Following Cerebus #3
Edited by Craig Miller and John Thorne
Published by Win-Mill Productions; $3.95 USD

This issue is primarily devoted to satire, parody, trademark and copyright issues, and provides Cerebus creator Dave Sim's fascinating views on all of those issues in a new interview.

I have no idea if Sim's rather unique perspective on the issues makes any sense for anyone other than himself and his own work, but his liberal approach (essentially opening up Cerebus for anyone to use as a character, and planning to make the entirety of the series available to be published by anyone with the resources once he and his creative partner Gerhard have died) is strikingly original, and for all the world seems to have worked quite well as he explains it: Dave Sim is the best guy to do Cerebus, and therefore potential violators of his trademark had better be prepared to deliver better work than Sim if they expect to make a successful go of making hay with his sunshine. He proposes essentially a barter-economy model of trademark as an alternative to the intricate tangle of legal quagmires that copyright and trademark seem to be, and in fact proposes that the entire system as it exists is designed by lawyers for their own benefit. Paranoid or genius? It's Dave Sim, so, maybe both, but as I say, it seems to work for him.

I was intrigued by how the counterfeiting of Cerebus #1 decades ago plays into Sim's thoughts on copyright and trademark. Included is a first-person recollection of being swindled by the counterfeiters by the owner of the now-defunct Albany, New York comic shop (and '80s independent publisher) FantaCo. I actually was one of the people who knowingly bought a copy of the fake #1 from FantaCo after they found out they'd been ripped off and decided to recoup their losses by selling the fakes as fakes at cost. It was the first time, I believe, that a comic book had been counterfeited, and I wanted to own one both for that historic reason and because Cerebus #1 at that point was impossible to come by for anything less than a couple hundred bucks (which, of course, is why they counterfeited it in the first place). The piece on this incident provides valuable historical references to the timeline of this significant event in comics history, including quotes from the then-ongoing saga by Sim's now-ex-wife Deni. Parenthetically, I really wish I still had that fake Cerebus #1. It was just a neat piece of comics history.

This issue provides interesting perspectives on cases as diverse as the ongoing Miracleman entanglements and Marvel's response to three Cerebus covers that creatively challenged Frank Miller and legally challenged Marvel's trademark on the depiction of the character of Wolverine. Sim's story on that event is a riveting piece of comics history, and his even-handed view of the time indicates to me that he is conveying this particular history to the best of his recollection. His take on the superiority of his Wolverine covers vs. Frank Miller's is delightfully snarky and painfully accurate. He also, in collaboration with Gerhard, provides three separate covers paying tribute to some of the most famous, iconic covers in comics history. All three are beautifully rendered, and Win-Mill put up the cash to do a fold-out cover to allow the three to all be seen full-size without raising the cover price, an admirable, noteworthy approach to this sort of special feature.

Other features this issue focus on Gerhard's love of sailing, the continuing feature wherein Sim responds to the articles from the previous issue, and perhaps the most valuable piece to appear in the magazine to date, part one of a personal anecdote by Sim about hosting Will Eisner on a trip to Canada. That last piece absolutely glows with positivity about comics, about Eisner -- and tragically is directly followed by the magazine's most obnoxious regular feature, in which Sim weighs in on his thoughts behind a given photo from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The most instructive understanding about Sim for newcomers is to be gleaned from this shocking and altogether sadly appropriate juxtaposition -- a warm, touching anecdote about Will Eisner is followed by an intellectually retarded and altogether pointless screed against Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar, a target wholly undeserving of both Sim's sarcastic wrath and really, any attention at all in this magazine or most others. Yes, Dave, we know she's vapid. We like the show anyway.

Really, a man with a half-century of experience living on this earth can surely find a better target to take his sexually-frustrated rage out against than ridiculous promotional photos from a cancelled TV series. Sadly, this over-the-top feature -- probably intentionally -- serves as a reminder that no matter how engaging Sim can be, as in the Eisner rememberance -- he will always piss in the punchbowl of your admiration before scooping up his keys and driving off into the long, dark night of his own mental problems. It is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of comics that someone hasn't been able to help this poor, brilliant bastard deal with his monumental, apocalyptic hatred of what he calls feminism.

Such tragedies aside, though, Miller and Thorne are to be congratulated for continuing to study Sim's work, and for giving such a wildly iconoclastic artist this interesting and attractive a platform. Now that the obligation to deliver Cerebus the comic book is out of his way, you can see that Sim is delighted to be able to stretch out and occupy so much more literary real estate with his direct thoughts, opinions and memories, unimpeded by the perceived need to hew to a fictional narrative, or even the illusion that he's living in anything but his own strange headspace. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane

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