Get on the (Cere)Bus — Part II: issues #4-7

Get on the (Cere)Bus!

(Part II: issues #4-7)

So, in my first Cerebus post, I mentioned issue #2’s audacious manifesto of the “serial survivor”. Cerebus is about to be killed by a succubus? Well, that’s fine, except that, y’see, he’s immune to that sort of thing–because this is Cerebus. Of course, this is a given in any ongoing narrative that focuses upon one protagonist, from David Copperfield through The Continental Op to Superman. But I like the way that Sim drives home the fact by refusing to produce an explanation for this bit of ontological melodrama:

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Where is its soul?

Again–Cerebus is all soul. All fantasy. And as real as his creator. That is all ye need to know.

Issue #7 builds toward an even more demented instance of this same unlawful law (and manages to anticipate, in some obvious ways, the explosive deus ex machina that brings  Joe Vs. The Volcano to a joyous conclusion! Tom & Meg shoulda stopped right there…)

But the way I see it, the real drama of the early issues of Cerebus is in Sim’s effort to generate a troupe of actors hammy enough to compete for the spotlight with his short gray anti-hero. Obviously, he struck paydirt with Elrod–who first appears in #4, and then, a mere three issues later, returns for some of this:

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(Cerebus is upset because this scene takes place just outside the lair of the Black Sun death cult…Elrod is looking for a cocktail that goes by the same name)

That entrance! It’s pure Groucho–in “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” mode–and even if we didn’t know that Sim was a mere seven issues away from bringing Julius Marx himself into the narrative, we could have predicted it… Elrod, like Cerebus, is “fit to stand the gaze of millions”–and consequently exempt from the bloody logic of whatever situation he stumbles into (or, as is more usually the case with The Albino, instigates)  Is Elrod a parody of Elric? That’s what they always say–but I don’t buy it. He’s a pop-alchemical miracle is what he is.

So what else happens in these issues? Well, Cerebus comes across two separate groups of lunatics (the Pigts–led by Bran Mak Mufin & Fret Mac Mury–and the aforementioned Black Sun) who worship his graven image; he makes some quick illicit cash (although usually not as much as he thinks he’s going to), and he spends it just as quickly.

Oh yeah–and he meets Jaka…

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Look at that Charles Schulz grin in panel four! It’s the spitting image of Lucy at the piano, putting the moves on Schroeder. That’s what’s so great about Sim’s work, even at this stage in the game–the juxtapositions. This is supposed to be a Conan parody? No way! That was just a cover story. Barry Smith people don’t grin like that. “Realistic” figures can’t. So much the worse for us realistic types. I’ve felt that grin coming on many times–but I’ve never quite managed to screen it for the world…

So what’s Jaka’s story, anyway?

Well, she’s no Elrod–that’s for sure. She can’t compete with Cerebus on the cartoon plane. But what she can do is force a shift in focalization–an even rarer feat in the context of this particular narrative:

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And here’s one explanation for why it happens:

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Happy–sniff!–Valentine’s Day Friends!



  1. A fine way to work the Valentines theme into your ongoing posts! Still, doesn’t a Valentines message using Dave & Deni have at its core a darker tone? Or at least a tinge of futility for the holiday? (Why, of course it does. Good going!)

    A sequential re-reading of the series is one of those items on my ethereal “list” – intended for the past several years – but I haven’t gotten to it so far. Truth to tell, the final three volumes wait for me to read them the first time, and after all this time it’s probably a better idea than ever to just start at the beginning and roll on up through the end.

    I see you’re drawing on the original issues for these early ones, whereas I have the first 20-something or so issues in the early Swords of Cerebus trades. They lack the original editorial and letters pages but include comments by Dave on the content of each issue from his perspective some years later, when he was less guarded about some details.

    There are some great tidbits in there, such as how he’d never read Moorecock’s Elric (at least not at that point) when he created Elrod, and only had a very general sense of who the character was. He took that, married it to Foghorn Leghorn, and ran with it. He was as surprised as anyone when someone who’d actually read the source material applauded his spot-on parody of Moorecock’s hero.

  2. Some years later, Dave Sim commented on the ‘wedding present’ aspect of the ending of this issue and said that it represented a veiled warning from himself to Deni Loubert of the feelings he still harboured for another woman, which puts a spin on the “Some day — some day, <>sweet<> Cerebus, you <>will<> remember why…and you will <>return<>.”

  3. oh wow!

    that makes it all the better–and all the more disturbing!

    it suits my melancholic approach to romance perfectly…


  4. Jaka is was and always will be a symbol for Dave’s “perfect woman…the ideal partner…” even tho he know she doesn’t exist. the ending symbolizes that he will continue to look for her…even tho he’s now married. He thinks he finds her later…only she’s flaky Red Sophia…he thinks he finds her again…only she’s an arrogant bitch…he keeps looking. No one can live up to the ideal of Jaka…not even Jaka herself. So now he hates women for not living up to his ideal. Sad. I feel sad for him. always have…always will.

  5. me too my friend–but then, every single one of us (women as well as men) must evenutally face this very same challenge, and it doesn’t have to go that way… it’s all a question of whether you put a “greater than” or “less than” sign between “world” and “desire”…which is easy to say, of course, and even easier to reduce to an amorphous mathematical expresion, but much harder to live through… one thing’s for sure though–what we want doesn’t matter at all, in the grand scheme of things, and there’s no reason to be bitter about it either…just based upon what I’ve read about Dave Sim, I think he has chosen to be bitter, and that’s not a choice that I condone, but the stakes of his own mental debate are very close–initially, at least–to those which drive my novel… is it any wonder that I feel that I must read this whole saga, now that’s done!

    thanks for the comment!


  6. He has chosen to be bitterSo true, my dear. so true. The things I could tell you…I knew him so well…better than many others…and the things I could tell you. He is complex and fascinating, he wants so much to be part of the world, but doesn’t know how, so he has put himself high above it. He wants so much to be just another human, but has no idea how to become, so he strives to make himself more than the rest of us humans. I am his nightmare, the one who saw him as a human, the one whom he let see him with his mask off. The things I could tell you, my dear, the things I could say…

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