A&R1993: Cerebus #163-174

Cerebus (1977) #163-174 by Dave Sim & Gerhard

This blog post covers the second of the four Mothers & Daughters books: “Women”.

The main structuring device this time around are competing quotes from Astoria’s and Cirin’s books. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between Kevillism and Cirinism is, you’re in luck!

Other than that, it’s very much like the previous book: We follow a handful of different storylines, all taking place at the same time. We’ve got the Roach, Cerebus, Cirin, and of course Astoria. Who turns out to be an expert on hair cutting, too! As usual with Sim, I’m not sure whether he means to show that she’s hyper competent or that she’s a bitch — I think probably the latter?

Randomly, we get (I guess) Rikki Lake? It’s a handful of pages, and Sim captures that talk show format well, but it doesn’t make much sense in context. I mean, even less than most of the parody stuff does.

Sim notes that it’s rare that he gets a letter that actually comments on the plot itself. And those are indeed good questions.

The mix of action and infodumps works quite well, but perhaps not as well as in the previous book. Basically, all of the main characters are passive for large sections of the book, and they are uncharacteristically passive; letting things happen around them and just sitting around, listening to other people tell them stuff.

I don’t think we know at this point that the woman who’s talking at Cerebus here is the real Cirin? She isn’t introduced at all. But I may be misremembering. Anyway, she explains that “women’s intuition” is rape, and all I’m thinking is that this probably refers to something specific in Sim’s life: He was lying to some woman, and she caught him at it. That should be illegal! He lied real good!

Am I being less than charitable? I don’t know?

On the other hand, Punisheroach becomes Swooncommamortals, and that pretty irresistible, eh? A Sandman parody is just what’s needed at this point. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really go anywhere much…

A reader writes in and talks about the time Gary Groth wanted him to go to an auction and buy some shelves. Hey, why not.

Groth had written an article about how perhaps Image Comics was a bit naff, and Sim threw a hissy fit. He seems to be trying to walk his rant back here a bit, claiming that it was “a parody of his journalistic style”. Which is a bit odd, because it was written in Sim’s normal style. (Granted, Sim is a bit on the naff side when it comes to prose, so perhaps it’s indeed possible he thought he was writing in a different style…)

Sim tries to do Dave McKean Sandman cover (well, a parody of it, at least) and kinda fails? But the Gerhard inset photo is a nice touch.

OK, perhaps Sim isn’t totally over it.

For a few years at this point, Sim had been showing ambiguous woo woo happening around Cerebus, but now he’s reached the point where Cerebus waves his sword around (in his sleep) and a tower grows and topples (onto Cirin), so the mysteries have somewhat dissipated: Cerebus is God’s Special Chosen Messiah.

Gary Grinch, that’s witty… Sim is definitely not over it.

But the comics are progressing nicely — Sim does these semi-chaotic sequences so well: Everything is really clear, really, but it feels like we have to be on our toes; it feels vital that we don’t miss anything. It’s excellent reader participation.

Sim launches the Cerebus Campaign ’93, which is a sort of comics retailer outreach program, but also involves readers trying to get more money to Sim, I mean, advocate for the art form. As Sim says “other creators are watching”, so you betcha if the retailers manage to shift oodles and oodles of Cerebus merch, then they’ll be er rewarded? by other creators? Anyway, it’s all very altruistic on Sim’s part.

Oh yeah, I guess I’ll have to do a blog post on Cerebus #0 — coming up next, I guess.

Lots of selling points! Women sure do love Cerebus.

And Sim is definitely, definitely not over the Gary Groth thing!

Like I said earlier, one frustrating thing about this book is how many characters just sit most of the book out: Here Astoria chooses to sleep instead of doing something, or anything. It’s kinda weak plotting. On the other hand, the book already feels pretty overstuffed, so keeping a lot of the characters in mothballs may make total sense.

Er… Sim is going into the furniture business?

Not over it.

Another thing Sim does so well at this point is to write both for the collection and for the pamphlet: Reading each pamphlet feels like a satisfying thing on its own. Most of the issues end on some kind of cliffhanger, and on the way there, the issues build up from zero in a very accomplished way. And yet, while reading the issues all together, it feels like a natural whole.

Sim is really getting into the Gospel of Self Publishing: His Notes from the President are mostly “how to”s on doing comics in these issues.

Sim prints an address to some con, and he’s still harping on about that Groth article from a year earlier. And the lucky participants there didn’t get a five page diatribe…

… but instead a seven page speech that I’m sure the participants were thrilled to sit through.

Sim also prints other people’s primers on self publishing.

Sim explains “why women and government don’t mix” — and as an example, he uses somebody who was not up for election and is not in government, taking some weeks off to care for their father. This is as prime Sim logic.

So what was Astoria’s plan, then? Well, she was going to set fire to the hotel she was in, killing herself and her followers. Because that’s something Astoria would totally do.

Sim is really inconsistent with his characters — he’s really good at giving them er character, but then he goes “eh, whatev, I’ll have them do foo now”, even if they’ve been anti foo up to now. It’s a bit on the lazy side.

Yes, Image has indeed arrived.

And the self publishing thing is really getting into gear — we’re getting previews from the most trend setting ones, like Wandering Star by Teri S. Wood. (Almost all these self publishers would fail disastrously a couple years later.)

And then we reach the end of “Women”. It’s a propulsive read — it feels like we’re learning so much and that so much happened over these pages, but when I think back on it… not so much? You can basically recap this issue with “Astoria, Cerebus and Suentus Po made their way to Cirin”. And all of that happened in the final issue, really. But I guess that the most important bit in this book (for Sim) was to explain that women are poo poo heads.

Sim used to run the circulation figures in every issue, but stopped doing that when Cerebus’s sales started flagging. (Nobody likes looking like a loser, I guess.) But here’s some numbers: Circulation bottomed out at 14,700 at the end of Melmoth, but shot up to 20,700 over the next couple years.

The Comics Journal #192, page 75:

SNAGEON: Going back, rm kind of
astonished that there’s this long
up and then a dramatic
shift a-wayfrom it.
SIN: Yeah, that was resolved
pretty late in the equation. I
knew that the halfway point in
Mothers and Daughters was go-
ing to be Suenteus po, Cirin,
Cerebus, and Astoria together.
Although I was working on that
through the course of Flight, it
wasn’t until I was partway
through Women that I was go-
ing, “Okay, this is going to be a confrontation; what
sort ofa confrontation will it be,)” I knew that Suenteus
Po would leave already, for exactly the reasons that he
stated: the explanation that “Hey, I’m trying to get
through my life with as little effect or repercussion.”

Er, it’s difficult to search for reactions to this book — the name “Women” doesn’t help much. OK, we’re got this on Goodreads:

Pretty low rating.


While it’s still brilliantly done (really, at this point I’m taking the fantastic art, lettering, dialogue, page construction, etc as a given, which is probably unfair), I don’t think there’s enough differentiation from Flight to merit it being a separate volume. The next two parts of Mothers & Daughters have very individual and distinct feel and this just doesn’t. Furthermore, it doesn’t do enough to advance the storyline – by the end, essentially all that’s happened is that some characters already in Iest have gone somewhere else in Iest.

Of course, some of the reviews are less specific:

The hateful, misogynist, incoherent rantings of a brilliant, batshit crazy individual.

What a waste of genius.

Genius? Wut.

Heh heh:

It’s not uncommon to read this volume very much on the edge of your seat. The name of the volume is a bit of a strange thing, however. The story is really just about Cirin and Astoria, and with any other women being side characters. Cerebus spends most of the time being drunk and performing magic unknowingly, and the Roach spends most of the time jerking it.


Women is the volume that a lot of readers make their last, because of what comes next.

Yeah, the next one is the one with all the text? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. Or the day after, since tomorrow is #0 day…

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

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