Monday, 6 March 2017

Orbital Comics: "Cerebus In Hell? & Why Dave Sim Is Great"

Cerebus In Hell? #1
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
 (January 2017)
The most recent series by independent creator Dave Sim (in collaboration with Sandeep Atwal), Cerebus In Hell, loosely continues on from his legendary, award winning series Cerebus. Very, very loosely. Though I think it's probably the only way that such an epic series could ever be satisfyingly continued by the original author especially fourteen years after it’s conclusion AND as a fortieth anniversary celebration t'boot.

For those who missed the party: Cerebus was an independently produced, epic 300 issue comic book published consistently month after month for twenty-seven years by the same creator/publisher without break. With background artist Gerhard joining him with issue sixty-five Dave Sim and Cerebus were the first to achieve this milestone (though there are a couple of moneyed, heavily backed comics about to reach that record in the coming years).

Beginning as a Sword and Sorcery/Conan satire Cerebus eventually grew into one of the most interesting and, occasionally, controversial comic series exploring subjects such as politics, religion and gender very often inspiring a great deal of passion both for and against Sim’s opinions to the point where he became something of a pariah in the Comics industry of the nineties. But regardless of whether you agreed with Sim or not, the fact of the matter is that Cerebus was and IS a stunning work of art and literature pushing the boundaries of what a comic is and can be with deliberate ease through page construction, panel layout and lettering. Actually his lettering alone is worth the price of entry.

Sim followed Cerebus with the interesting but less popular Glamourpuss which had Sim once again pushing the boundaries of what a comic is by creating something that was at once a superhero comic and glamour magazine parody but also included a history of photorealistic comics and an incomplete story about the death of Alex Raymond as a result of Glamourpuss coming to an abrupt halt in 2011 due to an unknown wrist injury suffered by Sim.

Since the last issue of Glamourpuss, Sim has been keeping himself busy with the release of a high definition, limited, Twenty-Fifth Anniversary edition of the High Society telephone book (Cerebus Collections are referred to as telephone books due to their size), a DVD ‘animated’ version of High Society narrated and performed by Sim himself (absolutely fantastic and highly recommended to everyone) as well as a series of Archives that reproduce the original art of the early issues and a beautiful Cover Art Treasury of every single cover of the series with commentary, most of which are available in our store right now. What? We're a shop remember. 

Which leaves us with Cerebus In Hell; bringing us back to Cerebus' beginnings in that it's just straight up funny and irreverent taking pot-shots with almost childish glee. Foregoing traditional art, Sim has opted to repurpose Gustave DorĂ©’s illustrations for Dante’s The Devine Comedy and inserted the occasionally different, single Cerebus figure onto the image in order to poke fun at Cerebus and, maybe, just maybe, the po-faced seriousness of Cerebus' final years?

Perhaps time has softened both Sim and his readership as this new run of Cerebus is just a series of cartoon strips ignoring polemics and firing straight for the one-liner, sometimes a miss, occasionally silly, but more often than not eliciting a smile and a hearty guffaw. This book should appeal to anyone with a funny bone and will hopefully serve as an interesting introduction for the uninitiated to Cerebus.

Orbital Comics is one of London's best comics shops 
and winner of a coverted 'Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award'. 


Dave Sim said...

Many thanks to Orbital Comics for the VERY favourable review. As to "ignoring polemics", I think that might be an "in the eye of the beholder" thing. Sandeep and I tend to do what WE think is funny and we are, neither of us, typical denizens of 2017. On the one hand, everything in 2017 is political and, on the other hand, nothing is 2017 is political, again, depending on "the eye of the beholder". We were being pretty careful in the early going with the online strips and with this four-issue mini-series of "firing straight for the one-liner" but, really, as thinking people you can only do that for so long. Humour, I think, issues directly from the unconscious, unedited -- and un-editing -- mind. So, particularly in the long term, you have to eventually get out of your own way and get it down to a simple question: does it make ME laugh? And, if it does, then you can't second-guess what you're saying or how you're saying it or -- more often than not -- you lose the gag.

The only corrections: the wrist went out of commission February 27, 2015. And I pulled the plug on glamourpuss in 2012 because it just wasn't sustainable.

Paul Slade said...

What's your thinking on the wrist now, Dave? Two years on and the brace + icing regime has perhaps achieved all it's likely to do. It's got to be your decision, of course, but might there come a point when you decide there's very little to lose by opting for the surgery after all?

Travis Pelkie said...

I don't know, Paul. While I'd love to have Dave the artist back, if Dave is content to not be an artist at this point, I think the risks of surgery (potential chronic pain forever after) outweigh the benefits.

I do think, though, that Dave may not have explored non-surgical therapies as much as he could have. When he was first doing ... some therapy (I forget what), he was supposed to not be using the wrist at all, but he did the signing for one of the Kickstarters. It's like a baseball pitcher with a bum arm being told not to do any ball throwing at all, then when the doctor asks later on if you kept the arm fully rested, you say yes. Well, except for playing catch with the boys, but other than that, no, no ball throwing. How is signing the Kickstarters not using the wrist?

But again, if Dave thinks that surgery would be too invasive and possibly crippling, I certainly don't blame him for not doing surgery. However, I think there may be treatments that are not invasive that he maybe hasn't fully explored. Mostly I care because I would love to see Dave the artist back.

Paul Slade said...

For the record, I wouldn't presume to advise Dave either way. I honestly don't know what I personally would do if I found myself in his position.

Dave Sim said...

Nothing but horror stories attached to any kind of surgery-for-artists. First one was Greg Hyland when I saw him in Windsor when he came down to help out on closing the warehouse (10/16) Latest one was Bill Byrne who went in to have a cyst removed from one of the fingers on his drawing hand. It's now and extremely grisly looking horror story of a finger ("But I can still draw!" he enthused!).

Latest word on the wrist is that any time I'm pasting up a CEREBUS IN HELL? mock-up and it's a light-coloured background, I use a red pen on the finished photocopy to mark the shape and position of the word balloon for Benjamin (hi, Benjamin!). A word balloon is about the most basic hand-eye-brain coordination thing you can do as a comics artist: it's specific to drawing because it's either a) a perfect oval (wrist is A-OK: it can put things where they need to go) or b) a mutant oval (whatever was wrong in there is still wrong in there and I can't even do a simple oval). On a percentage basis, over the fourteen months that we've been doing CEREBUS IN HELL?, I've gone from (guesstimating) a 1:4 ratio of perfect to mutant and now I'm at a 4:1 perfect to mutant ratio.

Completely unpredictable when the wrist is going to "go mutant", though.

Anonymous said...

hi Dave!

Gee, how'd you know I'd see that "hi" way down here? :)

-Benjamin Hobbs