Cerebus Part IV: Issues #11 and 12

Cerebus Part IV: Issues #11 and 12:
(see also: Part I, Part II, Part III)

Having just established Red Sophia as a genuine player in #10, Sim moved quickly to bolster his roster of eternally-recurring loons with the introduction of the Cockroach in the very next issue. Like most of these protean figures, this merchant/ avenger/amnesiac-war-on-crime-profiteer debuts as a parody of sorts…and yet, again, there’s a lot more than parody going on here.

The Roach, at least in each of the permutations that I am familiar with (and remember, I got sidetracked at #150!) is much more than a spoof of whatever caped crusader he’s aping this week–he’s the embodiment of melodrama. Each of the characterologcal squalls that buffet Cerebus from one issue to the next in these early days is similarly constituted. Storytelling elementals. Pure narrative forces. This evolving stable of galloping crazies gives Sim the power to evoke a mood–or alter one, drastically–in one panel flat–regardless of the situation… They appear out of nowhere, as needed, and Cerebus is forced to take them as directed, by the script doctor himself, for the greater good of the story. Elrod lends a sheen of whimsical irresponsibility to any scene in which he appears–he’s a walking screwball comedy; Jaka brings romance–and introspection; Sophia adds a fleshy tone to an otherwise silvery-gray world; Lord Julius (only a few issues away now!) is a meaning-seeking missile; and the Roach is (in?) pain:


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he’s so lousy with angst that he’ll cathect it any way (and upon any object) that he can… “Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry peole can eat”–the Roach will be there, but he won’t have a clue where to start punching.  “Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy”–the Roach will be there, but he might very well join in! And whenever overwhelming, contentless emotion is needful, in order to further the plot, or to crush it where it stands, you can bet your ass that the Roach will be there–drunk on  “cruel fate” and with a fistful of self-pity … but I don’t want to say too much more about him right now, because my favourite of his phases comes later, once he embraces the Moon, and perfects his Stan Lee patois… So I leave you with this–the historic first encounter between atmospheric foils! It’s not exactly a clash of titans–but there’s definitely some turbulence!

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Good Night Friends!
Dave

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