Sunday, 31 July 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Reread Challenge: High Society

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, July 2016)

High Society: Getting Fancy and Getting Ahead

As I said in my assessment of the first volume of Cerebus each volume comes with a different representation of Dave Sim in the back-matter that appears to correlate to the overarching theme of the work . It often looks like Sim is trying on different selves and ways of engaging with the world that he feels will help him better express whatever topic he is writing about.

High Society is a difficult volume to peg in this regard.  Sim’s then wife, Deni, is still functioning as the publisher of the book and I assume had a fair amount of input into things like advertising, backup stories, etc. It is hard to tell what is due to Dave and what is coming from Deni. Some might read this partnership as being expressed in Cerebus’ relationship with Astoria. That narrative implies Dave Sim was not in control of his own ship, which I find very hard to believe.

What I do see is an artist who has decided to take himself very seriously, in terms of content, and in terms of establishing his place within his field. By moving away from the adventuring barbarian towards a tale of political intrigue, social climbing and electioneering Sim takes the story in a much more mature direction.

On the art front Sim pushes his efforts as a designer. This adds a sophisticated look to the art that mirrors the maturity of the story.

In the back-matter we get pictures of Sim out and about, on tour, looking dapper, doing signings, starting to hobnob with other greats in the field. Deni is constantly referring to new friends and alliances made with other artists, notably Richard and Wendy Pini. There is a F.O.O.G. (Friends of ‘ol Gerber) charity in which Sim joins a number of other well-regarded artists in producing prints to sell as a charity for Steve Gerber. The letter column has even developed it’s own court of jesters by this point, with all of the silliness that stems from Mike Bannon and his like (Did this group of early fans make it to the end? I am very curious about that.).

These behaviors echo the themes of the story. Campaigning, growing your connections, solidifying your status in your field as a serious contributor to the discussion.  [Read the complete review at Carson's blog...]

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State I
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...

Nice job, Carson! Please keep it up to, as they say, the bitter end.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Thanks, Jeff, I am almost through. It was a bit silly of me to state that I was going to "blow through" the rest of the book. I forgot exactly how dense the last 150 issues really are, especially when you commit to reading the back-matter. I don't think I read all of the commentary, notes and essays my first go around.

Each issue past 280 takes anywhere between 3 - 5 hours to read. Fascinating stuff, but man does it eat up time.

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, Carson, I once wrote to Dave to tell him that, suddenly, what used to take 20 minutes to read was now taking 2 hours. That was the summer when I was grading high school SAT essays for Pearson testing services. I told Dave that reading Cerebus was a very welcome respite from grading the high-schoolers' essays, which was akin to listening to Japanese fusion jazz.

Dave wrote back that my comment had nearly made him laugh out loud in the city hall cafeteria--a place he took me to for lunch several years later. Nice place, but definitely not a place for laughing out loud.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Ha-ha! That must have been a painful mental whiplash.

The one semester I taught Art Appreciation courses at a community college was brutal. Eighty papers a week, just four-hundred or so word reading responses really, but still the constant assault on the English language was preeeety hard to bear. Combine that with the realization that most people have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say about ANYTHING; it was a disheartening few months.

I wish more people would read Islam, My Islam, and that I had read it before now. I have read the Koran, so as to not be totally ignorant of what is actually in it, but had no idea about any of the historical and social context Dave provides. Americans need that exposure. That said, I must admit I nod off about half-way through each time and have to come back for the second half.