Thursday, 27 February 2014

Pulling Back The Curtain

Cerebus #200 (November 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Following Cerebus #12, August 2011) of the key turning points in the Cerebus storyline was where Dave shows himself drawing the Cerebus comic. He pulls back the curtain -- I think it's in Minds -- he pulls back the curtain, and you see Dave drawing the comic you're now reading. John and I talked about this for hours, beyond whatever we ended up writing. That's a key narrative shift which neither of us was really happy with...

...This is an overused term, but it's a very postmodern thing to do. You're being reminded that you're reading a comic book, and part of the fun of getting lost in fiction, is that just for a while you can become lost in that fiction. You don't have Tolkien coming in saying, "By the way, this is just a story about hobbits and orcs." You get lost in that world. And that had happened in the first hundred, hundred-fifty issues of Cerebus, whatever, and Dave reminds you that you're sitting there reading a comic book and he's drawn it for you, and it's like "I know that, but I don't want to be reminded of it when I'm reading the story." And once that shift happened, all of the real-world stuff from Dave was necessarily a part of the comic because he brought it in, and while on an intellectual level I understand what he was doing, and on an intellectual level it was completely brilliant, on a fun, fiction reading level, I'm going, "Oh man, did you really have to do that?"...

...And then there's the whole section of the story in which Cerebus is talking to Dave. Okay, it's an analogy: Cerebus has a creator, Dave has a creator. I could see it on an intellectual level; I just didn't enjoy it. I don't like it when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby popped up in Fantastic Four comics, or Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were in Spider-Man. It was a silly kind of thing there. But I still thought, "You people can't resist putting yourselves into the stories!"


Paul Sade said...

From Wikipedia's account of the classic 1953 WB short Duck Amuck:

"Daffy finally snaps and angrily demands that the animator reveal himself. The animator draws a door in front of him and closes it on him, then the camera draws back to reveal that the animator is Bugs Bunny at a drawing table, who says to the camera, 'Ain't I a stinker?'"

On one level, I always thought this sequence was Dave's tribute to that cartoon - Earth Pig Amuck, if you like.

David Birdsong said...

What is brilliant on this page is how Dave's actions (eating the carrot) starts off the page and then moves onto the page. Cerebus falls (something fell) from panel one onto the page in the next two panels. It is a absolute merging of both worlds, but it's still just a comic book page. What would have been very interesting to see would have been if Gerhard had taken a picture of Dave working on this page and put it on the back cover. it continues on the next page (285) as well. Dave turns to the reader and thumbs back at Cerebus and says, "Whatta maroon." The page on the right of his drawing board has changed to become the exact page we are looking at. It reminds me of the cover of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. The image repeats itself over and over into infinity. Like Craig Miller I was also a bit uncomfortable at first, but looking at it now I'm thinking it is one of the more brilliant sequences of comic art I have ever seen.

P.S. Looking down at the words I have to type into the little box to prove I'm not a robot unveils yet another moment of what Dave calls Comic Book Metaphysics: the first word is what Dave likes to call most married and in-a-relationship men... "domiciled"

Anonymous said...

Ah, but Tolkein does interrupt at one point in The Hobbit. During Bilbo and Gollum's riddle contest, Tolkein reminds us that while we probably figured out the answer to Gollum's riddle by now and were wondering why Bilbo was having trouble, we are likely comfortable in our chair but the same can't be said for Bilbo.