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January 25, 2004

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Cerebus R.I.P, overview of the series from a fan who actually stuck with it, via Unqualified Offerings.... [Read More]

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Michael Grabowski

Nice overview. I agree, Sim should have quit when he was ahead at the end of 200. 'Leave 'em wanting more" rather than "leave 'em wishing you hadn't delivered more". I think the problem may have been that when he originally decided to do the book 27 years, it was bimonthly, so take out Melmoth and the text segments of Reads and that would probably have worked out about right. Instead he went monthly and gave himself an extra 100+ issues to produce without 100 issues of content.

BTW, the "bizarre new religion" Cerebus exposits on is Sim's slant on Judeo-Christian stuff. He's got Cerebus reading out of an original King James Bible, with all the archaic spellings. Reading the "Notes on LATTER DAYS" in the latest phone book sheds some light on the process Sim put Cerebus through. Not that it matters much.

Len

A few points in repsonse....

The suggestion that Cerebus could have ended with Cerebus and Jaka walking of happily into the sunset (end of Rick's Story) is, quite frankly, ludicrous. It would be anithetical to the 7 years of comics that preceded it and the major themes advanced by Guys and Rick's story in particular.

I also find the idea that a bad last 100 issues (which I don't consider bad, but for the sake of argument), somehow invalidate the first 200. If you think the first 200 are a work of art and genius, then they still are and Dave Sim should be lauded as an artist and a genius. Those first 200 issues exist - they're still there. They're still great.

And with respect to Going Home - I think the scenes between Cerebus and Jaka - the way they mirror male-female relationships are utterly brilliant and are written at a level higher than anything seen in the first 200 issues. So even if you didn't like the F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway incorporation into the book (and persoanlly, I'm not a big fan of them either - particularly the Hemingway part), there's still the Cerebus/Jaka parts (14 out of 34 issues - 280 pages of material!) which make it worthwhile. And, as usual - the artwork throughout the book is as stunning.

With respect to Latter Days, I'm the last person who will defend the agony of the 8 issues of Torah commentary. I also won't defend Dave's nutty essays in back of the book (in fact, I haven't even read them all - at least completely) - they're irrelevant to Cerebus as a work of comic art. However, even without those 8 issues, there are spots here and there where Dave's brilliance shines. His depiction of the Stooges was terrific. The latest issue with its Citizen Kane homage and the reintroduction of real tension into the storyline was wonderful. The ARTWORK is terrific from start to finish. If you just ignore the words and look at the sequential pictures, you STILL have a comic that is head and shoulders above 90% of the dreck on the market (and I'm not belittling the comics medium - the other 10% has excellent material - I believe it was Theodore Stugeon who wrote that 90% of EVERYTHING is crap).

So when it all ends - on 300 as was the plan for the past 26 or so years, I'll be happy for the complete series - because warts and all, it's been a terrific, unparallled ride.

the aardvark

Len - hey, if I didn't agree with you about the brilliance of the first two thirds of Cerebus, I wouldn't have wasted my time writing this, and I wouldn't still be one of the last 7,000 (according to Sim) still buying the monthly to the end. The last 100 don't invalidate the first 200... but the brilliance of the first 200 make the torture of the last 100 that much harder to take.

You wouldn't believe how much mail I've gotten saying that I'm some kind of Jaka-Cerebus romantic idealist who doesn't get the reality of relationships (this must be some kind of Mulder-Scully shipper thing that I hadn't been aware of). I just don't buy it. My problem is that Sim - to me - distorted both characters in order to make a point about relationships. That's unworthy of him, and of the book. I think that Sim could be brilliant on politics, but he's not very insightful on relationships... which might account for the difference in quality in the parts of the series.

Len

I, personally, don't agree with Dave's view of women. However, I fully believe that there ARE elements of truth in what he writes/believes. I fully believe that there ARE relationships like the one portrayed by Jaka and Cerebus in Going Home. And Dave's capture of those relationships is perfect - it's sharp, on point, brilliant.

I can see the point of view that his use of Jaka was a distortion of her previous character (although how much, is unclear - remember, the Jaka of Jaka's Story aborted her fetus w/o consulting her husband, and danced in a tavern knowingly endangering the life of the tavern keeper for her own selfish reasons, among other things). This doesn't take away from the fact that what Dave's put on paper is terrific.

And the last third of the book DOES further many of the thmes raised in the 1st third: echoes of reality, male/female relationships and incompatibility, the abuse of religion and politics - it's all there. Sure there's crap you have to slog through too - but there's plenty of great stuff.

And through it all, there's the wonderful art. It baffles me how people can dismiss the last third of Cerebus, which is a comic book - words AND art as worthless and not mention the art at all! Do you think Dave's skills at conveying ideas and narrative through sequential pictures is ANY less brilliant in the last 100 issues?? Of course not! He's only continued to grow as an artist - and so has Gerhard. SOme of his most stunning work is present in the last third. Is this without value? As I mentioned above, you can IGNORE every word printed in the last third, and you'd STILL have a brilliant comic just looking at the pictures. DO you disagree? Can you point to failures or deterioration in the art? I don't think so. And therefore, at a minimum, the 2000 pages of art must be acknowledged as a continuation of Dave's genius EVEN IF you dismiss the text!

Haven Perez

My God, my whole entire epistemology (what I know) concerning Cerebus is smashed. This whole time I thought Sim was doing the most radical philosophically postmodern non-linear ironic and sarcastic story telling in the history of literature.

This is no lie!!!

I really believed that Dave Sim was being both critical and sensitive to Right-Wing nihilism inherent in Western notions of masculinity. He deconstructed any notion of traditional storytelling and the voice of the author began to take on the form of narration in Morrison’s Jazz and traditional Eskimo shaman myth telling.

This whole time he was being serious? My God, Critical Theory really screwed me up!!!

the aardvark

Wow, Dave as postmodern visionary sure never crossed my mind before. Seriously, "Dave as voice" certainly is one way of reading the book - and I could spin it that way and make it ring true. If you look at my latest Cerebus post - "Astoria and the Artist" - you'll see that I've always been intrigued by the way that Sim's story struggles against his own intentions. Again and again - at least before Going Home and Latter Days - you would see characters behaving in ways that seemed to directly undermine Sim's own authorial views. But two things work against this reading: first, the near complete devolution (artistic and intellectual) of the book towards the end; and second, Sim's own repeated insistence that he is, in fact, serious. Sure, maybe his whole life is performance art - but it doesn't sound like it. And I'd happily forgive the content of his views, and work with the storyline deconstructing before our eyes, if it hadn't directly affected the quality and integrity of the book. Or if "Dave's voice" were even half as interesting as the artificial world he created (because unlike Morrison, et al, Sim's prose is really poor... I've never understood how someone with such a brilliant ear for dialogue can be such a poor prose stylist). But sadly no, hence my disenchantment.

Haven Perez

I have much to think about. My world (well, my comic book world, anyway) has been changed.

I was reminded of Kierkegaard using differing voices to express certain positions (The Monk, The Don Juan, The Judge) and Sim taking it further, using The Judge to act as a Don Juan or the Don Juan using the voice of The Monk.

His prose was rough (I thought they were bad translations of some voice to come, but it kept coming, so it had to be an ironic take on the “meta-narrative” having no real linear quality)…listen!!!! I’m a political junkie and philosophy undergrad and had stopped reading Cerebus a couple of years ago (for no particular reason except time) and read this bLog for analysis, the Dave Sim thing took me by surprise.

I even thought “Sim” was a play on “simulation” (but Baudrillard comes after, in the late 80’s).

The whole dying alone and unloved, well it looks like that could never happen because we all “know,” ….

I have so much to think about.

thanks for an excellent bLog, by the way.


franklyn adams

I'm also a member of the "I wish Sim had quit after 200 issues" club. I stopped purchasing Cerebus before or during "Guys" & would only periodically browse issues in the comics stores just to see if the story had picked up - it didn't. (I was so out of touch with Cerebus, did not even know that Tangents existed until today)

Years passed & then I stumbled across an issue in the 290's. The story had not picked up much (certainly better than Rick's story which was arguably the worst of the entire series), but thoroughly enjoyed "Islam, my islam" "Why Canada slept" & then the Fax dialogue with Chester Brown, which convinced me to purchase Riel which I also enjoyed. Also purchased a few back issues to read the entire essays which were far more interesting than the comic Cerebus.

In answer to the question - "Do you think Dave's skills at conveying ideas and narrative through sequential pictures is ANY less brilliant in the last 100 issues??" - very much so. Cerebus the Aardvark was the engine that drove the comic. The Cerebus narrative started stalling with Jaka's story & while it picked up again with "Mothers and Daughters" it died with the last 100 issues. There was no narrative, and ultimately a comic book, like any narrative art form, are driven my character and plot - Gerhard excellent art cannot by itself make a comic book worth reading.

My guess is that Dave made the promise to create 300 issues, and then found but that he lacked the stories to fill up 6000 pages, so had to insert Fitzgerand & Hemingway & Marty & Woody et al as space fillers. Perhaps Dave should have stopped writting the comic book entirely and given himself over to being an essayist once "Mother & daughters" concluded.

Daniel

Hi there - like you, I'm busy as hell (damn grad school!), but I've also been (slowly) working on some Cerebus essyas (along with other comic stuff). Anyway, I am seriously contemplating trying to get some people together to contribute to an entire book of critical essays on the work; if you think you'd be interested in the "sometime in the next year or two" future, drop me a line.

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