‘Four Color Memories’ – by K. Patrick Glover – Installment the Sixteen, In Which We Visit the Aardvarkian Age


‘Four Color Memories’ by K. Patrick Glover.

K. Patrick Glover is the writer of the webcomic The Invisible Skein, which is illustrated by Amanda Hayes.

‘Four Color Memories’ is a column about the comics of our youth, full of nostalgia for the days when heroes were heroes and villains were villains, before the Avengers were DARK and before the Lanterns were BLACK.

To see a directory of previous installments of the column, please click here!



Installment the Sixteenth

In Which We Visit the Aardvarkian Age

From December of 1977 until March of 2004 Dave Sim wrote and drew 300 issues of Cerebus.

Think about that for a minute. 300 issues. 6,000 pages. Sim has referred to it as “the longest sustained narrative in human history.”

At the height of its popularity, Cerebus was a dominating force in the direct market. Entirely self-published, the book served as an inspiration to a generation of creators and Sim was (and is) an outspoken advocate for creators rights.

He’s also one of the most controversial figures in the industry.

You see, Sim did something that few creators do. He used his book to explore his thoughts on philosophy and religion, not just on a surface level, but in depth. And some of his thoughts weren’t very popular, especially his thoughts on feminism.

But right or wrong, the man didn’t hide himself. He bared his soul for all to see.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Cerebus is a book about an aardvark.

Conceived as a parody book and inspired in part by Steve Gerber’s work on Howard The Duck, Cerebus begins as a parody of Conan The Barbarian. We get parodies of Red Sonja and Moorcock’s Elric, but Sim was never content to coast on the obvious and even the early issues of the book quickly deliver the unexpected.

Artemis appears early on and he is used throughout the series as a general poke at the super-hero industry and often a specific poke at various marketing strategies used by Marvel Comics. He is the Cockroach, Captain Cockroach, The Moon Roach, Punisher Roach, Wolveroach and many more.

Lord Julius makes his first appearance in issue 14. He is the unabashed ruler of the city state of Palnu. He is also, in every way that matters, Groucho Marx. Transported in both appearance and personality, he is only one of the many public and historical figures that find their way into the world of Cerebus.

It is a storytelling technique that provides us with instant context for the character(s), but Sim never uses it solely as shorthand. These characters live and breathe in ways that astonish and while they hold true to their real life doppelgangers, they expand our understanding of the figures they represent.

Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger, Adam Weisshaupt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway and even Margaret Thatcher appear on page and every one of them has something interesting to say.

By issue twenty Sim had obviously tired of simple parody and turned his attention to philosophy, introducing the Cirinists and Suenteus Po, founder of the Illusionists. While the Cirinists represent Sim’s impressions of what a matriarchal society would have been, Po is largely an author surrogate, allowing his to express his thoughts directly to the audience. It’s a role later filled by other characters like the Judge, Rick and Viktor.

Issue 26 saw the beginning of a drastic change in format. Instead of single issue stories, Cerebus became a book of great story arcs like ‘High Society’ (issues 26-50) and ‘Church & State’ (issues 52-111). As the plots became more and more complex, so to did Sim’s explorations of politics and philosophy.

Which, inevitably, leads us to the controversies.

Cerebus ran for twenty-seven years. Dave Sim was all of twenty-one when he began. He was forty-eight when he finished. People change, and the more people think about things like philosophy and religion, the larger those changes are likely to be.

Over the course of those twenty-seven years, Sim was married and divorced. He had battles with both alcohol and drugs. He lived with a lot of anger. He began as an atheist and ended the book a devoutly religious man.

He did all of it very publicly. His thoughts, however tenuous, we’re right there in black and white.

The thoughts that got him into the most trouble were on the subject of what he called anti-feminism and what many of his readers referred to as outright misogyny. It created a rift between him and the public (along with others in the business) and Sim, instead of doing what everyone seemed to expect (apologizing) dug in his heels and fought it out.

I’m not sure if the Sim who found religion in the late nineties agrees on all points with the Sim who railed against feminism in the early nineties, and I’m not sure I care. I’m not a friend of Dave Sim’s. I’ve never met the man and I couldn’t care less what he believes.

But, and this is the key, Cerebus was a reflection of a character’s life, along with the lives of those he met. It takes place over a long period of time and all of the changes that Sim went through reflect themselves in the narrative in a very natural and very honest way. It presents a cohesive whole in ways that few stories (much less comics) ever do.

It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing with Sim. The author (and artist)’s life is irrelevant. It’s about the work and the work on Cerebus is astounding. It lives, it breathes, it makes you laugh and it pisses you off.

Isn’t that what art is all about?

K. Patrick Glover

Ancillary matters -

The comic world had been a buzz with last week’s announcement about the new head honchos at DC. I leave all the commenting, both good and bad, to others and simply wish the five gentlemen the best of luck. It’s a tough job and they’re going to need it. (For the record, I think they’ll do just fine. But what do I know?)

Also, as usual, a plug for my ongoing webcomic, illustrated by the amazing Amanda Hayes. If you haven’t done so yet (and shame on you), then head on over to http://theinvisibleskein.com

I can be found regularly at my blog, http://kpatrickglover.wordpress.com or on the Twitter thing at http://www.twitter.com/kpa

Related posts:

  1. ‘Four Color Memories’ - by K. Patrick Glover - Installment The Sixth, In Which We Happily Spend Money Like Good Little Consumers
  2. ‘Four Color Memories’ by K. Patrick Glover - Installment The First, In Which Parameters Are Set
  3. ‘Four Color Memories’ – by K. Patrick Glover – Installment the Ninth, in Which Who is Most Definitely Not on First
  4. ‘Four Color Memories’ – by K. Patrick Glover – Installment the Twelfth, In Which We Say Hello to Another Universe
  5. ‘Four Color Memories’ By K. Patrick Glover - Installment The Fifth, In Which We Meet The Three Kings

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