Covers by Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin and Frank Brunner
(from a letter to Scott Berwanger, 23 February 2004, reprinted in 'Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004')
I'm afraid I had to laugh when you accused me of taking an arrogant approach with Cerebus... I can understand why you would see me as arrogant. Part of that happens when you have lived with that sharpened focus for as many years as I have is that you get used to telling people what it is that you see, without running it through "society check" first. Again, I think this was part of my job description: because I didn't have editors or advertisers telling me what I could or couldn't say, I seemed obligated to tack as close to the truth (as my perception of it coalesced) as I could. My creative freedom had to be used to say what I saw the creatively "unfree" not being able to say. If I shied away from it, I would be as much as admitting that creative freedom was unnecessary (which, you may or may not recall, was actually a theme that was debated in the comic-book field back in the 70s when Star*Reach and those "ground level" comics were coming out - why is it that when anyone in mainstream comics is given creative freedom, they end up just doing the same thing they're doing in the mainstream, only the girls are topless?) that it was a central part of human nature to shy away from subject matter. I hadn't realised the deep doo-doo you get in by taking the contrary view: that creative freedom has to count for something, that there are things worth doing in print that haven't been done and won't be done in the mainstream. And actually I resisted the anti-feminism thing as long as I could, until I started seeing feminism creeping in everywhere (in the sense of idealised unrealistic portrayals of women as opposed to what I saw as their actual value in society). At that point I had to face the fact that I either had to tackle it and suffer the consequences or accept the fact that I was shying away from the largest thing that I could use my creative freedom to address (the largest until I read the Bible and the Koran, anyway). Yes, sure. That's going to be seen as arrogant in certain quarters.