Sunday, 21 February 2016

Michael Grabowski: The Restored "Church & State I"

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

(from an AMOC Comment, 28 January 2016)
I am thrilled to be reading the new edition of Church & State Vol 1 (and thus re-reading C & S Vol 1) this week. I have to force myself to put it down when I get the chance to dig in. Like High Society last year, the pages are just lovely to look at in a way that they haven't been before. Pure white space and solid paper really bring out his linework, and when he does go for detail in his backgrounds in the first half of it, they really look exquisite. Not drawing backgrounds probably ensured Dave would be able to complete the series on time, but I think something was lost because there's some great work of his there in both HS and C&S.

I read the original comics 30 years ago, re-reading them every few months as the story got longer. I read the volume itself a few more times in the 80s and 90s. My last thorough re-read was 13 years ago, though, so this new edition gives me a reason to pick it up again. So I have probably read parts of this as many as ten times. It still holds up, and in some ways I think it's superior to High Society. Combined with Vol 2 it has a Dickensian scope (to match its Dickensian bulk) as we see more interactions and character arcs that don't include Cerebus (although it dissatisfies in not necessarily completing any of those other character arcs). The humor is more subtle and often gets completely out of the way so the story can develop.

Probably the only thing that bugs me are the occasional faces that Dave left blank. Did he forget to draw those? If it's deliberate, it's still distracting and a misguided choice given his skill at otherwise showing good expressions on cartoon-real faces even at a distance. It really pulls me out of the reading experience and it's one of the few instances where I wish modern Dave (or especially 1987 Dave) had stepped in to fix young Dave's mistakes.

I hadn't planned on buying this new edition until Sean's posts demonstrated what kinds of improvements they have been able to make over past printings. I hope we get to see some convincing updates on the progress on Vol. 2. In any case I can't wait to read it, and I hope that a quality printing of both volumes generates some newfound enthusiasm among Cerebites for these books because they're just as great to re-read as HS and Jaka's Story.

Congratulations to Dave and thanks to Sean and Mara for producing a truly quality edition of this seemingly under-appreciated book.


Eddie said...

Congratulations to Dave and Sean and Mara as well (and everyone that helped out in any way). Is anyone else really anxious to get the remastered C&S II? If only to have them side by side and REALLY put the fear of Tarim into people?

I remember the first time I saw those blank faces and that it reminded me of the Monkees album "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." which has similar drawings of the band without faces ("Faceless Monkees" should really be the name of a band in its own right), especially the picture of Theresa. Don't know if it was meant to reference that though. Maybe Dave was thinking of doing a Question parody, or thought Ditko was onto something with saving drawing time by not having to draw facial features?Or maybe they were penciled in blue line and then got missed being inked and were sent to the printer?

I remember there was a letter published in Aardvark Comment at some point where the letter writer mentioned something along the lines of that he had read Cerebus while in the hospital on some heavy duty meds, and the faceless characters left quite the impression while reading Cerebus "under the influence."

Michael Cohen said...

Jaime Hernandez also occasionally leaves faces blank for far away background characters.

adampasz said...
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adampasz said...

I always loved the blank faces! They were striking and a little bit creepy. It clearly wasn't due to laziness.

So what's the easiest way to order these volumes???

Eddie said...

Probably through your Local Comic Shop, depending on where you are, who can order it though Diamond using the above order code if they don't have it already in stock at their store, or are sold out.

Be warned; it's a big mother!

Eddie said...
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Michael Grabowski said...

To be clear, the blank faces that bug me are Therese's on p. 187 and especially Powers on p. 255 and 275. These aren't background or long-distance shots. In the latter two cases, the tails of the word balloons are drawing maximum attention to it, and he looks like a giant thumb. Sit on this, reader. As I said in a follow-up comment where the above comment was first posted, the literally blank faces on 255 and 275 actually disturb the visual rhythm of those pages, where Power's, Weisshaupt's, and Posey's faces are all more thoroughly and expertly expressive.

I think the best I can do about it is to catch up with Gerhard at one of his convention appearances this year and commission him to draw in the faces for me right in the book.

al roney said...

Outstanding!!! If it were hardcover it would be PERFECT!!!