Dave Sim

Dave Sim

Dave Sim at Small Press and Alternative Comics Expos in Columbus, Ohio in 2007
Born David Victor Sim
(1956-05-17) May 17, 1956
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
  • Cartoonist
  • Writer
  • Artist
  • Publisher
  • Letterer
  • Notable works
    Notable collaborations
    Awards Full list

    David Victor "Dave" Sim (born 17 May 1956) is a Canadian cartoonist and publisher, best known for his comic book Cerebus, his artistic experimentation, his advocacy of self-publishing and creator's rights, and his controversial political, philosophical and religious beliefs.

    Sim dropped out of high school to pursue a career in comics, and rose to prominence after he began Cerebus in December 1977. Initially, Cerebus was a parody of Conan the Barbarian and other sword and sorcery comics, but after two years Sim came to conceive of the series as a self-complete work, which would run for 300 issues and be subdivided into "novels". By the time the 6000-page work was completed in March 2004, Sim had delved into politics, theology, metaphysics, and a controversial examination of feminism and gender issues, while becoming progressively more sophisticated and experimental in his storytelling and artwork. Sim worked on Cerebus Archives after completing Cerebus, and produced the comic books Glamourpuss, which examines the history of photorealistic comics, and Judenhass, about the Holocaust.

    Sim co-founded the small press publisher Aardvark-Vanaheim with his wife-to-be, Deni Loubert, in 1977; most of the titles it published moved to Loubert's Renegade Press after their divorce in the mid-1980s. The publishing company was later co-owned by Sim's creative partner, Gerhard, who dissolved their partnership and sold his stake in the company to Sim in 2007.

    Sim is a pioneer and advocate of self-publishing as an ideal, and was one of the key figures in the creation of the Creator's Bill of Rights in 1988. His relationship with his readers, colleagues and friends has often been strained, sometimes by the content of his work, and often by his expressed opinions and personal interactions. Most prominently, some have labeled Sim a misogynist, though he denies the charge and has refused to maintain contact with anyone who will not sign a form letter denying that he is a misogynist. This has resulted in a break with many of his former friends. His idiosyncratic religious conversion in 1996 has coloured his work and writing since, including the later Cerebus novels. He has criticized the use of copyright to restrict creators, and has made arrangements for his body of work to fall into the public domain following his death.

    Early life

    David Victor Sim was born 17 May 1956 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to Ken and Mary Sim, the second of two children with older sister Sheila. The family moved to Kitchener, Ontario with his family when he was two. His father (a native of Glasgow, Scotland) was a factory supervisor at Budd Automotive, and did work as a labour negotiator.[1]

    He became interested in comic books when he was eight. His interest rarely waned, but he found himself the only collector at his school when he reached adolescence. Early on he was attracted to DC comics, particularly those drawn by Curt Swan, Jim Mooney and Kurt Schaffenberger. In adolescence, he came to like flashier artists such as Barry Windsor-Smith, Neal Adams and Berni Wrightson. Wrightson's Badtime Stories (1971) inspired him to devote himself to drawing.[2] Sim also found inspiration in Mad magazine, particularly Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood's "Superduperman" parody, as well as underground cartoonist Jack Jackson's Conan parody.[3]

    At seventeen, rather than repeat Grade 11, Sim dropped out of high school. His excuse to his parents was there was nothing more he could learn from school that would further his career as a cartoonist. He wrote and drew comics throughout his adolescence, and began submitting work to fanzines. His first published work was some articles in the comics fanzine Rocket's Blast Comicollector. He had submitted artwork as well, and although it was rejected, Sim struck up a relationship with editor Gabe Quintanilla, who encouraged him to continue submitting material to fanzines. Sim convinced Now & Then Books owner Harry Kremer to allow him to produce a newsletter called Now & Then Times. The first issue arrived in the summer of 1972. He produced another issue in 1973, but had begun devoting his time to John Balge's Comic Art News and Reviews, another Canadian comics fanzine. For CANAR he did interviews with subjects such as Barry Windsor-Smith.[4] Sim also worked on "Oktoberfest Comics", a one-shot that featured his "Beavers" characters and was published by Harry Kremer. During this time, he continued to hone his drawing craft by copying the artists he most admired in his comic book collection.[4] He became friends with artist Gene Day in 1974, with whom he had corresponded since 1973. Sim was inspired by the older Day's perseverance, keeping at drawing comics despite the small financial reward. He came to believe that Day's volume of output would be a key to success, and adopted Day's work ethic. The two worked together on a proposed character called "The Partisan" which they hoped would run in Jim Waley's Orb Magazine. Inspired by Charles Schulz's Peanuts and Outhouses of the North, a small book of cartoons published by Highway Bookshop in Northern Ontario, Sim spent 1975 and 1976 developing a comic strip called The Beavers. Highway Bookshop published the book in 1976, for which Sim received $125.[5] A second book failed to materialize when the publisher shut down. He decided that publishers were unreliable, and that the solution would be syndication. He pitched The Beavers to the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. With Day inking the strips, a year's worth was produced in three days.[6] He had work published by Charlton and Warren[5] In 1976, Sim took the only job he ever held outside of the comics field as an employee at Now & Then Books, of which he has said, "It was the only place in Kitchener that I ever felt truly comfortable before or since".[7]

    Sim came to believe at this point that his lack of success was to due the interference of editors and publishers.[8]

    Sim also created various other comics, including a newspaper comic strip called The Beavers which was published in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, and wrote or drew stories published in anthologies such as Phantacea[9] and Star*Reach. The Beavers also saw print in Star*Reach's sister funny animals comic Quack!.



    In December 1977, Sim began publishing Cerebus, an initially bi-monthly, black-and-white comic book series. It began as a parodic cross between Conan the Barbarian and Howard the Duck. Progressively, Sim shifted his narrative style to story arcs of a few issues' length. Soon he moved to longer, far more complex "novels", beginning with the 25-issue storyline High Society which began in issue #26. The sword and sorcery elements in the series, prominent up to that point, were minimized as Sim concentrated more on politics and religion.

    Cerebus was published through Sim's company, Aardvark-Vanaheim, which was run by his wife, Deni Loubert. The two met in 1976, married in 1979, and divorced after nearly five years of marriage.[10]

    In 1979, during a time when he was taking large doses of LSD, Sim was hospitalized for treatment of schizophrenia-like symptoms.[11] It was about this time that Sim began to envision Cerebus as a lengthy story that he would continue until 2004, ending with the lead character's death.

    In the 1980s, Sim traveled widely to promote Cerebus, which became a very successful independently-produced comic book, with a circulation peaking at 36,000 copies. In 1984 he began a collaboration with Gerhard, who handled the background artwork in the series. Aardvark-Vanaheim, managed by Loubert, began publishing other comics besides Cerebus, such as William Messner-Loebs' Journey and Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot. After Sim and Loubert's separation, Loubert started Renegade Press, which assumed publishing duties for all non-Cerebus Aardvark-Vanaheim titles in 1985.

    Although Sim did not maintain a consistent monthly schedule for the entire run, which at times required an accelerated production schedule to catch up, he completed the Cerebus series on schedule in March 2004. As the series progressed, it was noted for its tendency towards artistic experimentation.[12] Sim has called the complete run of Cerebus a 6,000-page novel,[13] a view shared by several academic writers[14][15] and comics historians.[16]

    He purchased Gerhard's stake in Aardvark-Vanaheim,[17] and has made arrangements for the copyright of Cerebus to fall into the public domain following his death.[18][19]

    Post-Cerebus work

    Following the completion of Cerebus in 2004, Sim produces occasional guest work, goes to conventions and regularly attends city council meetings, provides interviews and art for a Texas-based magazine called Following Cerebus, and provided commentary and reports on Kitchener politics for two local magazines (called Xen and Versus).

    As of 2006, Sim was working on the Cerebus Archive Project, an online searchable database of Cerebus materials. Sim is also in the process of reading the Gospels and The Book of Revelation out of Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort's 1881 interlinear Greek to English translation of The New Testament semi-weekly and taking notes. He wrote that he plans to publish a commentary on it, using Chester Brown's artwork for the Gospel of Mark from Brown's unfinished gospel project as illustrations. Sim wrote he may make his notes available as a free digital book. This project was discussed in Collected Letters: 2004, and in recent letters between Sim and his readers.

    Beginning in 2006, Sim began publishing an online comic-book biography of Canadian actress Siu Ta titled Siu Ta, So Far.[20] In late 2006 and early 2007, Sim conducted public readings of the 1611 King James Bible at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener in order to raise money for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.[21]

    In late 2007, Sim announced two projects. One, which he initially referred to only as "Secret Project One", is Judenhass (German for "Jew hatred"), a 56-page "personal reflection on The Holocaust" which was released on May 28, 2008.[22] The other is glamourpuss, a comic-book series which is a combined parody of fashion magazines (wherein Sim traces photos from real fashion magazines) and a historical study of the photorealist style of comic-strip art, for which he did a promotional "tour" of online forums related to comics in February 2008.[23]

    In spring 2009, Sim began publishing Cerebus Archive, a bimonthly presentation of his work before and surrounding Cerebus.[24]

    On October 23, 2009 the first episode of the web series Cerebus TV premiered. The show airs new episodes Fridays at 10 pm Eastern time, which then stream continuously throughout the week. Credits list Dave Sim as the executive producer. He is often the central hub of the shows, either interviewing comics legends or showing behind the scenes at Aardvark-Vanaheim. As of early 2013, there have been approximately 115 episodes of Cerebus TV.

    In 2011, BOOM! Town announced that in 2012 it would publish Dave Sim's Last Girlfriend, a collection of letters between Dave Sim and Susan Alston originally intended for Denis Kitchen's Kitchen Sink Press.[25] It was solicited for an April 2016 release.[26] A collection of academic essays about Cerebus was published in 2012 by McFarland.[27]

    It appeared the 2012 end of Glamoupuss would mean the end of The Strange Death of Alex Raymond which was running in it; in 2013 it was announced IDW would publish the series in a reworked edition, as well as handle a number of other projects, including a Cerebus cover collection.[28][29]


    Sim's pioneering use of an extended, multi-layered storytelling canvas, divided in large arcs divided in mostly self-contained issues, was acknowledged by J. Michael Straczynski as his inspiration for the structure of Babylon 5.[30]


    Creators' rights

    During the 1980s and early 1990s, Sim used his sales leverage from Cerebus to act as a major proponent and advocate of creator's rights and self-publishing. After the Puma Blues distribution incident, he helped write the Creators' Bill of Rights[31] along with Scott McCloud, and Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In addition to speaking on these topics at comic book conventions (as in his 1993 PRO/con speech[32]), Sim also published the seminal The Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing in 1997, which instructed readers on the practical matters of how to successfully self-publish their own comics. Sim often promoted other creators' fledgling work in the back pages of Cerebus.

    Sim has criticized the use of copyrights to restrict the use of creations which would have more quickly become public domain under earlier copyright law.[18] He has stated that other creators are free to use his characters in their own works, which he characterizes as an attempt to be consistent with his own appropriation of others' works.[33][34]

    Claims of misogyny

    In the course of writing Cerebus, Sim expressed opposition to feminism and made controversial statements regarding men and women. Sim expressed his views on gender in issue #186 of Cerebus, in a text piece as part of the story arc "Reads" (one of four books in the larger "Mothers & Daughters" arc), using the pseudonym Viktor Davis. Among the various theories expounded upon in the piece, Sim's alter-ego Viktor Davis categorizes humanity into metaphorical lights, which tended to reside in biological men, and voids, which tended to be in biological women. He characterized Voids as "without a glimmer of understanding of intellectual processes" and declared that "Light does not Breed".

    In 1995, The Comics Journal #174 featured a Bill Willingham caricature of Sim on one of the covers, bearing the title "Dave Sim: Misogynist Guru of Self-Publishers". Inside was a lengthy article written by Jonathan Hagey and Kim Thompson that published responses from comics creators such as Alan Moore, Seth, Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette, and Sim's friend and fellow Canadian Chester Brown. The responses ranged from anger to a belief that Sim was joking. Others would later speculate that Sim was suffering from a mental illness related to his heavy drug use in late 1970s.[11] The article also included a short interview with Sim's ex-wife, wherein she described the essay as evidence of Sim being "very scared". Accompanying the article was an illustration of Sim as a Nazi German concentration camp warden, standing before a gate with the name of his publishing company, with emaciated camp prisoners behind the fence. In the essay in Cerebus #186, Sim characterized fellow self-publishing cartoonist Jeff Smith as an example of a man dominated by his wife. When Smith contested this,[35] Sim accused Smith of lying and challenged Smith to a boxing match, which Smith declined.[36]

    In 2001, Sim published another essay, "Tangent", in Cerebus #265 (April 2001).[37] In it, Sim furthered the themes from "Reads", describing the tangent he contends western society has taken due to the widespread acceptance and proliferation of feminism, beginning in 1970. The Comics Journal posted the full essay on its website, although a short introduction by staff distanced the Journal from the ideas therein, calling them "nutty and loathsome". The following issue included a rebuttal to the first "Tangent" by "Ruthie Penmark". Several years later, in issue #263, the Journal devoted a section to discussion of Cerebus. It reprinted a 2001 essay by Renee Stephen, "Masculinity's Last Hope, or Creepily Paranoid Misogynist?: An Open Letter to Dave Sim",[38] addressing the "Tangent" controversy. Sim's reply to Stephen, and Stephen's reply to Sim's reply, were published in The Comics Journal # 266.

    Despite the description of his views and his reputation as a misogynist,[36][39][40] Sim maintains that he is not one.[41] In 2008, Sim sent out a self-written form letter to individuals who had sent him mail, detailing his disagreement with being called a misogynist and disenchantment with what he perceived as a dearth of support in refuting those claims to his character. Contending that society perceived misogynists as the "lowest, subhuman form of life in our society", he mentioned that few, if any, people had defended him, allowing him to be called "the lowest, subhuman form of life in our society with impunity." Sim's letter ended with an ultimatum, requesting that those who wished to receive his return correspondence reply with a letter or online posting and the statement, "I do not believe Dave Sim is a misogynist." All others were asked not to attempt to contact him again.[41]

    Relationship with The Comics Journal

    The coverage of his writings about feminism was not the only subject of Sim's conflict with The Comics Journal. He and Gary Groth, editor-in-chief of The Comics Journal, have had a combative relationship over the years. The magazine was the first to publish a review of the first dozen or so issues of Cerebus, by Kim Thompson in December 1979, who called Cerebus "a true heir to Carl Barks' duck stories".[42]

    Early in the 1990s, Groth took issue with Sim's stance of self-publishing as the best option for creators, and began to disseminate the view that it was best to work for a publisher, mentioning Ivan Boesky's address to the University of California's commencement ceremony in May 1986, where Boesky informed his audience that "greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."

    Later, on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con Groth indicted Sim in what Sim characterized as a "Nuremberg-style tribunal designed to bring to light the most deserving criminals who had over the past decade and longer besmirched the good name of the comics art and industry".[43]

    Despite this adversarial relationship, Groth later published an issue of the Journal featuring a critical roundtable on the series.

    Theology and philosophy

    Following his reading of the Bible and the Qur'an beginning in December 1996, Sim underwent a religious conversion from atheist secular humanism to his own mixture of the Abrahamic religions. He lives a lifestyle of fasting, celibacy, prayer, and alms-giving, and considers scriptures from the Jewish (the Torah, and Nevi'im), Christian (the Gospels, Acts and the Book of Revelation), and Islamic (the Qur'an) religions to be equally valid as the Word of God.[44] He explored theological themes heavily in the later issues of Cerebus.


    Sim has been nominated for many awards, and has won several:

    Day Prize

    In 2001, Sim and his collaborator Gerhard founded the Howard E. Day Prize for outstanding achievement in self-publishing, in tribute to Sim's mentor, Gene Day. Bestowed annually at SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio from 2002 to 2008[45] the prize consisted of a $500 cash award and a commemorative plaque. The recipient was chosen by Sim and Gerhard from a pool of submitted works. Beginning 2009, the Day Prize has been replaced by the SPACE Prize.

    Collections of Sim's writing

    See also


    1. Hoffman 2012, p. 7.
    2. Hoffman 2012, p. 8.
    3. Hoffman 2012, pp. 9–10.
    4. 1 2 Hoffman 2012, pp. 8–9.
    5. 1 2 Hoffman 2012, p. 10.
    6. Hoffman 2012, pp. 12–13.
    7. Walcoff 2007.
    8. Hoffman 2012, pp. 11–12.
    9. "Jim McPherson's Phantacea Mythos Online". Retrieved 2007-06-25.
    10. "Cerebus Biweekly" #6, Feb 1989, inside front cover. Aardvark-Vanaheim
    11. 1 2 Tinker, Emma (2008) Identity and Form in Alternative Comics, 1967 - 2007, University College of London, 2008.
    12. Wolk, Douglas. Reading comics: how graphic novels work and what they mean. Da Capo Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-306-81509-6. "[Sim] routinely pulls off technical feats that no other cartoonist would dare." (page 295)
    13. Sim, Dave. Cerebus Number Zero ("Note from the President", inside front cover). Aardvark-Vanaheim, June 1993. ISSN 0712-7774. "Cerebus is a six thousand page story-line, documenting the ups and downs of a single character's life (as well as the lives of those around him)."
    14. "Cerebus Archive #03". Retrieved 2011-05-24. Three complete comics stories in this issue: " The Necromancer", "The Company Man" and "Gravedigger's Banquet" -- just to prove that the creator of the world's only 6,000 page graphic novel USED to know how to "cut to the chase".
    15. Wolk, Douglas. "The Greatest Story Almost Told: The most ambitious comic ever turns 20". Spin, December 1997. "From the start, Sim planned Cerebus as a 300-issue, 6,000-page epic, the action revolving around an aardvark in a medieval city-state who becomes a prime minister, then a pope, then a bartender."
    16. Wolk, Douglas. "Aardvark Politick" , September 2005. "Dave Sim’s 6,000-plus-page Cerebus is a Deeply Misogynistic Graphic Novel about an Anthropomorphic, Hermaphroditic Aardvark. And it’s an Absolute Masterpiece."; "In March of last year, the Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim published the final twenty-page installment of Cerebus, the 6,000-plus-page comic-book epic he’d been writing and drawing since 1977."
    17. Tundis, Jeff. "Gerhard and Aardvark-Vanaheim have parted ways.". Cerebus Yahoo! Group. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
    18. 1 2 "CerberusFangirl.com: "A Cerebus Mailing List 'talk' with Dave Sim". Cerebusfangirl.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    19. Grady Hendrix (2004-03-23). "Hendrix, Grady. "Readers of the Last Aardvark". ''The Village Voice'', March 30, 2004". Villagevoice.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    20. Excerpt of Episode 1 of Siu Ta, So Far, Urge2film.com
    21. Dave Sim's Blog & Mail entry from November 26, 2006
    22. "Dave Sim – Judenhass". Judenhass.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    23. "''glamourpuss''". Glamourpusscomic.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    24. Johnson,, Craig. Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive #1 ComicsVillage.com, n.d.
    25. Johnston, Rich (November 16, 2011). "Boom! Town To Publish Dave Sim's Last Girlfriend". Bleedingcool.com. Avatar Press. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
    26. http://www.amazon.com/Dave-Sims-Last-Girlfriend-Sim/dp/1608862593
    27. "Cerebus the Barbarian Messiah: Essays on the Epic Graphic Satire of Dave Sim and Gerhard".
    28. Khouri, Andy (July 20, 2013). "Dave Sim's Photorealism Exploration ‘The Strange Death of Alex Raymond’ To Be Completed at IDW [SDCC 2013]". Comics Alliance.
    29. Wickline, Dan (July 20, 2013). "Dave Sim And IDW Bring Us The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond". Bleeding Cool.
    30. Straczynski, J. Michael. "Dave Sim: Marathon Man", Following Cerebus #7, February 2007
    31. "The Creators' Bill of Rights at". Scottmccloud.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    32. "Text of Sim's 1993 PRO-Con speech at". Cerebusfangirl.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    33. "Dave Sim's blog, July 10, 2007". Davesim.blogspot.com. 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    34. Newsarama discussion, Feb 6, 2008
    35. Smith, Jeff. "The Feud with Dave Sim". Boneville. Archived from the original on 2007-02-23. Retrieved 2014-03-30.
    36. 1 2 Dean, Micheal (2001). "In the Company of Sim". The Comics Journal.
    37. Sim, Dave. "Tangent". TheAbsolute.net
    38. Stephen, R.S.; "Masculinity's Last Hope, or Creepily Paranoid Misogynist? An Open Letter to Dave Sim"; tcj.com; Reprinted from The Comics Journal #263 Archived April 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
    39. "Writings from "Reads" by Dave Sim;". Theabsolute.net. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    40. "Spawn 20 Years Later: Looking Back at the Quintessential '90s Comic Book;". Comics Alliance. 2012-02-02. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
    41. 1 2 Sim, Dave. "Dave Sim's form letter". Retrieved 2015-02-04.
    42. Thompson 1979, p. 25.
    43. "The Comics Journal - The Comics Journal Performs a Public Service". Archives.tcj.com. 1999-10-08. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
    44. "Just to be clear on the subject of what I consider scripture: the Torah, that is, the Law and the Prophets as held by Orthodox Judaism (i.e. no Ruth, no Esther, no Daniel, no Job, no Song of Songs, etc.), the First Book of Moshe through to Malachi, the four Gospels, Acts and John's Apocalypse, and all of the Koran." Sim, Dave. (2007) Collected Letters Volume 2, p. 90.
    45. "SPACE". BackPorchComics.com. Retrieved 2011-07-18.

    Works cited

    External links

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