Posted by: vikingsinspace | October 3, 2011

VI.22. Read Every Issue of Cerebus in Order One More Time

Date Accomplished: 28 February, 2011

The First Four TPB of Cerebus

I believe I was in Middle School when I first discovered the comic book Cerebus the Aardvark.  It was an independently published comic book, written and illustrated by Dave Sim (with his partner Gerhard doing the backgrounds for most of the series) that set out to achieve the goal of publishing a 300 issue comic book that told the continuous life of the main character which ends with his death in the final issue.  The comic ran from December of 1977 and ended in March 2004; accomplishing the goal of telling the continuous life story of the title character Cerebus.

I’m not entirely sure where in the story Sim was when I first started reading Cerebus.  The first issue I ever purchased was issue #88, which occurred during the second part of the Church & State story-arc (and was certainly not the most recent issue, as I got it in the back-issue box of my local comic shop).  I remember thinking that it was interesting, but confusing at the same time.  So the next time I was at the comic shop I got the two issues before #88 to see if that would explain what was happening.  I got even more confused, but it was still interesting (this was all before I knew that the goal of Cerebus was to be a continuous story – meaning you pretty much have to read it in order to understand it. There are very few “jumping on” points).  I wanted to know more, so I went back and started with the first collected edition (called ‘phone books’ at the time) of Cerebus.

Every Issue of Cerebus in the “Phone Book” Format

To this day, I read the ‘phone books’ of Cerebus rather than the individual issues.  I bought a few issues as the came out during the Guys storyline, and again during the Latter Days storyline, but mostly I just picked up the Phone Books as they came out.  The early books I must have read over and over again constantly as a kid.  The first, containing the first 25 issues, is simply titled Cerebus and contains more disjointed stories than later books would.  These stories set the stage for who Cerebus is as a character, and introduces some of the more important people in his life.  The second book, High Society shows Cerebus as an important diplomat and eventual Prime Minister of the city-state of Iest.  His role here is followed by that of the Pope of one of the fictional world of Estarcion’s main religions in the Church and State storyline.  There is some very deep world-building in this story-arc, culminating with Cerebus going on the ‘Ascension’ (where he is meant to meet Tarim (God) in Heaven, but instead meets The Judge, who would reveal that he would eventually ‘die alone.  Unmourned.  And unloved.’) and the city-state of Iest being taken over by Cirinists (a radical/militarized matriarchal society who allow only Mothers to be citizens and believe any non-married male is inherently evil).  This is followed by some inactivity on Cerebus’ part during the book called Jaka’s Story (Cerebus is in hiding from the Cirinists, living in the home of the one woman he loves and her husband, Rick) and Melmoth (Sim recounts the final days of Oscar Wilde, set in the world of Estarcion while Cerebus sits in shock, believing Jaka to be dead).

The second half of Cerebus begins with the ‘Mothers & Daughters’ storyline (consisting of the books Flight, Women, Reads, and Minds).  Cerebus begins to fight back against the Cirinists, and eventually goes on a second ‘Ascension’ were he meets and talks with Dave Sim, the creator.  This is actually rather interesting, because Dave tells us that he had Cerebus’ life planned out up until the point where Dave is done explaining some of the events in Cerebus’ life to him, as well as the origin of the Cirinists, and then simply finishes with “I’m all done.  Your turn.”  From here on, Dave tells us he didn’t know what was going to happen next, and it does literally seem like Cerebus the character has taken over his own life.  Cerebus ends his ‘Ascension’ my returning to Estarcion and a pub he remembered spending a lot of time in when he was younger, and spends the whole of the storyline Guys within this pub (with the Cirinist takeover, men are almost relegated to living in pubs).  Cerebus ends his time in the Pub with the return of Rick in Rick’s Story, which sees Rick writing a book which would eventually turn into a religion with Cerebus as one of the main prophets.  Cerebus is reunited with Jaka in the ‘Going Home’ storyline (in books Going Home, and Form and Void), where he and Jaka attempt to leave the Cirinist controlled territories and head North to be with Cerebus’ parents which ends with disastrous results.  The final portion of Cerebus’ life sees him become the prophet (of sorts…) to the religion established by Rick, and ridding the world of the Cirinist influence in Latter Days.  Cerebus begins to live a secluded life, and the final book, The Last Day, shows that the Cirinist/radical matriarchal influence had returned.  Cerebus had remarried by this point and had a son, and his last day is spent preparing to see his son so that he could share a revelation he had from God (no longer Tarim at this point) before his death.  Cerebus is betrayed by his son, being left to die alone.  Unmourned.  And unloved.

First and Final Cerebus TPBs

It occurs to me that this is actually the first time I have read the entire Cerebus story-arc from start to finish.  I have read all the books before, but did not re-read the early books in preparation of reading the final two or three books of the series.  Dave Sim has created such an in-depth world and story that after reading the whole storyline, I believe this is the only way the series should be read.  It takes, a while certainly (particularly books such as Reads, and Latter Days which contain portions that are primarily text without illustrations), but is certainly worth the effort.  As an aside, it should be noted that Dave has been accused of being a misogynist and that his books (particularly the later ones) are tracks against women.  I don’t particularly see this myself, as the misogyny seems to be a result of the world Sim has created, but I would concede that he has some misogynistic tendencies at times.  With that warning, I would say that Cerebus is certainly worth reading, and while I stated in this goal that I wanted to read this story ‘One More Time,’ I have no doubt I’ll be reading it again at some point.

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