Sunday, 7 August 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Re-Read Challenge: Church & State I

(from Carson's ReRead Blog, August 2016)
...Even though Cerebus does suffer a number of literal, moral and metaphorical falls, overall it is a story of ascending to what is assumed, at the time anyway, to be the pinnacle of Truth-About-Existence. To match this ascent Dave Sim continues the rise in acclaim that he started to exhibit during the High-Society years, where he become viewed as an elite creator in the field. Sim now reaches for Rock-Superstar status. (I do not think it is any accident that Mick and Keith first appear during these issues.)

The volume basically starts off with Dave and Deni announcing the separation of their marriage. It takes a while after this for Sim to really show the signs of his new persona, in part due to the fact that Deni stays on as publisher and continues to contribute Notes From the Publisher through issue 70. Once Dave fully takes over all aspects of the book it truly becomes a vehicle for the voice of one man... [Read the full article here...]

Cerebus Vol 4: Church & State II
Cerebus Vol 5: Jaka's Story
Cerebus Vol 6: Melmoth
Cerebus Vol 7: Flight
Cerebus Vol 8: Women
Cerebus Vol 9: Reads
Cerebus Vol 10: Minds
Cerebus Vol 11: Guys
Cerebus Vol 12: Rick's Story
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day


Jeff Seiler said...

I wonder if "Michelle and Thomas" should be read as "Deni and Marshall".

Just sayin'.

Jeff Seiler said...

Oh, and, good job as usual, Carson. Although, you could use a proofreader...

adampasz said...

Awesome image! It seems so simple, yet it conveys so much. I will never understand why more current comic creators can't create page layouts and narrative flows that are as impactful as Cerebus.

adampasz said...

I also just noticed how well Sim can draw fingers, which is something a lot of artists struggle with!

Dave Sim said...

Hi Jeff! Couldn't find the "Michelle and Thomas" reference but if there IS a Michelle and Thomas reference in there, it refers to two kids that I used to babysit (ca. 1969-1970) who lived directly behind 282 Westmount Rd. E. on Village Road. I used to play road hockey (and backyard shinny when his Dad created a backyard rink) with Thomas. I did at least one comic story with Michelle as the "lead" and, evidently, a comic book cover with the two of them as super-hero and super-heroine respectively (the younger sister of my first -- and only -- mistress, Sally, was in high school at the time with Michelle while Sally and I were "carrying on" and mentioned the cover, which I had forgotten, to the younger sister) . It was YEARS later that I noticed that Michelle looked exactly like my paternal grandmother (if you've got the CEREBUS ARCHIVE issue with "Scratch & The Karma Blues", I used the photo of her ca. 1911 with my Great Uncle Jimmy and my Great Aunt Peggy: my grandmother is the brunette).

Just skimming through Carson's text, it would be an exaggeration to say we worked out of hotel rooms (plural). There was really just the one year in Florida (at a hotel) and the second year in Hawaii (in a condo). Also, that wasn't an example of the "local wildlife". That was ROSE who had flown across the ocean to spend her vacation time with Gerhard. I was just being intentionally irritating toward Rose. As she tended to be intentionally irritating toward me.

I WAS "scoreboarding" -- notches on the bedpost -- between the time Deni and I broke up (August 20 1983) and when I started going out with Susan (August 20, 1994). Gerhard was never like that.

Dave Sim said...

Well, bless you adampasz! I think it's more a matter of people who are...genetically amenable? CEREBUS-style storytelling gravitate to our work.

If you look at most modern comic books, I think we're moving towards a "sweet spot" between movies and video games with a far greater emphasis on colour and CGI-style effects that look closer to movies and video games. Because that's what people are genetically amenable to in 2016 being pretty much bombarded with it from the cradle on.

I'm not sure where things like "cross-hatching" even exist in modern visual consciousness since I'd assume that part of the brain is well away from the area that responds to computer colour and CGI effects. Is there an active REPULSION at work? Does the computer colour CGI mind REPULSE pen and ink consciousness? Actively EXPEL it? I would guess -- as the Chinese said about the French Revolution -- "Too soon to tell".

Carson Grubaugh said...

Haha, yeaaaah... guilty as charged. I don't want to put any more time into the things than I already have, though.

Carson Grubaugh said...

I have been making mental note of Sim's hands, but for the opposite reason. They are expressive, which is great, but the fingertips are always so bulbous that they look clumsy to me. Even the women can have sausage fingers.

Funny how different people have opposite responses to the same things. I keep seeing comments on here to the effect that Going Home is most peoples' favorite Gerhard volume. I think it is by far the ugliest of all the volumes.

Carson Grubaugh said...


"Michelle and Thomas" comes when Cerebus tells The Countess that his first girlfriend left him a note saying, "I'm leaving you forever. Don't try to find me. It's over. Michelle and Thomas."

Countess: "And Thomas?"

Cerebus: "Nice touch, don't you think?"

Countess: "Mm. So her name was..."

Cerebus: Aye."

Countess: "I wondered why you told me about her..."

Tony Dunlop said...

Funny how many of us Cerebus fans can recite that scene by heart, but Dave doesn't remember it. Reminds me of a Bruce Springsteen interview I read once; he told of a time he couldn't remember the opening verse of "Born to Run" at a concert, so the audience sang it for him!

Dave Sim said...

Tony - Yeah, that's only going to get "later and more so".

It's why I always try to come up with something new to say when people ask me questions. The "on the record" stuff you're going to know better than I would. At the time, I would have been thinking, "Maybe someday Tom or Michelle will read CEREBUS and go 'Hey! It's [us/me]!" At the time there was still thirty years to go -- anything could happen! The road narrows, of course, and you realize that that's not the kind of thing that you're doing: that a "civilian" will never do more than just "hear tell of" your work. If that.

CEREBUS has nothing to with me, in that sense. The "me" who has lived in Kitchener since 1958. No one knows THAT me. They KNEW "that me" however briefly for whatever span of years for whatever reason. Ken and Mary's son. Guy I went to Forest Heights with. Westmount Rd. E. neighbour. Now & Then Books customer. Conestoga Towers neighbour. Deni's husband. Gerhard's boss. And all of that is decades ago! :)

adampasz said...

Dave, I love your explanation of CGI effects being "genetically" embedded in the current generation of readers! Of course I feel Photoshop has ruined comics, but of course I am also an old man. :)
On a related note, I stumbled across this article which is along similar lines.

Dave Sim said...

adampasz Hi! It's one of the "givens" of Reality that you arrive at a technological age where you think that things have been irretrievably ruined to no good purpose. I'm sure that was my grandparents' reaction to the advent of network television. We're just all going to sit in a circle and stare at this box from now on? Well, yeah. Basically. Is that a problem? Well. No. I guess not.

Pre-remote control you really needed a major impetus to get up and change the channel. With no way to cut the sound, you either got up and turned it down manually if you really couldn't STAND the commercial(s) or you watched and listened to the commercials.

Just be aware that it will happen to the current generation as well. Something completely unpredictable that changes everything and makes you say, "Oh, well, I'm not here for much longer. What do I care?"

Dave Sim said...

Hi Jeff: Way back to the beginning. I now GET your "Deni and Marshall" reference. No, it wasn't like that. Deni certainly HOPED it was like that -- "The Boy From New York City"; "Between The Moon and New York City" (theme from ARTHUR) as well as watching her Kinks Live video (Ray Davies ca.1982 was a dead ringer for Marshall Rogers) until her eyes bled -- but Marshall was definitely a womanizer in womanizer mode. No danger of him falling in love with anyone (although I guess he did: he got married eventually, I think). "KAREN MCKIEL and Marshall". Same deal. He slept with her when I was sleeping with her. Not long after The Countess sequence, in fact.

That was always the problem -- and I'm sure it still is. If you were JUST sleeping with them, you had no claim to them. If you were staking a claim, that took a proposal -- an accepted proposal -- and a ring.

Guys tend not to believe me, but it's true: if all you want is sex, you'll have no problem getting sex. If you're lying to yourself and you actually want a girlfriend/fiancee/wife but you portray yourself as just wanting sex...well, you might as well take a large hammer and smack yourself between the eyes with it because that's what you're setting yourself up for. Know thyself.

Erick said...

I know you and I disagree on many things, but the thing that brings me here to this website is to celebrate your towering achievement with Cerebus. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: At its height and your height of creative powers, I truly believe that Cerebus was the greatest and most literate comic book ever produced.
I truly love it and i love looking back on those long years ago and feeling i was part of something special simply because i was one of the diehard fans who saw something special and stayed with it.
I do not come here to hear your views on the world, but when you reflect on your creation and the work, it truly recaptures part of that amazing time.
So, yes we will argue and disagree, but I want to say thank you for giving the world and me Cerebus.


Dave Sim said...

Erick - Oh, you're quite welcome! Thank YOU for all the money and attention!

Like Blake Bell's dedication to me in his Ditko book STRANGE AND STRANGER, thanking me for (I think) the first 150 issues of CEREBUS. It's like being COMICS' GREATEST CREATIVE AMPUTEE or something. "What part of CEREBUS do YOU need to amputate to acknowledge its greatness?"

Not having "greatness" in quotation marks is Pretty Wicked Cool for a social pariah, you'd have to admit!!

Erick said...

it would be impossible and spectacularly stupid to try and separate Cerebus from his creator or any parts of the story.
Yes, there were times, years in fact - when i struggled to get through an issue without quite literally throwing the book - I kid you not, against the wall. This was during your 'minimalist phase' with the art that basically felt like it was no more than a stick figure surrounded by word salad. But the greatness that I remembered and hoped would return - and it did, kept me around. When I am in need of a truly heartfelt laugh I will bust out the Roach stories and just crack up! My second favorite line of all time in Cerebus is "he bruised his knuckles purty bad on mah kidneys" .
Cerebus was much more than the 'ha-ha' as I said before it was the most literate comic book - and that almost seems an insult to call it a comic book, but it was the most literate graphic novel or comic book or whatever you want to call it of the mid to late 80's and early 90's no caveats.

Jim Sheridan said...

Ernest Hemingway famously praised The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the essential American novel while also saying you can skip the last 12 chapters. If Cerebus ends up being regarded the same way, it's keeping pretty good company.

Off topic: while trying to simplify, simplify, simplify my possessions, I was delighted to find The Animated Cerebus and the Six Deadly Sins in my attic. What beautiful work!!!! I hadn't looked at them in at least 20 years.