Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Cerebus in Your Life: A New Nostalgia Machine

Mara Sedlins:

Hello from Focused Repetitive Critical Work land! As I continue continuing on with restoration work for Church & State II, Sean’s post last week served as a great reminder of ways to stay sane. As you might guess, I’m especially a fan of staying organized and reducing cognitive load by writing things down. I’ve also found that it’s important to find a balance in terms of the amount of work to do on a given day. You want to leverage the momentum and efficiency of doing multiple pages in a row, while giving yourself enough breaks that you don’t give yourself a screen headache or start second-guessing what you’re seeing. A good work day for me seems to average around 10-15 pages depending on what shape the pages are in - sometimes it’s more, sometimes less.

A few posts ago I mentioned that as a new Cerebus reader I’ve been feeling more drawn into the work since about the second half of Church & State I. When I first started helping Sean with restoration work over a year ago, I was intensely focused on the technical aspects of the project and developing an eye for what the cleanup work involves. When I read the first phonebook, I was mostly looking for typos or text legibility issues. Likewise, my initial perceptions of High Society and much of C & S I were filtered through a focus on the work - partly because we don’t necessarily clean the pages in order - so that guessing at what was actually happening in the books became a kind of diverting game.

But with C & S II I’m trying something new. Starting from the beginning, I’ve been: 1) printing out a bunch of the pages I’m working on (at-size, which helps keep my sense of perspective), 2) stepping away from the computer, and 3) reading them. In order. With a reference phonebook next to me - to clarify cleanup issues, but also so I can read the pages that aren’t ready for cleanup yet (right now I’m focusing on the negative scans only). And, unsurprisingly, I’m enjoying myself a lot more this way :)

My favorite moments so far (I just finished Book Four): the “Secret Sacredness” of Every Single Thing in the Roach’s world; the floating heads in issue 82 (which must have been inspired by the King and Queen of the Moon scene from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - a childhood classic); the delicacy and refinement of Michelle’s features in issue 83; Mick and Keef’s ridiculously spot-on dialogue in issue 85; and the quiet, eerie surrealism of the hotel scenes in issue 89 (which to my mind echo the art of Patrick Caulfield and various dreamlike hotel scenes in the novels of Haruki Murakami - I’m curious, is there overlap between Cerebus fans and Murakami fans?).




The "shadowgrain" on this page was an oh shit moment for me (in a good way), evoking Paul Celan’s poetic neologisms:


*the last three images are post-sharpening, pre-cleanup

Oh, and I’m sorry but I can’t let Dave’s attempt at musical notation go unremarked. As a lifetime music nerd, this is wrong to me in so many ways:

(Or maybe Cerebus’ world has its own form of musical notation? The blank measure is actually pretty innovative … )

And so, I suppose I’m feeling more and more like part of the Cerebus Club ... In preparing to write this blog post, I spent time reading some of the Cerebus: In My Life entries and was newly struck by the fact that for longtime readers, Cerebus was a consistent presence in your lives for decades. As someone in my mid-30s, I’m just beginning to understand what “decades” feels like. But it’s interesting for me to imagine the kind of relationship that can develop with a work that spans that length of time. I would imagine that revisiting early issues brings to mind what was going on in your life when they first came out - a kind of nostalgic time machine. Maybe, looking back, you see moments of synchronicity between developments in Cerebus and those in your own story. Or benchmarks that reveal how much has changed.

(An quick aside: I was happy to notice an entry alluding to similarities between Dave’s work and that of two other Daves - Wallace and Lynch - both of whom I am an enormous fan of. Wallace in particular has been on my mind lately since I saw the recent pseudo-biopic.)

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I continue to hope that the newly restored editions Sean and I are working so hard to stay sane completing are experienced as faithful to the original while freshly illuminating new aspects of the work - inspiring new fans, and prompting rereadings of both the books and your varied histories with them.


Jeff Seiler said...

Hi, Mara! Delicacy and refinement of her features, yes. But, did you notice the hardness of her tightly clenched fist holding the broomstick? There is always a yin & yang to the female (perhaps to all of the) characters in Cerebus. Except Elrod: He's all doofus, all the time.

[Whispers quietly to person off-screen: "Has anyone told her yet about Reads or #186?"]

Alexk said...

A minor matter--- "Talking Heads" predated the film "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" by a few years. I'd imagine the similarity is coincidental (although there's certainly a possibility that Gilliam was inspired by Sim, not the other way around, as Gilliam was always aware of the alternative comics scene, and even worked with Kurtzman in his youth).

Mara said...

[Yes, I'm aware ... just processing it for now.]

Steve Harold said...

I read Cerebus 21 of the 26 years it was being published.
While looking at the Cerebus publishing timeline, I can
reference things in my life based on when the issues came
out. One of the best things about Cerebus was that Dave was
very determined to get the book out on time and always have
an issue on the comics rack every month. I turned 21, 31, 41
and Cerebus was there with me for all of it!

JLH said...

Took me a while to figure out why Drew & Fleagle Roach called Cerebus "Derkass", until I remembered the Anti-Pope was Epop, and "Derkass" phonetically backwards was Sacred.

Sean R said...

The Munchausen stories, as illustrated by Gustave Dore, are the basis for the movie. They predate the movie (and Cerebus) by a good 130 years.

Here's a pertinent one--

Other floating head precedents include the terrifying (and funny) ZARDOZ from 1974. Vomiting floating heads. Packs of roving wild men. Crocheted dresses. Sean Connory in a red loincloth. What's not to love?

Tony Dunlop said...

Good catch on Michele's tight grip, Jeff. That one has slipped past me all these years...