Sunday, 16 August 2015

Covering Cerebus

The fanzine Cerebus The Newsletter was originally published by Fred Patten and then by Aardvark-Vanaheim from January 1981 to October 1985 and ran for 13 issues. After asking Fred Patten and Dave Sim if I could use the name of the previous fanzine, Jeff Tundis and I started anew in 2009 with issue #14. I published issues #14 through 21, which was released in November 2011. Below is an article that I wrote for the Cerebus The Newsletter - albeit the article below has additional information and pictures. If you would like to purchase back issues, some of them are still in print and can be found at the Friends of Cerebus website.

It was a cover that drew me into the series. The lush green forest surrounding this little girl all alone on a horse in a playground, it was beautiful. Sure I had heard a couple good reviews of it, but I was still a bit intimidated by not only the voluminous history of the book, but by not knowing where to jump on and start reading. The cover also told me that it was the first in a new chapter of the book. Perfect, a starting point. I picked it up and started reading.

That was issue #114 of Cerebus. With 300 issues, the covers have been as varied as pictures of “real life” landscapes to a black background with white letters to painted pictures of the series characters.

Up until issue 39 every cover had Cerebus on it.  That issue had the character that appeared on the second greatest amount of issues: Cockroach. However, in the count of cover appearances it wasn’t close between the two. Being the title character, Cerebus owned it: 164 covers compared to the Cockroach’s 18 covers. Except during Jaka’s Story wherein Jaka was on ten covers while Cerebus was only one two.

There were a total of 39 different individuals on the covers, including the one and only cover appearance of one of the two artists: Gerhard, whose picture appeared on the cover of issue #165.

Click on the above graph for a larger version
Gerhard started working on the series with issue #65, which coincidently was the first issue where the cover was text only: “Anything Done For The First Time Unleashes A Demon”.  When asked, Gerhard stated that the text only cover was Dave’s idea, as Dave didn’t want any hint of what was inside. Also Gerhard thought that since he “had been struggling so much with trying to do a good job, that there just wasn’t any time left to do a full colour cover.”  The only other cover that was only text was issue #110: “Marvel and Decease”.  Issue 65 was white text on a black background while #110 was almost a direct opposite: blue text on a white background.

Before Gerhard started there were no covers that were purely landscapes and there was one cover that was mainly a landscape, issue #61’s silhouetted Regency Hotel, which actually mostly black with white text and a small portion of it was the Regency and up along the top silhouetted in black we can see Cerebus and Weisshaupt struggling against the wind. However, with Gerhard on board there were 25 “landscape only” covers from the sunset in Iest cover of issue #141 to Oscar's room of issue #121 to the Tavern at the Wall of T’si’s bartender house and its window reflection of issue #217.

Those don’t include the 34 issues of Going Home which had the picture covers.  In fact, the two phone books that comprise Going Home: Going Home and Form & Void, were the only two phonebooks to not have any characters, including Cerebus, on the front cover.

Not only were the cover pictures themselves varied, the cover composition changed over time. For example, issue #114 was the first cover to have the over-arching storyline title on it. Every issue after it contained the storyline’s title on it with the exception of four issues of Rick’s Story.  During Rick’s Story the storyline title was incorporated into a tavern sign until issue 228 when the picture on the cover was put into the tavern sign and the storyline title moves out of the tavern sign and onto the cover.

Issue 228 coincidently was the issue wherein Rick put the binding spell on Cerebus so he couldn’t leave the tavern. With each subsequent issue, as Cerebus first talks with Dave and then finally leaves the tavern with Jaka, the storyline title became larger and larger so that by issue #231 the only visible part of it was the R from Rick’s Story. 

From the first issue to issue 86 there was a banner along the top of the cover that stated “Aardvark-Vanaheim Presents” with the Cerebus logo right below it. Issue 87 through issue 99, with the exception of issue 89, the banner stated “Aardvark-Vanaheim”. With issue 100, the banner was removed from the cover all together. 

The Cerebus logo used over the years has also changed, from issue # 1 to issue 49:

Issues #51 – 100:

And the logo used on the Cerebus phonebook and on issue 101, both released in August 1987. The logo continued on as the logo for the series until its completion with issue #300:

Over the twenty six years of publication, the Cerebus covers have changed in a multitude of ways. From the content of what was on them, how it was present to the logos that graced them, Dave Sim and Gerhard have created in the 299 covers of Cerebus works of art that, in my opinion, should have a book all their own. 

Margaret notes: Since I wrote this back in 2009, IDW Publishing will be publishing a book of Cerebus covers that we've seen Dave working on via his weekly updates. I'm pretty excited to see this book - not just for all the amazing covers, but the commentary and other extras from Dave.


JLH said...

I love that particular font style used in "The Newsletter" logo at the top, and also in the "Unleashes a Demon" cover. I love all of Dave's various fonts, but that one is a favorite.

Jeff Seiler said...

I always thought that, since Dave so jealously and zealously guarded his ownership of Cerebus and status as THE self-publisher, the cover of #65 was his commentary about taking on Gerhard. It would be a few years later before he would make Ger a fully invested business partner and co-owner, but I think Dave could see where it was going from the beginning.

Max West said...

Only recently have I been looking at the individual issue covers of Cerebus. To be honest, the phonebook covers alone were amazing...but I can see that Sim had fun exploring the different kinds of covers that could be done. I plan to use some of these in my own work. I've even debated a photo cover or two myself!

Anonymous said...

Margaret's piece here would make a nice intro for the IDW book. She points out a lot of things I hadn't noticed. From about issues 100 to 265, Cerebus is frequently not on the cover.

- Reginald P.