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All that we see or seem: Douglas reads two not-a-comics from 12/5

Brian Hibbs

I’ve generally been enjoying Following Cerebus a lot, and I say this as somebody who was a hardcore Cerebite all the way up to the end of the series but drew the line at “Collected Letters 2.” (I scan Sim’s blog every once in a while to see if he’s talking about comics, and scroll dejectedly past the rest.) Some issues have been fantastic, especially #5, which was mostly about the role of editors in comics; others have been dodgier, but I’m very glad that a magazine exists that will print 100 pages of Dave Sim interviewing Neal Adams, you know?

Following Cerebus #11 is very, very late–I think it’s been about a year since the last one–which is pretty depressing given that Sim and Gerhard never missed a monthly deadline for their final 200 issues, and when they did blow a few ship dates–somewhere in the middle of Church & State–they went just about biweekly until they caught up. This issue’s on the theme of “dreams,” at least at first: there’s a spectacular wraparound cover by Sim and Gerhard (apparently their final cover collaboration) of Cerebus asleep and having a nightmare, an interview with Rick Veitch on the subject of dreams and comics (I hadn’t previously heard of this amazingly weird and wonderful-looking Simon/Kirby series, although I found out yesterday that Jesse Reklaw had), and a page of filler text on the subject of why most of the issue isn’t quite about dreams and Cerebus.

Then things get peculiar. There’s a not-especially-funny satirical piece that purports to be a dialogue with Sim about Collected Letters 2, but isn’t (it doesn’t seem to have any actual Sim involvement), and never makes it past the cover. (Well, we’re in the same boat there.) There’s an eight-page essay by Sim about the way Barry Windsor-Smith’s Opus interfaces with his particular world-view, prompted by a line in the introduction to a reprint of BWS’s “Cerebus Dreams” last issue, followed by a seven-page dialogue between editor Craig Miller and Sim about that essay. There are five commissioned drawings by Sim from 2006 (one of them pretty funny), from which we learn that he’s having to learn how to draw bricks all by himself again. There’s a letter the late Drew Hayes wrote to Sim in 1990; there’s a letter from a mathematician, sighing gently at the Adams interview, followed by a photo of Sarah Michelle Gellar. This isn’t even Following Cerebus, it’s Following Following Cerebus, a magazine disappearing into meta-analysis of itself.

And… it’s Eh for the money at best. Still, I’d happily pay twice as much for a 40-page collection of Sim’s recent commissions–or, for that matter, Gerhard’s recent commissions. Brian Coppola has been commissioning Gerhard to do a series called “The World Without Cerebus”–moments from or suggested by the series that don’t have any characters in them–and they’re predictably gorgeous. (I found out about it via Todd Hignite’s post here.) Coppola’s also got an online “museum” of his original art and commissions; among other things, he commissioned a Sim/Gerhard “recreation” of two pages from Cerebus #29, and it’s fascinating to see that Sim didn’t just redraw that scene, he partially rewrote it.

Also in the not-comics department: Alphabets of Desire, the Alan Moore text lettered by Todd Klein that Klein’s been selling via his blog as a signed limited-edition print. It’s apparently sold out already (there’ll be a second printing next year), and its themes and namedrops won’t be new to those who’ve been paying attention to Moore over the last decade or so: the Tree of Life, John Dee, Austin Spare. (Spare, in fact, is the guy who popularized the idea of the alphabet of desire, a form of sigil magic.) Moore’s view of language is rather Whorfian, and pretty questionable at best when he starts talking about how “if we do not wrap it in the word, a concept is beyond our apprehension.” (Let’s not get into his description of DNA.) It’s a lovely piece of writing, though, and an Excellent object (that will probably end up on my office wall)–Klein’s lettering is so closely bound up with Moore’s latter-day writing in my mind that they seem to naturally go together, and I’m the kind of image-language-text-sensation geek who’s happy to have this serve as my version of “Footprints.”

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