A&R1985: Cerebus Jam

Cerebus Jam (1985) #1
by Dave Sim, Gerhard and others

Huh. How did I end up with two copies of this?

Anyway, this is the first “new series” published after Deni Loubert left Aardvark-Vanaheim, so Dave Sim does the introduction. Cerebus Jam had previously (much previously) been announced as a bi-monthly title, but I guess wrangling people into actually completing their pages turned out to be too much of a hassle, so only one issue was published. “Sorry guys, bi-monthly is out of the question” Sim writes, as if that had been a popular demand, and not something that they’d announced themselves…

Also note the circulation numbers: 35K! That’s huge.

So this thing is a bunch of vignettes where Sim draws Cerebus, somebody else draws other characters, and Gerhard does the backgrounds.

If there’s one thing Sim can, it’s setting up and executing a funny little skit. So here we have Bo and Scott Hampton bickering as siblings do.

Murphy Anderson’s contributions are a bit incongruous, but again, it’s an amusing little story.

Terry Austin does Popeye…

… and Will Eisner does The Spirit.

It’s a good little book. Many comics people used to working in longer formats strike out when doing short stories, but every one of these stories work well, and are fun to look at besides.

Somebody writes in The Comics Journal #165, page 80:

Back in the commercial comic book world. Dave Sim
and Will Eisner had their hands in some jams. Aardvard-
Vanaheim published Cerebus Jam #1 in April 1985; the
indicia stated that it was published irregularly and they
weren’t kidding — a second issue has yet to appear. One
ofthe rare comic books devoted tojamming, Cerebus Jam
features Dave Sim jamming with Scott and Bo Hampton,
Murphy Anderson, Terry Austin, and Will Eisner. All of
the stories were written by Sim, and most were also laid out
by him before being passed on to his collaborators. The
end result lacks the spontaneity of the underground and
small press comix jams, but the finished stories are more
polished than most jam comics — plus it all fits into the
Cerebus continuity, which probably pleased the hardcore
fans.

Heidi MacDonald writes in Amazing Heroes Preview Special #2, page 24:

No, Cerebus Jam is not an annual.
Aardvark-Vanaheim President (as he
likes to be known) Dave Sim has given
heed to R.A. Jones’s suggestions that
he let other writers actually write their
own Cerebus stories for Jam. explain-
ing. “l like anything that encourages me
to do less work.” Candidates will have
to pass through a highly selective
screening process, however, and bet in
Sim’s words, “the right people. People
whose judgment i trust as to the kinds
of stories that would be appropriate to
the Cerebus storyline. but people also
able to just have a little bit of fun with
it. Very much like Barry Windsor-Smith’s
story in Swords of Cerebus. I have no
qualms whatsoever about allowing
Barry complete autonomy: t
So, continuing in this tradition, there
wilt be a story• in Jam by the team of
Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John
Totleben. Although it’s only speculative
at this point, Sim reveals that the story
could be caned ” After Issue 300,’ when
Cerebus comes back from the grave. I
dunno. You know how Alan is, he’s apt
to do it. But have every confidence that
he’ll do it well.”
Also upcoming is a story written and
drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, featuring
Moon Roach. “It’s definitely going to be
farewell to Neal Adams. He’s going
to Neal it up something fierce.” Sienkie-
wicz may do other projects for AV, as
well.
Sim is contemplating giving a new
meaning to the Jam concept as plans
are underway to bring artists to the AV
studio as actual guests. “(We could) set
up another drawing board, and have
sort of special guest artists from time to
time. people we like to draw with,
people we like to carouse with

Well… that’s a plan.

She then writes in Amazing Heroes Preview Special #3, page 22:

On second thought, maybe Cerebus
Jam is an annual. The contents of the
long-awaited second issue have been
firmed up as follows: The first story is
“The Applicant,” by Dave Sim and
Colleen Doran, covering “sexual
harrassmentt dedicated in particular to
a number of people in positionS of
authority in various comic book
companies,” according to Sim. “Cam-
paign Stop,” by Sim and Dick Giordano,
is an untold story of Cerebus from “High
Society,” as well as a tongue-in-cheeck
look at DC comics.
“After that we’ve got ‘The Farmer”‘
says Sim, “containing no fewer than a
dozen deaths by broadsword in five
pages. Sure to be a fan favorite. That’s
with Mike Grell. And Ahead of his Time’
with Barry Windsor-Smith, where Cere-
bus meets the Anarcho-Romantic
equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci.”
There’s a pretty good chance that this
issue will be out sometime before the
end of the year, though Sim wishes to
avoid such terms as “firm release date.”
“Firm release dates are sort of a
concession to the marketplace I don’t
like to make except for Cerebus,
because that’s something I do for
myselfe I just don’t want to do it to other
people. They’ll only get to do one
Cerebus Jam story, so they might as
well have a little fun.”
As for that fabled beast, Cerebus
Jam #3, perhaps we shouldn’t look too
far ahead, but when it appears it will
probably be something radically differ.
ent (for example, a 20-page Flaming
Carrot crossover) as Sim harbors some
grave doubts about the feasibitity of the
present Jam format. As he puts it in a
rather amused tone, “This is not
working out so good.”

Did any of these stories actually happen? Hm… perhaps some were printed in Cerebus proper? I guess I’ll find out when I read the next batch of Cerebus in a couple of weeks.

Somebody writes in Amazing Heroes #77, page 59:

AARDVARK
JELLY

Ifthe proceeds from this book went
to famine relief, would it have been
titled Aardvarks for Africa?
I suppose in the case of a charac-
ter like Cerebus, who is so strongly
associated with a single creative
talent, there is always the curiosity
as to how that character woul(i be
handled by someone else. iVel!.
after reading this book you still
won’t really know. There are
several other artists who contri-
buted, but by and large the script-
ing and the renditions of Cerebus
wjere done by Ddve Sime I’ll take a
look at each tdle presented in this
anthology.
The first story entitled “The
Defense of Fort Colombia,”
with
artistic contributions from brothers
Bo and Scott Both of
them are fi ne dratnatic artists, and
hero they show themselves equally
adept at applying a comedic touch
to their work. It is the story of two
brothers ) who can’t
agree on anything, and demon-
strates the tragically funny results
oi their dawdlimg.

[…]

Much the humor
other fans praise seems to escape
me, with my most enjoyable
scenes often being the dramatic
ones. Though fear I will never
become a Cerebus convert, I do
greatly adrvire the work of Dave
Sitn, and consider höm to be one oi
the finest artists in the business.
iVith that as my background, I
fully expected to react with com-
plete indifference to Cerebus Jam.
Such was not the caw, for t found it
to be quite entertaining. I think the
reas,on for that is very simple.
lhese are vignettes; comedic
scenes that can be quickly
established and just as quickly
deliver their punchline. They are
complete in and of themselves,
rather than merely being chapters
in an ever-expanding saga with
which you may not be totally
familiar. There are not dozens of
sub-plots and supporting charac-
ters you have to keep straight. A
person who has never read Cere-
bus could still •pick this book up
and find at least a measure of satis-
fation.

Man, that’s bad OCR.

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

A&R1984: Flaming Carrot Comics

Flaming Carrot Comics (1984) #1-4,
Flaming Carrot Comics (1985) #5,
Flaming Carrot Comics (1985) #6-17
by Bob Burden

I think I said in a previous post in this blog series that the only Aardvark-Vanaheim book I didn’t buy as a teenager was normalman?

I’d forgotten about Flaming Carrot: I only got a couple of issues at the time. I seem to remember there being two reasons for that. The first was that I started reading the series with issue six or something, and it was difficult getting the previous issues? I may be misremembering; that sounds like an odd thing for me to do…

And the other was that I found the couple of issues I had bought to be rather tedious.

But I know that Flaming Carrot has rabid fans, and sometimes hydrophobia happens for a reason, so let’s see…

Well, that’s satisfyingly absurd. It’s also graphically interesting: The lack of crosshatching coupled with the black-spotted elements and the general abundance of white space is very distinctive. So is the linework: Somewhat heavy outlines (mostly of non-varying line width) coupled with thin, wispy interior lines…

And faces that are downright bizarre, but work in this context.

There’s pop culture references, of course, but usually not very recent ones.

The humour is mostly absurd non sequiturs, and they’re pretty inspired.

The second and third issues are older Flaming Carrot stories (and issue two was drawn in a magazine size ratio). Burden says later that he wanted to start the series with this stuff, but the publisher didn’t think that was a good way to draw in new readers (there’d already been a Flaming Carrot #1 self-published by Burden under the name Killian Barracks), and I think they had a point.

I had expected more stuff like this, but I think this is basically it?

For an absurd humour comic, there’s a surprising amount of bloodshed.

I’m also surprised that Burden finds it necessary to insist on the chronology…

… but it turns out that the story that starts in #1 and continues in #3-11 is actually kinda sorta tightly plotted: It’s got a swarm of different characters that we follow, and their storylines mostly connect up, and we get a climax in #11. I had not expected so much plot — I thought it was just going to be absurd jokes.

There aren’t that many back-up strips. Here’s Dreams of the Taco Fiend, but Burden will (in most issues) have a 26-32 page Flaming Carrot story, and the rest is letters pages and Burden talking to us.

Flaming Carrot’s origin is that he read 5K comics in one sitting and turned deranged… I know the feeling.

Anyway, we get these recaps every issue, which is nice.

Oh! The carrot is a mask! I thought it was his head.

(It’s a) Crime Comics by Jerry Siegel and Valentino? I don’t think that ever happened? Deni Loubert had a tendency to be overly optimistic when announcing new books.

Oh, I should probably say something about the plot(s) in these issues… it’s basically the Soviets infiltrating/invading the US: A very 80s plot.

Even if the individual story beats are… er… unique. (And isn’t green a primary colour already in the additive colour system?)

Reading these issues, I was struck by similarities to the era we’ve just been through. For instance, FAKE NEWS is a recurring theme: The media is always lying to the public.

Sometimes Burden’s faces go very strange.

Wow. That’s a very Moebius-like panel.

Anyway, the communists finally take over (after winning the election (they spiked the water supply with LSD))…

… and Flaming Carrot organises the resistance, uniforming them in “Hawaiian aloha flowers”. This is spookily prescient, right? RIGHT!?

The denouement of it all is the head communist being stabbed by his own speech balloon, which is somewhat untypical of Flaming Carrot: The humour doesn’t go meta all that often.

OOPS SPOILERS

Apparently there’d been some pushback on using communists as the villains in The Comics Journal? Hm… “Podhoretzian”…

Ah:

John Mordecai Podhoretz is an American writer. He is the editor of Commentary magazine, a columnist for the New York Post, the author of several books on politics, and a former speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

R. Fiore writes in The Comics Journal #102, page 36:

Oddly enough, the odd Bob Burden
of Flaming Carrot puts forward the whole
Podhoretzian (the Russians are
behind everything from El Salvador to
heroin traffic) without a hint of irony that
I can detect, but the subplot just seems to
lie there.

[…]

I don’t expect the trend to continue long.
Not because of any ideological reason, but
simply because the independent comics
makers will realize, as their mainstream
counterparts did long ago, that communists
make lousy villains. In the ’50s and ’60s it
looked like a simple transition: Take out
Part A (Nazis) and replace it with Part B
(Russians). On the surface it looks like a
natural. You couldn’t ask for a more mur-
derous bunch of lying bastards, and there
doesn’t seem to be a single good thing about
them. .But from the start the thrill was just
not there. Despite all their real—world
villainy they were and are deficient in every
other quality that made the Nazis the
greatest villains ewer.

R. Fiore writes in The Comics Journal #111, page 47:

I want to congratulate Bob Burden on
having enough sense to rebut this column
in a forum where I can’t get in the last word.
(Why didn’t you mention it by name, Bob?
Scaredy cat or something?) If nothing else,
it did clear up the question of his being a
Podhoretzian (“Congratulations, Mr. Fiore,
you’re the father of a nine pound, seven
ounce uglyism!”): he’s not joking; he means
it all. It was the usual automatic- defense
mechanism: a.) Communism is a black that
makes all else white; b.) I am anticom-
munist; c) Therefore, anybody who criticizes
me is pro-communist. For anyone with a
similar defect in perception, my squib about
communist villains in Joumal #102 criticized
no one for being anti-communist, including
Burden. I’m an anarchist; I don’t like any
of the bastards. I weas merely speculating on
why, for all their actual villainy, communists
make lousy pop culture villainy.
We get an insight into the seriousness of
Burden’s red menace in Flaming Carot #11,
in which he picks on poor, dopey old Gus
Hall. Gus Hall has been the chairman of
the American Communist Party (or what-
ever they call it) for something like 40 years,
no doubt kept on because his conspicuous
lack of success proves his ideological puri-
ty. Why anyone would get worked up over
an ineffectual, antiquated stooge when neo-
Nazis are knocking over armored cars,
assassinating radio personalities, and
shooting up schoolhouses is one of those
mysteries of surrealism. I guess old Gus is
still a main character in the John Birch
Society Blue Book or something. And I
promised I was going to lay off this political
crap for a while.

So Burden says that he is “APOLITICAL”, and then goes on on a rant about how evil Marxists are… “The minute a Communist country thinks it can win a war, it will strike. This is the universal axiom of truth.”

After the grand Communist thing (which was both surprisingly amusing and surprisingly coherent as an epic story), the rest of the series (well, at least the Renegade issues, which is all I’ve read) are virtually all single issue stories, like this one about a floating dead dog.

Hey, they did a t-shirt with Bob Burden’s Renegade logo. (Flaming Carrot was the only book that used this logo.)

The remaining issues are amusing, but the tone veers wildly — this isn’t very funny, after all.

But then this is.

That’s an impressive increase in circulation… but this was during the black and white boom bust years (when all black and white comics sold well)… and I guess the bust hadn’t happened yet.

Finally. Hitler’s cloned feet.

And Burden reprints a zany golden age story (the only non-Burden material in the series).

I don’t know?

Issues #16 and 17 introduce The Mystery Men, so:

#16 was more expensive than the rest, because The Mystery Men were adapted into a movie a decade or two later.

And that’s it. Flaming Carrot then moved to Dark Horse as Renegade was starting to shut down.

So… I guess reading these comics was pleasant enough, but… I don’t think it’s funny enough? It should be funnier?

Burden is interviewed in Comics Scene Volume #2, page 26:

In fact, Burden almost shies away from
taking responsibility for dreaming up the
character.
“Most people create things by putting
two things together,” he says. “They take a
horse and put wings on him. But I’ve never
worked that way. Flaming Carrot just
came out of the blue and I wrote it down.”
But when pressed, he owns up to a
bizarre array of Carrot influences.
“At the time, I was reading All in Color
for a Dime. In that book, they were talking
about the Fin. The Fin was this Golden
Age character who was preposterous. If
he walked into a room—he had a two-foot
fin on top of his head—he would have to
bend over to get in the doorway.The Flam-
ing Carrot is in the same vein. If he was
going in anywhere, he would burn up
the ceiling.”

Dale Luciano writes in The Comics Journal #73, page 43:

Several pages in Flaming Carrot Comics
were also created to tie in with the “New
Wave” movement in rock music—hence,
the plotline prominently featuring the “ln-
visible Jackets” and FC’s bout with “New
Wave” rock. (In fact, Burden created some
of this material for Mod but it was never
used.) Uhhhhhh…yes, now, let’s see,
where does all this leave us? With a comic
book that is good for some laughs but
which stops short of being genuinely good
by virtue of its inability—or reluctance—to
transcend simple genre parody. Parodies of
banal material always run the risk of being
a bit banal themselves—it happens here—
and the concept of Flaming Carrot Comics
lacks any sort of poetic resonance in execu-
tion. As an artist, Burden creates and
draws his stories in phenomonally brief
explosions of energy—he drew the first
Flaming Carrot story ever in one night
—and the speed shows. There’s a manic
energy about the enterprise that’s momen-
tarily intoxicating, but also a hit-or-miss
quality to the jokes ond the absence of an
over-all vision.

RA Jones writes in Amazing Heroes #54, page 58:

If goofiness was gold, Bob Burden
could buy the planet! I had no idea
what to expect when I opened my
mail to find a black-and-white
booklet entitled Flaming Carrot
Comics. On the cover I see a man
wearing flippers on his feet
giant blazing carrot•ask on his
head—at least I think it’s a mask.

[…]

The book does have its comic
moments (no pun intended), such
as when the aliens zap pregnant
women with a ray which causes
them to give birth to Nazi babies!
Such few and far be-
tween however, and far too little to
save this book from sliding into
sheer silliness.
In both story and art, Flaming
Carrot seems to have crawled from
the crypt where most underground
comics are now buried. •l can
somehow picture Bob Burden site
ting at his drawing board, laughing
maniacly at humor the rest of us
will never perceive.
The graphics are crude featuring
humans that look nearly as bizarre
as the aliens. It’s easy to see how
Flaming Carrot became a hero on
whatever Earth he inhabits (Earth
A—for absurd?); everyone else he
encounters is as stupid as he!
Aardvark-Vanahein intends to
take over publication of Flaming
Carrot Comics. I don’t know why
they’re bothering. They have a
gourmet delight in Valentino’s
normalman—they don’t need this
rabbit food reject.

Lee Wochner writes in The Comics Journal #107, page 50:

Throughout the book, Burden continues
his theme of parading the shortcomings of
super-hero comics as literature not only
because of their content but also their struc-
ture. Super-heroes tend to have secret iden-
tities. What is the Carrot’s? Readersare in.
vited to send in their own nominations; the
list so far includes Boris Badenov, Little
Richard, Ernie Bilko, Barney Fife, and Bruce
Lee. Burden also responds this way to a
reader in issue who wonders if the Car-
rot will team up with other comics charac-
ters of his ilk, as most Marvel and DC
characters do: “Team up. Team up. I think
that’s something Marvel started. let’s see,
•are have the Carrot, Herbie JR.
Bob Dobbs, the Badger, Zippy Elwood
Dowd… I can see it now, a new super-hero
called The Strange Rirade battling Dog
Boy and Benb.”
Burden ftrrther taunts his readers by
agreeing the Carrot needs a sidekick and
then considering the notion of a dog in a
carrot mask: “The idea of a dog barking in
muffed tones with his head inside a Car-
rot mask and performing super feats of bold
daring struck me pretty hard. I have a small
selection of comics in my archives that have
humanistic animals in action, such as a copy
Of Rex The Wonder Dog with Rex swinging
on a vine held in his mouth and knocking
the villains off a tree limb with his

Flaming Carrot was sporadically published over the next two decades, and a total of 36 issues was eventually published.

There’s some reviews around the interwebs:

I’m fully aware that the entire story ends up being something of a shaggy dog tale, but the stream-of-consciousness narrative entertains me greatly, especially in the digressions and side-bits like the Hobo Jungle and the Martian broadcasts.

It’s generally well-liked:

Flaming Carrot Comics will no doubt win over any comic fan or comedy enthusiast that discovers this wonderful series for the first time as the neo-surrealism and comedic tone really helps set this series apart from the traditional superhero romp, therefore making this a must-read for anyone who wants to indulge in something crazy.

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

MCMXXXIX XLIV: Drums Along the Mohawk

Drums Along the Mohawk. John Ford. 1939.

Claudette! Henry!

Well, OK, this is kinda slow but nice…

And then…

… Colbert goes totally hysterical at the sight of that guy, so Fonda has to slap her around.

I mean, this is John Ford, so it looks nice and all, but so far this movie has been a pile-up of clichés that were tired in 1939 already.

This is apparently Ford’s first colour movie? I think… it shows? The cinematography is kinda just … there?

This isn’t, like, a shot Ford would do later in his career.

But I guess there’s a lot to learn with the new technology — getting sufficient light; moving the (even bigger?) cameras around…

I have to admit that I kinda zoned out there for a few minutes and started putting things into the dishwasher. But now I’m back! CONCENTRATE

If you’re really interested in the subject matter, I guess this could be interesting? But I’m just not finding anything much about it compelling: Henry Fonda is trying very hard, but it’s just not connecting. The other actors aren’t really in the same movie.

The war scenes are kinda good.

This blog post is part of the 1939
series
.

MCMXXXIX XLIII: The Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties. Raoul Walsh. 1939.

Hm! Raoul Walsh? That name sounds really familiar, but perhaps I’m thinking of… something else…

Oh wow!

It’s like three movies a year for decades. He directed 120 movies in total, according to imdb. I think I’ve seen at least a handful of these movies… but I’m guessing he was somebody the studios considered safe, reliable and… cheap?

His imdb pic is awesome.

Anyway.

Cagney! Bogart! In a ditch!

This is just awesome. It’s so snappy, witty and fresh — there’s not a millisecond wasted; it’s all repartee, action or montage.

This is so good! Walsh is a genius!

OK, it cooled down a bit from the stunning first half hour, and now it’s a bit plot heavy. Several love interests, betrayals, complications…

I mean, it’s really good, but it’s no longer “whoa”.

Cagney is absolutely stunning, though — I’ve never seen him this much just… going for it.

So…

… many…

… fantastic…

… shots.

Fantastic.

This blog post is part of the 1939
series
.

A&R1984: A-V in 3-D

A-V in 3-D (1984) #1
by Lots of People

The publisher explains that this comic is a sampler to introduce the new line of Aardvark-Vanaheim comics to the public… but it was published a lot later than planned, so it’s not really that much of an introduction.

Hey! This Ms. Tree strip was reprinted in the Ms. Tree 3D issue, wasn’t it? (Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty with Gary Kato.)

The Flaming Carrot thing really works — that is, it’s a weird little thing all on its own, but also makes you go “perhaps I should pick up that comic and see if this is going anywhere?” (Bob Burden.)

The normalman strip is set before issue #1, and definitely works as an introduction. It’s not much of a story, though.

The standout is really the Journey story: It’s an amusing story; it’s complete; and it makes you go “I’ve really gotta read Journey”. And it’s got the best 3D effects in the book: I mean, it’s simple, but effective. William Messner Loebs just puts in floating leaves that hover right in front of your face, and also has depth inside the panels, so it’s like “whoa”. I remember this page from when I was a teenager: It was the first 3D page that I thought was, like, good.

The Neil the Horse strip (Arn Saba, Barb Rausch, David Roman) is a fun romp and uses the 3D well.

The Cerebus strip (Dreams II) is the most ambitious, I think? And it does look good, but it’s not much of a story.

I was unable to find any review of the book, but there’s this:

Valentino interviews Ray Zone in Amazing Heroes #158, page 34:

VALENTIN(): I remember at Petu-
niacon Steve Schanes coming into the
convention a little late and he had a
coverless copy of the Three-Dimen-
sional Alien Worlds hot off the presses
and he was so excited about it that he
W’ent around the convention showing
it to everyone. There was this murmur
of excitement throughout the conven-
tion about it. In fact, it wus there that
Aardvark-Vanaheim essentially made
the decision to do the sampler book,
AV in 3-D, which, I believe, was the
second of the “new wave’ ‘ 3-D books.
ZONE: well, it was the third after
Battle. Battle was the first, then Alien
Worlds, then AV in 3-D. It was the
second to receive full distribution in
the direct sales market.

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.