Sunday, 24 December 2017

Reading Cerebus #3

Hey look kids! It's "READING CEREBUS" time!
Kevin Kimmes:

Welcome back to “Reading Cerebus”, a new weekly column here at A Moment of Cerebus. The goal of this column is to bring a fresh perspective to the 300-issue saga of Cerebus as I read through the series for the first time and give my insights into the longest running independent comic book series of all time. Think of this as part book club, part lit-crit, and part pop culture musing. Oh, and they told me Dave Sim himself may be reading this, so I hope I don’t screw this up. Let’s continue.

Issue #3 – “Song of Red Sophia”
Cerebus #3: Song of Red Sophia

Issue 3 introduces us to the busty Red Sonja parody, Red Sophia. Just like her titular counterpart, Red Sophia is a fiery warrior, but unlike Sonja, this gal knows how to shake a tail-feather! Before I get too far into this weeks plot, let's throw the switches on the WABAC machine and look at the history of Red Sonja. And away we go!
"Gee Mr. Peabody, isn't this gonna get somebody sued?" "QUIET YOU!"

Is it Sonja or Sonya?
Well, it depends on if you ask Conan creator Robert E. Howard, or Marvel's Roy Thomas. See, technically they are two separate characters, each with their own unique spelling and era of existence.
In 1934, Howard created a female swashbuckler named “Red Sonya of Rogatino” for his story “The Shadow of the Vulture”. This story takes place in the 16th century and features a fiery, red haired gun-slinging woman warrior protagonist.
Years later, Roy Thomas would adapt Sonya for addition to his and Barry Windsor-Smith's run on Conan, moving her out of the 16th century and placing her squarely in the Hyborian Age. A quick name change to Sonja and the addition of a chainmail bikini, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Thanks, Mr. Peabody!

Now Back To The Preceding Column Already In Progress
As our issue opens, we find Cerebus has made his way to the coastal port of Temza where the Borealan gold mines are failing, leading the local government to press mercenaries into service on pain of death. Desperate to find safe passage east, Cerebus heads to Tansubal where he meets Henrot the Wizard and takes on a new assignment: Torture, then assassinate the man who besmirched his daughter's honour. The daughter in question? Red Sophia.
Henrot sends Sophia along with Cerebus so that she may see the man die slowly for his transgressions, but it doesn't take Cerebus long to figure out that something foul is afoot. See, while Sophia is handy with a sword and seems to be more than capable of taking care of herself, she is also bat-shit crazy!
Accused of besmirching her honour (See a pattern here?) mere yards into their journey, Cerebus is forced to match metal with his companion. Seizing on “ample” opportunity, The Earth Pig Born connects the flat of his sword with the buxom posterior of Red Sophia sending her sprawling into the bushes nearby.

Image courtesy CerebusDownloads 

Bested, Sophia throws herself at Cerebus and declares, “I am yours to command! Let me do your bidding, oh short grey body is yours!” Not one to miss an opportunity, Cerebus takes Sophia up on her offer and saddles her with the task of carrying the party's supplies. 
That evening the pair decides to visit an inn where, wait for it, Sophia again has her honour besmirched. While all Cerebus wanted was to drink an ale in peace, Sophia manages to drag him into a skirmish with Thugg The Unseemly, a fight that Cerebus ends with one well placed bonk of his sword hilt. Seeing this fight as finished Cerebus grabs Sophia and leaves the inn, but Sophia has other ideas, you know, because of the besmirching and the honour and what-not. She heads back in and puts a whupping on Thugg, after which the two travelers head off to make dinner and pitch their tent for the night.
One thing worth pointing out at this point is the increase in humor in this issue, in contrast to the more grim storytelling of the first two issues. While issue two offered up a few laughs, this issue sees jokes-a-plenty surrounding Sophia and her delicate disposition, as well as her lust for Cerebus and his indifference in return. We also get some good gross-out humor regarding Cerebus and his carnivorous appetite, and Looney Tunes style physical comedy as Cerebus and Red Sophia make their way to their destination.
Upon reaching the besmircher, Tanes Feras, Sophia flies into a tizzy attempting to kill him herself, but knowing that gold is on the line, Cerebus does the only thing he can do at this point and knocks Sophia out with his sword. A short interrogation later, we find out that Tanes gazed upon Sophia while she was bathing causing her to feel besmirched, and him to fall madly in love with her. Cerebus, always the opportunist, decides to use this situation to take care of both of his problems at one.
In the epilogue, Cerebus returns to Henrot to tell him that his quest is complete and that Feras has been sufficiently punished. When pressed on how, and the whereabouts of the absent Sophia, Cerebus tells him the following: “I told her she would make Cerebus very happy if she married Feras...” He goes on to say, “I have no doubt that the marriage of your daughter and Feras will last many years and if you can think of greater suffering than that, you are welcome to try them on your new son-in-law, Henrot...”
Image courtesy CerebusDownloads 
A few final notes regarding this issue of Cerebus: 1) The likeness of Henrot is based on Frank Thorne, who is one of the best known illustrators of Red Sonja, and someone who Dave corresponded with regularly. 2) This issue marks the point at which Dave had committed to doing Cerebus as a bi-monthly comic. Up to this point, the plan was, “We'll put out three issues and if it doesn't go so good, we can always back out and I'll have three sample issues of a comic book when I look for work.” Thankfully, for us, it all worked out.
Join me back here next week as we look at Issue 4: “Death's Dark Tread”.
Currently Listening To: “Bald” Bill Hagan and his Trocaderons “Music to Strip By”
Kevin Kimmes is a lifelong comic book reader, sometime comic book artist, and recent Cerebus convert. He can be found slinging comics at the center of the Multiverse, aka House of Heroes in Oshkosh, WI.


Jeff said...

Additionally, this issue (in the encampment scenes) has the first of what would come to be many homages to the most intimate part's of the female form, over the full course of Cerebus.

Or, maybe it's just me and my filthy, purile adolescent brain.

I dunno...

Pat Conolly said...

If I recall correctly, Barry-Windsor Smith didn't draw Red Sonja in a chainmail bikini; she wore a more sensible outfit. It was Frank Thorne who introduced that.