This article is from the Dallas Morning News, Leisure section, dated September 4, 2004. I used to work for the Morning News, as a sportswriter, and I met the author of this article and told her about Cerebus. She took it from there:
Wrapping up his tale gutsy aardvark humble ends his 26-year run
By Aline McKenzie
It started out as a silly joke -- a black-and-white, crudely drawn comic book about a helmeted aardvark that was a barbarian hero.
Like Conan, he used his sword well, but had an additional weapon -- the "dreaded earth-pig snout punch!" Absurd, yes.
But the story of Cerebus, the ill-tempered aardvark, went on to make comics history, recently ending its 26-year run from late 1977 to become the longest graphic novel done by a single author.
“As far as I know, it’s the longest sustained narrative in human history,” says author Dave Sim, 48, who lives in Kitchener, Ontario. “One person, telling one story, for 26 years.”
Mr. Sim promised readers early on that the series would end at 300 issues, with Cerebus dying. “Alone. Unmourned. And unloved.”
And that’s exactly what happened. In the final pages, the aged Cerebus, incredibly wrinkled and creaking from pains throughout his body, dies not in battle, but in a fall from a stool.
“It’s sort of a downbeat ending, as promised,” says Craig Miller, 44, and Arlington editor [JS: RIP] who is co-producing Following Cerebus, a magazine of essays, interviews and analyses of Cerebus that began in August.
The story is entirely Mr. Sim’s, although at issue 65, he took on a collaborator who goes by the single name of Gerhard. He drew the often-elaborate backgrounds while Mr. Sim drew the characters.
The story spanned political and religious satire, parodies of other comics, anti-feminist treatises and, in later issues, extremely detailed religious analyses.
“It’s run the gamut of what you can do with a comic book,” says Barry Fuhrman, manager of Zeus Comics and Collectibles in Dallas.
Other single author/writer comics have had multiyear runs--the fantasy Bone by Jeff Smith recently wrapped up at 55 issues, while Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore is midstory at issue 67 and the samurai story Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai is at issue 78. The epic Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman, ran 76 issues, but had a variety of artists.
Mr. Sim created his own publishing company so he could write the story exactly as he pleased, without having to deal with anyone else’s vision.
“I was able to set my own course and try to measure up to what I thought the story could be,” he says.
In the adventures of Cerebus--the name came about when a then-girlfriend misspelled the name of the mythological dog Cerberus--the “earth-pig born” became Pope, a prime minister, a sports star, a lowly shepherd. He encountered characters based on Groucho and Chico Marx, Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and others.
Circulation peaked at about 100,000 readers, very respectable for a black-and-white comic, and Mr. Sim’s craftsmanship won critical approval.
“I’d have no trouble calling him one of the top 10 cartoonists on the North American continent today,” say Dirk Deppey, managing editor of The Comics Journal, which is about to publish six analytical essays about the work.
A first issue, which cost 50 cents to produce, was recently auctioned for $10,600 to raise money for a fund that helps comics creators in need.
Now that the opus is done, it will remain in print in collected paperbacks that fans call phone book, and Mr. Sim will begin cataloging his papers, to form an archive that he hopes will someday go to a university.
“The most difficult part was just the length of it,” he says. “No one knows when you start out on a 26-year marathon if you’re going to be able to complete the 26-year marathon.”