Saturday, 26 April 2014

Cerebus: In My Life - Greg Carlisle

In the final issue of Following Cerebus, Craig Miller wrote an article exploring similarities in the work of three Daves: Lynch, Sim, and Wallace. Greg Carlisle is the author of two books analyzing the work of David Foster Wallace -- Elegant Complexity and Nature's Nightmare -- both independently published by Sideshow Media Group, creators of music, film, books, and comics.

How did you discover Cerebus and for how long did you read it?

I remembered someone in my dorm at Mississippi State showing me Cerebus sixty-something back in 1984 and raving about it, but it wasn't until 1988 that, mesmerized by the cover, I bought Cerebus #114 (Jaka's Story #1) at the now defunct Tattooed Lady comic shop in Huntsville AL. I was immediately hooked, and then had the pleasure of starting from #1 because A-V started publishing the bi-weeklies. I bought or ordered back issues until I had everything back to #64 and didn't need the bi-weeklies anymore, and then I continued buying monthly to #300 from comic shops in Louisville (Great Escape) and Lexington (Comic Interlude). Prompted by my wife's initial Christmas gift of the first 5 trades, I collected all of those as well and reread them often. I just finished a reread of the complete run several months ago.

How has your own creativity/comic reading been influenced by Cerebus?

The epic scope of Cerebus raised the bar for my comics reading and helped lead me to encyclopedic novels like Ulysses and Wallace's Infinite Jest. My decision to discover and articulate the structural and thematic unity of Wallace's Infinite Jest (deemed a chaotic mess by early critics) in my book Elegant Complexity was bolstered by the Torah commentaries in Latter Days. The drive to complete such a difficult task and to even dream that it could be published was inspired by Sim's example. 
Cerebus #180 (March 1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
What is your favorite scene or sequence from Cerebus?

When I turned the page in Jaka's Story to the 2-page spread where Jaka discovers that the party is actually for Astoria, I actually gasped and dropped the book from my hands to my lap. Of course the biggest novels, Church & State and Mothers & Daughters, are my favorites. Of the multiple favorite sequences across the run, I guess I'll go with the fight in the throne room between Cirin and Cerebus for many reasons: the audacity of upending (and elevating) comic-book fight conventions by 1) slowing the fight down and focusing on one or two moments an issue, 2) interrupting the fight with long text-only narratives, 3) putting some of the fight into a 2-page sound effect (BANG), and 4) having the significance of the fight and its participants dwarfed by Gerhard's architectural grandeur and the vastness of space.

Would you recommend others to read Cerebus, and if so why?

Yes, unreservedly. No work expands the boundaries of the comic-book medium like Cerebus. Cerebus and Sim and Gerhard say to the comic-book creator: you can literally do anything you are inspired to do. One of the many innovations of Cerebus is the use of extreme, focused pacing to create storytelling tension unique to the comic-book medium: both in the frenetic, quick-cut juggling of story threads at the beginning of Mothers & Daughters and in the luxurious, cinematic pans at the end of Going Home and Latter Days. This is just one example of the innovative creativity throughout the entire run of Cerebus.


Keith said...

I love David Foster Wallace. I've often thought of Cerebus as an encyclopedic novel, along the same lines as Infinite Jest or Gravity's Rainbow.

Igor said...

Awesome!! Greg is a brilliant old friend and former bandmate from university, and his study of Infinite Jest is what lead me to David Foster Wallace in the first place!