Cerebus The Aardvark
Cerebus The Aardvark was an independent monthly comic scripted and drawn by
Dave Sim, starring an arrogant, violent aardvark in a world of men. Dave Sim
said years ago that he was only going to draw Cerebus up to issue 300. No more.
And that day has come and gone. Issue 300 was published November 2003, and the
trade paperback, Last Day, has been published and that's it. Cerebus is no
more. Cerebus is dead. But the comics live on. Individual issues are available
through eBay, and the trade paperbacks are available most places like Bud
Plant, Amazon and, of course, eBay.
The main character is obviously Cerebus, an Aardvark. An earth-pig. He
started as a funny-animal-in-a-human-world type of character, based on
Marvel's bizarre Howard The Duck. The early issues were a parody of those
early Conan The Barbarian comics drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith. The Dave Sim
parody was very well drawn too. The first couple of issues were clever and
funny parodies, and had the usual disjointed new-story-every-issue format
of the Marvel and DC comics, but by the end of issue 25, Cerebus had taken
on new dimensions. The stories were longer, some taking five issues
to unravel. The parodies were more complex, the cocking-a-snook-at-Marvel
more pronounced and there was strong evidence of great subtlety in both Dave
Sim and Cerebus. This was an indication of great things to come.
One of my favourite stories from this time was the strange admixture of the
Clint Eastwood film The Beguiled (one of the finest films done by
Clint), the Marvel Comics Man Thing, DC Comics' Swamp Thing, and Marvel Comics'
Professor Xavier from the Uncanny X-Men. A most unusual blend but an absolute
rip-snorter of a story, and the start of many elements in the next few hundred
issues of Cerebus.
A long running series started around issue 26 called High Society.
This was heavily influenced by the Marx Brothers, and included a major
character called Lord Julius who was a Groucho Marx clone. This story took
two years to unfold. After that came the giant Church And State, a
complicated tale that took five years to tell. This was the zenith of the
Cerebus tales. Action, philosophy, religion, complexity, feminism,
anti-feminism, this story was complicated and powerful. It included the rape
scene that caused such a furore in the Aardvark Comment pages, the letters
to the author. After Church And State, there were two shorter tales:
Jaka's Story (two years) and Melmoth (one year). Melmoth
worked on many levels, but the most direct one was the telling of the final
days of Oscar Wilde, with an extremely graphic death scene. By this stage,
the quantity of written text was encroaching on the amount of artwork. Then
came Mothers And Daughters, a story that was broken into four parts.
The second half of this story was mostly written text. It became more like
an occasionally illustrated novel than a comic book. During this period,
the author Dave Sim, intruded into the story and it became partially
autobiographical. Many fans gave up at this point and left Cerebus. And at
the end of Mothers And Daughters when I couldn't see how the story
could be resolved, and Dave Sim intruded as a deus ex machina and
appeared and waved his hand and resolved the story, and set Cerebus down
in a new location, and we jumped over the god-resolution, well that's when
I started to lose a bit of faith too. But by this time I am well and truly
hooked and I do want to see what is going to happen to the little furry grey
guy by issue 300, so I keep buying the issues and reading.
One thing I do like about the series, is that it is written and drawn by
one guy (with help from Gerhardt). As Dave Sim has gotten older, the stories
and the characters have become more complex and more cynical. It matches
my craving for complexity. Most other comic series are done by a revolving
group of artists, and the stories stay at the same level to attract the same
audience. They don't grab an audience and grow with them.
Anyway, by the end of issue 200, we have discovered some interesting facts
about Cerebus. He is a hermaphrodite, with both male and female sexual organs,
but is unable to impregnate himself after the kitchen knife episode in
his youth. Aardvarks are magical creatures, on whom great events turn and
twist. There are three aardvarks in Cerebus' world, all playing a major role in
the mysticism. Cerebus, Cirin and Suentius Po. Suentius Po guides Cerebus, sets
up events and leaves. Cirin and Cerebus are enemies, each wanting to ascend and
meet their god, Terim or Tarim. We learn that Cerebus is going to die "unloved,
unmourned, alone". And we've come to accept that in everything he tries, he
rises quickly (often despite himself), and then loses it all. So we wait for
each issue to see if the arrogant, sexist earth-pig can redeem himself, or is
going to go ahead and die "unloved, unmourned and alone".
In the various issues, we meet many parodies of Marvel comic heroes, plus other
great adventure heroes. There have been characters based on Red Sonja (Red
Sophia), the Michael Moorcock creation Elric Of Melnibone (Elrod The Albino),
Wolverine (Wolveroach), the Robert E. Howard creation Bran Mak Morn (Bran Mac
Muffin), Groucho Marx (Lord Julius), Swamp Thing (Sump Thing), Man Thing (Woman
Thing), Prince Valiant (Lord Silverspoon), and many more. There are also
characters from real life who appear: Oscar Wilde, Maggie Thatcher, Mick Jagger
and Keith Richards.
The structure of the comic's story-line is such that each issue is a part of a
long novel. When the last issue of each novel has been published, a special
publication of the novel is printed. These are often called telephone books,
given the size of them. The largest one was Church And State, which was
so large it had to be published in two huge volumes. It took five years for
this complete story to be published in monthly issues. In between each novel,
there are usually bridging issues that act as tidy-ups to the previous novel,
and a scene-setter to the next novel. The first twenty-five issues did not
really form a part of a consistent novel, as Dave Sim was still experimenting
with Cerebus and getting to grips with the big concepts. They were
still collected and published as a novel, simply called Cerebus.
Here are the various novels and bridging episodes.
||Dec 77-Apr 81
The introduction to Cerebus. He starts as a clone of Conan the
barbarian from Barry Windsor-Smith. We meet characters that reappear
in later books. Here they are brief caricatures, but they are later
woven deeply into the thread of Cerebus's story. We meet Red Sophia (a
Robert Howard pastiche), and Elrod the Albino (a Michael Moorcock
pastiche), the Pigts and Bran Mak Mufin (another Robert Howard
pastiche) and Suentius Po who keeps popping back in later books. And
we meet Jaka, who starts early as a trullish dancer in a tavern. We
meet the Conniptins "might for right, might for might, right for
might". We get Robert Howard storylines. The insane Cockroach appears,
and Necross, and Lord Julius. Heaps of Robert Howard storylines. Some
clever tricks too, if you want to rip two comics apart and make a
large poster. Weisshaupt appears and we learn the origin of the
Cockroach. Origins already? We end with the fabulous Clint Eastwood
film take-off The Beguiling. This mixes up the comic world and we meet
Professor Charles X Claremont, Woman-Thing (a female Swamp-Thing), and
Theresa. And then Sump-Thing meets Woman-Thing and we have a thing
mating scene. Cerebus grabs a bag of swag and heads back to Iest.
This book was a mish-mash of little storylines, and a big clump of
strange characters. The early drawings are crude and clumsy. By the
end, the drawings are sophisticated and the story lines are longer and
||May 81-May 83
This book is one long complex storyline. From the start of this
book, the Cerebus story leaves the comic world behind and becomes a
graphic novel, a real graphic novel, not one of those silly little
graphic short stories that got called graphic novels in the 80s. This
is the point where Cerebus takes on a life of his own.
Cerebus arrives in Iest with some remaining swag from The Beguiling.
He books into the Regency Hotel, complete with the Regency Elf. Cerebus
is still part of the Iestian bureaucracy after his earlier meeting with
Lord Julius, so he fits right back into the twisted bureaucratic world
of Iest and Lord Julius. He gets kidnapped by the dumb ones - Dirty Fleagle
McGrew and Dirty Drew McGrew. He switches the kidnap to a moneymaking
proposition for himself, and we get introduced to the card game of
Diamondback. Cerebus has a chat to Suentius Po and we get told about Cirin.
The Cockroach metamorphoses into Moonroach, under the control of Astoria.
Astoria decides to gain power through Cerebus, by making Cerebus politically
advanced. Elrond reappears and so does Bran Macmufin, clothed this time. Jaka
pops in to see him, but Cerebus is a smart-arse prick and she leaves. Cerebus
does Petuniacon, and the action gets comic convention wild. The political
machinations are complex, but squeezed through the Marx Brothers, as Lord
Julius does Groucho Marx. Astoria decides to run Cerebus against Lord Julius
for the Prime Ministership. There's major political maneuvering, and the
elections are held and Cerebus is elected Prime Minister. This is the finest
moment of comics. Hysterically funny. But his rule doesn't last long. Cerebus
can't hang onto anything without screwing it up himself or someone else doing
it for him. In this case, Iest is threatened with invasion, so everyone runs
away, but it's the Conniptins, so Cerebus is safe again. But then religion
creeps into it, ready for the next huge story line. The Pope of the Western
Church dies. The Eastern Pope decides to reunite the church, and takes over
Iest. Cerebus leaves without Astoria.
||A bridging episode. Everyone escapes from Iest by boat. Marx
|Church And State
||Jul 83-Jun 88
This huge story is broken into two large telephone books. Church
and State Volumes 1 and 2. This is going to be long because there's a
lot of story.
Church And State Volume 1:
Book 1: Apres State: Cerebus starts in a pub, and meets up with Lord
Julius' son Lord Silverspoon, who we last saw in a side-story in a
Swords of Cerebus. He goes and stays with the Countess, Michele, while
writing his book On Governing. The Countess turns out to be the niece
of Artemis, who we know as the deranged Cockroach, now the Wolveroach,
cocking a snook at Marvel yet again. We get another origin, The Origin
of Wolveroach. Weisshaupt joins the Countess and Cerebus. We last saw
him in the episode before the Beguiling when Cerebus abandoned him
through bars. Weisshaupt offers Cerebus the job of Prime Minister of
Iest. Again? This time the Church is willing to follow Weisshaupt's
lead. Charles X Claremont reappears, living inside Wolveroach. Cerebus
wants the Countess to tell him to stay, so he does the macho thing,
gets to wear egg salad, so he leaves. He goes on a bender. He wakes up
wearing Red Sophia's chain mail bra, Weisshaupt interrupts and tells
him he's married. To Red Sophia. Who has her rancid old mother
attached. Weisshaupt dresses Cerebus real fancy with a wig and a
weskit and voila, Prime Minister.
Book 2: Back to Iest: Cerebus and Sophia have marital difficulties
over her mother. Cerebus meets the current Pope, who lays out the
political situation. The Pope is killed in front of Cerebus. Cerebus
goes back to bed and the Regency Elf returns. Cerebus does Prime
Minister stuff, life trickles on mundanely until Bishop Powers meets
Weisshaupt and demands a new candidate for Pope. Weisshaupt bluffs
Powers, who leaves without a candidate. Astoria returns, and Theresa,
Lots of history gets recited, setting the political scene. The Marx
Brothers pop back in. Another comic to rip up and form into a big
poster. Cerebus drinks too much and bitches about Weisshaupt, then
finds out he's the next candidate for Pope.
Book 3: Church and State: Cerebus' candidature seriously pisses off
Weisshaupt who spars with Bishop Powers, then capitulates. Bishop
Posey shakily appears to dress Cerebus in his robes. Cerebus moves
into a hotel near the East Wall rather than joining Bishop Powers.
Cerebus is guarded by Bear and served by Boobah. A crowd gathers
outside the hotel. Cerebus addresses the crowd, and comes out with
some of the most lucid and stunning prose ever. Classic lines. "Tarim
loves rich people, that's why he gives them so much money." "Tarim
hates poor people which is why they don't have any money." Cerebus
wants gold. All the gold. He tells the crowd what they can expect from
Tarim, and offers to put in a good word for them. Only a good word. In
return for all the gold. Then threatens that Tarim will destroy the
world by fire in fifteen days unless he gets enough gold. Then comes
the incredible baby episode. This is the best. Cerebus "blesses" the
baby. See it and weep with delight. The gold comes in, more gold than
Weisshaupt dreamt existed. Then it starts to get weird. Cerebus
acquires a halo. Cerebus teaches the crowd another lesson with an
elderly man and a high place. Cerebus catches cold, then gets
threatened by Weisshaupt and a bank of fat weird cannon. Weisshaupt
wants that gold. Cerebus rejects the threat and we get another
beautiful line: "The President sucks wet farts out of dead pigeons."
Weisshaupt goes to fire the cannon, but suffers a heart attack while
trying to get his religiously intimidated men to light the fuses.
Cerebus' cold takes a turn for the magical and he acquires a glowing
light and a fiery sneeze. The Regency Elf tells Cerebus stuff, but it
isn't the real Regency Elf and we get confused. Bran Macmufin returns
to Cerebus, all natty and nifty. Lord Julius meets Bishop Powers and
offers political deals. Magical stuff starts happening to Cerebus and
the gold coins start voluntarily coalescing to form a small golden
sphere. Red Sophia gets pissed off at Cerebus and leaves. So Cerebus
sends Bear to find Jaka, and he does, but Jaka's married now. Reunion,
tears, recriminations, and we find that the tavern dancer is really
Lord Julius' niece and a Princess of Palnu. While being an erotic
dancer? Cerebus wants Jaka to share his life, but she goes back to her
husband. Weisshaupt wants a deathbed chat with Cerebus and we find
that Suentius Po is Weisshaupt's uncle. Cerebus learns that there are
three aardvarks hanging around, but Weisshaupt dies before Cerebus
can beat the location of the other two out of him. Cerebus dreams and
has a really, really long leak, then dreams a bunch of really weird
stuff. When he comes out of it, Necross, the big stone thing from the
first book is outside the hotel in giant Pope robes demanding HIS
gold. Bran Macmufin gets disheartened by this and stabs and kills
himself. Necross catches Cerebus and blows him away.
Church And State Volume 2:
Book 4: The Sacred Wars: We start the Secret Sacred Roach Wars, a
parody of the Secret Wars running through a bunch of Marvel comic
series at the time. Yes, the Roach is back, more insane than ever. He
picks up the blown away Cerebus and carries him back to Secret Sacred
Wars Roach Headquarters, where the McGrew brothers are badly dressed
in superhero longjohns. Roach harbours Claremont who tries to warn
Cerebus about the coming end of the world. Cerebus gets drunk with the
Roach boys, and disappears into this glowing thing that hangs around
him. Cerebus appears in one of the dimensions and meets "Fred, Ethel
and the little fellow with the hair" the two Things and the artist
from the Beguiling. They've melded. They're going to the Ascension.
Cerebus leaves the spheres again and reappears in the Roach
headquarters, only to find the Countess. Michele. She gives him a
final letter from Weisshaupt. Someone is going to be declared to be the
living Tarim on Earth, with a lot of power. Necross thinks it's going
to be him. Weisshaupt reminds Cerebus of the cannon. While Cerebus is
en route to the cannon, he meets Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Elrond in fake roach costume appears. Cerebus climbs the black tower.
It's growing. This huge tower is growing in the middle of the city.
Cerebus reaches the cannon and blows up Necross. Another classic line.
Cerebus tells the crowd in the square to freeze. They do, with
Book 5: Astoria: Cerebus visits his gold and freezes. Sophia visits
him, Lord Julius sells tickets. Bishop Powers brings the albatross and
tells the frozen Cerebus that the other Pope has been assassinated,
and now the Church is united again under Cerebus. While Cerebus is
frozen with his head in the glowing thing, he's actually up in the
spheres again, talking with Tarim. We get a bit of history about the
ascension so we can try and understand what's happening. Cerebus gets
back to the hotel, only to have the glowing thing turn into a pure
golden sphere, that can be used in the ascension. Cerebus gets conned
by artists and his sphere turns back into coins. Then we find that the
assassin of the other Pope is none other than Astoria, and she's also
Lord Julius' ex-wife. Cerebus goes and sees Astoria in jail, and she's
chained to the wall and a bit battered and bruised. She teases him
with her underwear and a flash of pink, and we get the infamous rape
scene. Cerebus rapes her. Then there's Astoria's trial. And Cerebus
with "What is truth?" Then there are echoes, and Cerebus sees the old
burning of Suentius Po, one of the other aardvarks. Cerebus continues
the Pontius Pilate act. And we meet Cirin, the other aardvark.
Something fell. The echoes get bad. Weisshaupt has left Cerebus
another gold sphere, and Cerebus grabs it and heads for the black
Book 6: The Final Ascension: Artwork sideways and upside-down and
everything gets stranger than ever before. Cerebus climbs the black
tower with the sphere of gold. The tower starts to revolve, but
Cerebus gets inside. He meets Flaming Carrot Head and Sponge Boy, and
gets a shortcut to the top. And there's Fred and Ethel and the little
guy with the hair. They are going to the ascension too, with a sphere
of gold. The little guy with the hair thinks he's got all bases
covered: a female part in case it's Terim, and a male part in case
it's Tarim. He tries to boot Cerebus off the black tower. The tower
top shrinks, Cerebus hides inside, it gets too small for Fred and
Ethel who fall off when the tower top breaks. The tower continues
growing to the moon, with Cerebus on top.
Book 7: Walking on the Moon: Cerebus reaches the moon and meets the
Judge who tells the past and then how it's all going to end. He shows
Cerebus Tarim and Terim - cosmology anthropomorphised. More future
history and it turns out to be us, with the moon landing and the
Challenger blowup in the middle, so Cerebus is our past. And then he
tells Cerebus that while he's been walking on the moon, Cirin has
attacked and conquered Iest and taken all the gold. And then we get
the prediction: Cerebus will only live a few more years, then die
"alone, unmourned and unloved". Bummer. And he's going to suffer, and
if he wonders why he's got to suffer, remember his second marriage
(the rape of Astoria). And Cerebus gets sent back to an empty Iest,
with the land ruled by Cirin.
||Two bridging episodes. Cerebus wanders about alone, moping. He
gathers up his vest, neck thing and sword. He gets all mopey about
Sophia, and does the kink thing and puts Sophia's bikini bottom on his
head. He goes past the corpse of Bran Macmufin. He sits in the rain of
the broken city, hearing "die alone, unmourned and unloved". He makes
his way to a pub, with an irritated barkeep and an old spitting
soldier, tells them how the world will end, then wanders on.
||Aug 88-Jul 90
Rick and Jaka are living in the remnant of a village on the side
of the mountain after Cerebus' ascent. Jaka dances at the local pub,
run by a sad individual called Pud. Cerebus arrives at Pud's pub with
one of the last gold coins around, and gets good service. He goes to
stay with Rick and Jaka. In between, we get huge chunks of Jaka's
upbringing as a princess of Palnu. It's a love mess. Rick loves Jaka,
but she's impatient with him, but they're married so they do it lots.
Cerebus loves Jaka, and has fantasies. Pud also loves Jaka and has
fantasies. Oscar Wilde arrives and his friendship with Rick irritates
Jaka. Lord Julius in a dress pops in briefly. Oscar Wilde writes
Jaka's Story, and Jaka gets pissed. While Cerebus is away on a bender,
the Cirinist's arrive at the pub. They kill the old soldier and Pud,
and arrest Jaka and Rick. Maggie Thatcher arrives to interrogate them.
After lots of soul-searching and threats, Thatcher tells Rick that
Jaka aborted his son. He flips, slaps Jaka, disavows her, and leaves
with a broken thumb. Jaka is sent off to be a princess of Palnu again.
||Aug 90-Sep 90
||Bridging episode. Lord Julius in a dress meets another Lord
Julius. Then lots more Lord Juliuses come out of the woodwork. The
real Lord Julius returns from a fishing trip.
||Oct 90-Sep 91
||In the prologue, a plainclothes Wolveroach arrives at Dino's cafe
on the side of Cerebus' broken mountain. The Cirinists warn him about
his flakey behaviour. Then Cerebus arrives at the cafe, in shell-shock
after seeing the pub destroyed and Jaka gone. He sits outside the cafe
and does the autistic thing. Boobah wanders through, a cleaned up Mick
and Keef pop in. Cerebus shows a bit of life when the new ditzy
waitress comes. Bishop Posey appears briefly but is arrested by the
Cirinists and carted off. While all this is going on, Oscar Wilde gets
sick, gets bed-ridden, then slowly dies with lots of text from the
original letter from Robert Ross to More Adey in 1900. In the
epilogue, Cerebus is napping outside the cafe and overhears two
Cirinists talk about slapping Jaka around while in jail. He flips out
and kills them and then starts running.
|Mothers And Daughters
||Oct 91-Nov 95
Conclusion of the religious aspects. This is a huge storyline, lots of
philosophy and religion, and flawed as hell, confusing as hell, but
entertaining as hell. The huge denouement tries to wrap everything up
with no loose ends. The whole huge story is broken into four mini
- Flight (151-162)
- Women (163-174)
- Reads (175-186)
- Minds (187-200)
Flight: The Cirinists are all connected. When Cerebus kills the first
two and starts running, the rest come hunting him. Mass slaughter
follows. Cerebus kills Cirinists, and exhorts the men to rise up
against the Cirinists. They do and are slaughtered. Lots of killing in
this one. Cerebus disappears from a balcony. Wolveroach turns into
Punisheroach and kills Cirinists. Elrond appears, and the Judge, and
Astoria, and the real Regency Elf. Cerebus appears in the Seventh
Sphere and talks to Suentius Po again. Cerebus discovers that there
are three aardvarks - himself, Suentius Po and Cirin. Gold does weird
Women: Punisheroach falls in love with a prostitute, turns into
Swoon and converts Elrond to a female Snuff. Cerebus materialises
and falls through the roof of the original Cirin. She sends him to a
pub. We learn about the history of the Cirinists through notes by
Astoria and Cirin. Weird shit happens. Cerebus dreams and the mountain
grows, breaks and falls on the city, destroying big chunks. Swoon does
some major killing and some major weird stuff. Cirin has Astoria
released, and calls for a meeting. Spiritually, Cirin and Cerebus and
Astoria cavort through the spheres and a chessboard. Cerebus gets
drunk, Astoria and Cirin fight and both get injured. Cirin is hoping
to ascend and is ready to pour a sphere of gold. Cerebus goes flying,
then meets with Astoria and Suentius Po to go meet Cirin. Sound weird
and confusing? It is.
Reads: We meet Victor Reid, author. Lots of text. Then there's the
big meeting where Cirin meets Po, Cerebus and Astoria. The endgame
starts. Po lays out his version of reality, and warns about the coming
ascension. Cerebus scratches his crotch and sniffs his fingers. Po
leaves. Astoria tells Cerebus he is an hermaphrodite, male and female
reproductive systems. Then reality for the reader twists when Astoria
reveals she provoked Cerebus into raping her earlier. Is this a
retraction? Cirin is afraid that Cerebus can impregnate himself and
breed a race of aardvarks. Astoria leaves. Cirin and Cerebus get into
it and blood flows. In the middle of the battle royal, we textually
meet Viktor Davis, an illustrator, sort of set in modern comicdom.
Cerebus loses his ear. Then, something fell, and we get all
metaphysical. The ascension starts. Cerebus and Cirin are stuck on a
chunk of throne-room with a throne and they whip up into space.
Minds: The Judge appears to Cirin and Cerebus and lectures them.
Cerebus and Cirin argue theology in space, and their wounds are healed
(except for the missing ear). Heaps more theological argument - male
religion versus female religion. They try to fight, but are separated.
Then there's flashbacks of Cerebus-as-a-kid, and the kitchen knife
episode. Cerebus flies past Jupiter and that big red patch that
happened a few years ago. Cerebus argues religion with himself, but
he's a bit limited in the thinking department. Then we get a massive
deus-ex-machina and Dave Sim talks directly to Cerebus and tells him
some home truths. Then Dave fills in the history to try and make sense
of the Cirinist mess. See, Cirin isn't Cirin but Serna, but she
usurped Cirin's name, and Cerebus recently met the real Cirin. And
Dave tells the current Cirin, currently floating about in space, that
good old hermaphroditic Cerebus can't give birth. This makes Cirin
very happy. Then we get a recapitulation of all that has come before,
but into the perspective of the new philosophy for the Cerebus
storyline. Cerebus then gets a taste of life with his fantasy Jaka
which ends in suicide. Then Cerebus gets some time on Pluto to go a
bit mad and repent and make a bit of sense of his life so far. We end,
with Cirin back home taking over and controlling everything, and
Cerebus dumped on the side of the mountain that grew and broke in his
dream, back in a little tavern. No more big roles for Cerebus. From
now on, he's just a little punk of no consequence.
||The Cirinists run the place, and the action takes place in a pub.
Maggie Thatcher pops in every now and then to make sure the pub is run
right. Cerebus is stuck in the pub, Bear too. Guest stars include George
Harrison and Ringo Starr behind the bar, Marty Feldman and Mick
Jagger. There's long drunken jokes, male bullshit, sexual interludes,
Bear and Cerebus have a disagreement, and everyone leaves except
Rick arrives at the pub. Remember Rick? Jaka's husband? He's older and
fatter and scarred. He talks a lot for most of the book, tells his
story, then gets pissed off with Cerebus and leaves. Dave Sim visits
the pub and talks a bit. Jaka arrives and gets it on with Cerebus for
a while. The old gang returns to the pub, Jaka leaves. Cerebus makes a
decision and leaves with Jaka.
Jaka and Cerebus set out for Cerebus' parents place. Long trip. Jaka
is a power with the Cirinists, and gets carriages and free passage. On
the boat part of the trip, they are joined by F. Scott Fitzgerald and
entourage. Lots of talk, lots of literary allusions. At the end, Jaka
and Cerebus leave the boat, and Jaka saves a drunken Cerebus from the
|Form & Void (Going Home Volume 2)
Jaka and Cerebus meet Ernest Hemingway and his wife and travel with
them for a while. Lots of strange African tales. Hemingway blows his
head off, and Jaka and Cerebus continue. They get stuck in the snow,
Cerebus dreams his way out. They make it to Cerebus' parents' place.
Cerebus warns Jaka about the local redneck attitude to women, but she
doesn't get it. Cerebus discovers his parents are long dead. The
neighbour refers to Jaka as a harlot, she gets pissed off, Cerebus
goes all stupid and tells Jaka to beat it, and she does.
This book is bigger than recent books. It starts with a lengthy
Prologue: Cerebus wanders off into the snow and finds himself in another
tavern. He gets latrine duty, gets shat on and blanks out. When he blanks
back in a few years later, he's calling himself Fred, he's looking old and
pudgy and he's on sheep duty and we learn about sheep. He's also watching his
boss's wife bathe each night, and his boss finds out and confronts Cerebus
and Cerebus blanks out again. When he blanks in again, he's far away up
north. He's also even more out of shape and looks nothing like Cerebus in his
prime. He heads east and blanks out again, and blanks in again. He's living
in another tavern, he's lost weight and he's looking more like Cerebus of
old. So he's living in the tavern and he reads comics and he plays Five Bar
Gate, a violent racquet and ball game. and he doesn't lose and he goes
professional under the name Fred Hammer. He goes to the regional finals
against Paul Coffee Annan, and loses. This goes on for years. He wins all the
local matches, goes to the finals and Paul Coffee Annan beats him. Except one
year Coffee doesn't compete and Cerebus wins and goes on tour and gets lot of
groupie sex. More years pass, and Cerebus moves from tavern to tavern and the
name Fred Hammer becomes a synonym for loser. Till one year, Coffee loses
becauses he falls down dead in the match, dying of old age. How many years
have gone by? Twenty? Thirty? After Coffee's death, Cerebus wanders out and
blanks out again. What is this blanking out and blanking in stuff?
Latter Days proper: He's living in another tavern, but it's his tavern.
Fred's Tavern, he owns it. He's got near-naked dancers, and he drinks a lot
of Scotch. The Three Stooges show up. They've been looking for Cerebus, they
find him, they dress up as Cirinists, burst into the tavern and tie up the
drunken Cerebus. They run into a real Cirinist, but bambooble her and escape
with Cerebus. Cerebus blanks out again.
Now we get religion. When Cerebus blanks in again, he's gagged and bound in a
large cathedral, he's on display. The Three Stooges are in religious robes
and are reading from the Booke of Ricke, and you can just guess who the Rick
is. The Three Stooges do Three Stooges stuff, and they're called Loshie,
Moshie and Koshie, and they slapstick each other and it's all kind of Jewish.
We get dense pages of medieval Bible text. It takes ages to read this little
text. "Thou Three Wise Fellowes who shall serve Cerebus in the latter daies
when it come to passe that the Prophet Ricke hath departed from this earth".
Time goes on, and Cerebus remains tied and gagged in spot. It is shown how
they cleanse him after natural functions. The Three Stooges fulminate
fanatically and it's really hard reading. Much more time passes. Cerebus is
ungagged and tries to talk his way out. He gets mentally confused and
imagines himself as Super Rabbi, and finally leaps away into the air, falls
down into the crypt and breaks legs and things, and he blanks out again.
Cerebus blanks in again and he's still in the crypt with a broken leg. He
starts hopping out and we get page after page of black panels with a little
text. The Stooges come back and collect him and put his broken leg in a cast.
They cart him off to meet Todd. Along the way, Cerebus meets a whole field of
dead Cirinists. Slaughtered Cirinists. Todd "Far Lane" McSpahn (surely you
know him) has led a successful revolt against the Cirinists. Cerebus gives
orders, gains a Charlie Brown T-shirt, and writes The Booke Of Cerebus. He
sends the Three Stooges on errands and builds himself a big costume of Spore,
Ye Kinge of All Demons, in the Spore Wagon. Crossover time. So Cerebus/Spore
recites the Booke of Cerebus and leads the men into ascendance, and the women
get reassigned. Much time passes and the Three Stooges get real old and have
strokes and things and die. Cerebus is alone again. How many years have
passed since Latter Days started? Forty or fifty years? Cerebus is still
looking like he always did (except he's gone to fat again), but people are
growing old and dying around him.
Woody Allen as Konigsberg comes to visit and we get dense pages of small
text wrapped around large static images. Lots of words, no action. Woody
Allen and Sleepers goes on for dense page after page. Yawn. More Woody Allen.
Who wants to read about Woody Allen? What's happening to Cerebus? Oh look,
after couple hundred pages Cerebus finally reappears and oh boy is he fat.
Look at that butt. No wait, Woody Allen is back and the text drones on for
ages, and then we see Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and the scandal of the
divorce and the daughter-marriage. Then Cerebus reappears and he is old.
There's more religious writing and it ends. So much text, so much stuff about
God and Yoowhoo.
How old is Cerebus now? 100? 200? He aged more in this one book than all
the others combined.
|The Last Day
This is it. The final volume, book 16. It takes us up to the final episode -
#300. It's been a long time coming, but the end has finally come.
Cerebus is old, and spends a lot of time in bed, dreaming. It's religious
again. The beginning. Then Cerebus awakes, and he is old. Old and wrinkled
and infirm. He falls out of bed. He staggers about a lot and he remembers old
friends. He prays. His mind fades in and out. He has clothing malfunctions.
Rosebud. He's visited by his son. His son? Backtracking... oh yeah, he got
married late last book and had this kid, but there's genetic weirdness here
and his offspring is going to be an Egyptian god. That's right, Cerebus is
our past, again like we were told in Church And State. And this religious
Booke Of Cerebus we've been reading? It's gonna pop up again in about 2,000
years and we will know it.
The meeting with his son upsets him, he tries to do something about it,
but falls out of bed and hurts himself. Lots of flashbacks. There's the
tunnel of light and all his old buddies and Jaka waving him in. He starts to
go, but he turns and runs, but he gets dragged into the light. He's dead. He
dies in episode #300, alone, unloved and unmourned. As promised.
I look back at this monumental work, and I am sad. I have read the first five
books many times. I have read the rest once. So obviously, I have a great
fondness for the first five books, especially High Society and Church and
State. From Melmoth on, there's a lot of text, and I haven't absorbed it as
easily. And Dave Sim matured too, and his style changed and his purpose
changed. It started about Cerebus, then Dave's misogyny took center stage, then
Dave's religious ideas took center stage. I liked it best when it was about
Cerebus, but I stuck with it all these years. I stayed with it, but I didn't
give the later books the attention they deserved. As the years go by, I will
read the whole tale again, many times. Eventually, I will get a good
understanding of the whole work.
If you're a die-hard collector, you will need to collect some back issues
of the Marvel Comics large format release Epic. You'll need:
- issue 16, Feb 1983, Arnold The Isshurian
- issue 26, Oct 1984, His First Fifth
- issue 28, Feb 1985, A Friendly Reminder
- issue 30, Jun 1985, Selling Insurance
- issue 32, Oct 1985, Cerebus Portfolio
There are heaps of other items to collect. Here's a short list.
- Swords of Cerebus 1-6. These reprinted the first 25 issues, plus
some new stuff about Lord Julius' son, based on Prince Valiant. And
some new stuff on Diamondback. These are a must have.
- Cerebus Animated Portfolio
- Six Deadly Sins Portfolio
- Cerebus Jam #1
- AV in 3D #1
- Anything Goes #3
- Cerebus Number Zero (reprinting all the bridging episodes so you
can follow the story)
- Cerebus Number Zero Gold (same as the regular Zero, except the
title is in gold, meant to be rarer)
- Cerebus World Tour Book 1995
- Cerebus Companion #1 and #2 (A fairly complete collectible guide)
There's even non-Cerebus Dave Sim collectibles:
- Oktoberfest Comics #1
- Phantacea #3
Cerebus has appeared in other comic series. Here's a short list:
- Spawn #10
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8
- Elf Quest
The Author - Dave Sim
I've met Dave Sim twice now. Well, I say I've met him, but it was basically
to shake his hand, and have him autograph some early issues for me. That
was at OzCon 3 and OzCon 5, the comics conventions that were held in Sydney.
At the first one, I stood in line for hours to get a chance to do the fan
thing. I was amazed at how polite he was. He shook hands with everyone, asked
the name, signed anything, and drew small Cerebus sketches, then shook hands
again. And he did this for three days, for hours at a stretch. He didn't
get irritable, he didn't appear to get bored. Maybe he was just doing his
job and keeping the punters happy, but he certainly did it well and he earned
the respect of a lot of people. I have to admit that it was a little
frustrating that when it was my turn, it was his turn for a cigarette break,
but what the hell. We all need our vices.