Saturday, February 10, 2007


For those of you who missed Dave Sims response to my letter requesting a foreword for the Chiaroscuro graphic novel I have reprinted it here. If you've already read this, just scroll down a bit to get too the meaty bits that followed the Blog & Mail posting.

Dear Pariah King:

First off, a long overdue CONGRATULATIONS to you and Gerhard on completing Cerebus! It is, in my opinion, the stand-alone most brilliant work in the medium of comics. Now the sad part is that I have nothing in my subscription bin at the comic shop except Following Cerebus, but at least I have that to get my fix along with the Blog & Mail.

What can I say? It was Cerebus and your Guide to Self-Publishing that helped me decide that making comics was what I wanted to do. So in 2000 I started my comic Chiaroscuro going with the "Learn as You Go" approach. All went well and I actually managed to snag a Xeric [grant] right off the bat! I got Diamond, FM and Cold Cut to distribute it and published 7 issues in total. Not quite the 30-50 issue run I had planned, but life happens. A few years back, I sent you issues #1-4 and got a nice letter back from you saying you enjoyed them but also cautioning me against pulling a "Melmoth" right out of the gate. Wise advice even if I didn't heed it.

I remembered the book right away and that was my first—and most common with a lot of the stuff I get in—criticism: you really do need to do first issues that tell the reader more than the first issue of Melmoth does. I was trying to communicate an infirm old man having just come out of prison so it takes him and Robbie the entire issue just to walk past a few buildings. It's very attractive, very understated and looks like the easy way to do Art as opposed to "just comics" but it really does need the weight of ten years of entertainment behind it before you can rely on even a fraction of your readership going along with you. On a first issue, it just looks as if you're yanking their chain. You can accidentally send out the wrong creative message (in the same way that Frank and Alan thought they were killing the super-hero with Dark Knight and Watchmen) and I have come to realize that I did so with that kind of snail-pacing and I sincerely apologize for what I "did" to the comic-book medium by getting guys thinking in terms of 30-50 issue story arcs and pacing them accordingly rather than just getting a bunch of good individual stand-alone issues under the belts first. Mea Culpa. Trying to do anything about it at this point has about as much chance of success as Frank and Alan issuing a joint press release announcing that it isn't necessary for EVERY super-hero comic to be grim and gritty.

I lived in Ottawa at the time, working in animation. The studio my wife and I worked at went belly-up in 2003 owing us a ton of money and putting us in serious debt. We ended up having to move back home to Prince Edward Island and live out of my wife's grandparent's basement for 4 months.

But I kept on drawing the comic. My goal was to get 10 issues out and make the first collection from that. Times have changed and it would seem many self-publishers are going straight to the graphic novel format. Makes sense: longer shelf life, bigger ticket price and more bang for your buck. So here I am finally with the graphic novel ready to go!

See, and I'm fighting back in the other direction, trying to make my secret project a self-contained comic-book-sized comic book—hopefully not much more than 40 pages and a one-shot. I really think we need individual comic books more than ever. If all the stores have is episode 12 of 20 or 4 of 6 or a full-sized book I think we're missing an on-ramp for the civilians we're supposed to theoretically be attracting. Of course I say that from the other side of 16 full-sized graphic novels knowing, obviously, what the appeal of works of that size is. I just hope I can counterbalance that in 2007 or 2008 or whenever it is that I get this comic book done that I've been working on since 2004 off and on. I worked a good dozen 12-hour days on the book and got a total of two pages done. True, they were backgrounds and I'm not used to doing backgrounds (especially not with a Gillott-290 and a magnifying glass!)

Then life happens again and I find myself the proud pop of two beautiful twin girls (3 months old!). Well, I thought maybe I'd see if I could find a publisher for my book as my time is all but eaten up. So here I am, a small POD run of graphic novels being sent to various publishers. I figure it can't hurt to try, if all else fails I'll just publish it myself. I have enclosed two copies, one for you and one for Gerhard.

Which brings me to the crux of this little note. I'm trying to gather the usual round of quotes and such from industry people for the next edition of the book. I would be very honoured if you would consider writing the forward.

I'm sure you're thinking again, "Man, this guy just keeps making bad decisions". Personally, I don't think so. As a major inspiration to my own work (which is fairly obvious) I would be proud to have your name in my book and I'll defend it to my dying breath!

Of course you're under no obligation to write anything, I can only recall seeing you do this for Strangehaven but I repeat, it would be truly be an honour to me if you would consider it. If you have any thoughts or questions on the idea I can be reached at [phone number deleted].

I wish you all the best and thank you and Gerhard once again for 300 glorious issues of Cerebus.

Well, I appreciate the tribute, Troy—particularly that "stand-alone most brilliant work" comment—but you have to realize that this Pariah King thing is no joke particularly if you're out there shopping for a publisher. See, you have to qualify anything that refers to me or Cerebus with "disturbing" or "troubling" or "challenging" or "controversial" or "thought-provoking" or other liberal euphemisms for clinical insanity that indicate that Cerebus needs to be shunned and, if possible, outlawed or you risk being tarred with the same brush. I mean, you really do. It's okay to say unqualified nice things about Cerebus here because this is really only read by the Yahoos and a handful of other folks who are actually open-minded (or looking for examples of my insanity to cite to others), but go and take a look at any reference to Cerebus anyplace else on the Internet and you'll get the idea. There is only one allowable way to think of Dave Sim and you don't want to associate yourself with that universal perception. These folks don't mess around when they set their sights on you. They will, literally, hound you to your grave. In my case, they're more than welcome to do so because it will only show in sharper relief what sort of people they are as opposed to what sort of people they portray themselves to be both to themselves and to others and Cerebus is already out there in quantities that would be very difficult to eliminate (which isn't the case with Chiaroscuro). You shun Cerebus right into the quarter bin in your store and that just makes it more likely that some kid with more brains than money is going to pick it up and not understand that being in the quarter bin is an insult. He's just going to assess it in his own frames of reference. The classic new Cerebus reader: "I had no idea what was going on, but I was hooked."

All that having been said, I was really, really impressed with what you have done with Chiaroscuro. There was definitely the same slow pace and, yes, you certainly have learned every one of my lettering and pacing tricks (Jeez, I thought the Box Office Poison-era Alex Robinson was the consummate Dave Sim magpie) in spades. But, there's a world of difference between knowing the moves as an intellectual exercise and being able to execute them flawlessly which was the case with your work (and with Alex's Tricked) as I got further and further into your book. I could see the narrative tricks that you were using but the point was no longer, as it had been in the issues #1-4 that you had sent me, the tricks themselves—"hey that works really well"—but rather the trick was doing what it was supposed to be doing: drawing me as the reader further into the story. That's probably the most difficult trick in the world to manage, to turn someone who does this stuff for a living into just another reader and, again, you definitely managed it in spades.

Obviously, it's a long story that you're telling here and the twin baby girls (congratulations, by the way) is not exactly the best harbinger I could imagine of this ever getting done, so I'm kind of at a loss for advice here. I'm almost tempted to suggest that you take the Scott Berwanger approach and just finish the story wherever and whenever you can grab a few minutes to work on it and figure that the goal line might have just been pushed somewhere up ahead where the girls go off to college in 2025 or so (trust me, Troy, it will be here before you know it).

Tell you what: let's give you a fighting chance at life, first. You find a publisher or self-publish volume one without an introduction or with an introduction by someone else and when you're established (say, on your third printing or on volume two) I'll do an introduction for you then if you still really want me to. At that point, given the level of ability you exhibit and the wide success and popularity I expect you'll have, having Dave Sim write an introduction for your book can just be written off as a strange eccentricity on your part instead of career suicide. Deal?

End of Letter

I'm of the opinion that Dave's view of himself in regards to how the world views him may be a slight bit overblown but that doesn't lessen the fact that that is how he perceives himself to be viewed and he takes it very seriously.

Dave's post caught the attention of IDW president Ted Adams. Ted's a long time Cerebus fan and he contacted me to see if I was still seeking a publisher. I had sent a copy of Chiaroscuro to IDW just before Christmas but apparently it was lost in the mail (I wonder how many other books never reached their destinations...). So I sent out another copy.

So let's cut to the chase shall we?

IDW will be publishing a hard cover version of Chiaroscuro in the Fall of 2007! I can't tell you how excited I am to be working with IDW, they've been a real pleasure to deal with. The prospect of a slick HC version going world wide is an unexpected surprise to me I can tell you!

So yesterday I called Dave up again to thank him for his inadvertent help in securing me a publisher and to see if he would now (with the publishers blessing) re-consider writing the foreword to the book. Much to my dismay he's sticking to his guns for fear of making me a target to the feminist who would tear me down for association with him. He did say he'd write the foreword (If I still wanted him to) once the book succeeded without his name attached. Fair enough I say.

Thanks everyone for sticking with me over the last few years! Finally Chiaroscuro has a real shot at reaching a wider audience. If the book does well in hardcover we may well be in negotiations for an ongoing series, so be sure to check back here for updates and come the Fall lets get those comic shops to order tons of books!