Thursday, 9 February 2012

Amazing Hero

Cover detail, Amazing Heroes #201 (May 1992)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from the introduction to an interview with Dave Sim in Amazing Heroes #201, May 1992)
The first issue of Cerebus came out in December, 1977. The artist, writer and publisher of that comic was Dave Sim. The comic was in black and white. All of those facts made it unique then, as did Cerebus' storyline - he was a three foot tall gray aardvark in a medieval land full of humans.

As I write this it's February, 1992. Cerebus #154 is sitting on my kitchen table. The book is still pencilled, written and published by Dave Sim, now with the assistance of Gerhard. Compare that record with the record of Spectacular Spider-Man, which premiered at around the same time but which has literally hundreds of creators work on it, though still published by Marvel.

In those 154 issues, Cerebus has been a barbarian, kitchen staff supervisor, Prime Minister, ex-Prime Minister, husband, Prime Minister again, Pope and houseguest. Spider-Man, in contrast, is still that crime fighter with the webs.

The fifth Cerebus novel, Mothers & Daughters, has recently begun. The previous novels, High Society, Church & State, Jaka's Story and Melmoth, have explored such weighty topics as politics, organised religion, power, love and death. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man still just fights the good fight against evil-doers.

All of this description makes the book sound serious and weighty. At times it is. I'd put the ending of Jaka's Story up against Shakespeare in terms of its tragedy. But the series is also often quite hilarious. I'd put the scenes in High Society with Lord Julius (a Groucho Marx character), Duke Leonardi (a Chico Marx character) and Cerebus up against Monty Python or the Marx Brothers in terms of uproariousness.

In a comics world of hologram covers, short-lived hot artists with limited talents, silly crossover stories and tacky attempts at realism, Sim continues to present his complex, fascinating comic every month. He's even announced he'll be doing the book until it ends with issue 300. Eight years ago that sounded like a joke. Now it sounds like fact.

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