The near mythical Comics Journal 301 takes shape….
Well, it’s been a looooong time coming, but the signs and portents are good, perhaps we shall see the first print edition of The Comics Journal since late 2009 – it’s meant to be coming out this month. And it’s huge – 640 pages, packed with articles and interviews.
And excerpts of a few of those articles and interviews have been released over the last few days, with two in particular really piquing my interest:
Crumb: At a certain point while I was working on it, after about 25 pages, I actually started to despise the text. For a while I went through this phase of hating it. It is really a hateful thing actually. A hateful document that kept people down, kept people in ignorance and darkness, and from advancing intellectually or mentally. To hold a text like that over people as the only thing that they should take seriously, that that’s their whole prescription for living and for morality and all that, is a terrible thing to do. It just proves how insane and crazy the human race is that still in this day and age, to take a text like that as a source of moral guidance. That just causes nothing but trouble. [Laughs.] And the same can be said of the New Testament, the Qur’an, all the Western religious stuff. The Eastern thing is different, the Buddhist and the Hindu things are very different. They’re much more democratic and open, and not as rigid.
Groth: And more generous spirited?
Crumb: Well, they are not as hard-line. They’re not as defined. Like the Hindu religion has 4,000 different gods and you can take your pick of which ones you want to revere according to how they appeal to you. You can worship this one or that one. You can worship Ganesh, symbolized by an elephant, whatever you want. So it’s different, it’s very different. But the Western religions are pretty awful, actually. All three of the major Western religions are contentious and antagonistic and aggressive.
And an article by Tim Kreider entitled “Irredeemable: Dave Sim’s Cerebus”
The opening paragraph:
“I’m not sure to what extent I need to explain the graphic-novel cycle Cerebus to a Comics Journalaudience. Hard as it is for me to believe, based on my conversations with younger cartoonists, it seems like some basic background might be advisable here. The history of this book and its author used to be a legend in the comics world — in fact, it reads a lot like a superhero origin story. In 1977 Dave Sim, a 21-year-old comics fan, whose only job had ever been working in a comics shop, began drawing his own comic book, a parody of/homage to Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan, featuring as its hero the eponymous Cerebus, an avaricious, hard-drinking barbarian who is also an aardvark. Two years into the series, Sim took LSD for a week and a half, suffered what he described as a “nervous breakdown,” and had to be admitted to a hospital, where he was diagnosed as “borderline schizophrenic” (whatever that might mean as applied to someone coming down off several days of acid). Recovering from this experience, he had a life-changing epiphany: Cerebus would run for 300 issues. It was a vast story; it would be his life’s work. Deranged hubristic ambitions are not uncommon among schizophrenics, people on LSD, or 23-year-olds, but here’s the remarkable part: He actually did it. Dave Sim drew Cerebus, putting out an issue a month, for the next 25 years. He finished it in 2004. It runs to 16 volumes, and occupies a solid foot of shelf space.”
And a few thousand words later, after talking through the “difficult” later issues…
“It’s a situation I had hoped to go some small distance toward remedying for a new generation of readers who may not even have heard of Cerebus, or have heard of it only as an artifact of mental illness, a companion piece to accompany the story of Dave Sim, a very gifted cartoonist who went around the bend. Sim may well be a wackjob or an acid casualty, but he is also, I would argue, one of the greatest living cartoonists. And Cerebus is more than a curiosity; it’s beautifully drawn, intermittently hilarious and brilliant, the gargantuan and astonishing life’s work of a master craftsman.”
“That, however, was before I’d actually read the fucking thing.”
Now that sounds like a fascinating, essential and funny read.