Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cerebus #20: Mind Game

Cerebus #20 (September 1980)
Cover Preliminary Sketch and Final Cover
Art by Dave Sim

Cerebus #20: Assembled Mind Game Montage
(click image to enlarge)

(from Reading Comics The Hard Way article, posted 20 August 2014)
...Cerebus has been drugged by the Cirinists ( an all-female cult whose apparent purpose is "to wipe out fun in our lifetime" ) and finds himself, or his consciousness, floating in the mystical realm of the Seventh Sphere, also the hangout of Illusionist guru and 182-year old hippie Suenteus Po. The aardvark plays the two cults off against each other in attempt to return to reality  -  although by the end of the issue he doesn't seem to have succeeded. This was all a fine introduction to Dave Sim's cantankerous, controversial character for me, and to Sim's mastery of witty dialogue and expressive cartooning. But ( there's always a "but", isn't there? ) the experimental storytelling caught me by surprise. The Seventh Sphere (which is the background for every scene ) is depicted as a black void with areas of "shimmering grey" and the only character visible throughout the story is Cerebus, manipulating the unseen cultists as he wanders through the darkness. The grey areas are actually a portrait of Cerebus, chopped up and spread throughout the 20 pages of story, with the smaller images of the aardvark pasted on top...

Dave Sim with the assembled Mind Game montage
Aardvarks Over UK Tour '93
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 4, 1983)
...The idea was inspired by Neal Adams' "hidden head" trick which (as far as I know)  he only did twice: once on a BEN CASEY Sunday page and once in a Deadman story in STRANGE ADVENTURES. The principle of the idea was that unrelated background and foreground elements make up the giant head. It's an exercise in the thinking side of drawing, since the initial layout has to be conformed to, and the composing elements must retain enough individual identity to still communicate the scene in each individual panel.

The very idea that someone who is basically just employed to communicate story elements in sequential pictures would walk that extra mile for the sake of artistic integrity impresses the hell out of me.

It also induces great guilt, which should not be discounted out of hand as a motivating factor.

Here I am, freed of all artistic constraints, my income being directly tied to the sales of the book I draw, and I haven't come up with a single idea like the "hidden-head page". That was when I decided to take it a step further and do a hidden full figure, life-size of Cerebus... Any way, Cerebus' mental acrobatics seemed like the best way to kick off the endless complications and intrigues to come. The Illusionists versus the Cirinists in Togith. Pictures within pictures illustrating the story within the story.

The title "Mind Game" was freely swiped from John Lennon's "Mind games" and is respectfully dedicated to his memory.


Jeff Seiler said...

Dunno whether that would make a good bonus print. I think the word balloons would be too small. Poster, yes, but expensive, for something that is quite clever but, as an assembled product, not all that appealing, visually.


MichaelVP said...

I actually bought the last page of this issue years ago from Dave Sim. The one of just Cerebus asleep in the black. It was the very first page of original art I ever got from him. Very very cool.

Paul Slade said...

Anyone know where we can see a similar assembly of the Neal Adams' pages Dave mentions?

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Following Cerebus #8 and #9 reproduce the two Neal Adams pages -- Strange Adventures #216 and the Ben Casey strip.

Jake Capps said...

Full size reproduction is the only way to go. Lets get this one done!

Sean R said...

Hey Michael!

We'd love a scan of your Mind Game page, or any other Cerebus original art page you have. Send us a message at cerebusarthunt at gmail and we'll get you the details :)



Paul Slade said...

"Following Cerebus #8 and #9 reproduce the two Neal Adams pages -- Strange Adventures #216 and the Ben Casey strip."

Thanks. I'm pretty sure I've got those issues of FC, so I'll have to try and dig them out.