Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Monday, 20 February 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Part 8: The Secret

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he'd been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. We're currently covering the intros from Swords volume 2.
“This is a picture of me in high school,” says Dave,
"(it’s also a picture of me in public school and senior public school, but we won’t go into that.)”

Next week: Dave discovers he can do anything he wants.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: "The Last Day"

Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...By this point I have pretty much exhausted my relationship with Cerebus, for at least another ten years. I am not the kind of person who returns to things I have already consumed, especially not things as immense as Cerebus. I know what put Cerebus back into my mind, but I do not know why I felt the need to actually re-read it. That will probably reveal itself in time. I am glad I did. It has been an enriching and enlightening experience. I probably learned, and revealed more about myself in these commentaries than I did about Cerebus or Dave Sim, as is appropriate for any commentary on another's work. You can only ever really find out about what you bring to the table. I am very grateful that re-engaging with Cerebus led me the A Moment of Cerebus community and the opportunity to work with one of my heroes/influences.

Thank you to Tim for providing the venue and to everyone who took the time to read any or all of these. I hope they were worth it.

Most importantly, thank you, Dave Sim for pouring yourself into Cerebus with such relentless fervor for so many years. It is shameful that comics community has marginalized Cerebus to the extent that it has. I honestly believe Cerebus to be the greatest work of comic-art to date, and the most personal, intimate, vulnerable piece of literature or art I have ever encountered. Show me one other instance in which an artist/thinker's dramatic evolution was documented so carefully and openly within a single work. It does not exist... [Read the full review here...]

Saturday, 18 February 2017


Cerebus In Hell? #1
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
In Stores Now!
Thought we should have some "rookie content" given that this is the first Saturday that CEREBUS IN HELL? #1 is in the stores (and thank you to all of the stores who have ordered copies! Matt D at Diamond tells me that CEREBUS IN HELL? #2 is "in the house" and now has a March 1st "street date" i.e. the February issue will ALMOST ship in February)

Sean - Can you download these? I don't think there'll be room for them in the first trade (tentatively scheduled for Christmas release), but -- someday -- in an OMNIBUS CEREBUS IN HELL? COLLECTION?  It's much easier for me to annotate as we go.
(Don't know if Sandeep wants to annotate his: different writers have different attitudes on annotating their work):

page 1 - This one is one of Sandeep's but it always reminds me of "But let him summon his associates; we TOO [emphasis mine] will summon the guards of Hell"  part of Sura 96 "Clots of Blood", the first sura revealed to Prophet Muhammad.  That "too" in there seems to me to validate my God/YHWH theory.

page 2 - This was the second one that I wrote, back when CEREBUS IN HELL? was called DESECRATING CEREBUS.  I thought there was a "vandalizing" sense to the word "desecrating" but, no, it means "to make not sacred".  Oops.  The burning of the Temple of Dagon takes place in 1 Maccabees 10:49.  I think Judas Maccabee was supposed to be the meschiach (messiah) and was on track until he signed the treaty with Rome.  D'OH!

page 3 - There WAS a movie adaptation of THE LIFE OF PI, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a HIT movie. I think the character was actually a panther, as well, not a leopard.  But, close enough for comic-strip humour!

page 5 - One of Sandeep's. I forget what he had at first instead of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (a Dean Martin tune I think) but he can be forgiven, being a mere infant of 46 years.  I read that a member of Bennett's band had given him the song at some point and it sat in Bennett's underwear drawer for a number of years before he even looked at.  Still a great tune.

page 11 -  The guy nailed to the dirt is one of the few Scriptural figures in DANTE'S INFERNO (that I recognized anyway) Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest who condemned Jesus: "that one man should die over the people".  I had Sandeep change it to "two thousand years" for that reason.

page 12 - This was the first DESECRATING CEREBUS strip that I did.

page 13 - This one got built around the phrase "Internet-meme cat video" when Sandeep used it in conversation.  Being a complete Luddite, I'd never heard of such a thing.  If you can't build a gag around the words "Internet-meme cat video", you're in the wrong line of work.

page 14 - I always find the impulse to make up admission rules so as to exclude specific people inherently funny.

page 15 - I researched all the names online of boyfriends/husbands/fiancees on SEX AND THE CITY.  There sure were a lot of them!

page 20 - The first Francis Albert strip!  Based on Frank Sinatra's full name, Francis Albert Sinatra.

page 22 - Personally, I don't think there's any doubt that DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is THE definitive Batman.  Congratulations, Frank!  Spoiler warning! This strip ISN'T continued in #2!

And now TRAVIS with what OTHER comics are in your future and Sean with final (?) MINDS corrections!  

Diamond Previews Picks: February 2017

Travis Pelkie begins the first in a new regular monthly AMOC series (if Travis can be persuaded!) highlighting the Cerebus-related comics and books featured in the latest Diamond Previews catalog. Travis is co-founder of the Atomic Junk Shop, a site about comics and other fun pop culture.

Cerebus In Hell #4
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
Aardvark Vanaheim, $4.00
On Sale: 26 April 2017

The publisher says:
Cerebus makes another attempt at proving his "post-revolution" worth after the snakes take over the Infernal Realms in the epic graphic-novel length  (for this comic, anyway) 6-page "Bipedal Gender Evisceration Bloodbath Countdown of Doom the Reality Show on Ophidian Sportsnet Two." Sixteen more epic-length four-panel comic strips complete in this issue!
Diamond Order Code: FEB171010

Shang-Chi Master Of Kung Fu Vol 3
by Doug Moench, Mike Zeck & Gene Day,
Marvel Comics, $125
On Sale: March 2017

The publisher says:
Shang-Chi continues to have his deadly hands full with foes like Shockwave, the sinister Agent Syn and the weapons master Zaran! But will his mastery of kung fu be enough to overcome monstrous menaces and the mindless minions of Mordillo? He thought he'd seen the last of his most bitter enemy - but an unholy resurrection will bring Shang-Chi face-to-face once again with his fearsome father Fu Manchu! And the family reunion will get even more bitter when Shang's sister, Fah Lo Suee, renews their sibling rivalry. There'll be gang wars, death cults and mind-blowing martial-arts mayhem on land and on sea! Plus: What if the Master of Kung Fu fought on the side of Fu Manchu? Collecting Master Of Kung Fu #71-101 and What If? #16.
Diamond Order Code: SEP161119

Travis adds:
On March 1, the third Omnibus of Master of Kung Fu should be released by Marvel. As it covers issues 71-101, it stops just before Gene Day took over on pencils, but he inks the issues prior to that (and hopefully there is a fourth Omnibus coming that will have the Gene Day penciled stuff).

Splitting Image 80-Page Giant
by Don Simpson, Jim Valentino, Larry Marder & Bob Burden
Image Comics, $7.99
On Sale: April 2017

The publisher says:
To celebrate Image Comics' 25th Anniversary--the original parody book by DON SIMPSON that skewers the formation of Image and the bozos that founded it! And here's the rub--IT'S ALL TRUE!! (Well, mostly, sort of.) Plus, as a super-special bonus (because we had more pages to fill), we include the normalman-MEGATON MAN SPECIAL by SIMPSON, VALENTINO, MARDER, and BURDEN! Square-bound even! Never before reprinted (and we can certainly see why). A piece of history at your fingertips (now go wash your hands)!
Diamond Order Code: FEB170579

Travis adds:
Also in the current Previews catalog, as part of Image's 25th anniversary celebration, there's the Splitting Image 80 page giant, reprinting that 2 issue parody of the Image founders by Don Simpson. But also included is the normalman/Megaton Man Special, which includes a Cerebus cameo.

Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus Plus
by Shannon Wheeler
Dark Horse Comics, $29.99
On Sale: June 2017

The publisher says:
A deluxe hardcover featuring 32 new color story pages! This 600-page Omnibus Plus edition features five previously published Too Much Coffee Man books, plus an all-new color section! These semiautobiographical, hyperintellectual tales will appeal to both comic book insiders and pop culture fanatics. The most complete Too Much Coffee Man collection!
Diamond Order Code: FEB170076

Travis adds: 
Neat! A Too Much Coffee Man Omni! I like what I’ve read (and Dave's parody in GUYS!). Also, I believe it is the first/only comic book series/character to have an opera inspired by it! 600 pages for 30 bucks (with a color section) is a pretty good deal!

More Diamond Previews picks at Atomic Junk Shop's regular Flippin' Through Previews column.

Finishing MINDS For Good: Restoration, Proofing & The Picking Of Nits

Sean Michael Robinson:


The restoration work is all done on Minds, as of Friday morning! Which leaves me with just a few loose ends to wrap up.

As we've done in the past, I'm looking to you, Cerebus restoration patrons and fans, to help in this final polish.

Some of these things are definitely in the "picking at nits" category, but, hey, when has that stopped us in the past? If you're the type of person bothered by minute grammatical distinctions, or horrified that we're proofreading and editing twenty-year-old comics, please consider yourself warned and read no further!

Without further ado—

Page 52 panel 2 — the reverse lettering has been damaged, either when shooting the photostat or the negative itself. Because of this, it's not clear what might be missing from the first panel. My best guess (and proofreader Jeff Seiler's guess as well!) is that there were two ellipses after each "A". Which would look like this—

So -- yay or nay?

Page 82 --

Cerebus' father visits Magus Doran for help with his problem child.

Proofreader Jeff suggests adding commas throughout Cerebus' father's speech. For instance, "Th' hat. 'Is Mum's idea it was." would become, ""Th' hat. 'Is Mum's idea, it was." He's suggesting four on this page.

To my sensibilities these are unnecessary, and the absence of the commas here is actually working to communicating the rhythm of his speech patterns. So I have a strong "no" here myself, but wanted to run this by you all as well. (And Dave!)
Yay or nay?

Page 205

In panel 3 the Dave character says to Cerebus: "...with no regard for the ideal "nature"-? A mistake grounded in his blind belief in iconolatry."

Jeff Seiler points out — "The OED defines ICONOLATRY as: the worship of religious images or icons. Thus, the phrase "belief in iconolatry" is redundant. A better wording would be "practice of iconolatry" or just take out "belief" and make it "blind iconolatry."

Normally, I'm against "correcting" dialogue. After all, couldn't the speaker be in error? But should this general tendency to leave well enough alone change when the speaker is, in a certain way, also the author?

Any thoughts on this? Leave as is, or change to one of Jeff's suggestions?

Page 152—

In the second word balloon, Dave lists the Five Cornerstones of Cirinism, followed by a colon, and then each cornerstone listed individually, terminated by a period. Jeff desires these periods to be semicolons instead, and while that might be slightly more correct on some Algebra of Grammar level, on an aesthetic level, it looks wrong, and seems to unnecessarily complicate the structure of this section.

Anyone want to stick up for Jeff's semicolon suggestion?

Page 245—

Cerebus is about to have his "injury-to-eye" experience, whilst "Dave" quotes Pink Floyd lyrics to him. In panel five, the lone balloon says,


Unfortunately, according to that pesky OED, and the Pink Floyd lyrics in question, it's "pinprick."

So, change to

or preserve the rhythm of the sung lyric by changing it to



Pages 104, 105, 100, 101, 110

These pages have larger image areas than the surrounding pages (as befits the scale changes depicted in the drawings themselves.) Unfortunately, that means when I enlarge these images to 104 percent of their original size (as the rest of the artwork has been enlarged), there's no room left for page numbers on these pages.

So I could 

a. shrink the artwork a bit for these pages
b. leave the page numbers off for these pages (what I'm inclined to do!)
c. put a small white box over the artwork to accommodate the black page number

Page 270

In the third panel, Cerebus says, 



Which Jeff believes should be 



I could go either way on this one. It's freezing, Cerebus is miserable and not at his most articulate. Is this a "mistake" of the character, or did "The Letterer" just leave out a word accidentally?

Finally, the end

The last decision is the one I could use the most input on. Unlike the majority of the books so far, MINDS is already the perfect length to accommodate the signature length of our new paper (which need to be multiples of 16 pages). Which means, we can either not add any pages of length, or we'd need to add sixteen pages to add any at all.

Which means, if we don't add any physical pages, then we have either one or two pages total to fit in the following--

a. Cerebus Archive thank-yous
b. credits on the restoration, scanning, copy edit, etc
c. Aardvark-Vanaheim address and book logo
d. Art Dragnet credits and thank-yous
e. any art enlargements

I say "one or two," because for the first time, I'm considering using the facing page of the last story page of the book. 

I've avoided it before because I think it typically looks pretty tacky, but it doesn't seem quite as bad to me this time as the last story page is really an advertisement for the next volume anyway. 

Any thoughts on this? Should I cram it all into one page to preserve that last white space at the end of the story? Or spread it out over two? Something else?? If we do use both pages, what image might you want to see enlarged for the final page? 

And that's where Minds is at! Looking forward to your magical solutions.

Friday, 17 February 2017


Two more Cerebus in Hell #1's as soon as I can get Sandeep to post the covers here:


Thanks for dropping off the new CIH? strips.  I'll leave the cheque out back in Camp David for you. 

The big priority right now is getting cover parodies and 4 strips for each cover parody done.  I'd like to get BATVARK #1 solicited for a cover date July which means getting it to Diamond sometime early in March.   

I'm going to ask the AMOC readership to make #1 suggestions (as you can see from Sandeep's brilliant STRANGE CEREBUS, it doesn't have to be an actual #1 you're making fun of).  The important thing is that it be an easy cover to modify with one of the template Cerebi we're using. [Sandeep's already got a WATCHMEN parody in development and a finished DARK VARK RETURNS (both very funny)].

For DARK VARK RETURNS I'm going to do "BATVARK'S WEDDING VOWS" as a two- or three- parter so if you can get the DVR one ready to go with the reprints, that should about do it.  Another finished #1!

You Photoshop guys out there, if you can knock together a parody cover and e-mail it to Tim [momentofcerebus at gmail dot com], we might as well all be looking at the suggestions as they come in. It doesn't have to be publication-ready just enough so we can get the idea.



"I've attached a mock-up cover for a famous #1 issue as per Dave's request.
I went with the lowest hanging fruit."
  Benjamin Hobbs

Cover by Benjamin Hobbs

"throwing my hat into the ring..."
Oliver Simonsen

"slight update variation...nevermind...taking my hat back out of the ring lol"
 Oliver Simonsen

In Progress...

Weekly Update #170: The Cerebus / Starchy The Dark Spud Crossover!

...featuring Terrible Lizard Comics, Rick Veitch's Spotted Stone & Rob Walton's Ragmop!

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 34

Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Dino's Cafe

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

We've looked at Dave Sim's notebook #18 twice before, in The Frustrations of normalroach and Worm Merchant or Grand Lord of Palnu?. It covers Cerebus #136 and #141 of Cerebus and had 64 pages scanned. And similarly to the covers of the other notebooks we've seen  recently, this one is also a Hilroy.

Notebook #18, front cover
One page 45 we see a sketch of Prince Mick and Reggie.

Notebook #18, page 45
Faintly from the other side of page 45 a sketch of Melmoth can be seen. That is page 46 coming through:

Notebook #18, page 46
Notice on page 45 there is more of the Melmoth sketch showing through, that we cannot see on page 46. Nor can see any of the Prince Mick sketch that falls under the cover to Cerebus #139 sketch. We can, however, see the sketch of Reggie under the sketch of Melmoth.

Looking back at page 45 none of the cover sketch of #139 can be seen. Usually with odd stuff I'd make a note when I was scanning the notebook. For example, for page 62 of this notebook I had written " Page 062 is a piece of paper with the cover art, and it is just glued to the notebook page." I didn't make any such notes about page 46, but I'd be willing to hazard a guess that this sketch was drawn in a different notebook, cut out and glued to this one.

For the curious, the sketch is pretty close to the original cover, but there are differences:

Cerebus #139 cover

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 6

A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 6
Straightening & Scripting


This is the sixth installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

In our last installment, we scanned your masterpiece (1200 pixels per inch [ppi] for your at-size sources of art, 600 ppi for your very large original artwork that will be reduced for print). Then we discussed some general principles of file organization, and how not to get lost in a digital maze of files.

Today we'll use Photoshop to take your raw scan, and generate an "Action" that can do the first stages of page work for your entire book.

I've said it before, but computers do a few things much better than human beings. One of those virtues—carrying out complex commands unerringly, for an unlimited amount of repetitions. If there is a task you will need to do more than once, you should consider making an action or script for it, and saving it to run the next time the issue arises. Something that saves you even a minute per page ends up saving you ten hours (!) over the course of a 600 page book. So use your time wisely.

A paragraph on Adobe Creative Cloud—Adobe is a great software manufacturer who makes an invaluable suite of graphics products, all of which are available simultaneously under a reasonably affordable subscription plan. They also strike a good balance between continually updating their products, and not pulling the rug out from under us oldsters who are used to something functioning in a certain way. I'm going to use Adobe products, namely Lightroom and Photoshop and Indesign, for these demonstrations, because it's what I know; but the basic principles could be carried out with any well-designed graphics program. These just happen to be the best I know.

One Last Prep Before We Go

Okay, remember what I said about saving time through automation? 

Let's add an extra step before we tackle these scans.

I've opened up the Adobe program Lightroom, a very smartly-designed piece of software that is the virtual-world equivalent of a photographic development room. You can open up a session or folder of photographs (or scanned images) and treat them as a catalogue—change them, individually or as a group, by re-exposing, rotating, sharpening, adjusting the color, and then A/B comparing the result, or A/B comparing individual images. It's a very deep program, but here we're going to use if for something very shallow. We're going to open up every image in our scans folder for our new book, and rotate them to be perfectly aligned, and then save the whole lot in a new folder.

(But didn't you scan them perfectly aligned? Well, maybe. Maybe if your art board was machine-cut and thus perfectly rectangular, and you drew your panel borders with a t-square perfectly flush with your perfectly-manufactured drawing desk, and then you took this object of 90-degree majesty and placed one edge faultlessly butted up against the raised edge of your scanner. And then did this again on every page.) (So yeah, you might want to rotate a few images, if only a bit.)

Okay. So once you have your catalog open in Lightroom, double-click one of the images to get started. 

Since we're not going to be doing very much here, this part is pretty straightforward. Hitting the "R" key brings up the Crop interface. You can now trim the sides, and rotate, and a helpful guide pops up that will help you keep everything aligned. Hit "Enter" when you're satisfied. Because Lightroom is a non-destructive editing program, meaning your original data stays in its own folder intact while you work, you don't have to worry about making a mistake. If you want to change what you've done, just hit "R" again and re-crop, and then hit the right arrow key to move on.

You might be tempted to make other adjustments here, and in another workflow, that might make sense—but for now, just power through and rotate all your images. After you're done, go to File -> Export, and take a look at your options. You want to save them in a new folder nearby your raw scans, with the same file type and bit depth as the originals, with nothing added.

By the way, if you're very fastidious in your scanning, you might be able to skip this step in the future. Very few of Sandeep's scans, for instance, need rotation, as he takes his time getting the alignment great on his end before scanning. Which is hopefully how it is for you as well! I just find this step useful because it allows me to automate an entire stage of my work, and know for sure that I won't have to redo any of it because something needs rotation after the fact. An alternative might be to skip this stage and just make note as you work of what pages need rotation, and attend to them separately. Something I might try on the next book.



Fire up... the PHOTOSHOPS!

I like to imagine it making the old 2400 bps modem handshake sound as it loads...

Nahanananah... nahanahanaha... nahanahanaha... beeeeeeeeeeeee!

Okay, now open a few sample pages from your scans. If your artwork has a wide amount of variation to the techniques used, say, some pages composed of only really dense teeny tiny lines, other pages with loads of fine screen tone, some others with spray/airbrush/toothbrush work or some other kind of similar spatter, then make sure each type is represented in your samples. Now start with a page that represents a kind of average for the project. Average complexity, average amount of density (darkness) to the black, something to establish a baseline for the work.

I'll be starting with issue 190 page 18. It's a good representative sample of the book — areas of fine line, two different densities of circular tone, "noise" tone, and some photocopied panels with weak blacks (the backgrounds of the latter two panels are enlargements of the first).

Now we're going to make an action out of the next steps we take, so we can repeat it on other pages. Go to Window -> Actions to bring up the Actions panel. At the bottom of the panel is a button that is called "Create New Action." Click on this, and you'll be prompted to name your action and what set you'd like to save it to.

I've named mine "original test." 

Once you hit Record, everything you ask Photoshop to do will be recorded as part of your script. So if you're planning on experimenting a bunch and undoing a bunch of commands, you might need to go back in and clean up your script a bit before being finished, or stop and start it (using the buttons at the bottom of the Actions panel) as you go to ensure "testing" items don't get recorded in your script and slow it down when you run it.

Okay, now that we're recording our Action, the first thing to do is make our color scan grayscale, in the best method possible. Because the original art I'm working with was produced with "non-repro-blue" pencil, this will involve throwing out the blue color channels.

So go to Window -> Channels, if your Channels window isn't already visible.

The "Channels" window next to some visible blue-line pencil.

Now, depending on the brand of the blue line pencil used, and the color cast of the scans, the channel you need to throw out might vary. Click through each of the channels, which will display, in grayscale, the information available solely on that channel. Observe which has the most amount of the pencil visible. In this case, the Red channel is the biggest offender, so I dragged that channel to the little trash icon at the bottom of the panel. Which leaves us with just the Magenta and Yellow channels remaining. Of these, the Yellow channel is the clear winner, so I toss the Magenta channel.

Now that we've selected the very best channel, we're ready to do what we actually set out to do in the first place— make our document grayscale. Go to Image -> Mode -> Grayscale to finish the job.

Now go to your Actions panel and hit the Stop button to stop recording your script. Do you have a bunch of nonsense/unhelpful steps in your script so far? Either try the whole thing again, or delete the unneccesary steps by selecting them (SHIFT- select will select a sequence) and dragging them to the trash icon below.  

... and that's it for this week! Next week— we SHARPEN STUFF. People ARGUE WITH ME IN THE COMMENTS. WE SPIT BLOOD.

Well, probably not. But I'm keeping the possibility open!

(To download the top portion of the page I'm working with here, click this link and then click on "full res version," then the download button. Then feel free to follow along!)

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at LivingtheLine.com.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Is that true?  Anyone have any idea where the petition went and why?  And why it came back?  And how we know that there are 1,920 names on it, up from the 1,870 when it, suddenly, disappeared?

[I'll add only one remark at this point:  If you're talking about an online petition Working or Not Working -- which someone does in the Comments section of yesterday's post -- I said nine years ago that if we got 2,000 signatures on the petition I would reconsider my decision to not go out in public and I still plan to do that: reconsider.  My intention with the Petition was never punitive, it was accommodative of Feminism:  a misogynist shouldn't go out in public, in my view.  That being said, I DON'T BELIEVE DAVE SIM IS A MISOGYNIST. I'm not a feminist. To me, there's a big difference. The more signatures there are on the petition affirming I DON'T BELIEVE DAVE SIM IS A MISOGYNIST, the more willing I am to go out in public.  Posting here, as an example, more extensively in the Comments sections of the various posts is a direct result of getting closer to the 2,000 mark. Answering questions from people who haven't signed -- and won't sign -- the petition. Walking, briefly, around a convention in Kitchener City Hall New Years' Eve of last year.] [No danger of being recognized except by KITCHENERCON organizer Ron Hoppe and long-time local comics artist Bill Byrne].

Haven't seen a CEREBUS "In My Life" for a long, long, long while...

(creative people making a living in a creative field documenting CEREBUS' influence on their work and how they discovered it) (any creative people interested in doing a similar "In My Life" please contact TimW),

...so we all appreciate Adam Beechen taking time out of his VERY busy freelancer schedule (is there any other kind?) to send this to TimW (and TimW for posting it).  Adam has had a long and busy career in comics, TV and animation.  As someone put it recently, remembering Adam's letters back in the "Aardvark Comment" days and seeing his credits on TV: "The FAMOUS CEREBUS fan"

His most recent gig -- the longest he ever worked on one thing, according to Adam -- was as Executive Producer on TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS-IN-DISGUISE for the last three years.

Take it away, Adam!


Cerebus: In My Life -- Adam Beechen

Adam Beechen is a comic book writer best known for his work on various DC titles (including Batman, Robin, Countdown) and his own creator-owned series Hench.

1. How did you discover CEREBUS, and for how long did you read it?

I first saw Cerebus in the ads for the comic in The Comics Journal. I’d guess it was 1981, so I was about twelve years old. My mother had purchased a subscription to the Journal for me, and while I loved getting the magazine, I can remember paging through it at that age and having almost zero interest in ninety percent of the subject matter (Creators’ rights? Foreign comics? Some lawsuit by Michael Fleisher? Why aren’t we talking more about the greatness of John Byrne’s art?). But the CEREBUS ads always drew my attention and held it. They were beautifully designed, with lots of solid black and inventive lettering to catch the eye. The art at the time was just to the left of Neal Adams, and it often featured a super-hero that looked pretty amusing (Moon Roach). And the ads were funny, a great combination of words and pictures, each complimenting the other perfectly (I particularly remember the ad with Moon Roach standing over the McGrew brothers, giving his “The Shadow” spiel).

After that, when I’d make my weekly trips to my local Phoenix comic shop, the long-gone Book Tree, I’d always pause and consider the issues of Cerebus I’d see. The covers were as arresting as the ads, and I’d wonder what was inside, but was too nervous to take a look. This was an independent comic, and from what I’d read/seen in The Comics Journal, that likely meant either lots of beyond-Marvel gory violence, lots of gratuitous sex and nudity, and lots of swearing. Not that I wasn’t interested in or couldn’t handle all three, but how I could I justify their purchase if any adult in my life wanted to check them out? The comics stayed on the stands.

After my Bar Mitzvah, however, I was a little more confident, and on one visit to the comic shop the following year, I riffled through the back-issue bargain bins and came up with issues 37 and 38 (which had fairly recently become back issues). Nothing too sexy/gory/swear-y on the covers, so what the heck? I ponied up.

And fell hard.

(No adults ever asked about the book)

The dialogue was amazing, especially the parody characters – The accents and lettering and even the carefully-considered placement of the dialogue balloons made me hear the characters in a way Marvel and DC books just didn’t, and they all advanced the delicate, flawless timing of the gags. The facial expressions added immensely to this, amplifying the humor many times over. The layouts were like nothing I’d ever seen, cool and new, and thought had clearly been put into them; They hadn’t just been put down quickly to help get the book out on time. I can remember having some tween-age quibbles with the human figures (If they were just drawn a little better, This Guy Sim would be up among my favorites with Byrne, Adams, George Perez, Paul Smith, etc.). I didn’t always get the subject matter or the character history being referenced, but I got the context and the book made me laugh, it made me want to draw, and it made me want to write. Even the letters page was fun. This Guy Sim seemed to know his readers, have a relationship with them that was totally different than the faceless editors who answered letters in the Marvel and DC lettercols. The book seemed like a club of select people who were in the know about this awesome comic and character. I was skinny, self-conscious, chronically nervous and utterly invisible to girls. I wanted to belong somewhere. I wanted to be in the CEREBUS club.

So on my next trip to the comic shop, I bought the latest issue, 48, and never looked back. Every month, until issue 300. From grade school to high school to college to grad school to professional life, I didn’t come close to missing a single issue. Phoenix to Chicago to Phoenix again to Austin to Los Angeles. CEREBUS was my traveling companion the entire way, and it travels with me still.

2. How has your own creativity/comics reading been influenced by CEREBUS?

I use storytelling techniques I learned from CEREBUS all the time, both in comics and in animation writing, particularly in the case of timing jokes or funny moments. I’ll give you an example: In the first issue of ROBIN I ever wrote for DC, #148, Batman tells Tim Drake that he couldn’t have beaten Batgirl in a fight. It’s a cold thing to say, and Tim responds with, “Ouch.” But the way we set it up visually was straight out of CEREBUS. Two panels, identical illustrations in each, profile shot, Batman on the left, Tim on the right. Batman says his line in the first panel, then the eye travels over to Tim, who says nothing. On to the second panel where the eye travels to Batman, waiting for Tim’s response, then finally lands on Tim, who says, “Ouch.” The distance the eye has to travel from statement to response functions as a pregnant pause, and there’s only about a zillion of them in CEREBUS. Before reading CEREBUS, I probably would have structured the sequence to take place in one panel, thus losing the comic awkwardness of the moment. But from Dave Sim I learned how and when to draw moments out for maximum effect, whether comedic or dramatic.

From Dave’s amazing ear for dialogue, I learned how to write dialect and vocal mannerism into animation and television scripts in such a way that the actor has a good sense of how lines are meant to be read, or at least how I hear them when I’m writing them. I want actors to bring their own style and interpretation to the script – that’s part of the collaborative process of making TV – but hopefully this at least gives them a good starting point as they make their choices.

3. What is your favourite scene or sequence in CEREBUS?

CEREBUS #44, “The Deciding Vote.” It’s a flawlessly written issue that never fails to crack me up. “This mess is a place!” I’m giggling just typing it.

The balance between the two stories (Cerebus and the farmer, Moon Roach and Astoria) is perfect, as is the balance between slapstick and wordplay. And at the end, a brilliant conversation with an innkeeper who could be right out of New England central casting, and we know that because of the way Dave has structured his sentences and indicated his dialect.

“Wubba wubba boing boing boing…” Seriously, milk just sprayed out my nose, and I’m not even drinking milk.

4. Would you recommend others read CEREBUS, and if so, why?

I’d recommend CEREBUS for all kinds of reasons.

a) It’s a fascinating read as a work of fiction, straight up. Not every book will be to every reader’s taste, but there’s something for everyone, and the scope of the narrative itself is astonishing.

b) It’s an inspiration to dream big as a storyteller and to not be afraid to chase that dream.

c) It’s an unprecedented picture of the development of one creative person, from month to month, over the unbelievable span of 25 years. To chart the growth in artistic capability, to observe the changes in the interests and philosophies of the writer… As a reader, you’re seeing those processes at work in a way you don’t get from reading even the most prolific of novelists or screenwriters. If you’re creative in the least, or curious about the nature of creativity, CEREBUS is invaluable.

d) It is a storytelling textbook. If you have any interest at all in being any kind of storytelling pro, thorough study of this material will go a long way toward educating you to the possibilities of the medium. Panel construction; page construction; timing, dialect and mannerism; set-ups and call-backs; character development; pacing; figure poses and facial expression; lettering… the list goes on and on.

e) It is a comics history textbook. There was very little, if any, self-publishing reaching an audience of more than a few when CEREBUS began. The book blazed the trail, and along the way, Dave advised and mentored many fledgling creators, some of whom have come and gone, others who have become key industry players in their own right, whether working on their own, or for other companies. Read CEREBUS, read all of it, from the panel pages to the text pieces to the letter answers, and you’ll experience the entire history of the independent comics corner of the industry between 1979 and 2004.

As far as I’m concerned, CEREBUS is one of the most important works the medium has ever, or will ever, see. Its content can be debated, its creator’s intent and opinions can be debated, but it deserves to be remembered, discussed, and acknowledged for the titanic achievement it is.

5. While I’m here...

…a little piece of personal trivia: Dave Sim published the first work of mine that ever appeared in a comic book. It was a "Single Page" feature that ran in the "High Society" reprints around 1991 or so. I still have a photocopy of the Aardvark-Vanaheim check I received for it.

Bonus Strip: 
Adam Beechen's Single Page From Biweekly Reprint of Cerebus #74