Dave Sim

Dave Sim
Dave Sim

Dave Sim at the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expos in Columbus, Ohio in 2007. Photograph by Margaret Liss.
Born David Victor Sim
May 17, 1956 (1956-05-17) (age 55)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Area(s) Cartoonist, Writer, Artist, Publisher, Letterer
Notable works Cerebus
Notable collaborations Gerhard
Awards Full list

Official website

David Victor Sim (born May 17, 1956 in Hamilton, Ontario) is an award-winning Canadian comic book writer and artist.

A pioneer of self-published comics and creators' rights, Sim is best known as the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, a comic book published from 1977 to 2004, which chronicles its main character in a 6,000-page self-contained story. Originally a satire of sword and sorcery comics, Cerebus later delved into metaphysics, theology, politics, and an examination of modern feminism, while becoming progressively more experimental in storytelling and artwork. Sim's work in Cerebus proved influential on several generations of comics creators, including his use of extended story arcs.


Early life

Dave Sim was born in Hamilton, Canada[1] and moved to Kitchener, Ontario with his family when he was two. His father Ken — a native of Glasgow, Scotland[2] — was a factory supervisor at Budd Automotive and his mother an elementary school secretary. He has an older sister named Sheila.

He was interested in comics from an early age, and dropped out of high school to pursue a career in the field. The only job he ever held outside of the comic field was working as an employee at Now and Then Books. "It was the only place in Kitchener that I ever felt truly comfortable before or since", Sim has said.[3]

In the 1970s he published a fanzine called The Now and Then Times (financed by Harry Kremer, the owner of the comic book store after which the newsletter was named), and did work for such other fanzines as John Balge's Comic Art News and Reviews and Gene Day's Dark Fantasy and National Advisor. Sim often interviewed professional comics artists such as Barry Windsor-Smith, Harvey Kurtzman and Neal Adams.

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[4] 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 from story arcs of a few issues' length to longer, far more complex "novels", beginning with the storyline known as High Society. The prominent sword and sorcery elements in the series 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.[5]

In the 1980s, Sim traveled widely to promote Cerebus, which became a very successful independently produced comic book, its circulation peaking at 36,000 copies. In 1984 he began a collaboration with Gerhard, who handled the background drawings 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.

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 formal experimentation.[6] Sim has called the complete run of Cerebus a 6,000-page novel,[7] a view shared by several academic writers[8][9] and comics historians.[10]

He purchased Gerhard's stake in Aardvark-Vanaheim,[11] and has made arrangements for the copyright of Cerebus to fall into the public domain following his death.[12][13]

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 is 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 has said 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. Recently Sim said 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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

In spring 2009, Sim began publishing Cerebus Archive, a bimonthly presentation of his work before and surrounding Cerebus.[18]

On October 23, 2009 the first episode of CerebusTV aired, at http://Cerebus.TV utilizing internet streaming video technology from EXOSS.NET. The show airs new episodes weekly, Fridays at 10 pm Eastern time, which then stream continuously throughout the week. Credits list Dave Sim as the executive producer. He is also the central hub of the shows, either interviewing comics legends or showing behind the scenes at Aardvark-Vanaheim. As of early 2011, there have been approximately 50 episodes of Cerebus.TV.


Dave Sim's art, lettering, and storytelling innovations influenced several generations of comic book creators. Some artists integrated his visual style to the point of sometimes being originally called copycats, such as James A. Owen (in Starchild, 1990s) or Troy Little (in Chiaroscuro, 2000-2005/2007); others used only some of his storytelling tools, such as Alex Robinson (in Box Office Poison, 1996-2000/2000). Sim jokingly calls them "Dave Sim magpies".[19]

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.[20]


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[21] 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[22]), 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.[12] 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.[23][24]

Feminism controversy

In the course of writing Cerebus, Sim expressed views contrary to feminism, modern materialism, and leftist politics that had become rather prominent and influential in Canada. 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.[25] 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.

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. 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 piles of emaciated bodies laying within. 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,[26] Sim accused Smith of lying and challenged Smith to a boxing match, which Smith declined.[27]

In 2001, Sim published another essay, "Tangent", in Cerebus #265 (April 2001).[28] 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",[29] addressing the "Tangent" controversy. Sim's reply to Stephen, and Stephen's reply to Sim's reply, were published in The Comics Journal # 266.

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 1979.

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."[30]

Later, on a panel at the San Diego Comic Con Groth indicted Sim in 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"[31]

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

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.[32] He explored theological themes heavily in the later issues of Cerebus.


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

  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Defender of Liberty Award 1996
  • Diamond Gemmie as Small Press Pioneer
  • Eisner Award: Best Graphic Album: Reprint, 1994, for Cerebus: Flight by Dave Sim and Gerhard
  • Harvey Award: Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist), 1992, Dave Sim, for Cerebus; Best Letterer, 2004, Dave Sim, for Cerebus
  • Ignatz Awards: Outstanding Artist, 1998, Dave Sim, Cerebus
  • Inkpot Award 1981
  • Joe Shuster Awards: Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Achievement, 2005, Dave Sim and Gerhard for completing 300 issues of Cerebus in 2004; Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame, 2006; Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonst, 2009, for Glamourpuss and Judenhass
  • Kirby Award: Best Black & White Series, 1987 and 1985, Cerebus by Dave Sim
  • Squiddy Awards: Best Creative Team, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993 (all for the team of Dave Sim and Gerhard); Best Letterer, 2001.
  • SPACE Lifetime Achievement Award 2004

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[33] 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

Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing (ISSN 0712-7774) collects selections from Sim's 'Notes from the President' column that dealt with self-publishing, the Pro/Con speech from 1993, and more.

Collected Letters: 2004 (ISBN 0-919359-23-X) collects Sim's responses to readers' letters (the original letters are not included) after the publication of Cerebus #300.

Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2 collects Sim's responses to readers' letters (the original letters are not included) from June and July 2004.

See also


  1. ^ Dave Sim at the Lambiek Comiclopedia. Access date 2008-01-14
  2. ^ "Dave Sim's blogandmail #183". March 13, 2007. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cerebus/message/113632. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  3. ^ Walcoff, Matt. "Historic comic book shop turns the final page", The Record (Kitchener, Ontario), September 21, 2007
  4. ^ "Jim McPherson's Phantacea Mythos Online". http://home.istar.ca/~jmcp/phhome1.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  5. ^ "Cerebus Biweekly" #6, Feb 1989, inside front cover. Aardvark-Vanaheim
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ 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)."
  8. ^ "Cerebus Archive #03". http://www.comixpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=21_31&products_id=1522&zenid=oaql6ak5hob2ln8o2jk2l1iml7. 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"." 
  9. ^ 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."
  10. ^ 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."
  11. ^ Tundis, Jeff. "Gerhard and Aardvark-Vanaheim have parted ways.". Cerebus Yahoo! Group. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cerebus/message/107509. Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  12. ^ a b "CerberusFangirl.com: "A Cerebus Mailing List 'talk' with Dave Sim". Cerebusfangirl.com. http://www.cerebusfangirl.com/artists/0304talk.php. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  13. ^ Grady Hendrix (2004-03-23). "Hendrix, Grady. "Readers of the Last Aardvark". ''The Village Voice'', March 30, 2004". Villagevoice.com. http://www.villagevoice.com/books/0413,hendrix,52244,10.html. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  14. ^ Excerpt of Episode 1 of Siu Ta, So Far, Urge2film.com
  15. ^ Dave Sim's Blog & Mail entry from November 26, 2006
  16. ^ "Dave Sim – Judenhass". Judenhass.com. http://www.judenhass.com/. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  17. ^ "''glamourpuss''". Glamourpusscomic.com. http://www.glamourpusscomic.com/. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  18. ^ Johnson,, Craig. Dave Sim's Cerebus Archive #1 ComicsVillage.com, n.d.
  19. ^ Dave Sim (2007-01-17). "Dave Sim's blogandmail #128 (January 17th, 2007)". Blog & Mail. davesim.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on 2007-04-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20070402125657/http://davesim.blogspot.com/2007/01/dave-sims-blogandmail-128-january-17th.html. "[To Troy Little:] 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." 
  20. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael. "Dave Sim: Marathon Man", Following Cerebus #7, February 2007
  21. ^ "The Creators' Bill of Rights at". Scottmccloud.com. http://www.scottmccloud.com/inventions/bill/bill_of_rights.html. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  22. ^ "Text of Sim's 1993 PRO-Con speech at". Cerebusfangirl.com. http://www.cerebusfangirl.com/artists/nftp/procon.php. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  23. ^ "Dave Sim's blog, July 10, 2007". Davesim.blogspot.com. 2007-07-10. http://davesim.blogspot.com/2007/07/dave-sims-blogandmail-302-july-10th.html. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  24. ^ Newsarama discussion, Feb 6, 2008[dead link]
  25. ^ "Writings from "Reads" by Dave Sim;". Theabsolute.net. http://www.theabsolute.net/misogyny/sim.html#texts. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  26. ^ "The Feud with Dave Sim", Boneville.com
  27. ^ Dean, Micheal. "In the Company of Sim". The Comics Journal. 2001
  28. ^ Sim, Dave. "Tangent". TheAbsolute.net
  29. ^ 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
  30. ^ https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~jwight/NCEE/Ethics%20and%20Economics.Wight.ppt
  31. ^ "The Comics Journal - The Comics Journal Performs a Public Service". Archives.tcj.com. 1999-10-08. http://archives.tcj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=72&Itemid=70. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  32. ^ "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.
  33. ^ "SPACE". BackPorchComics.com. http://www.backporchcomics.com/space.htm. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 

External links

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