamentally that something that made (relative) sense 20 years ago doesn’t necessarily make sense today. The market has turned decisively against pamphlets and against self-publishers, and that’s just a reality. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of self-publishers. A sensible person adapts to reality.
Dave Sim's response?
Okay, well, Kim. Howdy. The short answer to your question would be, “No.”
That might not be the end of it though. Sim at least seems open to the idea of Fantagraphics publishing some of his back catalogue, if not entirely in the way they would like to do it. Meanwhile he is going ahead with the digital publishing of High Society, with a free audio book version of the first issue scheduled to be available for free on October 10.
posted by MartinWisse (80 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really, really love the fact that the art is valued over the artist in this case. Dave Sim is mentally unwell, incredibly difficult, and has absolutely repulsive views and, yet, here is a helping hand extended to the dude because Cerebus is important and, better yet, good.

Also, from Kim Thompson's post: "For the matter, I’d love to do the same for Ditko’s MISTER A and AVENGING WORLD, whose self-imposed exile to those crummily-produced virtually-self-published undesigned things is a genuine tragedy"

Has anyone actually read those books? I own them all (thanks, eBay!) and I can't hardly get through the walls of Objectivism 101 in there. I'm actually getting them framed because I don't think I'm ever going to read them.
posted by griphus at 3:32 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


i saw the KS campaign and thought about kicking in, but thought that it seemed successful and i wanted to see how it was all going to work. this was basically my reaction as i read through this post.
posted by nadawi at 3:37 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I’d be perfectly happy to repackage the CEREBUS material in a more bookstore-friendly format than those fucking phone books and give the material the new lease on life it (or at least the first two thirds of it) so richly deserves.

I'm not sure the best way to sweet talk a famously truculent author like Dave Sim is to tell him you think a third of his work is shit.
posted by dng at 3:40 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only thing I know about Cerebus comes from TV Tropes
posted by rebent at 3:41 PM on September 20, 2012


because Cerebus is important and, better yet, good.

Though opinions differ on how much of it is good. Definatly the middle sections, where he'd established his style but hadn't gone crazy, are genius.
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on September 20, 2012


Also TBH I don't see anything wrong with the phonebook format.
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on September 20, 2012


Oh, yeah, by "good" I mean "the parts generally acknowledged as good," not the entire run.
posted by griphus at 3:44 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The pastiche heavy first volume really isn't that great either, IMHO, but doesn't reach the level of "offensive screed".
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on September 20, 2012


High Society and the two Church and State volumes are not just the best Cerebus stories, also some of the very best American comics ever created.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:51 PM on September 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


I have seen this thing in stores. Where should I start, and more importantly, apparently: where should I stop?
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:52 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cerebus's guest appearance in TMNT was pretty classic.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:52 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where should I start, and more importantly, apparently: where should I stop?

Start: High Society. Stop: probably with Jaka's Story. After that Sim really gets into his own philosophy, which is not quite mainstream.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:54 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


also some of the very best American comics ever created.

Well, North American. Dave Sim is Canadian and lives in Kitchener, Ontario.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:55 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


You should start at the beginning if you have a taste for Conan pastiche, or with Church & State (volume 2) if you want to skip straight to the unabashed genius. You should stop when it makes you feel like you need to shower.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:55 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Er, High Society. Church and State is also genius, but comes afterward.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:55 PM on September 20, 2012


Sims is a dick for sure, but Thompson's offer is pompous and insulting in tone. Not sure why he thought that would be an effective tactic for Sims.
posted by schroedinger at 3:55 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Where should I start, and more importantly, apparently: where should I stop?

The aforementioned "High Society" and "Church and State" are good places to start, and were my own gateway drugs. The volume "Jaka's Story" is generally considered by fans to be the highwater mark for the whole series (I agree) and is probably a good place to stop. MAYBE read to the next volume or two - "Melmoth" and "Women" -- but that's it (it starts getting seriously weird after that).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:56 PM on September 20, 2012


Sims is a dick for sure, but Thompson's offer is pompous and insulting in tone.

Look, yo, this is Fantagraphics; do you really think they can turn that shit off?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:58 PM on September 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


Start: High Society. Stop: probably with Jaka's Story. After that Sim really gets into his own philosophy, which is not quite mainstream.

They're not great, but the first 25 issues (pre-High Society) create a context for High Society. I would argue that they're pretty important.

There's some great stuff in the later (post-Jaka's Story) issues, though you're going to need your hip waders to get through some of it.

Also, Issue #186 is generally regarded as the "turn to insanity" point.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:58 PM on September 20, 2012


For the record, I read the whole thing and am glad I did - the artwork stays consistently excellent and when he remembers to tell a story, it was still occasionally a compelling and funny read. Ironically, Reads was the low point for me, followed closely by the seemingly endless issues that consisted of little more than walls of text about religion. It was like his letters column took over the comics.

Though, seriously, he seemed to become an unhinged, total misogynist dickwad at some point and you'll likely need to control your gag-and-then-throw-the-issue-across-the-room reflex from time to time, which tends to spoil the increasingly small pleasures of the later issues.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:04 PM on September 20, 2012


Wherever you stop, I recommend reading either the last issue or a summary of it. For all of Cerebus' many, many flaws (and the ending doesn't escape them, although it is at least a narrative instead of a rant), it had closure.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:05 PM on September 20, 2012


Jaka's Story is indeed great, but does come with a fair heaping of misogyny and gender politics (it has a very anti-choice, "men's rights" kind of message toward abortion, for one obvious example). The difference between that and his later stuff, however, is that Jaka's Story still manages to encapsulate Sim's weird misogyny within effective, thoughtful storytelling. And as Joey Michaels points out above, the art is good throughout the entirety.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:08 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and one thing that doesn't often get mentioned in these topics: Dave Sim is the best letterer who has ever walked this Earth (God knows he gave himself enough practice). Seriously, if he's done making comics he and John Workman should open a school.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:11 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's trad to say stop at Jaka's story, but Going Home is really good. I suspect it would work really well as a standalone piece. Though in that situation the aardvark thing would be distracting, yo.
posted by Hartster at 4:14 PM on September 20, 2012


I have to say, if you skip reads, Cerebus can remain enjoyable up until around the end of "Minds"
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:15 PM on September 20, 2012


...until around the end of "Minds"

I can't recall where I read it, but I think it was Sims' intention that the end of "Minds" (issue #200) was actually the end of the story - everything else was denouement.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:24 PM on September 20, 2012


It makes sense that way. Cerebus meets Dave Sim, wonders at the meaning of life, and then spends the next hundred issues doing basically nothing, all so he can (as it was prophesied) die "unmourned unknown and unloved"
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:31 PM on September 20, 2012


My personal favourite was Flight, which was out there and epic without being Crazy, but it wouldn't make any sense if you read it first. But High Society and Church and State are probably the objective best.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:35 PM on September 20, 2012


Dear Fantagraphics:

Digitize Herriman's complete "Krazy Kat" and I will give you ALL my monies.

kthxbai
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:53 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


"unmourned unknown and unloved"

One thing interesting about the later issues is [SPOILER] that he spends thirty years alone as a shepherd hoping to die (alone, unmourned and unloved) and when that doesn't work, he tries to get the Cirinists to kill him. The character, having realized that participation in the world is only going to lead to more misery, has decided to first remove himself from it and then work with the rules of the world to get himself removed from it permanently.

Its only through a sort of authorial divine intervention that he's set back on the path of war and world domination so that, in the end, his last moments are much, much more unpleasant than they would have been if he'd stayed a shepherd. One theme is apparently that one cannot choose one's own fate. Another is that you can't avoid being part of society - it will pull you back in.

The final thrust of Cerebus' life is that he's nominally the leader of a county, but he's imprisoned in a room by his followers. One can, indeed, get what one wants and still not be very happy.

Anyhow, as I said earlier, when Sim remembers to tell a story in late Cerebus, its really quite good. He just forgets to tell a story more often than not, which is less frustrating when reading the telephone books, but was totally frustrating reading it month to month.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:53 PM on September 20, 2012


He just needs one hot project to put him back on top. Maybe a collaboration with Orson Scott Card is in order.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:01 PM on September 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure the best way to sweet talk a famously truculent author like Dave Sim is to tell him you think a third of his work is shit.

I suspect Sim respects Thompson's straightforwardness at this point... or at least would treat any obsequiesness on Thompson's part as more of the same sort of craven pre-artist-screwing pandering that he always hated in publishers. I noted with interest that Sim's response to Thompson's offer was to thoughtfully consider it, and to reject it in terms that he described as "structural", meaning that it wasn't Thompson's tone, it was Sim's analysis of the marketplace and their respective positions that were problematic.

He just needs one hot project to put him back on top. Maybe a collaboration with Orson Scott Card is in order.

Oh... oh God.
posted by fatbird at 5:15 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Bookshelf Litmus Test by Orson Scott and Card Dave Sim.
posted by griphus at 5:31 PM on September 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


The only thing Dave Sim and Orson Scott Card should collaborate on is a group therapy session where they can talk about the ways they are mutually messed up inside. After which ideally Sim would return to the world cleansed and write fantastic comics, and Card would realize he should never have been a writer and go home and live happily ever after on royalties.
posted by koeselitz at 5:54 PM on September 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


And then they make out.

/worst slash ever.
posted by Artw at 5:59 PM on September 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


So kickstarted just clarified that Kickstarted is not a store. All Projects must now detail "Risks and Challenges." I'm sure a fire destroying your negatives would be covered under some sort of Force majeure clause in any case.

Oddly, someone recently told me that Orson Scott Card used to host secular humanist meetings that seemed designed to turn into orgies. She claimed as he got more famous the LDS put more and more pressure on him, threatening to expel him unless he stopped. Maybe not true, but kind of funny.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:12 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


artw > Also TBH I don't see anything wrong with the phonebook format.

- Shitty paper that's not thick enough to stop a very white page from being grey due to the page on the other side of the leaf being very black
- Shitty ink that's really not very black and is a bit smeary

I don't think there's anything wrong with Big Tomes that have huge chunks of the story. It's the fact that they're made with approximately the same quality of materials as what's found in a phone book. I never felt like the phonebooks were any more likely to survive in good condition than the original loose issues.

I haven't felt an urge to re-purchase any of the collections since losing 90% of my library to Katrina, but if there were new editions printed on decent paper, maybe even with a color gallery in the back (those things were gorgeous), I'd be pretty tempted.

I wouldn't be tempted by the insane annotated monstrosities that Sim imagines Fantagraphics would want to issue Cerebus as - but I somehow suspect that's not what they'd actually want to do. Annotations and lengthy context-setting introductions are for dead comics creators from the turn of the last century.
posted by egypturnash at 6:30 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with Mr. Thompson that the marketplace has turned against "pamphlets" or self-publishers, but it has certainly evolved into a place where collections made for the bookstore can be a profitable part of the bottom line. His offer to re-publish some of Cerebus is a generous one, and it's a pity that Dave Sim won't take him up on it.

There are lots of things that Sim can do instead of vanishing or whatever he's planned. Thompson's suggestion that he draw a new series written by someone else sounds particularly good, because it might give Sim a chance to exercise slightly different storytelling muscles, and expose him to a new audience.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:38 PM on September 20, 2012


I think Thompson is just saying that you've got to put some context on the back of the book let the Barnes & Noble crowd know what they're looking at, and maybe an introduction that lays out how Cerebus was originally published and why they should buy the other collections when they come out.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:43 PM on September 20, 2012


And wow, Sim's response on tcj.com is... odd. How does an offer to to reprint Cerebus turn into a discussion of Hemingway's possible bisexuality?
posted by Kevin Street at 6:52 PM on September 20, 2012


It should be noted that Sims and Fanta have a long, long, long history which includes a particular kind of crotchety direct communication. So I would be pretty surprised if either party saw their respective communcations on this current matter as offensive or impolite in any way.
posted by mwhybark at 7:03 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joey Michaels: "also some of the very best American comics ever created.

Well, North American. Dave Sim is Canadian and lives in Kitchener, Ontario
"

You know something is wrong with your toponyms when "American" is a subset of "North American", and not the other way around.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:10 PM on September 20, 2012


You know something is wrong with your toponyms when "American" is a subset of "North American", and not the other way around.

No, because the United States of America is the only country in the Americas with the word "America" in it, and most everyone here but politicians thinks "United States" is too much of a mouthful most of the time. So, you know, please just deal with it already, Rest of World, ok?
posted by adamdschneider at 7:19 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


schroedinger: “Sims is a dick for sure, but Thompson's offer is pompous and insulting in tone. Not sure why he thought that would be an effective tactic for Sims.”

mwhybark: “It should be noted that Sims and Fanta have a long, long, long history which includes a particular kind of crotchety direct communication. So I would be pretty surprised if either party saw their respective communcations on this current matter as offensive or impolite in any way.”

Indeed. Sims himself provided an example of this tucked into his response: this delightful little caricature of "Tweedlekim" Thompson himself from almost twenty years ago. So they have no illusions about each other at this point.
posted by koeselitz at 8:03 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


himself himself
posted by koeselitz at 8:03 PM on September 20, 2012


'93, man. The "Yahoo" referenced in Tweedlekim's speech bubble is not the limping internet giant, but Joe Sacco's six-ish solo series prior to his emergence as, well, Joe Sacco.

I seem to recall some CJ ink on Sims pretty much from day one of Cerebus, although I am unlikely to have read anything printed in the CJ much before 1980.
posted by mwhybark at 9:12 PM on September 20, 2012


Heh, there is a subhead in Sims' wikipedia entry entitled "Relationship with The Comics Journal."
posted by mwhybark at 9:14 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


My perspective, as someone who owns a lot of original issues and all of the "phone books":

The first 31 issues (up to and including "Chasing Cootie") were simply brilliant. Tight, intelligent writing. Great art. (Dave Sim is, in my opinion, one of the great masters of black & white art. There are issues where I sat back and marveled: how the hell did he do that?)

The drop in writing quality from 31 to 32 (in which Astoria becomes a real character) was like a blow.

From that point on, I struggled along with the Earth Pig Born, hoping against hope that Dave would lift himself out of whatever dark place that had claimed him. He had bright spots ("Pope Cerebus", BRING ME ALL YOUR GOLD!) was great. But, after that, I dunno. It was more like he was writing to an audience of one, himself, and to hell with everyone else.
posted by SPrintF at 9:21 PM on September 20, 2012


SIM SIM SIM SIM SIM HIS NAME IS DAVE SIM NOT DAVE SIMS SIM

Sorry, it was getting to me.

This is sad news. Though I lost touch with Dave's increasing oddity somewhere around 170 there was a time when there was nothing better than sitting down with a new issue.

Weren't there some wonderful interviews with Gerhard posted on Mefi, just kicking back and talking art? Ah, yep.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:50 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, SIM, gah I knew that. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 PM on September 20, 2012


Where should I start, and more importantly, apparently: where should I stop?

I've been reading a long, interesting three part discussion by an author who read the whole thing over the course of a couple weeks. The last part summarizes all the collections, and he finds value right up through the end, though basically allows that much of the last third is excruciating. Full of spoilers if you're worried about that sort of thing.

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Sim has gone into deep funks about his post-Cerebus career before, notably in his brief blogging era, when he ran into some health issues and when co-creator Gerhard told him he wanted to leave the company and asked Sim to buy out his half of it. I wonder what will come of it this time? (What came out of that one - Glamourpuss - is an odd beast indeed).

Frankly I think Thompson is dead on that Sim's best play would be to work with a writer. Because his artistic ability and his mastery of page composition remain. What he has failed to grasp is that the only thing that ever made his application of these abilities popular was using them in character- and dialog- driven narrative. It seems to me that what Sim came to believe was that his strong suit was the exegesis of information. It wasn't always so - he used to know what people liked (it's not coincidence that this holy-80s interview comes from the height of his popularity - likely the high point of any traditionally printed self-published comic). His work on the death of Alex Raymond in Glamourpuss is interesting but it is almost pure exposition and not just that but exposition of his highly idiosyncratic, highly questionable interpretation of the rather meager facts of Raymond's personal life and death. Really Raymond's death is not all that strange: he drove too fast in the rain and ran into a tree. Everything else he comes up with is like everything he always comes up with - it's about how Dave Sim Sees the World (and did you know everyone else is wrong about practically everything?)

Not much surprise that Sim in my view wholly misinterprets what Thompson is suggesting - which is basically repackaging the work as is but with conventional framing so that a person might look at the thing in a bookstore and know what the hell it is all about, plus "this is a serious graphic novel" level production values for the printing and binding. Its a decent suggestion - right now a non-initiate will only see the odd phonebook in a comic shop proper - likely they will not have a complete series, just whatever is left sitting around. No blurb, what explanatory text there is is going to be Sims own typewriter esthetic and which won't tell you much about the book itself.

Thompson offers a fairly trenchant clarification against Sim's responses, actually. Well, Sim asked for a transparent negotiation, I doubt it'll go anywhere but it could be interesting to watch for a while. What Sim really needs to do though is illustrate a new damn story.
posted by nanojath at 10:31 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Start at the beginning. There are some brilliant bits in the first 25, it's hit-or-miss but the hits are worth reading.

Then it gets brilliant for a long time. Like a decade. I would say everything through Melmuth is as good as it gets. Not as good as Cerebus gets, as good as comics get.

Here's the thing about the last of it. It doesn't go bad all at once, and even when it's bad it's not boring bad it's more offensive or confusing bad. More confusing than offensive.

It's... odd.

But even the weird stuff is worth reading for the artwork and the lettering.

I think he's the best letterer in the business.
posted by Bonzai at 10:44 PM on September 20, 2012


I love my phonebooks.
posted by homunculus at 12:57 AM on September 21, 2012


I once took the first few volumes out of our university library, and they look even huger in regulation library hardbacking (our library tended to put hardback covers on most of the books for archival purposes). I think they sat on my desk while I did an essay then sadly went back unread.
posted by mippy at 3:37 AM on September 21, 2012


Dave Sim has some reprehensible attitudes.
Dave Sim is one of the world's greatest living artists.

I'd love for Cerebus to get the 'Fantagraphics treatment'. All of the reprint that Fanta has been doing lately (Peanuts, Pogo, etc.) is beautiful and I think Cerebus deserves the same (especially if they'll reprint them with the covers. Say what you will about Mothers & Daughters as a storyline but some of those covers are just fucking gorgeous).
posted by word_virus at 7:43 AM on September 21, 2012


Oh Jesus. Sim can just go away. Even Canada no longer wants him.

Actually, you know what? Why not try creating something new, instead of rehashing the same old cruft over and over.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:03 AM on September 21, 2012


You mean like the new comics featured in the third link of the FPP?
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: "Sims is a dick for sure, but Thompson's offer is pompous and insulting in tone. Not sure why he thought that would be an effective tactic for Sims."

I was a comic book publisher and writer during the heyday of the indie comic scene. I have had dealings with Dave. I'm also privy to some backstory about Dave and Jill. Jill's offer, in my opinion, was not pompous or insulting, but is indeed how you have to talk to Dave (if you have a uterus) if you want him to even notice that you're talking to him. He despises "nice girls", and will only deal with women that will "man up at him". (Direct quotes of things he's said to me.)

Also, he can't carve a turkey, but that's a story for another day.
posted by dejah420 at 8:35 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


NO, THAT IS A STORY FOR TODAY!

Hearing an anecdote about Dave Sim would totally make my Friday. Also, Kim Thompson from Fantagraphics is a guy, not to be confused with artist Jill Thompson, whom I totally love. And now I also want to hear about Dave Sim and Jill Thompson. TURKEY STORY FIRST, THOUGH.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:49 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, I did get my Thompsons confused. My bad.
posted by dejah420 at 9:22 AM on September 21, 2012


Forget about the Thompsons, what is the turkey story?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


FYI, it was my apartment building that burned down while I was scanning the High Society negatives.

He did not lose "a lot of the Cerebus negatives" it was about 250 in total, almost half of which had been scanned and uploaded, some of which he has the original artwork for, so in total it's about 100 pages out of 6,000. Still not good, but being pretty near the center of this story, it never ceases to amaze me how rarely people get the story right when most of the information is right there if you choose to look and do a little factchecking.

It also never ceases to amaze me how nonchalantly people advise Dave on what he should do with his life's work. Since you're not the one who has to deal with the contracts, fronting $20,000 printing bills, dealing with dishonest individuals who don't do what they say they're going to do, people who pay their bills late, printers that go out of business, etc. I guess it's easy to be an armchair consultant. But, please, have a little perspective. He spent 26 years of his life on this project...and actually completed it...so it isn't a simple matter of "Hey man, why don't you just do X??? It's so obvious!" Read his full response to Kim's suggestion and you'll get a small...tiny...infinitesimal inkling of the kinds of decisions you have to face when republishing 16 books. (Here's another brief example of what we're talking about.) He's been doing this a long time and if he had fucked it up at any moment, the whole 6,000 page project would've blown up so at least give him a little credit for pulling off something no other human being in history has been able to do.

If you really want the "What's Dave like?" story, you can read my mefi comment about working with him. tl;dr: No, he's not crazy, yes he's a pretty nice guy, yes some of his views are idiosyncratic but I think that's what most people expect from an artist. Start reading Cerebus wherever you want and stop whenever you want. No two people are going to agree about very much when it comes to a 6,000 page story. Think for yourself and maybe, just maybe, you'll decide he doesn't deserve the batshitinsane label he's been getting all these years. In general, don't believe anything you read about Sim, it's mostly bullshit, these people have never even met him let alone worked with him every other day for five years like I have. Whatever, haters gonna hate.
posted by antihostile at 11:55 AM on September 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


In general, don't believe anything you read about Sim

Okay, fair, but what about the toxic "feminine void" stuff that Sim himself wrote?
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:21 PM on September 21, 2012


>In general, don't believe anything you read about Sim

Okay, fair, but what about the toxic "feminine void" stuff that Sim himself wrote?


Seconding this - most of us aren't basing our opinions of Sim on second-hand accounts about him, we're basing them on reading things that he himself wrote, which is pretty much first-hand direct-from-the-source stuff.

I mean, I hear you about how he couldn't give his ideas a fleshed-out-enough airing in the limited word count of his work, but that still leads me to point out that he still could have borne that in mind when writing his "Reads" and choosing his words more carefully so as not to come across sounding nuts (and baffling fans in the process, none of whom were expecting any of this stuff).

He also could have, y'know, not used a comic book as his platform for that particular writing. Seriously -- he could have written a second book on the side, in which he could have taken all the time in the world to have elaborated on what he was getting at.

I also hear you about him getting sick of everyone expecting a status quo for the story and him getting sick of it, but....well, that's kind of what he signed up for when he decided he was going to do a 300-issue comic series. It's not like you can declare that you're going ot climb Mt. Everest, and then 3/4 of the way up decide that Everest is boring and you want a chopper to ferry you over to the slope of Denali instead; either you keep going to the top, or you admit defeat and climb back down. I'm not saying he should have sucked it up and written another Groucho parody because that's what fans want; I'm saying, since he was writing a comic series, he owed it to his fans to keep it as a comic series rather than "a parade of My Big Thoughts (and I'll put Cerebus down in the corner so you still think it's a comic series, happy now?)".

And again, I point out that he could have done better at sounding less nuts, but he didn't. And since he signed his name to what he wrote, presumably that is how he wanted to present his thoughts to the world. And....so that's what we had to go on, was how he chose to present himself. If he didn't want to sound nuts, he could have chosen to do something about that. He didn't.

So there it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm also privy to some backstory about Dave and Jill. Jill's offer, in my opinion, was not pompous or insulting, but is indeed how you have to talk to Dave (if you have a uterus) if you want him to even notice that you're talking to him. He despises "nice girls", and will only deal with women that will "man up at him". (Direct quotes of things he's said to me.)

Who's Jill? The guy who wrote that letter from Fantagraphics was Kim Thompson, a dude.
posted by schroedinger at 1:24 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, Antihostile, I love reading your stuff about him, and accept at face value everything you say about him being a nice guy who's done something hugely important (and I agree on that point). But you're really giving short shrift to people assigning the batshitinsane tag. It comes from reading his stuff directly, from his interviews and essays and everything that he's done himself. This isn't people swapping gossip that he eats his own toenails. There's a huge amount of published material on just why his views (and some consequent decisions) are 'nutty and loathsome', a lot of that directly from his pen. And you should see the fact that Groth and Thompson, even now, are feeling out ways to help him as recognition by the comics world that he's a hugely important figure who's done impressive work.

I'm sorry to hear about your apartment burning down, and losing those negatives hugely sucks. Even as one of those people who happily applies the cray-cray tag to him, I'm now considering buying the whole series, however I can get it, both to support him and to see the whole story (I bailed out during Jaka's story).
posted by fatbird at 1:24 PM on September 21, 2012


It's also difficult for me to believe Sim was limited by the comic-book medium, given the number of times he gave up any semblance of graphics at all and just wrote giant blocks of text.
posted by schroedinger at 1:26 PM on September 21, 2012


Thank you anti-hostile for both the comment here and the other longer comment that you linked (and I managed to miss).

Its interesting, in your linked comments, that you mention Guys and how he's just as hard on men as women in that series. From my perspective, Guys was one of the more fun latter Cerebus storylines in part, at least, because it told a story. It showed what he thought through storytelling and art.

The sequences of his writing that make him seem a little more nuts are places where he sacrificed storytelling (and, frequently, art) in the service of just telling us what he thought. Now, that might not actually be a sign that he's crazy at all, but it never came across as a particularly good use of his chosen medium. Yeah, his lettering is amazing, but even his lettering is at its best when its helping to tell the story - some of the best moments are when the way he letters is reflecting the way the character feels or the tone of the characters voice. Nobody does that better.

Upon reflection, I'm a little more critical of Sim, perhaps, than of other writers and artists I've followed because I invested so much into the stories and characters. I really did follow it to the end and am due to reread the whole series soon. When I think of the overall thrust of the story (even the post-issue 200 100-issued denouement) I am blown away by the breadth of what Sim actually accomplished. There are sections of the story that I just can't reread no matter how much I try.

Frankly, I'd rather think that he was a little crazy than think that he is sometimes a lousy writer.

On a totally different note, if I knew that the bulk of money going to purchasing Cerebus reprints was going to Sim and not to a company, I'd be an early adopter. Views I disagree with or no, following Cerebus was one of the best comic book experiences of my life.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:24 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


errata: Sim, not Sims. yes. The main Mariners television broadcast guy is named Dave Sims and I have been self-immersing in baseball this year. The two men are otherwise not readily mistaken.

Fantagraphics or D&Q (or maybe Top Shelf) re really the best options for a deluxe reprint series. I remember kinda thinking to myself, "why are these on newsprint?" when I first saw a phonebook. What were they, $25 back then? Can that be right? Fanta's current deluxe reprints are really remarkable. The only reprints I can think of that were even close back in the day were the slipcase ECs.

Currently, there are some reprint lines oitside of Fanta that are really, really amazing, like the full-size Little Nemo. But those books are full-color, limited run, and incredibly expensive. Cerebus is really deserving of a top-shelf, hardbound, no-holds barred reprint. I think it would be fantastic if Fanta were able to do so. I suppose this edition will happen someday. I guess I'd rather see it sooner than later, when I can actually afford to buy it.
posted by mwhybark at 12:14 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with everything Dave says but appreciate that he said it and don't feel the need to dismiss him as insane because I don't like or don't understand what he's saying. I would rather people simply agreed to disagree instead of labeling him crazy, but that's just not what people do. It's far easier to label him crazy because then you don't have to discuss the points he makes about feminism (which, let's face it, is what really bugs people) and how it has had some deleterious effects on our society. Oh, wait, I guess maybe he's just a precursor to those crazy "men's rights" people. They're crazy. They hate women and can't get laid.

I think it's that dismissive narrow-minded mentality I despise the most. Again, what I hear is "I don't understand or like what he's saying so I'm just going to say he's crazy." It's a strange mob mentality. We're normal, he's crazy. Okay. I suggest that people who bother to read Cerebus will have an entertaining, enlightening and occasionally enraging experience. To me, that's a good book and that's where it ends. But the character assassination does get a little tiresome. Whatever. He wrote a 6,000 page book and nobody else did. He wins. All of the rest is just background noise at this point.
posted by antihostile at 1:07 PM on September 22, 2012


He wrote a 6,000 page book and nobody else did. He wins.

Lone Wolf And Cub is almost 9000 pages long. I know it's not quite the same, as it was made over 7 years and not 25 - and it wasn't self-published and there was two of them doing it - but it's close to an equal achievement in size and scope.
posted by dng at 1:31 PM on September 22, 2012


Does this seem like a good argument for reading the book to you, antihostile? How does going after critics because they're disturbed by what they see as misogyny separate you from the haters you despise? Aren't you both saying: "I hate you for hating what I love"?

Seriously, though, your comments don't seem like a very good argument for dropping time and money on this guy. You're hurting your cause. Maybe you think you don't care what I do with my time and money, but it sure looks like you care from your comments here.

He wrote a 6,000 page book and nobody else did.

You're counting the whole series as a single book? George RR Martin's Ice and Fire series is over 6000 pages, or about to be, and that's just text. By words I'd guess he has Sim beat. Patrick O'Brian did over 6000 pages of the Aubrey/Maturin books. Marcel Proust only did 4000 pages, but I think he probably still "wins."
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:40 PM on September 22, 2012


For the record, the misogynistic views weren't what made me think he'd maybe lost his mind. Chasing YHWH and the letters columns did that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:06 AM on September 23, 2012


Again, what I hear is "I don't understand or like what he's saying so I'm just going to say he's crazy."

You're not hearing correctly. Of the "nutty and loathsome" duo, the "nutty" comes from the fact that his pile of spiritual conclusions isn't very logical but is extremely wide reaching, has mystical foundations that can't really be argued, and overall are just a pile of weird rationalizations for criticizing feminism and feminists in a way that's impossible to engage with. It's super clear that he hates feminists and feminism, but his reasons for doing so come from an incredibly idiosyncratic, syncretic reading of three incommensurable holy books. He's not making calm, rational arguments about the effects of feminism on society; he's ranting about lights and darks in order to say really shitty things about feminism and homosexuality.

That he does so implies little about whether or not he can run a business or complete a great work. Clearly he can.
posted by fatbird at 8:35 AM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This gets better. There's a conversation between Sim and Thompson in the comments on the "Sim's Response" article.
The introductory material — as you put it, “breathing new life” into the CEREBUS books — would be a quid pro quo for me — as I said, what Fantagraphics and you bring to the table is at least the POSSIBILITY of being deemed New York Times-worthy and that requires being New York Times-friendly which would require your (or someone’s) “value added” perspective. And FORM & VOID is all that’s on the table right now. I don’t picture Fantagraphics publishing either a glamourpuss collection or THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND (two different things), nor do I picture doing three books a year (which would still take us up to 2017-2018 with the same inherent problems: anyone signing a contract in 2007 on the assumption that 2012 would look pretty much the same as 2007 would have been in for an awful shock).
- http://www.tcj.com/dave-sim-responds-to-the-fantagraphics-offer/#comment-68357

Oh, Dave. You're so good at this. Here's someone offering to give the ENTIRE FUCKING SERIES a nice reprinting job, along wih your current project, and your most recent one, on better paper than you've ever managed with the phone books, with much better hooks into both the comics shops and the bookstores, and you are saying only one of the most impenetrable segments of the endgame of your magnum opus is up for grabs.

Are you really that married to obscurity and doing it all yourself? Are you really that married to the narrative of Dave Sim, the Obscure Martyred Failure?
posted by egypturnash at 12:01 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh wait, he's slowly relenting.

> I think Tim’s suggestion is a good one, so let’s expand the negotiations into a 4-book deal (with 4-book advance, presumably) covering GOING HOME and FORM & VOID.

- http://www.tcj.com/dave-sim-responds-to-the-fantagraphics-offer/#comment-70179

That's from today, the previous quote from Dave was on the 20th.

I really think starting here is a BAD IDEA that will result in the whole series never coming out in a Fantagrahics edition, but we'll see. And maybe Thompson will manage to bargain Sim around..
posted by egypturnash at 12:12 PM on September 23, 2012


At some point after Melmoth, Cerebus turned into a great, monumental work of outsider art. There was the book and there was Dave the President (who was also, to a certain extent, a work of fiction), and as the voice of the latter started to appear in the book (in very long paragraphs of very small type), it subverted the book somehow.

If Cerebus is an avatar for Dave Sim (and there are numerous textual reasons to consider that to be the case), then what he represents is a focus for Sim's self-loathing. There is very little in Cerebus the character to be aspired to - occasionally cute, often quite smart and funny, yet equally often stupid and venal and always, always fundamentally narcissistic. It's that narcissism that undermines everything he tries to achieve, and in a way it's a similar narcissism that undermines Cerebus the book - after the halfway mark, it's almost as if Sim took it upon himself to give the book the same end he prophesied for the titular character. Which isn't uninteresting as a theme - especially given the phenomenal skill with which the book is produced: the characterisation is sharp and intelligent and subtle; the jokes are often very, very funny; the artwork and lettering and design is astonishingly beautiful for huge amounts of the book, and it shines even on the phone book paper - but it doesn't seem to be a conscious theme, and the intrusion of Dave the Creator into the book (essentially as he can do anything he wants, he can put his essays and manifestos right there in the book, with only the flimsiest of fig leaves to serve as a fictional pretext. He can because he wants to, and as far as he is concerned there is no other consideration) really does undermine the whole thing. It sort of melts; becomes misshapen.

On the other hand, a lot of the book itself and its characterisation subverts the peculiar Masculine Light / Feminine Void cosmology and expressed misogyny.

Yet even in the second half, in parts of, say, Guys or Going Home, it's as good as it ever has been - which means, in its own way, as good as the medium gets.

But somehow it loses the integrity that something like the Hernandez brothers' tales of of Hoppers and Palomar retained, yet doesn't have the honest autobiography of Maus or the work of Robert Crumb.

I recently read some of the issues of Glamourpuss and found the story of Alex Raymond a lot more interesting than the other pages. Although it is definitely a tale told by an unreliable narrator, there is something I find quite powerful in mixing up the exploration of classic strip-cartoon style with a fanciful tale of the illustrators he's trying to emulate. It's not just an illustrated essay, there is more to it than that. I found myself reminded in a small way of de Lillo's Libra (I'm not sure why that is, though. I definitely had flashbacks to that book, though). I do hope it gets published, and I think it could be quite strong in its own way.
posted by Grangousier at 4:18 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Grangousier, excellent critique!

So glad to hear Sim may be caving to Kim's undoubtedly fairly-focused lobbying. Go Fanta!
posted by mwhybark at 5:25 PM on September 24, 2012


... and don't let's forget that Fanta has had false starts and partial-corpus publication deals that eventually led to full-works-of deals in the past (Pogo, for example). Even a partial deal would be a Good Thing for all parties.
posted by mwhybark at 5:29 PM on September 24, 2012


It seems as though the discussion about this on the Comics Journal boards wandered around for quite a while and I find that I personally don't have the level of interest needed to follow it closely (I like Cerebus and TCJ, but the whole thing just smacks of livejournal drama to me), but if anyone is curious the latest word seems to be from Thompson:
For simplicity's sake, and I hate to sound intransigent or curt but it seems to be the only way to focus this, there are three non-negotiable criteria on our end. (1) We will not start anywhere other than at or near the beginning of CEREBUS (i.e. no later than HIGH SOCIETY); the FORM AND VOID idea is DOA. (2) There is no "deep" examination of Fantagraphics' financials, your opening demand, in the cards. (3) The misogynist/gender-issues/shunning-of-Dave aspect CANNOT be part of this discussion and WOULD not be part of the promotional context for the series if it were to come to fruition; bringing it up is a lose/lose proposition. So if any of those conditions present an insurmountable bar for you, the negotiations are stone cold dead and that's it.
There is some good summarization of what's been going on at the top of that page. So far I haven't heard a response from Sim, but in other Dave Sim publishing news he's reached a deal with IDW to release all of the Cerebus covers in 2-4 books, in addition to giving them "exclusive comic store rights" to the digital audio versions of High Society.

Incidentally, comics aficionados might also be interested to know that Ed Brubaker spent some time weighing in on the TCJ thread, at one time averring to nobody's surprise that nobody at Marvel or DC has so much as mentioned the Comics Journal in passing in the last 15 years.
posted by whir at 8:16 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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