So I Finally Finished Reading Cerebus

Cerebus is a 300-issue, independent comic book by Dave Sim and Gerhard, published from 1977 to 2004. It tells the story of Cerebus the Aardvark, who starts out as a parody of Conan the Barbarian. Through the course of the story, Cerebus becomes many things, including a prime minister and the Pope, and the massive 300-issue run comprises a single, complete story.

Cerebus Wallpaper (Barbarian 3)

Cerebus is ยฉ 2014 Dave Sim

Gerhard started doing his immaculate backgrounds with #65. Dave Sim wrote the book, drew the characters, did the mechanical tones, the layout, the balloons, and the lettering. Both artists inked their own stuff.

I first heard about Cerebus in Spawn #10–I know, I know–and I started reading the phone book-sized reprint volumes in high school. Like so many other, I was blown away by Dave Sim’s growth as an artist in the first twenty-five issues. I read and reread that first volume, laughing out loud at the brilliant humor each time.

Over the years, I slowly acquired new volumes in the series. High Society, Church & State, Jaka’s Story, Melmoth. Each one was special in its own way. I read up through Rick’s Story (issues 220-231) before taking a long break. This was about the time the series ended at issue 300. For years, with a mixture of excitement and hesitation, I’d looked forward to reading the entire series. You see, I have this weird thing about finishing a series I love. When I know it will be the end–that there will never be any more, not ever–I don’t want to finish it. There are several dead authors that I love, and I usually leave one of their books unread.

I know, it’s crazy.

cerebus-high-society-wallpaper

So I decided to reread Cerebus and to finish it. I’d somehow avoided having the ending spoiled for ten years, but I knew, eventually, someone would give it away (don’t worry–I won’t spoil anything here). I’d never met anyone else that read the book (without my having introduced them to it), and I’d steered clear of any news about Cerebus since I started reading it in the late ’90s. I had no idea where the book was going in the final stretch.

Some of you, however, might see where this is going.

cerebus_underwater1

The first volumes were as amazing as I remember them. High Society and Church & State still floored me. Jaka’s Story was just as gripping, Melmoth just as unusual and interesting. The text pieces on creators’ rights and self-publishing, which I had never read before, were inspiring.

I’m not sure where I realized what was really going on. I’d heard it said “Dave Sim is a Misogynist,” but I assumed that was a reaction to the male light and female void symbolism. Alexander Adrock, a great guy I follow on Twitter, said he wasn’t planning to read the book because of Sim’s opinions on women. Folks are just oversensitive, I thought. I even signed the “I don’t believe Dave Sim in a misogynist” petition.

In the full read-through, Sim started making remarks about feminism in the letters pages, but they weren’t that offensive. There are a small minority of feminists that believe men are a waste of genetics, and he may have been sick of hearing about it. I could see a guy in the 1980s feeling that way.

Then he says in the letters page of #171 that “women and government don’t mix.” On the next page, he mentions the Feminist/Matriarchist agenda. Uh-oh, I thought.

Issue 186 is a watershed issue. In a lengthy text piece, Sim inserts himself into his work as Viktor Davis and says things you would have to read to believe. The fact that I did not catch it when I read through Reads in my early 20s shows how much I was willing to overlook. I must have thought that it wasn’t what Sim really believed, that this author surrogate was a parody of people’s perceptions.

But Sim defended those beliefs as his own, and it was all downhill from there. The comic and accompanying text pieces now exist to showcase his increasingly worrying views:

His fear of the feminist/homosexualist axis and the Marxist/feminist axis. Wishes he could just date teenagers. Men should spank their wives if they misbehave (and I don’t mean in a fun way). When SARS was a big thing, he claims it is God’s judgement on Canada. He mentions that, before doing interviews for Mothers & Daughters, he had never bothered to interact with women he didn’t want to sleep with. Near the end, he blames his mother’s poor health on her being an atheist.

minds142143

Maybe it would be different if it stayed out of the story itself. But there’s the #186 text piece. And one of Sim’s strongest female characters–one he used to respect–is turned into “a spoiled, myopic, insensitive, self-absorbed and self-important harlot princess.” In #281, Cerebus states that the Jews bring the Holocaust on themselves. Cerebus parades women in front of a roomful of men in #277, and they vote if she is “a devil, a viper, or a scorpion.” If she’s found guilty, she gets her head blown off.

Cerebus 277 execution

Sim’s opinion of “Mr. Mom” makes it clear what he would think of me. Despite being a creator and a self-publisher, my stay-at-home dad status marks me as a victim of the feminist/homosexualist conspiracy.

The sad thing is, I really believe Dave Sim is the genius he wants to be remembered as. Tim Callahan puts him up there with Will Eisner, and I agree. I’m still glad I got to read the book. The experience was a valuable one.

I respect Sim for his art and for self-publishing when it seemed impossible, and it breaks my heart that his opinions overshadow his brilliant body of work. We all know H.P. Lovecraft was a racist and those opinions color his work, but his stories aren’t about the benefits of lynchings.

You see Sim in the old convention photographs, and you read his stories about Colleen Doran, Chester Brown, Jeff Smith, and all the others. Many have apparently severed ties. Diana Schutz, an acclaimed editor who served as his proofreader, was willing to overlook Sim’s opinions, but she resigned when Sim challenged Jeff Smith to a boxing match. Even Sim’s family, who I don’t think we hear about until his Mama’s Boy essay, seems to be estranged (going by the Chester Brown interview in #297).

Does Dave Sim have the right to voice his opinions? Of course he does. And if he wants to put them in a comic book, he has the right to do that, too. But that doesn’t shield him from the public’s reaction to those opinions. I sincerely hope Dave Sim isn’t forgotten and Cerebus isn’t totally dismissed by history as a consequence of his views.

So I recant my signature on the “I don’t believe Dave Sim is a misogynist” petition. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t have all the facts.

(For those interested in Dave Sim and Cerebus, the best blog on the subject is A Moment of Cerebus. Tim Callahan of Comic Book Resources also recorded his reaction to reading all 300 issues [part 1, part 2, part 3]).

An Easy and Cheap Way to Sell eBooks in Person

In a Panhandle Professional Writers workshop, the speaker (whose name escapes me) mentioned selling eBooks in person. She said everyone did it “using cards” so they would “have something to sign.” According to her, some folks collected them like Marvel Universe Series 1 trading cards. Or maybe that was just how I heard it.

We'll always return to the one true line-up.

The only true Fantastic Four.

When the time came to actually make these cards, I couldn’t find any information online about how to do it. I wanted it to be automatic, with a link or a QR code (so fancy!). Dropcards is a company making something similar to what I wanted. The prices are fair but higher than I wanted to spend. So here is my cheap, professional-looking, DIY solution involving postcards and a sign-up sheet.

It took about three weeks for my cards to show up from the discount printer, so give yourself as much lead time as you can. If you can get these done two months before you need them, you should be covered in case you make a mistake or there’s a printing error.

First, obviously, you need your eBooks. For Monsters All the Way Down, I made .epub and .mobi files. Those will cover just about any ereader device. There’s plenty of info out there on eBook creation, but it can be a bit confusing. Someday I’ll compile a list of all the tips and tricks I compiled.

Making the postcard images wasn’t difficult. Since these are going to be printed, you want them at 300 dpi. If you’re printing a physical book, your cover should already be this quality. I decided to make one side of the postcard my cover, and the other side one of the images I created for this site. The dimensions will depend on how you’re printing the postcards, and be aware that they will probably be different than those of your cover.

If you don’t want to make the images yourself, talk to your cover designer. They will probably help you out, but don’t expect them to work for free. Here are lower quality examples of the two images I used, side-by-side. You’ll probably want to leave more room for the bleed than I did.

ebook purchase receipt example

Folks are divided whether the digital edition title I made is cool or stupid and impossible to read.

On the side opposite the cover, I put ‘Monsters All the Way Down: Digital Edition.’ At the bottom, I wrote, ‘If you have not received an email containing your eBook files within 24 hours, please contact us.’ Under that is an email I set up for this purpose and my website.

Unless you have a way of doing it cheap at home, you need to find someone who prints postcards. I needed the right balance of cheap and quality, and ended up using Vistaprint. They had a discount on postcards at the time, so they won’t always be the cheapest, but it cost me $28 for 100 cards with one discount, $35 for another 100 with a different discount. I’ve also had great results printing business cards at 123print.

Here’s how the postcards look in reality.

ebook receipt in real life

They’re bigger than they look. I have tiny doll hands.

These are color, two-sided postcards printed on recycled matte. I always prefer matte over gloss, but that’s just me. If you wanted to save on cost, you could print them one-sided, and include contact information with your cover. I just preferred the look of an unmarred cover on one side.

The mistake I madeย  BOTH TI–sorry, both times I printed was that the backside was flipped. I wanted the postcard to be like a book, where you turned it over horizontally and it was still right-side up. Imagine flipping a book and the blurb is upside down. Different printing sites make it easier to avoid this mistake, but at Vistaprint I got it wrong twice. If you have any doubts at all, try and order samples or talk to someone directly at the company about what you need to do.

Print a sign-up sheet asking for the customer’s name, email, and whether they would like to opt into your email list. I charged a flat $5 to make it easier to give change, and I was able to accept credit or debit cards through my phone with PayPal. Square is another popular option for accepting cards.

If you’re as full of yourself as I am, you’ll want to to put your John Hancock on the cards if requested. I used a silver metallic Sharpie for this, since it showed up better than a regular Sharpie or my fountain pen.

I told anyone that bought the digital edition that I’d send it that evening. Sending the email right then would be even better, but I couldn’t think of a smooth way to do that with attachments from my phone. If someone has a solution other than forwarding an email (wouldn’t that look cluttered?), please comment below. I’ll post it here and give you credit.

Here’s the text of the email I sent. Feel free to modify it and use it as you see fit. Don’t forget to attach your epub and mobi files! I sent each message out individually and addressed to the recipient. If you decide to send them out in batches, for goodness sake, use BCC instead of CC so you aren’t giving away email addresses without consent.


Subject: Monsters All the Way Down eBook delievery

Dear [Name],

Thank you for purchasing the Monsters All the Way Down eBook.

Attached to this email are two different files, an .epub and a .mobi. The .mobi is intended for Amazon Kindle devices, while the .epub should work on other ereader devices.

These files are DRM-free, meaning you can read them on as many devices as you desire.

The process to add the file to your device is quite simple. Below are links explaining various methods.

You have two options to add the .mobi file to your Kindle:
How to transfer files to your Kindle by USB
How to email files to your Kindle

To read an .epub file in iBooks on an iPad or iPhone:
How To Open EPub Files Directly In iBooks

There are many options for reading an eBook on an Android device. One option is listed below:
Upload PDF and EPUB files to Google Books on Android

There are numerous other ereaders on the market. If yours is not included above, please consult the manufacturer’s website or the device documentation.

Thank you again for supporting Monsters All the Way Down. If you have any problem accessing the book files on your device, please contact me. I’d be happy to help you enjoy my book.

(Place fancy email signature here)


I also sold the eBooks through my site using a PayPal link. Since Monsters All the Way Down is now in the Kindle Select program, I’m only selling eBooks through Amazon. But I think the postcard method worked well when I needed it.

If anyone has other suggestions for selling and delivering your own eBooks, please comment below.