Here’s a story: unknown creator directs passions into small comic project, from which he soon gains notoriety and respect, then being courted by even larger companies. Sure, this could be “Gun-Fu” creator Howard Shum, who recently spoke to CBR News about his new series and its move to Image Comics, but we’re really talking about Dave Sim. His work on “Cerebus” made him a comics industry legend and to this day, he’s one of the most well-known creators in the industry. When “Cerebus” ended as planned with the series’ 300th issue, no one was quite sure what’s next for him. CBR News caught up with Sim, to learn about his future projects and why he came to “Gun-Fu.”
“I’ve been a huge fan of ‘Gun Fu’ from the beginning,” Sim told CBR News. “Howard asked if I’d do a pin-up for the book about a month or two after issue #300 came out so Gerhard and I did the parody of the James Bond movie poster for ‘Diamonds are Forever;’ ‘Showgirls are Forever’ that Howard ran on the back cover of ‘The Lost City’ mini-series (issue #4). I said I’d be up for it if he ever wanted to turn it into a ‘Gun Fu’ story. I figured maybe a year or two later after he had done his own projects. Instead in his next letter, he just threw out a couple of ideas and I picked up on them and we were off and running!”
Many fans often say that they’d rather not be part of a book they love, as to keep things a surprise and enjoy the ride, so Sim’s combination of creative involvement and existing fan status make for an unusual pairing. When asked what he brings to the project, he said, “Basically I’m just trying to keep up with Howard, keep it funny and get the right hip-hop tone to Cheng Bo Sen’s voice. I would re-read a couple of issues of ‘Gun Fu’ before I would write the next couple of panels or the next half page to get the right breakneck rhythm. That and wracking my brain for hip-hop phrases from back in my hip-hop clubbing days around 2001 and 2002. Howard writes very fast moving stories so, as I say, I was mostly just trying to stay caught up to him.”
While he may not be the biggest name in comics, Howard Shum is beloved by his fans and sports a very dedicated fanbase, including a lot of women. One of those dedicated fans is Sim, who admits to being a bigger fan after working with him. “Since I’m one of his fans, I belove him, too, home! Sorry couldn’t resist. He’s a great collaborator. Every idea that I came up with, he would run with it and blend it in seamlessly. He also wasn’t afraid to change something if he saw it working better another way, which is good. He didn’t let my nearly-two-decades-of-seniority in the field throw him off or make him defer to me. All he’s concerned about is making the best book possible – whatever that takes – which is exactly the kind of focus that I most admire in a collaborator and fellow creator.”
With both Sim & Shum finding success in self-publishing and in applying their unique comic book visions, it’s only natural to compare their careers and styles. “They really should install a revolving door at Image with Howard’s name on it,” said Sim. “That’s the same kind of thing – that total focus on what he thinks is right for his book and the willingness to change his mind if, in his view, the landscape changes. And Image is built for that – they aren’t going to burn bridges or hold grudges because a guy decides to leave. If he wants to come back, he’s more than welcome. ‘Cerebus’ had already been around for fifteen years when Image started in the early ’90s, so Ger and I were already pretty comfortable with self-publishing. I wonder if I might’ve chosen differently if Image had been around in 1983.
“Howard’s creative style, it seems to me, really comes out in his ability to trim the story down and keep it to the basics – make each panel and each word balloon count. Two thirds of the way in I was saying, ‘Howard, you’re never going to get all this into one comic book.’ And Howard was, like, ‘Watch me.’ So it was amazing to read the pages when he sent them up. He managed to get IBAISAIC in there! IBAISAIC was one of my offhand suggestions way, way at the beginning. I had FORGOTTEN IBAISAIC, but not Howard. ”
With Sim’s enthusiasm, one might except and hope for contributions to future “Gun Fu” projects, with Sim responding. “I did draw the showgirls on the parody poster. What would showgirls look like in Howard’s style? I got close, I think, by pouring over Howard’s cheesecake illustrations – which was no hardship, believe me – but I think that’s as close as I’m likely to get. It’s like Frank Miller’s ‘Sin City’ style which I tried to copy for a Comic Book Legal Defence Fund booth design. Same as Howard’s ‘Gun Fu’ style – it’s not as easy as it looks, folks. ‘Oh this will be fun!’ Not! I’d be happy to work on the book again anytime, anywhere if Howard sees anyplace that I would fit in.”
Sim also feels it is necessary to warn readers that they have a duty, to the comic book industry, to buy “Gun Fu,” before Shum is lost to the Dark Side. “Howard’s out in Hollywood and he keeps threatening to throw himself completely into film-making instead — and he already has a great movie script that he sent me that he’s planning to film on his own — and that would mean much fewer issues of ‘Gun Fu,’ which would really, really bum me out. So I hope everyone reading this on www.comicbookresources.com will join the HOHH movement — either “Hands Off Howard, Hollywood” or “Hands Off Hollywood, Howard” — and buy ten copies of the ‘Showgirls are Forever’ one-shot and hand them out to friends. There are worse ways to spend $35.”
The burning question on most fan’s mind is this: what is next for Sim? “I have a couple of projects that I’m working on that are barely at the point of being described as hints themselves at this point, but which I hope will become two self-contained one-shot comic books someday,” reveals Sim. “If Howard can get that much into one comic book, darn it, so can I.”
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