Cerebus Re-Read; Countdown to 10th Anniversary of The End

Cerebus Re-Read; Countdown to 10th Anniversary of The End
  • Alright... October 7th. Despite the fact that Digitally, Cerebus is only available starting at High Society (Issue 26) we will be starting from issue #1... Margaret, Michael for our first "pre-start" question: how should people get their hands on the first (out-of-print) trade/issues?
  • While the individual issues for #1 - 25 haven't been released digitality, there is a digital copy of the first phonebook available for $25: http://www.cerebusdownloads... I got myself a copy so I could have it for easy reference on my computer.
  • Oooh, Good answer. Readers eager for the feeling of paper between their fingers can, most likely, find the phone book used at a reasonable price online. Of course, you should always check if your LCS (Local Comic Shop) has a copy. You'd be surprised how many stores have all or most of the Phonebooks just sitting on a shelf somewhere...
  • Agreed about the LCS option for the phonebooks. Keep in mind also the Biweekly reprint option - for those that want to read the letters pages, Dave's NFTP columns, etc, the Biweeklies reprint the entire issue cover to back cover. They can usually be found in the dollar bin and reprint up through Church and State I.
  • Just posted this in a much longer blog post all about upcoming events (http://escapepodcomics.com/...). This is sort of an important point to make about the re-read because there are a lot of things that can make something like this draaaaag out if you don't have a focus:

    "Cerebus is pretty much one of the most important comics ever created and should be at least looked at by anyone with an interest in the medium. ... Goal is to read/discuss about 15-20 issues a week (the story will dictate how exact that number is week to week) and the focus will be on the cultural context of the parodies, the story itself and the innovations taken both in the production and publication of the book."
  • That brings up something I was wondering about. I wondered if we would discuss back-matter, i.e. letter column, Note From The President, etc.... One of the things I love about Cerebus is that it is so very meta, and, while I know there are readers who prefer to ignore the meta and take the work as is, I can't help but find Dave Sim's life fascinating and worthy of discussion, and in particular in the way it informed Cerebus.
    While the first 50 issues of Cerebus are easily available via digital download or dollar bin reprints, the other 250 issues are not. But if we're counting on readers to actually read with us as we go along, then we've got to pimp the phone books, and so necessarily keep the discussion to the comic pages themselves. Or am I missing something?
  • That was exactly my thinking. You know that I find the meta-textual aspect of Cerebus important AND the turbulent life of Sim fascinating, but as we progress into week 3 or so it will get harder and harder for readers to find the exact references, not to mention to finish the reading at a pace to keep up. I mean, somewhere around issue 70 the letters column doubles in size, that's not even to mention the essays and preview comics later.

    Obviously, we'll touch on Sim's relationship with Franke Thorne and Chris Claremont in the early issues and his connection with Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman in later ones, but there's frankly just TOO MUCH to discuss if we're going to let every aspect of the work and Sim's life come under our scrutiny.

    I actually find it invigorating to discuss the most controversial aspects of the series (spoilers... so I'll just say #186 and Koninsberg) from the point of view of ONLY the series- they work in a much more effective way when discussed as part of the narrative and the fictional world being crafted than when you have to parse it all as "well, what does the Author mean, what has he said in essays?" etc

    In fact, as I was typing this, Sarah (my wife) just called me in to our room where she is reading issue 289/290 (she's trying to finally finish the series before we launch the re-read) and we discussed how the world view espoused in that is so much more interesting when taken as a final "proof" of the THEME of Cerebus than it is when it's seen as "Dave Sim's last word." In the former light (I know, I know jumping waaaaay ahead) it is a culmination of a central idea that has informed the story since High Society, in the latter it's, at best, a very cogent mixture of many views and ideas Sim has been struggling with for years laid out somewhat hyperbolically.

    See what I mean?

    Oh, and anyone reading this who I just scared- don't worry, we'll be starting much slower when we truly begin next week.
  • Just letting everyone know that for hashtag purposes (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) I suggest we use #EPCCerebusRead.

    Please spread the word and use it if you plan on joining in on any of those social media outlets.
  • Alright, so with the re-read starting tomorrow I think it's time to clarify a few things:
    1. There is no OFFICIAL pace for you to read it. Some time tomorrow we will start talking a bit about the first few issues and their influence. This could be a help for you BEFORE you read the issues or be a fun thing to look at AFTER you've read the issues.

    2. This is NOT going to be like the previous re-reads that Margaret was involved in on the old Cerebus Yahoo groups: Dave Sim will NOT be stopping in or answering any questions for us. We are focusing on the STORY itself and not his interests and intents- while we WILL be going in to certain influences on the book and themes, they will only be how they pertain to the story and not Dave Sim's personal life.

    3. There is no need to "keep up." One of the great things about Reply All is that everything is here, listed in order. This way, if you fall behind or don't have time one week you can always catch up at your own pace by scrolling up.

    Hope this helps make things clearer and that everyone is EXCITED!
  • As the reread begins and I pull the first of the phone books off the shelf I had to ask myself, "Why are you doing this?"
    It seems a simple question but, when I tally up the pros and cons of committing to a re-read of Cerebus along with providing content in the form of discussion with Margaret and Menachem, I realized it is anything but.
    The cons are many.
    My professional workload (that which pays the bills) increases exponentially throughout the fall and into winter. My personal workload (that which grows the soul) requires me to oversee the artist currently working on the pages of my first comic book while I write stories for my second and figure out just what printing technologies to use for the first. So setting aside time to reread Cerebus, let alone find the time to provide critical analysis for discussion is going to be a challenge.
    The pros are less numerous.
    I am flattered Menachem asked me to contribute and flattered even more, not to mention somewhat intimidated, to be a member of a triumvirate that includes Margaret. I am also excited to discuss Cerebus with people who have read it. I have never met anyone in the flesh who has read the whole of Cerebus. During the twenty years or so during which I read Cerebus I never met another person who had read any Cerebus. It is only with the advent of the internet and social media that I have begun to interact in any way with other Cerebus readers. The opportunity that stands before me to discuss this great work is invaluable to me.
    That last sentence holds the most powerful pro of all. Cerebus is a great work, or Great Work. I can not think of a comic more worthy of discussion and critical analysis. There are no avenues of entry to the work that will not bear fruit. From the influences of its creators, the medium in which they chose to create, and the milieu in which it was created, to the profound influence the work continues to have on all aspects of the comic industry, Cerebus stands as a singular work, unmatched in ambition and execution.
    Whatever small part I can play in spreading the word I am happy to do so.
    And so we begin: "He came to our city in the early dawn...."
  • Ben
    Ben Added by: EscapePodComics
    Hey Cerebites! Looking forward to hearing your commentary and insights. I hope to chime in and get some answers to various burning questions.
  • There's a copy of the first PhoneBook at the library where I work. Unfortunately it's the only one of the volumes we have. I've already got the digital version anyway :-)
  • Well I'm pretty sure Margaret and probably Menachem have already read all 6,000 pages. I can't say I've read all of them although I have looked at all of them which isn't quite the same thing. Some of the biblical passages in the later volumes are hard to read especially when Dave chops them up and only puts part of the page in the panel so I don't think he wants you to read every single word there. Also some of it is in such small print that it hurts my eyes and I have to use a magnifying glass to look at them properly much like Cerebus himself but I'm getting a bit ahead of where we are or should be.
    On to the first PhoneBook :-)
  • So . . . does the re-read start on Oct. 7th or does the discussion start tomorrow?
  • Here's my opinion- if you can't get physical copies of Cerebus, grab a good torrent, and then send Dave the money to make up for your evil evil piracy at http://www.cerebusdownloads...
    I'd recommend using the High Society scans Dave's already made, because they're superior to any of the bootleg scans out there. (If it was me, I'd be happy with Dave selling the bootleg scans on Comixology until he's able to get good scans made of all 6000 pages, but that's just me.)

    Also, people reading Cerebus can skip the Note From The President/letters pages...but why do that? Those things really add to the whole Cerebus reading experience.
  • Well... However you get it, start reading today. I think our first discussion will cover issues 1-5, having just read them last night. The focus will be on the context of the comic market at the time and the leaps and bounds both the art and the story take from issue to issue.
  • Funnyshorts
    Funnyshorts Added by: EscapePodComics
    Exciting stuff here, people! Can't wait to read the discussion.
  • My memory from the time of the early Cerebus issues is that you would find Cerebus at the University Bookstore and New Age stores and such -but then again i lived in Norway and we didn't have specialty comicbook stores there then -as most comics were sold in grocery stores. Now because I've been working on an animated film version of Cerebus https://www.facebook.com/ce... that is based on issues 1, 4, 5 and 13 (seen through the prism of the reveal in 196) -I'll go out on a limb and say I've probably read issue 1 and 4 more than any other person on the planet lol A few things that pop up: issue 1 is very uncharacteristic of Cerebus. Usually Cerebus is surrounded by colorful characters -but in issue 1 we get no names, personality, motives or any information of his "partners-in-crime", except they do refer to each other as brothers...and the same goes for the Wizard...you know, if the wizard had just told them in the beginning that the gem was an illusion he could have saved himself a lot of trouble:) I know this issue get's a lot of flak for it's roughness -but i gotta say the roughness kinda works for it...i think it really works on every level of what it tries to achieve which is basically being a snapshot of the genre with a kinda dismissiveness, albeit affectionately of course:) . It hits all the notes really well. Issue 4 is of course seminal as we learn in issue 196 that this is when Cerebus fractures his destiny by trading his helmet for a merchant vest to fit in in a merchant town...and hilarity ensues:) This event is much of the catalyst of the series entire run. Also, there's a moral about "staying true to yourself" in there somewhere:) Though in Cerebus' case it's revealed staying true to yourself is maybe even worse lol
  • Alright, so let's get right into it. First off: the scene on the comics market:
    {DISCLAIMER: I was not even BORN in 1977, so what I am describing here is only based on foggy 2nd hand information- please feel free to correct me if I am wrong on any aspect of the time period.}

    It's 1977 and Archie, Marvel and DC dominate in a way that a modern-day comic fan cannot even fathom. There are some other small companies, sure, but unless you go to one of the rare "comic shops" you're not going to see them on the shelves of your local corner store or drug store. "Head shops" carry some weird stuff like Crumb and his ilk, maybe they're carrying a bunch of the more psychedelic Marvel stuff but that's about it.

    Superheroes, basically, ARE comics. Only recently, within the last 2 or 3 years, Fantasy has been making a BIT of headway- mostly sword and sorcery stuff like Barry Windsor Smith's Conan or Frank Thorne's Red Sonja for Marvel.

    Creator's Rights have recently been brought up because Neal Adams and a few others raised a big stink about Siegel and Shuster, with the approach of the Superman movie- but no one is really giving it any thought.

    Self-publishing in comics existed, but was usually seen as something you did for a small passion project or because your work was just too "out there" for the mainstream, ala Richard Corben and Jeff Jones.

    That is the world Cerebus #1 was released into.

    Oliver, above, mentioned that many people comment on it's "roughness" but I don't see that much. The art is scratchy, yes, but it seems intentionally so. What I notice most of all is how constrained the book feels- this is clearly the work of a guy who is NOT sure if people will like what he is doing. Even the humor is fairly simple- instead of Conan, it's an aardvark. There's really nothing in this issue beside for that. I bet if you put a Windsor-Smith Conan in Cerebus's place the story would work just as well.

    How well is that? It's fine. It's a cute story that really fits with the S&S books out at the time... You imagine most people at the time bought it for a chuckle or as a gag gift.

    Issue #2 is much the same, though the paneling is opening up and we see more direct reference to the absurdity that will soon make Cerebus a big hit (When Cerebus and the warrior are tied together and he just...DANGLES there).

    While the Eye of Tarim will play a role, it is the Succubus's distress at Cerebus's lack of a soul that is our first REAL sign that this book is NOT just going to be a never-ending parody of Conan. Clearly, when you put the two together, the writer of this thing has some sort of world being built here. There is, those two or three pages say, more here than has been revealed.

    Ok, I think we'll hold off on Issue 3 and Red Sophia until people have a chance to read/respond to this.

  • Micah
    Micah Added by: EscapePodComics
    Just as a point of interest, I wonder if the volume of responses to each book will reflect the original pattern of Cerebus readership. In other words, will the volume of responses peak in the most popular volumes (basically the first half, with particular attention to High Society and Church and State) and then tapper off gradually after issue 100 or so, when the decline in Cerebus readership began (with perhaps a spike at issue 300, where the readership apparently doubled)?

    Or will the volume of responses mirror the amount of action in any particular volume, which I think would suggest that the first two volumes of Church and State would generate a lot of discussion, simply because a lot happens, a lot of characters appear, the locale changes repeatedly and drastically, and, of course, Gerhard enters the picture.

    Even though Jaka's story is very popular, a lot of it is about mood, is very subtle, has few characters, it proceeds without much if any digression, and its message is fairly straightforward I think, especially compared to either volume of Church and State, which both have so many twists and turns. So, Jaka's Story, though popular, might not generate as much discussion.

    In the first volume, there will surely be a lot to say about the artistic improvement in the book from issue to issue and the introduction of various key characters.

    Anyways, curious to see how it goes. Maybe I will hear some insights into the story.
  • I can't remember the last time I read the first phonebook. Rereading #1 made me think of a popcorn summer movie by Michael Bay. Not much on characterization. Just a simple thread of a plot. Background? Meh. Lots of fighting and action though.

    Dave has stated that the first three issues were his try out so to speak. That he'd do three issues and if it didn't gain traction, he'd use them as a way to try and get work with a comics publisher.

    Issue 2 seems to be more of the same. Both issues had only a small sliver of info on Cerebus - that he had some kind of magical background (issue 1) and that Khem couldn't find Cerebus' soul (issue 2).

    Both issues are the first move on the larger chessboard that becomes the Cerebus epic. It is hard to see the board from these first issues, but they stand well enough on their own. They show Cerebus as the guy who is only out to get some ale and money and doesn't care about much else. Well, perhaps other than killing guys. Popcorn summer movie.
  • Menachem does a fine job of describing the comics scene at the time Cerebus appeared, so I needn't elaborate.

    One thing he didn't point out is that Dave Sim purposely set out to make a commercial hit. At the time the Conan comics, both Conan The Barbarian and Comic-Code-less Savage Sword Of Conan were big sellers, as was Howard The Duck. Sim set out to merge the funny animal and sword & sorcery tropes together, setting the funny animal Cerebus smack down in Hyperborea. I think it's important to remember this as we read the first two-dozen issues.

    How successful a parody was Sim's debut? As both Margaret and Menachem mentioned, the first issue is a straight forward S & S story. It could be Conan in Cerebus' place and the story would read the same.
    As parody it fails miserably. While S & S tropes abound there is no effort to skewer them for laughs. The stranger in a strange land situations that work so well in Howard The Duck are never attempted, save a single, "You're a..." from the barmen when Cerebus orders a drink. The sight gag of Cerebus riding a horse might be the only real laugh in the issue.
    As homage, and that primarily to the work of Barry Windsor-Smith, it excels, however. Heavy inks and the use of shadow in the bar scene and the foliage, architecture and illusory beasts in the sorcerer's abode are not just tropes being aped, but a particular artist's style being mimicked by a man who will devote the rest of his life to studying the style of other artists.

    Frankly, much the same can be said for issue two, but it must be said that already, although Sim is a couple of years away from deciding that Cerebus will run for three hundred issues, he is slowly building a world, albeit one that Robert E. Howard, Conan's creator built before him.

    We've not been told much about the Earth Pig Born as yet, but we have been given a handful of city-states or nations to imagine and wonder about, and another handful of gods (mostly named in curses), including Terim and Tarim. Of course we'll come to be very familiar with those two over the next two-hundred and ninety-eight issues.
    I wonder if either Margaret of Menachem can tell me if the single utterance of "Tarim! What a prize!" was a misspelling of "Terim?"

    That's it for now. More on the Howard the Duck-ness of Cerebus next time, when I focus on issues three through five.
  • Agreed with everything said. I think 3 and 4 bring a real tonal shift to the book, not just because of the blatant parody and growth in humor but in the fact that every aspect of the story telling is improved- the paneling, the art, the dialogue- it all shows a talent blossoming.

    Before we get into the nitty gritty of 3-4, some more scene setting: Cerebus was coming out every 2 months at this time, so by the time #3 rolled around Sim and his girlfriend (eventually fiancee, eventually wife, eventually ex-wife) have had plenty of time to see the response to their efforts and it was HUGE. Still not a "hit" by any standards, the book WAS being noticed and they had already attended a few small cons and comic events where they were getting direct praise from the fans- something that was a pretty big deal in the pre-Internet days. The fact that people seemed to LIKE what he was doing clearly emboldened Sim to try the sorts of things HE wanted to do, rather than just ape what was popular.

    Tune in tomorrow for more!
  • To answer the question regarding the spelling of Terim vs Tarim, here is a quote from Dave: "As I recall, the two different spellings of Terim and Tarim were accidental at first, in the same way that I had trouble bearing in mind that Cerebus was supposed to refer to himself in the third person and would later cover for it by saying that he referred to himself as 'I' when he had been around the civilized areas too long. I was covering for not remembering how to spell Tarim by making it the masculine version of the deity's name."
  • Michael
    Michael Added by: EscapePodComics
    I've read the first issues of Cerebus enough times that the first issue has become a chore to read, not worth the effort, but this evening I started the daunting task of a re-read by skimming and scanning the pages. You know something, it's much better that way! While the figure drawing is awful, the backgrounds and scenery are probably swiped in those pages when it isn't just mostly black, and cartoony Cerebus fits in visually about as well as Roger Rabbit would, the staging still propels the story forward past the faintly amusing dialogue and captions. Pages 7-12 (16-21 in the trade) in #1 are a highlight of both action and disorientation. The skeleton's appearance in page 8, panel 1 is my favorite image in the whole comic. He may have swiped that and still made some mistakes but it looks right there. The use of stripes as shadow effects is unusual but effective at giving the story a cohesive look and keeping the images interesting.

    It's loaded with flaws but it also clearly has a lot of hard work put into its visual design. I get the sense that Dave used every visual trick he knew at the time for this one. It certainly is leaps and bounds beyond the work he was doing a year before, judging by the stuff we see in Cerebus Archive. It's also miles ahead of a lot of what appeared during the b & w boom of the mid-80s from too many amateur artists who hadn't yet put in the time Sim had before attempting their own 1st issues. We all know that he developed his skills quickly in all directions from here, and this is a crude start as he admits himself, but I was pleasantly surprised to be able to look at #1 all over again this evening and still enjoy it. Those folks who appreciated #1 enough the first time around to keep Dave going were right to do so.

    #2, not so much. Dave takes it easy on the scenery end by spending half the issue in snow and half in darkness, and this story accomplishes less than the first one while repeating some of the same story points. The middle of p. 8 (38) more than echoes p. 2 of #1, the battle with the undead warrior repeats the earlier scene with the skeleton (even the method of victory), and the false nature of the apparent treasure here copies the flame jewel's ending as well. It reads as if Dave already had run out of ideas as well as gags. Way too many captions, too. Still, there are some visual flourishes to be found among the first few and very last pages.
  • Re Tarim vs. Terim from the Cerebus Wiki "As I recall, the two different spellings of Terim and Tarim were accidental at first, in the same way that I had trouble bearing in mind that Cerebus was supposed to refer to himself in the third person and would later cover for it by saying that he referred to himself as 'I' when he had been around the civilized areas too long. I was covering for not remembering how to spell Tarim by making it the masculine version of the deity's name." although it's cited as unknown source

  • I re-read #1 last night. While it's certainly rough, it still easily holds its own compared to a modern Swords & Sorcery comic.

    The fight scenes are highlights. Sim's (unequalled?) ability to create a sense of momentum from panel to panel is already on display here. I also enjoyed the splash page with the illusionist. The rest of the art seems a bit overdone. The human faces have too much detail, and the cross-hatching and shadows in the pub scene are out of control.

    Beyond the basic concept of putting a cartoon character in a barbarian fantasy world, the idea for the series hasn't been fleshed out yet. We do get the impression that Cerebus has some kind of magical quality that helps him fight against the illusionist, and he's also portrayed as a badass warrior compared to everyone else. Both these characteristics come into play in much more nuanced ways later in the series. This issue's simplistic portrayal of the character could be interpreted as Cerebus's highly simplistic view of himself and his world at the time.
  • Thanks to both Margaret and Gabriel for confirmation on the misspelling of Terim. I find it fascinating that Dave Sim, once he had righted himself and set a course for issue #300 managed to use a typo in an early issue to help flesh out his ideas. I suspect it was Sim's fanboy nature (an affliction he admits) that led him to set that typo right continuity-wise,

    I mentioned the Howard The Duck-ness of Cerebus in my last post and will expound on that here.

    Steve Gerber's Howard The Duck was a stranger in a strange land by virtue of his being a talking duck in a world populated by humans, but also by virtue of his being more intelligent than those around him. Howard was often exasperated by the idiocy surrounding him. He was unable to understand the motivations or methods of those around him. All of this was played out in a post Watergate America where the hippies had given way to disco roller skaters. Nearly everything and everyone he encountered caused him consternation, and eventually some fool would be the target of his inevitable rage.

    Red Sofia and Elrod The Albino are perfect fools in this respect, both nattering on endlessly, not just annoyances but hindrances to Cerebus' goals. At one point Cerebus, having had enough of Sofia's constant chatter, simply knocks her over the head with the hilt of his sword. Elrod he simply leaves behind, imprisoned in the dungeon he himself has escaped and spares him only a single thought, and that a mocking and unkind one.

    Slapstick humor is used throughout issue three, with Sofia time and again directly or indirectly causing Cerebus to be knocked down or suffer some minor indignity. Issue four's humor is more verbal, relying on the verbose pontificating of Elrod for much of the laughs.

    Throughout both issues we start to see Sim begin to use body language to let the reader know what Cerebus is thinking and feeling. Cerebus' eyes, ears, and even his tail become become barometers of his mood.

    The parody aspects finally take shape as well. Both Red Sofia and Elrod The Albino are parodies of sword and sorcery characters, Frank Thorne's Red Sonja and Michael Moorcock's Elric Of Melnibone respectively. As parodies both of these characters work quite well, but Sim had added a little twist with Elrod.

    Elrod's voice is that of Senator Claghorn, a character from the Fred Allen radio show. Of course, like most of Sim's audience I thought it was that of Warner Brothers' cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, himself an homage to Senator Claghorn. In any case it is an inspired choice.

    As I read Elrod's dialogue the idiosyncratic Claghorn/Leghorn voice is right inside my head. I hear it. When reading it aloud I can not help but use my best Foghorn Leghorn impression, and it is all the funnier for it.

    Though hardly in evidence in these early issues, perhaps it was Sim's desire to have this voice ring as true as possible that spurred him on to the great heights of comic book lettering we begin to see in the following issues. Whatever the genesis, eventually nobody could touch him when it came to lettering and specifically when it came to making the reader hear the voice of the character in his head.
  • Great write-up on issues #3 & 4 LJ!

    With #3 Dave has made his next move on the chess board - the issue reads different than the first two. More focus on humor, more characterization of the secondary character of Red Sophia.

    As LJ stated, with Red Sophia, Dave was parodying Red Sonja. Frank Thorne, who was drawing the character for the Marvel comic, Red Sonja, at the same time as this issue came out, even drew this picture of her with Cerebus:
    https://twitter.com/meowwca... So Dave was getting noticed within the comics community.

    Reading #4, I had forgotten that the main story was Cerebus walking around Serrea with a "gem" and then getting trapped with Elrod in jail. I'm surprised that Cerebus just didn't kill Elrod. Boy he is one irritating character. At least Cerebus left Elrod trapped in jail. . .never to be seen again. . .right?
  • Terrific points. The only thing I would add is to notice the paneling, Sim is getting MUCH more comfortable with different sizes, if not yet shapes. He's also begun his trick of moving the angles a lot yet leaving the background minimalist or even bare, something he tried in issue 2 but didn't pull of as well. Eventually this would become something Sim himself was unhappy with, and that's where Gerhard (the background artist from issue #63 and on) comes in. But even once we get Gerhard, the use of empty space and frequently moving angles is something that would stay a staple of Cerebus.

    One more note, actually: It was on this re-read that I realize how PERFECTLY these two issues preface the theme of not just the first book, but really the first FIVE. Both are stories of Cerebus being stuck doing something he doesn't really enjoy because he wants something- both have other characters trying to get Cerebus to do different things or act differently- characters who completely ignore his desires or goals- and both end with Cerebus taking the easiest way out, so as to avoid making any difficult decisions. In a way, this is the crux of ALL of Cerebus, all the way to issue 300- he is lazy, greedy and self-indulgent, the drama hinges on when he realizes it (over and over) and what decisions he makes when he does.
  • Hey everyone.. I am really excited to be taking part in the re-read of Cerebus. I started collecting Cerebus when I was 14 (back in '91). I am eager to read and share thoughts on the storyline as well as discuss art techniques.

    One question regarding this website: is this going to be one long threaded discussion? I see it becoming very difficult to know where I left off on reading and follow threaded discussions when there doesn't seem to be threads here.
  • Great questions Eric! Each week we will start a "new" thread. A link to it will be at the bottom of the previous week's and a link back to the last one will be at the top of the last one.
  • And here we go! Religion in Cerebus that isn't someone using a deity's name as a curse. When given the opportunity to rule the Pigts and use them to gain wealth and land, Cerebus decides against it. Mayhap it is something to do with Cerebus' childhood - when his parents raised him as an orthodox Tarimite, as we saw the one homily given by the Priest who made Cerebus wet himself (issue 191).

    Given what we know about Cerebus' future - what would have happened if he had his sword, shield and sword from issue 1 when he met the Pigts. . .perhaps it is good that Cerebus did not attempt to lead the Pigts. For he doesn't have his helmet, things would not have turned out as prophesied. . .and the Pigts might have just killed him as a false god.

    From religion to drugs. . .and love. Kind of. Love is a drug. Or just something else to focus his energies on, be it gold, ale, love, etc. By the end of the issue he is back where he started. Issue 6 introduces Jaka, a dancer in Iest who speaks in third person like Cerebus. Who doesn't want anything to do with Cerebus' plans of gold, but just wants to spend time with him. Someone she just met, in a tavern. . .sounds like she is just trying to get some good tips.

    Oh, and when I had the chance, I had to try yak. It was pretty tasty.

  • Issue 5, to me, is a continuation of the theme we saw in 3 and 4- yet another person trying to get Cerebus to do something for their own gain. The major difference here is that Bran Mak Muffin, despite his silly name, is a VERY serious dude. In fact, the whole issue oozes gravitas; aside from the silly names and the running gag about wet aardvark smell, Sim is clearly trying to prove that he can do something meaningful- the tight grid of panels, the revealing splash pages- it all points to a serious story, that pays off with the intensely introspective moment when Cerebus turns away from the possibility of being a ruler, of being a demi-god. And, as in the previous issues, it's really him taking the path of least resistance. If the statue had been Marble, one feels, he might have actually taken the position and rallied the Pigts, since he wouldn't have been able to destroy it.

    The oddest part of 6 is Cerebus himself, Sim is mid-transition to the Cerebus body type and features that appear for the rest of the story, but he clearly isn't there yet- certain panels with him just look... wrong. Neither the long snouted thing he was nor the stout bodied warrior he'll become.

    We also see more signs of world-building, with intrigue and shadowy figures we know little about. Sim had tried this with Death in issue 4 but you can tell that he didn't want to go that big for starters and is now trying to weave a plot that is somewhat more mundane. Jaka, as well, is a part of that- a simple dancing girl who returns Cerebus's devotion with equal ardor and is heart-broken when he refuses her at the end. Jaka, though barely fleshed out in this first story, comes across as much more REAL than Sophia and her ejaculations of undying love. Why that is will become more clear over time, but for this story it suffices that Jaka seems to actually like Cerebus for who HE is (well, who he is when he's drugged, at least) which is more than can be said for ever other character whose path the earth-pig has crossed up until now.

    5 and 6 also show, as I mentioned in brief, Sim's continuing understanding of his own limitations. He simply can't do the backgrounds he wants, so he sticks to tight shots for the most part. Yet he also knows that there are more things than juts scenery to convey emotion, using different panel shapes and angles (and a growing mastery of comic body language, as LJ pointed out before) to get us to connect to the story.
  • Perhaps we should make people aware of the great online Cerebus Wiki which for one thing points out something I would otherwise have missed on pg 82 of the TPB or pg 8 of issue #4
    "In the first panel, there is a merchant that looks a lot like Dave (E. Khanna), but it's not yet not confirmed (see photo)" .
    The photo is here http://www.cereb.us/wiki/in...

    Cerebus Wiki for issue #4 here http://www.cereb.us/wiki/in...

    If this is indeed a self portrait then here we have Dave's first appearance within the pages of Cerebus itself. Dave stage left holding some material whilst Cerebus enters stage right totally unaware of him.

    I can't believe Red Sonja is still being published today almost ten years after the end of Cerebus.
    Looking at the illustrations so far puts me in mind of Terry Gilliam cutout animations because whilst the background figures and anyone who isn't Cerebus seems to be part of the world depicted the images of Cerebus almost look superimposed onto a Conan the Barbarian reality. Cerebus still looks like a cartoon figure compared to the more 'realistic' other people we've encountered so far. Even Elrod looks like he belongs in this world though his monologues are pure Foghorn Leghorn patter.
  • Before moving on to issues #5 & #6, I'd like to add just a little something about issue #4. The last page of the story is a four panel composite of Death walking away from us, receding to the horizon. The entire background of the composite is a the word "FIN" spelled out in giant stacked block letters. "FIN," of course, means "the end" and is something one sees at the end of many European movies at the time. That Death is "the end" is a tiny little joke, certainly, but I think this is also the first example of Dave Sim's using panel composition to throw in a little something extra for the reader, a practice that will eventually blossom to encompass the entirety of issue #20.

    Sim has said that issue #5 was a one-joke issue, and I suppose that is so, but it's a very funny joke. It is used throughout and that Cerebus himself can't stand the smell of his own wet fur is pretty funny, but what always makes me dissolve in peels of laughter is the name Bran Mak Mufin. Every time.

    I'm a little confused by our short gray friend's thought process in this one, I admit. After deciding that Bran has "delusions of grandeur," Cerebus exhibits the trait himself, if only for a moment, when he is tempted to lead the Pigts and "lay waste" to the country-side. Religious zeal and finely crafted swords aside, it is still difficult to see Cerberus carving out a kingdom for himself with only forty Pigts at his command.

    Issue #6 finds Cerebus in the company of Turg and E'Lass, a duo undoubtedly inspired by any number of post-war comedy teams and Warner Brothers cartoons, a big dumb brute and a scheming fellow who always turns out not to be as smart as he thinks he is.

    And then there's Jaka. Ah, Jaka, much beloved and much maligned.

    Once drugged, or "in love," Cerebus beats a man for insulting the object of his affection, defending the honor of a stripper currently planning to dupe him. He then beats Turg and E'Lass for having threated to kill Jaka. He also takes time out from planning Jaka's and his escape to peruse an assortment of fine cloth to bring back to her as a gift. Is it this incongruous act itself that "poit[s]" Cerebus from his drugged stupor, or has the drug simply worn off?

    Jaka is a...ahem..."dancer" in a tavern. Forced into duping Cerebus on E'Lass' behalf she falls in love with Cerebus instantly and agrees to run a way with him. When Cerebus in no longer under the influence she is crushed and vows to wait for him to remember his love of her and return to her.

    Here is where I must respectfully disagree with Menachem. I don't think Jaka seems any more "real" than Red Sophia. While not a parody of a sword and sorcery character, she is nonetheless an archetype, certainty as she appears in this issue.

    This is perhaps the first outright comment on the nature of men and women and love, or "love" or Love (at least as Sim sees them) in the pages of Cerebus. To Sim, "love" in Cerebus' case, and Love, in Jaka's case, has completely altered each of these characters' personalities to their detriment.

    They'll be more respectful disagreement, or "respectful disagreement," at the very least, next time.

  • I can totally hear where you are coming from on that- I can easily be projecting my knowledge of later Jaka onto this earlier story.
    Just a heads up to everyone: we will be pushing forward on quickly on the next post (hopefully later today) as the next few issues sort of tie together. I'd like to cover at least 3 issues, if not five. You have been warned.
  • Issue 4, a favorite.
    There's been some mention of Dave's use of body language which is correct. But not so with Cerebus -which is not a criticism. It's hard to hold back sometimes -and Dave does so fantastically which makes the scenes work as Cerebus stands in stark contrast to Elrod. He has the same frown, or scowl I should say, in just about every panel with Elrod. This dynamic between Cerebus and just about everyone is really in many ways the series in an egg shell:)

    Issue 5, not a favorite at first lol. It just seemed kinda rushed and sloppy in contrast to before where things might seem overall rough...not sure what the difference is...maybe one sensed there being a lack of love or inspiration on the page...and admittedly at the time I really didn't like the notion of world building, which this one jumps right into. I know I know people love world building, but to me at the time it seemed like a cop out. I wanted Cerebus to stay a mystery in much the same way Clint Eastwood was in the spaghetti westerns. The fact that Clint Eastwood didn't even have a name I thought was brilliant. My own comic character, that I self published, purposefully didn't have a name for that reason for quite a while when I was drawing the stories just for myself. Anyway, issue 5 has grown on me and I like it more now. It is, of course, vital as it's part of Cerebus' origin and has to be included in the film. https://www.facebook.com/ce...

    It's heavy on the "not following the crowd, anti dogma, think for yourself" ...corner stones of the new thinking of the time and what you would expect in a black and white indie alternative comic book. Yet might be a surprise to some who have certain ideas about the series that they like to project onto it. So happy to have that included:)

    Best part, as pointed out already, is the gravitas...as part of a larger narrative a little break from the "ha ha" is much welcomed. Along with that there are some seriously silly parts where you can't believe it went there -and you kinda have to just love it despite yourself. Like already pointed out: the Bran Muffin name..and further him making great cole slaw etc I mean: really? lol
  • Issue six remains, to this day, one of the most uneven of the early issues. Cerebus is still halfway to his future look, the captions and plot-line stand out as as the same cliched early Sword and Sorcery style, but the tight paneling and the body language are even better than in 4 and 5. The humor is also greatly improved and the small bit of world-building (that there is a "nameless one" that looks like Cerebus) is strong... clearly Sim is getting better, but also, clearly, he hasn't quite decided what to do with this series.

    Issue seven's 2nd page is the first place in the series Sim starts getting really creative with the panels- it's nothing new or ground-breaking, but it's a welcome change from the panels and grids he'd been sticking with earlier on. Cerebus's body is also a bit better. The humor sparkles in this issue, from Star Trek references to the Conniptin's fight chant.

    We also see, yet again, the same plot of people trying to use Cerebus as a tool or figurehead- but this time there is more of involved backstory, more of a "down to earth" reason, no matter how insane the person telling it over is. This time, the path of least resistance means going along with the plan, though. The internal struggle Cerebus goes through is simple but, as I said before, the crux of almost the whole series. "...Instinct versus Reason..." and, as always "No decision IS a decision"

    It's also the first book to continue directly into the next, though Sim still tries to give a bit of resolution to the story.

    Issue 8 features the "modern day" Cerebus in all his glory. Sim will make slight adjustments and tweaks over the years (shortening the ears, shrinking the nostrils) but this is the Cerebus later readers are used to, for sure.

    Cerebus also reveals more backstory as we learn that he's been Imesh before, and even knows the captain of their guard.

    K'cor, king of Imesh, a drug dealer turned ruler does a great villain monologue, assuming that Cerebus is there for the same reasons every other barbarian has ever broken in to Imesh- a simple but effective satire of the whole Sword and Sorcery genre in single page.

    More backstory here too, where we learn Cerebus had been trained by a mage. The same page features some wonderful movement and a total lack of panels. You feel Sim saying, "Hey, I'm getting the hang of this!"

    The battle with K'cor teases us, revealing a noble heart to Cerebus, his desire that men be ruled not by scheming devious abusers only to reveal that what he truly wants is for them to be ruled by him.

    The anti-climax of the last page serves as perfect ending but also makes the reader feel that he's enter a new stage of Cerebus, one in which complex ideas about freedom, about politics, and about right and wrong is coming.
  • "I'm Here! I'm here! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly...feast your eyes on me! It's too good to be true but - I'm - here -- I-I'm here!"

    Indeed he is and, after the grappling with destiny and the bittersweet doomed romance of the last two issues, Elrod The Albino brings with him some much needed levity (the "bunny suit" will become a running gag) to issue #7. It also heralds another Cerebus first. He is the first returning character in this series.

    Another story in which Cerebus' attempt at burglary is confounded by the actions of others, a madcap mistaken identity comedy wherein none of the participants ever learn what was really going on. Cerebus, of course, walks away empty handed.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Menachem's assessment of the layouts and that it all starts on page two of this issue. As he said, nothing groundbreaking here, but it was new to this series. From here on out Dave Sim will play with time and space in comic book storytelling, eventually becoming one of the craft's masters. I will add that page two, panel four of this issue seems to foreshadow the inevitable failure of Cerebus' current enterprise with it's tiny horse and rider approaching the structure high on the hill reminiscent of Picasso's illustrations of Don Quixote and the windmill. Or is that just me?

    Issue #8 finds Cerebus between a rock and a hard place. Once again he is being manipulated and knows it, but he vacillates between going along with it in hopes of realizing his dreams of power and wealth, and simply escaping so as to remain beholding to no one and nothing.

    The scene on the last page in which Cerebus soothes the concern of the guard he had recently knocked unconscious during his aborted escape by reciting the Conniptin ideals and ends with the guard and Cerebus throwing gang signs always cracked me up.

    This issue is notable for another first. Here Cerebus address the Conniptin troops with Captain Turl whispering advice in his ear, which Cerebus follows in his own inimitable fashion:

    Turl: "If your Majesty pleases, perhaps you have some words of encouragement for the men...?

    Cerebus: "Don't screw it up or Cerebus will have you all flayed alive!"

    Echoes of this scene will be played out throughout the rest of the series, most notably in High Society and Church & State, as various advisers try to council Cerebus on the niceties of public speaking.

    Issue #9 picks up where #8 left off with Cerebus leading his Conniptin troops on a raid on the walled city of Imesh. Upon finding the gates to the city walled up, Cerebus leaves his men to forage for food and water and scales the wall alone to have a look around. He finds the people of Imesh drugged and enslaved by their delusional king, K'Cor, a lunatic building a monument to ward off what he believes to be the imminent invasion of his city by Venusians.

    None of what follows makes any real sense. If K'Cor wants to add the Conniptins to his slave work force, than why would he have poisoned the wells surrounding Imesh a year earlier? Why would he suffer Cerebus' presence at all, much less go to the trouble of having Cerebus battle a succession of "champions" and then K'Cor himself. This has never made sense to me.

    It does, however, demonstrate something to the reader, if not to Cerebus himself, something that should be clear by now. Cerebus can not depend on anyone but himself. He can not depend on the honor of Kings or thieves, sorcerers or generals.

    Issue #10 brings Red Sophia back for a visit, newly widowed from Feras, and her one concession to the blizzard in which Cerebus meets up with her - a fur stole draped over her shoulders. Cerebus, immune to Sophia's charms ("They'd probably heal, if you stopped wearing that chain-mail bikini...."), nevertheless finds himself embroiled in yet another robbery scheme.
    This one plays out rather like a heist flick, with Cerebus playing everyone for a fool and walking away with the treasure. This marks the first time since the debut issue in which Cerebus is successful.

    Throughout these last few issues Dave Sim had hit his stride (though nowhere near his peak) as a funny book writer and artist, with an emphasis on the F-U-N-N-Y. The book will get even funnier and reach it's comedy peak with the satires High Society and Church & State, and, to be sure, there will be funny moments in the entire series. But these issues and the handful that follow contain humor unencumbered by the demands of the more sophisticated political, religious and social parodies and satires of those graphic novels.

    Cerebus is one damn funny comic book.

  • Michael
    Michael Added by: EscapePodComics
    Issues 8 & 9 are interesting for beng the first time that Cerebus enters into a new apparently ongoing situation (in terms of the initial serial publication) only to lose it all too quickly. My first read of #8 was in Swords of Cerebus vol.2 back in the mid-80s, and when I caught up with #9 in vol. 3 a couple of months later I wondered if I'd missed a couple of issues somehow. It seemed as if this part of the story should have lasted longer.

    In hindsight, we know that Cerebus suddenly being removed from a seemingly stable situation because of things beyond his control--things going far away from his own plans--is a motif of the entire novel. We'll see it again in #19-21, and many more times.

    It's not that different, just on a bigger scale with better transitioning, from the first few issues, where the end of one suggests what will happen next, but the beginning of the next has a long caption explaining why Cerebus is usually in a completely different situation than planned. It was probably just Dave not really having an overall plan ("story arcs" not having yet been invented as a comics term) as he waited to see if this project would support his career or just be a stepping stone. But it also shows a bit of care toward the reader who might return to reread these comics and wonder why issue X didn't lead more gracefully into issue Y. Though again, Sim does go on occasionally to make those huge story leaps without explaining them (#20-21, for instance).

    As good a fighter as Cerebus is, he never seems to be part of a competent army, as we've already seen in #2, see again here, and will see again in the late teens.

    We'll also see that K'Cor is just the first of many authority figures to tell Cerebus something which Cerebus doesn't see for himself that later events in the novel will show to be false. What a maroon!

    Sophia's return in #10 is far better all the way around than her debut. She's more intelligent and less of a sword-wielding bimbo. Dave draws her with much better skill this time, too, paying more attention to her face than just her boobs and butt. I would never have wanted to see the character from #3 again, but this version of her is an improvement and a welcome addition to the cast. On the other hand, while Dave eventually uses her to good effect, she must have seemed too limited of a character to recur like Astoria or Jaka, Elrod or the Roach. (Tangentially, Elrod wears out his welcome for me long before he disappears from the larger narrative.)

    These first ten issues are wildly uneven but the whole is better than the sum of its parts. The first issue shows promise that the second and third fall far short of repeating, the fourth through sixth introduce lasting characters and the themes of mythical destiny and an ambivalent relation to romance for the Earth-pig.

    Number six itself fails completely at bearing the burden of being the foundational event in the emotional part of this great story for either Cerebus & Jaka, or Dave & the reader. Even in retrospect, no matter how much you project, there's no way to read it with that kind of weight. This makes the three year gap until her next appearance more understandable, while Elrod, Julius, and the Roach would recur more frequently. Dave probably knew he needed to get a lot better at character studies before he could tell that part of the story.

    Six through ten finally give us a narrative that leads from issue to issue more fluidly while still maintaining "done-in-one" stories, setting the stage for Sim's first real two-parter and the series' first really great comics in #11 & 12. It's worth remembering, whether as a mere reader or a writer & artist looking to follow Sim's example, that it took him two years to reach this point in his story telling skills, after some earlier years Cerebus Archive painfully details. It's this unevenness of the first ten issues that makes it preferable for me to refer to them by issue number rather than part of the Cerebus book. For all the two-steps forward, one-and-a-half back progress, though, the fruit of that labor pays off for the reader in #11 as the novel becomes one worth re-reading at this stage without further need for apology to any newly-introducd readers of the work.
  • And thank you, Michael for a great wrap up to Week One! Please follow us over to the Week Two thread where tomorrow we will discuss issues 11 and on!
    (This is being done to help facilitate the conversation and make searching easier- so please go there and follow that conversation, nothing more will be posted to this thread.)