by John A. Wilcox
To the best of my recollection, the year was 1980. I had ordered a "grab bag" of comic books from Joseph Koch Comic Warehouse in New York. Among the many Marvel & DC titles were 2 independent comics that I'd never read before: Captain Canuck by Richard Comely & George Freeman and Cerebus The Aardvark by Dave Sim. The former was a fresh spin on Superhero comics. The latter was unlike anything I'd read before or since. Funny. Strange. Unique. I was hooked! I gobbled up every issue I could get my hands on! I tracked down an original page of art! I wrote fan letters & sent fan art! Amazingly, Sim published many of my letters and a few of the drawings. In 1982, Sim appeared at a comic shop in NYC and I made my way there. We chatted, he signed my page of art, and drew me an amazing portrait of Cerebus. I am what is known as a "First Generation" Cerebus fan. Just a year later, I entered the comic book business as a pro, but I never stopped being a fan. I love comics! For those who may not know, Cerebus The Aardvark ran a staggering 300 issues, culminating in the death of Cerebus. Last week I decided to touch base with Sim and see what he's up to of late. Read on!
PS: So now that Cerebus has been dead for a while, you are doing new tales of him in Cerebus In Hell? -- every month a new #1 -- What was the spark for this?
DS: The spark was everyone asking Where did Cerebus go after he died? The answer is: Gustave Dore's version of Dante's Inferno which has nothing to do with what Dante wrote and neither of which has anything to do with what's in the Bible or the Koran. Thus Cerebus In Cerebus In Hell With A Question Mark which is how it's pronounced.
PS: What can readers expect?
DS: The unexpected. 24 individual 4-panel extremely (extremely) politically incorrect comic strips where "funny drives the bus." As the aliens told Woody Allen in Stardust Memories Tell funnier jokes. It seems to me to be the best possible entertainment advice in a lunatic time period like our own.
PS: I understand that every #1 has a very short music video to promote it.
DS: Yes, I'll get Rolly to e-mail them to you and you can post each new one as you get it. Music videos are the salted nuts of Gen-Xers and millennials. Bet you can't eat just one. It gives you the Diamond order code and final order cut-off date. Cerebus and Cerebus In Hell? are only available in comics stores.
PS: Is there any set number of tales in Cerebus In Hell With A Question Mark or is the situation fluid?
DS: Everything is fluid in Cerebus In Hell With A Question Mark. Is Cerebus just imagining himself to be Batvark? Super-Cerebus? Silver Cerebus? etc. etc. Or has he fragmented into all of these different personalities in the afterlife? Where does Silver Cerebus go when Silver Cerebus #1 is over? Who knows? It doesn't matter in a continuity sense because there is no continuity. The next issue is The Varking Dead #1. Whole different premise, written by Benjamin Hobbs and tweaked by me. Dante and Virgil get the franchise rights to ARBY'S in the Infernal Realms and Cerebus In Hell With A Question Mark is inundated with Zombie Cerebi. There's a -- spoiler alert -- giant Zombie Cerebus called Jurassic Vark. Then that issue is over and the next one is Green Dante/Green Virgil #1. For the first time in 40 years, you can just read comic books and laugh instead of having to memorize all of the plot details as if you're cramming for your Graduate Degree. It is getting more and more difficult to be stranger and funnier than current events. As Hunter S. Thompson said, When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Weird is a core element of my job description these days. David Birdsong, Benjamin Hobbs, Lee Thacker and Gary Boyarski send me parody covers and I "riff" on them. It's a lot of fun and each issue is finite. Cerebus took comic-book continuity to its wildest extreme -- the 6,000-page serialized graphic novel. It's time to go all the way back the other way: Here's a goofy 24-page comic book. Hope you get a laugh or two out of it.
PS: Is Cerebus TV still around? If so, what's on it and where can folks find it?
DS: cerebusdownloads.com There are no new episodes but George Gatsis posts a different episode from 2009 to 2012 every week that costs 88 cents to download. Dave Sim talking about stuff and taping himself drawing, mostly -- back when I could still draw. You can also get all 6,000 pages of Cerebus at cerebusdownloads.com in digital form for $99 Canadian (which works out to about $75 U.S.).
PS: I understand that you're writing about the Alex Raymond and my old pal, Stan Drake. What is the project about and why did you decide to tackle it?
DS: It started as the History Of Comics Photorealism parts in Glamourpuss and -- as I started to research all the weird plot threads behind the September 6, 1956 accident that claimed Raymond's life -- turned into The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond. It's taken me ten years to do the first 250 pages and no end in sight. To explain what I'm seeing in the research materials I need to explain how Comic Art Metaphysics appears to me to work: the interaction between the two-dimensional comic-art reality and the three-dimensional world. Weird Stephen King-type patterns that emerge as you study the symbiosis between the two. As an example, Ward Greene who was a) the King Features Syndicate General Manager b) the writer on Raymond's Rip Kirby strip and c) involved in the occult died the third week of January of 1956. Raymond died the first week of September of 1956. I was born almost exactly between those two dates: May 17, 1956. Whatever it is, I'm not outside of it. I'm inside of it. Destined, I infer, to be the person who told the story. To say the least, it makes me want to do the best possible job I can.
PS: Are you still doing crowd-funding with your Cerebus Archive Portfolios?
DS: Yes, I am. The one for Cerebus Archive Number Eight -- full-sized reproductions of the earliest ten pages of original art from the Women storyline plus my commentaries -- will be down to the last few hours when you post this to Progsheet, John. Tick tick tick.
PS: How goes the search for scans of original art from Cerebus?
DS: Sean Robinson, my genius restoration/tech guy gets a nibble every once in a while at firstname.lastname@example.org -- like you with your page from Cerebus No.10, the second appearance of Red Sophia and thank you for going to all that trouble -- for which we are both deeply appreciative. Will we ever get them all? Probably not in my lifetime, but maybe during the Second Administration after I'm dead when my successor, Eddie Khanna, takes over.
PS: Anything else in the cards for 2020?
DS: The Weekly Updates -- a new one every Friday at A Moment Of Cerebus -- continue, God willing, as does my Please Hold For Dave Sim dialogue with A Moment Of Cerebus head honcho Matt Dow the first Thursday of every month which usually runs an hour or two. And A Moment Of Cerebus continues to have a new posting daily.
The latest printing of the High Society trade paperback is being solicited in Previews this month, with 12 new remastered pages. There will be four different versions with tipped-in signed plates. The Red State Edition with Cerebus as Donald Trump saying We have to keep the mad-dog socialists from seizing control of the executive branch! The Blue State Edition which has Cerebus the Candidate saying We need to impeach the violator of our constitution! Or you can order the I Vote For Cerebus edition. Or you can vote "None of the Above" by just getting the latest printing with no tipped-in plate. We'll let people know at A Moment Of Cerebus which version "won" after the November 3rd election.
My part of the Cerebus In Hell? #1's is (are?) done through February 2021. Walt's Empire Strikes Back #1 (May, 2020 Matt Dow and various); Attractive Cousins #1 (June, 2020); The Amicable Spider-Vark Annual #1 (July, 2020 48 pages); Spider-Whore #1 (August, 2020); Batvark Penis #1 (September 2020); Vault Of Cerebus #1 (October, 2020 me and Benjamin Hobbs); The Amazing Batvark #1 (November, 2020) Cerebus In Hell? 2021 #1 (December, 2020 me and various); Unnamed Vark Wars #1 (January, 2021 Matt Dow and various); Cerebus The Duck #1 (February, 2021) and Strangers In Cerebus #1 (March, 2021 Benjamin Hobbs and Laura McFarland).
I'm also doing a Death Of A Comics Salesman sales trip to all 190 California comic-book stores in June and July, drumming up interest in The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond Vol 1 California Test Market Edition available only in California Christmas of 2020.
So, you know, just a typical 64-year-old semi-retired slacking-off kind of a year.
Dave Sim Videos:
House Of Cerebus
The Varking Dead
All art is copyright Dave Sim.
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