What Have I Missed – Cerebus

Probably the most notable of achievements of self-publishing, Cerebus lasted 300 issues by Dave Sim and Gerhard.  Despite all the static surrounding Sim’s world view and opinions on feminism, the comic is highly regarded.  And I’ve never read a single issue.

(Okay – I admit it’s awfully hard to ignore Sim’s offer to fistfight Bone creator Jeff Smith, or his lengthy essays on feminism, abortion, the shortcomings of all women, homosexuality, etc.  Confused?  Check out the The Comics Journal piece about Sim’s belief system.)

I think part of the appeal of Cerebus is the development of the characters over time, and the fact they actually aged over time.  There’s a defined story arc – something I admired about Starman, Y: Last Man, and Ex Machina.  The writer has a plan in mind, that reveals itself over time.

The other appeal is the level of detail in the art.  Not necessarily the general attributes, but Gerhard’s backgrounds and texturing – never have bricks and stones looked so good!

So, dear readers, tell me what have I missed?  Is Cerebus worth reading?


3 Responses to What Have I Missed – Cerebus

  1. Yes.

    I’m tempted to just leave it at that. Yes, it’s worth reading. Yes, you’ve been missing something.

    You’re missing one of the greatest pictorial narratives in history. Only you know which of these fits your personality best, but I highly urge you to try whichever one sounds like the best fit. If you aren’t hooked after trying one of these three books, then perhaps Cerebus isn’t for you. It certainly isn’t for everybody – many who were reading it to begin with abandoned it before the end. But it certainly fits my definition of literature, which I got from Neil Gaiman, who got it from Gene Wolfe: “That which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.”

    1) If you have to read *anything* you read from the very beginning *OR* if you find tremendous pleasure it witnessing the rapid development of a young talent, start with the first book, just titled “Cerebus,” but fondly known among fans as “Cerebus the Barbarian.” It begins as a funny-animal parody of Conan, specifically the Roy Thomas-Barry Smith Conan comic books from Marvel in the early ’70s, with art that is, to put it kindly, raw. But for the first few issues reprinted here, each one is *much* better than the last – you can almost see the art progress from page to page.

    2) If political satire is your bag, pick up “High Society,” the first self-contained novel-within-the-larger-novel (and probably the most successful at being completely self-contained). Very funny stuff.

    3) If you want a more refined sensibility, mature themes and truly amazing art, pick up “Jaka’s Story.” It’s from almost half-way through, but it’s almost completely self-contained in the sense that knowing what came before isn’t really essential to anything going on in the book – at least until about 2/3 of the way through, when the overall storyline comes crashing through the door.

    If you read whichever of those books sounds most appealing and you’re not intrigued enough to want to read more, I’ll be extremely surprised.

    Steve Bolhafner

  2. […] same crew also jump on the Cerebus re-examination bandwagon.  Well worth the […]

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