Dave Sim's Answers To Five Questions About Flight, Part 7Kickstarter ends 2 December!
As we close in on the last days for the Kickstarter for Cerebus Archive Number 7: Flight, I thought we should take a look back on Dave's answers to the Cerebus Yahoo Group's five questions. Specifically, his answers regarding Flight.
Preamble: So a few years ago (2005, I believe,) The Cerebus Yahoo Group started a re-read of the whole series. And then we'd discuss an individual volume and come up with five questions and send them to Dave, and he would respond. These are those questions and answers. (Please note, most questions were multi-part in nature, and Dave would break them down as he answered them.)
WILDCARD QUESTION: You use black wavy panel borders periodically throughout the whole of Cerebus up until two thirds of the way across page 253 of Minds. The borders disappear, make a brief reappearance on page 264 around your self portrait, and then disappear again. Also, in Melmoth, the borders are black, but not wavy. They pop up a couple of times during the last hundred issues. What is the significance of the black bordering? Is it aesthetic or thematic in nature?
DAVE: Both. #220 was the only Letratape that they had that actually had a hand-drawn quality to it apart from the various thicknesses of basic black strips. "Election Night" (i43) as an example was done with a tape that had a thick and a thin line. It looked all right but it didn't look as if it was drawn by hand. I was always looking for ways to speed up the drawing time and being able to lay down bordertapes turned out to be a good one. I could rough in a page and dialogue and word balloons and then put the border tapes on in fifteen or twenty minutes so that some part of the page was finished early in the proceedings. "This is the configuration of the page, now all I have to do is to fill in the resulting panels." The same reason that I would always try to start inking as soon as possible even if it was just one sound effect or a word balloon or part of a face. It was too easy to get bogged down in the penciling stage, making sure of everything in pencil and then having to face the fact that everything now needed to be inked. The sooner I had something inked on the page, the clearer a mental image I had of my ultimate goal with the page. The pencils were guidelines, not finished art. Also the #220 was on a "carrier film" that was about an eighth of an inch wide on either side, so I was able to draw right up to the edge of the carrier film and use the edge of it as an inset panel with no trouble, so Ger and I ended up with a clean edge to the illustration, a strip of white space and the panel border which looked more difficult than it actually was to do and gave the page a nice illustrative quality. The wavy line would swerve from the middle of the carrier film to one side, so I had to separate the Letratapes into "50 yard line" tapes-where the wavy line was going right down the middle-for the interior panel borders and the tapes where the wavy line swerved to one side as the outside panel borders with the greatest thickness of carrier film on the "inside" of the page. It tended to vary even in a given tape which would start out as a '50 yard line" tape and then swerve over to one side before I had a whole page "ruled up" so I had to pay attention. If you go through the books and look carefully, you can see how much "swerve" there is on any given border-sometimes quite a bit.. In a thematic sense, it served as my overall view of life which was that it was a lot like the monitoring device in the hospital, sort of jagged, sort of wavy. That was the reason that the wavy line disappeared for the duration of Melmoth. Thematically the book was about death, so the borders on all the panels "flat-lined". It also occurred to me that the characters were pretty universally trapped inside this reality-sort of jagged, sort of wavy but intermittently- usually for the duration of one panel or a couple of panels-something they thought or something that happened would break them out of that entrapped state of existence and I would drop the jagged/wavy panel border to signify that. I didn't get obsessive about it. Most of the time it was just something that was in the back of my mind that I tried to keep consistent in the hopes that it might register unconsciously with the reader. Just another layer among many.
And, of course, I put the border tape around my self-portrait at the beginning of Minds as a way of emphasizing that same point with a little edge of irony to it. I'm entering my own book at this point-the Cerebus part of my own book and I'm no different from my characters in a lot of ways. I am, likewise, contained by sort of jagged, sort of wavy parameters that I'm unable to escape that signal that I'm alive but not fundamentally more aware than anyone else who has incarnated physically. I'm Dave Sim, I'm not Tarim. And the decision to drop the bordertapes in the Juno sequence was decided at the exact point where I got through to Cerebus. I didn't get through to him fully, but sufficiently that he genuinely broke out of his sort of jagged, sort of wavy parameters. Once a thing is seen, it can't be unseen. It took some doing but I got him to see exactly what sort of person he was and to see it clearly enough that he couldn't retreat to a higher opinion of himself. I even made the attempt to show him that Jaka wasn't who he thought she was, that she was involved with someone else at that very moment. I really tried to crack open the nut because he had never faced the fact that it was vitally important to him that if he wasn't with Jaka he had to believe that she was somewhere else, alone, pining away for him. I call it the Sandra Dee Syndrome. What I couldn't get him to see was that when Jaka came back, she would be interested in taking up with him again, but she would be interested in taking up with anyone that she had been involved with. Truth be told she wouldn't have gotten involved with Rick again if she had run into him and he was willing to put all of that unpleasantness with Mrs. Thatcher behind them. She practically signed Cerebus' death warrant because taking up with F. Stop Kennedy sounded like fun. It was fun running Cerebus around in circles on the way back to his parents' place and it would be fun being the Patroness Saint of Art on Mealc for a period of time. If she could picture being That Jaka and being That Jaka sounded like fun, it was as like as not that she would go for it. The same as she admitted to Cerebus that the bloom had been off the rose in her marriage and if he had said, "Time to hit the road and go see the Wall of Tsi" she could do that without a backward glance. Not because Cerebus was her One True Love-which is how Cerebus saw it-but because the Wall of Tsi was unfinished business and sounded like more fun that what she was doing now; trying to get Rick to grow up and be responsible and fighting a losing battle to make Pud's tavern a success.
Next: There is no "Next", it's five questions and a wildcard. Man you people are greedy...