Anatomy of Another Commission (Part 1)

Let’s review: in 1977, a comic book fan, fan-artist, and creative fellow named David Victor Sim started an impressive project. A radical proponent of Creator’s Rights against the historical backdrop of Work-for-Hire that dominated the creative arts since, well, forever, he set out, to create and self-publish what ended up as a ca. 6000-page graphic novel, in 300 issues, which wrapped up in 2004.

This description does reasonable disservice to “Cerebus the Aardvark,” but it’s a start. Dave’s contributions to the comic book form are considerable and rock-solid.

Dave’s homegrown publishing company, Aardvark-Vanaheim, evolved over time. His eventual co-creator, an incredibly terrific draftsman named Gerhard, joined the book at issue #65 and continued through to issue #300. Dave plotted and wrote the book, and he (by and large) laid out the pages or at least the concepts. He did the finished figures (characters), the lettering, and the word balloons and other sound effects, then passed on the rest of the page, with all of the environment and context to complete, to Gerhard.

Gerhard divested himself of his interest in A-V a few years after #300 came out and now freelances.

I have been, and always will be (your friend… oh, sorry, that’s what Mr. Spock says) a strong advocate for the Cerebus series and what it represents in the history of the medium. About 2000 or so pages of the original art were sold, over the years, and I have about 10% of them. It’s pretty cool art.

“Cerebus the Aardvark” 80 p 11 (Nov 1985)
by Dave Sim (1956-) and Gerhard (1959-)
11 x 17 in, ink on Bristol Board
Coppola Collection

Dave and Gerhard (“Dave’n’Ger”) did a few commissions for me over the years while the book was still running, and just afterwards.

Since 2004, Dave has worked on a few new projects. His noteworthy memorial to the Holocaust called Judenhass is worth reading. He’s a fan of the photorealistic comic strips of the early-to-mid 20thcentury, and was working on an illustrated history of the genre (The Strange Death of Alex Raymond) when the wrist on his drawing hand started having problems.

The project stalled, and he ended up enlisting a talented young artist named Carson Grubaugh to take over the art chores, under his close scripting and layout/design. Their other project is called You Don’t Know… Jack. I’m not 100% sure I know what that one is about.

I’ve collaborated with Gerhard quite a bit since 2004, and asked him to work on a few crazy commission ideas… all of which he has pulled off beyond any reasonable expectation, and even that description is so inadequate that it is really is rather like looking up in the Sistine Chapel and saying “hey, nice ceiling… pull my finger.”

“Set a Spell” (2013)
by Gerhard (1959-) from a 1939 photo by Dorothea Lange
30 x 24, ink and watercolor on archival paper
Coppola Collection

OK, that’s the set up and all the players. I like Cerebus the Aardvark, a 6000-page graphic novel that came out in 300 issues and 16 collected volumes between 1977-2004. I collect the original art and have worked on commissions with artists (in general), perhaps more with Gerhard than any other. Dave Sim is working on The Strange Death of Alex Raymond and You Don’t Know… Jack in collaboration with Carson Grubaugh, who has replaced Dave’s wrist as the representational artist in these A-V projects.

The year 2017 was the 40th anniversary of the first appearance of Cerebus #1, and I wanted to do something to commemorate that.

Next: A Break from Reality

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