Blair: First of all, I’m glad you liked the ‘pseudo Spanish’ in issues 2 – 4. Coming from the guy who pretty much mastered the art of written dialects, it means a lot. My first plan was to have a friend of mine from Paraguay translate all of the Seven Deadly Dwarfs’ dialogue into proper Spanish for me, but I don’t really write a proper script before I start drawing, and I’m usually doing dialogue changes right up until the final inks, so I never got around to actually getting her to translate anything for me. At the same time, my kids were into watching the old Looney Tunes cartoons and the way Pepe Le Pew talked always cracked me up. Another thing I thought of that was funny was the poorly translated bootleg DVD’s from Japan. If you’ve ever read some of the movie descriptions on the backs of the cases, it’s hilarious. They’re trying to come across as proper English, but some of them are almost illegible and are even more entertaining than the actual movies. I decided to use Google Translate, an online translation program, where you type in a sentence and it will automatically translate it into whatever language you select. With each sentence, I would type it into the program and convert it to Spanish, then I’d convert it back from Spanish to English to see if it was legible. Usually it wasn’t even close, so I’d reword the sentence to almost cave man English, until it made sense. For dialogue that didn’t really matter to the story, I’d keep it cave man English translated to Spanish, straight from Google Translate. When it was imperative that you knew what the Seven Deadly Dwarfs were saying to understand the plot, I would keep most of the nouns as English, and would make the pronouns and adjectives Spanish, or at least make it so that there were enough English words to make sense of the sentence. (I also used a traditional Spanish-English dictionary if the computer wasn’t giving me words that made sense) Sometimes there was funny dialogue that I knew that 95% of the people reading it wouldn’t get, but I hoped that for the 5% that knew Spanish it would at least make sense to them and it would be a nice bonus for them to get the jokes. I’ve actually gotten a lot of positive comments from people who know Spanish, and much to my relief, they said it all read well in a funny way, which is what I was going for. I purposely tried to use English phrases that wouldn’t technically work in Spanish, like in issue #2 when the midgets are blowing up the safe while they’re robbing the bank, Glotonaria (the fat one) yells out “Fire in the hole!”, which translated to Spanish makes absolutely no sense unless you know both Spanish and English. There’s been a few occasions that I’ve met people from Mexico who have been attending conventions and they’ve absolutely loved the bad Spanish, so I guess I was successful in what I was trying to accomplish. The accents that you managed to portray in Cerebus was a big inspiration for trying something different like what I did, and I actually thought at one point that I’d try to write out the Spanish accent in English like you did, but I ended up chickening out.
I’ve got a couple of other ideas for different ways to write dialogue that I’m not sure if it’s been done before, but one of them will be in issue #6 which I’m plotting out right now.
Mike: Well, since I chose to become an animator, a father of five, and a comic-book artist in my “free-time”, it’s safe to say I err on the side towards making masochist “time-consuming choices”… or let’s go with calling it “good ol’ Judeo-Christian work ethic”, which sounds a lot better.
The reason I was using Toronto as Spy Guy’s city (going all the way back to the high-school gag comics), is because I had always heard it be said that you should “write what you know”. I decided to make SPY GUY into a black and white indie comic when my friend and collaborator told me he had decided not to do his Cyber-Punk black and white indie comic, and since my ULTRAIST black and white indie comic was closely intertwined in his comic-book universe, I abandoned my comic as well and decided to resurrect SPY GUY. At that time I was living in down-town Toronto. For my 1996-1998 day-job, I was being flown around North America to attend CGI tradeshows and I was seeing lots of different cities, and decided to use the opportunity to take reference photos for my new SPY GUY comic-book. Only when I started doing so, I realized how different other cities really are; “THAT’s not what a Toronto dumpster looks like!” “THAT’s not how the Toronto curb and sidewalk looks like” “A Toronto manhole cover doesn’t look like THAT!” and it hit me how different every city is from one another.
When I moved to Hawaii (which is where the bulk of SPY GUY: Bootleg was created) I was hyper aware of Toronto as a unique city with it’s own unique details. I had also read interviews and articles with great storytellers and directors who said that the location is also a character in the story. So I’ve always been hyper aware of that aspect as well. All of this became very important.
The Spy Guy look was always based around classical animation with the cell painted characters, and intricately detailed painted backgrounds. It didn’t help that I was being heavily influenced in comics by Gerhard’s backgrounds on Cerebus and Katsuhiro Otomo’s backgrounds on Akira. So that was always a specific look I was going for. If nobody else even noticed those backgrounds, I’d still probably keep drawing that way just for myself. But the thing is those backgrounds have received a very good reaction. Charlito from Indie Spinner Rack pointed to the last panel on page 12 saying that could look like it was from any realistic comic. Even you yourself said “the cityscape behind the cop car is as detailed as anything George Perez ever did.” which I took as a huge compliment. Erik Larsen told me when flipping through SPY GUY #1 “SOMEbody has been influenced by Dave Sim…” which I obviously took as a huge compliment.
One of my favourite reactions to get are from people who know the city of Toronto, but have been away from it and yet when they see the backgrounds they can immediate place it. They know where that street corner is. They recognize that landmark. They have been there. When I keep getting reactions like that, I certainly don’t regret drawing them… if anything, the one thing I regret is that I can’t draw those backgrounds faster… but I’m working on it!
Now I’ll ask YOU one that I’ve been curious about for a while…
My research for SPY GUY has lead me down various rabbit-holes where I’ve found information about conspiracy theories, secret societies, shadow governments and various mystery schools. And what has amazed me is how much of the esoteric information and symbolism I’ve retroactively found that seemed to echo in Cerebus. Here are a couple of them:
Adam Weishaupt was the founder of the Bavaria Order of Illuminati.
Obvious connection to President Adam Weisshaupt all the way back in issue #21.
Nasa (Project Paperclip) lunar missions allegedly as Masonic cabalistic rituals.
Made me think of the Cerebus ascension, and especially tied together with the footprint on the moon in #111
Hermaphrodite and androgynous occult symbolism.
Cerebus as a hermaphrodite.
The bronze sculpture called Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera Con Sfera) for the Vatican Museums.
Reminded me of Church & State and Mothers & Daughters gold spheres.
Plutonic age – Chemycal Wedding / Chemycal Divorce – attaining truth by confronting and removing all that is false with the self.
Similar to the astrological elements in Minds with Cerebus ending up on Pluto talking with Dave.
Cult of Aton – Origin of mystery schools – Egyptian sun worship cult.
The Last Day in Cerebus – Sheshep and the Harmaclus in the mind blowing issue #299.
I don’t know how much of this stuff in Cerebus was actually pulled from esoteric sources, but regardless, to me it seemed to have parallels to it. I know that while writing Cerebus you were on the lookout for the capital “T” TRUTH. And it was Rick’s Story where you seemed to have found it in God. But the inclusion of these other things interests me because I keep coming across it in researching secret societies.
So, long question short – I’ve been curious: Where did you get the ideas for some of these esoteric elements and how did you decide to put them into the Cerebus comic?
From Cerebus #298