Dave Answers 6 Questons: July 2004
Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for July 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!
HIGH SOCIETY: JULY QUESTIONS from the CEREBUS YAHOO GROUP
Q1. What caused the split of the Church of Tarim into Western and Eastern divisions?
DAVE: I’m afraid I never got very far with that. As I recall, it centered on whether or not Tarim had incarnated on earth in the form of the coin-maker—the coin that drew other coins to it and began to form a sphere when Cerebus picked it up. One of the churches believed that Tarim was a deity and the other church believed Tarim was a deity and an earthly incarnation. The Illusionist innovation was to decide that there was Tarim as deity and when Tarim incarnated as a human being he called himself Suenteus Po and wanted everyone who followed him to call themselves Seuenteus Po. That’s my rough recollection of the high-altitude mapping. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really thought that I could fit the history of several worlds into 6,000 pages and, over the course of High Society and Church & State found out exactly how little you could get into 500 and 1200 pages respectively. My initial ambition was to tell the story of Iest pretty thoroughly over the course of High Society and then do a companion volume that would tell the history of Serrea and the Sepran Empire (this might be a good place to point out that Serrea was a typo/misreading on my part of Michael Loubert’s microscopic pencil lettering. The first “r” was supposed to be a “p” and was intended to be the more natural-sounding “Seprea” as the capital of the Sepran Empire) for which Astoria’s assassination of the Lion of Serrea would serve as a spiritual/thematic link. As you can see the assassination itself became about the deepest I was able to delve into the Sepran Empire. The entire Cerebus storyline became Iest-centered because of the space constraints. Michael Loubert was (and I assume still is) a great enthusiast of history and had excited my interest with his knowledge of the various schisms which had taken place in Christianity in general and the Catholic church in particular and the varying reasons behind them. So way, way back I had envisioned Cerebus as a kind of religio-political Tale of Two Cities. There’s a residue of this to the story, but just a residue.
Q2. Please clarify the Exodus Inward.
DAVE: Oh, heavens. I haven’t thought about the Exodus Inward in twenty years. Well, first of all it’s an oxymoron and at the same time it might not be an oxymoron. You have to go out to come in. It’s also a good ass-covering term for any kind of escapism. At the time, like a lot of guys in their twenties and thirties I really thought that drug abuse was a means of accessing other layers of consciousness and all that rot. Exodus Inward is a good way of describing it if you don’t like to think of yourself as smoking your brains out for no good purpose. Under the influence of the writings of people like Robert Anton Wilson and Aleister Crowley and Tim Leary and that whole crew it becomes very easy to perceive of yourself as being part of an historical trend and tradition and to envision yourself as having a core societal presence rather than having intentionally shuffled yourself off to the margins. Mental masturbation for those people for whom physical masturbation just isn’t enough. Those human beings whose lifestyle most closely resembles laboratory rats with electrodes hooked up to their brain’s pleasure centers.
Q2: What caused it?
DAVE: See, I had extrapolated from that construct—that drug abuse was a means of accessing larger inner awarenesses and higher states of consciousness—that history was the result of a series of interventions by individuals along the lines of the Merry Pranksters who would—at opportune moments—introduce concepts like the Exodus Inward, in this case by burrowing within the Church. A good analogy would be the Galileo fiasco. Had the Church had a mechanism in place (went my theory) to essentially retreat into itself in a universal state of mortal embarrassment, all aspects of its behaviour in the Galileo case—most particularly the extent to which they attempted to suppress the self-evident truth and the length of time it took them to admit they were wrong—would have certainly fit the bill. Of course, what I misunderstood is that people like the Merry Pranksters get pushed to and also choose to gravitate to the margins. A Robert Anton Wilson or an Aleister Crowley or a Tim Leary is never going to “burrow within” anything except easily duped young women. There was a kind of grandiose conceit to it, that as a drug abuser I was capable of viewing my own interior in an unflinching fashion which would cause societal structures founded upon lies to collapse under their own weight, if they attempted the same thing. Of course what I missed was that I was looking inward only hypothetically and not literally. Had I been looking inward in a literal way, the most obvious question would be “Why am I smoking, snucking and snorting all of these drugs? This is like washing your windshield with mud so you can see better. What is my concept here?” And, of course, I misunderstood the nature of a church which is incapable, structurally, of retreating inward. The whole point of a church is the improvement of itself, its congregation, its society and its future. Like so many people I misconstrued what I took to be Pope John Paul II’s disinterest in doing a bong hit as being an inability to see how necessary it is to examine himself inwardly. At the same time there is a glimmering of value that was entirely accidental. In order to extricate yourself from an unsolvable problem, it is well worth going inside yourself to try to figure out what the problem actually is. It took me years to figure out that it works best when you eliminate all of the things that you’ve convinced yourself you need that you’ve grafted onto yourself over the years. If you’re still smoking pot, looking inward is only going to tell you that you really want to roll a joint. If you’re still drinking beer, looking inward is only going to tell you that you’d really like a beer. And of course, once you’ve eliminated all or most of your self-evident garbage, there’s no real need to look inside yourself in that navel-gazing fashion familiar to the drug abuser and the alcoholic.. When you eliminate the external garbage your inside is the same as your outside at that point and then you can start working on making real progress.
Obviously John Paul II was way ahead of me on that one.
Q2: Why can an Albatross be used to reunite the Eastern and Western churches?
DAVE: Because it is the most formidable power object in the known universe: a wildly improbable plot device. Like the Maltese Falcon only more politically formidable. In a Real World context, I called my notebooks my Albatrosses because I was as saddled with them much like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. So I was declaring in a way—by making the albatross statue that significant in High Society—that I was ambitious enough to want to do something of remarkable significance with all the half-witted notions and half-baked philosophies I was sketching out and jotting down in my own “albatrosses”. “Invoke often,” is the first rule of the sort of mysticism that one finds in used paperbacks in 5 for a dollar bins. Unless one is in a New Age bookstore, in which case one can pay 50 dollars to be told the same thing between hemp-derived hard covers.
Q2: Why does the Exodus Inward end?
DAVE: Usually because you spent last night picking roaches out of the ashtray and rolling your last two incredibly rank and raunchy-tasting joints with them and then find you’ve spent all of your money on ju jubes and barbecue potato chips and chocolate bars and Kentucky Fried Chicken over the last three days so, unfortunately, you’ve got no way to Exodus Inward until you can rustle up 60 or 100 dollars for another baggie.
Q3. What was the relationship between Astoria, Cirinists, and Kevilists at the time of High Society?
DAVE: One of the problems that I had was that I had come up with this great concept of the Illusionists burrowing within the Church and I had no way of showing it. The Illusionists couldn’t let on without spoiling the effect and the Church would have had no awareness of it. That was when I decided to remove it one step and try to introduce an Illusionist who had been so effective at burrowing within another structure—not the Church—that he had come out on top and was running the joint so he had, of necessity, to be more public with his illusions, so I could actually show an Illusionist in action. I tried to think of real-life examples of that and either I remembered Duck Soup or I saw Duck Soup again and I went, oh, yeah, there it is. So I started picturing what that would be like structurally—what kind of societal structure would form around an Illusionist and the answer, of course, was no structure. All the Illusionist could hope to do was to maintain the illusion with double talk and snappy retorts and to make sure that he was the only one that either a) knew how the whole thing fit together or b) knew that the whole thing didn’t fit together but could create the illusion that he did and it did. That was where I started picturing things like the dinner seating that I used in a passage in Jaka’s Story, where everyone obsesses over how they’re doing in the pecking order and the pecking order is like a roller coaster ride.
Took me almost nine years to find the right place to show that.
And that, naturally, led to questioning what sort of an individual would be suited to that sort of environment, most particularly who would last the longest “staying in the pocket”. Which was when I came up with Baskin, this really competent but forlorn little human punching bag who would just keep “taking it” no matter how little sense anything made. And then I thought, what sort of a wife would this guy attract and how would she keep herself in the game? That was a tough one. And again, I kept an eye out for someone who could fill that role in an interesting way. And that was when I saw Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon. In fact the first drawings I did of Astoria she looks more like Mary Astor crossed with Katherine Hepburn. All with very teary, weepy word balloons, “I’m so…tired…of all the lies.” That kind of thing. I thought it would be an interesting match, this Illusionist who is surrounded by absolute chaos of his own creation married to a woman who is an infinite number of layers, every one of them a lie. You keep peeling the onion and all you get is a new story. As Bogart/Spade says to her at one point, “How much truth was there in that yarn?” And she quite cheerfully answers, “A little. Not much.”
So, to finally get to your question, I thought the most interesting incarnation of that relationship would be its aftermath. Lord Julius and Astoria have split up because Astoria, like many a wife before her, has mistaken his charisma for hers. She’s this ambitious figure who has already split from Cirin and intends to make herself Queen of the Daughters in the same way that Cirin is Queen of the Mothers and, because she has maintained her place with Lord Julius for a period of time, she just senses that everything is coming together, all the ley lines of societal force are lining up behind her, the world’s her oyster, etc. etc. And then they split and she finds out that she’s just another person on the roller coaster and, in conventional female fashion, she just starts looking for a Lord Julius substitute. That was one of the reasons that I picked Mary Astor. Consider the relative status of Groucho Marx and Mary Astor in the Hollywood pantheon. It’s a complete misapprehension on the part of a Mary Astor to say, “Now, where am I going to find another Groucho Marx?” There is a kind of “charisma by association” but it does tend to wear off in the face of her misperception of her own illusory importance and the endless succession of intended replacements.
And then, of course, she hooks up with Cerebus on the same basis. “Wait. This weird little deformed guy. They’re still talking about him in Palnu. I’ll hook up with him and make HIM my new Lord Julius.” And, of course, she has no idea what Cerebus is or the kind of effects that are created by his magnification nature, so, of course, she thinks, “Aha! It finally worked. This is my new Lord Julius.”
She was playing two cards at the same time: one, Queen of the Daughters and the other the Eye in the Pyramid which is a way of using the glass ceiling against itself. It’s an organized assault on all manners of bureaucracy from the clerical end of things.
Unlike the actual Eye IN the Pyramid which is more the Eye ON the Pyramid
(such as can be seen on the Great Seal of the United States on the back of the U.S. one dollar bill—which is actually a very basic optical illusion peculiar to pyramids. If you look intently at the capstone of any pyramidal shape, so that you are looking at the smallest percentage of the overall pyramid that is still pyramid-shaped, say the top 1/25th of the overall pyramid and then look at the top 1/25th of that pyramid’s capstone, behind the capstone you will see the image of an eye. If you try to look right at it, it will disappear, but if you focus on that pyramid-on a pyramid-on a pyramid, you’ll see it again. I mean, Whoo. Pee. But so far as I know this is one of those great Freemason mysteries that you have to ascend to a nine hundred and fiftieth level to be shown. As pagan mysteries go, it’s kind of like the ending on 2001. What’s the word I’m looking for.
Oh, wait! I know!
Astoria’s concept for the Eye IN the Pyramid is that the apex of any pyramidal infrastructure can be sabotaged from any level below the apex usually quite effortlessly. In a nutshell, if you rely on a secretary you’re toast. That was why she didn’t object to being merely a secretary when Cerebus became Prime Minister. A secretary can do an enormous amount of damage if her boss thinks himself “above” what she’s doing—as most bosses do— and so doesn’t pay attention to it. It’s a very low grade—albeit largely ineffective—form of bureaucratic guerrilla Marxism, but, by the time you’re thinking the Roach is your ticket back to the top, you’re willing to try anything. I was tapped into this about the time the movie Nine to Five came out which, although I haven’t seen it, seemed to subscribe to the same theory. I assume there’s a lot of it going on as the wheels are coming off of feminism. As I say, by the time you’re thinking the Roach is your ticket back to the top you’re willing to try anything.
There are interesting examples of the Groucho Marx/Mary Astor syndrome in the real world, most of them in Hollywood where personal lives are public property. It’s so far advanced that you really have to know which one you are before you get involved with someone in such a way that makes the tabloids. Because if you’re actually Mary Astor, the break-up is only going to emphasize that. Jennifer Lopez, as an example, seems to be making a contact sport out of it. What is it, four relationships where she’s come out being the Groucho Marx and the guy has been stuck being Mary Astor? It’s like she’s trying to set a record for longest uninterrupted Groucho Marx string since Elizabeth Taylor who won every round til it came to Richard Burton. That one came out even and destroyed both of them.
I suspect that that’s the answer to the feminist question, “Why didn’t Hilary dump Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky?” In her heart of hearts she really doesn’t know which of them is Groucho and which is Mary Astor. And, fortunately for her, neither does Bill. Both of them would rather stick it out in an empty marriage than take the chance of ending up being the Mary Astor character. And both have such an over-inflated awe of the other that both believe it could be a real possibility.
And to finally come to the end of your question (which you really believed was straightforward, I’m sure) at the time of High Society, the Cirinists are just waiting to move into Iest. The closest analogy I could draw to that is the United States and Iraq. There would have been a lot of “sidelines people,” “armchair quarterbacks” among the Cirinists who would be wary of trying to take Iest—largely because the Eastern Church comes with it (the same problem you would face taking Saudi Arabia: Mecca and Medina come with it)—but it would be comparable to what the Pentagon knew about the U.S.’s advanced capabilities going into Iraq. It was going to be a cakewalk. There would be roughly the same number of casualties in a year that you would have had in a week in Vietnam. As Collin Powell reportedly said to President Bush, “You realize that you are going to own this place?” That was the level of the debate. Winning wasn’t the issue, there were only the implications of winning. Cirin obviously knew a lot more about Cerebus than Astoria did and that would have been a source of some concern but more in terms of what Astoria might lead Cerebus to do accidentally or that Cerebus’ magnifier nature might cause to happen (a justifiable fear as it turned out) than anything the two of them were going to accomplish together in a programmatic sense.
The Church was the only significant opposition and the Church was done for. It had become too worldly and too timorous. Again the best analogy I could draw would be today’s Christian churches of the squishy Marxist variety. There’s no need to take them over because they’re no longer in the way. They’re partly a quaint custom—great candles, great music— and partly a Marxist-feminist faction differing from the core societal Marxist-feminism only in a few shadings and nuances that can be easily glossed over. Like the worldwide schism in the Anglican Church and Reformed Judaism over same-sex marriage and homosexual clergy. Where the split occurs, I think, will tell us how close to hell we are. 30-70? 70-30? And which faction is preparing to take over the Vatican after Pope John Paul II (God forbid) is called home? There’s a good case to be made that he will single-handedly save Christianity by hanging on long enough for the conservative cardinals to see—in the Anglicans—exactly what a fully liberalized church can expect: literal hell on earth. The longer John-Paul II stays alive the more transparent the Anglican fiasco will become and the more conservative the Catholic Church will choose to be.
The fact that the Conniptins, this ragged mob of barbarians made it right into the heart of Iest at the end of High Society indicates that the fruit is ripe for the plucking.
Q4. Larry noticed that the cab driver who drives Cerebus to the Ram's Lords Tavern in the first issue of High Society is, in fact, the Moon Roach all along. You show us the cab driver persona in that first issue, we see Moon Knight in the others, L nny is curious if you were tempted to slip in the other 2 personas to complete the set (soldier-of-fortune & millionaire playboy), it might be in the book, but he's too lazy to re-read it?
DAVE: Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. Lenny Coop…I mean L nny (sorry, forgot I was at a KKK meeting for a minute there, brother L nny)…is too lazy to re-read it? L nny’s the one who keeps pushing for these re-reads, isn’t he? Billy Beach’s wife, Francesca, with both of whom and both of whose family I just spent a pleasant week sunning myself on Italy’s Adriatic Coast asked me about the re-reads on the Newsgroup when I was over there and I said, “L nny (which I can assure you is very difficult to pronounce to someone whose native language is Italian), L nny with these organized re-reads of the storyline is like those guys who go to NFL games and spend the whole game trying to start ‘the wave’. Vague sort of peripheral interest in the sport, the home team, the score. But the thing that really floats his boat is standing up and throwing his hands in the air and seeing if he can get everyone else to do it. Gets so obsessive about it he’s still trying to make it happen when the home team gets their field goal blocked.” Whoa! HEY! Blocked field goal, everybody. C’MON! EVERYBODY! WHOOOOAAA!
Q4: Can you answer his question for him?
DAVE: Huh? Oh, uh,
Sorry. I forgot these rejoinders are “pre-recorded”. Like the hologram of the dead scientist guy in “I, Robot”. Did everyone see that? What a great movie. Millions and millions and MILLIONS of dollars worth of top-notch CGI special effects and deep, deep, deep Dolby sound that’s so loud it drowns out everything the television-raised pinheads around me are jawing at each other about and all it cost me was $5.99 Canadian. What a bargoon, as Eddie Shack used to say. That’s all I look for from a movie. Same as Spider-man II. WHOA! Did you see Doc Ock climb that wall? With his little CGI-generated arms smashing the chicken soup out of the building? Wicked cool, Dude!
Q4: What amuses you more--that someone noticed this at all, or that it took twenty years for anyone to do so?
DAVE: Okay, so Kirsten Dunst looks like she’s been staying after hours at a few too many press receptions in the last two years (if you catch my drift) and she now looks more like Peter Parker’s really rather well-preserved for her age all things considered guidance counsellor than his girlfriend. Well, let me put it this way, my finely-attuned “bootie sense” wasn’t tingling, y’all (y’hear whut I’m sayin’?) but…but…
Uh, amuses me? Actually, no, I think it’s great. Big brownie points for Larry on that one (hey, how come Larry gets to be Larry? Larry, dude. Where’s your pointy hood? Like you should be L@Hart or LarHar or L rry? Shouldn’t you?). Just to fill in the brethren and cisterns on the extent of brother L@H@’s accomplishment, so far as we know L@H@ is the first person to notice that I used a cab driver secret identity for the Moon Roach, which was a parody of the Moon Knight, one of whose secret identities was as…tad a!…a cab driver. Very gratifying when someone gets one of my jokes twenty years later.
So, I spend twenty-six years worrying constantly that I’m being too obvious and telegraphing my story points and then spend twenty-six years explaining all the stuff I spent twenty-six years trying to make less obvious. The way I look at it, it beats the only other thing I’m qualified to do which is washing dishes.
Q4: L nny thinks Larry wants your praise.
DAVE: Uh, yeah. I just said…
Q4: Was Larry the first to notice this?
DAVE: Yeah. I just said. You can read it up right up there. It doesn’t even move as fast as it does on CNN so you’ve got plenty of time. Let me see. One, two, three, four……..twelve lines up: “so far as we know L@H@ is the first person to notice that I used a cab driv…
Q4: Do you think he deserves your praise?
DAVE: Shit. I mean, sh*t. How did you do that? This is supposed to be on disk. It shouldn’t be possible for you to interrupt me like that. What is this? One of those computer viruses? I have NO idea where Gerhard’s floppy disks have been. If he’s given the office computer cybernetic syphilis or some damn…
Q4: Larry thinks L nny is lazy.
DAVE: Lazy? Uh. No, I wouldn’t say that. I think it’s more a case of once L nny has got everyone doing “the wave” he gets this Lone Ranger quality about him. You know. “Well. My work is done here.” He won’t get an actual recharge until you finish analyzing the last five pages of The Last Day (available this Wednesday or next, God willing, at better comic book stores everywhere!) and then it’ll be (two, three, four) Hey, everybody! I, L nny, have a GREAT. IDEA.”
Q4: Dave, do you think that L nny is lazy?
DAVE: Lazy? Uh. No, I…that is LAZY? UH! NO! I WOULDN’T SAY THAT. I THINK IT’S MORE…
Q4: or could he be slipping behind on the reread simply because of a heavy workload and the recently enlarged family? (Talk about 3 questions in one, this is about 6!:^)
DAVE: Yeah. It is. Sh*t. Look at that rash or those three pustules or whatever they are after “about 6!” It’s probably cybernetic syphilis or software crabs or some sh*t. Damn.
Enlarged family? L nny starring in “Honey, I Enlarged the Kids”? Or, wait a minute. “Heavy workload!?” “Recently enlarged family!?”
BROTHER L NNY!
YOU’VE GOT SOME ACTION ON THE SIDE! Man, fundamentally bad concept talking about it here. These people leak like sieves. What if one of them e-mail’s Mrs. L nny?
Q5. There has been much discussion as to whether the ending of High Society holds up. Some might contend that Cerebus’ ultimate rationale, “For a while there, Cerebus thought he could make a difference," seems contrived. But others contend that it still rings true: that every world leader, from Hitler to Saddam Hussein to Pol Pot to any of the "good" ones, despite how many selfish and heinous acts they commit, justify their actions under this very rationale. Moreover, the anarcho-romantic Suenteus Po's final scrawling of the word Liberty on his prison wall is quite touching as well as a clever narrative device, in that the entirety of his Cerebus' Six Crises book (Read?) might have been just scratchings on a prison wall as he awaits execution by the new (old) regime. What are your thoughts on this ending sequence in light of your present views?
DAVE: Mm. About the same. I think that true believers—who act on their beliefs—run a genuine risk of becoming the first casualties when things go wrong. I mean, that’s a given, don’t you think? Don’t you think that’s the reason that most people keep their actual beliefs secret where those beliefs don’t conform to the majority viewpoint? One of the problems might even be discussing systems of belief and viewpoints as if they’re the same structural things from person to person. In a recent letter to someone after the death of Ronald Reagan, I remarked on his observation that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” And he was talking about the late 1940’s. I mean there does seem to be a distinction between Government Setting People “Free” Within Its Context (Marxist-feminism) and Freeing People from the Governmental Context Itself (conservatism)— the former with the momentum on its side and the latter trying to take hold where and when it can for as long as it can. The best you can do is to slow the former down temporarily. We arrive into this world well along in the process and drift along with it, tending to see it as a fixed reality until someone like Ronald Reagan wakes up and realizes that liberalism isn’t stationary it’s always Slouching towards Gomorrah..
Of course the ending on High Society and the graphic novel itself is about a revolutionary time period which is well outside of the North American experience. Those historical situations like Russia in 1917 where the pot that’s been threatening to boil over for decades finally does and—whoever you are—you have to pick a side and whichever side you pick is pretty much going to decide if you die tomorrow, next month, two years from now or of old age. The only analogy in my life was the “Exclusives Wars” between Diamond and Capital where every publisher— starting from the biggest and proceeding down to the smallest—was forced to decide whether to go exclusive with Diamond or Capital. We had a “no exclusive policy” since SeaGate, so it was easy enough to announce that we would sell to anyone who could meet our terms. Which, effectively meant that we did our bit in killing Capital. They couldn’t use a tie, they needed a number of wins to stay in the game and Denis Kitchen, God bless ‘im for bucking the trend, was the only one to go exclusive with them. One of those situations where you make your choice and then wait to see what your choice leads to and what happens after that.
Q5: Do you see it as reckless ambition spurred on by the naivete of youth, or does it hold up for you still?
DAVE: No, I still think it’s a good ending. I still think it’s a very good ending. But, then, I’m one of those people who think that a good ending tells you something about yourself in what you see in it. I mean, what’s your reaction to the Anarcho-Romantic at the end? “That idiot. He never should’ve stuck his neck out.” Well, that should tell you something about yourself. “There’s ambition spurred on by the naivete of youth.” Is that what it was? And how remote are you able to keep yourself in making that assessment? Was it personal ambition or the ambition to bring about a better world? And to put your metaphorical money where your metaphorical mouth was? The act of writing on the prison wall what he did, it seems to me, establishes the bona fides of the fact of his incarceration. A simple criminal wouldn’t do that. Even if the message gets obliterated, someone had to read it and understand it well enough to know that it needed to be obliterated which means, in a real way, as the guy who wrote it, you won the debate. Those, to me, are the sorts of things that count on the Big Scoreboard. That’s the reason that I’m perfectly willing to go to prison to prove a point about this country’s Marxist-feminist hate literature laws. If the only way to prove the point is to get ground up in the wheels, there are a lot worse ways to go. As it stands I’m comfortable with the compromise the Marxist-feminists have chosen: ignore him and his work and bet on posterity forgetting him and his work as well. Every day that goes by that they think that’s working in their favour, in my view, I’m racking up points. Four months into Phase Two of the Marxist-feminist experiment and I’d bet a lot more money on me than on them. Have faith in God and clarity tends to be the net result.
Wildcard Q: In making such a bold statement as "I'm going to put out 300 issues of this for 26 years," how much of the story did you have mapped out at that point, i.e. how much did you know of the story at the time you made the statement, or did you decide upon 300 issues and then begin to map it out?
DAVE: Very little of the story mapped out. I really had only the 300-issue structure which was more of a “comic-book thing”. If I could do 300 issues of a comic book, I’d go down in comic-book history, one way or the other. That was the basis the decision was made on. I had always had a very fertile imagination, so I never had any doubts that I could fill the 300 issues. As I’ve said before, my problem has never been writer’s block, more like holding back writer’s flood. As long as I had complete control over what I did. Doing the Archive, I’ve just reread my multi-year correspondence with Mike Friedrich—his half of it anyway, editor-publisher of Star*Reach, Imagine and Quack! To me as a minor-league freelancer for those magazines. His critiques are good. He was a veteran scripter with some editorial experience and good instincts, but I could never have done an extended work on that basis: where I had to take into account his criticisms and changing things that I didn’t think needed changing. If he had accepted Cerebus as a feature in Quack! I would’ve had to back off from the level of interest I had in order to preserve my sanity: I would’ve been self-editing to try and match the feature to what he wanted it to be instead of making the decisions myself and I would probably have slipped into the freelancer pattern: doing a lot of different things with different people and trying to get a cumulative level of pleasure out of writing and drawing where and when I could so that the negatives on individual projects didn’t bring me down too far. I’m glad that’s not how I had to spend the last twenty-six years of my life.
PS: I’ve asked Gerhard to post my commentaries for the next Beguiling auction of Cerebus items, unfortunately without the accompanying illustrations for the very good reason that I’m heading down to Toronto today to give the illustrations to Peter (and to have lunch with Chet). The Cerebus auction will be the next one after the two items by Paul Pope the Beguiling presently has on offer. Keep your eye out for it. See you next month.