A&R2009: Cerebus Archive

Cerebus Archive (2009) #1-18 by Dave Sim

This is the next-to-last post in this blog series, but the final post will have to wait a couple weeks while I wait for some missing issues to arrive…

Not that this (re-)reading is complete: I apparently forgot to buy issues #4-6 while the series was new, and these issues are impossible to find now. Issue #5 was apparently when the series went to Print On Demand (because of low sales), and the POD company used by Sim, Comixpress shut down in 2013. Sim didn’t take the series over to some other POD service for reasons unknown to me, so I’m guessing I’ll never be able to read #4-6. Which is fine.

(Googling for the issues aren’t easy, either, since Sim reused the name “Cerebus Archive” for a later portfolio series…)

But let’s have a look at the 15 issues I do have.

The series is called “Cerebus Archives”, but it’s really the story of Sim’s attempts at becoming a comics pro — and we start when he’s 16 and has apparently convinced Harry Kremer to publish a fanzine. This is how the first issue starts — there’s no explanation what this fanzine is, or what Sim’s role in it is (editor?), or anything.

And as we can see, Sim’s art chops are pretty typical for a sixteen-year-old. And like many teenagers, he’d worked out some pretty complex visions of how he was going to become famous — this was apparently a take on Uncle Sam, and what he envisioned as becoming the new Canadian symbol — a beaver.

Is “How’s Your Beaver?” really that over the top? Hm…

Er… no? That David Frum’s mother was liberal isn’t even ironic in the Alanis Morisette meaning of the word. As is often the case with Sim, stuff like this leaves you scratching your head — he’s going for “sage speaker of truths” and ends up as “nonsensical but smarmy”.

Sim was submitting stories to lots of places (Warren, Charlton, etc), and some of these were illustrated by others — we get them all here (well, the ones Sim still have). This seems like a very thorough archive project… but a Sim archive, not a Cerebus archive.

Gene Day was Sim’s idol, so we get a lot of mail from Day to Sim (annotated for this publication).

Sim includes the John Byrne-penned cover for a fanzine as an illustration of just how bad the aesthetics of some editors are (the pink/green is indeed pretty bizarre). “Your one-stop shopping outlet for Dave Sim self-degradation” is a good tag line, though, but it makes me wonder — is Sim really so ashamed of these old things, or is he hamming it up?

Some of these old strips aren’t that bad, really. But mostly when Sim manages to come up with a story to match his limited rendering skills.

But I guess things like this are really, really embarrassing — he was submitting covers to Marvel, and jokes to Playgirl, all of them rejected, of course. But hey, teenagers are teenagers.

Even Charlton was rejecting him. That must have hurt.

Like I said, I don’t have issues #4-6, so we skip ahead to #7 — and this (and the rest) are Print On Demand issues, because sales had slipped so low that Diamond no longer wanted to carry the book. I’m guessing that’s why Sim stopped doing Cerebus on the covers, even though there was no Cerebus material inside — he no longer had to trick people into buying the book on the stands.

It also means that these books don’t lie flat, which is sooo annoying (Note To Editor: Insert Homer Picture Here). Even after spending a decade in a shortbox, the issues still bulge.

The printing from Comixpress seems fine, though…

And Sim’s artwork improves by leaps and bounds (but he’s 20 by now, I think).

Sim tries his best at doing editorial cartoons, and he really nails it. By that I mean that’s it’s dreadfully tedious, just like professional editorial cartoons.

And that’s rather a thing with all of Sim’s comics here — they just aren’t actually funny. Which is surprising for a teenager — they’re usually brimming with gags and bits, and some of them are sometimes even funny. But he’s doing all of this stuff like he’s an old man, which is pretty odd.

Sim reprints the Oktoberfest comic he managed to get Kremer to finance in full. It’s a riff on a Carl Barks story, and as Sim notes, it was badly thought out as a concept. (And it’s not very good.)

And it didn’t sell.

Uhm… why is it creepy moving into an apt previously occupied by your sister’s boyfriend?

We finally get something that’s tangentially related to Cerebus! It’s Sim’s Ali Baba story, and Sim notes how much he unconsciously recirculated from this story in the first Cerebus issue.

Sim, of course, finds a lot of portents in what he’s written, since it involves Christian/Muslim/Judaic stuff (and he would make his own syncretic religion some decades later).

“And ‘The Fire Jewels of Shem… … are now just ‘The Fire Gems’. Like I say, interesting.” Er… is this a reference to Shemp in the three Stooges? Sheshep, Cerebus’ son? It can be hard to tell whatever weird things Sim is making connections — Sim really uses that smarmy tone so well.

This bit was moderately interesting — Sim prints two versions of the same strip, one drawn by himself, and one by Gene Day.

Sim touches on one of his beliefs — that writing a comic book about something can make it come true, I think?

Eh… uhm… Yes, Anne Rice created goths, not Siouxsie Sioux, Bauhaus, The Cure or anybody… Very few people know this!

As the series progresses, the texts become more digressive — here Sim goes on about how horrific it is to demand a certain percentage of women in the Afghanistan parliament, because that would mean that you dictate the outcome of elections. Sim is apparently unaware that in many countries you vote for a party, and not specific people, so the mix of people you end up with depends on the mix of people nominated by the parties.

Finally! An aardvark! Sim seems to be saying that drawing this aardvark (from a T. Casey Brennan) later led Deni Loubert’s brother (I think) to come up with “aardvark” as half of the “Aardvark-Vanaheim” company name through mystical means? A simpler explanation might be that the brother had seen this strip, or that Sim had mentioned it, perhaps.


Brennan sure lays it on thickly.

Sim continues his “comics sure are dangerous” thing:

Er, OK. I’m guessing T. Casey Brennan only had himself to thank for whatever happened to him.

But we’re getting closer to Dave meeting Deni!

It’s such a momentous meeting that Sim actually draws it. Nice!

But we’re now solidly into autobio territory, and not so much a “Cerebus Archive” or even a “Dave Sim Archive”. It’s pretty self indulgent. But on the other hand, this is a Print On Demand book with (I’m sure) tens and tens of readers, so why not? Not more self indulgent than writing a blog series about this series, you say?

Sim does his best to keep the tension up.

But like I said, it gets less and less… er… relevant.

And it grows uglier and more amateurish, so I flipped to the indicia, and it seems like Sandeep Atwal, who was doing the layouts, has now left, and Sim is doing the layouts himself, which explains a lot — nobody has ever accused Sim of having sensible aesthetics.

Anyway, Sim wanted to do some research into the place he had been living at the time, so Sim sends a letter to his old address and recounts the story of how he went to a party at his landlord’s place (the landlord was gay and also named “Dave”). In the letter he describes how his landlord was into S&M, apparently, and perhaps tried to come onto Sim (who made an exit instead).

Which is a totally normal thing to send to somebody unknown, I guess? Anyway, the letter was returned.

Then he says how the landlord killed himself the next day, but Sim reassures us that it probably wasn’t because he was too heartbroken over having been turned down by Sim.

That’s a relief!

This series is a whopping eighteen issues, so you’d think he’d reach Cerebus #1, but he keeps on yapping on about whatever is on his mind, so it’s not looking good.

Aargh! Sandeep! Come back! The book looks ever more amateurish…

Finally, some more comics — and they’re drawn by Fabio Gasbarri, and they look really interesting. The first story is about a rock star that gets killed at a concert, and the audience laps it up.

Sim seems to imply that this story was the reason John Lennon was killed? Or is he just Asking The Questions? I mean, the story was ‘”asking for trouble” on higher planes of existence’, and the timeline pans out, so I guess it’s an open and shut case.

We get a number of Beavers strips, and this is generally the level of funniness.

He did, of course, have well thought out reasons for doing jokes about Gordon Sinclair — it was an iron clad plan to become rich and famous.

Finally! Cerebus!

But it’s Cerebus the fanzine, and not Cerebus #1.

But this is kinda interesting — Sim tried to create a logo for “Aardvark-Vanaheim” and failed, so he did an Aardvark mascot instead.

Two interesting things here — at a party, he started making out with Deni’s 17 year old sister, but had no recollection of how that could have happened (and he notes how out of character for him forgetting was). But — on the same page here, he is continuing the story of how he sent a fake invoice to a newspaper for the Beavers strip. The newspaper sent back a letter saying “what the fuck is this?!”, and Sim can’t explain why he did that, either.

Kudos to Sim for including stuff like this, though.

In the final issue, we get a longer Beavers story that had been run by Star*Reach in Quack…

… and then the series ends like this: With a promise of more to come. The last issue says “February 2012”. Comixpress (who printed Cerebus Archive) went out of business in 2013, so I’m guessing that’s not the reason Sim cancelled Cerebus Archive. But Sim ended Glamourpuss in late 2012, so perhaps he stopped Cerebus Archive at the same time, because he was just fed up with everything?

Ah, yes:

Yes: this IS the last issue of glamourpuss… As soon as I saw the sales on the first issue – 16,000 – I knew that the title and my career were doomed.


I pulled the plug first on Cerebus Archive, then on Cerebus TV and then on glamourpuss. Not really saying anything to anyone, just walking away and starting my Doomsday Scenario — selling my Cerebus original artwork as slowly as possible, and looking at ways to liquidate the Cerebus Archive itself, up to and including just sending all of it to a landfill site or paying 1-800-GOT-JUNK to haul it all away, selling the house, liquidating the last of my RRSPs and my life insurance policy and just… disappearing.

Reader, he did not disappear.

But I’ve been unable to find any review of Cerebus Archive on the net? Am I the only one who’s read it?

And now I’m free! Free! For a couple of weeks, and then I have to read and post about Glamourpuss (which is *sigh* 26 issues). See you then.

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

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