Peter David Interview

Originally published in January 2000. I have to give Peter David credit. Around this time there was a big Peter David vs. Erik Larsen war that was being fought both online and within Erik’s Savage Dragon and Peter’s Incredible Hulk titles. I was firmly on the Erik Larsen side and on occasion gave Peter a hard time. Still, I very much enjoyed his run on the Hulk (specifically the Dale Keown/Gary Frank years), Spider-Man 2099 and Young Justice, so I wanted to interview him. I suspected when I sent him the request he would (deservedly) blow me off. Instead he accepted and he’s always been really nice to me in person whenever we’ve met at conventions.

 

An Interview With Peter David

 
If you have been reading Marvel or DC Comics you probably know who Peter David is. If you read Star Trek and other sci-fi books, pay attention to who writes certain TV shows, movies, cartoons, etc.. you also probably know who Peter David is. He is all over the place with his written work and has gained a fan following and an alt.fan newsgroup devoted to him. Today he talks to us about the comic titles he writes and his other media work.
 

Peter David at 2010 C2E2

Jamie: Will the first year of Captain Marvel stories be earth bound or more in space?

Peter David: A balance of both. I think I’ve actually hit upon a way to do a combination of adventures that is going to be rather unique. Most of the time when you’re dealing with a character who is earthbound but with space roots, it’s an either/or proposition. And while you’re busy doing one, people crab that you’re not doing the other. I’ll actually be doing both: Earthbound activities and visits to far off worlds.

 

Jamie: Why is Moondragon in the Captain Marvel series? Was there a particular reason you chose her?

Peter David: I wanted someone with no sense of humor to play against Rick Jones and Genis.

 

Jamie: What villains will be popping up in Captain Marvel? Any chance that Thanos will appear?

Peter David: I’d have liked to use Thanos, but he’s just finishing with an extended stay in Thor. I think if he immediately jumps over to Captain Marvel, it’d be overdoing it. Wendigo is in issue #2, then Drax shows up and his appearance winds up triggering an unexpected series of events. The Hyssta will be back, the Surfer will probably be showing up, as will Starfox. Possibly Terrax. Probably Comet Man, who hasn’t been seen for a while. And Super Skrull would be kinda cool.

 

Jamie: What’s happening with Dark Horse’s SpyBoy? It got very little publicity.

Peter David: Actually, Dark Horse has been promoting the hell out of it. It’s been heavily publicized in the Diamond Catalogue, in CBG. They did a big push for it at San Diego with promotional material, and there’s a website. The problem is that retailers have given it little-to-no support, which is somewhat annoying. Here on the one hand I’ve got fans always saying I should branch out, work for publishers other than Marvel and DC, try characters off the beaten track. And then the retailers order bare minimum. They don’t order it as they would, say, “Young Justice.” They order it like a low-end Dark Horse book.

 

Jamie: We don’t hear too much about your own independent title, Soulsearchers and Co. What is going on with that?

Peter David: Claypool Press doesn’t exactly have a huge promotional budget. Look at your own questions: Dark Horse has been promoting the heck out of Spyboy, and you say it gets no publicity. So here’s Claypool which doesn’t even have Dark Horse’s resources, even though ads run for them regularly in CBG. Trying to get the attention of fans and retailers is a full time job. In terms of the book itself, we’re getting up to issue #40. It really kills me: Fans say to me, “Write a humorous book for a small indy publisher, something you have total control of.” And I say, “Soulsearchers and Company. Been doing it for about seven years now.” And they say, “What’s that?” Retailers swear we don’t exist.

 

Jamie: You would think that Captain Marvel Jr. would fit in perfectly with Young Justice. Why is he not on the team?

Peter David: Too much stylistic overlap with Superboy. But he will become an integral part of the book, at least for a little while.

 

Jamie: Will there be any line up changes in Young Justice after the Arrowettte story is over?

Peter David: Mebbe.

 

Jamie: You’ve mentioned that you have a major Supergirl story arc coming up with issues #45 to 50. Can you give us any information on it?

Peter David: Matters with Carnivean are going to come to a head, leading to confrontations between the three Earth Angels, and a showdown between Carnivean and God with most unexpected results.

 

Jamie: You also let it known publicly that this story could be used for a major company event. Has there been any development on that yet?

Peter David: No, and I haven’t been pressing it. I’m still shellshocked after “Sins of Youth.” If I’m just able to go ahead and tell my story and be left alone, I’ll be a happy camper.

 

Jamie: I have to wonder, was the decision to turn Supergirl into an angel an attempt to get some religious comic readers to try out the title?

Peter David: No, it was an attempt to give the book a unique and different tone and feel.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on keeping Supergirl an Angel for the rest of your run?

Peter David: That would be telling.

 

Jamie: Are you at all worried about Supergirl’s future with the Siegel’s Superman and all related characters copyright ownership legal situation?

Peter David: I try not to worry about things over which I have absolutely no influence whatsoever.

 

Jamie: What is your opinion on the Copyright Termination going on with the Siegel’s and now Joe Simon?

Peter David: Well, I figure writers have little enough protection. If the law is designed in a way that they’re able to use it legitimately to their advantage, go right ahead.

 

Jamie: When the Image founders put out a press release talking about ‘Holding Back’ their better characters for creative controlled work you blasted them. Now that this seems to be happening all over again but with a new set of big name creators, do you still feel the same way?

Peter David: I didn’t blast them for “Holding Back” their better characters for creative controlled work. I blasted them for putting out a press release so badly written that any reasonable reading of it made them look like complete assholes. I also said that friends and business made a volatile mix, and that they should either hire or appointment someone to be the single spokesman. In the subsequent months and years, Image (a) admitted that the press release was not well worded, (b) forced out founding members, and (c) hired a single spokesman. In other words, everything I said was true…but oooo, I “blasted Image.” Gimme a break. As for Gorilla, shock of shocks, their publicity statements and press releases have been flawless. So what’s to complain about?

 

Jamie: Is there any chance you will join Gorilla/Image with your own creator owned series sometime down the line?

Peter David: I have my standards. I would have strict requirements for joining Gorilla. First, they’d have to ask me to join. Second…uhm. No, that’s pretty much it. But they haven’t asked. Never heard boo from them, actually. I figure they probably feel that the last thing they need when launching a new imprint is to have some loudmouth schmuck as a loose cannon associated with them.

 

Jamie: With all your writing in comics and other media you must be a very busy man. How long does it take you to write an issue and how do you write it?

Peter David: Most of the time, Marvel style. Takes a few hours to write a plot. A few more to write the dialogue.

 

Jamie: Your writing often uses many popular media references/jokes. Do you think they’ll ever be a time where the audience won’t find that stuff funny anymore?

Peter David: I don’t necessarily use it for humorous effect. I use popular media references to give the stories–which frequently have a very unreal feel to them–some degree of reality. As for jokes, I don’t think it’s necessarily that what I write is funny. It’s just that so many other books have little-to-no humor in them that my stuff is a contrast. I don’t say that to knock other writers: Whatever works for them, more power to them. But there’s plenty of funny lines and situations in, say, the average “Spenser” novel. No one says, “Whoa, do your read those hilarious Spenser books?” The average Indiana Jones movie has tons of hysterical bits occurring at even the most serious of moments. People don’t consider those comedic. But throw a few gags into a comic and people think the whole book is humorous. Usually I use gags to set up something serious. Hopefully that will never go out of style.

 

Jamie: Something you wrote must be coming out soon. Any comic titles, books, TV shows, movies, etc.. you can tell us about?

Peter David: More New Frontier books, the three books in the Centauri Prime trilogy. A short film that Bill Mumy and I are working on. Berkley Books is rereleasing the Psi-Man books under my own name in the genre of SF, which is how the damned things should have been released in the first place. That should be enough to keep folks happy.

 

Marc Fleury Interview

Originally published in June 1999. Most of my interviews had been with well known creators and editors. I learned of a local creator self publishing a comic and thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective. Marc provided that with hard numbers and harsh reality. To my knowledge, only 2 issues of his comic came out and nothing else after it.

 

An Interview With Marc Fleury
Marc Fleury is a familiar name for those of you who read the rec.arts.comics newsgroups. He recently started self-publish an all ages comic series called John & Cori. Marc was kind enough to tell us the nitty gritty details about both his comic book and self publishing.

 

Jamie: For those that don’t know, explain what your book John & Cori to us.

Marc Fleury: Well, let’s see. It’s a humor / adventure comic along the lines of classic Warner Brothers animation. It’s suitable for all ages, but a lot of the gags will go right over a kid’s head. It’s a little like Tintin meets Calvin and Hobbes. Or maybe the Monty Python version of Muppet Babies.

 

Jamie: I noticed in John & Cori #1, you added a prose story, and games for kids (colouring page and spot the difference panels). Why?

Marc Fleury: The target audience for the comic, really, is me. And I enjoy stuff like that. I think that there are a few people out there who have roughly the same interests and senses of humor as I do, so producing a book that *I* would enjoy seems like a reasonable idea.

The prose stories add a little more substance to the book, and the games are just for fun. I tried to make the games a little more interesting than those you see in, say, Archie, because those are pretty boring for us older “kids.” So John & Cori #1 has a game for kids, and a game for experienced puzzle solvers as well. (Nobody has solved the hard one, which is pretty much what I expected.)

 

Jamie: When did you meet up with artist Giorgio Giunta and what propelled the both of you to do your own comic book?

Marc Fleury: The series existed in my mind first. I was interested in publishing a comic, and this one seemed like a fun book to do, so I started looking around for artists. Giorgio was one of the people to send in samples. He had a style that worked well with the ideas I had for the book, and he is very dependable, so I signed him up for it.

 

Jamie: Will you be making John & Cori TPB’s?

Marc Fleury: The short answer is yes. The long answer is . . . I’m not sure that it’s possible to produce John & Cori at a profitable level in the direct market. I have a number of ideas for the future of the series, but most of them involve spreading outside of comic book stores. Right now, it looks like I’m going to repackage it as a children’s book. It will still be a comic, but squarebound, and distributed through stores instead of comic shops. The market is much bigger, and the interest in this kind of material, I think, is much higher.

So, yes, I’ll be doing trade paperbacks, but they won’t be collected editions (they’ll be originals) and they will mostly sell outside of the Direct Market.

 

Jamie: John & Cori is a very kid friendly comic, why did you opt to this instead of more mainstream type comics.

Marc Fleury: It’s just one of my interests. At any moment, I have a number of projects in development. At the time that I decided to take the plunge into publishing, John & Cori was the series I was most deeply into developing.

It seemed like a good idea, because the book was different than everything else out there I figured that I could fit into a niche that nobody else was taking. Unfortunately, it seems like the current comic book market is too small for such a strategy. The reason that those niches are unfilled is that the people who are interested in that material simply don’t read comics.

It’s a bit of a vicious circle. There aren’t enough all-ages comics being published. Those that do start up don’t sell very well, because not many kids buy comics anymore. And those kids don’t buy comics because there’s nothing being published that interests them.

 

Jamie: Will Abdo Entertainment be doing other titles? If so can you tell us about them?

Marc Fleury: Yep. One advantage is that I have many interests, so if something doesn’t work out, I have tons of stuff to fall back on. There’s a comic called On The Lamb that will be coming out through Abdo next year. It’s another odd little book, this time aimed at a slightly older audience — teens and up. It’s about Jesus. If Jesus was a teenager today. It’s a comedy.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on getting another artist for your other titles or will Giorgio be able to do them?

Marc Fleury: I’ll be working with others. I enjoy seeing my writing transformed by various artists, and I’d like to work with as many artists as possible. On The Lamb, though, will be illustrated by me. I used to write and draw a comic strip for a local entertainment magazine, and I’ve really missed that. So I decided it’s time to go back and draw my own stuff. I was just waiting for the right project — I can’t draw very well, so it has to be something where the humor carries the comic. I figure that I can draw as well as Sam Henderson or Matt Groening.

 

Jamie: What are your long term plans for Abdo Entertainment? Do you plan to build it up into a full fledged publishing company or are you hoping to make a reputation as a writer and get work in corporate comics.

Marc Fleury: Both. I’m still working and developing stuff for other publishers. And I also plan (in the long term) to publish the work of others through Abdo. If James Kochalka told me he had a comic for me, I’d publish it.

The company is more than just for publishing comics, though. That’s why it’s Abdo Entertainment and not Abdo Comics. I’m developing a store on the web, I have my Writing for Comics column, my brother and I are making short films (we won some dinky award at some dinky film festival last year), and there’s a bunch of other stuff that it’s too early to talk about. Basically, Abdo Entertainment is the company I set up to deal with all the entertainment-related, hopefully-profit-making stuff that I do. Right now, the main business it publishing John & Cori, but it’s growing.

 

Jamie: Where did you go to find out how to self publish a comic book?

Marc Fleury: Dave Sim’s columns started me off. I asked a few questions on the comics-pro mailing list. I got a book called How To Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony Caputo.

Actually, it’s pretty easy stuff. There’s not enough to fill a whole book, which is why Caputo’s book has a lot of information that most self-publishers will never use. Everything you need to know is on the web, and anything that’s not clear can be cleared up by asking about it in a relevant forum (the comicon.com boards, the rec.arts.comics.misc newsgroup, or one of the mailing lists for comics creators).

 

Jamie: With the comic market is the shape that it is, why did you decide to do a comic book at all?

Marc Fleury: I’m insane.

Actually, I think this is a very exciting time for comics. I’m glad to be working in the industry right now, because the *real* mainstream is on the rise — comics designed to appeal to the general population. It’s going to take a lot of work, and even more sweat, but I think that the medium will come out of its funk in a few years. I’m thrilled to be a part of the transformation of the industry.

 

Jamie: I understand you had some difficulty getting Diamond Comics to distribute it. Can you tell us about that?

Marc Fleury: Oy. Way back in July of 1998, I printed up thousands of copies of John & Cori #0 — an 8-page promo comic — and mailed them out to hundreds of retailers. In big letters on the back cover, it says “Issue 1 comes out in OCTOBER from ABDO Entertainment”. At the same time, I sent out the solicitations to Diamond.

A little while later, I hear back from Diamond. They aren’t interested in carrying the book. I was stunned, and rather crushed. Not only were they saying that my work wasn’t good enough, but I had just wasted a couple of grand promoting a book that would, essentially, be unavailable to most retailers.

I then recontacted all the retailers that I had originally mailed out the promos to, and told them they could order from Abdo directly.

A few months go by, and then I get a call back from Diamond. It seems that they passed the book on to their retailer review board, and the retailers said they *did* want to carry the book. So Diamond was calling back to change their mind — they’d carry John & Cori after all. They ran it as a February release. Four months after I had announced it would come out. I have no doubt that the low orders on #1 are related to that delay. The retailers that I had contacted were told that the book was coming out in October, but Diamond forced me to ship the book 4 months later.

 

Jamie: I know you are using FM International to distribute John & Cori, how much does smaller distributors help overall sales?

Marc Fleury: For me, a lot. I did an informal survey of some other publishers, and sales through FMI are about 5-8% of those through Diamond. For John & Cori #1, FMI’s order was 35% of the size of Diamond’s. I’m selling seven times more comics than I should be through FMI. It doesn’t make sense. Until you take into account the screw-up with the initial release date through Diamond. It’s not that I’m selling seven times more than I should be through FMI, it’s that I’m selling seven times LESS than I should be through Diamond. I’m certain that, had Diamond been able to see the quality in John & Cori that their retailer review board obviously did, then they would have carried the book when it was first solicited, and the sales would have been seven times what they are now.

Now I have to scramble to bring up the sales before Diamond drops the book for selling poorly.

 

Jamie: You have made a webpage that gives previews and ordering info for your comic. I’ve always wondered how much does that help?

Marc Fleury: Although I have information posted on how to order direct, the real hope for the site is to give people a taste of the book, and then they can order it through their store. Unfortunately, I don’t have any real way to measure the site’s success on that level.

 

Jamie: Promotion and buzz is very important to getting retailers and readers to try your comic. What did you do to try and get the word out about your book?

Marc Fleury: I sent out those promo copies, which turned out to be a disaster. Although, I still think it’s a good way to get the word out (and I got a lot of positive feedback from that issue. I know that some people ordered #1 on the strength of the promo issue). I wish I had made sure that Diamond was carrying the book before printing up all those promotional copies.

Other than that, I try to mention it in relevant discussions on the internet. I would have liked to get out to some conventions, but it’ll have to wait until next year.

 

Jamie: Can you give us an idea of how much it costs to self publish a comic book and where those costs come in?

Marc Fleury: Printing is the big thing. You can shop around, but the best deal I found was Preney, in Windsor Ontario. The paper isn’t great, but I’ve never much cared about that. And they printed my #1 for 50 cents a copy, which includes shipping and taxes. (Those are Canadian cents for you Americans. About 35 cents US at the current exchange rate.)

Setting up your business is pretty cheap. Hiring the talent can be expensive, but if you want to avoid that cost, either draw it all yourself or agree that people only get paid if the book turns a profit. (Put it in writing, so that everyone is clear about what is being agreed to.)

 

Jamie: Can you also give us an idea of how much money one could expect to make by self publishing, and how that money comes in through distribution?

Marc Fleury: You sell the book to Diamond for 40% of the cover price. A $2.95 cover price pulls in $1.18 when you sell it to the distributor. If you figure that it costs a bare minimum of $1000 for 2000 copies after you add in all the incidentals, you see you need to sell 850 copies to make back your investment. Unfortunately, in this market, that’s not necessarily easy.

 

Jamie: What do you think is the biggest barrier in the comic industry for selling indy comics?

Marc Fleury: Retailers are afraid to try new products because they’re non-returnable.

 

Jamie: If you had to do this all over again what would you do differently?

Marc Fleury: A bunch of stuff. Luckily, I *am* doing it all over again, with my next series. I’ll be fixing the problems that have plagued my first attempt.

1) I’ll build the audience for the book before it gets released, by running a strip on the web for a few months.

2) I’ll make sure my distribution deals are in place before sending promo material and

3) I’ll cut down on my costs by drawing it myself.

 

Jamie: Has publishing your own comic changed your opinions about the comic industry?

Marc Fleury: It’s easier to publish a book than I thought it was, but it’s harder to make money at it than I thought it was.

 

Jamie: What advice can you give to people thinking about self publishing?

Marc Fleury: Ask yourself this: Is the publishing part as important to you as the creating part? If designing letters pages and indices, dealing with distributors and retailers, promoting your work and yourself, and handling orders and balancing the books doesn’t give you as much pleasure as writing and drawing comics, then self-publishing probably isn’t for you. You have to be both a creator and an entrepreneur.

That, and make sure you have at least $10,000 to risk.

Click here to learn more about JOHN & CORI [link disabled as it’s no longer active]

 

Joe Kelly Interview

Originally published November 1998. Huh, apparently I could occasionally be decent at asking questions to get to the heart of a controversy regarding writers leaving titles. Of course it helps when your interviewee is willing to talk about that stuff and thankfully Joe Kelly was. At this point Joe was mainly known as a comedy writer for his great work on Deadpool. Now that he’s done a variety of more serious/normal comic work he doesn’t gives such jokey answers to interview questions anymore.

 

An Interview with Joe Kelly

The most wild and zany writer on the block has come to Collector Times. Joe Kelly (after some whip cracking) gave us this wonderful interview about Deadpool, the X-men fiasco, and other neeto stuff. Read on!

 

Jamie: How do you keep coming up with the gags for Deadpool?

Joe Kelly: I have vast library of demented childhood experiences to draw from, and a closet full of lines I SHOULD have said when some jerk put me down in High School, both of which serve me well on Deadpool. Also, I watched way too much TV as both a child and an adult, so I STEAL STEAL STEAL from my favorite shows!

I’m not a well boy.

 

Jamie: Are you reminded of the CCA by your editor when writing Deadpool? Does the CCA force you to cut or tone down some things?

Joe Kelly: Absolutely, Matt does a very good job of reminding me that there is a code to be followed, and when I’ve pushed a border unnecessarily. However, we’re not slaves to the code, either. If we have a really good reason to push the limits, he lets he go for it. As a general rule, we don’t need to break the code. There’s plenty of latitude within it, if you’re clever and a little naughty.

 

Jamie: After reading the Deadpool/Death annual, I wonder if you had a crush on Death when you were young?

Joe Kelly: Nope. I’ve always been fascinated by the Death visual- The hood, the bones, scary! However, I’ve never had a crush on death, nor do I support Death as a recreational activity in any of her many forms.

 

Jamie: Will Thanos be angry at Deadpool for his relationship with Death?

Joe Kelly: I hope so! makes for a cool story, no?

 

Jamie: How long before Deadpool breaks away from the “saviour” storyline and starts interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe?

Joe Kelly: JANUARY! The DEAD RECKONING story arc ends in December, and then Deadpool has a lot of issues to face in the rest of the MU.

 

Jamie: When will we see T-Ray and Typhoid Mary again?

Joe Kelly: We’ll definitely see T-Ray in 1999. As to Typhoid, I’m not so sure… Maybe next year too, but probably not in the same capacity.

 

Jamie: What’s the current status of Deadpool? Heard any news, good or bad?

Joe Kelly: As of this writing, Deadpool’s sales are actually UP, and we are NOT being canceled! Yay! I have no idea how long this reprieve is going to last, but we’ll make the most of it.

 

Jamie: What do you think about John Byrne’s retconing the Concentration Camp out of Magneto past?

Joe Kelly: I honestly don’t have an opinion on that.

 

Jamie: Rumor is you and Seagle quit the X-books because of the editors. Is this true?

Joe Kelly: It was a variety of reasons. To put it concisely, The editors had a certain vision about the X-Men and the way they should be written. We had a different vision. As a result, the final product fell somewhere in the middle, and therefore short for both sides. We left because we didn’t want to do half-baked work.

 

Jamie: What exactly did the editors do to you and Seagle that drove you off?

Joe Kelly: Like I said, it wasn’t so much a matter of what they did to us, It was more a matter of us not clicking as a group. This, coupled with the fact that everyone at Marvel is concerned about losing their job right now, causes people to make bad choices. This got frustrating, so we all agreed it was time for a break. I DO NOT HATE ANYONE IN THE X-OFFICE! Just wanted to make that clear.

 

Jamie: What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak?

Joe Kelly: Steve and I were told that we weren’t going to be involved in the long term planning and outlining of the next story arc, but were still expected to write the issues based on someone else’s template. If that had always been the case, if we were “dayplayers” on the X-Men from the beginning, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, in light of the events leading up to it, it was obvious this was a last ditch attempt to try and “fix”” something that was way too broken, so we left. That being said, I’d also like to clear up another internet rumor- I DO NOT HATE ALAN DAVIS!!! People have been paraphrasing things that Steve and I said in Australia, and putting it in direct quotes. I have nothing against Alan, and wish him all the best on the X-Men.

 

Jamie: Is the problem the same all across Marvel or is just with the X-books?

Joe Kelly: The X-Men is Marvel’s number one franchise, so naturally there is more scrutiny on those books than some of the others.

 

Jamie: Which X-characters did you enjoy writing the most?

Joe Kelly: Marrow, Maggott, Doc, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, and Beast.

 

Jamie: Do you prefer to write team books or individual titles?

Joe Kelly: Team books is hard!!! I’d like to try another team book, but not as big as the X-men. Maybe three characters, or four.

 

Jamie: If you had the chance to write for DC, what characters or titles would you choose?

Joe Kelly: Hmmm… That’s a toughie. I’m partial to Green Lantern, maybe Batman, The Phantom Stranger, Martian Manhunter, and the Spectre.

 

Jamie: Writing wise, who are your influences?

Joe Kelly: Kafka, a bunch of screenwriters including Richard LaGravenese, Terry Gilliam, Robin Williams, Frank Miller, Surrealistic playwriting.

 

Jamie: How exactly do you write your comics? How much detail do you give the penciler?

Joe Kelly: I tend to put in a lot of description, but with the intent that it can all be thrown out so long as a) The storytelling comes across, and b) the artist comes up with a cooler way to show something. My scripts are almost full script style, but only because I’m trained as a screenwriter, and that’s more comfortable to me.

 

Jamie: Outside of writing comics, what do you do with your time?

Joe Kelly: Take care of my new house, my new wife, and plan for my soon to be new baby. I do a lot of work around the home, play videogames, read comics, ride my mountain bike. Sometimes, I pretend to be a cop and shake down druggies for needles, which I then make into sculptures of the Eiffel tower.

 

Jamie: What kind of music do you listen to? Who are your favorite bands/singers?

Joe Kelly: I listen to everything. At the moment, I’m into lounge music, but I listen to Nirvana, Sublime, the Doors, Jazz, Punk, PJ, Billie Holiday… Everything!

 

Jamie: What advice can you give to writers trying to get work at Marvel Comics?

Joe Kelly: BE PERSISTENT, BUT NOT ANNOYING. Right now, the entire industry is shrinking. It’s going to be very difficult for new writers to get in the front door at Marvel. So what folks should do is a) Attack smaller companies and try to build a name for themselves, b) Send in Springboards and 1 page story ideas to editors with a SASE for feedback, but without expectations, and c) try to self-publish, so that they can send in a finished product to be read over a script. Write every day, and try to get a job that will support you while you try to hammer your way into Marvel. That way, if the industry collapses, you can give me a job!

 

Chris Eliopoulos Interview

This is one of my earliest interviews and it’s with Chris Eliopoulos. It was published in April of 1998. This interview focuses on a comic strip / comic book that Chris was working on called Desperate Times which I really enjoyed at the time, but it gets a bit into lettering as well.

 

Chris Eliopoulos Interview

Chris Eliopoulos.. Do you recognize the name somewhere, but not quite sure where? He’s the LETTERER! You’ll find his name inside many big name comic books. Right now he works on Green Lantern and Savage Dragon (hmm.. a Green fetish? whats next, the Hulk and Martain Manhunter?!?). But forget all that. He’s now doing his own funny book called Desperate Times. No that wasn’t a crack, it truly is a funny book. Full of laugh your arse off comic strips that he’s been doing in the back of Savage Dragon. But enough of the introduction.. let Chris tell you about it.

 

Jamie: Why did you start Desperate Times?

Chris Eliopoulos: I’ve always wanted to do a comic strip. I was telling Erik that one day and he suggested I do one in the back of Savage Dragon.

 

Jamie: What is it about?

Chris Eliopoulos: Basically, it’s about two guys recently out of college, living in an apartment. One guy is cynical and the other a nice guy who is too shy. Marty(the cynic) looks down on everything while Toad is just trying to meet a nice girl. There are other characters as well as time goes on.

 

Jamie: Will it be a running story strip like Doonsbury or just one strip gags like Garfield?

Chris Eliopoulos: I like to do a running storyline with humorous endings. So, each strip can be self-contained but can be read on the whole and still, hopefully, get a laugh.

 

Jamie: Be honest, are you the main character?

Chris Eliopoulos: Marty is definitely me. I’ve gotten quite cynical. Toad is based on a friend of mine from college–he looks like him, but he is the more thoughtful me from years ago. I always read interviews with creators saying their characters are other people, but also themselves and now I see what they mean.

 

Jamie: Are all the gags completely made up or did they happen in real life?

Chris Eliopoulos: Most of the storylines are based on things that have happened to me or things I’ve experienced, but it usually just gets my mind working and I play with the ideas until I get something funny.

 

Jamie: Have you ever tried to do comic strips professionally before?

Chris Eliopoulos: I’ve tried sending out samples to Syndicates, but I was always trying to give them a very homogenous, unoffending strips. Now that I’m working on DT, I don’t try to cater to people or not do something because I’m afraid of what people think. I do it for me. I’ve also done cartoons here and there in other comic books.

 

Jamie: What are your favorite comic strips?

Chris Eliopoulos: My all-time favorite is Bloom County. Great characters with an edge. Calvin and Hobbes was great. I try to enjoy Krazy Kat, but it’s kind of like Picasso–you know it’s great, but you have to work at it to enjoy. FoxTrot is good, For better or worse is a very nice strip, but sometimes gets too sickly sweet for me. It’s the cynic in me.

 

Jamie: Now that you have a monthly book full of Desperate Times, will you continue to do strips in the back of Savage Dragon?

Chris Eliopoulos: We’ll see if it’s a regular book. I’m going to put it out every other month if sales are good enough, if not Image will pull the plug. I plan on doing the strips in back of SD as long as Erik will have me. who knows, maybe if the book sells, I can do another strip in the back of Dragon.

 

Jamie: Do you want to do any crossovers with other comic books or strips?

Chris Eliopoulos: I don’t think my stuff lends itself to crossovers with many comic books, but there will be a slight crossover with Savage Dragon’s main story in issue #48. As for other comic strips, I’d like to see Marty bump uglies with Cathy.

 

Jamie: When will Desperate Times come out and how much is it?

Chris Eliopoulos: The first issue will be out in June with a $2.95 cover price.

 

Jamie: Do you think you will try other strips in the future?

Chris Eliopoulos: Like I said earlier, I may if the circumstance presents itself.

 

Jamie: Okay, now on to lettering. We always hear how artists like Jack Kirby and such are inspirations. Who do letterers get their inspiration from?

Chris Eliopoulos: Like everyone else, I never paid much attention to lettering, but I picked up on it later. Jim Novak, Mike Heisler, Ken Lopez, Phil Felix, Tom Orzechowski, Bill Oakley among others I think are great hand-letterers.

 

Jamie: How many books can you letter a month?

Chris Eliopoulos: Depends month-to-month. When Image first started I was doing something like 23 books a month. I’ve cut down a bit over the years to save my sanity. Now I do between 5 to 10 a month.

 

Jamie: Do you letter by hand or are you using computers and special fonts now?

Chris Eliopoulos: Both.

 

Jamie: What do you think of the computer lettering and special fonts?

Chris Eliopoulos: The process is good in that it saves time, but you have to be careful not to overwhelm the art by having every bell and whistle blaring. Lettering should be very subtle and not take away from the stars of the book–the art and writing.

 

Jamie: Do you have to fix spelling mistakes all the time?

Chris Eliopoulos: All the time–it’s a wonder that some writers can be call writers since they can’t spell a word.

 

Jamie: Who gets blamed when spelling mistakes gets through, you or the editor?

Chris Eliopoulos: The editor is ultimately responsible, but they also have proofreaders and others who check the book, but even so mistakes get through.

 

Jamie: Anything else you want to say?

Chris Eliopoulos: I just hope everyone gets a kick out of my stuff!

 

Dave Sim Interview

This interview was originally published in July, 2007. With Dave the first thing many people think about is his controversial views. I read his writing in issue #186 and his Tangents series as well. I must admit, when I first thought about interviewing Dave I had envision getting him in room and going after him like a pissed off Mike Wallace on crack over those views.

But then I met him and discovered that in person Dave was extremely nice and courteous. He also had a “spider sense” for when somebody was taking a picture of him and he would turn and smile for the camera, even while he was in conversation with others. At TCAF 2005 I saw Dave squinting at a map looking for his table as he had a signing to go to. It was in another area that I had already been to so I offered to walk him over. Later on that convention was the first Doug Wright Awards, I showed up early as did Dave and he struck up a conversation with me. They had examples of Doug’s work on the walls and we looked at them with Dave describing what was great about Doug’s work. 

At another convention a female friend of mine wanted to get a sketch from Dave but was a apprehensions about meeting him for obvious reasons. I volunteered to get the sketch on her behalf and she stood line with me until we got close to Dave and then she left. She liked Dave’s work but didn’t want to have a bad experience meeting him. When I got to Dave he asked what I wanted and I said Cerebus and Jaka. He said he would only sketch 1 character and I chose Jaka.  Dave did the sketch, looked over to Gerhard who was still working on backgrounds on Dave’s sketches and then did a quick Cerebus sketch too. Both Gerhard and Dave noticed my friend who left the line. Gerhard left his table to have a talk with her and Dave told me later on he almost did this too, but he had a long line of fans wanting sketches.

I don’t think I could go as far as to say Dave and I were friends, but we were friendly to each other. I also didn’t have the heart to go after him regarding his views anymore, even though I disagreed with them. I also had doubts that Dave would allow/agree to that type of interview either as he had his rules. Instead I proposed doing an “introduction” type interview for comic readers who were online, but didn’t read much in the way of comic magazines. I was once one of those type of comic readers. That said, I did learn about his short stay in a psychiatric facility. I had heard other creators reference this but it was good to get the story from him. It was also interesting to get his story about DC’s attempt to buy Cerebus from him, with actual dollar figures and why he turned it down.

I should probably also say that it was once believed that Gene Day died because of how Marvel treated him. I’m friends with one of Gene’s brothers (they live about a half hour from me) and I was told while Marvel’s treatment didn’t help, Gene’s family has a history of heart problems and Gene put his love of work and greasy burgers over his own well being.

After this interview was done, Dave took all the typed questions, attempted to burn them on a CD and then mailed said CD with a sketch on it. Sadly, the burn did not go right, but Dave tried again and got it right the 2nd time. This wasn’t really necessary but Dave wanted to learn how to do it.

Dave Sim Interview

Dave Sim is the creator of Cerebus. He began self publishing the comic book in the late 70’s, promised to do 300 issues of the book and did so. It’s a feat few see anybody else repeating. Along the way he selflessly taught people how to self publish their own comic books, helping many to realize their dream of publishing their creations. A few of those self publishers managed to get rich or get better paying work afterwards. With this interview we talk about Dave’s start with comics, Cerebus, the help and difficulties he encountered along the way, what’s he doing now and a lot more.

Note: This interview was done via fax machine. Dave normally only allows interviews to be 5 questions, but let me ask him 20. So an extra thank you goes out to Dave for allowing the extra questions and for being a great interviewee.

 

Jamie: Assuming you read comics as a boy, which ones did you read regularly?

Dave Sim: I read the Mort Weisinger-edited Superman line of comic books, Superman, Action, World’s Finest, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, later branching out into the rest of the DC line and then Marvel Comics, Warren and then undergrounds by the time I was fifteen or sixteen.

 

Jamie: I take it you were a big fan of Conan during the 70’s?

Dave Sim: No, I wasn’t really a big fan of Conan in the 70s. I had read all of the Robert E. Howard material once and then-reading the lesser L. Sprague DeCamp knock-offs that came later-swiftly lost interest. I really should go back and find the Howard material at some time and re-read it. I would pick up the occasional issue of Conan if I liked what Barry Smith was doing on it-such as the “Frost Giant’s Daughter” issue that reprinted the black & white strip or the two-part “Red Nails” story as it originally appeared in Savage Tales magazine, but early on-with Dan Adkins and Sal Buscema inking-it just looked like a really bad Marvel comic to me. By that time I was starting to draw on my own, so a comic needed to have something more to it in order to get me excited creatively or make me want to swipe the style of the artist. Barry inking himself definitely had that effect on me. Barry inked by others definitely didn’t have that effect on me and most of his work at Marvel was inked by very incompatible talents.

 

Jamie: If you didn’t like Conan, why did you create Cerebus to be a parody of it?

Dave Sim: The decision to do Cerebus was based on my insight that what had made Howard the Duck successful was the “funny animal in the world of humans” motif whereas everyone doing work for Quack! (my intended market) was doing all funny animal strips. Since Howard had modern-day sown up that, to me, left the possibility of a science fiction “funny animal in the world of humans” or a sword ‘n’ sorcery “funny animal in the world of humans”. Science fiction required drawing a lot of straight edges and learning how to use French curves properly, so that left only one possibility. Coincidentally I had the unused mascot for Deni’s fanzine and I did a sample page for Mike Friedrich which turned out to be the splash page of issue 1. The fact that it was successful was a very hard lesson in what happens when you do something because you think it’s commercially viable rather than being what you want to do. I was stuck going through the checklist of sword ‘n’ sorcery clichés and was quickly running out of them.

 

Jamie: Considering Cerebus started off as something you believed would be commercially viable, if you were able to go back and re-do your comic career all over again what would you do differently?

Dave Sim: I’m afraid that one of my core beliefs is to never traffic in the hypothetical which I suspect is one of the reasons that it was possible to finish Cerebus. If you make a choice and then live with the consequences of that choice you are always moving forward. If you make a choice and then spend all of your time trying to assess the different choices you might have made and the possible outcomes of those hypothetical choices, then you just end up spending your life treading water and getting very little done. I conducted my comic-book career the way that I conducted it and it ended up the way that it ended up. I only see what happened, not what might have happened.

 

Jamie: How did you meet Gene Day?

Dave Sim: I met Gene Day in the summer of 1974. We had started corresponding in the fall of 1973 after John Balge and I had interviewed Augustine Funnel for Comic Art News & Reviews. Gus had started writing for Al Hewetson’s Skywald magazines and told us about his roommate, Gene Day, and that we should talk to him about doing some work for CANAR and that I should ask about doing some work for Gene’s Dark Fantasy. I had already arranged a bus trip up to see my aunt and uncle in Ottawa so I decided to make a side trip to Gananoque on the way and stay over for a couple of days. It ended up being the first of many such trips.

 

Jamie: I’ve always heard he was your mentor. What exactly did Gene do for you?

Dave Sim: Gene really showed me that success in a creative field is a matter of hard work and productivity and persistence. I had done a handful of strips and illustrations at that point mostly for various fanzines but I wasn’t very productive. I would do a strip or an illustration and send it off to a potential market and then wait to find out if they were going to use it before doing anything else. Or I’d wait for someone to write to me and ask me to draw something. Gene was producing artwork every day and putting it out in the mail and when it came back he’d send it out to someone else. He would draw work for money and then do work on spec if the paying markets dried up. He kept trying at places where he had been rejected. He did strips, cartoons, caricatures, covers, spot illos, anything that he might get paid for. He gave drawing lessons and produced his own fanzines. It was easy to see the difference, to see why he was a success and I was a failure. It was in the fall of 1975 that I bought a calendar and started filling the squares with whatever it was that I had produced that day and worked to put together months-long streaks where I produced work every day. The net result was that I started to get more paying work and a year later I was able to move out of my parents’ house into my own one-room apartment/studio downtown. I doubt that would ever have happened without Gene’s influence.

 

Jamie: Gene died an early death. Can you tell me about Gene sleeping at Marvel’s office to fulfill a deadline and the health problems that stemmed from that?

Dave Sim: Yes, Gene died at the age of 31 from a heart attack. He had been working for Marvel for several years at that point. He started as an inker which was the thing that he was the fastest at, so he built up a really good reputation as a guy who could turn a late job around in a hurry. He was so fast, the people at Marvel were convinced that he had a whole studio of Gene Day clones working night and day, but it was just him. When I’d go and visit him, he’d have piles of 11×17 photocopies of the jobs he had done-he traded his weekly Cap’n Riverrat cartoon to the local weekly newspaper, The Gananoque Reporter for free photocopying.

When Mike Zeck left Master of Kung Fu to work on Captain America, Marvel was left without a penciller for the title and the editor persuaded Gene to step in which instantly cut his revenue by a substantial amount-he was a much slower penciller than he was an inker. He also ran afoul of then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter’s strict rules about storytelling-that you needed to do the basic six panels to a page method with occasional lapses if you had a good reason for it. Gene, of course was a major fan of Jim Steranko-style storytelling which was exactly what Jim Shooter was opposed to and they locked horns over the subject many times with Gene doing continuous backgrounds in his panel-to-panel continuity (one large background on the page with the action taking place in individual panels set against the one background). Shooter would tell him not to do it and Gene would do it, finally doing I think a five-page sequence that was all one background. At the same time he was doing outside assignments at Marvel including a story for one of the black-and-white magazines (I think it was) which Gene was supposed to pencil and ink.

The deadline got moved up or something and they told Gene on the phone that they were going to have the story “gang inked” over a few days. This was something that Marvel did pretty regularly in the 70s to keep books on schedule. They’d get five or six guys to sit in the bullpen and ink a job to get it done faster. As you would expect, the results were usually horrible. One of P. Craig Russell’s first jobs for Marvel was part of a gang-inking on an issue of Barry’s Conan. For the longest time, my impression of the story was that they had phoned Gene and wanted him to come down and ink the job and that Gene had done so out of loyalty to Marvel even taking the train to Manhattan because he was afraid to fly. It was years later that his brother Dan mentioned to me that what Gene was concerned about was doing as much of the inking himself as he could to keep the job from being a total abomination. The more I think about that, the more it explains what happened. Gene showed up at Marvel and they gave him the address of the hotel he would be staying at. He went there and the place was covered in cockroaches so Gene went back to Marvel and asked to be put up in a better hotel. Nothing fancy, just a place without cockroaches. That was when Tom DeFalco gave him the choice of the roach-infested hotel or sleeping on the couch in Marvel’s reception area. Gene chose the latter, not realizing that they turned the heat off in the building overnight (this was in the dead of winter). So he slept there with his coat pulled over him and developed as a result a kidney infection which stuck with him the rest of his life.

In retrospect, I think the problem Marvel had was that they had no policy for the situation. They had found their solution, they were going to get the job gang-inked. When Gene insisted on coming down to work on it, it just didn’t make sense to them editorially to pay for a hotel room for him given what that was going to add to their costs on the story. For Gene, it was an obvious plus-by coming down and working on the story it would be that much better looking than it would be being inked by whoever happened to be around at the time. But, how the job looked wasn’t as big a priority for Marvel as having the job done. What to Gene looked like a sensible improvement solution looked to Marvel like a needless expense and intrusion by a troublemaker. The same could be said of Gene locking horns with Jim Shooter. To Gene, he was trying to make the book better and more interesting. To Shooter he was making it unreadable and therefore uncommercial.

On Gene’s side of the argument, sales were up on Master of Kung Fu-it had always been a marginal title since Paul Gulacy had left, on the verge of cancellation and now it was turning into a fan favourite again. On Jim Shooter’s side of the argument, good nuts-and-bolts six-panels-to-the-page storytelling always sold better in the long run for Marvel. John Buscema’s Conan outsold Barry Smith’s by a wide margin, as an example. Eventually Shooter fired Gene and I think that, as much as anything, killed Gene Day. His heart and soul were at Marvel Comics. His lifelong dream was to work in the House that Jack Built. Of course, what he failed to see was that working in the House that Jack Built even became an untenable prospect for Jack. And, of course, interviewing as many professionals as I had in my fanzine days, I had a much clearer idea of what Marvel and DC were actually like and just how ruthless the editors could be when the situation seemed to call for ruthlessness (which, as they saw it, it usually did). I knew that in a lot of ways the worst thing you could bring to the table as a freelancer was unwavering company loyalty. For many of the editors at the time, that was just inviting them to rip your heart out. Which, to me, is exactly what Gene did. And exactly what Marvel did.

Dave Sim – 2007 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Jamie: Prior to Cerebus you did work for other comics. What happened that made you want to self publish instead?

Dave Sim: That was a combination of things. Everyone that I did work for I was either a minor guy on their roster and so didn’t get the attention that I thought I needed or I was a major guy on their roster only because they were too small to get anywhere. They’d announce that the new issue would be out in July and then write you in August saying they hope to get it out by November. There was a sense of time slipping away while I waiting for everyone to get to the project that I was in. Gene was more interested in getting Dark Fantasy out than Hellhound, his proposed comics title. And then he acquired the rights to do an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Pigeons from Hell and I knew that was going to push Hellhound even further back. I had printed samples in Quack and Oktoberfest Comics and Phantacea No.1 which I had drawn from someone else’s script, colour covers with black & white interiors and what I figured I needed was a few more samples like that where it was all or mostly my work inside the book. So that was why I decided to do three issues of Cerebus, do it bi-monthly and make sure it came out on time, keep the price the same, keep the format the same, keep the logo the same, have a letters page, keep it to twenty-two pages-basically do all the things right that I thought the other guys were doing wrong and if I fell on my face, well fine, I’d fall on my face and I’d stop complaining about what a lousy job everyone else was doing and just go back to doing it their way. But, at least I’d have three issues of my own comic book to put with Oktoberfest Comics and Phantacea so that editors could see what I was capable of. And as it turned out I was right. To this day, I try to emphasize how important it is to come out on time and everyone just ignores me. They want to know the secret to self-publishing but they don’t want that secret. That secret just sounds like a lot of hard work. Which it is.

 

Jamie: I understand you worked for Harry Kremer at Now and Again Books, in what years did you do that?

Dave Sim: I worked for Harry beginning December 1st of 1976 when he opened up the downstairs at 103 Queen St. S. which is across the street from where Now & Then Book is now. The hours were 10 am to 9 pm Thursday and Friday and 10 am to 6 pm Saturday and for that I got a grand total of $75 a month. It was all Harry could afford. And I rented my one-room apartment at 379 Queen St. S. for $120 a month which meant that I had to make $45 a month from drawing and writing just to keep a roof over my head. I had about $1,000 in the bank from selling Harry my comic-book collection to help buy some time, but it was definitely sink or swim. As it turns out it was sink, swim or move in with your girlfriend which Deni and I did in April of 1977 so I only had to come up with half of the rent which I think still worked out to about $120 a month.

 

Jamie: How did Harry help with Cerebus?

Dave Sim: Harry helped in a lot of ways with Cerebus. For starters, he was running the comic-book store that I was living in (it was really my first home, my parents house was just where I slept and stored my comic books) when the direct market started and he was stocking new comic books as well as back issues, new comic books which included ground level titles like Star*Reach which showed me that there was room on the shelves next to Marvel and DC. Then he agreed to publish Oktoberfest Comics in 1976. Through that experience, I found out roughly what it cost to do a black-and-white comic on newsprint with a colour cover and realized that it was a lot more affordable with the new high-speed web offset presses than I had suspected which started me thinking about doing one of my own. And before the first issue was published, he agreed to take 500 copies which, when you consider that our two distributors-Jim Friel of Big Rapids Distribution and Phil Seuling of Sea Gate Distributors-were taking 500 and 1,000 copies respectively tells you what a great vote of confidence and commitment that was from a single comic book store. And then he would also buy artwork from time to time. He bought the complete issue 4 for $220, $10 a page. It may not sound like much, but it definitely paid for a lot of Kraft Dinners which Deni and I pretty much lived on for months at a time. We had our ups and downs over the years-he got seriously offended when I started charging $100 a page U.S. He liked my artwork but he really didn’t think it belonged in that price range. But there’s no question that Cerebus couldn’t have made it through the first few years without his help and, particularly, without the existence of Now & Then Books. Today (6 June 05) would have been his fifty-ninth birthday if he had lived.

 

Jamie: Is it true that Cerebus was supposed to be titled Cerberus? If so, how did it change?

Dave Sim: What happened was that Deni-before I knew her-had decided to put out a fanzine modeled on Gene Day’s Dark Fantasy. When I met her, in December of 1976, that was what she had come into the store to find out-would Harry be willing to carry copies of her fanzine if she published it? I volunteered to help and wrote down my name which she recognized from the work I had had published in Dark Fantasy. The name she had come up with for her fanzine was Cerebus. So I did a logo for her, the one that was on the first forty-nine issues and told her she really should have a name for her publishing company in the same way that Dark Fantasy was published by Gene Day’s House of Shadows. Her sister came up with Aardvark Press and her brother came up with Vanaheim Press, so I put them together and made it Aardvark-Vanaheim Press. And then I drew a cartoon aardvark with a sword as a mascot. At that point someone realized that the name of the magazine was misspelled. What she had intended to call the magazine was Cerberus, the name of the three-headed dog in Greek mythology who guarded Hades. So I suggested that we just say that Cerebus was the name of the cartoon mascot. The printer in California ran off with the originals and the money for the first issue, so the fanzine never did come out. And that was when I started thinking about my own “funny animal in the world of humans” for Quack! so I decided to draw a sample page of Cerebus the cartoon mascot in my best Barry Windsor-Smith style (see question 6 above).

 

Jamie: Somebody made counterfeit copies of Cerebus #1. Can you tell us the difference between the two so the online buyers won’t be fooled?

Dave Sim: The easiest way to distinguish the real Cerebus No.1 from the counterfeit is that the inside covers are glossy black on the counterfeit and a flat black on the real ones. The next easiest way is that if you look at the areas of solid black on pages 9, 10 and 11, they look “dusty”. That’s because the counterfeit was shot from a printed copy where there was already a slightly speckled quality because it was printed on cheap newsprint, so when that slightly speckled quality was photographed, the-now doubled-slightly speckled quality ended up looking like a fine layer of dust over the entire page because there is so much solid black on those three pages.

 

Jamie: Did you ever discover who made the counterfeits?

Dave Sim: I have my suspicions as to who did the counterfeit but, no, the FBI never managed to catch the guys who were selling them-the “mules” folded their operation as soon as word started to spread-and therefore there was no route to anyone who was behind the scam. I certainly wasn’t about to accuse anyone publicly without evidence to support it but, yes, I’m pretty sure I knew who did it.

 

Jamie: I hear that after issue #11 you over-worked yourself into a nervous breakdown. What were you doing at the time?

Dave Sim: Twenty-six years later on, I think it would be more accurate to say that I had achieved a false level of transcendence that I had been looking to achieve through LSD-the psychic equivalent of a massive and pleasurable electric shock-that left me incapable of reassuring my wife (within her own very limited frames of reference) that I was okay: with the result that she freaked out at one point and called my mother and she and my mother locked me up in a psych ward at the local hospital for a couple of days.

 

Jamie: How did you recover from a nervous breakdown and continue on?

Dave Sim: There really wasn’t anything to “recover” from. I had gone through the false transcendent state and come out the other side. The only thing I really needed to recover from was the massive doses of depressants they had given me in the psych ward. That took two or three days during which all of my muscles and motor functions were seriously malfunctioning-it felt as if I had pulled every muscle in my body so that just speaking and walking required Herculean forces of will in order to achieve. Essentially, at that point-never again wanting to experience that severe crippling effect-I began to live two different lives simultaneously. I learned how to portray myself as a normal person in order to keep my wife and parents from locking me up in any more psych wards while at the same time I began to explore all of the thoughts and experiences that I had had over the period of the false transcendent state and began to work towards putting them all down on paper in the Cerebus storyline. When I realized, a month or two later, how large and difficult a task that was going to be, I decided to make Cerebus into a 300-issue project in order to encompass it all and leave room for my own best assessment of the aftermath. The documentation of the state itself went from about issue 20 to about issue 186. I was able to stop leading my double life once I was divorced in 1983 and I no longer had the on-going threat hanging over my head that my freedom depended on my wife and mother believing me to be sane.

 

Jamie: How did you meet Gerhard?

Dave Sim: I had heard a great deal about Gerhard because he was the “golden boy” of his high school clique, one of whose members was Deni’s high-school aged sister, Karen. He was the chief set designer and star of a high-school production “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and also an illustrator and the high-school clique was his major support group. They collectively believed in him and his prodigious abilities to the same extent to which he didn’t believe in himself: which is to say thoroughly and completely. At one point the high-school clique was having a Halloween party and Karen, Deni’s sister, and Bob her boyfriend and later husband came by the apartment to smoke a joint with Gerhard and his (then) girlfriend Laurel. So far as we know that was how I met Gerhard. It would’ve been Halloween of 1981 or 1982.

 

Jamie: I’m surprised more artists don’t try and pair up with somebody to help out with backgrounds. Why do you think you and Gerhard have worked so well together for the past 20 years?

Dave Sim: I’m surprised, as well, that more artists don’t pair up with background artists. The history of the comic-book field is filled with things that worked really well that no one else ever attempted. Look at Will Eisner’s The Spirit-what a great idea to do a comic-book supplement for newspapers and yet no one ever tried it again. It’s certainly something that I would recommend. I suspect fine arts courses and architectural schools are filled with guys who just have a love of drawing still-life’s, which is all that backgrounds are. Of course Gerhard grew to hate pen-and-ink drawing which had been one of his abiding passions when he had to do the volume of drawing required, so you won’t be seeing him recommending it as a career choice anytime soon. But, yes, I do think that guys who love writing and lettering and drawing people should look around for guys who like to draw inanimate objects. Mutual tolerance would, I think, best describe how the collaboration worked and how it continues to work. If I really needed something to go in the background, I’d be specific with Gerhard but if not, I let him do whatever he thought would look best. I always got my own best results by doing what I thought was best and always got second-rate results when someone was telling me what to do, so it just seemed natural to me to treat Gerhard the same way. If you want the best results let the guy call his own shots.

 

Jamie: I recently read that DC made an offer to buy Cerebus from you at one point. When did that happen and how much did they offer?

Dave Sim: Those negotiations took place over the course of 1985 to 1988, I think it was. Ultimately they offered $100,000 and 10% of all licensing and merchandising and that I would be allowed to keep doing the monthly black-and-white and Swords of Cerebus on my own. In the middle of the negotiations I came up with the idea of the High Society trade paperback and selling it direct to the readers which brought in $150,000 in the space of a few weeks and made their offer look kind of puny by comparison. What I wanted to develop was a Superman contract-a contract that would have been fair to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster-where DC could pick the revenue thresholds, but at some point we would split all revenues 50-50 just as is done with syndicated comic strips. No go. They made a final offer to give me the whole $100,000 all at once or half now and half later on which, to me, completely missed the point. You start with a dollar amount and negotiate upward, you don’t say “You can put it all in your right front pocket or you can put half in your right front pocket and half in your back pocket.” When I realized that Paul Levitz wasn’t going to budge, I packed it in.

 

Jamie: Now that Cerebus is done are you more open to selling it?

Dave Sim: No, not really. The difficult part is done now-actually writing and drawing the 6,000 pages so it’s more like it’s nice that the book still keeps us busy, me with answering the mail and Ger doing the business side and renovating the house and both of us working on Following Cerebus and developing a website for selling the artwork and putting together a First Half package of the first six volumes in a boxed set for Christmas, 2006. If we sold it we’d just have a pile of money and nothing to do. I really like being one of the two Cerebus custodians. Part of the fun of sculpting a statue over twenty-six years is spending the rest of your life washing the pigeon droppings off of it every day.

 

[Note: Following Cerebus is a magazine that Dave and Gerhard work on. You can find more info about it here: http://spectrummagazines.bizland.com/]

 

Jamie: I understand that since Cerebus ended, you are now organizing your archives and this will likely take another few years. What do you plan to do with your archives when you are done?

Dave Sim: Actually I have a lot of help from the Cerebus Newsgroup readers at Yahoo.com who are working out all the computer technicalities and Margaret Liss of the www.cerebusfangirl.com website who has started scanning in all of my notebooks. After that it will be all of my comics material starting with my first fanzine in 1970 through until the present day, all of the paperwork and correspondence, interviews, reviews, etc. in chronological order. As she scans that, she’ll be “key-wording” each document so that it can be indexed for content and you’ll be able to type in, say, “Kevin Eastman” and it will call up every document that mentions him. The idea is to arrive at a point where that becomes the primary research resource for Cerebus. Someone wanting to do an interview like this, I can just go through and check off the questions that they can find answers to in the Cerebus Archive so that I don’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over and over. Basically the same thing that I did with the Guide to Self-Publishing where I went out and promoted self-publishing through the Spirits of Independence stops for a couple of years and then wrote down everything I had been telling people and now I can just give them a copy of the Guide to Self-Publishing if they come to me for advice. I almost never get asked about self-publishing anymore for that reason.