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Nate Neal‘s first graphic novel, The Sanctuary, is a considerably quirky work on multiple levels. It’s a silent graphic novel, it sports an introduction by Dave Sim, and as I found out in this interview, Neal initially wanted the book to have an wordless title. Publisher Fantagraphics describes the book as exploring “the primal mysteries and sordid inner workings of a Paleolithic cave-dwelling tribe, creating an original ‘silent’ reading experience by using symbols instead of words.” The publisher offers folks a 15-page preview in order for consumers to get a small taste of the story. Neal also offers some unique marketing videos as well as other samples at his blog.
Tim O’Shea: Whether one agrees with him or not, Dave Sim typically elicits a strong reaction whatever he does these days. With that in mind, I am curious what motivated you to have him write the intro to Sanctuary?
Nate Neal: Gary Groth (publisher of Fantagraphics Books) and I were trying to come up with someone to write an introduction to kind of ease people into the comic–to explain to the reader that they were in for something different and to prepare themselves. Gary suggested a journalist who writes for The Comics Journal. I mentioned that I knew Dave Sim and thought he might write an intro for the book. Gary perked up. He seemed interested by this, even though he and Dave are kind of nemeses–he told me to give it a shot. He warned me that Dave was making people sign a “Sim is not a misogynist” petition before he’d talk to anyone. I first met Dave in 2005 at a comic con in Ohio. At that time, a couple other artists and myself had been self-publishing a comic book anthology called Hoax. Dave was a big supporter of Hoax–although I think he kind of disinterestedly loathed most of my artwork in that anthology–the style of the art, the ideology behind it, everything! Although when he thought something had merit, he’d tell you. He would write little reviews of Hoax and send them to us. Very detailed, scathing reviews. He butchered a comic I did for Hoax #4. It just destroyed me. Embarrassed the hell out of me because I knew he was right. Later after I got a Xeric grant and printed the first half of The Sanctuary as pamphlet comic books, Dave wrote me a letter telling me he thought it was great. He basically told me I was going in the right direction. So he kind of broke me down and built me up again. His work had astounded me since I first read Minds. Even though he’s been railroaded out of the alt. comics canon (along with other modern greats like David Lapham), he’s still one of the greatest cartoonists alive–a visionary. Of course I’d want him to write an introduction to my book. I’m not an apologist for Dave, but I’ve read every Cerebus book in detail and I believe that he doesn’t hate women. Sometimes I think what he really is is a Confucianist!