Dave Answers 6 Questons: January 2005

Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for January 2005. If you prefer, here is MS Word document with all of the answers and questions. Once again, thanks to Lenny for getting the questions organized, sent to Dave and posted!

Cerebus Yahoo Group - January "Flight" Q's

Q1. The Coins: We see coins decaying at the bottom of the ocean. Is it correct to assume the nine bubbles emanating from one of the coins are meant to represent the nine spheres?

Dave: Yes. And the planets in the solar system. Mercury, Venus, the Earth, etc. The first coin basically just lets off a shower of sparks and the second coin generates these perfect spherical shapes. I was labouring under the misapprehension that the planets were formed of matter “thrown off” by the sun. Which I’m not sure isn’t at least partly true. The planets coalesce in much the same way that the sun coalesces and a planet, it seems to me, signifies a greater level of coherence than does a ring. I suspect that’s one of the messages of the solar system. Out of the nine planets, only Saturn and Uranus have rings (or is it Neptune?). Planets and moons are more common. Of those entities orbiting the sun, only the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is largely incoherent. The system which we inhabit is 80 to 85% coherent and 15 to 20% incoherent. There is hope.

Q1 Con't: Are we to believe these coins were minted by either Tarim or Po?

Dave: It’s certainly one of the prevailing belief systems which dominate Estarcion. As to whether you should or shouldn’t believe it, you might as well ask “Are we to believe that there was an historical Jesus?” The core nature of belief is choice.

Q1 con't: Also, it appears that at least one coin bears the image of an aardvark. Does this mean that Tarim was an aardvark?

That would be a far less commonly held belief than the belief that Tarim, when he walked the earth, minted coins. The fact that the title character is an aardvark would tend to skew belief in that direction on the part of the reader, which isn’t to say that it’s insupportable as belief systems go.

Q2.: Strange happenings: Underwater, the coins are still rising - orbiting each other and glowing. At a Chico painting session (great painting!), the nude model sees tiny Cerebi. Just as Cerebus orders the villagers to attack the Cirinists, Thatcher sees part of the city wall grow in a penis-like shape. I guess overall we're supposed to think that Cerebus rousing himself to action and becoming a player again has the effect of causing weird things to happen over the world. Is there a specific pattern?

Dave: The idea that I was trying to get across was of a transformational state that was so widely dispersed and so various in character that no pattern could be readily discerned—it was impossible to stand far enough back to see the Big Picture (which prefigures the trip through the solar system—a genuine try at standing far enough back). I was already aware that that was the nature of reality—that, in our own world, each day’s newspaper essentially documents the fitful progress of the global storyline as it has changed since yesterday. It’s the reason I think the news is so compelling. Our higher natures recognize the larger pattern and are absorbed in studying that while our human natures are interested in what we perceive to be disparate and unrelated episodic chronologies. I tried to hint at the former while documenting the latter. It’s a tangential observation to the old “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?” How many things happen that we aren’t around to see? How much of the debate between unresolvable dualities takes place outside of the realm of human perception?

Q2 Con't: Is it merely a case that with Cerebus charging and slaughtering Cirinists, his amplified energy is spreading out, along with the action of the Black Lotus (another amplifier)?

Dave:: It’s certainly partly that, but it’s also the fact that he has accidentally achieved a dormant and quiescent state over an extended period as a result of the profound shock that he’s experienced. What is the net effect of catatonia upon whatever the thing is that inhabits him/he is inhabiting? My best speculation was that the spirit enlarges under such a circumstance and effectively begins to seep outward—like the fog created by a dry ice machine—and to permeate all aspects of its surrounding reality: that is, that catatonia has a great deal in common with meditation and other transcendental states: the difference being the respective catalysts, in the first case a psychological trauma and in the second case an imperative toward self-improvement. The danger in the former case is that a comparable trauma is apt to hurl the subject out of the transcendental state with the same force that he was hurled into it. So everything he’s become hooked up to through the seepage becomes subject to the same form of whiplash. Depending on the severity of the reaction (which in turn hinges on the extent to which the connection has been made) everything in the spiritual vicinity abruptly begins to rise above or in one sense or another move outside of its previous state and discharges or extrudes or divides one part of its intrinsic nature centering on The Other from the other part of its intrinsic nature centering on Self because Jaka’s presumed death is the initial catalyst for the seepage and Jaka’s mistreatment becomes the secondary catalyst for breaking out of quiescence. All you need is love to trigger a series of peculiar and occasionally catastrophic episodes over a wide geographic area.

Q2 Con't: Are the circling coins attempting to re-create the sphere, and make what seems to be a physical representation of Einstein's formula E=MC2, precursor to another "big bang"? (i153)

Dave: The circling coins are enacting, rather disinterestedly by the looks of things, the two dichotomous political positions in the debate on the preferred nature of The Other—whether it is better to just hurl off a bunch of sparks (the spermatozoa/masculine/masturbation position) or to generate small imperfect replicas of oneself (the egg/feminine/procreative position).

Q3. Po: Suenteus Po is revealed as the third Aardvark. Were all (or some) of his previous incarnations (ex. Goldsmith Po who was burned at the stake) also aardvarks?

Dave: Well, that would be a position worthy of a certain amount of debate. It depends on what you think distinguishes Suenteus Po from others and whether you think he’s right or “right” in his viewpoints. Is it better to live your life in isolation so as to avoid having negative effects on the world and is that what distinguishes Suenteus Po from others? Is Po’s largest over-arching reality monasticism or aardvark nature? He would hold to the former view, I think. He would be of the Gandhi school in that regard, passive resistance and so on. Buddha nature. Cirin, on the other hand, is of a more activist breed. You have to get out there and improve things…even if you make them worse. Po is an aardvark and he imparts as much of the history of aardvarks to Cerebus as he deems necessary, but I don’t think he feels any special kinship with his genetic predecessors. How he chose to live his life was, to him, more important than the physical qualities he shares with this particular strain of mutation. It’s an interesting philosophical construct: “If I’m so different from everyone else, what possible justification could I have for interfering in their lives?”

Q3 Con't: Po states that "capricious aspects" of his consciousness have a habit of interfering. (i158) Does this mean all (or some) of the earlier Po's whom Cerebus met in Mind Games I-VI were just capricious aspects?

Dave: It depends on whether capriciousness in this case is a reason or an excuse. If you are pledged to non-interference presumably you don’t have any capricious aspects. You just don’t interfere. The Buddha scrupulously just sits there. I think it’s more likely that Po wasn’t completely sold on non-interference and consequently interfered a lot more than he could comfortably accept as an intrinsic reality. Just telling Cerebus what his history was and showing him some of the implications of his own choices couldn’t help but change Cerebus’ nature. A more well-informed Cerebus was a different Cerebus, potentially a more dangerous Cerebus and he became well-informed through Po’s interference. It was one of the net effects of Cerebus going from a catatonic and quiescent state to an active state and going in search of reality. He was going to corner Suenteus Po, another The Other, essentially driving him out of his own catatonic and quiescent state and causing problems for everything that he was hooked up to from his own extended period of quiescence. Interfering a little bit never works because it’s impossible to limit it to a “little bit”.

Q3 Con't: Could one of these "aspects" have been involved with Claremont in the fake elf caper?

Dave: Could well have been. One of the problems that I imagine attaches itself to spiritual levels of existence is that the “higher up” you go and the longer and more effectively you achieve a quiescent state, the more things interconnect and the less possible it becomes to limit the effects that you have. What is a stray thought in your own reality can become a transformational insight to someone you are connected with. If the transformation is a negative one, what is your level of culpability for your stray thought? In a lot of ways, Suenteus Po was just trying to get Cerebus to calm down. Calming down as a choice works, calming down as an instruction or a direct order won’t. Showing Cerebus the implications of the actions he has already taken as a means of getting him to stop taking action only unsettled him and amplified his discordant effects.

Q4. Cirin reveals she wants to keep Cerebus alive (i152). We learn later that the reason for this is she hopes to create more aardvarks through Cerebus' hermaphroditic nature. Is she incapable of giving birth, and if not does this mean that Sir Gerrick is her real son and therefore her proof that she cannot produce an Aardvark?

Dave: Cirin was infuriated by the fact that she couldn’t give birth to another aardvark largely as an element of her overwhelming maternal vanity, the same maternal vanity that keeps mothers from seeing their axe-murderer sons as anything but misunderstood little darlings. It’s all a matter of your reaction to being exceptional. As I say, Po’s reaction was: if I’m that profoundly different from everyone else, what business do I have interfering? Cirin’s reaction was: I’m that much better than everyone else so it’s up to me to produce more like me in order to run everything properly because everyone else has made a mess of everything. Even among the exceptional she was exceptional. She knew that aardvarks were spontaneous mutations and that there were few if any instances of aardvarks even passing on limited aspects to their human offspring (i.e. Shep-shep’s three toes). She could accept that about others but not about herself. She had to be the Mother of All Aardvarks. The fact that her son was human was a personal affront to her. There hadn’t been a lot of female aardvarks if you read between the lines of the story and you don’t need much exposure to Cirin to understand why that is. The exponential magnification of female nature is intrinsically monstrous, obsessive and monomaniacal. Like the Liberal government of Canada which is basically run by its women’s caucus. They got elected almost a year ago and the only legislation they have in the pipeline is same-sex marriage. That’s what happens when you magnify female interests. Everything else grinds to a halt while they advance their monomaniacal interest. Massive infusion of cash into the Marxist health care money pit, National Daycare program, same sex marriage. One at a time, one after another. The Canadian people had to take the lead in this country’s tsunami relief effort. The government barely looked up long enough to vaguely acknowledge that having air lift capability for our emergency response might be a useful thing to talk about sometime down the road. Right now, it’s same-sex marriage or death.

The fact that Cerebus might be able to impregnate himself only added to her fury since that seemed a greater likelihood of producing purer aardvarkian offspring. She produced a human infant and called it a day—it would be just too destructive of her over-inflated opinion of herself if she had had any more failures. Cerebus didn’t produce any offspring for a long time which served as a kind of salve to her ego and compelled her in the direction of genetic engineering. If Cerebus was going to beat her in the baby aardvark sweepstakes, maybe she could beat him on the inside rail down the home stretch by learning how to grow aardvarks from scratch like plants.

Q5.: Is there any further explanation for what K'Cor's abandoned, unfinished monument was supposed to be, or represent? In Cerebus #9, we see the plans for the completed monument. It looks like an abstract, armless, humanoid form. A little green man? An Aardvark? K'Cor's ramblings about the Venusians seem like the ranting of a madman, and one could dismiss the whole thing as an early plot idea left in the dust- but you brought it back in Flight. Po refers to K'Cors monument as being "of great and vital importance on many of the inter-connecting chessboards: alignments of power and influence ebbed and flowed in its proximity. Its completion would have wrought profound and lasting change." K'Cor is fascinated with Venus, and the moon- both astrological aspects of Woman. So, who was guiding his hand? Terim/Yoowhoo? Cirin? And if this monument was so important to the interdimensional aspect of Woman, why was it derailed by a woman in the departure of Sedra, all the while K'Cor still being in contact with "The Living Goddess?"

Dave: Well, actually that was just my peculiar sense of humour. What K’Cor was attempting to build was a giant DNA molecule, a double helix, but he didn’t have much in the way of a three-dimensional sense so that’s what it came out looking like. Po was responding to the intent behind it, on the spiritual level and, there’s my sense of humour again. If you are a human being (or an aardvark—let’s say “physically incarnated”) the danger with attempting to live a spiritual life is that you can only know it imperfectly “through a glass darkly” so your assessments become imperfect and vaguely (or sometimes specifically I’m sure) ludicrous. “There is a great deal of laughter but it’s very high up and very far away.” K’Cor was guided by his insights, whether he was inhabited by a higher consciousness or spoken to in his dreams or, more likely, a drug victim. You make your own choices. I suspect I was unconsciously showing myself what it was that I was about to choose—to spend twenty-six years building this giant monument which might prove to be something or might not—that might be useful as a “stairway to heaven” or prove to be as valuable as a giant two-dimensional model of part of a DNA molecule. Time will tell.

Even at the time I was quite aware that there is an enormous difference between an individual woman and womankind contemplated collectively although I hadn’t yet arrived at the conclusion that in trying to satisfy and serve the interests of the latter you will, more often than not, alienate the former and in trying to serve and satisfy the interests of the former, you will, more often than not alienate the latter. And since women have, through feminism, universally adopted a collectivist identity in addition to their individual identities, it is ultimately impossible to choose one or the other exclusively. You must in any given circumstance choose to address her as an incarnation of the collective identity or as herself as an individual and whichever one you choose to address she will, in my experience, adopt the protective colouration of the other. The mistake that K’Cor made was in thinking that his allegiance to the collective female identity and unquestioning devotion to The Goddess assured the success of his relationship with Sedra when nothing could be further from the truth. She left him because clearly she wasn’t his primary relationship, The Goddess and the collective womankind was his primary relationship. I think most women measure the success of their relationships by the knee-jerk quality of their partner’s responses. If she’s in “O” mode you have to respond in “O” fashion. If she’s in “1” mode, you have to respond in “1” fashion and if you guess wrong as to which mode she is in with your initial response you have to be able to create a plausible cover story as to how you meant “0” when you actually said “1”. Of course becoming adept at these things just makes you uninteresting and she leaves out of boredom while failing to become adept at the quick switch makes you perverse and she leaves out of resentment.

WILDCARD Q: You use black wavy panel borders periodically throughout the whole of Cerebus up until two thirds of the way across page 253 of Minds. The borders disappear, make a brief reappearance on page 264 around your self portrait, and then disappear again. Also, in Melmoth, the borders are black, but not wavy. They pop up a couple of times during the last hundred issues. What is the significance of the black bordering? Is it aesthetic or thematic in nature?

Dave: Both. #220 was the only Letratape that they had that actually had a hand-drawn quality to it apart from the various thicknesses of basic black strips. “Election Night” (i43) as an example was done with a tape that had a thick and a thin line. It looked all right but it didn’t look as if it was drawn by hand. I was always looking for ways to speed up the drawing time and being able to lay down bordertapes turned out to be a good one. I could rough in a page and dialogue and word balloons and then put the border tapes on in fifteen or twenty minutes so that some part of the page was finished early in the proceedings. “This is the configuration of the page, now all I have to do is to fill in the resulting panels.” The same reason that I would always try to start inking as soon as possible even if it was just one sound effect or a word balloon or part of a face. It was too easy to get bogged down in the penciling stage, making sure of everything in pencil and then having to face the fact that everything now needed to be inked. The sooner I had something inked on the page, the clearer a mental image I had of my ultimate goal with the page. The pencils were guidelines, not finished art. Also the #220 was on a “carrier film” that was about an eighth of an inch wide on either side, so I was able to draw right up to the edge of the carrier film and use the edge of it as an inset panel with no trouble, so Ger and I ended up with a clean edge to the illustration, a strip of white space and the panel border which looked more difficult than it actually was to do and gave the page a nice illustrative quality. The wavy line would swerve from the middle of the carrier film to one side, so I had to separate the Letratapes into “50 yard line” tapes—where the wavy line was going right down the middle—for the interior panel borders and the tapes where the wavy line swerved to one side as the outside panel borders with the greatest thickness of carrier film on the “inside” of the page. It tended to vary even in a given tape which would start out as a ’50 yard line” tape and then swerve over to one side before I had a whole page “ruled up” so I had to pay attention. If you go through the books and look carefully, you can see how much “swerve” there is on any given border—sometimes quite a bit..

In a thematic sense, it served as my overall view of life which was that it was a lot like the monitoring device in the hospital, sort of jagged, sort of wavy. That was the reason that the wavy line disappeared for the duration of Melmoth. Thematically the book was about death, so the borders on all the panels “flat-lined”. It also occurred to me that the characters were pretty universally trapped inside this reality—sort of jagged, sort of wavy but intermittently— usually for the duration of one panel or a couple of panels—something they thought or something that happened would break them out of that entrapped state of existence and I would drop the jagged/wavy panel border to signify that. I didn’t get obsessive about it. Most of the time it was just something that was in the back of my mind that I tried to keep consistent in the hopes that it might register unconsciously with the reader. Just another layer among many.

And, of course, I put the border tape around my self-portrait at the beginning of Minds as a way of emphasizing that same point with a little edge of irony to it. I’m entering my own book at this point—the Cerebus part of my own book and I’m no different from my characters in a lot of ways. I am, likewise, contained by sort of jagged, sort of wavy parameters that I’m unable to escape that signal that I’m alive but not fundamentally more aware than anyone else who has incarnated physically. I’m Dave Sim, I’m not Tarim.

And the decision to drop the bordertapes in the Juno sequence was decided at the exact point where I got through to Cerebus. I didn’t get through to him fully, but sufficiently that he genuinely broke out of his sort of jagged, sort of wavy parameters. Once a thing is seen, it can’t be unseen. It took some doing but I got him to see exactly what sort of person he was and to see it clearly enough that he couldn’t retreat to a higher opinion of himself. I even made the attempt to show him that Jaka wasn’t who he thought she was, that she was involved with someone else at that very moment. I really tried to crack open the nut because he had never faced the fact that it was vitally important to him that if he wasn’t with Jaka he had to believe that she was somewhere else, alone, pining away for him. I call it the Sandra Dee Syndrome. What I couldn’t get him to see was that when Jaka came back, she would be interested in taking up with him again, but she would be interested in taking up with anyone that she had been involved with. Truth be told she wouldn’t have gotten involved with Rick again if she had run into him and he was willing to put all of that unpleasantness with Mrs. Thatcher behind them. She practically signed Cerebus’ death warrant because taking up with F. Stop Kennedy sounded like fun. It was fun running Cerebus around in circles on the way back to his parents’ place and it would be fun being the Patroness Saint of Art on Mealc for a period of time. If she could picture being That Jaka and being That Jaka sounded like fun, it was as like as not that she would go for it. The same as she admitted to Cerebus that the bloom had been off the rose in her marriage and if he had said, “Time to hit the road and go see the Wall of Tsi” she could do that without a backward glance. Not because Cerebus was her One True Love—which is how Cerebus saw it—but because the Wall of Tsi was unfinished business and sounded like more fun that what she was doing now; trying to get Rick to grow up and be responsible and fighting a losing battle to make Pud’s tavern a success.