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.

[Cerebus
The Aardvark]

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.

[Cerebus phonebooks]

The Stories

Here are the various novels and bridging episodes.

Cerebus 1-25 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 more complex.

High Society 26-50 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.

Exodus 51 Jun 83 A bridging episode. Everyone escapes from Iest by boat. Marx Brothers comedy.
Church And State 52-111 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 Uh-oh.

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 tower.

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.

Square One 112/113 Jul 88 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.
Jaka's Story 114-136 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.

Like-a-looks 137-138 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.
Melmoth 139-150 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 151-200 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 novels.

  • 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 stuff.

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.

Guys 201-219 Dec 95-? 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 Cerebus.
Rick's Story 220-231   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.
Going Home 232-250   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 Cirinists.
Form & Void (Going Home Volume 2) 251-265   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.
Latter Days 266-288  

This book is bigger than recent books. It starts with a lengthy Prologue.

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 289-300  

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.

Epic

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

Collectibles

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

Guest Appearances

Cerebus has appeared in other comic series. Here's a short list:

  • Spawn #10
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8
  • Normalman
  • 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.