Dave Answers 6 Questons: Nov / Dec 2005 & Jan 2006
Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for November / December 2005 & Jan 2006. 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!
NOV / DEC 2005 / JAN 2006 - GOING HOME
Q1: In a bar, Cerebus is asked if Jaka is "Scorpion or Lunatic or Angel or just a Woman." The bartender characterizes this as "Prophet Ricke" stuff. This differs from the traditional "Devil, Viper or Scorpion." Is it an example of Ricke mangling the gospel? Or Thomas mangling Ricke's message? And is there more to Thomas that was never revealed (considering his look, an instance of "Something Fell," and the coincidence of the Cirinist rebel attempting to incite Jaka)? (pp 102-103/i236)
DAVE: Well, for starters, Thomas is three sheets to the wind—or probably closer to four. What I was attempting to indicate (really, really tangentially, I’ll grant you) was that Cerebus’ magnifier nature had been keeping every possible Ricke intrusion at bay ever since he had left the tavern with Jaka. The Booke of Ricke teachings are sweeping the continent and yet Cerebus never hears a word about them even though a) he’s travelling with the Princess of Palnu and b) using his own name and—obviously—fulfilling the physical criteria for being the Great Cerebus as outlined in one of the chapters in that book. That unlikely reality is analogous to the fact that no one sees him as he really only in this instance it’s an even more advanced and acute form of the condition. The force of his own desire to make things work with Jaka and his elevated awareness that Ricke and Jaka are completely incompatible realities are basically harnessed together and subsume his magnifier nature to their own purpose: to change the very nature of reality in proximity to them.. Unless he can keep Ricke and Ricke’s reality—The Booke of Ricke—away from the two of them Ricke’s reality is going to destroy the relationship with Jaka so his magnifier nature essentially becomes a “Ricke antibody” . The only thing that could (and here does) pierce that insulation mechanism condition would be extreme inebriation which wouldn’t allow Cerebus’ super-reality to suppress Thomas’s super-reality in the same way that drunken people tend not to pick up on obvious social clues like negative body language, cold, evasive and impersonal responses and to just persist in continuing to interact according to their own distorted subjective impressions of the situation: disapproval and attempted suppression are just water off Daffy Duck’s back when they’re all liquored up—and this purely accidental, purely coincidental “bypass mode” (this is really the only time that Cerebus and Jaka aren’t in each other’s hip pockets in the entire storyline and thus susceptible to interaction from and with individuals outside their two-person construct) allowed Thomas to ask the most obvious question that not only everyone who knew the Booke of Ricke mythology would be asking themselves when Cerebus’ suppressant magnifier self was out of range but even more perniciously the question that Cerebus would have been asking himself all along: “Has Jaka fooled him or is Jaka some exceptional female being that doesn’t fit the Booke of Ricke classifications?” That’s why he gets thrown so badly by the question since the four classifications would be the ones that he, personally, would have been oscillating between in his on-going assessment of Jaka—she definitely fits all four depending on her mood—without being able to unconsciously admit to himself that that was what he was doing. Because Thomas inadvertently got all the way “inside” Cerebus’ defensive perimeter his super-reality and Cerebus’ super-reality merged in that moment. So his response is naturally the terror-inducing ‘Something Fell’ rather than, say, ‘You dropped something’ or ‘Oopsie.’ But, no, he’s really just a garden variety drunk. Wrong place wrong time or right place right time depending on your point of view.
Q2: As predicted in The Booke of Ricke XIV, Cerebus sees Ricke again. He also sees Ricke's disciples "drowning guys" in the river. Why now? Why here?
DAVE: Because the relationship between Cerebus and Jaka ends at the point where F. Stop Kennedy seduces her with the idea of becoming Queen Bee Art Patroness in Mealc. Even though she doesn’t go with him, that’s the point where her reality breaks with Cerebus’—from that point on she’s the Art Patron held captive in a romantic relationship that no longer fulfills her as a woman (a woman’s right to choose!) instead of being a woman finally reunited with her One True Love and it’s just a matter of time before the one reality wins out over the other just as the woman finally reunited with her One True Love temporarily won out over the Strong Independent “Just Call Me Jaka” travelling the world and happy to be alone— and sooner rather than later she’ll ditch Cerebus for her new self-perception either in Mealc or somewhere else. For Cerebus this means that Jaka is no longer a factor in his life—inevitably, either he was going to get Jaka out of his system or Jaka was going to get Cerebus out of hers—so it’s finally time to fulfill his own destiny which doesn’t and never did include Jaka. Because everything exists in the same moment for God, it was a natural placement. Where do Jaka and Cerebus break apart? Right here. Right now. Okay, that’s a good spot for Ricke’s incarnation which will initiate the potential fulfilment of Cerebus’ destiny.
Q2 cont: How does Cerebus as the fisherman relate to this Christian imagery? (pp 236-237)
DAVE: That was a balancing act on my part between the Synoptic and Johannine Jesuses. Unlike the Synoptic Jesus, Ricke doesn’t say “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” as was said to Andrew and Peter at the outset of the Synoptic Jesus’ ministry. The actual original Torah reference (which I was unable to locate, but I think it’s in Isaiah or Jeremiah) about ”fishing for men” is not a particularly happy one: it’s actually a malign reference essentially indicating that YHWH is going to take God’s followers from God the way a fisherman takes fish out of the water (water being God’s medium, all the way back to the creation of the Seas in Genesis 1). It only has a happy connotation—like so much of the Synoptic Gospels—because of the interpretations that Christian men brought to it. Like “salt of the earth” which is actually a YHWHistic insult, describing the earth’s waste products which are the diametric opposite of God’s medium, water. But because YHWH, speaking through the Synoptic Jesus calls his followers “the salt of the earth” it becomes construed as the highest imaginable praise. To YHWH calling them “the salt of the earth” was a way of indicating that the disciples are clueless putzes who don’t even know when they’re being insulted. To God, the universal acceptance of “salt of the earth” as high praise (universal by everyone except me) is clear evidence that the disciples are guileless and good because they see only good in a reference which is, at best, ambiguous and at worst malign. Therefore proving God’s point that men are good.
Trying to keep Ricke to the Johannine side of things I incorporated water as a key element into the expression. “The waters abound with the new and faithful, but as yet the fishers are few,” which thematically most closely resembles the Synoptic Jesus’ reference to the harvest (‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” Matthew 9:37) but, for me, removing it from a YHWHistic earth/plant metaphoric construct to a water-based metaphoric construct moves it from “ambiguous/malign” to “ambiguous/good” (the fact that Ricke’s still talking about fishing for men is the retained malignity). Still pretty ambiguous, but then I cap it with “Come and See” which is a pure Johannine reference from the first and eleventh chapters of John’s Gospel. In the first chapter in verse 39, it’s used by the Johannine Jesus at the very outset of his ministry in answer to the two disciples of John the Baptist who ask “Where dwellest thou?” Jesus says “Come and see” and he shows them where he lives and they go and hang out at Jesus’ place for the rest of the day.
This contrasts with the Synoptic Jesus who said (Matthew 8:20) ‘The Foxes have holes and the birds of the ayre haue nests: but the sonne of man hath not where to lay his head.” That is, the Synoptic Jesus doesn’t have a home. (What’s perhaps even more interesting is he that he says this in answer to “a certain Scribe’s” assertion: “Master, I will follow thee withosoeuer thou goest” which, as a reply to that assertion, draws the natural inference—again, to me, YHWH considering all men to be not only irretrievably evil but gullible idiots into the bargain—“Not only don’t I have a home, I’m not going anywhere” which it seemed to me was certainly true of YHWH “and still you idiots are following me.” The actual Greek term is ??í?? “he may incline” in reference to his head. Literally: “the son of the man not is having where his head he may incline” which could indicate pointing his head in some direction and following it or “where to lay his head” but the metaphorical use of the holes and the nests pretty clearly indicates a reference to a home, I think)
The second reference in John’s Gospel is in chapter 11. The reference occurs when he has returned to Judea (or, if you prefer the modern term, the West Bank) having heard that his friend Lazarus was sick and when he knew that actually Lazarus was dead. “Then when Mary was come where Iesus was, and saw him, shee fell downe at his feete, saying vnto him, Lord if thou hadst beene here, my brother had not dyed. When Iesus therefore sawe her weeping, and the Iewes also weeping which came with her, hee groned in the Spirit and hee troubled himself, and said, ‘Where haue ye laid him?’ They say vnto him, ‘Lord, come & see.’” (which then leads to the shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35 ”Iesus wept.” Or, in the original Greek, “Shed tears the Jesus.”). To me, this was when the Johannine Jesus knew that his own public ministry was at an end (the reason for the “hee groned in the Spirit”)—all that remained to be accomplished was his lengthy address and instructions to his disciples at the Johannine Last Supper and then the trial and crucifixion. That is, the two “Come and see” references bookend his ministry addressed to his first two (unnamed) disciples and then addressed to himself by the Jews accompanying Mary in reference to Lazarus’ tomb which metaphorically represented his own imminent death.
Sorry, but you DID ask.
Q3: Although you have stated quite plainly that F. Stop Kennedy is not a literary version of Dave Sim, and quite obviously so (no argument there), haven’t you mapped yourself into your version of the Maury Noble speech (the young Dave looking for fame and love, the maturing Dave looking for truth amongst the meaningless trappings of society, and the older Dave coming to terms with his Creator) (pp 247-266)?
DAVE: I suppose so, but, to me only in the sense that all men either go through only one of those three stages, two of them or all three. If you actually find love, I think it’s safe to say that you stop looking (fame is largely irrelevant, I think) either for truth or Truth or coming to terms with God. I think the response to genuine love is “True enough.” Which as I say compels you to stop looking. Likewise if you look for Truth but rule out God, I think you tend to just settle for whatever else you can acquire or attain in a material or experiential sense and likewise settle for a kind of peace that naturally comes with experience and age.
Q3 cont: Let it not be lost on the reader that the name of the "middle" character (who would hereby represent that part of your life being left behind) is named Sym-ington (even though, yes, the name is a mingling of Blatchford Sarnemington and Stuart Symington). Could this then also be a case of Kennedy's gin-soaked mind acting as a gateway for some vestige of the God-Who-Is-Dave to poke his head in and dispense a little wisdom, or a sincere glimpse into your own awakening? Or both?
DAVE: Again, sure. The inversion of the sensibility of the Maury Noble monologue from scrupulously secular to God-seeking is far more suited to Dave Sim (the sin and vice-addled “work in progress” of the time) than it is to either F. Scott Fitzgerald or F. Stop Kennedy. It represents a kind of foolish optimism that attaining to a truthful or Truthful state can still be achieved while drinking yourself into a stupor every Friday which is what I was doing at the time. I’ll drink, I’ll smoke, I’ll masturbate, I’ll be celibate while keeping my eyes out for a little nookie if I feel like backsliding, I’ll pray and I’ll develop a nice little relationship with God without giving up any of my actual vices. I’ll just apologize for them a lot. You know: “God and me, we’ll negotiate and come to an understanding of what my vice needs are and we’ll work it out somehow.” It’s an improvement, I think, on the original—Fitzgerald’s cursory assessment of the Bible and the “Old Testament God” in a few glib and artful phrases and then *PLIK* back face down in his gin bowl—but virtually anything would be. An improvement, I mean.
Q4: Why did you tell of the destruction of Iest in religious verse rather than actually illustrating the event?
DAVE: I think there’s a greater sense of gravitas possible in showing the very human tendency towards memorials or, rather, Memorial. It’s really us at our best, being reverently serious and living up to our potential and sincerely acknowledging the temporary nature of everything we actually experience. Dust to dust.. With that level of devastation I had a long time to mull it over and that was the conclusion that I came to. The best way to show a tragedy on that scale is with Comics’ Longest Pan Shot of the Institutionalized Memorial, the maintenance of the unaltered “Ground Zero” the start of the immediate surroundings left pretty much unaltered but with a “stations of the cross” quality to them, the landscaping which establishes order and beauty in the next outer ring and ,then the outward “life goes on” context once you’re removed from that. I think it’s what they keep missing with the Twin Towers memorial. Modern architecture insults and degrades memory rather than enhancing it.
Q4 cont: Who authored the verse?
DAVE: I did, drawing heavily on the apocalyptic language of Isaiah and Jeremiah but again, using it to illustrate that that’s the chief purpose of Poetry as opposed to poetry—lyrical writing that is capable of conveying Genuine Enormity with all the wisdom and dignity that you don’t get from the Hysterical Live Reporter on the Scene (“Oh, the humanity!”) A good example was the 1986 Challenger disaster which was “done right”—in the Memorial, rather than memorial sense— by Peggy Noonan’s timely recollection of—and Ronald Reagan’s masterful delivery of— “To slip the surly bonds of earth/and touch the Face of God”. There’s a good instance where I have no problem crediting a woman with the highest imaginable attainment in her field—in this case, speech-writing and having to strike the proper Lyrical Note under a brutal deadline in a context where almost everything is done by committee and where the political impulse is to leach out the content in order to avoid any possible controversy. The fact that she wrote the speech and then fought to keep it intact while everyone else was functioning on a whole other wavelength in the West Wing—well, there really aren’t sufficient words for the enormity of that accomplishment in a context that I revere very, very highly (having been a Ted Sorenson Kennedyite from a very early age).. I heartily recommend her White House memoir What I Saw at the Revolution.
Q4 cont: Thematically, was it simply a matter of not wanting to "go backwards?" Or was it to give the event a quasi-mythic feel (for example: was it actually the hand of Terim, or was it an earthquake or volcanic event -- much like the practice of finding scientifically sound reasons behind Biblical events)? (pp 349-356)
DAVE: Well, obviously, in my view nothing happens without God’s permission and it seems to me that that’s nowhere truer than when it comes to enormous tragedies. Terim being the Cerebus equivalent of YHWH, no I don’t think it was actually the hand of Terim.
“Mungu. Mungu Mkono.”
God. In the Hand of God.
Q5: Is this the same Jaka as we've seen pre-"Minds"? In "High Society", Jaka says she's been taking care of herself since she was twelve, in "Jaka's Story", she leaves Palnu at twelve. But here, she says, "I mean I was dumbfounded when I finally read it. Not a word about the balls or the masquerades' -- From the age of twelve I used to go through a minimum... a minimum... of five dance cards at each affair". Which implies that Jaka was in Palnu after her twelfth birthday, or that she made regular trips home and people knew about it. ( p.13)
DAVE: Mm. Well, that’s Jaka’s story, anyway—literally! You’re making the post-1970 mistake of thinking that if that’s what a woman says that’s what actually happened. Lord Julius’ birthday party gag was severely, severely traumatic. No, she had never been to a ball or a masquerade. She dreamed of it—that’s really what the dancing in the hidden room is all about—and she was completely sure that when it finally happened, when she finally got to go to one of these legendary balls that she might well be just a tall skinny stringbean of a girl, but DANCING…oh she would show them all how she could dance. Psychologically it was a defence mechanism against her visual perception of herself. She couldn’t stand to be laughed at and she seemed ridiculous to herself so she needed this enormous façade to protect her ego. The fact that she finally has become the swan instead of the ugly duckling and is on the cusp of being able to show off her dancing ability and gets hit between the eyes by Lord Julius’ peculiar sense of humour is really what leads her to the unsavoury occupation that she chooses when she runs away. The dancing had been so close to being released and had then been stymied that she needed to find an outlet that would allow her to stay closed off personally—back into the eggshell—while letting the dancing out.
Even in an environment where psychology per se doesn’t exist, someone as fine-tuned about perception and self-perception as Jaka would have seen that there was something more than a little wonky about a princess dancing in the Lower City of Iest at the age of twelve. If she thought about it directly (which I’m sure she never did) it would have been clear that she had “issues” or, in the vernacular, that she was nutty as a fruitcake.
As a result, wherever possible she “remade” the story of her life so that she had been the belle of the ball—the belle of many balls—as she had so vividly pictured herself being and as she knew she was capable of being. And then at some point (as her personal mythology goes), she fled Iest and decided to dance for a living, leaving out the specific trauma which led to it—except of course with Rick. The husband she could finally tell the story to. Once Rick was gone, the trauma could go with him and she would never again have to face it square on. It was just something Oscar made up for his book that never happened. That’s the reality she was presenting to Cerebus which just goes to show how sad her situation was. It was completely unlikely that Cerebus would ever read the book or, if he did, that he would have any assessment of it except that it should have been about Cerebus and Jaka because Jaka wasn’t really Jaka until she got involved with Cerebus as far as Cerebus was concerned. The fact that Jaka was selling him her warmed-over fantasy instead of telling him what actually happened is a good reason why the relationship would never “take”. She would never be that open again so the relationship with Cerebus was just her latest portrayal of herself which would inevitably be replaced by another.
WILDCARD: Julius appears to be a master at manipulating Cerebus (anong others). The last time we see Lord Julius and Cerebus together in the first volume, Cerebus is wearing the furry black shirt (when Cerebus leaves Palnu, he is in shadow and we can't see what he may or may not be wearing.) We also learn that Jaka is soon to arrive in Palnu (which "debunks" the theory/story told in "Jaka's Story" that Jaka was missing and nobody knew where she was and Julius was looking for her (itself debunked at the end of "Jaka's Story")) and that she has made Julius aware of her connection to Cerebus. Then the next time we see Cerebus and Jaka (in High Society page 209), Jaka is wearing a furry black shirt. Given the context of the story (Cerebus has just changed into his Candidate duds to impress the Prime Minister of Iest, whom Cerebus was entertaining with Astoria when Lord Julius walks in and berates Cerebus. When Cerebus is informed that Jaka is there to see him.), I have the supposition that "The Night Before" meeting was set up by Julius in order to throw Cerebus off his game for Petuniacon (Cerebus's game, not Julius's). And Jaka's wardrobe was a very subtle clue to this. Jaka DID want to see Cerebus and give him his sword, but Julius was the one who decided when and where Jaka could do that. In fact, looking at Jaka's furry black shirt, it looks to have aardvark proportions, theoretically, it's the same shirt from issue 16. So my question is this: Is my supposition correct? (Regarding the meeting, not the shirt.) Was Jaka sent to meet with Cerebus by Julius to mess with Cerebus's head? Also, was Julius using Jaka to try to manipulate Cerebus later in "High Society" (page 467-ish)?
DAVE: After the Big Trauma, Lord Julius never again had any kind of influence over Jaka for obvious reasons. She was certainly capable of portraying herself as the loving niece and completely ignoring the Big Trauma in her dealings with her uncle but always on her own terms. I mean, picture the level of profound wilfulness that would allow a twelve-year-old princess to be dancing in taverns. The sensible thing for Lord Julius to do was to send some people to get her, but the Big Trauma was pretty well incandescent to the point of emitting its own level of radiation capable of melting lead. All you could do was to keep a few Iestan undercover guards nearby and let her dance in taverns and hope for the best. You see it a lot in our society where you have this disproportionate awareness of the GAMMA RADIATING FEELINGS of little girls which leads to outright capitulation to those FEELINGS in more and more instances which really skews families in weird directions causing them to adopt as realities peculiar notions that are actually just immature female fantasies. It’s certainly, it seems to me, more sensible to hold to the view that Big Traumas are actually little traumas blown out of proportion and to enforce that view by force if necessary until the little princess figures out that she only thinks she’s the center of the universe. But the potential is always there once capitulating to little girls becomes (as it has become in our society) the new normal..
The furry tops was really just because I liked doing fur textures with the Hunt 102 pen nib. Like Charles Shulz with his raindrops. We all have our favourite textures.
In the case of the sweater that Jaka is wearing, that was actually a sweater that Deni owned and that she bought when we had only been married a short time. It was an expensive item, as I recall, and versatile because it was black so it went with everything. It had that exaggerated scoop neck that showed off nice blouses very well and mid-length sleeves. I think she owned it for a few years before she noticed one day that the label was in the front, which, of course was when she realized that she had been wearing it backwards all along. It was actually a crew neck collar in the front with a scooped back. She tried it on that way and it looked terrible but she still had to fight with herself to wear it after that because she had become acutely aware that it was on backwards and never felt quite comfortable wearing it again. Even though it looked great when she was wearing it backwards and lousy when it was on the right way around.
A woman’s lot is not an easy one.