Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1970's Flashback: Cerebus

Cerebus created by Canadian writer-artist Dave Sim published from December 1977 until March 2004, is a title that can’t be easily summed up. Beginning as a parody of sword and sorcery comics, it later moved into seemingly any topic that Sim wished to explore: power and politics, religion and spirituality, gender issues, and more over the course of a 300-issue, 6000 story-page series.

The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined in with the 65th issue. However as the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim's controversial beliefs.  Sim was a frequent marijuana user, began using LSD, taking the drug with such frequency that he was eventually hospitalized. He eventually cut all ties with his family and virtually all of his industry colleagues apart from Gerhard in order to finish the work. He has had very public fallings-out with some of his peers. Sim became a believer in God while gathering research material for "Rick's Story". However, rather than following any established religion, Sim follows his own personal belief system cobbled together from elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; all of which impacted Cerebus in his final story arcs, segments of which are extremely misogynistic towards women.
Starting with the acclaimed “High Society” storyline, the series became divided into self-contained "novels", which form parts of the overall story. The ten "novels" of the series have been collected in 16 books, known as "Cerebus phonebooks" for their resemblance to telephone directories. He had originally angered many retailers who felt that their support had been instrumental in his series' success in an industry generally indifferent to small publishers — by offering the first printings of the phonebooks via mail order only (a highly lucrative decision that paid off well for Sim).

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