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Monday, March 01, 2004

 


Dave Sim -- I first started reading Cerebus in its first two or three years, when Sim was casting off his Conan/BWS influence and beginning to explore a deeper sociopolitical sphere, reaching creatively but always staying funny no matter how complex the series became. Over time I lost touch with comics -- pretty much all of them -- including Cerebus. Nearly three decades later, Sim is just days away from fulfilling his promised 300 issue goal, and Sim has become a polarizing force among comics readers, some of whom continue to love Sim's work, others who are disturbed or angered by his outspoken, iconoclastic views on sex, politics and religion. I had a hard time trying to come up with Five Questions to sum up a very complex creator and his three decades in funnybooks, but he was extremely cooperative and I think his answers represent him well.

In just a few weeks the goal you've worked toward for decades -- 300 issues of Cerebus -- will be realized. As you look back over your time spent creating this landmark series, what do you think were your biggest creative successes in the series, and was there anything you wish you had conveyed better or differently to the reader?

I'm not sure that I had any creative success in the series. The biggest potential creative success, I think, will be the integration of large blocks of text into a comic book story. Certainly Steve Gerber pioneered the use of text with his "Dreaded Deadline Doom" issue of Howard the Duck, but that was really a replacement for formal comic book pages, not an integration with them. Personally, I'm not sure if it's a success or a failure. A lot would depend on how much you think a creative work has to have a pleasing effect the first time through. I think it takes a number of readings of Jaka's Story to come to the conclusion that it functions as a coherent unit. The first time through the text is just off-putting, an impediment when what you want to do is read the actual comics.

The biggest success I could hope for is to have made a place for large, self-contained graphic novels in the comic book medium, as opposed to open-ended, iconic, trademark-based creativity. No sequels, no prequels. Beginning, middle and end.

What was the biggest challenge you faced over the course of the 300 issues, and what would you say was the prime creative engine that kept you moving forward?

The biggest challenge was resisting the lure of conventional life -- marriage, children, family, friends and other frivolous diversions -- and to basically live my life on paper for the better part of twenty-six years. Fornication was the most problematic. I traded a lot for the fornications I participated in. The prime creative engine -- at least until I discovered God -- was the awareness that anything less than actually finishing the 300 issues would make the book a failure. Literally, "300 or Bust."

Two of the best interviews I've ever read were the ones you did with Chester Brown recently, and the one you did with Alan Moore a few years ago in regard to From Hell. What did you take away from those and similar experiences, and how important do you think it is for cartoonists to discuss creative and other issues with each other?

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the dialogues with Alan and Chester that much. I found that extended, exhaustive, on-paper communication helps reinforce what a marvelous tapestry human experience is. When someone else shapes as exact a description of their own beliefs and ideas as Alan and Chester are -- it helps you define your own beliefs more clearly and to avoid the generalized "I don't know where you're wrong, but I disagree with you" which seems the universal lowest common denominator in a world gone mad with political correctness.

I think it's important for the sorts of cartoonists for whom thinking is an important part of life. Thinking is very much out of favour in our society, so it isn't just a matter of cartoonists, I don't think. I think the vast majority of cartoonists and people in general would "strongly agree or somewhat strongly agree" (as the pollsters put it) with the view, "It is a bad thing to think too much." Needless to say, I strongly disagree. I hope I've given aid, comfort and reinforcement to the minority viewpoint which, I think, is going to be under seige for some time to come. We don't want to pass a law forcing people to think, but we do hold rigorously to our opinion that thinking is a good thing and that you can never have too much of it.

Your views on the differences between males and females has certainly had an impact on the way people perceive both you and your work. How would you say the rather public development of your philosophies impacted Cerebus, and yourself?

How my views on gender relationships impacted Cerebus and myself is impossible to say, because I don't have a "control group" Cerebus and Dave Sim who went through the entire 300 issues without once raising gender issues. That hypothetical Cerebus and Dave Sim might have been wildly successful or they might have long ago vanished into obscurity. In the former case, I have made a terrible, life-diminishing error in judgment in addressing gender issues in my work. In the latter case, I have saved myself from the yawning face of the abyss in addressing gender issues in my work. I'll just have to see how it all hatches out and try to preserve Cerebus as best I can.

What would you say the most important thing individuals should realize/study/discover in order to make peace with and live more ideally with themselves, humanity, and God?

The five pillars of Islam: Acknowledgment of God's sovereignty everywhere and over everyone and over all things, giving alms to the poor until it hurts and then giving some more, praying five times a day, fasting on a regular basis and in the sacred month of Ramadan, and (if the United States and other freedom-loving people are able to overturn the corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia in our lifetimes) making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once if you can afford it.

I can vouch for the efficacy of the first four of those five.

My thanks to Dave Sim for taking the time to answer the Five Questions, and congratulations on reaching his 300-issue milestone.

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