Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #84 (December 4th, 2006)

For the next two weeks, the Blog & Mail revisits


In honour of Steve Ditko's 80th year coming up in 2007 and in the hopes of drumming up a little business for his post-Marvel work published through Robin Snyder's RSCOMICS.

Order direct from Robin Snyder at


Or write to him at

3745 Canterbury Lane #81, Bellingham, Washington 98225-1186

Monday December 4 -

So, finally, November 20 I ended up having two hours to myself before the Community Services committee meeting started at City Hall and I figured I would start on the commissioned piece, photocopying it in progress. What a pain in the you-know-what that turned out to be. How much should I pencil before I photocopy it? I also ended up using an HB pencil instead of the 3H I would ordinarily use just to make sure that it showed up better on the photocopies without having to juice up the darkness setting too far. So, already there is a certain corruption setting in there—making decisions on the basis of how the "in progress" material is going to look at www.cerebusart.com instead of on the basis of what is going to help me draw a better picture. Anyway, I started with basic Roach proportions which I never get right at the outset.

As exaggerated as I try and make his physique, I always spend the first while telling myself "Bigger, BIGGER, BIGGER" but this is the first time that you get to see it in photocopy form.

A lot of times, just the outline of the Roach with the costume details fitting proportionately onto it is enough to establish the humour (to which I owe a debt to Wally Wood and his "Superduperman" parody in Kurtzman's Mad). In this case, not so much. The big billowing sleeves detract from the comedic effect of the oversized shoulders and biceps. It doesn't matter how big you make the shoulders, the billowing sleeves are just going to make him look ordinarily super-heroic.

So, then I had to go to plan B—what else have I got here in Dr. Strange's costume that I can use to enhance the comedy? One good trick is to lower the head into the torso so that the shoulders are up around his ears. Which worked pretty well in this case.

That's pretty much the same face I drew originally, but just setting it lower on the torso made it look funnier. I tried putting the Roach antennae on the chest emblem and tucking the amulet in tight under his chin but that didn't really add anything (so, as you can see, I gave up before I had even completed drawing that part).

Maybe a skinny waistline. Yeah, that worked pretty well, too, with the oversized belted sash, hiking the belted sash up to mid-abdomen and making it form-fitting. It makes the over-sized billowing sleeves look funny by contrast. Why? I have no idea. I just traced the left sleeve from the previous drawing and then thought I'd try something else with the right sleeve—a ballooning quality, cinched tight around the elbow and top of the gloves and flaring dramatically up to the shoulder in a single exaggerated curve.

Then I decided to make the tail of the tunic proportionately shorter, barely extending down to his groin to emphasize how hiked up to the midriff it is. And that was when I first thought, "Oh, a ballet dancer." Dr. Strange as a ballet dancer—now that's funny—so I drew this enormous muscular leg and the foot en pointe and the other foot in one of those really gay-looking poses.

Let me just interject in that relentless grinding day-to-day reality of Our Humourless Feminist Society Retrospect the next day that, yes, I do consider male ballet dancers inherently humorous. I can certainly understand that Relentlessly Humourless Feminists will disagree and in their own Relentlessly Humourless Fashion they will point out the years of training and top-notch physical condition that male ballet dancers are in and that their cardio-vascular training compares favourably with any in which competitive male athletes participate. I'm sure that Rudolf Nuryev and Mikhail Baryshnikov and all of their fellow ballet dancers are remarkable individuals deserving of all manner of respect and accolade and the millions of dollars which showered upon them in their hey-day. I'm sure they are socially responsible role models for children the world over who inspire generations—and will inspire generations yet unborn—to the dizzying heights of accomplishment upon which they trod with infinite delicacy and grace. I am equally certain that my own meagre accomplishments pale to insignificance beside their own and that I am unworthy to even type their names in light of that dramatic contrast between their exalted politically correct selves and their stellar accomplishments and foolish Dave Sim the evil misogynist, the Pariah King of Comics. While certainly agreeing with all of these points, categorically and irrefutably, and the empirical evidence which informs them, in the spirit of True Democracy and my belief in the freedom of expression and freedom of belief, let me state again that I firmly believe that a grown man tippy-toeing across a stage dressed in a tutu or full leotard is, inherently, humorous and that linking that mental image to super-heroes is, inherently, funny.

Or, it was until I had to write all this, anyway.

Another victory for Humourless Feminists (pardon the redundancy) everywhere!

I didn't get the effect I was looking for, though. It just looks like a garden variety super-hero (who—I hate to break this to all you super-hero fans who might've strayed over here—spend a great deal of their time in really, REALLY gay-looking poses) particularly since both feet were going to be in a solid black leotard. I could stretch a point and do little white highlights on the ankles and toes but the solid black leotard is a defining characteristic of Dr. Strange (not that there's anything wrong with that) so you don't want to stray outside of that in a parody if you can help it. On the next drawing, I decided to really lean into it and redrew the left arm in a REALLY gay-looking gesture with the hand pointing to the top of his head (do they do that in ballet? Or is that one of those things that people, like myself—whose exposure to ballet is pretty much limited to the Nutcracker Suite and Warner Brothers cartoons—read into these things?).

Missed completely with the feet again: although I managed to get the point to the toe, it's still not pointed distinctively enough in an overt ballet look to make it look otherwise than like a super-hero stance (not that there's anything wrong with admiring men who look natural with their feet posed like that, super-hero fans! You fellows stick to your guns and go right on admiring your pointy-toed heroes! Celebrate diversity!) and trying to interlock the two feet did nothing to make it look less like a super-hero and more like a ballet dancer. I might have to go and look at a book on Rudolf Nuryev at the library. I tried curling the other arm in and that seemed to "up" the ballet quotient a little bit but not as much as I needed it to. I traced it off again, this time with the Roach saying something hopefully ballet and Dr. Strange-like. "By the Hoary Cod-Piece of Nuryev!" Or something similar.

I hope, at this point, that I'm not getting too far outside of Sean M.'s comfort level as a Dr. Strange/Steve Ditko/gay archetype/super-hero fan.

I also make the late decision to make the ballet figure Dr. Strangeroach's ectoplasmic self. In Dr. Strange his ectoplasmic self (completely white with black outlines—thus eliminating the black leotard problem) would either "emerge from" or "transform from" his corporeal form (Stan Lee would write it both ways as he juggled the specific mythologies of the dozens of characters he was suddenly responsible for: just as he started by describing it as the "ethereal" self and then switched to "ectoplasmic" later) and go off and get things done in otherworldly environments or on the other side of the planet, passing through walls and so on. Usually he would get trapped and use his amulet which would fix everything (which led my old jaded self to wonder, Why didn't he just use the amulet in the first place and save the wear and tear on his ectoplasmic self?). Anyway, the ectoplasmic self, for reasons that were never explained didn't wear a cape, so I did one quick, lousy drawing of his corporeal self wearing a cape and then it was time for the Community Services meeting.

Tomorrow: Putting the pieces together

Viewers of the www.cerebusart.com website have probably noticed by now that the calendar has been taken down. It turns out that two commissioned pieces a month is going to be a little optimistic over the next while. So, instead, I'm inviting interested individuals to contact me by phone (519.576.0610) to discuss any commission that they are interested in. When you phone, I can let you know what the current high offer is for the next commissioned piece after Dr. Strangeroach is and which I will be beginning probably after Christmas or early in the New Year (so I can get some uninterrupted working time on my secret project and commentaries on Mark). If you want a Gerhard background, you can let me know on the phone and then negotiate with Gerhard separately. The best rule of thumb on a Dave Sim commission is that you will get the best results if you are paying roughly $400 to $600 per figure. That is, a $1,000 commission of Cerebus and Jaka is going to look better than a $1,000 commission of Cerebus, Jaka, the Roach, Lord Julius, Astoria and Konigsberg. If you let me know what you're interested in, I can let you know what part of your picture is going to be the most time-consuming and then leave it up to you as to whether you want to stick to your original request or modify it in order to get more picture for your money.

That number again is 519.576.0610


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.