Saturday, 30 January 2016

Page 45: The Restored "Church & State I"

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State I
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

PAGE 45:
(from a review by Stephen Holland at Page, January 2016)
The original art has been reshot then reprinted on such fine paper stock that the book's already considerable girth has almost doubled. 

"Anything Done For The First Time Unleashes A Demon."

Around this time there was a CEREBUS cover whose only visual element was the hand-lettering of the sentence above, white letters on black. No picture at all. I don’t recall that being done before or any time since. As both a brave and successful attention-grabbing visual device and as a Truth, it has stuck with me ever since to the extent that I typed the sentence from memory rather than sought out my own issue.

It's now that we start using the word 'genius'. Not because I am drunk but because the writing and art have both ascended to the point of inspired precision.

Every look, every line has a weight to it. They're so well refined and targeted, and amongst the targets are melodramatic superheroes in the form of Chris Claremont's Wolverine, and organised religion. Not faith – that’s a very different thing. Which is fortunate, for Sim would go on to embrace God with a passion.

Prime Minister Cerebus is persuaded to enter the Church, to vie for the role of Pope which for Cerebus involves throwing babies off roofs to prove a point about obeisance and being careful what you wish for.

Please don't think that Cerebus has been converted. He hasn't. The most famous CEREBUS t-shirt has him dressed as Pope declaring, "He doesn't love you. He just wants all your money." Specifically, he wants gold.

But Cerebus achieves his status through an assassination out of his hands, and for the first time he observes that "Something fell!" It won't be the last. It will ripple through time and, when uttered in the future, will become a catalyst for destruction.

This is where the subplot – hiding in the wings but very much in evidence for those who’ve either been looking for it or reading in retrospect – really kicks in. There is something evidently rather singular about our Aardvark. Also something of a duality. Things happen around him. There are the Mind Games, the Strange White Glowing Thing, and the gold evidently wants him as much as he wants it...

Did I mention he gets married? If the first book begins as a parody of CONAN, you won’t be surprised at the inclusion of a character called Red Sophia based on female barbarian Red Sonja. What would perhaps surprise you is that Red Sophia’s mother is an extended homage to British cartoonist Giles. It's brilliantly done, too.

More Mind Games, more chess pieces, more Jaka. Oh, yes, more Marx Brothers!

For more on CEREBUS – an overview or its story and an assessment of its structure, its art, its invention and its place in comicbook history – please see my reviews of every single one of its sixteen component parts making up 300 monthly issues written and drawn over twenty-three years.

Unusually I wrote them back to back just before Page 45’s website launched because a) most of the collected editions were published long before we wrote reviews so we had none, and b) CEREBUS is such a landmark series in the history of comic art and industry that I would not countenance a Page 45 website launching without every single edition being assessed to one extent or another.

Because I wrote them back to back, they constitute one complete and hopefully coherent review dealing with different elements like the lettering and art rather than repeating myself each time as an introduction. Begin at the beginning?

Stephen Holland is the co-founder (with Mark Simpson) of one the UK's leading comic stores - Page 45.


Jeff Seiler said...

"Anything done for the first time unleashes a demon." I have always thought that that title, and the starkness of the cover of #65 was Dave's way of both welcoming Gerhard aboard as a monthly collaborator and of signifying Dave's trepidation at doing so.

The one question I keep forgetting to ask Dave or Ger is whether my surmisal is accurate.

Good review by Stephen!

Anonymous said...

According to the Internet, it's apparently a paraphrase of Emily Dickinson: "whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon". If it's a paraphrase, I find it's an improvement.

I guess the more obvious interpretation of the meaning of that phrase is that Weisshaupt broke some rule to get Cerebus appointed pope and Cerebus is the demon.

- Reginald P.

Anonymous said...

Got my copy this week! Gotta say, it looks great. Thanks due to Sean, Mara, George, the page donors, the Kickstarter supporters, the of course Dave 'n' Ger.

-- Damian

adampasz said...

This is the first I've heard about upgraded paper stock. That gets me very excited! What is the best way to order? I checked Amazon, but it was not clear whether they were selling remastered editions...

Jeff Seiler said...

Adampasz: I'm pretty sure your local brick-and-mortar comic book store can still order you one from Diamond. Or, you could order one at Escape Pod Comics, of Huntington, NY. I know for a fact that Menachem Luchins, the owner of Escape Pod, has extra copies still available.

Glen said...


I asked my local comic book store ("Mostly Comics" in St. Catharines, Ontario) to order a copy of the remastered "High Society" for me last year. I got it in a couple of weeks.

Support your friendly neighbourhood comic store.


Barry Deutsch said...

I got my copy of the restored C&S I, and it is ***beautiful***. I'm having a lot of fun just flipping through and looking at the restored art. The tiny wood grains have never looked so sharp.

But - I also noticed what looks like a misprint - pages 449-452 are cut off by the edge of the book, as if they were all printed an inch further away from the gutter than intended. It's not a problem for me - the book remains perfectly readable, and it's only four pages - but I thought it was worth mentioning, in case any other copies of the book have similar problems.

Mentioning it here because I think the folks on Team Restoration sometimes read the comments here.

Jeff Seiler said...

Barry, I noticed the same thing. Both of my copies have that. I'm guessing it's because of one of two possibilities: 1) that was a stylistic, design thing done in the original monthly, or 2) it's because, in the reprinting, they got the paging wrong. What I mean is, those pages are spread pages and should have been printed side-by-side. Or, 3) somebody fucked up.

Take your pick. It would help to look at the original monthly/ies, but I'm lazy and am late for my weekly date with bingo and karaoke. See ya!

Barry Deutsch said...

I don't have my copy of the original issues (or, I do, but they're in a box somewhere out back), but i do have my copy of the first printing of C&SI, and those pages are not a double-page spread, or bled off the edge. So I think it's choice 3. (Most likely, someone at the printer.)

I've seen worse. The recent "Complete Elfquest" omnibus is actually missing a page or two.

Anonymous said...

Dug out my copy of issue 73. The pages in that are as they are in the phonebook. It looks as if Dave meant for those pages to be two-page spreads, then added in another page before or something that changed their position in the book.

-- Damian

Sean R said...

Hey Barry!

Those pages were intended to bleed off the side as indicated in the restored book. Two (three?) of those pages we actually have the original art for and can confirm--no border tape on those sides.

What makes it tricky is in the proportion of the monthly book, the gutters were much narrower, i.e. the there's less white space on the sides for the artwork to cross. (However, the bleed still didn't work in the monthly book because the artwork was being reduced more than it had previously! but I digress.)

Anyway, this is one of those things where there wasn't one right solution. Either we moved the artwork away from the center a bit to make the bleed work as originally intended, or I put in some border tape on the sides and turn them into "normal" pages. We went with the former.

Hope that explanation makes sense to you :)

Sean R said...

I would add that there are literally thousands of decisions along these lines that went into this single book, and I'm sure there will be adjustments from printing to printing as we get suggestions, corrections, other original art page scans come in, etc.

Barry Deutsch said...

Cool! Thanks for the information, Sean (and for all your work - the book looks incredible).