Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cerebus in Hell? #1

Cerebus is the only one surprised that he wound up in hell.

It's an odd thing to be reading a new Cerebus comic book. I have no idea what to expect of this thing. The cover is mostly no help. On one hand, Cerebus's scolding of the non-scary pantsless man is reminiscent of Dave Sim's early Cerebus work. You know, the funny stuff! On the other hand, it's right next to a joke about how the fans of Sex and the City are in Hell. Really? Sex and the City? Who is still talking about that other than some bitter, cranky Men's Right Activist who never quite got over his belief that feminists destroyed Canada and that not jerking off gave him a better work ethic. That last bit can be easily proven incorrect since he was expelling his qi all over the place when Cerebus was entertaining and then he was retaining his qi when Cerebus decided to go on and on and on and on with his shitty interpretation of Genesis.

Cerebus intrigued me from the first moment I laid my eyes on it. The first comic book store I began to go to was Brian's Books on Calabazas in Santa Clara. One row of shelves had Elfquest on the left and Cerebus on the right. I was reading Elfquest which ultimately only went twenty issues. But by the time I was picking up the single issues of Elfquest (sometime during the quest's end since I was reading the collected colored versions but then purchased the role-playing game only to find myriad spoilers in the pictures they used because they took them from current issues. So I had to go catch up with the single issues), Cerebus was already sixty or so issues in. There was no way I could pick up all the issues and I wasn't the type to jump onto a series sixty issues in. It felt like if I picked up a book and just started reading at the middle. Who would do that?! There was also a part of my twelve year old self that felt embarrassed about trying to buy the comic because it seemed too adult for me. Yes, it had a cartoon barbarian aardvark on the front. I don't know what about it made me feel as if I would be trying to get away with purchasing a playboy magazine. It wasn't until Dave Sim collected the first batch of stories in the thin Swords of Cerebus collections that I picked it up. Not long after that, he published everything in what he called the Cerebus phone books (due to their size). Not only were the first few collections hilarious, they were smartly written with insightful satire and some of the best send-ups of mainstream superhero comic books I've ever read. And he didn't stop there. The stories became emotional and touching. Jaka's Story still breaks my heart.

Some would say Dave Sim went off track at Mothers and Daughters. I'm not sure, if you read the phone books, you'd notice so much now though. Sure, a lot of the Cirinist matriarchy is commentary on what he believed was happening in Canada with feminism in government. But it was really his essays and letters in the backs of the single issues (which I began reading at Mothers and Daughters) that began to show a writer's mind unraveling. That might not be the fairest assessment since I still found much of it, at least, well thought out, whether or not I agreed with it. And it was entertaining to see him field the increasing number of letters that began "I used to enjoy this comic book until...". The bit after the until was always some final line in the sand that some reader thought Dave Sim should never have crossed. I don't have any lines like that unless you count the "this isn't entertaining any more" line. And even after Dave Sim crossed that line, I kept reading. I mean, I was already twenty years into it! I had to see it through to the end!

Overall, I think Guys was the last really entertaining Cerebus story. After that, Dave Sim just began interjecting Cerebus into other material he wanted to write. He wanted to write about Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, so he did that with Cerebus sort of hanging around in the background. He wanted to write about his religious experience and shoved Cerebus into that (I believe the ending of Cerebus was going to be a hilarious send up of The Bible as interpreted by Cerebus but Sim, as he researched The Bible and read it, wound up believing in it, but in his own strange interpretation that combined Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. So Sim instead used the penultimate chapter of Cerebus to explain his own interpretation of the Holy Book). And finally, Sim ends it with Cerebus's final day of life where he basically falls out of bed and dies. Alone, unmourned, and unloved. And, of course, he went to Hell with all the other people he knew. They also went to Hell because they were all vile, selfish masturbators.

I don't know if any of that has any bearing on whatever this is. This might just be a bunch of one or two page jokes as Cerebus wanders around ancient paintings in Hell making hilariously ignorant Cerebus statements. I hope it's a bit more than that but, well, whatever. I read this comic book for twenty-five years. I think I can handle a few more months worth.

The inner cover explains that Dave Sim has had a mysterious wrist ailment since February 2015 which has left him unable to draw. I bet after years of not masturbating, he rediscovered the hobby and went at it too long and hard! That was a typical, broad, elementary school boner joke! I think I'm allowed immature boner jokes. Look at the South Park movie promo: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. That boner joke was plastered all over movie theaters! Right out in the open for all of the kids to giggle at!

Anyway, since Dave Sim can't draw, Cerebus gets to be copied and pasted from past issues of Cerebus, I guess? And since Gerhard sold his half of Aardvark-Vanaheim back to Dave Sim because even Gerhard thought Sim got too crazy, the backgrounds will all be done by old painters!

See? Like this!

Thinking back to Dave Sim's rants about feminism and men in monogamous relationships with women, it strikes me that Dave Sim was sort of a precursor to Gamergate and the rise of the Men's Rights Activists. But funnier!

The comic is set up like a weekly comic strip. Each page is a four panel joke with Cerebus interacting with a famous painting. At least I'm assuming they're famous since I know nothing about paintings!

This one made me laugh out loud.

Dave Sim always had a great ear for comedic dialogue. His Groucho Marx (as Jaka's Uncle Julius) was as funny and absurd as the real thing. His Cockroach parodies of superheroes were sharp and shaped with an obvious young love of the comics he was satirizing. And I will forever be disappointed with just how little Elrod of Melvinbone there actually is in the six thousand pages of Cerebus.

There's really not much more to say about this. If you like Cerebus before he became a boring religious-minded fuck, you'll probably get a kick out of this. If you're not whimsical enough and you know you'll whinge on about the entire thing being recycled artwork with speech bubbles stuck on, you should pass on this. Also, if you wrote Dave Sim off long ago because he was a total nutter and almost certainly a misogynist, you probably didn't even find the panel funny where the guy under the rocks is still using his watch.

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