Friday, April 20, 2007
Cerebus by Dave Sim
Cerebus by Dave Sim is certainly one of the most remarkable comics ever created. This is obvious even from mere numerical facts:
1) 300 issues
2) 6,000 pages
3) 27 years in the making
4) One long story
5) highly seminal
6) drawn and written by one man
7) was always published on time
...Number six is only partly true: for most of the run, Writer/artist Dave Sim was aided by superb background artist Gerhard. His amazing, detailed pen-art background are unsurpassed.
Reading Cerebus is sometimes a frustrating experience though. Not really because of much variance in quality (though obviously there has to be that too), but because of the variance in style. Dave Sim was/is a fabulous humorist and fantast, but in some stretches, especially in the last 100 issues (!!) he tended to veer into long-winded philosophical and religious text narratives, only interspersed with a few drawings. To make it worse, some of those passages had tiny, tiny, tiny text and were near-impossible to read in my opinion (both due to type size and content). And some of them were philosophically, er, on the edge, and have been called misogynist.
Dave Sim says he has no long term friends. It seems that about half way into making Cerebus, reading the bible for research, he got religion big time, and he now has his own highly idiosyncratic mixture of Christianity and Islam, probably mixed with other stuff too, and he prays ritualistically several times a day at set times. He is easy to get at, he will answer his phones and he has answered several of my letters over the years. But in later years it is near-impossible to talk about anything without somehow touching on an issue he has problems with and being called a "feminist", which he does not mean as a compliment. Dave Sim says he is literally the last real male on the planet, the rest are male feminists, living under the thumb of "The Void" as he calls the feminine side of the universe. He is a minority of one, and the only one who really sees the truth. Heady stuff.
But Cerebus is still a unique work, and I'm sure nobody will ever equal it. It is bizarre, beautiful, fascinating, and often fall-over funny. Just one thing would make it worth reading: the caricatures. Sim made the most amazing caricatures of popular heroes as well as real people like Groucho Marx and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The drawings and the speech are unmatched in skill and hilarity.
Note: if you want to try it, I recommend starting with the second volume ("phone books" is the official name for these bricks), called "High Society". Dave Sim really hit his stride in this one, and Gerhard joined him to improve the art no end.
Steve B. helps out:
1) He wasn't always on time, but he always caught up. He fell several months behind at one point, then shipped issues every three weeks for a year or so, so the cover dates all *look* like he published them all on time.
2) There's no Gerhard art in "High Society." That's all Dave. Gerhard joined with issue #65, which is about halfway through the first volume of "Church & State."
Otherwise, nice summation. Dave's strange version of Islam is more influenced by Judaism than Christianity, I think, though he does accept the Scriptures of all three as the Holy Word of God -- but he has a pretty weird take on just what that all means, starting with the fact that the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran are all part of an ongoing dialogue between God and YHWH (which is not God's Ineffable Name but one of God's creations who thinks She's God -- it's a looooong story). He also thinks there were two different Jesuses (Jesus's?), neither of which was truly the Son of God.
But the comic book sure is good.