Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Jaka the Dancer

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

We've seen a bit of Notebook #10 before, most recently last August in "Notebook #10 Bits", but also in "Vacation Time: San Jose", "Jaka's Story" and "Jaka's Story (II)". Notebook #10 had 100 pages to begin with, and had 80 pages scanned. There were 6 total blank pages. It was labeled by Dave as issues 112/113, but also has some tidbits on Jaka's Story - him getting ready for it.

Like on page 29 where he has a listing of the different chapters in Jaka's Story and which issues will be a part of them. He also lists the characters in the story - Jaka, Rick, Cerebus, Oscar and Dan? Dan? Perhaps that is Pud before he was renamed Pud Withers.

Notebook #10, page 29
He also has a blurb on Jaka's Story:
Jaka is a single-minded dancer. She wants to be the center of attention. She was so close to being the absolute center as part of to Uncle Julius' family. Front row seat at the pageant. But she didn't want front row. She wanted to be in the pageant. And gradually the center of the pageant. And when she was seven there was no pageant. She became the pageant. At last there was the darkened Theatre of Palnu. Somehow there was a light that just shone on her. A circle of white large enough just to contain her and Magic, her horse. She wouldn't see the people but their applause was deafening. Like the first pageant she had attended when after the final prancing drill of a team of horses the thunderclap of the ovation had startled her. Thrilled her. Made her cry. When nurse had asked her what was wrong she had been unable to reply.


Jeff Seiler said...

Thanks, M! I think that this description of Jaka's nascent personality (which, of course, didn't make it into the book, as written) goes a long way towards illustrating just how much Cerebus and Jaka deserved each other (and not in a good way). On the one hand, you have a miserable little narcissistic misanthrope whose singular driving force in life is to achieve ultimate power and who, having done so, uses that power to attempt to force "the love of his life" to be his. On the other hand, you have an excessively spoiled princess with a sense of entitlement the extent of which boggles the mind who, even when she is forced by love to give up her life of luxury, still chooses a profession in which she will always be the center of attention, even though it is in open defiance of the laws of the land.

My last girlfriend, the crazy Canadian lady, once told me that she had once almost mailed a letter to Dave saying that she wanted to marry Cerebus. I asked why (!?!). "Because he's so cute and lovable", a not unshared sentiment from female readers over the years. I responded that Dave had specifically designed the character to be a miserable, insufferable little bastard who would eventually get everything he had coming to him, and more.


I've seen the same thing over the years from people who read Jaka's Story and see it as a great feminist (or, Feminist) treatise, as well as a great love story. Nope. Read *between* the lines, people.

iestyn said...

Well see Jeff, sometimes art is about what we see in it and sometimes delivers more than even the artist intended.

Dave's great strength is behavioural observation and characterisation. I'd say what he delivers may mean one thing to him (and you) but clearly means something else to others. It all depends on your moral and social compass

Tony Dunlop said...

I have always seen, and I assume will always see, the "Cerebus and Jaka on the Road" part of "Going Home" as a beautiful and touching love story. Probably my third favorite story-line, after C&S and Jaka's Story. Flawed characters? Of course! Who isn't?

Jeff Seiler said...

"Cerebus and Jaka on the Road"? The story of two independently deluded individuals (for different reasons) trying to revive something they never actually had, thinking, as so many people do in real, non-comic-book life, that a change of scenery will make everything okay, hunky-dorey again. Which it never was in the first place. Remember, the beautiful, lovely, sweet beginning of their love story occurred while Cerebus was drugged. Remember Jaka's fits of depression while they were "going home". Remember Cerebus' internal dialogue about keeping up the pace, all the while acquiescing to Jaka's every whim that slowed them down.

Love story? We should all NOT be so blessed. The real love story in that sequence was the one-sided love Cerebus had for Ham.

P.S.: Aside from Dave "getting" to write like Hemingway for a while, I think that the main reason for introducing Ham and Mary into the storyline was to show us how Cerebus and Jaka might have turned out if Cerebus hadn't wised up.


Unknown said...

I don't think it's uncommon for some people to see a wonderful love story where others see a nightmare -- same relationship, same front row seat -- and to see the break-up as a tragedy and/or a relief. I remember saying to a guy whose marriage had broken up: "Congratulations...or I'm sorry, as the case may be."

One man's moral and social compass is another man's Feminist Theocracy brainwashing.

Jeff, re: your phone message on the READS proofreading (and thanks for agreeing to do that): no, the single quotes in READS were an affectation, so, yes, they all need to be corrected. And I figured you would change your mind on the digital files so Sandeep is going to e-mail those to you ASAP. Probably after he edits and posts the Weekly Update.

Tony again said...

Actually, Jeff, I'm talking about the earliest bits, even before the boat with Scott. The Ham parts of Going Home are among my least favorite parts of the Cerebus storyline.

Jim Sheridan said...

The TCJ website has an overview of Alex Raymond' s life from a guy who is doing a book on him; it would be great if this would whet the public appetite for what Dave eventually releases.

Jeff Seiler said...

Hey, Jim! Is it a comic book, or a book book? And, yes, I agree, either way.

No, Tony, I knew to what you were referring. I think my comments stand: two crazy (deluded) kids trying to do the best with what they had to work with...very unsuccessfully, in the end.

Ibis said...

I recall the "congrats or condolences" line from Dave a number of years ago elsewhere (I forget exactly where) and have since then put it to good use myself. It is spot on.

Anonymous said...

"Congratulations ... or I'm sorry, as the case may be," is a good, all-purpose well-wishing.

-- Damian

Tony one more time said...

Jeff: " I think my comments stand: two crazy (deluded) kids trying to do the best with what they had to work with...very unsuccessfully, in the end."

Hmm...reminds me of a couple of kids from Verona...

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, (late to the game) but...


Listen to Dire Straits.

Knopfler got it right...

"Sings a street-suss serenade..."

R & J.