Monday, June 18, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #278 (June 16th, 2007) - with guest host Craig Miller!

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

I don't know how many TV/film/comics critics/reviews/whatever-it-is-that-I-am have backgrounds in philosophy, but it really affects (or screws up, depending on your point of view) one's writing style. I took a ton of philosophy classes in college--enough that I could have majored in it if I'd added a semester (or a year, I can't recall) of foreign language classes, but I saw no need (how was a philosophy degree going to help me attain my life's ambition to become the regular artist on Thor or Conan the Barbarian?).

Pretty much all I ever did in philosophy classes--I assume all anyone ever does in these classes--is read philosophy texts and then write papers defending or attacking the positions. It turns out I had a knack for this style of writing. Part of my system was to try to figure out what the opposing views to my arguments would be and refute those as I went along.

Eventually I found myself writing about Twin Peaks and Homicide and American Gothic and Buffy and Xena instead of Hegel and Kant and Augustine, but I kept the style of writing, which accounts for why the essays in Wrapped in Plastic and Spectrum were in such stark contrast to (as far as I determine) every other film/TV mag out there. (My co-writer, John Thorne, never took a philosophy class in his life but was a technical writer for Texas Instruments and had a style almost identical to mine, as luck would have it.)

The style is so natural to me that I don't even think about it when I'm doing it. I realized this when I re-read the beginning of my June 14th entry:

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."

See, there I am, bring up what seemed to me a natural counter-argument to what I had written, then responding to that counter-argument. This is all a round-about way of leading into saying that I'm going to do it again.

After reading yesterday's entry, one might say, "Let me get this straight. Your favorite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick, but you published 75 issues of a David Lynch magazine. Your favorite comics artist is Barry Windsor-Smith, but you're publishing an ongoing series about Dave Sim and his work. Isn't that a bit odd?"

Beyond the obvious marketing realities, there is, however, this fact that I didn't mention yesterday: John and I believe that Cerebus is the greatest comic book series ever.

Maybe a Cerebus newsgroup isn't the place to startle people with this idea--most of you agree, right?--but I must admit that it appears to me that this isn't some taken-for-granted fact within the comics community. More than that, Cerebus isn't thought to be in even the top ten or twenty comic book series of all time. And--trying to be objective here--I find this astonishing.

One of the reasons I contacted Dave Sim a while before the end of Cerebus to inquire about publishing Following Cerebus (which didn't have a name at that time) was because I wanted to "beat the crowd" that I assumed would be banging down his door competing for the prize assignment. I didn't have the comic book repuation of TwoMorrows or Krause or The Comics Journal or what-have-you, but maybe I could sneak in.

I'll admit that I'm not plugged in to all the online conversations, so maybe I'm completely wrong about all this. Maybe everyone knows that Cerebus ranks up there with Maus and Watchmen and The Dark Knight and whatever else is on that list. But if that's the case, where were the articles in Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek? Why isn't Dave's phone ringing off the hook with mega-paying commercial art assignments, now that he's free of the monthly comic book grind?

It just doesn't make any sense to me.

I'm not trying to be elitist or snobbish about it. I'm a mainstream comics guy. My all-time favorite comics would probably make the avant garde crowd cringe: Moore's V for Vendetta (and Watchmen and Swamp Thing and Miracleman). Miller/Mazzucchelli's "Born Again" run of Daredevil. Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X." Wolfman/Colan's Tomb of Dracula. Adams's Batman and Avengers and X-Men. Old EC comics by Al Williamson and Wally Wood. Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot. Ben Edlund's The Tick. Anything with art by Alex Ross and Bill Sienkiewicz and Adam Hughes.

Most of the people I know who are really into this kind of stuff barely know about Cerebus. But oddly, the avant garde crowd apparently barely knows about it, either.

I'm not complaining. It just strikes me as just really, really weird, and I can't figure it out. It's a puzzle to me, like why anyone cares what's happening to Paris Hilton, or why anyone cares what celebrities are wearing or whom they're dating, or why so few people in a free capitalist society educate themselves about economics, or why so few people, period, grapple seriously with tough political and theological issues.

Perhaps Cerebus and Sim are ignored because of his reputation in some circles as some sort of Neanderthal misogynist (here I go again), but I don't think so. That assumes people know Cerebus and Sim to a greater extent than they do. Most comics people that I run into wouldn't be able to tell you what the commotion over issue 186 was about if you put a gun to their heads.

It has to be something else. I have only one theory: Cerebus has no easy "entrance ramps" for new readers. You pretty much have to start with the first volume and commit yourself to the next 16 volumes. And these days, that's just way too much of a commitment for most people, especially when the earliest work looks pretty rough compared to the later work. You get all of Watchmen in one volume. You get all of Sandman in a few volumes. But Cerebus, well, that's a whole different game.

It's one-of-a-kind.



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