Saturday, 7 July 2012

Comics I Read In The 1980s

(from The Comics Reporter, 15 June 2012)
I started buying Cerebus with issue #44, so that puts me in the eighth grade. That was an age when my older friends had begun to drive and we could take the occasional Saturdays an hour down the highway in Indianapolis. Most of what we did involved shopping. It may be hard for those of you 20 years younger than me to conceive of a time when you couldn't put hands on whatever you wanted given the resources (or the ability to circumvent), but in the 1970s through the early '90s there was a real sense that the cool stuff was being kept from you by geography. Some of my friends were heavy tabletop gamers (Arduin Grimoire, Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game) so there were gaming stores to visit. Everyone was interested in music and books so there were record stores and book stores to hit. Basically the comic shop was for me, although no one seemed to mind me darting inside. I can still remember where Cerebus was racked in that store. I can still remember the Bud Plant advertisement that had put the title on my radar, with Cerebus standing on someone.

I engaged with Cerebus as a straight-up fantasy with some humor elements as opposed to a satire with some dramatic elements, the latter being a way I've seen it approached in a number of old reviews. This was a handy construct with which to process the book right up through #150 or so when the gender politics started to be foregrounded a lot more. If one of fantasy's strengths is to portray clashing elements in grand, outsized terms by lining them up across from each other with swords, it seemed to me perfectly reasonable to use that tool to explore male/female relationships. That doesn't mean I was always on board with the content of what was portrayed -- I remember being deeply freaked out by some of the plot developments during my time reading the comic -- but Cerebus' artistic mission felt sound to me right up until the point in the mid-1990s when I phased out of reading the series.

Those first issues I read, though, particularly that initial rush of issues back to about #22 or so that I bought the very next time I hit Indianapolis, those were wonderful things to read at that age. They were funny, and pretty smart, and the execution was really accomplished in a lot of places, and the comedy was very sweet more than it wasn't and the whole thing was so, so, so comic books -- all the assumptions that other forms have to unpack, the presence that Dave Sim had throughout the book, the regularity with which it arrived in the shops, and so on. There are other comics through which my relationship with the art form changed, but the baseline interaction I had with comics generally, that was me and Cerebus

Tom Spurgeon is The Comics Reporter, providing you with daily comics news and reviews.

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