Saturday, 4 February 2012

What Happened Between Issues Eleven & Twelve?

Cerebus #11 & 12 (August & October 1979)
Art by Dave Sim

(from the introduction to Cerebus #11 in Swords Of Cerebus Vol 3, 1981)
The first introduction I wrote for this story was a lengthy dissertation on the nervous breakdown I suffered after this issue was finished. It ran to about twice the length of this one, at least, but in the end, it sounded like what it was; a self-serving rationalisation of a very insane couple of weeks. I realised when I had it done, that my intention had been primarily to reassure everyone reading it that it wouldn't happen again. Including me. It was the culmination of many different threads in my life coming together at once. Personal stuff, professional stuff, problems, ambitions, accomplishments and failures. Writing that introduction was a very therapeutic exercise, but the final product was pretty dull.

When Kevin Davies of Myriad did the interview with me, he asked me if I could have avoided the nervous breakdown, a question I really didn't consider too extensively until I saw it again in print. I don't think I could have, and in many ways it came at exactly the right time. It was a warning that I am only human and it was an indication to me of just how fragile humans can be. I've learned to accept only as much pressure as I can comfortably handle, and too keep my own feelings as the primary focus for my decision-making. Talking to people like Wendy Pini, I began to realize that the people attracted to success (and success is the honey for a specific kind of fly) can bleed you white if you let them, all with the best of intentions.

I realised writing the introduction that I was trying to help anyone who might find themselves in the same situation I did. I was hoping in some way to reach anyone who might be feeling themselves losing control - babbling endlessly about nothing, swinging from elation to depression and back in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, it's a pit that you either climb out of or slip into permanently. But the answers have to come from inside.

Enthusing about Marshall Rogers, The Batman, and the pleasure I can get out of a steel point barely a half-inch in length and a bottle of ink, rather than rehashing a dead end period of my life, is one of those answers.

For me.

(from the Coville Clubhouse interview, July 2005)
Twenty-six years later on, I think it would be more accurate to say that I had achieved a false level of transcendence that I had been looking to achieve through LSD - the psychic equivalent of a massive and pleasurable electric shock-that left me incapable of reassuring my wife (within her own very limited frames of reference) that I was okay: with the result that she freaked out at one point and called my mother and she and my mother locked me up in a psych ward at the local hospital for a couple of days.

There really wasn't anything to "recover" from. I had gone through the false transcendent state and come out the other side. The only thing I really needed to recover from was the massive doses of depressants they had given me in the psych ward. That took two or three days during which all of my muscles and motor functions were seriously malfunctioning - it felt as if I had pulled every muscle in my body so that just speaking and walking required Herculean forces of will in order to achieve. Essentially, at that point - never again wanting to experience that severe crippling effect - I began to live two different lives simultaneously. I learned how to portray myself as a normal person in order to keep my wife and parents from locking me up in any more psych wards while at the same time I began to explore all of the thoughts and experiences that I had had over the period of the false transcendent state and began to work towards putting them all down on paper in the Cerebus storyline. When I realized, a month or two later, how large and difficult a task that was going to be, I decided to make Cerebus into a 300-issue project in order to encompass it all and leave room for my own best assessment of the aftermath. The documentation of the state itself went from about issue 20 to about issue 186. I was able to stop leading my double life once I was divorced in 1983 and I no longer had the on-going threat hanging over my head that my freedom depended on my wife and mother believing me to be sane.

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