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Author Topic: Cerebus  (Read 1007 times)

Colin YNWA

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Cerebus
« on: 11 November, 2011, 09:58:49 PM »
Okay so over the last few months amongst other things I've been reading through Cerebus from the start and last night finished 'Minds'. Still have 'Guys' to go but since 'Minds' wraps up the main story (according to the writer Dave Sim) I could no longer wait to post (decided on a fresh thread as last time this was discussed it derailed the 'What I've just read' thread for a wee while.)

First and foremost what an utterly superb read. I was obsessed by Cerebus back in the day when it first came out and aside from 2000ad it was the last comic I stopped reading around issue 181. Not for any of the obvious reasons just 'cos I'd stopped reading comics. Its still, on reading today, one of the best works of fiction I can remember, not just comic fiction, fiction full stop. And that my friends is why I find it so bloody annoying.

When I first started reading it I had no idea Dave Sim was heading down the road he did. In fact when I first started reading it (end of 'Jaka's Story' I think it was) neither did he come to that. I don't think so anyway. I just devoured this great product, saved for the 'phonebooks' as they were called then and loved every minute of it. Even during 'Mother and Daughters' I hadn't really fully cotton onto some of the frankly ludicrous things he was starting to think (I'll come back to justify why I feel its okay to call another man's beliefs ludicrous in a bit). Its a superb story with wonderful, well realised and well rounded characters of all shapes and sizes. A complex plot that manages to balance both intricate, detailed, political fables and action, comedy and romance absolutely seamlessly. It can be intimate and it can be epic. Often in the same issue. Its just wonderful, wonderful story telling of the highest order.

Okay so this time I knew full well the ridiculous things he has said and the frankly insulting and unbalanced belief system he now has (again will justify this. Well at least to my mind anyway). I read his infamous and frankly, poorly thought out essay 'Tangents' and read a load of what are laughing called FAQ about his thoughts on the various chapters over at a fan site written in 2005 (I think it was)

http://www.jazzbastards.org/cerebus/Cerebus_FAQ.html

Serious at what point did the bloke who called these FAQs think questions like

"Q1c: Similarly, is the demon Female (Void) sucking the souls out of the Male warriors, who at the end when released are depicted as Lights flying off into the night an intentional direct parallel to the similar description of the Void and Light that you presented in i186?"

are frequently asked (I may well have missed an inside joke here but I'm getting a bit side-tracked aren't I. Excuse me)

Back on track, the comic was still as good, with this knowledge and aside from a few bits in 'Reads' it really could have been read without any great belief that there is a misogynist behind it. Sure there is a horrific regime in the later issues based on beliefs of motherhood but frankly all the power figures, be it church or state are pretty appalling, or seemingly ridiculous in one wonderful example. A sympathetic reading (which I assume I had when first going through this) could take it as an examination of how power and political necessity can twist any belief system to become pretty unpalatable, especially in a brutal 'medieval' world like the one Cerebus inhabits. I was probably (and still am probably) missing a host of things that others readers didn't. I stopped reading the letters page around 150 I remember that much.

Why is this so infuriating? 'Cos one of the greatest talents in comics has a world view that I not only disagree with but that I find quite hateful and hate filled. Well no its not that, maybe it should be that, but one does not detract from the other alas. No its the fact that I really see his belief as twisted beyond words (I'm not saying for one minute that he doesn't have the right to hold that belief by the way. That's important). I've read 'Tangents' I laboured over each word and passage and fought through the genuinely farcical lines of arguments that he makes. They can be picked apart and safely cast aside each and every time. He will suggest a view, an opinion one minute and then develops it as fact and concluded the next and often throughout. Oh it is written well, there are loads of superficial connections and apparent logic in what he writes, but it does not hang together. It does not make sense under any real scrutiny. It is therefore a world view that is ludicrous and all those other negatives I've labelled it earlier. Which again if anybody is still reading what has turned into a right old rant by now - sorry, he has every right to hold.

He is a superb observer of people as I said his characters are wonderful rich creations. Its just he has twisted these same observation we can make but don't have the skill to distil and represent and fitted them into his world view. He has re-read and re-interpreted his own motives or subconscious reasoning for great chunks of the story from before he developed this world view and twists them to have new meaning.

Who am I to doubt the creators own vision for what his world and his story is about? Well thankfully I'm an equal part in the experience, or more precisely my experience. As the reader I create the work with Dave Sim. I take what he's written and I make my story out of it. His story is so good and for the vast, vast majority of the telling is so beautifully observed that I get a fantastic brilliant story out of it. It may be a million miles from what Dave Sim now want's me to get from it, or for a long time at the end there wanted me to get from it from the outset, but hey there you go. Its a strong enough story and he's a great enough storyteller (even if its not the story he wants to tell anymore) for the work to survive.

So read Cerebus, read ever last bit of the first 11 books and ALL HAIL THE POWER OF THE READER. We can save his masterpiece from its creator.

(Now then, that got a lot more involved than I was thinking it would! The question remains (and asked before I know) after 'Guys' do I continue... I mean look what the last lot did to me!)

maryanddavid

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Re: Cerebus
« Reply #1 on: 11 November, 2011, 10:51:33 PM »
I read this many moons ago(20 odd years!!) up till Jaka Story, loved it at the time, but I recall getting bit bored with it.
I may pick up more trades, its not something I have consider returning too, but I always hear good thing.

David

TordelBack

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Re: Cerebus
« Reply #2 on: 11 November, 2011, 10:57:14 PM »
Great post there Colin.  The odd thing about my own at-the-time reading of Mothers and Daughters in particular is that I thought it was a pretty astute look at different political positions, cleverly mapped onto different stereotypical female roles.  If anything I thought this was Dave's very clever attempt to expand his thoughts from High Society through a detailed look at feminism.  The fact that it was interspersed with a truly hilarious Sandman pastiche probably helped me see it as knowing and wry, rather than evangelical.

Even when Viktor (the first of the not-really-veiled-at-all Sim stand-ins) appeared in Reads, I thought his struggles with domesticity as an artist were well-observed.  I may even have seen my own life and relatonship at the time reflected in those early text pieces.  There was even enough cleverness in the sustained rock'n'roll concert analogy, and the incredible fight scene and shockingly effective fourth-wall shattering that ran parallel with it, to carry me past the life-sucking voids and keep me thinking that this was going somewhere else.  The Joanne/Jaka situation in Minds could still be read by a charitable committed reader (which I was) as a reflection on Cerebus' specific flawed self (as with his screwing uop of his destiny) rather than on women and their inevitably destructive influence. 

It was really only in the essays at that back that I eventually parted company with Dave. The story itself that far, and for my money through Guys as well, still works independent of the madness that churns away in the mind of the creator. This changes with Rick's Story, where the nastiness really takes centre stage in the book itself.  Past that point I find it hard to separate creator from creation.

Dandontdare

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Re: Cerebus
« Reply #3 on: 12 November, 2011, 01:57:09 AM »
What the hell are you doing posting shit like that on a comic forum? That was a balanced, reasonable argument with well-expressed points that didn't pander to set fan -boy opinions or insult people who think otherwise - Shame on you. This is the internet!

I've only read bits of Cerebus here and there, and I was never part of the huge love-fest it got in the 90s/early 20000s - I always thought it was cute and interesting, but could never work out why it was lauded so much.

And then I started reading about the  political background, and that threatened to ruin it for me - the same thing happened with Fables, and all that controversy about parallels with Israeli/Palestinian stuff.. Should this matter? I don't know but it certainly colours my own opinion of someone's work when I hear about politicly relevant stuff. even though I often wish I hadn't heard it.

Apologies for a rambling and incoherent post, but I'm a bit pissed


Colin YNWA

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Re: Cerebus
« Reply #4 on: 12 November, 2011, 06:09:17 AM »
The odd thing about my own at-the-time reading of Mothers and Daughters in particular is that I thought it was a pretty astute look at different political positions, cleverly mapped onto different stereotypical female roles.  If anything I thought this was Dave's very clever attempt to expand his thoughts from High Society through a detailed look at feminism. 

Phew that's very close to what I got. Good to see I wasn't making a complete apologists reading! This reading for me is cast further into light (or void which was it again...) when you get to the Cirin/Serna origins of the Cirinists in 'Minds' I think this bit makes the whole thing read like Animal Farm in a way. So then 'Mother and Daughters' is really Boxer being sent away but fighting back... nah I'm stretching the analogy to far there aren't I!!!!

The Joanne/Jaka situation in Minds could still be read by a charitable committed reader (which I was) as a reflection on Cerebus' specific flawed self (as with his screwing uop of his destiny) rather than on women and their inevitably destructive influence. 

Which even now, right up to the very end of that sequence I still got, armed though I was with knowledge of what Dave Sim was heading mentally (The Cerebus flawed bit that is). Its the perfect example of Dave Sim observing the way men and women can interact so beautifully. Presented honestly and wonderfully (its a brilliant sequence) in a way I can relate to and yet Dave Sim gets something utterly different from those self same observations and hopes by telling them I will too. Nah sorry Dave. Weird one that one!

And then I started reading about the  political background, and that threatened to ruin it for me - the same thing happened with Fables, and all that controversy about parallels with Israeli/Palestinian stuff.. Should this matter? I don't know but it certainly colours my own opinion of someone's work when I hear about politicly relevant stuff. even though I often wish I hadn't heard it.

Ha yeah for various reasons I've had the exact same reaction to 'Fables' I've always been intrigued about it but as there is only so much time to read stuff the Israeli/Palestinian is apparently there and might make me angry and reduce my enjoyment I've never quite got around to it. This reading of Cerebus has shown me I really should grasp the nettle and find out what I get from the story regardless of Bill Willinghams (I'm led to believe) right wing view on the situation.


Third Estate Ned

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Re: Cerebus
« Reply #5 on: 17 January, 2013, 07:13:19 PM »
Just got High Society second hand through the post on the recommendation of people here (thanks). The copy I received appears to be signed by Dave Sim, which was a surprise. Providing the signature is real, and I have no way of authenticating this, do you (hive mind) reckon it would raise the value of this book if I were to eventually sell it on?