Sunday, 26 April 2015

Cerebus: In My Life - Anthony Kuchar

Anthony Kuchar is a 22 year old student living in Ontario, Canada, who likes movies, comics and theatre, and has ambitions to participate in the arts in the future.

A Moment Of Cerebus:
How did you discover Cerebus, and for how long did you read if for?

Anthony Kuchar:
I’ve been reading Cerebus for around 9 years or so. Which, in Cerebus time (30 plus years) is not a long time. I first encountered Dave's work in a copy of Church & State II I found in the discount bin at Mostly Comics in St. Catharines. Up until that point, my major exposure to comics had been old Marvel and DC comics form the 80s and Japanese Manga in the form of Shonen Jump. Previously, I had read the black and white reprint of Steve Gerber's Howard The Duck run and it pulled me right in to the concept of a funny animal in a mans world.

Over the next year or so I made my way around southern Ontario from the Silver Snail to Stratford picking up his books. I was able to pick up books 1-6 by the time I entered University for Dramatic Arts 5 years ago.

I finally got The Last Day back during last Christmas (2014). So I decided for my New Years resolution I would read one volume a month (or so, the Mothers & Daughters books are slimmer and I figure I could read two in a month).

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

Cerebus in my mind is the high watermark for what comics as a medium can achieve. Not only is the story epic in scope (attempting to tell the life story of a single individual), but it's an also deeply personal work that is being told by one author with minimal editorial interference to make it more commercial or easily accessible. It's totally, unashamedly a product of comics.

In my life, its lead me to pursue comics as a hobby/passion, and most recently I have teamed up with a comic artist friend of mine to create comics of our own. We will be exhibiting it at the upcoming Niagara Falls Comic-Con. Dave Sim is directly responsible for this.

What is your favourite scene or sequence from Cerebus?

My favourite sequence in the comic would have to be from the transition from the trial of Astoria (C&S II) to Cerebus's first ascension, when he smashes through the glass window. There's something so dynamic and powerful about that image that gets me to this day with its raw machismo. Every man wants to rip off the monkey suit and jump out the window at some point in their life!

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

This is a difficult one. In a way I try to recommend Cerebus to others, seeing as it is my personal favourite comic. But at the same time Cerebus is a very acquired taste. As that essay in The Comics Journal #301 (Irredeemable: Dave Sim's Cerebus by Tim Kreider) pointed out there are a few very big issues with Cerebus as a whole that keep it from being part of the 'canon' of "Graphic Novels". For one thing, it’s an extremely lopsided work in terms of quality. The first book is very off-putting (with the amateur art) and people only look at book one and go "uh, no way. I’m not sticking around for 15 more books of this". Then the problem is one it gets really good (C&SII to Minds), it starts to veer off into Dave's really unfiltered side. Which is good, to a point. But after issue 200 to about 290, the epic narrative of Cerebus, 'Ascension', Cirin, Jaka, Suentious Po and Astoria is dropped is almost a 300 issue "Dave's Soapbox" style book where he just starts inserting random plots about Cerebus as a bartender/boyfriend to Jaka, Dave's religious conversion, and allegories using stand-ins for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who aren't nearly as entertaining or interesting as the Oscar Wilde one was in Jaka's Story and Melmoth.

Also, and I don't mean to knock Dave, but Dave Sim and Cerebus are as inseparable as The Holy Trinity. You can't just say to people, "Well I know you might not like Dave Sim's views on gender, politics or whatever, but it doesn’t come through in his work." If you did, you would be deceiving them. Cerebus (especially the later books) is a niche (comic readers) of a niche (more artsy/challenging comic readers) of a niche (who are also sympathetic to Dave Sim) market.

As well, Dave and Gerhard's style of art (highly detailed) is out of vogue with modern popular graphic novels that focus more on abstract or expressionistic styles (Persepolis, MAUS, The Sculptor).

I don’t know if the audience for Cerebus is out there yet. Maybe they haven't been born? I don't know anybody else my age (I'm 22) who even knows about Cerebus and any story you have to start of describing as "It's sort of like Conan with Howard the Duck" is going to have a tough run of it.

8 comments:

Jeff Seiler seilerjeff said...

Wow.

Just...

wow.

What's the saying...?

"Craven youth"?

"I don't know if the audience for Cerebus is out there yet."

Says young Mr.Kuchar.

Andrew?

Glad you found us, sorta.

We're the audience that has been around, in various forms, for, varying by the individual members of that audience, roughly 38 years.

But, WELCOME!!!

To you, a new member of the third generation of fans of Cerebus, the longest sustained graphic novel in North American comics history.

Please, stick around.

If you like what you've seen so far, wait til you get to, say, "Guys".

Heh.

You're gonna have a lot of fun...

if you can stomach the ride...

Travis Pelkie said...

Now now, Jeff, we can't expect all youths to be as enlightened as the rest of us. At least he's reading the book and (I think) trying to spread the word. It's just that it is hard to get people to look at the book because for many, the obstacles of a) don't (necessarily) start at the beginning and b) keep an open mind about Dave's viewpoints can be insurmountable.

In other words, Cerebus is too refined and sophisticated for some rooms, no?

At least I'm not the youngest one here now. Sometimes it felt that way, and I'm in my mid-30s, man!

Jeff Seiler said...

Travis, I would give young Mr. Whatsisname a pass, but anyone who is a fan, a serious fan, of comics should have already learned about Cerebus and Sim. And, now, Sim has Atwal and me trying to take him into, belatedly, the digital age.

See next Friday's Weekly Update...

Meanwhile, there is the next craven youth's post...

Anonymous said...

In all fairness the young man does have a point.

Sure, Cerebus has an audience, but it doesn't have a mass market audience for a lot of reasons. Now that there would be more acceptance for his advances in story and technique (large text blocks, literary criticism, and the like), he alienated the mass market due to his opinions and also how he chooses to deal with the criticism, like the petition. And the end of the epic is quite frankly something that even many hardcore fans find tiresome, such as the Torah commentaries, or the very pretentious new creation story with the ludicrous footnotes, followed by the comments where he is petulant that scientists didn't fall over themselves in amazement over his new "theory". Something like that was destined to only be niche, as Kuchar said.

While I still love the work as a whole, I completely understand when others can't be bothered to fight their way through it.

Tony Dunlop said...

OK Jeff, we'll get off your damn lawn! :-D

Jeff Seiler seilerjeff said...

Hey! You kids!

Get your grubby paws offa my phone books!

Travis Pelkie said...

What's a phone book, grandpa? ;)

Eddie said...

For some reason I'm really perversely fascinated by Carl Smith and his accounts on twitter as he discovers / makes his way through Cerebus. I don't know why. Maybe it's because he's a dead milkman fan and seems like he would fit right in as a Cerebus reader.