Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #276 (June 14th, 2007) - with guest host Craig Miller!

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

This may be way too inside-baseball for anyone to care, but it occurred to me that someone could well have responded to my Monday entry about the lateness of Following Cerebus 10 with, "You know, the publication wasn't exactly the epitome of timely delivery at any point in its past." And sure enough, even before the crises of 2006--the child abduction (okay, legally, it wasn't that--I know because I checked with the police and they explained the difference, though it struck me as a distinction without a difference), the death in the family--FC's publication was hardly like clockwork.

Somehow John Thorne and I were able to produce between six and ten issues of Wrapped in Plastic and Spectrum per year for about ten years, yet four issues of Following Cerebus seemed almost too much of a challenge. And this with Dave Sim assisting with some of the material, whereas David Lynch had no interest in becoming involved in WIP (outside of creating one of its covers, for which we were extremely grateful, and agreeing to a couple of interviews).

Lynch's work is some of the most challenging in film. It took us about ten years before we thought we had cracked the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. We're not sure we ever solved the puzzles of Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, though we spent lots of time trying.

Meanwhile, we'd written tons of reviews and analyses of everything from American Gothic to Xena and X-Files. TV series such as Homicide: Life on the Street, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I Claudius, and Alias. Feature films such as Eyes Wide Shut, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Edward Scissorhands. All challenging stuff. And it would flow out more or less effortlessly.

How tough could it be to write about a comic book series, even one as complex as Cerebus? If we could discuss the Kierkegaardian aspects an episode of Xena Warrior Princess, for crying out loud, or how Joss Whedon's cosmology in Buffy that inverted the traditional Judeo-Christian systems created major problems when he tried to provide a process of redemption for certain characters--well, again, how tough could it be to crank out similar essays about Cerebus?

Turns out: a lot tougher than we thought.

Okay, perhaps we were just losing our touch, but if that's not the case, what is it about Cerebus that makes it so difficult to analyze?

Part of it is the sheer magnitude: 6000 pages. Twin Peaks lasted just over one season. Picnic at Hanging Rock is 107 minutes long (in the shortened director's cut). But Cerebus--oh my. Lots of pages, and some of them densely packed. Untangling everything takes some work and at times appears almost too daunting. No matter where any given article started, no matter how narrowly focused, it seemed to lead us into the need to include aspects of most of those 6000 pages. And that really slows things down.

The second reason seems to contradict the first--heck, it may in reality contradict the first. Lots of the above shows contain a fair amount of ambiguity. How much of Lost Highway is a metaphorical representation of Fred Madison's mental state? What is the Red Room? Was Lucas Buck the devil, or at least an agent of the devil? How much of Eyes Wide Shut is a dream? What happened to Miranda on Hanging Rock? To what extent is Edward Scissorhands an allegory of creativity? Who the heck can make any sense out of the increasingly convoluted mythologies of The X-Files or Alias?

Stuff to debate. Puzzles to solve--or conclude there are no solutions. And don't look to Lynch or Kubrick or Weir for answers, because their lips are sealed.

But Sim's approach to the creation of Cerebus was different. Reason was the guide, and the cosmology in Cerebus is not arbitrary. The characters may succumb to emotionally-driven or idiotic decisions, but behind it all is a universe that makes sense. And Sim not only has the answers, but will be glad to tell you what they are.

The Lynch approach can be frustrating for a critic: reading his interviews is an exercise in futility, because he never answers any questions of consequence. But it can also be liberating, because you can write pretty much whatever you want without fear that the director will contradict you later on. You can write the most ridiculous nonsense (not that John or I ever did, I hope), and no one will find a quote from Lynch disproving your point.

Not the same with Cerebus. Come up with a ridiculous theory about some aspect of the storyline, and Sim--in his own well-reasoned, methodical way--can slice and dice you any number of ways.

And of course, John and I were fairly certain Lynch never actually took the time to read the articles in WIP (not that he necessarily should have; better he spent his time on his next film project). Dave, of course, actually reads Following Cerebus cover to cover.

So what's the point here? That FC turned out to be a much more challenging project than we'd anticipated. It's been a blast, and we have lots of ideas for future issues. But the essays don't flow as effortlessly as they used to in the past. We don't know exactly why, but we've been trying to figure it out.



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