The Craft Behind Cerebus: An Interview with Gerhard (Part Three of Three)

Posted by on February 16th, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Gerhard: You know, I’ve been spending the last few years trying to figure that out. For a while there I just didn’t feel like drawing at all. Mostly I did home renovations. I think I repainted every room in the house. Redid the kitchen. All this sort of hands-on stuff. I spent more time on the boat, more time playing the bass and whatnot. I also spent more time pondering just that question: What is it that I want to do next? I’ve tried a couple of projects with a couple of different people and it just hasn’t grabbed me. I tried a couple things on my own. But just recently I’ve found a thing that’s got me really excited and I’m really happy with the way the drawings are turning out. It’s actually a children’s story. A friend of mine wrote it. She’s been writing as a hobby for a long time but hasn’t been able to get it to gel — life just keeps getting in the way. And this last summer, she wrote this wonderful little story, and when she read it to me I knew right away that I had to draw it. I could see the pictures in my head, and when she gave me the script I sort of broke it down: there’s a drawing, there’s a drawing. Around that time, I had also found a bunch of my high-school drawings. Remember the notebook I told you about with the doodling? I actually saved a few pages from one of those.

high school doodle, 1975 or 1976

Looking back through them, I did do a lot of cartooning back then. I was really influenced by Mad magazine and National Lampoon and that kind of stuff. I mean, they weren’t very good, but I was thinking, “What was I trying to do back then, and could I do better now?” There was all of that illustrative stuff I had been doing before Cerebus … And just working on the backgrounds on Cerebus all that time, I didn’t have a lot of experience since high school in actually drawing characters and people, or doing page layouts and starting from scratch. I was always just finishing what Dave had started. So it was a little intimidating at first, and I got off to a little bit of a rough start. But once I got into it, it really just seemed to fall onto the page, and I was having such a good time doing it. And once I got a better handle on the characters, I realized how much fun I was having! That was what I was missing most of all: the fun I needed to have while drawing. Like I said before, as long as I can remember I just liked to draw. And so it’s great to have the fun back.

From The Wish 2010

Robinson: That’s really great. So are you still working on it?

Gerhard: Well, I went through the whole story — it isn’t a very long story — but it has so much heart and magic and youthful exuberance to it, and I tried to get that into the drawings as well. So I went through and did a bunch of real quick sketches and scanned them into the computer and did a real quick mockup. It came in at about 42 pages. It’s not really a comic book with a lot of panels on the page — it’s mostly single illustrations on a page. So I went through and did this really quick version, and now I’m just going back through and redoing the drawings in a larger, more finished form. So like I said, I’m having fun, and for me now that’s the important thing. If this ever gets published or we ever make any money off of it, that’s all secondary for me right now. I’m having fun drawing it and that’s the most important thing. I’ve been looking for a long time for something like this.

Robinson: I think that’s a great place to end on. Thank you so much for everything.

From The Wish 2010

Gerhard: Well, thank you. I have sort of distanced myself from the work. I knew that I would for a while because it was an intense experience and it was a major chunk of my life. I just needed to remove myself from it for a while. But this was very therapeutic for me. It was great to sit down and go through it with you, especially since you have such a keen interest. I’m glad we did it.

From The Wish 2010

Cerebus images ©Dave Sim and Gerhard; all other images ©Gerhard. Photo provided by Gerhard.

Special thanks to Margaret Liss and Brian C. for assistance with images and contact information.

Sean Michael Robinson’s additional thoughts on this interview can be found here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “The Craft Behind Cerebus: An Interview with Gerhard (Part Three of Three)”

  1. […] FEB 14:The Craft Behind Cerebus: An Interview with Gerhard (Part One of Three) FEB 15: The Craft Behind Cerebus: an Interview with Gerhard (Part Two of Three) FEB 16: The Craft Behind Cerebus: an Interview with Gerhard (Part Three of Three) […]

  2. Sean Michael Robinson says:

    You can read some final thoughts on this interview over at the Hooded Utilitarian-

  3. vollsticks says:

    Great, great interview! So interesting to get such a deep insight into how those wonderful pages were made. The stuff at the end from the children’s book reminds me a little of Denis Kitchen’s work, for some reason…

  4. Sean Michael Robinson says:

    Glad you enjoyed it! It was really interesting for me to see Gerhard’s children’s book artwork, especially having seen so many thousand pages of fairly realistically rendered work. Although looking back on some segments of “Going Home” especially, I can see some antecedents to the bounciness and light artwork of “the Wish”.

  5. nobodyowns says:

    Great interview, Sean– best I’ve ever read with Gerhard. You were absolutely right to focus on the man’s craft and it was an illuminating look into his enormous contributions to Cerebus.

    Question: something I’ve been wondering since I picked up Cerebus 186 back in 1993 or whenever that was: how does he pronounce Gerhard? That’s a common German first name, but does he pronounce the G like G as in Gate (as the Germans do) or like J in Jerry?

    That said, most of the houses in Church and State and Mothers and Daughters look quite German (people used to often mention the “Bavarian” look of Cerebus’ world). I wonder if, given Gerhard’s German name and presumably German heritage, there was a conscious influence there?

    Gerhard, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU for so many years of wonderful artwork. You created countless unforgettable images in Cerebus that now, even though it’s been years since I’ve read the books, come to mind so vividly.

  6. Sean Michael Robinson says:


    It’s G as in “gate,” German style. “Gairhard.” I believe Gerhard’s parents are German immigrants, actually.

    That’s a great question about the architecture- perhaps if he’s reading he’ll respond himself? The building design throughout the series is pretty striking, although some of the main architectural features of Iest are inherited from the pre-Gerhard portions of the book. Sim described one particular High Society-era street scene like this- “My attempt at the time to convey the rooftops of Paris at the time of the French Revolution.”

  7. Michael Grabowski says:

    Thanks, Sean and Gerhard, for the interview and a too-long ignored look at this aspect of making Cerebus. Thanks, tcj for posting it.