Saturday, 9 February 2013

Beat The Hsiffies! Buy Bonds!

Cerebus #21(October 1980)
Art by Dave Sim
(from 365 Day Of Cerebus: Part 1, posted at Multiversity Comics, 31 January 2013)
...rather quickly the book [Cerebus Vol 1] becomes full of pieces that offer up parodies or satire of various characters, tropes and ideas. The earliest I can recall seeing it is the Red Sonja parody Red Sophia, but it continues throughout, such as the above Cockroach/Captain Cockroach, a figure who comes into clash with Cerebus. His first appearance allows Sim to lampoon the Batman-archetype of a character seeking justice within the night whose secretly a rich man by day, and Sim plays up Cerebus’ inherent greed in the issue for quite a few laughs. Later Cockroach comes back as a Captain America-type goon (complete with sidekick Bunky) who is molded and used by the aforementioned President Weisshaupt, and through this Sim gets to have his kicks at Marvel/DC's expense long before it became a popular storytelling mechanic in modern day comics. And, honestly, it's a lot more funny when Sim does it, because not only does he act 100% less subtle about it (going so far as to actually draw Swamp Thing and Man-Thing together at one point) but he uses the parodies to actually say something, rather than simply using it as a device for readers to instantly connect with a "new hero."

That's one of the things about modern day comics that pales in comparison with the examples in this book. You pick up a book like Invincible, which is great on its own, but it features a Justice League parody in the second arc that is very little more than a parody of the Justice League. There’s really nothing more to it than that. The use of a Captain America pastiche in Cerebus gives Sim an issue or two to criticize several things, the most obvious two of which are the depictions of costumed crusaders and how foolish/unrealistic they are - both in the terms of their general ethos and their builds – and how they’re used, or can be used, as propaganda tools. Issue #21 is filled with this pseudo-racism against an nonexistent group of people, yet what Sim is calling attention to is not even remotely subtle within the books depiction of characters and the reflection of cultural tension in a post-WW2 environment while taking stabs at cultural tension during WW2. Sim does more with one issue and a few elements than most writers bother to do today, because it’s a lot easier to just throw in a character who is like Batman or Captain America into your book than to actually do anything of meaning or worth with.

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