A&R1995: Cerebus #201-219

Cerebus (1995) #201-219 by Dave Sim & Gerhard

In this blog series, we’ve kinda sorta reached new territory for me. As a teenager, I read the first 50 issues many times — let’s say er seven times. And then I read the issues up to about #80 a handful of times. And now I’ve read the issues between #80 and #200 three times in total. (I did a re-read of all the issues up until #200 in 1995, because I bought the Mothers & Daughters issues in non-sequential order on account of me being a poor student.)

But #201 to #300 — I’ve only read these issues once, as they were published. And some I didn’t so much read as skim, as I’d already grown pretty tired of it all. So I haven’t looked at these issues in 20-30 years, and I remember virtually nothing of what happens in them, except… er… I think the Three Stooges show up at one point? And Todd McFarlane leads a revolution? And then there’s bible stuff, and then Cerebus dies and goes to hell.

Ooops spoilers.

Well, OK, I remembered more than I thought I did? But I don’t remember what’s happening in Guys at all, so despite being less than enthused by Cerebus now, I’m rather looking forward to reading these issues.

I do remember there being discussions on alt.comics at the time about whether Sim really had been serious about Cerebus ending with #200 after all, because Sim tied up all the loose ends, and explained just about everything that anybody had ever wondered about Estarcion during Mothers & Daughters. (As well as killing off a number of central characters, and removing others from the playing field.) So the talk was that the last third of Cerebus was an epilogue where nothing much happens — it’d be Sim’s way of showing what happens after a “The End” in a traditional novel. I remember not being very taken with that theory, but we’ll see…

The first issue of this carries on the “rah rah self publishers” thing that so dominated the last quarter of the Mothers & Daughters comics.

OK, that thing ended with Dave sending Cerebus back to Estarcion, and he now seems to be ensconced in a rural tavern. Kinda like what was happening in Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus at the time?

Eep! I swear, when I had that thought, I didn’t remember that Bacchus was in this, too. And… I had also repressed that Sim was going to feature his most dialect heavy characters (Prince Mick and The Beatles) in this, too. I vaguely remember back then being exasperated, because some of these speech balloons are rather tedious to try to work out. But if you read them out loud, it’s OK. Still, not my favourite way to read comics.

The Beatles are nice matriarchal boys while the Rolling Stones boys are real rebels, see? See?

Well, that’s an efficient infodump, eh?

Sim continues the memoir he started back in issue #200…

And we get a preview of some self published comic, so things are basically as usual, ey?

Friends of Jilly… did Sim have a beef with Friends of Lulu, which was getting started around the time?

Then! With the second issue of Guys, Sim announces that he’s going to stop his campaigning for various comics issues (where “various” is defined as “self publishing”) and just concentrate on doing the comics. Like his peers. What he’s not saying, though, is that around this time, most of the self publishers stopped. Self publishing, that is — most of the most popular ones went and signed up with Image, Dark Horse, Sirius or the like, so I guess the general air of depression is easy to explain.

Bear is angry at Cerebus — for good reasons.

Sim drops the letters pages, and also drops the previews. He says that it’s because of reasons, but this also means that the page count drops from the previous norms of 40-48 pages to 24 pages. Which has to help with the printing bills. He doesn’t mention what the circulation is at this point: It had dropped to 15K at the end of Melmoth, and then gone up to 25K during the early, fun parts of Mothers & Daughters. Meanwhile, the comics market had undergone another meltdown, and I don’t think many people were enthused by the last half of Mothers & Daughters, so I’m curious what the circulation was now…

Oh yeah, I didn’t really mention what Guys is about: It’s about Cerebus being exiled to a tavern (by Cirin), and he spends his time being drunk and talking to Bear (his only friend) and other people at the tavern. And passing out drunk a lot, and being incoherent. I’m guessing Sim had a lot of first hand experiences with being a black-out drunk?

Sim manages to squeeze in a comics convention in the tavern while Cerebus is semi conscious. Here we get some dialogue from Daniel Clowes, presumably (based on the lettering). “Something worthy of being next to my work.”

Cerebus isn’t happy.

Sim writes a mystifying er essay to Friends of Lulu, asking them to… er… allow men to be members? And to stand by the first amendment? It’s a bizarre letter, anyway.

For the first time in Cerebus (I think!), Sim starts the story on the inside front cover. I guess these bits are done in a way that doesn’t necessitate including them in the reprint books — it’d be pretty awkward…

Lots of people involved in self publishing turns up for a few pages each. Here’s Rick Veitch, looking dreamy.

Sim’s memoirs continue, but he says that he has some difficulties with the entire thins… and “Next: Final Chapter” — that doesn’t happen.

That’s a lovely drawing. Did Gerhard do it all? Hm… I’m guessing Sim did the birds, at least — they look like Sim birds. But I’m not sure at all. The wall looks very Gerhardian.

Friends of Lulu write back and say “eh? no”.

And then Sim wants to include something in their newsletter as an exchange for carrying something from Friends of Lulu in Cerebus, and their response is, and I paraphrase exactly: “Fuck off, asshole”.

No, we’re not spared text pieces in Guys, either. This guy seems particularly irrelevant, but I guess Sim wanted to show that there was some resistance to Cirin in the wider populace…

After having hurt Bear’s feelings one to many times, Cerebus decides to stop drinking…

… and then Cerebus has to suffer being the sober guy in a room full of drunk guys. The horror. The horror.

Sim is devoid of feelings, as always.

Cerebus’ sobriety is shattered when he becomes too horny.

In Estarcion, they had periodicals (like pulps), but Don Simpson arrives with a new invention: Comic books! Cerebus is an immediate fan.

Oh, I didn’t know about that one. I guess sales picked up again, and Sim had the first four issues of Guys collected?

The others in the tavern aren’t fans of Wanker Man, the new comic book, and Cerebus throws a hissy fit, and…

… Bear reads him the riot act. And… it’s not that this seems out of character for Bear, exactly, or that it’s not… “interesting”… but god, it’s pretty tedious, isn’t it? I think Guys is the first Cerebus book where I’m just kinda bored? Nothing much happens, and there aren’t really many interesting characters, and most of the jokes fall flat.

The Comics Journal sure takes up a lot of mind space in Sim’s head…

On some of the issues, the action starts on the cover…

… and continues over the inside front cover. But again, I guess these are designed to work so that they can be elided in the reprint books.

We do get some letters pages, and sometimes the page count creeps up to 32 again, but Cerebus is a lot more… quiet? than it used to be, filled with different voices as it were.

Bear’s ex returns, and Bear turns to mush. His girlfriend seems nice?

Which reminds me of this interview I found while doing research yesterday:

O: Much of your commentary on feminism has centered on how inherently illogical, irrational, and emotional women are. At the same time, Cerebus, your central male character, seems more emotional, irrational, and illogical than just about anyone in the series. Is that because he’s a hermaphrodite, and has female elements? Or because he allows himself to be controlled by women? Or is there more to it?

DS: Well, yes, each of those aspects figure into it. Like in Guys, when Bear finally blows up at him and says it’s like he’s… part chick… or something. Married guys, boyfriends, newly divorced guys, and guys—like Cerebus—who are permanently stuck on a chick that they might never even have slept with, or they might have broken up with 10 years before, are like that. Part chick. That was my joke with Bear. He had broken up with Ziggy long enough ago that he could see clearly again, and could come up with the observation that Cerebus was part chick. But as soon as Ziggy came back, POW. Bye-bye Bear. And, when he turns up again after their next inevitable breakup, he’s 50 pounds overweight and his hair has turned white. I finally stopped hanging around with guys when I realized that they were all just waiting for the next one to come along and stick an ice-pick in their brain.

So Sim eventually discovered that guys were kinda lame, too — not just women. I guess Guys is somewhat autobiographical?

Cerebus gets in touch with his emotions — so he’s really changed by his encounter with Dave…

Still, his character changes at the drop of a hat. Not a lot happens in Guys, but on this page, Cerebus is back to being hyper effective and perceptive, and challenges Cirin directly. It’s not really that convincing, storytelling wise, but it’s at least… something.

And it is fun when Joanne shows up, and Cerebus earnestly tries to explain that they’re all fictional and stuff.


As always, some sequences are somewhat inscrutable. Cerebus is throwing a piece of chalk, and… uhm… is he allergic to chalk or something?

Sim starts a long correspondence with Alan Moore. From Hell had just wrapped, so I guess Moore had some time on his hands.

Sim runs excerpts from different mid century modern male novelists on the inside front covers — but he only says in the succeeding issue who he’s quoting. Why not? But I guess this means that he’s giving himself an education in what’s considered “good literature” to see who he’s going to do next and try to get some attention from The New York Times or something. So he’s reading Mailer, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc etc::

Let’s take Fantagraphics as an example. What do they bring to the table that attracts my interest? This is difficult to condense, but basically, Gary and Kim have worked very hard to make Fantagraphics and all of its material “New York Times-worthy” and they’ve been very successful. Very successful, which is no small trick. So, I look at my catalogue and I go, “What have I got that’s New York Times-worthy?” My best guess would be Form & Void, the Hemingway book, or Going Home, the Fitzgerald book.

On the other hand, perhaps this occurred to him only afterwards… but the grumblings about Daniel Clowes in these issues seem to indicate otherwise.

I have to admit it: I didn’t real the Alan Moore/Dave Sim letters this time around, either. Sorry!

OK, back to Guys: Cerebus has a bad dream and tells Joanne to get out.

And Rick, Jaka’s ex husband, shows up, and Guys ends.

I guess Guys functions like Melmoth — it gives the reader a breather between more momentous storylines. But at 19 issues, it’s a bit of a slog: Sim’s insights into the World Of Guys aren’t that interesting, and we only get a smattering of interesting things about Estarcion. And especially ending the book on this note feels like a depressed move.

The Comics Journal #192, page 82:

Does being brought face tofate with all these
turns change the character at all?
SIM: eah, I think it does. The evidence in the early
parts of Guys would indicate that he’s made progress
just in being polite, “Please and thank you.” A lot of
people — myself included — get to a point in their
lives where it is well worth taking a refresher course in
“please and thank you” as a first on the road back
to real progress. Drunk, Ofcourse, erebus is a differ-
ent fella. That would indicate he’s using alcohol to
escape what he’s leamed about “please and thankyou.”
When the alcohol is free and ids really all there is to do
[laughs] that can make for quite an impediment.
Which is what I intended it to be.

The Comics Journal #192, page 84:

SAJRGEON: Do you get reaction from your fellow profes-
sionals ? Doyou seek it out at alluhen you complete a major
Slk No, I don’t really seek it out. There are social
occasions and things like that. [laughs] Creators have
great skills at avoiding saying anything bad on social
occasions. “Saw Y)ur last issue. “What did you think?”
“It was interesting.” The ones I’ve talked to love Guys.
n ey admired the guts behind doing Reads and [laughs]
the relief Of Minds. “Finally, an issue I won’t have to
fight about over the dinner table.” Everyone loves to
laugh, though, so Guys tends to generate real affection.
I do get Gerhard’s reaction just by watching him read
the pages and what he’ll say — or not say— after. But
mostly reaction is, naturally enough, an after-the-fact
curiosity. I know what I think Of it. I put it on the page
so that, in as much as I’m capable Of doing that, it
reflects what I wanted it to reflect. And then after that
comes the reaction. And that can be a comment from
somebody, it can be a re&iew, it can be a letter. any of
those kinds ofthings. And those all tend to, for me, just
stay in the mental box tucked over in the corner. Good,
bad, or indifferent, it’s just an item ofcuriosity. “What
are people going to think of this?” is a natural question
when you’re working on something. And then six
months later, you find out. “Oh, tha/s what they made
of it.” And thaes very different from “Did this accom-
plish what I wanted it to.”

The Comics Journal #192, page 89:

SAnGEON: Has your drinking informed the portrayal Of
drinking in Cerebus?
SIN: Oh, definitely. The nature of social activity that
surrounds drinking, the effect that drinking has on
that social activity, ids a fascinating subject to me. I’m
not sure drinking could be viewed as Guys’ primary
theme, but it is certainly one of the themes of Guys.
Each theme lye introduced into the various volumes
has represented a large societal force with a multi-
layered examination of it: “Whaes funny about it?
What’s tragic about it? What’s the good side and
whaes the bad side of this double edged sword?”
Whether it’s love or religion or politics or death or any
of those things or motherhood, there’s always a good
side and a bad side. It’s, “Isn’t this interesting, isn’t this
something that is certainly worth the treatment?”
SAJAGEON: Cerebus’ overdrinking bar aluuys been a big
comedic you, particularly early on.
Yeah, yeah; that’s always been there — as it has
always been there in our culture. We’ve just come
through 20 years of regressive political correctness so
that somebody like Foster Brooks who did a really
good drunk character or the foundation of Dean
Martin’s stand-up act, all of those things became “Oh,
thaes not funny” and i€s like, “Fuck you, I think it’s
funny.” I like it; it’s interesting doing something that
is at odds with 1990s society. les interesting in devel-
oping it in Guys because obviously I’m writing dialogue
and the first requirement is, “Okay, think of the guys
thatyou know, how would they say this? Ifit’s a specific
character like Harrison Starkey, okay, what are the
exact vocals rhythms or what not?” It’s only after I get
it all in place and it satisfies my critical faculties: “Yes.
this is the way guys talk. This is accurate.” Only at that
point do I look at it relative to what is allowed and what
isn’t allowed in the 1990s. And then “Whoa!” [laughs]
“People just don’t say stuff like this anymore.” Well,
yeah, they do. They just don’t Say it in front ofwomen
or on television.

OK, over to reviews on the web:

Maybe it’s the black & white art, but there are too many moments where I found myself bored.


I know Dave meant the living situation depicted in this book to be negative, but I can’t help but read it thinking, “not too shabby.” Who wouldn’t want to live their days in leisure, with no employment obligations, and unlimited free time to socialize, read, play games, and get hammered? I guess it says something about my nature that I reacted this way—I hate obligation and live for absolute freedom from time. I’ll never get it, of course, which is why this book appeals to me. Life, eh?


It’s all beautifully told, low-stakes stuff and Sim doubtless had a lot of fun kicking back after the fireworks (on-and off-page) of Mothers & Daughters. But he also had a higher concept for the storyline. Guys is drawn from a boozy stretch he spent as a single regular in a Candadian pub, and he claimed he wanted it to reflect how men really are when they’re on their own, away from female influence, shootin’ the shit, followin’ the bro code, doing (as Bear puts it) “guy shit” instead of “chick shit”.

And if so, man alive, Dave Sim needed better friends.


Getting back to the artwork on display… The shot at Dan Clowes always annoyed me. Maybe Dave lumps everyone published by Fantagraphics together as an evil Grothian horde of snide pretentiousness, but while Gary actually has called people “meretricious philistines” in print, I really can’t imagine Clowes speaking like that.

This is the most insightful thing I’ve read about Guys:

Maybe it’s different in North America, maybe I don’t know the right sort of manly men, but the action in Guys is unrecognisable to me. It’s hard to enjoy the book in the bros-forever sense Sim apparently wants because not one interesting conversation happens, not one good joke is told. Mostly what we get is issue after issue of guys being dickheads to one another and laughing about it afterwards. He should have called it BANTZ.


Anyway: Tomorrow is Rick’s Story, I guess, and I remember that starting off well enough, and then turning to zzz-dom. We’ll see.

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

Leave a Reply