Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Prince Mick

Cerebus #85 (April 1986)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from the Culpa Slect blog, 10 March 2007)
Cerebus is a unique achievement in the comic book field. Over the course of 26 years, Sim self-published 300 issues of Cerebus, writing and drawing more than 6000 pages, telling the story of the title character, an impetuous barbarian aardvark in a Medievel-type world of humans.

Starting off in 1977 as basically a parody of BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH's Conan comics, Sim decided early on that Cerebus would be his "life's work", and that the series would end with issue number 300 in March 2004. And so it did. Through the earlier issues, Sim's writing and art improved dramatically, and with the addition of "background-artist" GERHARD, the book really hit its stride. Artistically, each issue was impeccable - layout, characters, backgrounds, lettering, etc. The stories became increasingly complex, as Sim wrote with long-term goals in mind, often foreshadowing events that would not occur until several years later.

Cerebus has been compared to a "Russian novel" in its length and scope. The huge story is divided into large chunks, and like War and Peace, early in the second half The Author steps into the story. And this is where Sim ran into some trouble.

He "came out" as a "conservative"/"non-feminist" in both "the story" and in "real life". Once praised as one of the best alternative/independent comics creators, the horrified "comics community" initially expressed outrage, and ultimately decided to virtually ignore his work, even as he and Gerhard continued to reach new creative heights. In the later issues, Sim delved increasingly into religious themes, eventually writing large amounts of Scripture and Scripture-commentary into the story and alienating many of his remaining readers.

Still, Cerebus stands as a remarkable accomplishment, a beautiful piece of art and a fascinating read. You can dip in virtually anywhere in the 6000+ pages and see Sim's talent, intelligence, wit, and love of comics shining through.

Many of the characters Sim created were dead-on caricatures of movie stars, writers, acquaintences, even other comic book characters. In issue number 85, (cover-dated April 1986), Sim introduces characters based on MICK JAGGER and KEITH RICHARDS. As Cerebus is climbing up the mountain back to the Upper City to reclaim his Papal Throne before The Final Ascension, he runs into Prince Mick and Prince Keef. Keef is a bit out of it, but Mick shares his beverage with Cerebus and things get a bit weird before they part ways in issue 86. Sim revisited the characters ten years later, when Mick, Keef, and Cerebus end up staying at the same tavern (along with a couple of Mop-Tops!), but I'll save that for a future post.


Jason Winter said...

This is the first Cerebus comic I bought and read. Even though I didn't understand the story, I got the Stones parody.

Rob Wells said...

This was the first issue of Cerebus I bought too!