Sim, Dave 1956–
Sim, Dave 1956–
PERSONAL: Born 1956, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; married Deni Loubert (divorced).
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Aardvark-Vanaheim, Inc., P.O. Box 1674, Station C, Kitchener, Ontario N2G 4R2, Canada.
CAREER: Comic-book writer, illustrator, and publisher, 1977–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Kirby Award for Best Black-and-White series, 1985, 1987, Harvey Award, for Best Cartoonist, 1992, Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, 1994, Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist, 1998, and Shuster Award for Outstanding Comic-book Achievement, 2005, all for Cerebus.
(With Barry Windsor-Smith, Chester Brown, and Gerhard) Cerebus World Tour Book, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
(With Gerhard) Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Contributor to Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, Abiogenesis Press, 2002.
"CEREBUS THE AARDVARK" SERIES; COLLECTIONS: ILLUSTRATED WITH GERHARD
Cerebus, Volume 1, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1986.
High Society, Volume 2, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1986.
Church & State I, Volume 3, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1986.
Church & State II, Volume 4, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1987.
Jaka's Story, Volume 5, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1989.
Melmoth, Volume 6, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1990.
Mothers & Daughters, Book 1: Flight, Volume 7, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Mothers & Daughters, Book 2: Women, Volume 8, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Cerebus Number Zero, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Mothers & Daughters, Book 3: Reads, Volume 9, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1994.
Mothers & Daughters, Book 4: Minds, Volume 10, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Guys, Volume 11, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Rick's Story, Volume 12, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Going Home, Volume 13, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Form & Void, Volume 14, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
Latter Days, Volume 15, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
The Last Days, Volume 16, Aardvark-Vanaheim (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Canadian comics writer Dave Sim began an innovative venture into self-publishing in 1977, with his then wife, Deni Loubert, creating the award-winning Cerebus the Aardvark series. Comprising sixteen volumes when it ended in 2004, the series was a collaboration between Sim and a background illustrator and business partner, known only as Gerhard, which began working together in 1984. In 1986 the two began compiling monthly installments of Cerebus the Aardvark into "phone books"—300-to 600-page graphic novels, published by Sim's publishing house, Aardvark-Vanaheim, Inc. To aid other creative artists, Sim is an active supporter of the Comic Books Legal Defense Fund, which helps to fairly compensate and restore rights to artists who created commercially exploited comics characters for which they have received little or no recognition or royalties and defends artists whose work is censored.
Sim's artistic influences have included the cartoonists Jules Feiffer, Bernard Krigstein, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Will Eisner, as well as authors Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, James Brooks, and others. Sim's wide range of literary interests are revealed in the intricate, intelligent storytelling he accomplishes in Cerebus the Aardvark.
The often controversial series follows the daily life of Sims' main character and is a somewhat bitter, though humorous, masculine commentary on politics, relationships with women, religion, creativity, aging, and literary history. Sim has devised characters based on such writers as Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, in addition to characters based on actors Groucho and Chico Marx, singer Mick Jagger, comedian Rodney Dangerfield, and many others. Tim Blackmore, in Canadian Children's Literature, wrote that "Sim creates out of an intertextual stream. He blends people he knows, other creators' characters, people from public life, synthesizing them all into his own work." Douglas Wolk, in Publishers Weekly, called the series "a brilliant, mindbendingly intricate, alternately hysterically funny and infuriating saga." In a review for Village Voice, Richard Gehr observed, "Assisted and inspired by Gerhard,… Sim has oscillated between tension and rest, density and minimalism, tradition and innovation. While the early issues reflect Sim's sword-and-sorcery infatuation, Church and State simmers as close to real time as a comic has dared." Blackmore called the series "a battleground between high and low culture."
Commenting on Sim's black-and-white artwork, Lloyd Rose wrote in the Atlantic Monthly that Sim "poses his characters to be looked at: your eye wants to linger over them rather than move on." Rose also noted Sim's "cinematographer's eye," saying that he "swoops in for close-ups, gazes down from a ceiling corner, focuses on a detail of movement … like an animation director who happens to be drawing comic books." Yet, said Rose, Sim is "more like a writer illustrating his own stories than a comics artist who thinks mostly in visual terms…. There's a streak of Lewis Carroll in Sim—the politicians and flunkies have all the fantastic reality of the court of the Queen of Hearts." Keith R.A. DeCandido, in Library Journal, called the Cerebus the Aardvark series "one of the most literate and beautifully drawn comics ever created."
Set in European city-states during the Middle Ages, Cerebus the Aardvark was originally created as a parody of Robert E. Howard's comic-book series Conan the Barbarian, but it quickly took on new directions as a lampoon of other heroes and supermen and earned the status of a cult following. Cerebus, also known as the "earth-pig," is a greedy, power hungry, and lustful little creature living in a world of humans. In his struggle for power and wealth, he eventually becomes prime minister (in High Society) and then pope (in Church & State) of his human world. Bound by no rules in his office as pope, he can marry and divorce at will and once demonstrates his infallibility by throwing a baby to his death in front of a crowd. Sim delves into the history of Western religion in his series. He also earned a reputation as a misogynist because Cerebus, and later Sim in his own voice, expounds on the negative qualities of girls and women, marriage and family, from a male sociopolitical viewpoint, reaching a crescendo with the Mothers & Daughters books. Michael Rawdon, in a review for Spies, found Mothers & Daughters to be "boring" but "inflammatory," although admitting that the art is "lovely."
The first collected volume, Cerebus includes the first twenty-five monthly issues of the comic. It introduces the furry aardvark, whose lust for gambling and alcohol leads him to interact with a number of other superhero and fantasy characters as well as politicians and comedians. Some of the series' basic characters are introduced in Cerebus, so readers who want to follow the entire epic should start with this collection. DeCandido, in another Library Journal review, found it "marred by crude stories and cruder art," although he said that in Sim's subsequent volumes the art is "magnificent." A reviewer for Grovel online wrote, "It's well worth getting past these earlier stories as the improvement in quality made further into the book is enormous. By the time you get to the end of this volume, you should be well and truly attached to Cerebus." Art Kleiner, writing in the Whole Earth Review, said Sim's characters "are portrayed with depth and complexity" and that Sim has a "graceful ear for the rhythms of their speech." Jack Lechner, writing in the Village Voice Literary Supplement, thought Sim's "prevailing style is a sort of elegant deadpan, describing chaotic action within great formal spaces." He wrote, "Cerebus gives you the opera and the Marx Brothers to disrupt it."
High Society, according to DeCandido, deals with "the nuances and peculiarities of political power." In this collection, Cerebus becomes prime minister, gives up his sword and medallions for a tuxedo, and moves into the Regency Hotel. As Blackmore commented, "Cerebus's move uptown was the first of many shocks to the fan community which had cheered on the grouchy little killer aardvark." Cerebus is later evicted from his position of power and goes wandering.
After his appointment as pope in Church & State, Cerebus's life continues with a love relationship in Jaka's Story. Domesticity, personal power, repressive government, and religious totalitarianism are dealt with here. Jaka is a pub dancer. Oscar Wilde appears in the story and is sentenced to hard labor for possessing no artistic license. Cerebus and Jaka are parted, but they come back together again at the end of Rick's Story.
Following Jaka's Story is Melmoth, a tribute to Oscar Wilde and a contemplation of existence, loss of power over the self, and death. Blackmore viewed it as in part a discussion of AIDS.
Sim brings Cerebus back to the forefront and launches into his Mothers & Daughters story arc with the first volume, Flight. The story continues with Women, Reads, and Minds. In Reads, Sim conducts a lengthy discussion of the "feeling" aspect of the feminine and its dominion over the "thinking" aspect of the masculine. It is this volume that became so controversial for its degradation of women and marriage.
In Going Home, Cerebus returns to his birthplace of Sand Hills Creek, a name created from "Sand Hills," the former name of Kitchener, Ontario, where Sim lives and works, and "Stoney Creek," the town where Sim lived as a young child. Form & Void follows Going Home. The Last Days, the final issue—number 300—in what was, to date, the longest-running self-published series in North American comics, concludes with Cerebus's death.
As Blackmore wrote, "Sim's isolation is a key factor in the development of Cerebus. Remote from even the meagre support offered by the comics community,… Sim is one working in opposition to many…. Sim's cloister has performed the double function of setting him apart and keeping him safe. The positioning of the individual against those around him is Cerebus's leitmotif…. What follows is an attempt to … understand the way the text and its author respond to each other; how Sim can produce his world which produces Cerebus, and yet Cerebus produces Sim's world."
Sim also wrote a guide for prospective comics self-publishers titled Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing. Speaking about self-publishing in an interview for Two-Handed Man, Sim said, "I single out the creativity vs. business thing only because, to me, it's the cart you have to get before the horse. Until you find a way to bind and limit business you are just asking for trouble, asking for your innovation to be limited by business, hamstrung by business, blunted by business, deflected by business. If in later years,… someone sees something in my work that seems … innovative … well, I'm pretty sure they will also see that what I achieved was only possible through self-publishing and, hopefully, I will have saved a handful of future creators from hitting a brick wall at their innovative peak."
In his Two-Handed Man interview, Sim responded to a question about what his experience has taught him about the comics medium. The medium has "Versatility for the asking," he explained. "Twenty-three years in and I haven't scratched the surface."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, second edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.
Atlantic Monthly, August, 1986, Lloyd Rose, "Comic Books for Grown-Ups" (review of Cerebus), p. 77.
Canadian Children's Literature, issue 71, 1993, Tim Blackmore, "Cerebus: From Aardvark to Vanaheim, Reaching for Creative Heaven in Dave Sim's Hellish World," pp. 57-78.
Library Journal, March 15, 1990, Keith R.A. DeCandido, review of Cerebus, High Society, and Church & State, p. 53; June 1, 1991, Keith R.A. DeCandido, review of Jaka's Story, p. 134; June 15, 1992, Keith R.A. DeCandido, review of Melmoth, p. 76; July, 1993, Keith R.A. DeCandido, review of Flight, p. 79.
Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2000, Douglas Wolk, "D.I.Y. Works for Sim's 'Cerebus,'" p. 37.
Village Voice, April 19, 1988, Richard Gehr, "Money Changes Everything: Earth-Pig Brings Home the Bacon," p. 58.
Village Voice Literary Supplement, June, 1985, Jack Lechner, review of Cerebus, p. 3.
Whole Earth Review, fall, 1986, Art Kleiner, review of Cerebus the Aardvark, p. 98.
Comics Journal, http://www.tcj.com/ (August 12, 2003), Tom Spurgeon, "Dave Sim Interview, excerpted from Issues 184 and 192."
Dave Sim Misogyny Page, http://www.theabsolute.net/ (October 2, 2003), "The Merged Void: Writings from Reads."
Grovel, http://www.grovel.org.uk/ (August 19, 2003), review of Cerebus.
Lambiek, http://www.lambiek.net/ (August 12, 2003), "Dave Sim."
Mars Import Web site, http://www.marsimport.com/ (December 4, 2003), "Dave Sim."
Spies.com, http://www.spies.com/ (August 10, 1997), Michael Rawdon, review of Cerebus 196.
Two-Handed Man Online, http://www.twohandedman.com/ (June, 2000), "27 Years with an Aardvark: Two-Handed Man Interviews Dave Sim."