Cerebus #003 (Apr – May 1978)

“…Dave had wanted to do a story where Cerebus was with a female since the inception of this comic.”

–  Deni Loubert, “A Note from the Publisher”

That fragment of a sentence explains more about this issue than all of his seven paragraphs in Sim’s introduction to the reprint, which is mostly about his experience with Frank Thorne. (Even when the comic introduces its first female character, the topic of discussion is a man.)

Red Sophia isn’t a character, but a concept that Dave wanted to use and it hurts the issue. She’s a one-dimensional concept/joke that he rests the entire issue on and while that CAN work (see next issue), here it doesn’t because he views having a woman in the comic as a big enough gimmick to carry an issue. Like with last issue switching from the mountains to a dark cave, Sim starts phoning in and even gives up drawing Sophia. The last panel on Page 8 features possibly the worst drawing of his I’ve ever seen. Her face is completely flat and her round mouth with black hole makes her look more like the Pokémon Jinx (or a blow up doll) than a human. Compare that to the leg he draws an inch to the right of her where he intricately draws each piece of fur and piece of metal on Thugg the Unseemly’s boot.

On page 16 he commits a cardinal sin in comics and covers up her face with a word balloon instead of drawing it. And no, this isn’t like Uncanny X-Men #1 where there was so much text it had to cover a character in order to fit; there’s enough white space that he could have moved the word balloon over a bit to fit in her face. If his goal this issue was to convince people that he could draw a Red Sonja series, he failed.

From Uncanny X-Men #1 – Pencils by Kirby, Inks by Reinman or Brodsky, Lettering by Rosen, Colors are Uncredited, Dialogue by Lee

Even a messed up Jack Kirby panel is still so energetic. The soldiers’ stances are AMAZING.

To be clear, I am NOT saying this is proof that Dave was a misogynist from the beginning, but that sword and sorcery and comics had/have a problem where the idea of even having a female character is viewed as a big deal. I’ve reread through issue 8 and so far there are only two women, and both issues revolve around their romantic connections to Cerebus. There are no women in the background in taverns or towers or trenches, only men.  Again, this isn’t Sim being “anti-women;” it’s just a sign that he and many 70s sword and sorcery creators were taught by the patriarchy to treat men as the default.

Red Sophia is Sim’s stand in for Red Sonja, a popular sword and sorcery character in the 70s created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor Smith for Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian #23. (Issue #24 was titled “The Song of Red Sonja” which is what the title of Cerebus #3 references.) Laura Hudson is more familiar with Sonja and does a better job explaining her origin than I could, so here’s a quote from her Cereblog.

“In the original series, the character Red Sonja was brutally raped as a teenager by the mercenaries who killed her family, and her wish for vengeance granted by a goddess who gave her extraordinary fighting skills — on the condition that she never give herself to a man again sexually unless he bested her in combat.  There are some weird implications — especially in the context of a rape victim — of a woman needing men to prove their ability to dominate her to win sexual favors, but it’s still not as unsettling as Dave Sim’s take.”

Sim’s take on Sophia was that, like Sonja, she wouldn’t have sex unless someone could best her in combat, and since no one until Cerebus could defeat her, she was super horny and wanted to get beaten.

Yeah.

While I appreciate that Sim wanted to parody the ridiculousness of Red Sonja, the attempt backfires and ends up worse. I highly recommend reading Laura Hudson’s nuanced exploration of the topic.

The fight between Cerebus and Sophia is a disappointment, especially compared to Cerebus and Klog’s panel-less fight last issue. With that, each action flowed from the previous one; here, only the first and second connect. From 1 to 2 we see Sophia lower her sword and Cerebus raise his to meet her, but he’s swinging upwards and there’s no way he can go directly from that to his sword in a downswing with her flying right (right after spanking her no less). There’s at least one step/piece in there missing and it throws off the motion of the panel.

The fight in issue #3

 

The fight in issue #2

I’ve mostly been skimming the plots of these issues because they’re not important. For now, they’re just there to hang jokes and character work off of. In this issue, Cerebus is sent by the wizard Henrot (an anagram of Thorne) to torture a man to death for besmirching the honor of his daughter, Red Sophia. Cerebus’ version of torture is to make the man marry Sophia, because marriage to her, the only woman we’ve seen in this world, is torture. I continue to feel for Deni and cringe at every warning sign that she missed.

Stray Thoughts

  • Gonna harp again on the impact of systemic sexism; the wording was “wanted to do a story… with a female.” The patriarchy pushes for the use of “female” in that context, which is wrong because it’s use is usually demeaning (often without the speaker realizing it) and also (and here’s some logic Sim might appreciate) grammatically incorrect. “Female” is an adjective used for scientific purposes. “Woman” is a noun that refers to a female human.  When someone says “I wrote a comic with a female in the 70s,” it is unclear what “female” is referring to. Is it a female aardvark? Female human? Saying “I wrote a comic with a woman in the 70s” is more accurate and grammatically correct. I wasn’t expecting to write about grammar either.
  • Did you know that Sim would later write about his belief that wives should be spanked as a form of corporal punishment?  His stance makes me wonder how much he viewed the spanking in this issue as a joke and how much he viewed it as proper etiquette for dealing with women.
  • Although Sim’s style is harping Barry Windsor Smith’s Conan, Red Sophia is aping Frank Throne’s Red Sonja, which might be part of the reason why Sim struggles so much with her.
  • “Thugg the Unseemly” is a great name for a tavern patron and there’s a chance I may end up referencing it in a tabletop game.
  • This is the first issue where I resisted using Pete Campbell saying, “Not great, Bob” as my review. Let’s see how long I can hold out before I use it.
  • Henrot’s design is based on Frank Thorne in his wizard costume. At the time, Thorne hosted shows at comic conventions where he’d dress up as a wizard and women dressed up as Sonja and other skimpily clad women. Elfquest’s Wendy Pini was one of the main cosplayers. Bronze Age of Blogs has a ton of information and pictures, including a comic by Thorne about it.
  • Right now I’m pantomiming putting on my improv hat so we can talk comedy. Pages 13 and 14 are a great example of sticking to the “game” in improv. There’s no agreed upon definition of what exactly the “game” is, but a common one is establishing a pattern and heightening it. Sophia, focused on discussing ways to please Cerebus, is so wrapped up talking about that that she ends up repeatedly dropping things on him and hurting him. Its solid repetition and building of the game, although dropping a tree on him the page before means the pebbles is a bit of a dip.

English and comedy; two things I spent way too much money on learning that we all already know.

  • I just noticed this while taking pictures; the zip tone that’s used to color Cerebus fades away over a few panels as he takes a bite of disgusting food. It’s a great visual gag and maybe the first time I’ve seen published artwork of Cerebus where he’s white.
The sequence, along with close ups of the middle and far right panel to see the detail of change.

  • There’s a map of “The Aardvarkian Age” at the back of the issue. It was created by Michael Loubert, Deni’s brother, who wrote fantasy under the pen name of “Clovis.”
  • Aardvark Comment – Terry Hamilton, Stampart comic books/Fog City Comics a funny animal book. John Ellis Sech, scripted THE DARK NINJA for ORB magazine (I imagine it’s like if Cannon made Phantasm)
  • Next Issue: “Death’s Dark Tread” – Cerebus looking in a funhouse mirror with a cloaked figure in the background. Is it Veronica from Riverdale? I really hope its Veronica and her awesome hooded cape.

  • One last thing. Everyone else thinks this tent is supposed to look like a vagina, right?

Cerebus #002 (Feb-Mar 1978)

After Dave realized the first issue was successful enough to print a second issue, he realized he had to draw a second one. This issue is split up in to two parts, which is a recurring concept in the early issues. This issue starts with Cerebus in the snowy mountains and then switches to him in a dark cavern. According to his introduction from the first Swords of Cerebus* collection (and reprinted in Cerebus bi-weekly #2), he panicked about having to do twenty-two pages of “ha-ha” every issue. His workaround was to drop the “ha-ha’ for the last thirteen pages. He changed the location for the back-half to someplace easier to draw as a compromise with himself for not having funnier material to draw.

*a series of reprint collections of the first 25 issues from the early 80s

The issue opens with a direct rip-off to Barry Windsor Smith and Roy Thomas’ Conan the Barbarian comic, “Frost Giant’s Daughter.” That’s not an insult; Sim said he was trying to be as much like Smith at the time, and using the two-page splash from that Smith story is an exciting way to both ape him and kick off a story.

Writing by Thomas, Lettering by Simek
Conan the Barbarian #16 – Art by Barry Windsor-Smith


Cerebus #2 – Art by Dave Sim

There’s a wonderful bit of character development early in the issue. Cerebus, the last survivor of his side in battle, offers his services to the opponent as a sword for hire. The chieftain accepts, if Cerebus can defeat one of his men. Of course, the chieftain choses the Hulk-esque Klog for Cerebus to knife-fight. Cerebus is able to outmaneuver and knock Klog unconscious, and while the chieftain starts to ramble on about how Cerebus likely has a moral code against killing an unconscious opponent, Cerebus picks up his sword and intensely stabs Klog to death. I really appreciate how this scene is funny in multiple ways on multiple fronts. I’m glad we’ll be getting more of this and less generic fantasy as the series goes on.

Speaking of generic fantasy, there’s some plot stuff about them fighting sorcery possessed people, Cerebus falls through the ground in to a cave, discovers that there’s a rare MacGuffin (the Eye of Terim*), and THEN we get to the part this issue is remembered for (other than that decent Windsor Smith swipe).

*Terim/Tarim was Sim not keeping track of his spelling; he later retconned it to involve gender and god, but that’s not for a while.

BUT FIRST, I want to take a moment to gush over what I remember this issue for, which is how dope the above page is. Two issues in and Sim is already capable of breaking a page down a location in to seven interconnected panels and show a character walking through the environment with each panel showing the passage of time. The logistics of this tower are so creepy. It shrinks the further down he goes and there’s all these faces/bodies carved in to the path. Panel three grabs my attention EVERY time I look at the page (and I’ve looked at it a lot); Cerebus is looking directly at YOU with the giant shadow behind him and it’s SO INTENSE. AND THEN YOU LOOK DOWN AND THERE’S A FRIGGIN HEAD CARVED IN TO THE PATH WITH MASSIVE DEMON HORNS. AHHH!!! I love this page and I would 100% hire 1978 Sim to airbrush the side of my van.

Now for the part everyone else cares about: Cerebus is attacked by a succubus and 39 years later everyone wonders if this was Sim intentionally planting the seeds of the series’ anti-feminist stance. It is and it isn’t.

At the time, Dave didn’t know the mythology behind the succubus (a demon that takes the form of a beautiful woman to trick men and steal their souls) and just chose the name because it seemed like it fit the tentacle monster. In an interview interview uygSim said, “I went back and reread the section and it seems clear to me in retrospect that this was me unconsciously documenting what would have been, at the time, my overwhelming and all-encompassing connection to the female half of reality which resulted from my first non-familial exposure to it as a result of being in my first boyfriend/girlfriend relationship for about a year by this time.” There are another five to six paragraphs after that about how the succubus ties in to his religious views on gender and later Cerebus issues. Personally, it comes across as him going back and trying to assign deeper meaning to something throwaway, but ymmv. Also, while Sim would likely complain that my feelings are illogical, it sounds like he never had any close female friends growing up, and that’s really sad to me.

The end page mirrors the opening (four long vertical panels with Cerebus marching away/towards the reader) and unfortunately are full of text (we see six boxes of text before we even see any characters in the issue). The pages are heavy on explaining what’s going on; there’s not a lot of trust in the art to carry the reader along. Roy Thomas’ “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” is more efficient with words; each caption on page 2 is a fragment of description establishing the mood and setting. While Sim spends time explaining what Cerebus had been up to after issue 1 and where he is and why he’s with these mercenaries and how this attack started, Thomas goes “here’s a caption-less one page splash of the last two warriors on a battlefield squaring off; that’s everything you need.” So far the prose is the least interesting part of Cerebus.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cerebus#2 & Conan#16

Stray thoughts/closer looks/random observations/dumb facts I couldn’t fit in to the article.

  • Deni’s note is now in black ink on white paper. She writes about interacting with fans/selling the comic at conventions and then goes on to describe what it’s like when a large number of comics fan get together post-con at a restaurant. She mentions sitting back and taking in the scene and how passionate fans get so caught up in their enthusiasm that they end up turning in to a three-ring circus for anyone near them. It’s a pretty sweet note and brought back a lot of good memories.
  • In the Swords of Cerebus opening, Dave talks about approaching the issue like writer/artist/letterer are different people; I’m interested to see how his methodology develops over the years.
  • The biggest downside to the reprints is that the first page is now the introduction from Swords of Cerebus, which means the first page of comic is shifted to the second page . This unfortunately throws off the two page spread and the cliffhangers that are at the end of the right page to the left, which frequently end in ellipses or Cerebus in danger. I’m taking a moment each issue to remember that and appreciate the work done to propel the reader to turn the page.
  • “comne ye tama stet fegria” is an unsavory Paranian curse; I’m wondering if this is an inside joke (maybe an anagram?) or just gibberish.
  • “My chieftain — perhaps a six-foot length of cloth would be more – uh sacred?” Authority figure valuing saving face over a tradition that isn’t working? I expect we’ll see A LOT more of that.
  • The fight with Klog is drawn with boarderless pictures; we’ll see Sim continue to play with that next issue.
  • Cerebus defeats the succubus because he doesn’t have a soul, I think. I only picked up on that after the third time reading this issue.
  • By Clovis’ Swears! This issue features: “By Clovis’ Beard!” “Clovis’ Beads!” “Clovis’ Blood!” “By Clovis’ teeth!”
  • The next issue – YIKES. It features the first woman we’ve seen Sim draw for the series and it’s BAD. Her face is flat but her left eye/eyebrow kind of go off her head, her boobs are so weird, that metal thong is the lowest metal thong ever drawn, a right foot so rough that The Rob Liefeld would call it out, and it looks like he spent more time on the background crackle effect than he did on making her look like a human.
  • Aardvark Comment: The reprint opens with this note from Dave. “All of the letters in Cerebus 2 were made up except for Frank Thorne’s and Bruce Shane’s because no letters had arrived by the time we needed a letters page. I felt so guilty I never did it again.” Fake people included Ed Coates of Marchment, Texas, Tom Richards of Nigagra Falls, Ontario, and Arthur Graham of Edmonton, Alberta. According to a quick Google search, Marchment, Texas doesn’t exist. Frank Thorne, who worked on Red Sonja for Marvel, sent in a drawing of Red Sonja and Cerebus which is a very kind gesture. Bruce Shane is described as an editor and publisher of a fanzine called Reader Written Comics (Dave Sim drew a short comic written by Shane for issue 2 of the zine); he compares the first issue to Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

  • The inside back cover is an ad for Oktoberfest #1, an anthology comic published by Harry Kremer that featured some of Dave Sim’s Beavers comic strips. There’s also a note in the reprint that 11 years later Harry Kremer still has a closet full of them and to make him an offer. A quick search shows that if you want a copy, you can buy one for a reasonable price on Etsy.

  • The back cover features ad for Cerebus #1 and a Beavers button. The button costs a whole dollar! Oddly enough, the reprint leaves the mailing addresses on the back cover, while everywhere else in the issue, addresses are redacted.
  • Regarding using these issues as a pitch to publishers; #2 showcases Sim being able to emulate BWS two-page spreads, barbarian hordes fighting, and another cool looking monster.

48/6000

Cerebus #001 (Dec 1977-Jan 1978)


#GPOY

In 1977 Dave Sim was a young unknown Canadian comics creator who had mostly published strips and short stories in anthologies and had completed two full comics from start to finish (Phantacea #1 and Revolt 3000 #1) for other people.  A highly independent person, Sim looked at his two completed issues and thought, “Why not just publish a comic myself?” Together with his then-girlfriend Deni Loubert they founded the comic publisher Aardvark-Vanaheim.

At the time, sword and sorcery was on an upswing (a late 1975 issue of a DC Comic I have promotes their then upcoming line of fantasy comics) and Howard the Duck (a comic that transplanted a cartoon-esque character in to different genres) was new and turning heads at Marvel, so Sim mashed the two together to create Cerebus the Aardvark, a parody of sword and sorcery featuring a funny talking animal.

His early goal was to make three issues and release them bi-monthly – every other month that is.* With three issues under his belt (completed ON TIME, no less), he could use it as a portfolio to show major publishers why they should hire him. The three issues were successful enough and Dave independent enough that he never ended up doing major work for other publishers (hopefully I’ll eventually get to his work for EPIC Magazine and maybe his issue of Spawn).

*that joke will make sense after issue 4

Whether intentionally or not, each of the three issues worked to highlight his skills.  Well, what skills he had at the time. Because in 1977, “Dave Sim drew about as well as the second- or third-best artist in your high school, the guy you’d ask to do the cover for your heavy metal band’s album or airbrush the side of your van.”* Sim was a huge fan of Barry Windsor-Smith (the artist for Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian) and early issues HEAVILY emulate his art. Each challenge Cerebus faces is a challenge that an artist would face with drawing for a major publisher. (And yes, that sentence is cheesy, but I’ve got to reinforce that the series is also an autobiography about Dave and his views and interests.) The challenges feature a shadow creature which shows off his ability to work with ink, a skeleton which shows that he can draw human anatomy, a drug trip which shows his ability to draw warped perspective, and giant monsters because giant monsters are cool.


“Hire me or you get the sword!”

*Tim Krieder – “Irredeemable: Dave Sim’s Cerebus” – The Comics Journal #301 – a MUST read – this is one of the pieces that convinced me to read Cerebus.  If you don’t have a copy (which you should – the Gerald McBoingBoing reprints in it are great),  you can read the opening here.

The story is a pretty straight-forward sword and sorcery plot. The protagonist is enlisted to steal an object from a wizard, goes through the wizard’s castle to steal it, defeats a bunch of obstacles as onlookers go “wow, this dude is special, look at how special he is.” The ending has an obligatory and obvious, but still decent, twist. Instead of splitting the reward from selling the jewel, Cerebus only wants his pouch of gold. The jewel, of course, ends up being a fake, and Cerebus rides off in to the distance.

The issue is “funny” in a 1977-way. It, like most of what I’ve read of the series, feels dated. The humor is “hey look, it’s a Conan comic, but Conan is a talking animal.” I can see how that was funny at the time (especially with Cerebus in grey in front of “serious” black and white art), but that being the entire joke doesn’t really hold up 40 years later, especially since “adult stories with cartoony art” is the premise of a popular tv network. I’m also not sure how much the prose/dialogue is supposed to be a joke. The prose in early issues is heavily purple, and I’m not sure how much is him making fun of fantasy writings and how much is just his style of writing.*

*Sim is heavily interested in older, dated art, so it could be that he earnestly likes that type of writing. It could also be that prose isn’t his strong suit, which is quite likely based on his poetry in “Demonhorn.”

Still, I was expecting worse from this comic. His human faces are frequently inky messes and seem to change every panel and the plot is basic and cliched, but there’s an energy to the comic. The drug trip page is inventive and fun, that splash page with the monster is DOPE and utilizes black/white so well, and there are three instances of him breaking up a shot with panels to show the passage of time. I think the negativity I’ve seen for this issue is probably based on how his later art is more skilled.

Unsurprisingly, my favorite sequence has a Kirby-esque dinosaur.

Stray thoughts/closer looks/random observations/dumb facts I couldn’t fit in to the article.

  • The cover is a wrap-around design, which was dropped for ad space with the next issue. Guess he really wanted that extra $200 in exchange for an ad for a South Park text messaging service. (Please let me know I’m not the only one with that mid-aughts Image Comics ad stuck in my brain.)

Cerebus 1 CoverOriginal Cover Art linked from CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER FOUR Kickstarter

  • Some first issues have iconic, memorable covers. Cerebus has… this. At least it conveys that it’s a silly animal in a Barry Windsor-Smith world?
  • While the Cerebus “phonebooks” (that’s the nickname for the large b&w reprint collections) are the easier way to read Cerebus, I’ll be reading it through single issues. Most of the early issues I have are reprints from the late 80s/early 90s that feature Deni’s note from the publisher, commentary from Dave, the letters column, all the original ads, and “The Single Page” (a one-page comic strip by guest artists; it starts in issue 6 and I’ll write more about it then).
  • The “NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER” is a black page with white ink; later issues will be white with black ink. In this one, Deni jokes around about the silly concept and explains why they’re called A-V Press (a joke by her brother that backfired) and the Cerebus name (a typo of Cerberus). She writes about how there will soon also be a magazine called Cerebus which is the first of many times I will sigh sadly for her doomed hope for the future.
  • The first page features a pretty fun panel with Cerebus riding a horse, establishing both that he’s a cartoonish animal in a world with “normal” animals and the running gag that he rides horses by bouncing on their backs.
  • Cerebus is described as “five hands tall.” Later he’ll be described as three feet tall; those are some mighty large hands he was measured with.
  • The second page features him slicing off the arm of a barfly that bothers him. Why yes, this comic WAS made several months after Star Wars came out. Why do you ask?

  • The wizard’s death is great; he goes from shouting prophecy to muttering “…aw nuts…” This also shows Sim getting a grasp over lettering. He goes from bold and larger lettering to the reduced size for the last words. I enjoy that the wizard is a bit shit; people in power being incompetent is already established as an important part of this world.
  • Dave Sim’s P’s and D’s look almost exactly the same and will continue to distract and annoy me.
  • A recurring theme is swears involving Tarim and Clovis. This issue features Cerebus swearing, “by Clovis’ Beard!”
  • Earth-Pig Born is weird wording we’ll be seeing a lot right now.
  • Regarding “the way of these wizards” – “Cerebus has his feet in two worlds…” and “Though I was born to be a warrior, the ways of sorcery are not unknown to me…” I’m curious to see if this is developed further.
  • There’s a “Coming Next Issue” page that features Cerebus in the mountains looking at shadowy figures in the distance.
  • Aardvark Comment: There are no letters this issue, so Dave talks about the frustrations of producing a first comic. There’s no feedback, no idea if it’ll be successful, if he’ll go broke, if anyone cares (kind of like me with this blog!). There’s also a listing of other Canadian comic books for sale (Arik Khan #1, Phantacea #1, Fog City Comics #1, and Oktoberfest #1). Sim did art for Phantacea and Oktoberfest. Each comic was a dollar plus .25 postage.
  • The back cover features an ad for Gene Day’s Star Wars Lucasfilm denied him permission and all non-personal copies were destroyed. The ad says there were eight plates, but there ended up being 10. The print run was limited to 250 copies and was to be sold for $8 each.  You can see the art, along with Gene’s description here.


Weed. Not even once.

He Came to Our City in the Early Dawn…

I don’t believe in kismet except when it happens. I had known about Dave Sim’s comic series Cerebus for a while (the advisor to my college comic book club recommend the High Society storyline every semester), but had never read it and never planned to. But in 2014, a series of events led to me owning what I now call the “Cerebox,” a massive longbox containing over 250 issues of Cerebus.

While browsing comics twitter that summer I came across an article on the series and skimmed through it. I wish I could remember exactly which site or piece it was, but at this point I’ve read so many that I can’t figure out which was my first. The article was interesting, but I quickly moved on to another article. Shortly after I read the opening to a nearly 40 page article by Tim Kreider in The Comics Journal #301 and quickly ordered the magazine so I could finish the essay. It’s such a beautifully written piece about the series/ how a reader engages with art and it sold me on the quixotic idea of reading a 6000 page self-published comic book full of art that will move me to tears with writing the author said “wouldn’t be that big a stretch to categorize my writing as Hate Literature against women,” that’s part autobiography and changes concepts based on what’s interesting the writer at that moment, that actively tried to alienate readers as it went along, and is full of dated, obscure references written in a dying comics language of which I’m one of the last native speakers. Around the same time, I learned about an opening in an essay anthology on Cerebus, which would be a convenient reason to read the series (and maybe earn back the money I spent on the comics). A quick ebay search made me realize I could buy most of the series for under $150 and late that night I bought a three foot long box full of comics that I would dub the “Cerebox.” I spent some time reading the series and working on a pitch for an essay covering the publication and changes over the first few years of the series. Unfortunately the book fell through and I never finished the essay or reading the series. Kismet brought me back though, as I was recently contacted by the publisher about the essay book for the fortieth anniversary and Sim has started publishing new Cerebus comics. With there being renewed interest (or interest at all) in the series, I started thinking about how I wanted to finish reading the series.

I’m fascinated by massive series/stories and the culture/analysis that readers/watchers build around it. And while there are books on reading Proust and so many reviews of LOST episodes, there’s very little out there on Cerebus. There are a few long running fan sites that have insightful information, but there are scant few close readings of the series. The only noteworthy one I found was Laura Hudson and Leigh Walton’s wonderful Cereblog (curse them for beating me to the best name) where they planned to review the series issue by issue, but sadly never made it past issue 11. Their style was somewhat reminiscent of Alan Sepinwall’s style of tv writing – bite sized reviews of individual episodes that focused on the episode as an individual unit and how it fit in the series as a whole. There’s a comfort to reading his articles; watching tv is usually a solitary activity, and reading reviews like his (and Hudson and Walton’s) creates the feeling of a communal aspect while also giving the reader more information and viewpoints that they otherwise would have missed out on.  There are great pieces on the series as a whole, but there are basically none that go, “let’s talk about issue 137 in detail and the effect of having a short silly breather in between Jaka’s Story and Melmoth.”

I’m NOT Dave Sim (for instance, he’s extremely religious and hates anything Marxist-feminist-homosexual related and I’m a non-religious, socialist-leaning feminist that openly talks about how hot Oscar Isaac is) so I’m not going to promise in advance that I can complete a 300 part project like he did, but I’ll give it a shot. I may do issue by issue, I may lump some issues together and there may be more stray thoughts/bullet points than essays (okay, it’ll most likely be more bullet points than essays), but my goal is to read issues 1-300, the short stories, and as much of the backmatter as I can stomach.*  This isn’t me trying to do a wacky challenge (although I am a huge proponent of Chris Haley watching Mortal Kombat: Annihilation every day for a year); I’m writing this because I want a guide to exist. This is a monumental work that comes across as daunting and hostile (a large part of which IS because Cerebus and Sim have been hostile towards potential readers) and I want to change that. I want to be a cicerone for potential new readers, to help guide them through the series, to share fun trivia, showcase the craftsmanship, and be there for support during the bigotry. I want my friends –female, queer, of color, atheist, socialist, FEMINIST – to know they have an ally if they ever decide to read this series.

*That isn’t necessarily a knock on his/the letter writers’ work/personality; it’s just that after 20 pages of Torah analysis I don’t know if I’ll want to read 10 pages of letters analyzing Torah analysis and then write my own analysis of analysis of Torah analysis. Or even look at the word analysis.

Yeah, there’s a section towards the end of the series where Sim’s spends months of comics rewriting the Bible to create his own religion.

It’s a weird comic. Especially since it started as a Conan the Barbarian parody staring a talking aardvark, but that’s for the next post.