Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Cerebus #31 (1981)

Half the artists who founded Image Comics learned to draw their "dynamic poses" from this cover.

I thought Dave Sim wasn't supposed to highlight his Marvel parody characters on the cover after the Wolveroach fiasco? I guess nobody would look at this cover and think, "Isn't that Moon Knight?" Based on the size of his body parts and ignoring my bending of the space/time continuum, I would have looked at this comic on the shelf and thought, "Isn't that Youngblood?"

Did Cockroach invent the toe shoes? Dave should have sent this cover to the U.S. patent office. Cha-ching!

This is the best "A Note from the Publisher" Deni has ever written because it lavishes praise on Wendy and Richard Pini. I had a chance to lavish praise on them when I got some books signed but I didn't because I can't speak properly to people. I also met Dave at some small publisher's expo and almost certainly said no more than two words to him. You can make up those two words. I don't want to limit how you imagine the meeting went, especially if you hate Dave Sim. But I'll give you a clue as to how my interaction with any comic professional I've ever met has gone: I wrote scathing reviews of Scott Lobdell's work online for years and was absolutely gracious to him when I had him sign something. I'm either a wimp or a very respectful young man.

I'm not young but whenever I run into old guys while working, they call me "young man" and it fills my heart with joy. Not because I'm fooled into thinking I'm young but bless them for their good-natured subjective relativity.

Sim's "Notebooks" has a bunch of sketches trying to get Astoria's look down. That's it. Loads of Astorias that don't look like Astoria!

Dave Sim's Cockroach poses that are hyperbolic parodies of super hero comic books simply became the reality in the 90s. Satire and parody are always the forerunners of reality.

This issue is called "Chasing Cootie" and now I cannot be convinced by even the most rational arguments that Chasing Amy wasn't named after this comic book.

Cerebus chases Moon Roach to his lair, an apartment he shares with Astoria. Astoria's greatest gift is gaslighting people. Right now, she's pretending to love Moon Roach so she can use him in her quest for power. She lies all the time. That's probably why her name is Astoria. Because she tells storias. And not because she's based on Mary Astor like Dave says. He's just embarrassed about the "storia"/"story" word play.

Astoria is a rapist.

I don't suppose Astoria being a rapist means getting raped by Cerebus later comes off as a fitting punishment. I think it just means Astoria and Cerebus are both rapists and terrible people.

Astoria convinces Cerebus not to have Moon Roach captured and killed for the murder of Hadden by threatening to kill herself if that happens. So instead, Cerebus just takes Moon Roach's costume so that he can never become Moon Roach again.

Cerebus would get himself out of a lot of trouble if he stopped giving a shit about other people.

The Moon Roach apparently had some spare costumes (a fact Astoria surely knew) because he reappears almost immediately to crush two of the Pope's Inquisitors as they question Cerebus about his role in the death of Hadden. Which means Cerebus has made some powerful enemies without even trying. The only thing he's guilty of is entering Iest as Lord Julius's Kitchen Staff Supervisor. He's sort of lost all control over his own agency at this point.

I don't know how Dave did it but he's over here parodying Image Comics in 1981!

Dave Sim is basically the grandfather of Image Comics and now I see he's the grandfather in more ways than I knew! He invented the stupid looking dynamic super hero poses that would become Image Comics' bread and butter!

Cerebus had come to Iest to relax for a bit, flush with wealth from the art dealer who owned Lord Sump's Thing. But instead, he found himself surrounded by lobbyists trying to get Lord Julius's attention, city guards trying to protect the surprise Palnu ambassador, caught up in a kidnapping plot that cost him 12,000 gold crowns, an accessory to murder because of the Moon Roach, and in the scary sights of the Church of the Living Tarim. The only person on his side is an elf that's more urban legend than reality. It's going to take more than his little sword to get him out of this mess. Does he even have his sword anymore? And whatever happened to his helmet? He's still got his necklace of medallions though because the Elf was trying them on this issue. Cerebus has a tough time holding on to his possessions.

"Aardvark Comment" was three pages long this issue. So either a ton of mail came in at once due to the Canadian Mail Strike of 1981 or we're already seeing the beginning of Dave answering loads and loads of letters every month. Fans are still complaining about not knowing what happened to Cerebus after the first "Mind Games" in issue #20 so Dave has to keep revealing more and more behind-the-scenes magic to keep these continuity nerds happy. But Dave also revealed that he's working on a story with Gene Day, "What Happened Between Issues Twenty and Twenty-two?" Yes, that's exactly how Dave typed it in the letters pages. I think I can guess what happened between those issues: Issue Twenty-one. Dave says that story will be in Swords of Cerebus Volume Three so maybe I should just find it online and read it already.

Between "Mind Games" and Cerebus waking up in Beduin, he's kidnapped by a Dr. Strange parody, a couple of Seprans, a Freak Show, some guy not long for the world, Sir Gerrick, and, finally, Astoria. Astoria we've met! Sir Gerrick I don't think we'll meet again. Maybe. But he'll definitely be discussed since he is, I believe, Cirin's son. The main takeaway is that a whole lot of people in Estarcion know aardvarks are valuable for some reason. Probably because of their weird magical aura power. They're probably better than a lucky rabbit's foot to have around. By the end of the story, Astoria takes Cerebus and dumps him in Beduin to be found by Weisshaupt. Does she do it just to get Cerebus out of Sir Gerrick's hands? Or does she do it to put a wrinkle in Weisshaupt's? Since it's Astoria, it's probably a bit of both.

Cerebus #31 Rating: B. This story shows how little control Cerebus currently has of his own life. We're also seeing the beginnings of how much control of Cerebus's life Astoria does have. Everybody wants to manipulate Cerebus's life to gain some kind of power or wealth in their own. It'll be standard procedure for some time to come, really. I'm not sure he really gains any kind of control until he dumps Jaka in Going Home! The Moon Roach and Astoria stuff is top notch but the book kind of falls apart in the last few pages where the joke is just the Regency Elf laughing at Cerebus's fuzzy dried hair while he whinges on about his life. It just feels like Dave didn't know how to end it so he decided to make the Elf do something cute while not really listening to Cerebus because she's so distracted. Although the scene is probably proof that the Elf isn't real because she never once crinkles up her cute little nose over the smell of wet Cerebus.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Cerebus #30 (1981)

Cerebus is fucking the chair while the terrified guy masturbates.

I should probably be less filthy while writing "reviews." But I know my main audience is perverts so what can I do?

Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" always sounds like somebody signing the yearbook of someone that was in two of their classes but they never really got to know them that well and they're desperately trying to vamp so that they don't just squeak out a quick "Have a nice summer!" and feel like a huge douchebag. At least that's what I finally realized they sound like after thirty issues. This note was the longest one yet which doesn't mean it gave me more information than the others; it just meant I was bored for a longer amount of time.

I have two goals to better myself as a person: be kinder and be more earnest. But they're conflicting because I know I should be kinder to Deni about her space-filling notes but I'm also trying to be earnest about how I feel! That's just a poor excuse to be a dick though, isn't it? I think I'm supposed to be earnest about vulnerable aspects of myself and not earnest in that way dickhole jerks are earnest when they excuse themselves for being assholes because, hey, they're just being honest! I want to be better! I really do!

But, I mean, do I?

Let's just see how it goes.

"Notebooks" has some sketches and some notes. I don't read the notes because they're probably spoilers for the issue I'm about to read, right?! And while I'm not totally against spoilers, why seek them out? Especially five seconds before you read the thing you're going to spoil?!

I know I tend to concentrate on the Regency Elf's butt so here are her boobies for the fans of her boobies.

This issue is called "Debts" which is an anagram for "St. Bed," my favorite Saint. You can also make an easy palindrome: "St. Bed's debts."

Cerebus meets with the Prime Minister this issue to discuss Cerebus's debt of twelve thousand gold crowns. The Prime Minister reveals he never really thought he'd be able to get any money out of Cerebus but he needed to try because the Pope is going to audit the city and the Prime Minister's books are off by about a 750,000 gold crowns. This all takes place in what is kind of a medieval world so when the Church disapproves of something you've done, you can bet restitution is going to include a certain amount of physical torture and/or death. So the Prime Minister is calling in all of the debts against him. He knew Cerebus was going to keep putting him off but he liked the way Cerebus blackmailed Greeley. He's looking for some pointers.

If Dave's view of politics wasn't so accurate, I'd think he was a paranoid cynic!

This panel explains all of Cerebus's schemes to get out of his debt and/or the Regency Elf's butt.

I forget why it's so dark in Cerebus's suite. I'm sure Dave makes up some reason for it later. It probably has something to do with Cerebus living in the walk-in closet thinking it's the main part of the room.

Look, I know the real reason! It's because Dave doesn't like drawing chairs and wallpaper and potted plants! You did read the part where I said Dave would make up a reason for it later? That's because we all know the real reason for it now!

Cerebus gets Holland M. Hadden drunk, tricks him into giving up the debt Iest owes his company, and then tries to send him on his way. Part of his ploy is to convince Hadden that there's a conspiracy to destroy Iest's economy. It isn't true. Cerebus is just making it up. But Cerebus is also an aardvark with weird magical side-effects to the things he does. One of those side-effects might just be creating the conspiracy as soon as he imagines it. Because after Hadden is basically thrown out of the Regency by Cerebus, the Moon Roach squishes him with a solid stone sculpture of a crescent moon.

Economic conspiracy, you say? (Not shown here: the Regency Elf's butt)

Aardvark Comment has a letter from some guy who lives in Sunnyvale. He also mentioned Santa Cruz in his letter. It was practically like reading about home!

Cerebus #30 Rating: B+. Drinking. Blackmail. Hunting. Hotel Elfs in short skirts with low bodices. An insane man committing murder. This comic book had everything! No wait. It must have been missing something or else I would have given it an A rating. Oh well! I give my rating a C+.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Cerebus #29 (1981)

For readers who thought Red Sophia and Jaka were women with too much agency, Dave Sim introduces The Regency Elf.

I was going to write paragraph after paragraph about my love of The Regency Elf and then I thought, "I can't do that! That's my Lobo shtick!" I also thought, "Everybody probably loved The Regency Elf." Before Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Dave Sim invented Floating Short-Skirted Hotel Elves. The Regency Elf is the epitome of cute to dorks and dweebs the way the Succubus in the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual is the epitome of sexy to dorks and dweebs. And I don't mean good looking popular people who love to say, "I'm such a dork!" I mean the kids who lived in fear of swirlies and wedgies and changing in the locker room.

Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" takes people to task for bootlegging Cerebus merchandise. It might sound scary now but don't worry: Dave has given us all permission to make any Cerebus products we want! I think. Didn't he? Anyway, back in 1981, Dave and Deni were struggling to make it and a bunch of parasites were out their feeding off their baby! I got the feeling this "A Note from the Publisher" was Deni being nice. I am really curious as to what kind of products they were seeing fans selling.

"Notebooks" has a few pages of Regency Elf sketches as Dave refined her look from goofy diva to new wave MTV vixen. I imagine Dave's process was drawing the elf and then seeing how aroused he got, finally settling on the full boner drawing.

Cerebus wakes up to find himself back in The Regency. He is immediately informed that he owes twelve thousand gold crowns for reimbursement of the ransom paid by the Prime Minister of Iest. The good news is Cerebus still has free room and board and, hopefully, he'll continue to have cash thrown at him by lobbyists. But before he wades into them, he needs to take a bath and magically create from his subconscious a cute companion to bounce his ideas off of. Or whatever she represents. His libido, maybe?

The first clue she's just a figment of Cerebus's aardvark magic: she also loves whiskey. The second clue is her butt.

I was just kidding earlier. Cerebus doesn't have a libido. He's an incel with anger issues directed at women. Maybe that's what the Regency Elf represents. A woman he can view entirely as an object and/or a buddy.

The Regency Elf's plan to visit the McGrew brothers in Hobsgate Prison (since they were captured) is exactly the plan Cerebus would have come up with if he'd had the information about them being caught. Which he probably was told as he was regaining consciousness so he doesn't actively remember hearing it. But he did! Which is why the elf knows about it! And why the elf can come up with exactly the same plan Cerebus would have come up with!

Cerebus gets into prison and interrogates the McGrews. He learns there was no ransom on the raft, just a statue of a duck. The duck statue will be important later. More important than Weisshaupt's ankle.

The Prime Minister sends another letter requesting Cerebus pay back the ransom. So Cerebus needs to figure out how to get some cash quick.

Okay, Cerebus probably didn't subconsciously know this stuff about Greeley. I guess the Regency Elf is "real" in the sense that she's a magical apparition created by Cerebus's aardvarkian weirdness aura. The first clue is that the Regency Elf is an actual legend. The second clue is, of course, her butt.

Captain Cockroach should have advised Cerebus not to stare at the Regency Elf's butt. Who would ever stare at an ankle?!

Cerebus's blackmail of Greeley works in so far that the Prime Minister offers to speak with Cerebus at some duck hunt (How was Duck Hunt a Nintendo game? Somebody did that on purpose, right? To get thousands of kids to swear in front of their parents, right?). So that'll probably be next issue.

During the time this comic was published, there was a postal strike in Canada. So Aardvark Comment is one page of below par letters (all praising Cerebus, of course).

Cerebus #29 Rating: B+. I haven't been discussing The Single Page much because there's not much to discuss. Also it ruins the illusion that I'm reading actual copies of the initial printing of Cerebus! The Regency Elf makes her debut in this issue so it had to have rated B or better. But not much else happens. She helps Cerebus begin to get out of a jam that nobody would have expected him to be in anyway. Pay back his own ransom?! It's as if the Prime Minister ordered Cerebus to be kidnapped so he could pretend to pay a ransom to get him back after which the Prime Minister would demand the ransom from Cerebus. That's definitely what's going on, isn't it? The Prime Minister of Iest needs an influx of cash pretty badly.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Cerebus #28 (1981)

Pretty sure "Mind Game" is code for "Cerebus on LSD."

In the first "Mind Game," Cerebus was indeed drugged. While unconscious, he supposedly had a conversation with Suenteus Po, the fabled Illusionist and, I believe, creator of the Illusionist philosophy (whatever that is. I don't remember the exact tenets of all Sim's ideologies in Estarcion. I think it's a bit of a mix between anarchy, hedonism, Taoism, and, um, well, illusionism!). At the end of the last issue, Cerebus had been knocked unconscious so that's probably how he enters this "Mind Game." No drugs needed! It's probably some kind of side-effect of being an aardvark. When aardvarks lose consciousness unnaturally (as in not simply falling asleep), their minds travels in the astral plane. It totally makes sense and to test it, I'm going to the zoo tomorrow with a baseball bat.

In my comments on Cerebus #27, I noted how the Aardvark Comments section was really starting to expand. Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" this month pretty much says the same thing. And since every month, I mention how boring Deni's Note is, does that mean I now consider myself boring for passing along the same information?! Why am I cursed to constantly insult myself, God?!

The Swords of Cerebus essay section is called "Notebooks." It may have been called that in the previous "High Society" Bi-weeklies as well and I just didn't realize it. At least now I can stop calling it "the section that used to be the Swords of Cerebus essay." In this one, it just has notes and sketches for the Cerebus/Suenteus Po dialogue and some "Corn-Roach" rejected material. Yes, there was going to be a Cockroach story where he was called the Corn Roach. That's because the Cirinists had some kind of Corn King ritual that was probably this festival where they all dressed up, danced down the road to a giant corn man, and then burned some cop alive in it. I don't know if the Corn Roach was going to be a parody of a Marvel character or just a parody of Orville Redenbacher. Sim eventually decided against the Corn Roach and made him the Moon Roach instead. Probably a good call.

In "Mind Game I," Cerebus traveled between black and white spaces as he spoke with Suenteus Po in the black and the Cirinists in the white (was it the Cirinists? Or were they Kevillists? Kevillists are pretty much Cirinists who believe in abortion. Oh, they probably have more differences than that but remember how I don't remember any of that stuff?). The black spaces, if you cut up your Cerebus comic book, could be laid out to form a huge twenty page Cerebus. I'm sure somebody out there did it and lined their wall with it. In this one, Dave has chosen to have Cerebus falling between black and gray spaces while all of the dialogue is typewritten outside of the panels. It's basically the set-up Dave uses later to suggest that you're reading a "Read" (Estarcion's comic book/pulp novel equivalent).

This is what it looks like. All the pictures in this one were improvised on the drawing board and probably don't matter much. It's all about Po and his lies.

I mention that Po lies in the caption because from what I remember, a lot of what Po tells Cerebus every time Cerebus talks to him winds up being a lie. My take is that Dave used Po to explain things that Dave thought were true about the story and eventually Dave changed things which turned Po into a liar. Plus Po is an Illusionist! Of course he's going to be a huge liar!

The conversation between Po and Cerebus begins with discussing where Cerebus finds himself. It turns out to be the Eighth Sphere, a place to consider the infinite crossroads a life passes through. Cerebus was in the Seventh Sphere before which is where a person finds themselves or comes to terms with themselves or, I don't know, chills out. Accordingly the First through Sixth Spheres are probably like steps to be worked through in Alcoholics Anonymous. You can't be your true self until you abandon all of your flawed thinking and selfish desires. Then once you come to terms with your true self in relation to the world around you, you can head to the Eighth Sphere and move on.

But remember: these are probably all lies! But maybe he's not lying maliciously! He sort of sounds like a stoner who thinks he's smarter than he actually is so he doesn't really comprehend all the information that comes his way during meditation and gets it all garbled.

Next Cerebus, like a bunch of impatient readers over the last year or so, wants to know how he got from Togith to Beduin after the last "Mind Game." Po doesn't know but he has some theories. It was probably the Cirinists or the Kevillists and not sleep-walking or teleportation.

Estarcion has two churches just like the Catholic church does. Or did? Did some Pope in the 15th Century find the two gold ducks and join them so the church could become united?

See? This is why Po winds up caught in lies later. Because Dave maybe goes into a little too much detail too early. Although I think maybe Cerebus calls him out by the end of this issue which is really convenient because all of the facts Dave lays out can't be trusted. Also, Cerebus might realize he's not talking to the real Po during this "Mind Game." Po definitely makes a mistake at some point and Cerebus calls him on it.

Ultimately, Po doesn't reveal much as he's mostly just trying to get information from Cerebus. Why? Probably because he's a hermit monk sitting in a dark room somewhere in Iest spending all of his time meditating and drinking psychedelic tea. But Cerebus, while speaking with Po, does seem to start planning for a future that's more than just drinking and playing Diamondback. Like maybe getting a little power in the Tarimite Church so he can declare drinking and gambling forms of worshiping Tarim.

And then Cerebus wakes up leaving Po alone in the Eighth Sphere.

The letters in Aardvark Comments praise both Cerebus and Elfquest but probably Elfquest a bit more, as it should be.

Cerebus #28 Rating: B. I probably ate this stuff up when I first read the book. "Ooh! Back story! History! Philosophical factions and religion!" But now I read it and think, "Pooh. Po isn't as funny as the McGrew brothers."

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XXIX.II

Slothrop arrives in Zürich looking for Waxwing's next contact. He finds him but he's just a lead to the next contact whom Slothrop can find in one of three possible cafes peddling the information Slothrop seeks. So Slothrop hunkers down in Zürich for a bit, alternating sitting at each of the three different coffee shops waiting for somebody to come by and give him some information on Jamf or Imipolex G.

Just as Slothrop meets a guy who informs him Jamf is dead but the company he works for, Sandoz, has files on him he can liberate for Slothrop for 500 Swiss Francs, Slothrop's paranoia begins to get the better of him. He's slipped from one of the cast of Asylum Keepers in an Asylum Nut almost as soon as he loses the confidence of his Zoot Suit which he sells for some quick cash. But then he sees a Rolls and remembers "Proverbs for Paranoids, 4: You hide, they seek." He ducks in an alley, figures They're onto him. He calls the hotel lobby he's staying at, asks if the Englishman in the lobby is still there and *WHAMMO* Englishman on the phone. Now he feels his paranoia has been confirmed, it just begins to escalate. Now he figures They know he knows They're here! Slothrop is quickly spiraling out of control.

Then the sausage of the chapter, simmering in fondue, takes place: Slothrop meets Squalidozzi, the Argentine revolutionary. He recognizes the same paranoid glances, the driving search for some kind of freedom, the need for a life not trapped within Their labyrinth. And they do talk of labyrinths! Of course they do! You can't have a novel most people would classify as postmodern without a nice long labyrinth passage. I mean, we've already discussed the minotaur with good old Pointsman!

Squalidozzi describes what's gone wrong in Argentina by describing how it used to be with the wide open pampas. But now it is all fences and streets and sewers and train tracks and labyrinths. And those are just the physical manifestations of its modern labyrinthine nature. He describes this in an effort to explain to Slothrop why he's come to Germany. Because now that the war is over, the boundaries and borders of the German states have all been blown open. It's like the pampas now! It's a new freedom and Squalidozzi thinks he and his fellow revolutionaries can make something of it from their stolen submarine.

Slothrop's argument against Squalidozzi is barbed wire. Barbed wire stretching out across the open plains, blocking it up with twists and turns of dangerous fencing . . . that's progress! That's a good thing! But Squalidozzi doesn't take this argument seriously, being poorly thought out and crazy. Nobody praises barbed wire except landlords!

"In ordinary times, [Squalidozzi] wants to explain, "the center always wins. Its power grows with time, and that can't be reversed, not by ordinary means. Decentralizing, back toward anarchism, needs extraordinary times . . . this War—this incredible War—just for the moment has wiped out the proliferation of little states that's prevailed in Germany for a thousand years. Wiped it clean. Opened it."

I'm currently reading Against the Day (One Line at a Time!) and this quote is nearly identical to thematic points I've made about the book. I don't mean identical in that I'm talking about Germany and World War II! But at least thematically consistent! I've noticed, in the first 36 pages of Against the Day, how much the book is about imperialism. It highlights the structure of the world and how white Western Civilization is the center. "Its power grows with time, and that can't be reversed, not by ordinary means." It's rare the event that can "decentralize it," perhaps driving it "back toward anarchism." In Against the Day, Pynchon chooses to use the Chicago World's Fair as a microcosm of the world with The White City at the center, surrounded by exhibits from various non-white countries. But each of those country's exhibits which Pynchon chooses to highlight is a reminder of a moment in time when the center was "decentralized." Except maybe the Donkey Show masquerading as a Reindeer Show!

Slothrop offers to help Squalidozzi get a message back to his compatriots in the submarine (currently off the coast of Spain) by delivering it to another agent since Squalidozzi is being watched. In exchange, Squalidozzi pays Slothrop enough to get him his Jamf information and to keep him fed for weeks.

Eventually (after some long bit about college and the clock tower and death manipulating reality to close in around him or some such something . . . it was really confusing!) Slothrop finds himself sleeping atop Jamf's grave in the mountains waiting for the packet of information on Jamf himself. It's on Jamf's grave that Slothrop feels something slip from him, perhaps he comes to terms with his past. Jamf is dead and his Revenant will not be stalking Slothrop. He seems more at ease and perhaps this is why this section of the book is about to end. One part of Slothrop's journey ends here. He has stopped chasing his past.

But then he reads the packet on Jamf and something else begins. Perhaps chasing his future now? The section (which is the penultimate section of the chapter and the last one Slothrop appears in, so basically the end of the chapter for Slothrop) ends on this ominous note: In the weeks ahead, in those very few moments he'll be allowed to wallow in his past, he may even have time to wish he hadn't read any of it. . . .

Too bad I don't remember enough details to speculate on that bit of worry!

Cerebus #27 (1981)

In this issue, Cerebus probably gets called an "idjit."

In my early twenties, my girlfriend at the time became annoyed with my use of the word "idjit." I declared it was a real word and she denied it. I asked her if she saw it in print, would she agree it's a real word and she said yes. My plan was to get Mark Evanier to publish a letter from me in Groo that used the word idjit. She probably wouldn't have accepted that as proof and also Mark Evanier probably would have thrown me under the bus instead of going along with me because isn't that the kind of thing Mark Evanier would do to a person trying to win an argument against their supposed loved one? Anyway, before I could write that letter, I remembered that the McGrew brothers used the word idjit all the time. I had my proof! The conclusion of the story? She would not accept Cerebus as proof of the legitimacy of the word either! And that's why we broke up.

No, that isn't why. But the real reason probably wasn't much better. We were in our early twenties! She probably had all kinds of ambitions and big out-of-state college plans and I just wanted to replay Ultima IV in my mother's basement while going to a local state school. You can see how incompatible we were, what with her zest for life and my longing to live in a fantasy world created by some guy who seriously answered to the name Lord British. Also her inability to see how playing sealed deck Magic the Gathering after sex was romantic was a huge flaw in her personality.

Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" gives some information on the Cerebus Fan Club and Newsletter as well as some other book Dave was going to publish later that year, Unique Stories. I think it was some kind of anthology book for independent writers and artists. Or maybe just artists and Dave was writing it? Apparently it wound up as a back-up feature which isn't surprising. Deni begins the Note saying how they didn't have time to do the newsletter or fan club and then ends the note saying they're going to publish another comic. Your readers can do math, Deni!

Replacing the Swords of Cerebus essay in this issue are sketches of the evolution of the McGrew brothers. Dave began by drawing them too cartoony then too realistic and finally the guys you see on the cover. Whatever Dave did to reach that point was perfect because they truly look incompetently threatening.

The first thing we learn in this issue is that there is a Lower Iest and a Greater Iest. So the classes get a nice physical barrier as a metaphor for how they're separated one from the other. Maybe it's also a metaphor for Cerebus moving into a position way above his stature. He begins at The Regency in Greater Iest but doesn't feel comfortable there so heads down to Lower Iest. But now he's no longer welcome there either! The local guards goad him back to Greater Iest and he, reluctantly, climbs the steps back up.

On his way back to the Regency, Cerebus is ambushed by the McGrew brothers, Dirty Fleagle and Dirty Drew. They're the two most low downiest rottenest scoundrels in all of Estarcion! Actually they're both just Yosemite Sam caricatures (which is really getting into some mirror facing mirror shit when you start caricaturing caricatures). They plan on kidnapping Cerebus and holding him for ransom, a plan that instantly goes in the bin as Cerebus easily beats them both up. They say "Ouchie!" a lot which proves how despicable and rotten and Yosemite Sam they are. But Cerebus likes their moxie and their idea! If he were kidnapped, he'd get some peace and quiet from the local guards trying to guard him and all the lobbyists trying to get to Lord Julius through him. Also he might be able to split the ransom with them.

Cerebus holes up in a tavern owned by a long time acquaintance and rewrites the McGrew ransom letter, signing it "The Eye of the Pyramid," the supposed rebellious group from Palnu that crashed the Festival of Petunias.

For readers as dumb as a McGrew brother, Cerebus explains the entire plan.

On the page following the scan from above, Dave Sim explains the rules of Diamondback. He doesn't do it within the story. He takes a moment to address the audience as himself, explaining how readers have been curious as to the rules of the game and how he was in the process of producing Diamondback decks for sale. Can this page be counted as one of the 6,000 pages of Cerebus? I think we have to rule it out. Did Dave account for that? Is Cerebus actually only 5,999 pages long?!

Cerebus spends a week playing Diamondback against the McGrews, turning them against each other, and just torturing them for the pure pleasure of it. When he hears the ransom has been delivered, he's gotten overconfident, thinking of these two animals as simpletons. He turns his back on them and they knock him unconscious, leaving him so they can go get the ransom themselves. Once again, Cerebus loses a fortune. Or maybe worse! Isn't he expected to repay this later in the series?!

Aardvark Comments is starting to fill up! It won't be long now before Dave Sim has ample opportunity to repeatedly piss off readers by answering their questions! It's still just barely two pages but I seem to remember it eventually growing to take up quite a bit of space at the back of each issue.

Cerebus #27 Rating: B+. Not a lot happens this issue but it's quite entertaining. One thing Dave is really good at is taking a few characters, locking them in a room together, and simply having a lot of wonderful dialogue fill up the pages. On the negative side, Cerebus never gets called an idjit. The McGrew brothers call each other idjit loads of times though!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cerebus #26 (1981)

Only forty more issues of furniture and curtains straight from Dave Sim's hand!

Dave Sim is my kind of artist. Imagine being hired to draw a comic book and being forced to draw everything in every scene. Now imagine owning the comic book and realizing about sixty issues in, "Hey! I can hire somebody to draw the stuff I don't like drawing!" I bet that was the main reason for the founding of Image Comics. I bet Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld were sitting around drawing capes and pouches and Liefeld was all, "Do you ever wish you could just stop drawing feet once and for all?" And McFarlane was all, "Just hide the feet behind the calf muscles." And Liefeld was all, "How the hell do you do that?" And then McFarlane showed him the picture of Spider-man he was working on where Spider-man looked like an M.C. Escher staircase. And then Liefeld was all, "How much time did you spend practicing drawing pretzels?" And then Erik Larsen, sitting nearby, was all, "Can you guys keep it down? I've got like 500 issues of Savage Dragon to plot out here!" Liefeld snorted and was all, "Is Jim Lee still out running chanting, 'Kirby. Kirby. Kirby'?" And Whilce Portacio was all, "Who am I? Why can't I remember who I am?!"

Ha ha! Man, Image Comics! What an adventure!

I don't know why I decided to bring up Gerhard when I'm only on Issue #26 and Gerhard doesn't appear until Issue #65. I think I was just surprised at how well Dave drew chairs and curtains. You sort of forget that he was pretty good at drawing scenery when he could be bothered. Another reason I probably brought up Gerhard is because one thing I remember about "High Society" was how much time Cerebus spends in a black void of a room with only the Regency Elf's boobs to light up the place.

I'm tired of telling you how bored these notes make me so here. Read it yourself.

Having run out of Swords of Cerebus essays, this Bi-weekly begins with a three page sketched out Howard the Duck story Dave wrote as a sample to possibly write Howard the Duck. He probably sketched three pictures too many because they just wanted him to write it. Here's Dave's story and a finished page of Howard the Duck art at A Moment of Cerebus.

Cerebus has come to Iest to sell the last of his treasures given to him by an artist as reparations for his Sump Thing putting his penis through Professor X's chest on its way to Woman-thing's vagina. Apparently the last hotel left with any vacancies is the high-end Regency, known for its snooty customer service and sneering contempt for barbarians. And probably racist attitudes toward aardvarks. Unless that's speciesest. It's hard to tell how to categorize an anthropomorphic aardvark.

The clerk never even looks at him. He must be judging Cerebus on the smell of his wet fur.

Luckily Cerebus constantly refers to himself in the third person so that the desk clerk can learn that this mud-covered angry barbarian is a person called Cerebus who apparently has a room already reserved for him. The desk clerk becomes extremely accommodating when he hears the name which should make Cerebus wary that he's about to become, once again, pulled into somebody else's harebrained scheme.

You know the clerk is thinking, "Why would anybody want to steal your sack full of dead squirrels and dirty loincloths?"

The clerk, not knowing that a wet Cerebus smells like a rotting whale stuffed with a rotting dolphin stuffed with a rotting tuna surrounded by Durian fruit, has drawn Cerebus a bath in his Regency suite. I imagine as soon as he slips in, the Regency will have to be evacuated, believing there to be some kind of chemical attack on the place.

Cerebus discovers that The Regency would like him to stay as their guest, meals included. He's grown suspicious but if it's free, he's willing to chance whatever shenanigans this all leads to.

I scanned this picture because it's the beginning of the other shoe dropping. But also because I really love the line "Cerebus is going to strip mine your face."

Lobbyist after lobbyist arrives at Cerebus's table giving him cheques to simply remember them and their product. Eventually, Cerebus tries to get to the bottom of it. Why is he so popular and what position is he in to help these people? A man named Scorz explains the entire thing to him: he (and all the others) are trying to get government contracts for their product with Lord Julius of Palnu. And since Palnu is a convoluted bureaucracy built so as to get nothing done at great expense, nobody has been able to get their ideas to Lord Julius. But now everybody suddenly has access to the famous Cerebus the Aardvark, Lord Julius's Kitchen Staff Supervisor! They've all spent so much money trying to get to Lord Julius, what's a few hundred more gold crowns to be able to speak to what basically amounts to his right hand man?

Cerebus learns, while trying to get into a brawl, that he's completely under the city's protection, being a ranking diplomat from a southern state. Not being able to get into some violent fisticuffs puts Cerebus into a bad mood, even though he's now flush with cash and has access to all the free alcohol he wants. He's suddenly found himself in a new world where violence isn't the first resort. Up until now, Cerebus probably hated dealing with magic the most. Now he's about to learn politics is worse.

Aardark Comment includes one long letter with one long response from Dave. It might be essential reading for people used to "comic book continuity." Dave tries to explain his continuity and how it works. He's got a whole world developing here and it doesn't all revolve around Cerebus. Things happen when Cerebus is around and they continue to happen when Cerebus wanders off to find more gold and alcohol. But we see the majority of the world through Cerebus's eyes (and in those cases where we glimpse things happening of which Cerebus is not aware, they have direct impacts on Cerebus's life). So if Cerebus falls unconscious because he's drugged and then wakes up in a foreign city weeks later, how is the reader supposed to know what happened? We're in the same boat as Cerebus! If he doesn't know, why should we? It's almost as if Dave Sim is telling this reader, Fred Patten, that he's simply going to have to get used to not knowing all of the answers immediately. He's going to have to change his perspective from the Marvel/DC style of a "six issue story" that basically encapsulates everything you need to know within those six issues and open his mind to the idea of a "three hundred issue story" that encapsulates everything you need to know within those three hundred pages. You still won't know everything you want to know though! That's kind of how life works! We don't get all the answers so why would Cerebus? Or why would people observing Cerebus?! Get over it, Fred!

Cerebus #26 Rating: A. A nice story about Cerebus's transition from the barbarian world to the "civilized" world. Try as he might, Cerebus cannot satisfy his need for violence. It's a new world where conflicts play out differently. Oh, sure, there will be violence but it's called assassination now! And it's done by bodyguards and mercenaries! Even with all the money and alcohol coming his way, he's probably not going to stay satisfied for long. Time for Cerebus to start learning about true power.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Cerebus Bi-weekly Special from November 24, 1989

This one isn't numbered because it contains stories that didn't appear in the monthly series.

Frank Thorne died a few days ago. Seeing as how much influence he had on the early days of Cerebus, I just thought I should acknowledge it. So, there you go. Acknowledged. I hope somebody cares enough to acknowledge my death this dispassionately some day.

The inside cover of this issue. Rather than list the stories and where they were first published, we get a self-portrait of Dave Sim sipping coffee and wearing his sweater made out of small animal vaginas.

The first story is "Magiking" and it appeared in the pages of Swords of Cerebus Volume 4. I don't think I've ever read this because I only purchased the first three Swords of Cerebus volumes before I discovered the Cerebus phone books.

This story probably takes place around Cerebus #13, "Black Magiking." Necross the Mad was the evil magiking. This story is about the good one. Who may or may not be mad.

Cerebus wakes up falling onto a chessboard floating in space. A wizard that appears somewhat as crazy as Necross the Mad materializes and begins researching Aardvarks. Apparently they're not beasties but something else entirely. An aardvark is a magnifying lense to increase the power of magic. That's why so much weird magic crap happens around Cerebus. He's just going about his business of trying to get rich and drunk but not laid for some reason (maybe because Dave Sim wasn't trying to write Heavy Metal) when he stumbles into magic trouble. Will the series be more understandable with this knowledge? Not that it was hard to understand before. But some weird shit does go down around Cerebus. Now I can just chalk it up to "aardvark magic magnification powers."

This seems familiar. Maybe I have read it. Maybe in Cerebus Zero or Cerebus Jam or Cerebus GamJam I.

The next story is "Silverspoon" which appeared serialized in Comic Buyer's Guide. This story takes place between Cerebus #13 and Cerebus #14 as Cerebus travels from Lower Felda to Palnu with Lord Silverspoon, Lord Julius's son. I think it's a Prince Valiant parody but it's hard to say because Prince Valiant bored the shit out of me and even though I read it because I was a funny papers completionist, I was usually thinking of other things as I did.

This Prince Valiant parody was so spot on that I was completely bored and was thinking about Scarsdale Vibe from Against the Day the entire time.

Without the Swords of Cerebus essay and the lack of letters pages, Dave had room for four pages of "The Single Page" this issue. I liked this one:

I'm not rating this issue because I don't know what to call it. Plus I wasn't expecting it. No wait, I will give it a short review: I would have been somewhat upset if I'd purchased this issue as part of the bi-weekly run, mostly because of the dumb Lord Silverspoon story. But since it was just thrown in extra on my eBay purchase of Cerebus Bi-weekly issues 1-25, I didn't mind it at all. It was a diversion. Is that compliment? No? Whatever.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Cerebus #25 (1981)

Is "Giant-sized Woman-Thing" as funny as "Giant-sized Man-Thing"? What about "Giant-sized Child Thing"?

For those wondering, judging by the length of time between posts, if I'll keep doing these Cerebus "reviews" (inverted commas to represent that they are, at the most charitable of descriptions, negligibly reviews), don't worry (or do worry if you were wondering in the hopes I'd stop): I just purchased the "High Society" Bi-weekly issues on eBay. I've also got the "Church & State" bi-weekly issues but I think those only cover Volume One. I don't know what I'll do after that. If I have to, I'll resort to reading them online but I'd rather have a fungible copy in hand (while technically an unneeded adjective in this case, I need to get "fungible" and "non-fungible" into my vocabulary if I'm ever going to become an Internet hipster millionaire without any ethics at all (Goals!)). Maybe I should start reviewing the smell of each comic since that's a big part of the experience, especially buying the comics off of eBay.

For maybe the first time in 25 issues, Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" actually says something other than "You should read this issue!" or "We apologize for the late publication date" or "Dave may or may not have had a mental breakdown due to the pressures of self-publishing and taking too much LSD." Hmm, I wish "A Note from the Publisher" had ever been as interesting as I just made it out to be. But this one is like a mini-essay on Cerebus and being Canadian! She throws in some really good evidence like "If you read Cerebus carefully, you will see that he too is a survivor." That's to prove that he's Canadian because Canadians are survivors unlike all those other stupid nationalities that love to run over the edges of cliffs on any day of the week ending in "day." People usually say "any day of the week ending in 'y'" but I decided to make the saying even more stupid.

I'm usually pretty hard on Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" because it's boring information in the Bi-weekly format. I'm sure it was quite helpful in the early days of Cerebus to know about publishing delays and the other multiple independent publishing problems that caused concern. It might even be not boring and useful for readers who aren't cynical bastards like me. Maybe I should stop being such a dick and try to see the world through a more positive and rosy lens! Maybe I've already started because, as I said, this was Deni's best note yet! It made me stand up and yell, "Yay, Canada!" Although who doesn't daily stand up and yell "Yay, Canada!" simply as a thank you for the original Degrassi Junior High?

Dave Sim continues his essay from last issue about getting drunk with some Americans in Canada and going back to a hotel room with a loaded gun. The drunk friends don't really figure into the story. It's really a story about Dave and guns and Canada and mortality and John Lennon. It's his "this is where I was when I heard the news" story. And it almost feels like I can grasp a bit of Dave's eventual religious thinking in this story. At one point he does say, "Okay, God. I get the message. No gun." But that almost seems like the atheist's version of using God as a figure of speech. He may as well have said, "Okay, Universe. I get the message. No God." I mean "No gun." Anyway, there's definitely a thread of schizophrenic thinking which is maybe appropriate since he evokes "Strawberry Fields Forever" which evokes LSD (and I don't know the history of that song at all so I'm just speculating here having listened to it and loved it and loved LSD) which evokes schizophrenic thinking. What I mean to say is that he's receiving messages from the universe that he instantly applies to his current internal monologue, not as "Oh, I can use this experience to help me negotiate the logic of my current problem" but as "Oh, my internal monologue has affected the world surrounding me and caused it to reply in kind, to suggest to me answers to my current dilemma."

Is Dave Sim schizophrenic or schizoaffective? Probably not. But his manner of thinking displayed in both his fictional and personal writing definitely leaves some room for a reader to believe that interpretation. Just like I wouldn't claim he's a misogynist but I understand why so many people might reach that conclusion. If my blog were more famous, I'm sure I'd run the gamut of weird reader interpretations as well based on loads of things I've written in whimsical or facetious states of mind. A lot of what Dave Sim winds up writing in Cerebus could be interpreted as simply science fiction in a fantasy setting. He's just taking modern problems and ideas and exploding them to test how current modes of thinking might fall out under different societal pressures. A lot of what's coming up could be slapped with a Philip K. Dick credit and I don't think a lot of people would question it.

Still funny in a The Family Guy keep the joke going way too long kind of funny (which isn't really funny) or not? I guess not since the first choice I already declared not funny, I guess.

I think the Blank Page gag was good at three times. But I think Dave also needed the fourth just to make sure the gag had definitely run its course. And maybe it was funnier when buying this comic book every two weeks?! I may just be experiencing the timing of it incorrectly.

And on to the story!

Cerebus has decided to hang around with Professor Charles X. Claremont on his mission to summon the Apocalypse Beast (also known as Woman-Thing) to end the world. Professor X learned the spell to destroy the world from a book of children's fairy tales written by Suenteus Po. I can't quite remember what, ultimately, Suenteus Po's philosophical beliefs are. I believe the Suenteus Po Cerebus spoke with in his drug coma turns out not to be the real Po. That one was just one of many people pretending to be Po to live lives of drug-laced hedonistic pleasure. The actual Po plays chess or something and is an aardvark. He may or may not be a nihilist but this evidence that he created a spell to end the world suggests he might be. We'll discover all that later! For now, let's get back to this story which, I believe, ends in the first death by fucking in any comic book ever (unless Robert Crumb did it first. I would not be surprised. Probably some tiny main character crushed to death in the thick legs of some monstrous beauty).

"Whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-thing" was the slogan of Marvel's original creation.

Professor X explains that his Woman-thing isn't the first Apocalypse Beast. As he pointed out to Cerebus, the first one destroyed everybody who knew nothing. That's a pretty scary word to fill in because what's the cut off of knowing nothing?! Would my 7th grade report on glaciers be enough to keep me from burning?! Hmm, probably not because I copied it verbatim from an old encyclopedia.

One of the masters of the Apocalypse Beast chose the word "me" to finish the spell. That seems like a dick move. Professor X has chosen Marvel's word: fear. He figures it'll be a pretty good feedback loop to kill nearly everybody. First the fearful then those with fear induced by seeing the fearful killed and so on. I guess it's a good plan if your stupid good plan is for human genocide.

Professor X and Cerebus, on their way to destroy everybody, come across an enormous castle from the "Black Tower Dynasty." I'm not sure what that is but could it have something to do with a previous ascension?

The black rocks the castle is built upon contain faces much like the black tower that grows and launches Cerebus into his ascension.

Professor X's plan to take over the tower is to lure the owner to Woman-thing which the sight of will frighten him so badly that he'll burn. Except the owner of the castle isn't afraid of Woman-thing at all. He's mesmerized by the workmanship and artistry. The owner of the castle is an artist and/or pornographer. Sure his paintings have loads of female nudity but they're in service to a greater message about humanity's struggle with its own existence!

Sim's jokes are a good gauge for reader maturity.

If you love the first 25 issues the best, you're a randy teenager enjoying all the boob jokes and violence. If you love the next 25 of "High Society," you're probably in college raging against the political system. If you find the next sixty "Church & State" issues the funniest, you're humor is balanced by having become dispossessed with the status quo meanings of life and the terrible ennui of religious dogma. If "Jaka's Story" is your favorite, you're showing definite signs of becoming a fully mature adult, mostly because you put up with all those stupid words with so many fewer pictures. If you find "Melmoth" funny, you've gone too far into "maturity" and entered "diagnoses psychosis." If you find "Mothers & Daughters" hilarious, you probably hate your mother. If you've been reading Cerebus since you were a randy teenager, by the time you get along to "Guys," you're probably going through a second childhood or a midlife crisis which makes "Guys" just as funny as you remember the first 25 issues being. Finding "Rick's Story" funny means you've never been successful at love and I pity you (although I'd never say that because saying "I pity you" to somebody's face is possibly the worst thing you can do. I'd rather look somebody in the eyes just before sliding a dagger into their belly). I've only read "Going Home," "Form and Void," "Latter Days," and "The Last Day" the one time so I can't remember what kind of sense of humor you need to find those funny. I think you need to love Hemingway, hate Fitzgerald, love the Three Stooges, and love/hate Woody Allen to get any laughs out of those. You might also find them super funny if you think women ruin everything. I'm not saying Dave is a misogynist, remember, but, hoo boy these last few stories don't help!

In one of the artist's paintings, Professor X recognizes Lord Roth-Sump's Thing. Ha ha. Get it? The Sump Thing? Swamp Thing?! Try to, I say, try to keep up!

Dave Sim understands he's writing for people who don't always get the first, subtle joke so he makes sure to bold face it later for them.

I don't know who would be reading Cerebus who didn't have a comprehensive knowledge of mainstream comic books but if those people existed, I'm sure they could get a little chuckle out of an Apocalypse Beast called a "Something."

After bringing Sump Thing to life, the two Apocalypse Beasts begin wrestling with each other with Professor X caught between them. Eventually they fuck and Professor X is little more than love juice. The artist feels so guilty about the death of Cerebus's friend that he gives Cerebus eight bags of gold and several other treasures. By the end of Issue #25, Cerebus is, once again, loaded. By the beginning of the next issue, you'd expect him to be drunk and broke again. But I think this time, he's drunk and living in the Regency Hotel in Iest.

Except I'm reading the Bi-weekly issues of Cerebus so there's a bonus issue first! We'll get to that next time.

The Single Page features an Eddie Campbell comic and some other person's work with ugly men and beautiful women. Unless the women aren't supposed to be beautiful and I'm just easily aroused. Um, engorged. Er, amused?

Cerebus #25 Rating: A. This issue is really good because it gets us one issue closer to the Regency Elf. It also features a person smashed between two monsters fucking. Not on panel, of course! This isn't Heavy Metal! It's also the end of what could be the First Age of Cerebus. These were his barbarian years, his wanderer years, his meeting a bunch of random characters, getting rich, and drinking away his loot years. For better or worse, Cerebus becomes a little more sophisticated in the upcoming issues.

Friday, March 5, 2021

I don't know how to do this anymore.