The True North

Cover By Dave Sim

In September of 1987, the RCMP seized 192 comics from a comic book shop called Comic Legends in Calgary, Alberta. They also charged owners Julie Warren, Darren Ott and Dale Clarke with circulating obscene materials. The comics in question were adult comics and were never intended for children, nor were they sold to children. The reason for the search and confiscation of the comics was that a 14-year-old boy purchased a copy of Warlock 5 by Aircel Comics, and his mother complained. Warlock 5 was not a comic that was seized that day.

When comic artists caught wind of this, as they would, they were outraged. As a result, Paul Stockton (Of Strawberry Jam Comics), Leonard S Wong, Liz Schiller and Derek McCulloch formed the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund (hereafter CLLDF). In order to raise funds for Warren, Ott and Clarke, CLLDF published an anti-censorship comic book anthology called The True North. Despite the unfavourable circumstances with which it was created, the comic book is an excellent testament to the conviction of the comic book industry both in and outside Canada. It also features a fantastic array of Canada’s writers and artists, as well as some Americans, spanning from from style to era and genre.

Unfortunately, all three shopkeepers were convicted with a fine of $5500. Although they did appeal with the help of CLLDF, the result was only a reduced fine.

In 1991, the CLLDF published True North II, a second anthology collection, again anti-censorship, and again, a great collector’s item. What I love most about these comics is the sampling of so many different Canadian writers and artists. Here is the contents of each book and there are some useful links at the bottom of the post.

True North

  • Anti-Censorship Propaganda – Chester Brown
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • One Romantic Evening – Jeffrey Taylor
  • Ronald and the Ducks – Ron Kasman
  • Starbikers – Ronn Sutton
  • The Life and Times of Tomas De Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor – Kent Burles
  • A Little Thought About Comics – Ty Templeton
  • Dan Panic: Think Allowued Talk – Greg Holfeld
  • It Comes Down to This – Nick Burns
  • A Suburban Nightmare – Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
  • Real Life – M.A. Bramstrup and Monique Renee
  • Comic Books – William Van Horn
  • Dan Day Pinup – Dan Day
  • A True Story – Bernie Mireault and Joe Matt
  • Counterblast – Nick Burns
  • Warning – George Metzger
  • Wizard Pinup – Ron Kasman
  • Media Violence – Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette
  • Centerspread: Manunkind – Matt Wagner
  • -And So It Goes – George Freeman
  • Beware of…They! – Rodney Dunn
  • Jail for Joe – Dave Darrigo
  • Freedom of Choice Hot Tub – Todd McFarlane and Terry Fitzgerald
  • Edgar the Common Sense Elephant – Seth
  • Defenses of Clay – Rob Walton
  • Malcom and Eric – Ian Carr
  • Vox Populi – Richard Taylor and Mark Askwith
  • Bizarre Taste with Asta Roid – Gordon Derry and Adrian Kleinenberg
  • Rosebud – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Other Artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard
True North II
  • Lethargic Lad – Greg Hyland and John Migliore
  • Bachelor Party or The Road Not Taken or Just Another Male Fantasy – Dennis Eichhorn and Carel Moiseiwitsch
  • R.G. Taylor Pinups – Richard Taylor
  • How These Bastards Operate – Ron Kasman and Gabriel Morrissette
  • On Being Eurasian – Theresa Henry
  • The Weird Canadian Artist – Chester Brown
  • Prescription For Ignorance – Diana Schutz and Monty Sheldon
  • A Public Disservice Message – Roberta Gregory
  • Random Pornography – Darren Raye and Sean Scoffield
  • Saved – Seth
  • The Steel Brood – Kent Burles
  • Surgie Center Tales of the Existentialist Private Eye – Ty Templeton
  • Big Boss Barney – Sylvie Rancourt and Jacques Boivin
  • Reflections – Denis Beauvais
  • Little Zemo in Censorland – Richard Pace
  • Statue of Liberty – Jeffrey Morgan
  • The Censors – Stephen Bissette
  • Revenue Canada – Leonard S. Wong
  • Jungle Rescue – Ronn Sutton
  • The Eye of the Beholder – Deni Loubert
  • Tierra de Pajaro – Gilbert Hernandez
  • May 29th 1988 – Joe Matt and Bernie Mireault
  • Reid Fleming – David Boswell
  • Tales of the Censor – Janet Hetherington
  • Words and Thoughts – Toren Smith and Tomoko Saito
  • Potato Man – Todd McFarlane
  • The Raven – Patrick McEown
  • Three Card Monty – Derek McCulloch and Simon Tristam
  • Benefit – Rick Trembles and Bernie Mireault
  • Stupid Fucken Dumbass Censorship – Rick Trembles
  • Those People! – Reed Waller and Kate Worely
  • Blank – Tom Grummett and Roger Williamson
  • Captain Censored Vs. Dr. Goingtoofar – Al Roy and Max Douglas
  • Corpus Delicti – Jerry Prosser and Matt Wagner
  • Other artists – Dave Sim, Gerhard, Kelley Jones, Moebus

More recently, an American man was charged with possessing child porn when Canada customs agents discovered manga scans on his laptop. Both The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and CLLDF have both decided to support the case. If you want to donate, you can go to their site. Here is a great new and informative promotional flyer as well. Here and here are further resources.

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Cerebus and Aardvark-Vanaheim: Origins

Cerebus 1

Although much has been recorded on Cerebus the Aardvark, including a Cerebus wiki, a great fan site and Dave Sim’s own website, I’m going to cast my own post on the topic. Seeing as how you could just look up any questions you have regarding the “Earth pig born” on either of the above or more, I’m going to narrow down my post to include only the early history on the production of the comic, or, Cerebus Origins.

At the end of 1977, the first issue of Cerebus was released to the world on a bi-monthly basis from Kitchener, Ontario. Published by Denise “Deni” Loubert under Aardvark-Vanaheim productions, with Cerebus creator, writer and artist Dave Sim owning equal portions of the company. The couple set off publishing limited print runs of the 24 page comic. Based off the logo of the company coupled with Loubert’s misspelling of the mythological character Cerberus, the comic’s birth is a charming one.

As administrator and publisher of the comic, it was Loubert who wrote the editorials on the inside cover, and she who announced their marriage in the editorial of issue 7 of Cerebus. During the first few years of publishing, Deni orchestrated the production of much merchandise including a Cerebus plush toy, buttons, and T-shirts as well as starting the fan-club and organizing the distribution of subscriptions.

After two years, in March of 1980, the comic began to be published monthly. Shortly after, and because of the attention and success the comic was achieving, Deni and Dave began to include a line of short comics to the end of the Cerebus comic, and increasing its pages to 32. The line was called “A Unique Story” as a main header and featured several artists and their work which I will post a little later.

Unfortunately nothing lasts forever and Deni’s issue 55 editorial gave testimony to her and Dave’s separation. This separation did not reflect in the success of the business which was producing more merchandise and acquiring ever more subscriptions. The couple continued to attend many exhibitions and conventions throughout the year and readership only continued to grow.

Cerebus 70

Around 1984 the company began to publish some of the comics featured in the “Unique Story” section such as Neil the Horse by Arn Saba and Flaming Carrot by Bob Burden. Also, in August of 1984, Gerhard joined the team, producing magnificent backgrounds for Cerebus which was still the focal point of the company. Finally, in December of 1984, the company released AV in 3D, a 3D comic with Aardvark-Vanaheim favourites complete with 3D glasses.

Alas, shortly thereafter sadness again hits the editorial, this time in issue 70, as Deni announces her and Dave’s divorce and the break up of the company. She says:

There comes a time when you must admit that changes occur in people. That time has come for me. In April I will be starting my own company, Renegade Press. Since I know you will ask why, all I can say again is that people change. When once Dave and I agreed on many things, we no longer do. Cerebus will continue to be the focal point of Aardvark-Vanaheim, just as it should be. Neil the Horse, Normalman, Flaming Carrot and Ms. Tree will be coming to Renegade Press with me, when I start it up after my move to Los Angeles this spring.

By issue 72, Cerebus is very reminiscent of the original issues, no longer sporting “A Unique Story” and returning to 24 pages. That is as far as the similarities go though, as over the years not only has Cerebus’s visual appearance evolved, but Gerhard’s backgrounds give the comic more depth and solidity. Also, with Gerhard’s talent in painting, the covers of the comic went on to win several awards.

Despite the breakup, Cerebus remains strong with a circulation of about 22,000. By April 1 1985, Dave officially owns all shares in the company, and from there it continues as is. Obviously, there are more twists and turns down the line, but this is where the main frame and consistent style of the Cerebus comic and Aardvark-Vanaheim publishing history becomes more solidified.