In 2012, Dave Sim, one of the great successes of the indie comics scene of the 1970s and ’80s, began the process of digitizing his acclaimed 300-issue epic “Cerebus the Aardvark” with an ambitious Kickstarter to fund not only the creation of high-quality digital files but also an audio-visual edition of the “High Society” arc. With all 16 phonebook-sized volumes now ready to download, Sim (or rather, his assistants — luditism is among Sim’s notorious quirks) emailed his newsletter subscribers with a link to download “Cerebus,” the first volume, along with “High Society,” completely free, and encouraged readers to pass the link along to “people who are looking for great entertainment.” The link also leads to the webstore, where readers can complete their digital collection; notably, though, a memo from Sim also says that if readers cannot afford the books, they should download them from filesharing sites “guilt free.”
“The only completely legitimate way to acquire a digital edition of a ‘Cerebus’ trade online is at cerebusdownloads.com where all proceeds go to me, Dave Sim, and background artist Gerhard,” Sim wrote in a scanned fax. “If you believe all content on the Internet should be free, you are welcome to download all of the other ‘Cerebus’ trade paperbacks for free at any website that does that sort of thing.”
Lest this read as sarcasm, Sim later explicitly states that folks unable to afford comics for “the usual reasons” need not “feel ethically guilty for downloading something you haven’t paid for” in this case: “please feel COMPLETELY FREE — and GUILT FREE — to [download].” He only asks that readers “donate what you COMFORTABLY can” as able, even if it’s years or decades later.
Starring the titular cantankerous aardvark, “Cerebus” began as a parody of comic book tropes but soon became a vehicle for Sim to explore a heady array of topics include politics and religion.
For readers interested in purchasing in the more usual way, Sim offers downloads of single volumes and sets of multiple volumes for various prices — the whole 6000 page epic, originally published over the course of 27 years, sells for $99.99. The first two volumes are now available as a free download.
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