Monday, May 17, 2021

Justice League International #11 (1988)

This issue: the Justice League go undercover as Galactus's cock.

It took me way too long to think up a masturbation joke for the cover that I was satisfied with and yet this one still has so many flaws. Like, why would Galactus be in a DC comic book? And why would he mistake a bunch of Justice Leaguer's miming his cock for his penis when he wants to jerk off? So many questions!

The main problem with this version of the Justice League, a version I truly enjoyed when I was a teenager, is that Max Lord is their main enemy. I'm all for stories having twists but you never need the "member of the team turns out to be their villainous foe and betrays them" story arc. The only reason it's a thing is because it's an easy twist if you want to make the audience's jaws drop as they slowly mutter, "Whaaaaaaaaat?" But it rarely ever helps the story. Plus, super hero stories are supposed to be about heroes being heroic and inspiring the world while also saving the world. Who wants to read a story where they're simply all the time saving themselves?! It's annoying. It's why I hate The Joker. Nobody from the last two generations (maybe three!) can even remember a Joker story where the Joker wasn't doing evil fucked up shit expressly to fuck with Batman. If I lived in Gotham, by the eighteenth Joker attack on the city (every one simply to fuck with Batman), I might think about starting a petition to ask Batman to move to Metropolis.

I just finished Jupiter's Legacy on Netflix and it suffers from this Max Lord betrays the group syndrome. Up until the last episode, the conflict is based in the philosophy of ethics between members, and between the older generation and the younger generation. The seemingly main source of conflict is between the way the Utopian thinks heroes should help the world and the way Sky Fox thinks heroes should help the world. In the end, both of them are actually trying to help the world. The conflict is only in degrees and the stubbornness of various men thinking their ideas need to be listened to without any questions. The show ramps up some of the physical conflict with villains, causing a bunch of heroes to die, so that a lot of heroes begin questioning the way they do their job. But ultimately, if the conflict is between Sky Fox wanting to intervene more in non-super affairs and Utopian wanting to stay out of them, the writers (or just Mark Millar? I never read the entire series) realized there wasn't enough meaty tension on that bone. What's going to happen? The Utopian and Sky Fox are going to slowly escalate their voices at each other in a coffee shop in Paris about whose philosophy should be followed? Not good enough! So in the last episode, surprise! One of the Union was betraying them all! What a shock! What a twist! What a needless and stupid moment. The story was so much better when Walt was who we'd been shown he was, and was growing in the way he seemed to be growing. But no. Instead of Walt thinking, "You know what? This works! I'm glad I changed! I'm glad I became a better man!", he was apparently thinking over his entire long life, "I'm going to fuck up these fucking fuckers for not listening to me and shit! Oh boy will I get them good in like 100 years! Idiots!"

Seriously. The story would have been so much better if the interpersonal relationships were worked on and resolved rather than having one of them simply enact their violent revenge plan. But what did I expect?! It was written by Mark Millar, the guy who blocked me on Twitter for saying that his writing suffered when nobody was being decapitated. And yet, look at Jupiter's Legacy?! The writing was actually better until he decided he needed a bunch of decapitations. Man, that guy needs to figure some shit out.

A bunch of office nerds at DC decided this guy was so cool he should be a major DC villain.

What made Max Lord so attractive as the big twist villain to editors, I'm guessing, is that readers didn't care enough about him to suspect he'd be more than some bureaucratic asshole. The editors were right!

Max Lord has called a meeting of all the really powerful super heroes who recently teamed up with the Justice League International to destroy Manhunter World. But when he learns none of them want to join the team (or were available for Keith and J.M. to use in their comic), he flips the fuck out and calls the other members of the Justice League "weak-kneed second-stringers." That seems unfair, especially when he's yelling it in the faces of Captain Atom and Martian Manhunter, two of DC's most powerful heroes. Although they are sort of second-stringers, popularity-wise, right? And maybe they have weak knees.

No, no. I just looked them both up in Who's Who and no mention of weak knees as flaws.

Even if you take out Captain Atom and Martian Manhunter, you still have Batman and Guy Gardner. In whose book are they weak kneed or second stringed? He must just really be angry about having Booster Gold and Blue Beetle on his team.

See? Batman's A-list material. Would a weak-kneed, second-stringer have the balls to commit a 9/11?

The building doesn't collapse when Blue Beetle flies the S.T.A.R. Labs ship into it which, I'm pretty sure, is proof that 9/11 was an inside job. Or it just means S.T.A.R. Labs makes a sturdy ship and whoever rents to Max Lord makes a sturdy building. It also shows how Batman thinks he can do whatever he wants which totally exposes him as a rich bastard. Nobody would think Batman's secret identity was some working class jerk after this arrogant and nonchalant display of vandalism. You can tell he's previously paid for this kind of damage without second guessing what kind of trouble he might get into, probably on his last date.

The Justice League have flown into Max Lord's office tower to rescue him, J'onn, and Captain Atom. Some mechanical entity has taken over the building and is trying to kill them. Or maybe it's just pretending because it might be Brother Eye who is in cahoots with Maxwell Lord (unless it's a different robot. All the various DC Universes from the past forty years have all become mixed up together in my memory). I think it's all part of some huge con so Max Lord can eventually put a bullet into Blue Beetle's brain. Which seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through to kill Blue Beetle. I think I could have managed it in three issues.

Guy Gardner kills the power to the building so that Max can explain what's happening without all the toasters and microwaves and wiring trying to kill them. Max tells some sob story about some robot hacking his email or something, and Batman is all, "That sounds like The Construct, an old foe of the JLA!" But then Batman also says, "Max's story doesn't ring true! He's lying about something! It's probably not the Construct at all!" Batman hates being wrong so he just spitballs every theory he can think of. He then finishes by listing all the other characters he can think of. "It's probably Joker! Or it's probably Lex Luthor! Or it's probably Metron!" After the battle, nobody remembers the things he got wrong because he keeps saying, "Remember how I said it wasn't really The Construct? Remember that. Remember I said it was Metron? I said that before the mission. It was a really smart thing I thought of and then said. Does anybody know the smartest type of bat because that's probably the one I modeled myself on."

This computer is sneakier than my old Vic-20.

The person the computer is greeting is Metron and it calls him master. Which means this is a computer from Apokolips (or New Genesis). Metron notices it seems to have a new smell of sentience whiffing about it but he's interrupted by the Construct crashing through the wall before he can investigate. That's because this is all part of the computer's plan to free itself from Metron's (or New Genesis's (or Apokolips's)) control. It lured the Justice League and Metron to the same place so that they'll fight and the Justice League will destroy Metron. But that won't happen because Metron has to live for another twenty years so that Batman can sit on his chair and ask the most important question in the universe: "Who is the Joker?!"

The fight doesn't take place in this issue because that might make it too exciting. The Justice League already fought sentient wires and a giant robot. Readers might lose their minds if they also fight a guy in a La-Z-Boy recliner.

Letters this month were from Chris Valin of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Jim Ficken of Wrenshall, Minnesota, Bill Behrens of Chicago, Illinois, Ron Edwards of Chicago as well, Gerry Van Booven of Lawrence, Kansas, Erich Mees of Dunwoody, Georgia, and Jimmie Moss of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Out of seven letters, not one of them praised letterer Bob Lappan. Maybe that's why he's been replaced by letterer John Workman this issue! Eep!

Justice League International #11 Rating: C. The banter, which was probably a strong point for most people who loved this comic back in the day (and a weak point for people who hated it), has started to get out of control. It's like DeMatteis and Giffen just gives anybody on panel some stupid line to use on anybody else on panel, every panel. It's a little much, especially when Batman begins to get in on it (although Batman likes to think his stupid comments. It's too embarrassing otherwise). I also didn't care for the plot. I'm never fond of villains (in this case, a computer) attacking the super hero team directly. And so far in this comic book, that's mostly what we've seen. Let super hero teams defend the world rather than constantly defending themselves! I know it's much easier to just have the villain attack the heroes because then you don't have to think up a crime for the bad guys nor a way for the good guys to catch wind of the crime (other than passing by a shop window with a television playing a breaking news alert).

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Justice League International #10 (1988)

This cover looks like somebody has just tossed a handful of their action figures across the room.

Don't look at Arisia's titties on that cover because those are underage titties, you pervert. At least I think they are. Maybe they became older after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Or younger? Anyway, I guess if you're around fourteen, you can look at her titties. Unless it's okay to look at her titties if you're twenty-eight, according to her explanation why Hal should be able to fuck her because her planet takes twice as long to orbit its star. But she's still a teenager by her cultural standards so, well . . . I don't know! Remember how Deathstroke fucked a teenager?! What was wrong with DC?! Or is wrong with them! Because remember how Batman fucks Batgirl in The Killing Joke movie?!

That's probably enough about Arisia's tits. At least they distracted me from her tentative or sarcastic "Oh yay" pose and her Sean Astin looks.

Since the last issue, a lot has happened over in the pages of Millennium. But I don't know what that was because I don't know where my Millennium comic books are. Whatever events took place, they brought the Justice League International to a small rock orbiting a strange pink and blue planet, the homeworld of the Manhunters! They're all old and new members of the highest tier (aside from the Hawkpeople. Why bring the Hawkpeople into space? Are aliens particularly vulnerable to medieval melee weapons?).

He's probably wondering how his head remains on fire in space.

Firestorm takes off on his own and Superman is all, "I'll get him back! I always have to do everything. Especially in space. I sure miss being on Earth when we get The Flash to do everything because it seems so quick to all of us although, relatively, he still has to live through all the shit we make him do. I bet it's all so tedious for his super fast mind! Ha ha! What a jerk!" But Captain Atom reminds Superman that he has to remain behind and do all of the work for the others. So Captain Atom flies off to hunt down Firestorm. Hawkman is all, "Hey! Remember how the old days were better?!" Martian Manhunter responds, "I hate you." No, no. That was me. I responded to Hawkman like that. Sorry.

Whatever happens with Captain Atom and Firestorm takes place in Firestorm #68 which I definitely never purchased because I hated the idea of a grown ass man living inside the head of some teenager. That's almost as creepy as Hal Jordan fucking underage aliens.

I guess J'onn dislikes Hawkman as much as I do. While he didn't say what I said he said, he probably thought, "Hawkman sucks. Why is he here? On a space mission? Idiot." I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been a thought bubble containing that sentiment with little bubbles linking it to everybody's heads, even Hawkwoman's.

I should probably warn new readers now that I'll be discussing Arisia's titties more than the actual plot. But when I do, remember that it's not actually me making the comments but a fourteen year old character I created for this review. He's a total horndog who loves fourteen year olds' boobies. Eventually, he'll grow into an old man who still loves them and frankly I find that disgusting. But he's supposed to be disgusting because I wrote him that way and didn't base him on personal experience.

Also, Arisia is a fictional character. Calm the fuck down.

Forget Arisia's boobies. The real star of this issue is Martian Manhunter's disdain for Hawkman.

Arisia asks Dr. Fate why they can't destroy all the Manhunters with a wave of their magic wand and I find the question rude and distasteful. Why can't she get rid of the Manhunters with a wave of her magic ring?! Yeah, because it doesn't work like that, right? I mean, unless the particular writer of the particular story feels the particular moment is particularly right for it. But at this time, it's not! Doctor Fate isn't as powerful as they used to be when they were a he. It probably had something to do with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Whenever I'm speculating on DC Comics history from the eighties, I always just assume Crisis was the cause.

When the Justice League heads to the surface of the Manhunter Homeworld, they discover everything is yellow, even the particulates in the air. That means, in 1988, the Green Lanterns were useless on this planet. "More useless than Doctor Fate," as it turns out. That's pretty fucking useless judging by Doctor Fate's monthly comic book sales.

Superman recognizes a man-made planet when he sees one and digs down beneath the surface and into the inner workings of the clockwork planet. J'onn and Arisia are all, "What style! What panache! Bravo!" But Hawkman is all:

To be fair to Hawkman (for once in my life), Mr. Rogers was pretty theatrical. I mean, he took off his cardigan and shoes when he got home only to put on a different cardigan and different shoes!

Martian Manhunter lays down the Manhunting logic once Superman realizes the planet is a clockwork: "The whole planet is a machine! It makes sense—a machine race would come from a machine world!" It's the Martian version of "I was just about to suggest that!"

It's a good thing Twitter didn't exist in '88 or the account "Arisia's Tits" would have tweeted out this great idea to thousands of supervillains (who follow her for her witty takes on breakfast foods and not her top-down angled pics while wearing low cut Green Lantern uniforms).

Hawkman has another line of dialogue which means he pisses off yet another one of his group: Katma Tui. Hawkman is like the one conservative friend who hangs out with the liberal group who doesn't realize everybody despises him because of his shitty attitude and uncompassionate philosophy and the amount of times he laughs at people with disabilities. But everybody sort of likes having him hang around so they can be a little bit of a prick at times while still thinking, "At least I'm not as bad as Hawkman!"

There's not a trace of the Manhunters but G'nort shows up because the first rule of Giffen/DeMatteis Club is "G'nort rules." The second rule is "Guy Gardner must be a gigantic asshole." The third rule is "No rules parodying Fight Club." The first rule isn't a rule but it has the word "rules" in it so I think it still qualifies as a "rule."

Nowadays, people would respond to this panel with "Nice!" But I'm Gen X so I read it and think, "69 dude! *loads of guitar noises*".

Martian Manhunter asks, "Who is this mighty Green Lantern? I must get to know him and be polite and become friends with him!" But Hal Jordan is, and these are his exact words because he's a fucking asshole, "Idiot. The word you're looking for is idiot!" Fuck, dude. I can't believe I thought Hawkman was the prick on the team. I completely forgot about Hal.

Maybe it's assholes like Hal Jordan and Hawkman that people are thinking about when they say comics should return to the good old days. "Remember when heroes were also white male assholes? Oh, what a time to be alive!" Although that's pretty rich coming from me, a huge fan of Guy Gardner, the greatest white male asshole to ever white or male or asshole. I also loved Lobo, who was Latino.

This is like when you're playing a team game online with strangers and some toxic asshole, out of nowhere with no context and no justification, just begins blaming their team falling behind on one player. Everybody else, just happy they weren't singled out, decides to agree with the toxic guy, just to save their own skin. "Whew, at least Hal Jordan isn't calling me the yo-yo this mission! That fucking G'nort! What a yo-yo!"

Even Martian Manhunter becomes short-tempered with G'nort after listening to Hal's gossip. I hope G'nort saves the day and everybody has to wind up kissing his ring.

You know which ring I mean.

Doctor Fate detects an intelligence a few chambers away so the Justice League charge in only to find about five million Manhunters all jammed elbow to asshole into a great big yellow ballroom. Why are they there rather than spread out throughout the world? I guess because it's a diabolical trap? Or maybe the Justice League just happened to interrupt Manhunter prom.

I guess the Green Lantern rings still work underground and Hawkman just ran into a ghost with a boner.

Arisia isn't present because she's making some kind of distraction so the Justice League can get the jump on the Manhunters. It works and the Justice League destroy the Manhunters in about three pages. But Doctor Fate still senses an intelligence somewhere deeper in the complex! Time to find out what's behind it all! But first, some creepiness!

"Here I am—big as life and twice as cute and half your age!"

The Justice League find the Manhunter birthing chamber where the Highmaster, mother to all Manhunters, programs all the new baby Manhunters to commit evil and degenerate acts across the universe. Superman burns them all in their cribs before they can wake up. Is he a monster? Probably. I'm sure future Manhunters will grow up with some kind I am Legend myth about the evil man in red and blue who massacred a whole generation.

Even coming from an evil being, you never really want to have this accusation thrown your way.

Mother Highmaster Manhunter flees the world which is only being held together by her power. So now the entire thing is going to shake apart before the Justice League can escape. I bet those fuckers don't even try to find G'nort to warn him. Thankfully, Arisia's tits remember the poor guy.

The entire planet is yellow, Hal. You know that. You just want to see him dead, you jackass.

G'nort is nowhere to be found because he wasn't really important to the plot. Giffen and DeMatteis just wanted to make fun of him. Or maybe they just wanted to make Hal Jordan look bad as Hal Jordan disparaged the poor guy. Although I have to admit, any writer worth their salt would know to make Hal Jordan look like a cocky prick acting like the popular asshole in some John Hughes movie picking on the geeks and the nerds.

There's a back-up story hardly worth mentioning except to mention I'm not going to mention it.

This month we see letters from Chris Garcia of Satellite Beach, Florida, Steve Hockensmith, Leo Whitman of Gainesville, Florida, Donnie Matthews of Ararat, Virginia, Jody Hamby of Robbins, Tennessee, John Andrew Lay of Romulus, Michigan, and John Lim of Concord, California. Letterer Bob Lappan gets one compliment across the seven letters. Not too bad (for a letterer).

Justice League International #10 Rating: B. This was a pretty decent team interaction issue, possibly better than most of the others. Maybe that's because Booster Gold and Blue Beetle were left back on Earth, replaced by Arisia and Katma Tui and Superman and Hal Jordan and Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Not a silly asshole in the bunch! Also, for a story that I haven't been following, having no clue in which comic book box my Millennium books are stored, it wasn't too hard to follow! I mean, I guess it's not like Millennium was a complex story. Some aliens infiltrated Earth and were trying to take it over. Now the heroes have to kill their robot children and destroy their homeworld. Easy peasy! Great job, you monsters!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Cerebus #34 (1982)

This cover is a commentary on how money is imaginary.

Not only are Elrod and money imaginary, but society itself is a concept sprung forth from the imagination of mankind. And yet people treat every aspect of civilization as if it's some kind of natural physical law of the universe. People constantly argue about how something in society can't be accomplished simply because it's not the way we've always done things, as if the way we've always done things wasn't once somebody's imaginary thought of a way to make life better. So now we live in a civilization where everything is half-assed because nobody wants to start over from scratch on any civilized concept even when it's apparent things have changed so much that an old way of doing something doesn't make any sense anymore. We just keep building new additions to existing structures built on ancient foundations instead of scrapping the entire thing to build a new, modern foundation for our civilization's imaginary structures. I'm being general because what I'm talking about is fucking everything. Everybody is attached to tradition and old legal documents as if things don't change, usually for the better. So instead of changing things to make modern life better, we simply argue about what minor changes we can make to the existing, ramshackle structure so that it still sort of works like the old, incompetent way but makes a bit of room for modern thinking.

A good example of what I'm talking about is the constitution of the United States and maybe also The Bible. People worship that shit as if its immutable. Who wants to live their life following rules people made up two hundred or two thousand years ago?! Times have moved on, baby! Maybe you should too!

The problem with my philosophy is that I'm all for burning everything to the ground and starting over. Although I'd be happy simply with the burning everything to the ground part. Let the new generation rebuild things in their image while the older generations just take the rest of their life off. I don't get why older people have such a stake in reality when they aren't going to have to worry about the future. Let it go, old people! What are you trying to prove?!

Speaking of things that eventually burned to the ground, Dave Sim was married to Deni Loubert who writes "A Note from the Publisher" every issue. I wonder if the "Note" keeps up long enough to start being filled with marriage problem subtext? I hope so!

Deni's "Note" mentions a back-up story, "The Salamanders," written by Brent Alan Richardson which appeared in the back of Cerebus #32 and Cerebus #33.

The art was fun and the story passable.

I had been thinking that these Bi-weekly issues were a perfectly adequate stand-in for the regular issues. But now I have to question my entire experience! Not only did I miss this feature in Issue #32, I missed the entire ballot for David Craven's little comics award ceremony. His letter about the ceremony was reprinted in the Cerebus Bi-weekly reprint of Issue #32 but not the ballot! I guess that makes sense but it's still material I missed out on. Maybe I didn't need to buy all these Cerebus Bi-weeklies! I should have just been reading them online.

No, no! I'd rather hold the comics in my hand as I read them. Also, it feels too much like pirating if I read them for free online and I'm not a pirate. At least not anymore. The last thing I pirated was either a copy of Karateka for the Apple IIe or a Monkees song from Napster. Being that I have a pretty good concept of time and technology, I'm putting my money on the Napster thing. I don't mind reading the Cerebus issues online once I get to the place where I began collecting them myself at the beginning of Mothers & Daughters. Or maybe a little earlier since I did buy all the Phone Books and I doubt I'll cheaply find the second half of Church & State, Melmoth, and Jaka's Story. I offered to trade my Walking Dead #1 for a complete run of Cerebus on Twitter a while back but nobody took me up on the offer. Maybe expecting early Cerebus issues in that trade was too much to hope for. How about this? I'll trade my copy of Walking Dead #1 for Cerebus #81-300! Deal?

Dave Sim's "Notebook" feature has lots of practice drawings of Elrod because the last time Dave drew him, Dave's style was still coming along. High Society is where he really solidifies his style. He then begins to perfect it after partnering with Gerhard who takes away Dave's distraction of having to choose between drawing immersive backgrounds or inking all the panels black.

This issue (titled "Three Days Before" which might make a reader ask, "Before what?!" But since this totally imaginary reader is reading a comic book that means it's unlikely they have any friends to answer them. That's a stereotypical and mean thing to say because I remember when I was reading comic books, I had at least one friend with whom we discussed Guy Gardner #19 at length about how terrible it was. Also, the clerks at the comic book store would probably have been my friends if I could stand being around them longer than the time it took for them to ring me up (Dammit! There I go again! I actually liked all of my comic book clerks at all of my various comic book shops across the years! One guy, Jeff at Brian's Books in Santa Clara, even held a copy of the Death of Superman issue for me when I never even asked him to!) begins with Elrod greeting Cerebus by calling him his "old friend," just in case the reader couldn't remember just exactly how clueless Elrod was.

Cerebus knocks him out as quickly as possible. It's a smart attempt at making his life easier. I've suggested before (I know he can't hear me but that doesn't stop me talking to Cerebus while reading the comic) that he should kill everybody he meets if he wants a less complicated life. This move where he knocks Elrod out almost immediately is a step in the right direction.

Elrod's stay doesn't last long.

I say Elrod's stay doesn't last long but he's a Looney Tunes character so he'll turn up again in a few pages with some ridiculous story about waking up on a barge and, worried that Cerebus might also have had some dangerously mysterious abduction as well, found his way back to the Regency to check up on him.

After ditching Elrod, Cerebus discovers another old "friend" has arrived: Bran Macmufin. He's ditched the loincloth for a nice tailored jacket, waistcoat, and trousers. But he hasn't ditched the Earth Pig prophecies. He still thinks Cerebus is going to start a new and better age, "better" being quite subjective, depending on how enjoyable you found Latter Days.

I love that Dave has had Cerebus recognize that all the people who enter into his life just make his life more complicated. I believe he realized it after not killing the Cootie after which the Cootie squashed some members of the Church of Tarim's inquisition.

Elrod is waiting for Cerebus in his room, soaking wet, returning as quickly and mysteriously as a Looney Tunes character would return. He attempts to murder him by throwing him out of the window (finally! Some sense!) but Moon Roach shows up to threaten Cerebus too. The Roach plans on killing anybody in Iest who plans on helping Cerebus. It's going to be a bloodbath if Astoria doesn't rein this guy in.

Cerebus is about to throw in the towel in the face of completely incompetent adversity when Elrod gives Cerebus the current state of politics in Iest: apparently the Church backs Cerebus's tariffs position and the Inquisition has lost power. Elrod claims, "If that old bug wants to kill all of your supporters, he'll have to line 'em up and use a semi-automatic cross-bow, son." That's called foreshadowing!

Astoria pops in on Elrod and Cerebus causing Cerebus to try to figure out how to explain being friends with such an incompetent and embarrassing character.

I suddenly don't think Astoria is as smart as I'd previously believed.

Cerebus, trying not to cause any trouble for Astoria, causes trouble for Astoria. Although it's really just manufactured trouble so that Astoria can belittle him and make him think he needs her. Everything is actually going pretty smoothly for Astoria until Elrod gives her the invitation to Petuniacon in three days which is where Lord Julius plans to announce Elrod as his new Ranking Diplomatic Representative. If Cerebus loses that position, he's useless to Astoria.

"Aardvark Comments" has letters from Steve Englehart (Oakland, CA), Dick Glass (Santa Monica, CA), John Wilcox (Westport, CT), Richard McEnroe (Staten Island, NY), Dennis Summers (East Lansing, MI), Randy Saba (Studio City, CA), and David Stallman (Rocklin, CA). And, yes, it's that Steve Englehart.

Cerebus #34 Rating: A-. I just threw the minus in there to make it look like I'm actually putting effort into the nuance of graded ratings. I'm not, actually. I'm just enjoying reading Cerebus again.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Cerebus #33 (1981)

Thirty-three issues in and while Dave has done a lot of innovative things, he's still not ballsy enough to leave all that negative space and clumsily sticks the word "Friction" on there.

Comic book nerds have a huge blind spot when it comes to seeing the ridiculousness of the things they'll readily accept versus the things they complain and moan about in their comic book stories. Sure, the occasional comic book nerd will make a lame joke about it, just to show they "get" how frivolous the entire thing is. But that lame joke doesn't explain away the ten paragraph rant they'll mail to a comic book writer who makes a continuity error or has Batman tell a story about a time, early in his career, when he basically pissed himself. If I were Dave Sim, I never would have cracked to the people demanding to know what happened to Cerebus between being drugged by the Cirinists (or were they Kevillists?) and waking up in Beduin. I would have taken a hard-line stance and just said, "Cerebus doesn't know what happened so why do you think you should get to know?" Especially now that Moon Roach is running around town with gigantic stone crescent moons and smashing people to death under them. How does he carry them across rooftops? How does nobody see him coming? Where does he get them? Is there a giant crescent moon tchotchoke shop? Aardvark Comments had better be full of angry readers asking about the Moon Roach giant crescent moon debacle for the next few months!

I'm sure the reason fans get angry at the missing plot points and not at fantastic things like the giant crescent moon murder spree is because asking questions about the former can be phrased so that you sound like an intellectual critic pointing out the flaws in plot resolution by a professional writer but seriously pointing out the flaws of a ridiculous parody character just makes you sound like a loon. But I say you look like a loon demanding answers from any artist! Just absorb their shit, man. Don't try to change it or influence it or shit all over it (at least try not to directly shit in the artist's mouth, at least. By all means, write critiques of art! Just don't send those critiques directly to the artist. Or do?! I don't have a dog in this fight! Oh man. I hope I don't get yelled at by some twelve year old on the Internet for using a dog fighting idiom!).

Hopefully I don't have to now defend the last ten years of my life writing critiques of comic books and complaining like a raving lunatic about terrible plot resolutions by terrible writers exactly like the bit where Cerebus somehow escapes from the Cirinists. That's a defense I've tried my best to avoid while reading DC's The New 52 because it always felt like a magician revealing a magic trick. My critiques of comic books were always hyperbolic, satirical examples of comic book nerd-dom. Sure, I began the blog rather earnestly, enjoying reading every comic published by DC each month, exactly like I'd dreamed of doing when I was a kid but couldn't afford it. But part of the fun was transmogrifying into a cynical, angry monster because the dream turned so sour so quickly due to DC hiring so many terrible writers and artists for their project. Some fans would get angry when I trashed their favorite characters but if they couldn't see that I was trashing the writing and art because they were disrespecting those characters they loved, I wasn't about to show them my mirrors and secret compartments. I refused to break character to explain reality to them. I mean, sometimes I did. And sometimes I let readers influence how I approached my reviews, which I'm absolutely regretful for. I lost a lot of whimsy in the later years because some readers were so serious about it. Hopefully, I'm learning to get that back. I liked what I did for the last Cerebus "review" and hope I'm getting back on track.

Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" ends like all of her Notes do: like a tween signing off at the end of a note passed to a friend in study hall. "So you gonna meet us under the bleachers to smoke some grass? Guess I should wrap this up and get to work! Mr. Gary's such a hard ass. Ha ha! J/K." If any pop culture historians are reading this, the style and content of that fictional note I just wrote probably dates my junior high school years exactly.

Dave Sim's "Notebooks" mentions strong acid and Wendy Pini so it's possibly a succinct summation of my teenage years. It also mentions Cerebus peeing in the sink but I'd like you all to know that that isn't anything like my teenage years at all. Or my adult years.

Last issue ended with Moon Roach busting in on Astoria trying to fuck Cerebus. Now Astoria has to reassert control of the Roach before he destroys their entire moneymaking enterprise. This time she's gone a bit too far, what with her trying to shove Cerebus's dick into various openings on her body, and it takes her most heroic effort to calm Moon Roach down. And just as her manipulations begin to work, Cerebus throws a great big Estarcionian wrench into her gears.

Cerebus doesn't even want to fuck Astoria. He just wants to fuck with the Roach.

Astoria manages to get rid of the Roach and then gets to work on Cerebus. And while he's easily controlled in certain ways (usually concerning money and alcohol), Cerebus seems immune to Astoria's manipulations. Later, she'll learn what works against him and use it to the best of her abilities, even if that means goading him into raping her. But at the moment, she doesn't quite seem to know how to get her hooks into him.

Astoria's a great character. It's just a shame that, considering all of Dave's subsequent essays and/or responses to letters in the back of the comic concerning women and relationships, she seems more of a terrible stereotype than a fully realized character.

Meanwhile, The Regency Elf has begun her campaign of vengeance against Cerebus. Her first attack is putting graffiti in the Regency's public bathroom declaring that Cerebus pees in the sink. She's obviously more diabolical than anybody could have thought. The hotel manager seems to think nobody will believe the graffiti but I'm not sure if he's noticed that Cerebus often doesn't wear pants. If he doesn't know what pants are, why wouldn't it be possible to imagine he doesn't know the difference between a toilet and a sink?

Moon Roach goes off Astoria's script and begins squishing people he's not supposed to squish. But knowing Astoria, she'll probably turn it to her advantage. The Elf begins writing Cerebus wee-wee notes all over town. And then Elrod arrives on the scene looking for his pal in the bunny suit.

Cerebus #33 Rating: B. Sometimes twenty pages by Dave Sim go by so quickly, it hardly seems the plot has moved ahead at all. Of course, as long as Dave is writing funny sketches with his various characters, I don't really care about the plot. The plot in this issue simply involves The Roach getting jealous of Astoria and Cerebus's relationship causing him to begin killing whomever he wants (in this case, the governor of the legislature). But that's pretty much all that happened. The real meat of the issue is The Regency Elf smearing Cerebus's name all over Iest with rumors that he pisses in the sink. I'm pretty sure Cerebus's pissing rumor has as many pages devoted to it as there are pages devoted to Astoria's plans with Moon Roach going awry. Plus that extra page where Elrod shows up, just in case any readers thought Cerebus's life wasn't getting complicated enough. Except there's actually more going on here. Think about those pages with just the Moon Roach, off on his own, pouting and jealous. It's not the first time we've had pages of story devoted to other characters alone but it's significantly different. Let me try to explain.

In my last entry, I mentioned how I felt Issue #32 felt like the true beginning of Cerebus, the place were Dave Sim's vision of the entirety of the book came into focus. Something had clicked with the introduction of Astoria, and showing her power over Moon Roach. We'd seen it before with Weisshaupt and his manipulation of the Roach and his attempt to draw Cerebus into his world. That story was like a microcosm of High Society, so in a way, it was a precursor to Issue #32 and what Cerebus would eventually become. It's sort of the shadow of Dave Sim's intent; a dark, vague shape of Dave's ultimate vision, not yet even clear enough for Dave to see yet. But last issue, it all began to clarify. And then this issue does something that's never really happened in prior issues: we watch another character doing his own thing separate from Cerebus's world and Cerebus's plot. Previously, we get moments where an antagonist is watching Cerebus from afar, as in the early issue with Death and his gem. We get some moments with Elrod on his adventure with the Cerebus like-a-look but, being that Elrod thinks he's with Cerebus, it's just part of Cerebus's treasure hunt in the Black Sun Temple. During the war against Palnu issues, we have a few cutaway scenes where we see Lord Julius making his plans. But those moments feel, if anything, more like when Cerebus early on had the occasional omniscient narrator. It's just a few pages of Lord Julius reacting to Cerebus's plans to advance on Palnu and a place for Dave to do some more Marx Brothers parody. But here in this issue, for the first time in thirty-three issues, we have Dave Sim taking a character out on his own, showing his own agency and living his own story. Sure, he's reacting to Cerebus's plans and life, just as everybody else before this. But it's also something new, as we see Moon Roach actively deciding to do his own thing, separate from Astoria and Cerebus's plans.

What we have this issue is the world of Cerebus opening up to encompass the entire cast. Perhaps what we're seeing here is Dave's first realization that he can do a story like Melmoth or Jaka's Story, where Cerebus can take a back seat to somebody else's story. For just a few scant pages, we get to be a character's life that is tearing away from Cerebus's arc. Moon Roach's scene doesn't lead into a scene with Cerebus. It's pure Moon Roach and his crazy. It's Moon Roach's story alone. And it only lasts a few pages but it's definitely something new to Dave's story telling. I don't know how much more of this we'll see coming up in High Society. Like the Weisshaupt story being the shadowy precursor to the real beginnings of Dave's epic, High Society, the Lord Julius scenes were kind of the precursor to Moon Roach escaping Cerebus's orbit, if only slightly, to show that Dave's story can open up into other non-Cerebus-related vistas.

Or maybe I'm just reading too much into Dave wanting to write a few insane rambling Moon Roach monologues that end in Moon Roach punching himself in the face.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Cerebus #32 (1981)

This cover's vibe: "Rain" by Concrete Blonde if it were a rap song.

Scanning the cover, I noticed the top bank draught is from Lord Tynsdale and apparently my brain still retains some connections between various neurons because it made me remember the panel where Cerebus's tail explodes out of the front of his pants causing Lady Tynsdale to blush. Or faint. Or orgasm. I don't remember which one of those but we all know which one it isn't but which I hope it is.

Deni decided to go with a full page "A Note from the Publisher" this issue which I think is a bold move. I'm a huge proponent of writing huge amounts of text when you know nobody is reading. It makes it easier to confess your darkest secrets between immature jokes about Batgirl's butthole (sexy) and serious conversations about the state of law enforcement in America (terrible). It's Internet camouflage.

Deni begins "This issue I'm having a bit of trouble trying to write this note to you." She then goes on to have no trouble writing a full page note. I'm eager to discover what she found to talk about! I bet it has something to do with publishing problems and Dave's crushing schedule!

Deni discusses the Diamondback Deck they sold, ways for fans to find out where Cerebus is being sold, and the new volume of Swords of Cerebus coming out which includes the story "What Happened Between Issues 20 and 21." On the latter topic, Deni writes, "Since everyone was asking Dave that question, it seemed obvious that he would have to answer it sooner than he had planned." I don't know if it was "obvious" that he had to tell it. My guess is that Dave was just sick of all the super continuity nerds inundating him with mail saying, "You suck at plotting comic books. I thought you were good at it and then you didn't provide linear narrative between two issues, ending a story with a gimmick instead of a nifty resolution that blew my nerd mind. I will not rest until you rectify this situation and give me answers I don't actually deserve." I often think that Twitter caused the ruination of artistic entertainment because it allowed fans too much access to creators. But I guess, at least in the comic book world, fans were demanding this kind of bullshit service from creators for decades. I bet years later, Dave would regret doing this story, just as creators have often regretted issuing a quick apology to fans over some stupid drama, simply to quell the mob. I bet Sir Gerrick would have been more important if he'd been allowed to appear in the plot on Dave's time.

Deni ends the Note with two exclamation points which is exactly two exclamation points too many.

Dave's part of the introduction to each Bi-weekly installment has become more boring than Deni's Note. It's just a bunch of sketches, mostly of Moon Roach and Artemis Strong (Moon Roach's secret identity). I guess that section is more for the artists reading Cerebus. I'm not an artist; I'm just a dumb ass.

As this issue begins, we find Cerebus with a serious problem on his hands: floofy hair. Oh, also, Holland, who had just cancelled Iest's debt to his company, was murdered followed by two Tarimite inquisitors who were questioning Cerebus, at the time of the murder, about Holland's murder. That's probably the problem I should have led with.

No truer words have been spoken than when Cerebus says he needs something more effective than the truth.

Before I get into my review or commentary or memoir or whatever the fuck this is I'm doing, I'd like to ask that you not look at The Regency Elf's butt like that. She's my fictional hump mistress. You can go jerk off to Scarlet Widow or Lois Big-Titties or whatever.

After the public murders of the people I mentioned previously (quite public being that they were assassinated by having a giant stone crescent moon thrown on top of them), the Prime Minister of Iest is demanding that Cerebus either come up with Holland's contract of the debt cancellation (which could implicate him in Holland's death) or pay back the 12,000 gold crown ransom the city paid to free Cerebus. Cerebus has half an hour to come up with a scheme to get him out of this situation, preferably one that doesn't involve the Moon Roach and a giant stone moon and the Prime Minister. Although, I mean, maybe that would work?

Oh! Another plan would be for Cerebus to run against the Prime Minister, get elected, and cancel the debt to himself! Also he could get into bed with Astoria (so to speak) and she could do all the business stuff and make lots of money and unknowingly manipulate his life for her own ends. That one seems the easiest and the one I'd probably choose.

Astoria and Moon Roach show up, having broken into Cerebus's Regency Hotel Room, which is absolutely dark because either Cerebus doesn't own any candles, Cerebus doesn't know about the electric lights, or Dave Sim was tired of drawing wallpaper and non-essential furnishings. Astoria has a business proposition but Cerebus just wants to kill The Cockroach.

Maybe double exclamation points is a Canadian thing?

See? Look at that panel? How can Dave Sim be a misogynist when he seems to absolutely understand the difference in maturity levels between men and women?! Granted, this is one panel in 6000 pages of story so it might not be the best evidence to that argument.

Before discussing her business proposition, Astoria has to fix Cerebus's financial debt to Iest. She suggests he, being the Kitchen Staff Supervisor of Palnu (and you know how important that position is. Duh! Obviously), raise the tariff on Palnu goods imported into Iest by 3 percent. Right now I am nodding my head enthusiastically so that anybody looking at me would think I totally understood what that means.

I have an Uncle-in-law who is basically conservative but he understands the terrible things conservatives often think and so believes himself to be an intellectual centrist. One time, I mentioned how people with terrible politics don't like to discuss their politics and he was all, "But how does one decide what is terrible?" And I was all, "You get to decide." Then I clarified I wasn't being snarky but serious in the sense that we all need to, first and foremost, take care of our own mental health and if somebody is always espousing uncompassionate, selfish bullcrap as their politics, it seems right that you'd want less and less to do with them. His response to "terrible politics" was to try to discuss how one decides if tariffs are terrible being that he sees good reasons for both sides of the argument, depending on what each person's career demands. And I was like, "No, no. That's actual policy you're discussing! Nobody discusses actual policy! Stop being so rational when reading my hyperbolic tweets! You know I don't mean that people who believe tariffs should be decreased should just shut the fuck up because they're ruining Thanksgiving dinner!"

I mean, anybody discussing tariffs at Thanksgiving are ruining the dinner, really.

Astoria's plan gets the government off Cerebus's back which probably means it also gets the church off his back. And now Astoria is in a stronger negotiating place for her business proposition.

I always believe people who have lied to me continuously since I first met them when they say they're done lying. That's probably why my credit is so bad.

Astoria doesn't tell Cerebus her "business proposition" other than "You will become quite wealthy if you follow my lead and constantly obey me." She then allows him five questions. Is that a thing people really do? It seems better to just be all, "I'll tell you what I think you need to know when I think you need to know it." Or, "I'm not telling you anything. Just do what I say." I guess it's just a cool power play to be all, "I will answer five questions!" And then it's even better when they say something like, "Just five?" And you're all, "Yes, it's just an arbitrary number. You have four questions left!" My next job interview, I'm going to hand them my resume and say, "I will answer five questions. Choose wisely." I bet they'll be so impressed that their first question will be "How soon can you start?!"

Cerebus's second question (his first one was about an unknown door in his Regency Hotel room that he hadn't noticed before, probably because the room was so dark) is "Why did Lord Julius make me Kitchen Staff Supervisor?" Astoria doesn't know the exact answer to it but she can speculate on it, being that she's his ex-wife. I don't think Cerebus knows she's his ex-wife yet. He just realizes she knows quite a bit about local politics. Also, nobody really knows why Lord Julius does what he does, so why not get as many other opinions on it as Cerebus can? Astoria believes it's either a huge joke (only really funny to Lord Julius, like most of his jokes. I get that!) or Lord Julius really thought Cerebus would make a good apprentice to his absurdity. Astoria probably thinks it's a joke being that Lord Julius thinks some really damaging and insulting things can be seen as "jokes." See Jaka's Story for his terrible sense of humor.

This is a danger of bureaucracy that I never considered!

Astoria begins a letter writing campaign that causes envelopes filled with cash to be sent to Cerebus. His third question is "Am I rich yet?" That makes me think his fourth question will be "Am I drunk yet?" and his fifth question, having gotten quite drunk after the fourth one, will be "Am I rich yet?" Astoria doesn't answer if he's rich but just asks him how much money he wants. He asks for 1000 crowns and gets it. So I'd say he's rich. Although is he rich due to a Ponzi scheme? Probably.

Earlier in the comic (a week or two? a month?), Cerebus asked the Elf to leave so he could think. That's when Astoria arrived and he went into business with her. After Cerebus gets some money from Astoria, the Elf finally reappears with some news that would have been beneficial to Cerebus much earlier.

That'll teach Cerebus to dismiss his skeptical hallucination willy-nilly.

Earlier, Cerebus recounts a time in his life when he made an elf mad and lived to regret it. So he doesn't want to get mad at the Regency Elf even though she's put a damper on his enthusiasm for Astoria and her money making abilities. So he tries to hide his anger inside but then accidentally "sends" the angry message "You're only saying that because you think you're so hot!" to the Elf. "Sends" is Richard and Wendy Pini speak for telepathy. It's what Cerebus does with the Elf. You can tell because Dave uses the same "diamond on the forehead" image that is used in Elfquest.

I've been reading so much Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut since last August that I decided I needed to get back to reading pap fantasy garbage for a bit. Anything that I wouldn't have to think about. Which is odd because I began reading Gravity's Rainbow last summer because I'd read so much fantasy and sci-fi garbage for months that I needed something to really think about. Anyway, I restarted re-reading the Xanth novels I own. I was up to Isle of View which I'd forgotten all about. But apparently it has an elf character that transported to Xanth from the World of Two-Moons. So that's another thing I've been reading this month which has borrowed from Elfquest.

Anyway, Cerebus made the Elf mad so now she's probably going to make his life hell.

Cerebus receives a suspicious package and immediately throws it in the fire, assuming it's some terrible prank from the Elf. Immediately after receiving the package, the Inquisition arrives to search the hotel room for drugs. They find nothing because Cerebus was so paranoid. If I remember correctly, the drugs aren't from the Elf trying to get Cerebus in trouble. I think she pulls some really tame prank sometime later. But if it isn't the Elf, somebody is definitely trying to end Cerebus's influence on the Prime Minister.

While burning the drugs, Astoria gets high and randy. She begins trying to fuck Cerebus when the Moon Roach comes home. The Moon Roach thinks he's Astoria's boyfriend so he's a little bit angry about the whole attempted fucking thing. It's probably lucky for Cerebus that Moon Roach can't fit a giant stone crescent moon in through the window.

That's the cliffhanger ending of this issue! You know what would be a surprise twist next issue? If the Moon Roach wasn't mad at Cerebus honing in on his girl but was mad at Astoria for trying to rape somebody else!

I have no comments on Aardvark Comments. Or the Single Page. Thank you!

Cerebus #32 Rating: A. Cerebus's business deal with Astoria and Moon Roach really feel, to me, like the beginning of "how I define Cerebus." What I mean is that the first 25 issues feel like a starting point. They're consistent in what they do—fantasy and comic book parody—but they feel quite separated from the rest of Sim's 300 issue run. It isn't until High Society that Cerebus really begins to take on the uniform of the entire run. And even within High Society, it's not until this issue that I really feel Cerebus becoming the comic book I envision when I think of Cerebus. Is that understandable? I hope so because I don't want to become Getrude Stein in my harping on in slightly diminishing concentric logic circles while trying to explain exactly how I feel.