I have a really hard time keeping up with what is going on in Cerebus world, as the Moment of Cerebus blog, multiple crowdfunders and eye-glazingly granular plans add up to a morass of details and faxes, but a recent post from Dave Sim suggests that his wrist injury is going to prevent him from drawing, possibly for a long long time.
The situation is that the right wrist is “not good”. I’m still hopeful that by resting it, somewhere up ahead, I’ll be able to do SOME of the artwork on STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND while letting Karl Stevens and Carson Grubaugh do most of the heavy lifting. In this case, “somewhere up ahead” is measured in YEARS and I have no idea HOW MANY years. I’m about four years into the research/writing side and I’d be surprised if I’m much past the halfway point. So, even at the most optimistic it will be 2021 or 2022 before I can even EXPERIMENT with drawing again. If I AM able to draw, that’s where I’m going to be doing ALL of my drawing. In practical terms? Dave Sim the CEREBUS Artist is dead. Which means however many CEREBUS pages and drawings exist, it is now a finite amount.
Sim drew an earlier, I guess, rudimentary version of the Strange Death of Alex Raymond that was published in Glamourpuss, but the one he can’t draw is the real, extended play version.
But in case you didn’t pick up on it, he’s bringing on artists to fill in on the work. One is Karl Stevens, the well regarded cartoonist behind The Lodger, Failure and many other comics. Stevens does draw in a photorealistic style and….
Wait let me back up a little. Alex Raymond was a comic strip artist of some renown who created Flash Gordon and drew Rip Kirby and some other strips in a lush, pen and inky style that was considered photorealistic back in the day. He was killed in a car crash in 1956 at age 46, driving fellow cartoonist Stan Drake’s Corvette. Drake survived the crash but some believe that Raymond was suicidal at the time of the accident. A strange death indeed.
Sim has been working on a comic about Raymond that “investigates the history of photorealism in comics.” As we mentioned above some of this was serialized in Glamourpuss, and IDW has signed on to publish the whole thing, should it ever be finished.
In a post earlier this year, Sim explained some of his problems with working on the strip besides his health issues.
There is bridging material that’s required from when SDOAR was going to be individual comic books and there were individual covers and inside front covers. The story was designed to start on the Inside Front Cover with credits and the IDW indicia incorporated. Ted Adams decided late in the day that it should be a trade paperback instead. Well, you can’t take four individual comic books and print them AS a trade paperback without raising questions. Did these comic books ever come out? No. Why are they drawn this way if it’s a graphic novel?
So, to cover for that, I came up with two- and three-page bridging sequences between the “issues”. Basically the idea was that I would go down to Toronto with mock-ups of SDOAR #1 and take pictures of Pete Dixon at PARADISE COMICS working late at night. And he looks down and sees SDOAR #1 next to his computer and picks it up and looks at it and then that segues into the SDOAR #1 cover.
In this day and age no one cares if the issues were published at all, but Sim is very detail oriented. GRANULAR, I told you.
Anyway, further in the post he mentions that Stevens became involved in the project and since he does drew in a very photorealistic style, perhaps this was the artist for the parts Sim can’t draw.
Editorial aside: “photorealism” has different meanings in 1956 and 2016, as the use of computers makes this something anyone can do. Stevens has his own powerful style, but it’s not exactly the inky wash of the Foster/Raymond/Williamson era.
And indeed, after doing a test, Stevens had his own thing going on:
I just got Karl’s first page-and-a-half in today and the initial, short answer is: No, he can’t do Al Williamson. Not yet, anyway, although he is studying downloaded Williamson artwork from Heritage Auctions (peak SECRET AGENT X-9) and I did send him four Winsor-Newton Series Seven Number 2 brushes and he’s pretty good with them.
But, no, we’re going to have to Let Karl Be Karl while trying to incorporate elements of Williamson.
MEANWHILE, another artist, one Carson Grubaugh, who teaches drawing at Modesto Junior College, and does the occasional VERY odd comic, is also involved in drawing SDOAR, and he just posted some samples! Grubaugh made photo mockup layouts (below) which Sim then approved with notes.
Where does all of this stand now? I’m not entirely sure. Sim has about $30k in advances from IDW which he’s concerned about paying back if he can’t finish SDOAR, and to that end he has a Patreon going on.
There’s also the problematic matter of Sim’s ongoing worldview, one seen as anti gay, anti woman.
If all this is confusing, IDW recently put out Dave Sim’s Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury, a very handsome collection of the amazing cover work by Sim and Gerhard. Maybe just enjoy the art and stop thinking about all this other stuff.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.