Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #274 (June 12th, 2007) - with guest host Craig Miller!

[Following Cerebus editor/publisher Craig Miller is filling in this week for Dave Sim.]

This entry is being posted on Tuesday, June 12, but I'm writing it on June 11.

Does that date have any significance to you?

It is a notable date in Texas (if not worldwide) literature, but it probably has not been mentioned in any "On This Date in History" newspaper or website columns.

On June 11, 1936, Robert E. Howard committed suicide after learning that his ill mother would not regain consciousness.

Readers who are interested enough in Cerebus to be reading this blog probably understand why I'm mentioning this. REH, creator of Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, and dozens of other characters that are still being read and enjoyed today, was a huge influence on the young Sim as he began publishing Cerebus. (Hence Sim's appearance--shameless plug here--in the REH-themed Spectrum Special Edition 3, in which he talks at length about Howard and related topics; see for yourself at followingcerebus.com).

Last year marked the centennial of REH's birth (wasn't that postage stamp honoring the occasion cool? Oh wait--they couldn't fit it in between the stamps honoring Art of Disney: Romance, AMBER Alert, the 1606 Voyage of Samuel de Champlain, Distinguished American Diplomats, American Motorcycles, and Gee's Bend Quilts), and this year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first appearance of Conan. ("The Phoenix on the Sword" appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales.) Every year in Cross Plains, Texas (about two hours west of Fort Worth), where Howard wrote all of his classic stories, fans gather one weekend in June for Robert E. Howard Days. His house, which barely survived one of the wildfires that roared across the state in 2005, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Project Pride (crossplains.com) has spent thousands of dollars restoring the home, and tours allow interested men and women to walk through the rooms and get some sense of how REH lived.

I just returned from this year's festival, where artist extraordinaire Gregory Manchess (no, you haven't heard of him, but go to manchess.com to see what you've been missing) was the guest of honor, and where Dave Sim's connection to REH is still evident. Someone had a few copies of the mid-70s zine Dark Fantasy for sale with covers by Gene Day (who published the zine) and interior illustrations by Dave Sim. Day was a huge REH fan and contributed to numerous Howard zines from the 70s (and there were a bunch)--hence the appearance of Dark Fantasy at this year's gathering. As Sim said in Spectrum, "Gene was a long-time REH fan....It was his immersion in REH fandom as an illustrator that gave me a big entry point into making my living as an artist."

After some down time in the 80s and 90s, interest in REH is on the rise again. Howard scholars (and yes, there are such things) such as Rusty Burke and Paul Herman are using this resurgence as an opportunity to press publishers into getting authoritative texts into print. (Most of the previous versions, including the Lancer editions in the 60s--the ones with the iconic Frank Frazetta covers--were heavily edited by L. Sprague de Camp.) For Howard to secure any kind of lasting respect, Burke has argued, it is important that such authoritative texts be produced now while the iron is hot. It is astounding that interest in REH remains strong so many years after his death, but that is no guarantee that it will remain (indeed, many of his more popular contemporaries have long been forgotten).

It's a great time to be a Robert E. Howard fan, as a visit to the Robert E. Howard United Press Association website (www.rehupa.com) will prove.

Just for the heck of it, here's a sample of some of that thirty-year-old art by Day and Sim. I hope Dave doesn't kill me for showing this. Oh shoot, he's not online, so he'll never see it, right? Nobody tell him about it. It will be our little secret....

Tomorrow: back to the topic of Cerebus.



If you wish to contact Craig Miller, you can mail a letter to:

Win-Mill Productions
Dept. B
P.O. Box 1283
Arlington, TX 76004

Or send an email to:



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:


Or, you can check out Mars Import:


Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors. Here are the Diamond Star System codes:

Cerebus #1-25 $30.00 STAR00070

High Society #26-50 $30.00 STAR00071

Church and State I #52-80 $35.00 STAR00271

Church and State II #81-111 $35.00 STAR00321

Jaka's Story #114-136 $30.00 STAR00359

Melmoth #139-150 $20.00 STAR00431

Flight #151-162 $20.00 STAR00543

Women #163-174 $20.00 STAR00849

Reads #175-186 $20.00 STAR01063

Minds #187-200 $20.00 STAR01916

Guys #201-219 $25.00 STAR06972

Rick's Story #220-231 $20.00 STAR08468

Going Home I #232-250 $30.00 STAR10981

Form and Void #251-265 $30.00 STAR13500

Latter Days #266 - 288 $35.00 AUG031920

The Last Day #289 - 300 $25.00 APR042189

Collected Letters - $30 FEB052434

Collected Letters 2 - $22 MAR073054