Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Michael Hoskin: "Cerebus: I'm Reading It."

Cerebus In Snow (1986)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from the Section 244 blog, 31 October 2011)
There was a time when I knew of Dave Sim's Cerebus as "one of those artsy-fartsy comic books only those Comics Journal-types read." Then I connected to the internet during the age when the series was "derided by all, especially those Comics Journal-types."

Strangely, I became a fan of Dave Sim's work through his post-Cerebus output, which certainly isn't discussed in as much volume or detail as any of his 300 Cerebus issues. I bought his 2008 graphic novel Judenhass, quite enjoyed it and soon became an infrequent follower of his book glamourpuss which started at about the same time. Recently, I began buying up the Cerebus Archive, where he discusses his attempts to break into the comic book market and the many mistakes he made as a young cartoonist; I've found the latter series to be so fascinating as a portrait of the rim of 1970s comic book culture that it suddenly struck me... why don't I read that Cerebus book which is ultimately responsible for all of these other projects? 

Even though I've been attempting for years to better educate myself in the world of comics (having been a super hero-only type for far too long), Cerebus carries a lot of baggge based on the cursory information I've learned at internet columns and blogs over the last 13 years. I understand that the latter years of Cerebus become a soapbox for Sim's editorializing, but... being that I enjoy Judenhass, glamourpuss and Cerebus Archive, clearly I already enjoy his editorializing. Therefore, my decision is to start working my way through Cerebus one volume at a time until I decide I've had enough (or run out of volumes). 

In fact, one of the amazing things about Cerebus is that I can easily obtain the entire series - I think every shop in town carries a set. It caused me to reflect that outside of Dave Sim and Stan Sakai, just about any highly-regarded independent comic book creator's output from the 70s & 80s is nigh-difficult to acquire. Thanks to the shifting interests of audiences, self-destructed publishers, dead creators and retired creators, you won't find many indie hits of times past on your local comic store's shelves. Heck, even a bigwig like Scott McCloud hasn't kept his colour issues of Zot! in-print. 

I'm barely into the first volume of Cerebus and so far I'm enjoying it. Already I've seen a remarkable evolution in Sim's style. Early issues of Cerebus play out as something of a Conan parody, which is interesting because in Cerebus Archive Sim expresses how he had little interest in Conan, yet the parody itself is so gentle he could have run the material in Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan with only minor alterations (that the protagonist is a talking aardvark is sometimes the only "funny" part of this "funny animal" book). 

Thus far the Elrod character (Elric by way of Senator Claghorn) has been a fun, broad addition to the series and in general the series' dialogue is playful and diverting, helping to steer the stories out of familiar tropes by having characters respond to outrageous situations in a realistic, comedic manner.

Cerebus: I'm reading it.


Michael Hoskin said...

Wow, you honour me by reposting my meager little thoughts about Cerebus. I took a double-take on seeing my name posted at Moment of Cerebus. Thank you very much!

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

So Michael, how did the rest of the Cerebus series go for you?

Michael Hoskin said...

I'm not finished yet - I've only made it through Church & State I. I am planning to get Church & State II next week, so I may post my thoughts on the blog in the near future.