Cerebus the Barbarian Messiah: Essays on the Epic Graphic Satire of Dave Sim and Gerhard
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In December 1977, struggling Canadian comic book artist Dave Sim self-published the first issue of Cerebus the Aardvark, a Conan the Barbarian satire featuring a foul-tempered, sword-wielding creature trapped in a human world. Over the next 26 years, Sim, and later collaborator Gerhard, produced an epic 6,000-page graphic novel, the longest-running English language comic series by a single creative team. They revolutionized the comics medium by showing other artists that they too could forgo major publishers, paving the way for such successes as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bone. This work, the first collection of critical essays on Cerebus, provides a multifaceted approach to Sim and Gerhard's complex and entertaining oeuvre, including their innovative use of the comic medium, storytelling and satiric techniques, technical and visual sophistication, and Sim's use of the comic as commentary on gender and religion.
own mind by saying you don’t understand power and the people that are drawn to it” (ibid., 38). The Cirinists, ﬁrst introduced in issue 20, act as Sim’s straw man for his critique of feminism. “A phrase popped into my head years and years ago,” Sim told Charles Brownstein in a 1997 interview, “No one rules without opposition.” That is, the mere fact of governance, the imposition of authority[,] implies opposition and the opposition is usually going to be in a suitable size ratio to the authority.
primary concern, argues Fiore, he would have then wrapped up the series around the mid-way point and gone on to other things. According to Fiore, however, Sim was afraid of losing his guaranteed audience at the same time he was determined to ﬁnish the 300 issues he had promised; therefore he made the decision to have Cerebus ﬁt his interest. “Sim convinced himself that Cerebus could accommodate any content he wanted it to,” yet in doing so Sim stretched credulity (ibid.). With Melmoth, Sim
interdependent issues need only ignore pages one, two and twenty: “Voilá, self-contained unit.” In one of his later introductions, he commented on the fact that at that time, he did not yet “see the book in terms of being one very long continuity.... Many was the time I would be tempted to go ahead with a bit of funny business that contradicted the major continuity I was forming in my head. I appreciate the effort more in retrospect than I did at the time and I’m often surprised at some slightly
decision to commit himself to a single comic story was foolhardy, particularly in an environment where survival beyond several issues is difﬁcult to accomplish. Yet even a cursory examination of Sim’s life before Cerebus makes it unlikely that Dave Sim would consider doing anything else. Sim was born 17 May 1956 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, a port city in Southern Ontario, its third largest city and part of its manufacturing base. His mother, Mary Sim, was an elementary school secretary
world where anything can happen. Dave Sim’s creative representation of sound in Cerebus embodies some of the boldest experiments ever attempted in using the visual to represent the acoustic. Throughout its run, Cerebus continually experimented with the visual representation of sound, creating stunning effects through his unique lettering style 127 128 Part Three. Becoming Synonymous with Something Indescribable that are possible only within comics. Will Eisner’s work anticipates some of the