Monday, 28 May 2012

Love & Death

Cerebus #129 (December 1989) & #147 (June 1991)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Funnybook Roulette by R. Fiore, The Comics Journal #138, October 1990)
I guess I must have reviewed Cerebus for the first time 10 years ago, and I do it again every couple of years or so, and I always wind up saying the same thing, which is, in essence, lose the aardvark... It's a conclusion Sim may be coming to on his own; in Jaka's Story Cerebus is hardly there. He is peripheral to the story at best, and neither motivates nor performs any vital story action, and it could be because he just doesn't fit... Jaka's Story is another step forward in Sim's artistic development, and yet, well, here we go again. To really understand what's going on you have to have read the 113 issues that went before... Sim makes it necessary for a new reader to plow through his tyro work in order to comprehend his mature work. It makes his readership practically a closed system.

(via CerebusWiki, Dave's Q&A at the Cerebus Yahoo Group, December 2004)
That's one of those unhappy accidents of journalism that The Comics Journal suggested in their review of Jaka's Story (I think it was) and then it just becomes received wisdom that I wanted to stop doing Cerebus and do something serious and important like Melmoth. It said so in the Comics Journal so that's what it was. Dave didn't have the artistic integrity to abandon the comic book about the talking aardvark and do Something Meaningful and how sad that is. Well, depending on your point of view, that may be terribly sad, but no, Melmoth was the Death book, the other side of Jaka's Story which was the Love book. Jaka's Story & Melmoth are my best try at Love & Death. It was very important to me to keep the Cerebus and Melmoth parts of the story separate because I thought that made an important point about Death. Cerebus is going through a metaphorical death, a death of the spirit and Oscar is staring Death in the face and they're completely unaware of each other. Everyone around Cerebus is unaware of Cerebus - of what he’s going through: you face a metaphorical death alone. Sebastien Melmoth has Robbie Ross there. Couldn't ask for a more devoted friend, someone with his best interests at heart, but he's still facing Death alone. He can't explain it to Robbie and Robbie doesn't want to hear it. The doctors don't want to tell Robbie, he doesn't want them to tell him and he doesn't want to tell Oscar. He has no more of a "support system" than Cerebus does. I wanted to convey how universal a thing facing death... and Death... alone is. Wherever you're reading this you're only a few miles from a hospital where that's going on. Someone is dying alone in a bed and someone else has fifteen weeping relatives out in the hall and another three at his bedside, but they're both going through it Alone. Your wife can climb into bed with you if she wants, you're still dying Alone.

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