Dave Answers 6 Questons: June 2004

Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for June 2004. If you prefer, here is MS Word document with all of the answers and questions. Once again, thanks to Lenny for getting the questions organized, sent to Dave and posted!

Q1: Did you deliberately choose the name "succubus" - a female demonic figure from legend - for your soul-sucking creature from #2 or was that a "coincidence" (acknowledging that you would of course see that later as a message regarding God and YHWH)?

DAVE: I'm not sure that I even knew what a succubus was at the time. My recollection of writing that segment was having the mental image of Cerebus' head surrounded by a lattice-work of energy-draining tentacles and then having to come up with the name of whatever it was that was doing that. It's actually interesting to me that I would have chosen "succubus" as a term, rather than coining a fantasy term like G'rikkha or something. "Oh No! A G'rikkha!"

Q1 continued: Also, the female succubus Khem is hiding out in "The Eye of Terim." Terim, of course, is later depicted as the female deity. Was the later use of the name Terim deliberately linked to the earlier use?

DAVE: I can't say with 100% certainty that that was the case. As I recall, the two different spellings of Terim and Tarim were accidental at first, in the same was that I had trouble bearing in mind that Cerebus was supposed to refer to himself in the third person and would later cover for it by saying that he referred to himself as "I" when he had been around the civilized areas too long. I was covering for not remembering how to spell Tarim by making it the masculine version of the deity's name.

Q1 continued: Similarly, is the demon Female (Void) sucking the souls out of the Male warriors, who at the end when released are depicted as Lights flying off into the night an intentional direct parallel to the similar description of the Void and Light that you presented in i186?

DAVE: I went back and reread the section and it seems clear to me in retrospect that this was me unconsciously documenting what would have been, at the time, my overwhelming and all-encompassing connection to the female half of reality which resulted from my first non-familial exposure to it as a result of being in my first boyfriend/girlfriend relationship for about a year by this time.

Certainly all of the central YHWHist female realities are there: the living thing in the middle of the earth that's a bright light, the rarest jewel, blah, blah, blah. And it certainly anticipates the ultimate conclusions I came to about the devouring, ensnaring nature of the light as presented in i's289/290 (is that the plural form?) about which, in my view, men would do well to remain always and centrally vigilant if they intend to shilly-shally on the romantic borderlands or (God forbid) plunge joyously headlong,as I did,into the Alice in Wonderland environs of the members opposite.

[Relative to 186, I think it's safe to say that my best amended perception of Reality is that males and females are both light and void. That is, that masculinity is represented in the light by the Spirit of God which "went in unto the light" and the "true light which lighteth every man that commeth into the world" (John's Gospel). Femininity is represented in the light by the empty facade of radiance (un-true light, if you will). Masculinity is represented in the void by the fact that it is the medium in which God exists.

I mean, that's my best guess,that the void is universally conscious and aware for the most part across untold trillions of light years interrupted here and there by pinpricks of empty facade radiance and that the void also constitutes the space between atoms and molecules. It's all one awareness which allows for the literal definition of God as an omnipresent Being. He is literally everywhere around you and inside of you. Boo!

Femininity is represented in the void as a vaginal nature, desirous of things to ensnare and transform. That is, apart from the facade of radiance, with the seminal light there was, literally (to quote Dorothy Parker) "no 'there' there." One of the descriptions of goddess nature is "everything she touches she changes." Well, true enough. All the Spirit of God wanted was to have a co-equal existence with the light and we see what that's led to. YHWH the transformative tar baby. Enter at your own risk.]

It seems to me that I was telling myself that very basic story as well, even way back at issue 2. Notice that all Cerebus has to do is pick up the Eye of Tarim and walk in a straight line to the exit. The thing is there are no straight lines in the female half of reality. They are,physically, mentally and spiritually,all curves which lead nowhere. Fun house mirrors and roller coasters. I was surprised that no one picked up on the analogous usage of "The path suddenly drops and the aardvark stumbles�" segment and the same trick that Viktor Davis played on the reader in i183, where the path suddenly drops away and then comes back when he announces that Cerebus is going to end at issue 200 instead of 300.

In both case, the one unconscious and the other conscious,I was attempting to demonstrate (first to myself and then to the reader) what reality is like once you enter the opposing camp where everything is made up of curves that lead nowhere. On the way in, it all looks perfectly straightforward. That's the trick.

Q2: In either an early letter column or a "Swords" intro you brought up the fact that Elrod always shows up again with no explanation how he extricated himself from the impossible predicament we last saw him in was a "hint" about something important about his nature. Did you know back then they he was a manifestation of the chaos gem or were you referring to something else? (And if so, what?)

DAVE: Yes, definitely. That was what I was referring to and that was what I was trying to prepare everyone for. By i4 I was beginning to understand that if I didn't get a firm grip on all of the continuity at the beginning it was going to cause a lot of problems later on (however "later on" later on would prove to be). It was when I had Elrod give the name of his blade as a "Seersucker! That's a joke, son,but no one's going to get it for at least five thousand years!" That was just too big a break from the internal reality that I was building so I decided then and there that he had to be a rather-more-than-usually-substantial illusion.

Q3: Jaka's self-exile from Palnu: From her letter at the end of i16, it would seem that if she doesn't actually visit on occasion, she carries on a friendly correspondence with Julius. Later, in i24, Katrina relates the story from A Night at the Masque with Lord Julius as the hero, as told by her sister/Julius' niece, obviously Jaka, who must have again been talking to Julius, at least through the posts. She doesn't sound like the missing person who was the object of a 12 year search. Is this just an unintended inconsistency in the book? Was the 12-year search a ruse put on by Julius to cover up that he was, whether rapist or mere humiliator, the cause of her flight? (And if he was, why is she so chummy?)

DAVE: I've just noticed that you guys often manage to ask three questions while only using one number. Well, I apologize that this one gets pretty complicated in a hurry, but here goes:

The situation between Jaka and Lord Julius was the same as the relationship between Lord Julius and anyone. Julius stayed ahead of the game by staying ahead of everyone playing it and being the only one who knew how the whole thing fit together (that is, that it doesn't fit together, but as long as you can keep your forward momentum and treat everyone in your life as a straight man, it all works out in the end. This was my insight at the time that, at essence, conducting an effective and successful leftist government is really no different from how Groucho handles the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera).

The difficulty that this posed for Lord Julius' family and romantic relationships is obvious,it's essentially playing the female trick back onto them. Lord Julius' government, life and relationships consists entirely of curves that go nowhere. He's a fun house mirror and a roller coaster. I would assume that he had a certain affection for Jaka that was probably half genuine familial love and part Groucho "Memoirs of a Mangy Lover". Let me put it this way, if Harpo had had a gorgeous willowy blonde daughter, could you actually picture Groucho keeping his eyebrows in one place when she hit the age of majority? To kick it up a notch, in the context of political power that we're discussing it is, after all, very difficult to differentiate "uncle" and "mangy lover" if you have someone's fate in your hands as would be the case with Lord Julius and his entire family. As can be seen with the Caesars, once you start trafficking at or near the levels of absolute dominion, incest is never very far down on the list of executive privileges you're going to be tempted to allow yourself if only because you're allowed everything else. What is illicit to other people is commonplace for you and consequently not exciting, so you gradually find yourself contemplating larger and larger societal taboos. The situations are not entirely comparable, Lord Julius relative to Palnu was more comparable to Caesar Augustus than, say, Nero or Caligula relative to Rome.

As with the Caesars, proximity is all and the greatest female proximity to the apex consists in legitimized sexuality (marriage), family ties or illegitimate sexuality (the mistress). When absolute power devolves upon an individual man, the latter two categories of women are quite apt to aspire to the primary one, proximity always seeks greater proximity. Given that in any hierarchy a wife outranks a sister, a sister will be tempted to become a wife if it's on offer. This is part of the conundrum that Jaka poses. You can certainly understand a young girl being humiliated as she was on her birthday, being "mistaken" for Astoria, but presumably this didn't come out of thin air.

In one sense a practical joke, but in another sense, Lord Julius was very directly addressing a specific speculation (in a Caesar-like context) which would result from Jaka reaching a marriageable age. All part of the "keep 'em guessing" Lord Julius travelling circus. And what's her reaction? She flees to another city and becomes a tavern dancer. So, to me, at one level she's asserting her basic decency which has been offended at even the surface level of meaning and, at the same time, she's playing right along in the same way that any "woman scorned" usually does when you hit those kinds of hot buttons, she usually goes out and does something slutty (or many slutty things).

On another level she could be indicating, yes, this is what I am and then biding her time until she comes back and takes her place as "Lady Julius". I would assume that she reacted to any overt contact from anyone from Palnu by moving along to another tavern and would only respond to actual letters from Lord Julius, himself, (in her case, sent to various "general delivery" outlets). To which she would respond in what she would see as a comparable fashion to his own as possible. She is a pretty decent and guileless individual on a strictly human level, so she would only be able to address the practical joke at a certain number of levels. (given that she's a largely humourless and intrinsically easily offended individual,that is, that she is irretrievably female,this mostly consisted in being contrary and indulging in contrary behaviours: to punish Lord Julius for not being who she pictured him to be, she would repay unreliability with unreliability: promising, as an example, that she would come for a visit,repeatedly,and then not showing up when she says she is going to, as in i16. There. That'll show him. Which of course it wouldn't.

To her it's about as withering as her later "Ha-ha on you Gertrude Cirinist Poopiehead." In any tit-for-tat exchange she's largely unarmed. The larger consideration that she misses, it seems to me, is that she was implicitly inside of Lord Julius' context to a far greater extent than he was inside of hers. That is, given his greater importance in the larger Estarcion scheme of things, she was Lord Julius's niece to a far greater extent than he was Jaka's uncle. But, these are just the sort of things which feminism,actually their more refined dichotomies, Cirinism and Kevillism,causes to be seen through a glass darkly.

If you are sufficiently perverse, that is, at essence so intrinsically composed of funhouse mirrors and roller coasters, it is possible,as was the case from 1981 onward, to see the former Lady Diana Spencer as larger than the British crown, of greater significance than God's Anointed on earth that the bearer of that Crown is held to be and, as happened with Diana Spencer, feministic "All you need is love" perversions take on a life of their own and, in my view, compelled what would otherwise have been a very nice, pretty nursery school teacher elevated to Princess of the Realm to feel obligated, as part of the feminist zeitgeist in which she unhappily found herself, to contend against the British Crown in the way that a three-year-old rebels against parental authority (because women are incapable of seeing anything as being larger than themselves if they are raised in the feminist manner). The only things that have any importance in the feminist context are a) to be strong, which is to say wilful ("My way or the highway.") and b) to be independent, which is to say contentious and contrary.

The legions of perverse women which feminism had unleashed upon the world, observing these goings-on, nurtured the conflict: every daughter aligning with Diana against every mother, Queen Elizabeth. As long as it's just your mother-in-law, it had what it proved to have: wonderful soap opera potential of the beautiful stylish young girl against the miserable old bag. But this was one of God's Anointed on earth. That's a very different scrap. "Oh, pooh. No one believes that load of old bullocks anymore." Well, if that's what you choose to think, that's what you choose to think, but don't come crying to me if you find out that a good millennium worth of tradition proves to be a slightly larger counterweight to your "Oh, pooh" than you want it to be.

No, of course Jaka couldn't evade detection any more than Princess Diana could (well, somewhat more given the absence of electronic media). But, you can, and both did, create the illusion of having your own life if you're willing to force yourself to be fundamentally ignorant of reality on an on-going basis. In Princess Diana's case you have to date a Muslim to even create the illusion that you're outside of the orbit of your estranged husband. The situations are analogous. How do you stop being Lord Julius' niece? Answer: you can't. Who can you be or aspire to be in 20th century Britain if you're Prince Charles' ex-wife?

Answer: nobody. All options are well down in the pecking order. All you can do is to create either the illusion or the reality of building your own power base or just accept that you're a marginalised,instead of a central figure,in the cast of the play you were just performing in. Completely unacceptable from a feminist standpoint. So, that's essentially what happened with Jaka. Everyone kept watching her to see what sort of a power base she was going to build. Which was fine from the Cirinist and Kevillist standpoint as long as it was just her and Tom, Dick and Harry on the side of a mountain acting out all the parts she had written for them (well, except Dick,that is, Oscar). Once Cerebus moved in, it was a different situation. The self-exiled Princess of Palnu and the former Pope. It was distinctly analogous to Diana Spencer taking up with the son of an extravagantly wealthy arriviste Muslim (and it was certainly interesting keeping track of the many misadventures of Ms. Spencer even as I seemed to be pretty accurately fictionalizing them) where "what is up with that?" it seems to me, became no longer a merely soap-opera based inquiry, given that several ascending layers of reality were possibly and quite suddenly in jeopardy both from the Cirinist and Kevillist perspective (in our world, I mean) and from the vantage point of those institution(s) they were, as usual, attempting to undermine.

I mean, feminism is the real-life version of TV's Survivor. The idea is to pay lip service to pluralism, freedom and inclusiveness while ruthlessly destroying anyone who might even potentially be competition. I don't believe in the conspiracy theories about Diana's death because there were too many layers of reality "in play" that I can see. A direct line attempt to threaten to "bring down" the Anointed of God (it is noteworthy, to me anyway, that so many of those vulgar baskets and balloons and signs outside Kensington Palace asserted that "Heaven has found her Queen" and so on. Diana of the Hunt and all that Alan Moore-like rubbish that was, I think, the actual underpinning of the Diana Spencer Story as she chose, however inadvertently and naively, and to her own decided detriment in the long term,to tell it). Meanwhile, back at my funnybook and speaking of inadvertently, it's a hallmark of Jaka's actual disingenuous nature that looking slutty was probably entirely inadvertent on her part. It was just "fancy dress" in the English sense. Putting on costumes and dancing. It took Mrs. Thatcher to get her, kicking and screaming all the way, to see what a tavern dancer actually is. On another level she could never actually detach herself from Palnu and Lord Julius. Ostensibly because she loves him, but, at a deeper level, because of the extent to which being the Princess of Palnu was central to what she was.

She certainly didn't forget her diplomatic immunity or fail to make use of her status in displacing bartenders from their premises all across Estarcion. She was always the Princess of Palnu who thoroughly enjoyed playing "Just call me Jaka."

I should probably have made clearer in my earlier answer that Jaka was indeed molested as an infant but that the recollection was very deeply buried,only coming out in fever dreams, as an example. That is, my having conveyed that information, there is a part of Jaka you know more about than she does. It would actually be unlikely that Lord Julius would be the culprit. In the context of absolute political power there just wouldn't be any occasions when the Grandlord of Palnu would be left alone with his infant niece. What would even be the pretext? Of course at the Caesarian level you don't need a pretext, but it would be extremely unlikely for an Augustus,although I grant you it would be less unlikely for a Nero or a Caligula.

Q4: In the last of the Cerebus the Barbarian stories before "High Society" we have the Three (girls) killing the One (barbarian) at the door. Were (Ja)nette, (Ka)trina, and (T)heresa meant to represent Jaka's relationship with Cerebus, i.e., slaying the barbarian and "domesticating" Cerebus? Also, were they meant to be "lesser" versions of Sophia, Jaka, and Astoria, the way that the early Pos that Cerebus encountered were "lesser" Pos? Is their names spelling out "Jaka T." just a coincidence?

DAVE: I think I wrote about this in the original Swords introduction. Really, this was just my attempt to do a Clint Eastwood film because Gene Day was such a Clint Eastwood nut. I really did think that The Beguiled was the best Clint Eastwood film I had seen, (That was one of the things that I saw that separated me from Gene, a big reason that we chose different comic book careers. With slight alterations you can Do High Plains Drifter in the comic-book field month after month and make a good living. There wasn't any precedent in the comic-book field for doing something like The Beguiled even as a change of pace, let alone making a living at it.), although I could see a lot to recommend The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars. Great tone, particularly the music and Eli Wallach.

Those sort of got ruined for me when, years after the fact, I saw the fumetti parody in Playboy, "A Fistful of Ugly" or "A Fistful of Garlic" or whatever it was called, with the late Tony Randall in the Clint Eastwood role. There just wasn't enough content to the spaghetti western as form to hold up under the onslaught and besides that the chicks in the fumetti were naked. Game, set and match, Mr. MacEnroe. I thought at the time that young girls, not just their bodies, but the girls themselves, were incredibly interesting, so the idea of Cerebus trapped in a girls' school seemed really interesting as a pure mood piece and writing exercise. I was also worried that I was losing the ability to do a self-contained issue after the three-issue Palnu Trilogy, the two-issue President Weisshaupt/Captain Cockroach storyline. So, I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do a self-contained issue, as I said, a mood piece: all tone, like a spaghetti western but with humour. Of course, the problem was that the next issue he was still in the school, so the issue only appeared to be self-contained, and that became the latest instalment in a large interior discussion I was having about what I was actually doing here.

In one sense, it was all one story, a series of adventures. I was paying very close attention to exactly that sort of continuity so, no matter how you sliced it "self-contained" really had quotation marks around it by this point. I was also aware while I was doing the story that it was dishonest, that "woman as super-hero" quality which had already worn out its welcome as far as I was concerned (if I could only have seen the Diamond Previews catalogues that would be coming out twenty years from then!), which then led to my shifting gears to the opposite end of the thematic spectrum with Charles X. Claremont.

Chris Claremont was sort of notorious at the time for his "Is there any reason this character can't be a woman?" gender-interchangeability shtick. John Byrne rather dryly observed at one point, "Well, apart from the fact that it's been a male character for the last thirty five-years, no, Chris, I can't see any reason why this character couldn't be a woman." That's proven to be a whole less funny in recent years than it was at the time, now that they've done it with the Creeper. The Creeper, for crying out loud.

So I was undermining the basic theme that I started with (that a school full of girls is implicitly interesting quite apart from the sexual frisson implied. It isn't.) and also moving back into complete comic-book fantasy by way of emphasis as a way of retaining the quality of self-contained issues. Did that make "Swamp Sounds" and "This Woman, This Thing" self-contained stories? Or was it a hair-splitting difference between a woven rope and link sausages?

I decided to see it both ways, to try to make each issue self-contained and also part of a larger whole. And, of course, that implied the question of how long I could, or would choose to, sustain that narrative approach, which is why High Society starts pretty timidly with the Regency Hotel in the first issue, then Dirty Fleagle and Dirty Drew, then Mind Game II, then the Regency Elf: I was attempting the same trick, oscillating as wildly as possible when it came to the tone of each issue. But, then it became pretty pointless. Cerebus is stuck in a snobby hotel. You can dance as fast as you can and dress the set differently and light as many sparklers as you want, it's going to be pretty obvious what the book is. Cerebus is stuck in a snobby hotel.

Sorry, returning to your question: The names, actually, were adapted from Deni's two middle names, Janet Catherine and her sister Karen's middle name, Theresa. I was definitely far more interested in Karen at that point than in Deni, both in a less extreme form of the character Michael Caine played in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and in the literary context of the borderland between girl and woman. Karen would've been twenty at the time and I had known her since she was sixteen. Girls all think that they're women much sooner than they are and that was the first time I had seen it up close.

The best example I ever read of that borderland quality was reading about Paula Abdul when she was seventeen or something, and messing around with one of the married Jackson boys and I guess the wife chased her down in her car. And Paula Abdul gets out of the car and just bursts into tears. And the wife is brought up short by it, suddenly realizing this is a little girl I'm dealing with here. This isn't a woman. Too true. I could never figure out why any guy would be interested in a twenty-year-old if he could get a sixteen-year-old. I saw the movie Lola with Charles Bronson and Susan George, about a fifty-year-old man with a fiance in high school, when just looking at Susan George was enough to make my eyeballs bleed. And I thought, well, YEAH! OF COURSE! IT'S SUSAN GEORGE FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD!

However, It's one thing to see it in a movie, quite another thing to see your Achtung-Verbotten-Zis-means-you- schweinhund sister-in-law going through it. Oh, isn't that interesting. And (trust me on this one) it's a whole other thing to be going through it with a sixteen-year old of your own. Maximum distortion funhouse mirror, warp speed roller coaster.

Q5: We just noticed that the 11th printing of Cerebus includes, for the first time, the Silverspoon story (which, technically, would make the "11th printing" the "1st printing of the 2nd Edition" of that book). Why did you choose to include this story now? Have you changed your view of what constitutes the technical "complete Cerebus Novel?" Do you view that as being (a) the 300 issues; (b) the 16 phonebook volumes; (c) either of those PLUS some/all of the miscellaneous material (Swords stories/issues 51, 112/113, Likealooks, ElfGuest/Epic stories/Cerebus 3D/Cerebus Jam/the letters pages & notes from the President) or Cerebus cameos in other creators' books); and/or (d) some other combination of these or other materials?

DAVE: Um, actually, that came about because of a completely unrelated re-reading of Cerebus: this one having been initiated by Joe Matt who suggested that he and Chester Brown should re-read all of Cerebus because I was coming down to visit reasonably often and, basically, Joe's just like that. Pull out a chessboard at lunch. "Let's play chess." Uh, I'd really rather just talk, Joe. "No, let's play chess. C'mon. I'll let you be white." Most of the time you just give in because it's easier than discussing it for an hour or something. So, they both re-read Cerebus. And one of the things Chet wanted to know about was "Why aren't the Silverspoon strips reprinted in the Cerebus volume?" And I said, they are. And he said, mm, not in my copy. Really? And I went home and checked and sure enough, he was right. They weren't in there. One of those "I must've dreamed that last part" moments (apologies to Fat Freddy's Cat).

So, I made a note to put them into the next reprinting, having wrestled with whether or not to promote it as such, since that would seem like I was conniving to find a way to get everyone to buy another copy even though I was aware that a certain number of people would buy another copy. The Silverspoon strips I tend to see as being in a different category because without them Lord Julius just suddenly appears in the story with no explanation.

"Magiking" I figure can be left out because there isn't that big a leap from i12 to i13 without it. Cerebus is on a river and wakes up washed up on a bank, with only one caption indicating you might've missed something. Likewise "What Happened Between Issues 20 and 21". It's more of curiosity item if you're one of those really intense Cerebus fans. i51 and i's112/113 I still don't see sitting comfortably on the end of High Society, or the beginning and end of Church & State OR the beginning of Jaka's Story. "ElfGuest" I tend to leave out because Wendy and Richard just aren't "that way". Like just about everything else about me, they consider it an insult. I'm sure they considered it an insult when I congratulated them on their DC deal in my comp space in Diamond Previews and I'm sure they would have considered it an insult if I neglected to mention them. They seem to me to epitomize the comic-book field in that way.

All of the material that you mentioned, apart from "ElfGuest" for the reasons outlined, I picture doing in a single supplementary volume at some point. That's somewhere up ahead, as in late 2005 or early 2006. Since it will be the last "new" Cerebus volume, we obviously would like it to make its own splash if possible and not to bunch it up with The Last Day. And if the books keep selling at their usual predictable rate we're going to have to be doing a number of reprintings back-to-back through 2004 and 2005, so we'll try and schedule the book for when we catch up. Apart from that, there are a few semi-published stories, including "Passage" which only the near-fossilized Cerebus readers (I won't embarrass Steve Bolhafner by identifying anyone by name) would remember from the Cerebus Fan Club Newsletter days. Actually that was probably before Steve's time, so that makes me the only pre-crustaceous life-form that knows it was an unpublished Cerebus short story done between issues 3 and 4 and originally intended for Dave Cothrane's Faerie Star groundlevel comic (as we pre-crustaceans used to call them back in the late 70s). It only exists in the form of really, really grey photocopies (I tried "blacking in" the grey areas and gave up partway through the first page). Anyway, it's the official first appearance of Cerebus' black vest as well as not being very good. And then there's "Anatole's Solecism" (seriously, "Anatole's Solecism") which I did for Magic Eggrollian Funnies (seriously, Magic Eggrollian Funnies) which survives only in script and rough outline form. These Craig Miller will be publishing in Following Cerebus as curiosity items but they'll almost definitely not be in the Miscellaneous Cerebus volume.

I'd have to say that my personal view is that the 16-volume story stands alone now that the Silverspoon strips have been incorporated. The other pieces are either historical curiosity items or "untold stories" from between the principle graphic novels. It will be a while before all of these pieces are in print. As an example, we had tentatively planned to do a colour volume with Bob Chapman of Graphitti Designs years ago that would contain the colour stories from Epic magazine, the Animated Cerebus portfolio, various unpublished colour pieces as well as a variety of covers without the logos and typesetting and issue numbers on them. There are a couple of problems. Bob has all of the negatives for the Epic stories except, I believe, for "A Friendly Reminder". The negatives for the Animated Cerebus Portfolio were accidentally totalled at Preney which would have meant that we would have had to shoot from a printed copy. Until recently, that is, when I unearthed the original overlays and backgrounds, so it would be possible to reconstruct it probably a lot more cheaply in today's age of computer scans (the original negs were all hand-cut and stripped in by hand, unbelievably expensive and difficult).

Of course the backgrounds are kind of rough, which then raises the possibility of getting Gerhard to do new backgrounds. But, then, if Ger's going to do new backgrounds, why don't I redraw my part of the portfolio as well? And then you have people who would want the new version but also the original version, so you have to ask yourself, well, what is it that we're doing here? Reproducing an artefact or using it as a blueprint for a new piece?

A lot of the motivation in doing the Animated Cerebus was to get the animation bug out of my system. Which worked. No more bug. Given that it's out of my system, why stick to an animation format? Why not redraw them as comic strips with all the extra detail and contour you can get in there? And that's fine until you run up against the fact that it's like pulling teeth to get Gerhard and I to do one Following Cerebus cover every three months. And then there's all the covers that we have in their original form. Well, as soon as you print an assortment people are going to want all of them. You can do all of them, but what's that going to cost? And (the more important question from my standpoint) how much are you competing against yourself? If it's a hundred-dollar colour volume, a store that orders one is probably going to cut their trade paperback order by five or ten books and, to be honest, I'd much rather have the chance that ten new people were giving the story a try than that one long-time reader was oohing and aahing over the covers, the Epic stories and The Animated Cerebus. Not the most diplomatic thing to say on a website made up of long-time readers, but I'm afraid it's the way I look at it. These are the sort of circles that I go round and round on a good bit of the time.

There are so many angles and permutations that its really difficult to arrive at a conclusion. The fact that the first priority is keeping the trade paperbacks in print 1-16, I think that shows what I consider, personally, to be The Definitive Cerebus. Collected Letters 2004 is running at about 500 pages at this point, in the same format as High Society. I think Cerebus readers will "get it". At least I hope they will. It seems to fit the bill in the same way that Aardvark Comment used to close out the total monthly Cerebus package. The sixteen volumes needed something like Aardvark Comment to finish off. My own first experience with a collected letters volume was Oscar Wilde's. It seemed very strange, at first, because you're only getting the one side of the story, but, to me, it's certainly the best way of familiarizing yourself with a writer. When I did my Hemingway research, the first thing I did was to read Selected Letters, which wasn't nearly as good because of the motive in selecting the letters (Mary Hemingway wanted to discredit all versions of Papa except her own), but it was still a very good introduction to Hemingway. I actually happened on the idea of doing it myself accidentally. It seemed to me that the easiest way to answer the letters was to put them all in one "save as" computer file and just print them out one at a time as they were completed. At that point, I thought, you know if I just delete each person's address as I go and center their name over their letter in 20 pt. Type, badda-bing-badda-boom instant Collected Letters format. So, I thought, It will make for a nice little one-off volume, a quick eighty- or a hundred-page snapshot of what was going on a month after I finished, as I answered the three-year backlog of mail, leading up to Cerebus 300 coming out and then on through what response there was to issue 300.

I've just finished file No.17 of 50 pages each, so the modest little volume idea has gone by the wayside. It might turn out to be a strange enough book that it could end up becoming the Cerebus introductory volume. Here, read this. If this interests you, Cerebus will probably interest you. And for long-time readers, here's everything that was going on in my life from January 23, 2004 on. As I'm doing here, I tried (and am trying) to answer everything as exhaustively and as honestly as I could (and can), in no small part because somewhere up ahead (with sufficient cross-referencing) I may end up having answered virtually every question anyone can throw at me. This was the idea behind The Guide to Self-Publishing and it seems to me that that's worked for about seven years now: if you make sure that you answer everything in print, rather than in conversation, you can just hand someone the whole package.

A number of these letters are ten and fifteen pages long, so when I say that I'm trying to answer the questions exhaustively I mean to the metaphorical point of utter collapse in a lot of cases. As it stands I'm still answering mail close to ten or twelve hours a day so, obviously, even if there wasn't the "permissions" problem, I would never have time to input all of the mail that I'm answering, but I will certainly be encouraging those Cerebus readers who are interested to post their side of the correspondence to the Newsgroup if they're so inclined cross-referenced to the relevant page numbers.

I detect an ill-concealed lack of interest whenever I mention Collected Letters 2004. I mean, I do understand that people are hoping that I'm going to do more comics, but I have to say that the odds are not very good for a variety of reasons, foremost among them the fact that feminism is still a universal condition in the comic-book field. It would be like asking me to do an astronomy textbook for a world that still universally believes in a "flat earth". Mentally, this is always what I run up against when I consider doing a new comic-book story. I don't believe the earth is flat and, while acknowledging that belief in a flat earth is a fully protected free will choice and honestly meaning no offence, I really don't have anything to communicate to people who do believe in a flat earth beyond what I've already said. When I look at the Diamond Previews catalogue, all I see is super-heroes, soft-core pornography, paganism and Marxist-feminist propaganda, all perfectly valid free will and First Amendment protected choices but of zero interest to me.

If that changes, even incrementally, I think I'll know. But the pendulum has been swinging at top speed away from me for at least the last fifteen years and it shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. I'm very appreciative, more than I could ever express, that the store owners whose customers genuinely prefer super-heroes, soft-core pornography, paganism and Marxist-feminist propaganda are also willing to carry some or all of the Cerebus trades. I consider that a very open-minded thing to do for someone whose only claim to fame is that he's lost the Best Letterer award every time he's been up for it.

I still have high hopes that Cerebus might be a top-selling line of trade paperbacks someday. As it stands right now it seems more polite to just to stay out of the way and let the Marxist-feminists bring the comic-book field to dizzying new heights now that Dave Sim and Cerebus aren't in the way, irritating everyone and being evil. I mean, for me, this is a very comfortable situation. I don't owe anyone anything that I'm aware of, so I'm able to correspond with people who are genuinely interested in ideas. I don't have to worry about any of them. They read the book. They know who I am and they know what I think and they're actually interested in an exchange of viewpoints.

Likewise with Following Cerebus. Craig and John are big boys. They read the book and they're actually willing to attach their names to a magazine devoted to it. Not something I would have recommended personally, but, as I say, they're big boys and able to make their own decisions. And then there's the Newsgroup, the only place in the world right now which is willing to discuss my work or myself as having any sort of merit. And even that is mostly a dozen or two dozen people with 500 people listening. Can you imagine how many of those 500 people would be flat-out humiliated if anyone even suspected how often they sneak over here when no one's watching them because they feel compelled to check and see what everyone's saying on that weird website where freedom of expression actually means something besides using the word cunt nine times in the same sentence or gratuitously insulting people because you're hiding behind a pseudonym?

And personally, I think that's great.

Genuine freedom is an irresistible concept so, to me, anyone in the comic-book field who sneaks over to see what the Cerebus Yahoos are talking about, well, to me that means that there's always hope. Even so far off in the future that you can't even pretend to see it from here, hope is still hope.

As I recently wrote to Stephen Holland of Page 45, the Yahoo newsgroup is something I never would've come up with on my own or have seen a need for. Fortunately, his business partner Mark Simpson did see a need and went ahead and filled it. And here we are on the narrow swaying rope bridge between issue 300 and Following Cerebus No.1. And, having set the whole thing in motion, Stephenmand Mark don't even participate anymore. You can't beat that with a stick.

Q1 "Wildcard" Question: Cerebus' blankouts: He has them (1) while facing starvation at Petrou Pass (indeterminate length)(i260); (2) while trapped in the snowstorm with Jaka (a few seconds?) (i260); (3) when Jaka refuses to leave the tent with him (a few seconds) (i261); (4) when he's being shat upon. Blanks back in reading Morpheus. (a few months?) (i266); (5) after Mr. Gurzky decides not to kill him. (a few weeks?) (i266); (6) After wandering North, then East. (a few weeks? Months?)(i267); and (7) After his last game with Annan (a few months/years?) (i267). Why do we only see it in this short span?

Why after his last game with Anan? Are they just stress related? Or is there a deeper meaning to them?

DAVE: Well, example (1) is one kind of circumstance. (2) and (3) it's not just the starving to death (and from what I understand that's one of the conditions that attaches itself -- black-out periods). At Petrou Pass it would've been the result of having done all the sensible things you're supposed to do and then you just find out what the outer boundaries are like. Hunger that takes you to the borderland of clinical insanity with the food sitting right there that is being carefully doled out. You eat your half a biscuit and that's it for the rest of the day. With nothing else to do but sit there next to the tin of biscuits. The only area where I'm familiar with that is fasting, having resolved to fast every Sunday and, every three weeks, Sunday through Wednesday -- no food or drink from sunrise to sunset. Well, when I decided to do that it was, like, December. So I "starved" from 7:30 am to 5:30.

That's one thing. I'm now coming up on the roughest Sunday to Wednesday stretch this week, where I'm up and praying and eating breakfast at 4:30 in the morning (which is still barely pre-dawn, not the hour before dawn it's supposed to be) and that's it until the last prayer an hour after sundown -- around 10 pm. You do tend to get a) hungry and b) tired. If I eat and go straight to bed I can get five hours sleep. It is absolutely amazing how good a salad and a dinner roll taste by 10 at night. I mean, that's the other thing, you can't eat a lot. You're going straight to bed, so it's the worst kind of weight-loss program. Anything you eat just turns into fat. And, like I say, that's still not starving. That's just seventeen hours without food or water.

If, as I have heard, the purpose is to give you a clearer understanding of what it means to do without, it is a very effective learning tool. What if that salad and dinner roll weren't there? That's a thought to give you the serious heebie jeebies at 10 pm at night, believe me. And you tend not to forget to pay the zakat as a direct result. It becomes imperative to see that people don't go hungry as a central pressing concern and not as a remote intellectual idea.

Now examples (2) and (3) were just my strange sense of humour. Here she is. Jaka. This is the one you wanted. Couldn't live without. This is not like Bear or Crotch-Face or the other guys at Petrou Pass where personal honour was at stake. You could only take your share or, in addition to starving to death you're also going to die the death of a thousand black looks from your peers. No, this here is a Princess. All she knows about "hungry is "eat".

Now, whatever it is that you had in the way of experience from Petrou Pass of what the outer boundaries of hunger are like, whatever mental state you've settled yourself into for the long haul on a faint hope. Ka-bing. Gone. Princess ate all the biscuits. All the biscuits. I mean, there it was just a matter of coming completely unglued. Trying not to think about the outer boundaries and now the outer boundaries are here. That experience you hoped never again to have for the rest of your life and that you thought was days away is now right on top of you. And it's pitch dark. I mean, you're coming completely unglued and you can't see your hand in front of your face. Yes, my best guess is that someone in the situation would "go away" and "come back" a lot.

Examples (4) (5) (6) and (7)I had to extrapolate a lot there. I mean a LOT, because I have never had that thing Cerebus had with Jaka. I remember after I had severed all ties with Diana Schutz and she had set me a short story part of which consisted of the narrator describing this old couple who were in an auto accident, both covered head to toe in plaster and they were disconsolate -- DISCONSOLATE -- until they got their beds turned around so they could see each other. I mean, for me, that takes a major, major, major amount of extrapolation. What must that be like? I have to go way, way, way back to the age when you really think if you get lost in a store your parents are never going to find you. They'll just get in the car and leave and forget about you. That's really the only time in my life that I had that compelling overwhelming need for a specific person and the sense that a huge part of me would be lost if they were gone. And I assumed that it would be similar to starving to death in the dark on the side of a mountain. You would just blank out or, maybe more to the point, just stumble into these empty places where The Other used to be and disappear for a while. I never, as I say, had anything comparable to that. Deni and Gone just wasn't in the same category for me as Jaka and Gone were for Cerebus.

Clinical shock, really. Going through the motions but no conscious recognition of anything because consciousness is just too terrible to deal with.

(4) would be just complete wretchedness. You can just barely manage these short periods of consciousness by connecting with the old army days and then something very un-army-like happens. Very tentative handhold gone.

(5) was Cerebus trying to fill the blank with something else -- in this case voyeurism and Gurzky's sheep. Not really at the point of being able to connect with people (and actually more than glad not to), but the affection has been transferred to the sheep. So, again, he loses both in the same episode. No more voyeurism and the sheep are being butchered. Had a nice long run at it, but it was still a pretty tentative handhold. Pretty tentative handhold gone.

(7) was the loss of the ambition. If he could just beat Paul "Coffee" Annan, then everything would be okay. Well, he beat Annan and Annan died, again, he loses both of things that he's been using to keep himself going. Pretty tentative handhold gone. And, of course, ultimately, he's rolled all of these into one big ball called Latter Days and made them the custody of you-know-who.

That's the whole point of the story. I see that a lot in the people around me and I've had bouts of it myself. You're not actually living your life, you're enduring it and keeping track of all your hardships so that when S*H*E finally comes along, S*H*E will understand when you dump all of them on her. There are a lot of people who get married a second time so they'll have someone to take their side against their ex-wife. They're just not comfortable until they have that two-against-one thing happening and they'll do anything to get it. It's a choice, I guess.