Monday, 1 August 2016

On Sale 26 Years Ago: Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (August 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the introduction to the reprint in Cerebus Number Zero, June 1993)
Lord Julius again.

One of the few moments of comedy relief in Jaka's Story occurs when Oscar (based on Oscar Wilde) has a run-in with Lord Julius who, inexplicably, is wearing a dress. I quite liked that. The idea of Lord Julius in a dress attempting to flee Iest in the face of the Cirinist (matriarchal fascists) invasion and take-over. In the few pages that I set aside for it, I got to have a little sport with Oscar Wilde's well-known weakness for the aristocracy (the very soul and essence of composure in the rest of the story-line, he degenerates into a fumbling, bumbling obsequious sycophant in the face of a chance meeting with the legendary Grandlord of Palnu. Naturally, Lord Julius makes short work of him. I wrote the dialogue, I know it off by heart and it still makes me chuckle when I think of it. Nice feeling.) as well as doing a variety of facial expressions in the space of a handful of panels that the restrained nature of the rest of the story-line would not permit.

Of course then the mail started coming in. "Was that the real Lord Julius?" "What's he doing in Iest?" "How did he get there after the invasion?"

Well, it wasn't Lord Julius. It was one of the better Like-a-looks; a concept that I had introduced towards the end of Church & State and never really had a chance to explain it until now.

Stories have circulated since World War II that Adolf Hitler had a number of look-a-like imitators that the Nazis used for public appearances when it seemed that there was too great a chance of danger to send the real Adolf. Much of the Illuminati mythology concerns itself with the fact that General George Washington was replaced by Adam Weisshaupt some time before he was made the first President of the United States. There have even been reports that Winston Churchill and FDR did the same thing.

Altogether unlikely, but it does make a great theory. Since I have far too much time on my hands, I started thinking that that would make a very neat explanation of why the Grandlord of Palnu would have painted on eyebrows and a mustache. As can be seen from the 'mirror scene' in Duck Soup, anyone wearing the right clothes and having painted on eyebrows and a mustache is going to look like Groucho. What if that was Lord Julius' plan, so that he could always have a look-a-like and if they keep up with him verbally so that by the end of the interview he can't figure out whether he or they is/are the real Lord Julius they've hired.

I found it interesting in doing this story that Lord Julius plays off of Lord Julius very well (as opposed to the problems I had with Elrod). It just becomes a series of competing realities; one-liner on top of one-liner in an on-going effort to grab the spot-light.

The up-shot of the whole enterprise was to show people that the Lord Julius in a dress was not the real Lord Julius. The first three letters I got on the 'Like-a-Looks' all said, 'Loved the story; but why was Lord Julius wearing a dress at the beginning?'

You can't win.


Jeff Seiler said...

Let's not let Gerhard's beautiful wallpaper in the go unappreciated,eh?

Tony Dunlop said...

This post displays one of the things that is, simultaneously, so appealing and so maddening about Cerebus: So much of the key action takes place off-page. Since I never had any reason to own Cerebus 0, this is the first time I've heard that Oscar's cross-dressing interlocutor was a like-a-look. No doubt if I were cleverer I'd have figured it out...

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Tony, you've put your finger on something that I've articulated before. I think it might be a result of the nature of comics creation versus comics reading: Dave spent a lot more time with any page or scene than the readers did, and perhaps didn't realize that not all the points he'd thought about the world of Cerebus came through on the page.

-- Damian

Anonymous said...

Yes, and for the most part I love that; reading Cerebus requires quite a bit of effort and careful attention to seemingly inconsequential details...

Tony again said...

Oops - that was me.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

I think that, to fully appreciate Cerebus, you have to be a bit of a scholar-squirrel -- ferret out those extra-textual clues and additions to the narrative.

-- Damian

Dave Sim said...

Thanks again, everyone.

It's all in there if you care to look. I really went to town on the CAN5 commentaries on the first ten pages of JAKA'S STORY. "I know exactly what I was doing here" and since this is the last time I'll actually comment on these ten pages, I want this to be exhaustive.

As opposed to CAN4 where it was really about the Gainesville Hilton and that whole experience. I remember nothing about what I was doing when I was doing 114 except a) I was going out with Zolastraya b) we were on the third floor at 47 King W. It's pure: "this is why I put everything where I put it".