Dave Answers 6 Questons

Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for May 2004. If you prefer, here is MS Word document with all of the answers and questions.

1. Before you decided that the Big Round Glowing White Strange Thing was YoohWhoo, who did you intend the two voices to be that we heard when Cerebus climbed up to the Regency to talk to (what turned out to be) the fake fake Regency Elf? (i73/C&SI)

DAVE: Yoohwhoo isn't a term that I use, personally. I see no reason to be consciously impolite, so I always call he/she/it YHWH. In conversation, literally, Why Aitch Double You Aitch. Well, the answer to that is "how many adjectival `fakes' belong in front of the term Regency Elf in your sentence?" You would have to answer my question before I could answer yours. Remember that what you think of as the Regency Elf is an internal construct of Cerebus', whose only existence is as a mirage partway between Cerebus and the real Regency Elf, assuming that the Regency Elf actually exists. Do you believe in fairies? If you don't believe in fairies, personally, then add some more layers of adjectival "fake" to your question. If you do believe in fairies, personally, then subtract some layers of adjectival "fake" from your question. Given that I am now addressing two different systems of belief, which question do you want me to answer? Now one or both of you can say "you're being evasive". Am I? "Well, yes, we're asking you a question about your story: what was your intention?" That subdivides as well. What was my intention at the time? At the time I was foreshadowing and laying the groundwork for breaking the news as gently as possible to my readership that the Regency Elf as known by them doesn't exist. Which at one level is silly-you shouldn't have to explain to grown-ups that elves don't exist. You should feel silly for having to have that explained to you. At the same time, I was trying to depict as accurately as possible what I think the nature of that human impulse towards belief in fairies is all about. It's amazing how far people will go in response to their personal fairies if they're fairy people (on as real a level as possible, I'm forced to draw an analogy to feminism here, at the risk of offending all you feminists, because in a "what was Dave thinking of here" sense it really does apply. At this point in my life, my marriage had broken up and, now that I was on my own and no longer having to accommodate another system of belief and now being able to return to my own intrinsic nature, a person who believed in the truth and perceiving accurately, I had at two levels-love and feminism-come to the conclusion that I had just taken an awful beating in a number of ways for having made the mistake of allowing myself to be gulled into believing in those two present-day societal fairies.

In retrospect, in the sense that the Dave Sim you are asking this question today who has consciously chosen not to believe in those two societal fairies, as with much of the Cerebus story-prior to reading the Bible and the Koran-I think I was enacting on paper parts of the debate between God and YHWH, which I think it's kind of impossible to avoid for human beings given that I think that's a big reason that we were created by God. So, as I look at the two voices on page 391, what I see, now, at the highest level of metaphor is the voice of YHWH (black lettering white balloons) and God (white lettering black balloons). Which always sustains itself down and up through all other levels of metaphor, including my creation of their dialogue. I tend to see God, or the nature of God as always engaging YHWH's attentions in whatever way possible, using people as metaphors and the stories people, like myself or any writer, write as metaphors. So, please bear in mind, that this is pretty much my answer, today, to most questions, both about the Cerebus story and about life in general. If you consciously believe in fairies and you're a guy, you're asking for trouble.

So that cautionary note being struck, meanwhile back at my intention back in 1983, Cerebus doesn't have the belief in the Regency Elf in Church & State at the required level that he had in High Society and that makes her transparently false to him. If you believe in fairies in a psychological or biological sense (Alan Moore's mythopoetic regions of the brain stuff) then Cerebus is just responding to that part inside of him that is a magnifier and that is dealing with super-reality(ies). Does the magnifier believe that Cerebus is infallible because Cerebus is the Pope? Cerebus consciously believes that he is infallible because he is the Pope so that sets up an internal war to which both the magnifier and the his genetic aardvark nature would respond (are responding). The magnifier has no concept of the scope of its own magnification on the Papal level as Cerebus consciously perceives it (what is the equivalent of a Pope in the realm of pure spirit?). So through the Regency Elf, the magnifier is asking (him/her/it?) self if this is true. Is the world going to come to an end because there's no way to get all of the gold coins and because Cerebus is infallible in his pronouncements? At one level the only hope is that Papal infallibility is fake in the same way that the Regency Elf is fake, that "fakeness" is the abiding condition on all relevant levels between Cerebus' perception of reality and the magnifier's perception of reality. The question for the magnifier would be "which world?". If it's just the world that Cerebus knows, that could be fine, as long as the magnifier exists in its own reality and not just in Cerebus'. If Cerebus and the world disappear, is the magnifier still going to be there? At that point it was worth the magnifier really stretching a point with the false Regency Elf construct as a means of communicating an idea to Cerebus that Cerebus would be hiding from himself. Given that the magnifier is a super-reality construct in the story, I thought it was funny to have Cerebus worrying the next level up and the next level up from that just because Cerebus is so intrinsically simple-minded on these things. Being infallible is a great way to get people to give you their gold, if you threaten to destroy the world but it does, I think, call a lot of realities into question simultaneously.

2. In Rick's Story/i229, Rick recites words that Cerebus recognizes as a "binding spell:"

Lies wound the truth/truth will bind lies,
The truth said but once/the lie thrice denies,
I bind 'he' by listen/twice bind 'she' by look
'it' thrice binds 'its' selves. with. in.
branch breaks branch/the one branch/is now 2/1 branch is me/1 branch
is __
branch breaks branch/once/twice more/
for the 3 at the table/for the 1/at the door

Please explain the dynamics of the binding spell and its effects (i.e. what does it do, what did Rick intend for it to do) (assuming you actually had those worked out in your mind - writers don't always invent meanings or backstories for things, sometimes they just focus on what serves their story (or, if you believe artists channel their ideas from elsewhere, what serves those outside forces)). Additionally, if possible, can you tell us, line by line, how it relates to the plot and any larger thematic meaning?

DAVE: I suspect you're going to be sorry you asked about this one. Well, here again, I'm still dealing with the same levels of dichotomy that I have been dealing with all along, only now I've read the Bible, so I now I have a much clearer idea of who the actual players are. The idea behind Rick's Story-which I evaded discussing in the introduction to that volume-is the idea behind Rick himself. I had to come up with a super-nice character to be Jaka's husband. It was the only way Jaka's Story would work. The more I thought of someone who Cerebus wouldn't just kill on sight and someone who Jaka would stay with longer than a few weeks, I realized that I was talking about someone on the Jesus level of the niceness scale-in the bland, secular-humanist, feminized sense that the historical Jesus is understood (or, rather, misunderstood): that he was this really, really nice feminized guy-so that was what I went with.

(This tied in nicely with what I saw as Oscar Wilde's secular humanist messianic pretensions: when he would entertain his enraptured host and hostess and their guests at upper crust dinners, he sincerely thought that he was imparting the equivalent of Jesus' parables, that Jesus was a Poet and a Storyteller just like himself- a forerunner of John Lennon's blasphemous notion that "The Beatles were more popular than Jesus". Much of De Profundis and Wilde's fairy tales are composed of exactly that kind of pretentious blasphemous twaddle. I thought Oscar Wilde attempting to seduce "Jesus" would be a good metaphor for how I saw that part of the historical Wilde's story).

So, I was still a secular humanist when I started thinking about what Jesus would be like after his marriage broke up the way it did (this was a little funnier than I knew it to be at the time. I wasn't aware that there exist vast numbers of Christians, or, rather, "Christians" who believe that Jesus was secretly married to Magdalene or someone else, that he had had children, that someone else had died on the Cross and that en famille Mr. and Mrs. The Christ and the kids all moved to France-of all places-which, it seems to me, explains a great deal about the French and why they, you know, " are" that way). And that was when I came up with the idea of a one-on-one story between Rick and Cerebus where the magnifier inside of Cerebus would, essentially (having been starved for any other object for any kind of interaction for so long) take partial possession of Rick and magnify Rick's dormant Jesus nature up to the next level where, combined with his alcoholism, he would write an Aardvarkian Age bible, where Rick would see himself as a Jesus-like figure and would see Cerebus as alternately an Angel sent to Rick from God and as Satan sent to torment Rick. Purely comedic interest on the part of a secular humanist. A story that would get funnier and funnier as Rick's new religion engulfed Cerebus and forced Cerebus to become the Cerebus Rick saw him as being.

To understand the container spell, it's important to understand that Rick "snapped" when Joanne told him that Cerebus had told her that Cerebus had been married to Jaka. "Snapped" on a number of levels that went all the way up to the peak of his Jesus nature because he knew he should've been "beyond that" now that all these truths were being revealed to him and he was writing this miraculous book. It shouldn't have bothered him, but of course-given who he was-it did. What was set in motion by Joanne's (she thought, anyway) harmless remark produced a completely internalized chain reaction. The more he tried to suppress it bothering him, the more it would bother him and the more if would bother him, the more it would bother him that it bothered him. See, although he could never have Jaka again, the fact that he had been Jaka's only husband was, unbeknownst to him, critically important to his perception of himself and the way he needed to see himself in order to function. The first reaction would be to get rid of Joanne by blowing up at her-shooting the messenger-and thereby eliminating one of the three key components of The Book of Rick (Rick, he, Joanne, she, Cerebus, it) and one of the two reasons he had to stick around the "Sanctuary". The only way to survive Joanne believing that Cerebus had been married to Jaka was to eliminate Joanne and Cerebus from his life which was very much in contravention of Rick's own really, really nice Jesus-like nature which recognized when Cerebus was "persecuting" him but would just accept it as good-naturedly as possible. This internalized attainment of a spiritual critical mass then set up a series of magnifying echoes between Rick, Rick's nature, the part of Cerebus' magnifier that had taken possession of Rick and Cerebus himself, magnifying echoes which called into question the nature of the magnifier itself (or, rather, his/her/itself) for itself and centering to a large extent on where the magnifier "left off" in Cerebus and "began" in Rick. i.e. there's certainly no precedent for Rick having any knowledge of magic spells, right? which is an indication that Rick has proven to be something of a tar baby for the magnifier absorbing some of Cerebus' limited, but potent magical training and nature. The magnifying echoes bouncing between them become so strong that they start manifesting in the physical world, chipping paint off of the Seat of Truth and manifesting in super-reality as the big (actually little) round glowing white strange thing over the Seat of the Right Hand page 170 panel 1 and the Infinity Serpent on the Seat of the Left Hand page 170 panel 3-who then beats a hasty retreat. I got partway through laying out page 170 with the Infinity Serpent basically slipping out through a mouse-hole in the baseboards after passing through the chair leg (doosh). Just a funny visual: "feets don't fail me now!" And then as I was tightening it up, I thought, Hang on. Where do you think you're going? I mean, it's all fiction, right?

Unless it isn't. " That old serpent," as he/she/it is called in Revelation whether it's Chauah's fictitious snake in the Garden of Eden, Satan, Leviathan, Alan Moore's sock puppet, the question became an obvious one: which team am I on? And to me, there was only one answer: I've got to catch the snake. So I basically did the cartoony little drawing you see here, with the snake making a break for it out of the heavenly Sanctuary (as Rick saw it), getting trapped in a cartoon book and dropped into hell. And then I thought, this really resonates with some comic-book history and with my own history: because the little cartoon snake was so small, he looked like a worm, instead of a snake, and I flashed on the first extended comic-book serial-Cerebus' first ancestor in a very real sense-the Mr. Mind serial in Captain Marvel Adventures (issues 22 to 46) where Otto Binder (interesting name, eh?) and C.C. Beck had built up this suspense about this thoroughly evil character who wasn't seen on- panel for several months (an unheard of length of time in the age of the self-contained comic book story) and who turned out to be this super-intelligent…worm.

(Short digression: the first time I met Harlan Ellison-as part of our far-ranging discussion-he mentioned that he had been a devoted reader of Captain Marvel as a kid and that he had actually followed the entire Mr. Mind serial when it first came out and that the only issue he hadn't read-and still hadn't read-was issue 27 where Mr. Mind's identity was revealed. Well, I filed this away in my mental rolodex and, when Deni and I got back from the US Tour-we had met Harlan at the last stop in Colorado-there were three or four Comics Buyer's Guides waiting and while catching up on the news, I also scanned the advertisements to see if anyone was selling a Captain Marvel Adventures No. 27. And sure enough, there one was for fifteen or twenty dollars or something. So I ordered it and it came in about a week later. And I read through it and thought, well, there it is. The only issue of the Mr. Mind serial Harlan Ellison has never seen and I wrapped it back up and FedExed it to him. ).

I had already figured out the "he/she/it" construct of YHWH and I figured this would be kind of appropriate that the imaginary snake from the Garden of Eden that had grown to Leviathan size turned out to be actually nothing more than a worm, just like Mr. Mind. So, in order of each line's appearance:

"Lies wound the truth"

is my best assessment of what Genesis chapters 2, 3 and 4 do to Genesis chapter 1. On the cosmetic level, it's a) the best distillation of Rick's profoundly hurt feelings that Cerebus has, in a real way, stolen his wife from him and at a slightly less cosmetic level it's b) the culmination of Rick's pretty firmly developed "Rick is of the Seat of Truth and Cerebus is of the Sanctuary" construct and what I see as the underpinning of any two- person construct: Which one of us is sane here?

"Truth will bind lies."

I think I might be able to "bag me some snake" here, pardner. "The truth said but once," is, again, a reference to the first chapter of Genesis, which is still my best assessment. Like all of God's truths, it seems tome very simple and very direct.

"The lie thrice denies"

YHWH in his/her/its he/she/it manifestation and also my best assessment of chapters 2,3 and 4 of Genesis that end with "Then did men begin to call vpon the name of the YHWH." "You told Joanne that you were once married to Jaka" is also "The truth said but once." Rick and his Jesus nature at war with each other. He doesn't want or see the need for a discussion, he just wants to state the charge and then contend on a very esoteric level knowing that it's an open-and-shut case. Rick=Truth, Cerebus=Lie. Of course he also just wants to get away from Cerebus who is a reminder of his conflicted nature: that he actually still cares enough about Jaka to have it bother him that someone claimed to have been married to her. He can't be the Rick he wants to be-God's Rick- anymore, if either Joanne or Cerebus is around. On page 171, Cerebus' size diminishes relative to Rick: he's literally subsiding into his own inescapable context (I echoed this sudden disproportion in relative sizes in 299 when Shep-shep asks if Cerebus recognizes the "baby"). Remember that what Cerebus had told Joanne-before Rick showed up-was that he and Joanne and everyone else were in this book being written by someone named Dave, so now we have Cerebus looking up "through" Rick and "at" me, not consciously aware of the levels involved but certainly his magnifier aspect is. See, there's also three levels of book here: the book that I'm writing, the book Rick is writing and the little cartoon book that the snake just got trapped in: depending on your point of view, Book/"book"/book OR book/"book"/Book respectively/respectively. So to start page 172, what I'm indicating to Cerebus is, no, it goes much higher than that. You were only looking at Rick. You're actually at a 90 degree angle to the chessboard I'm playing on. You're right on the edge of a descent into hell. If you tilted your head way, way back and changed your thinking so you could understand where the chessboard is and what it's doing, you would see that Rick and I are both knights on this chessboard. One of us has your queen in jeopardy and the other has just put your king in check. "Look" becomes, "Look you're toast." You have to move your king out of check and then you lose your queen. Which one of us is which knight? That's no longer pertinent. All that's pertinent is that one of us has got your queen. So this hits Cerebus and the magnifier inside of him simultaneously and moves them from the first layer of Book or book, down to the third layer of book or Book-the little cartoon book (page 172)-as Cerebus/magnifier now manifest as the he/she/it snake (remember that Cerebus is an hermaphrodite rendered infertile by the knife attack he sustained as a child) making a break for it, a break that can't succeed because it has already failed by the time Cerebus is consciously aware of participating in it. The word "Look" gets said twice, binding the female part of Cerebus and his internal magnifier-I intentionally reversed the birth order of Reuben and Simeon (whose names translate as "SEE a son" and "HEARING"-see Latter Days page 384 for my fuller speculations on this) the first two of the twelve Jewish tribes. If YHWH wants to get everything backwards, fine let's try backwards. LISTEN first, then LOOK. The word "Wrong" gets said three times, the judgement that's being passed on Cerebus-which can be read as being said both by Rick and by the internal magnifier who suddenly sees the super-reality of his/her/its situation: my, that is Dave's, book or Book, Rick's "book" and the little cartoon book or Book. "Cerebus didn't do anything…"

(Cerebus told Joanne that they were all in Dave's book. Cerebus definitely, inescapably did something by telling Joanne so that Joanne could then tell Rick. The magnifier in Cerebus and in Rick judges Cerebus' defence: "…WRONG.")

"Cerebus did nothing"

(No, that's not true. Cerebus told Joanne that they were all in Dave's book. That's not nothing. The magnifier in Cerebus and in Rick judges Cerebus' defence: "…WRONG.")

"Cerebus isn't"

(Well, that's not true in any available contextual sense either. In the three available contexts of "book," book or Book, Dave's book or Book is called Cerebus. It has been a major "is" in Dave's life for around twenty years. Twenty years constitutes an irrefutable "is". Cerebus is also the pre-eminent figure in Rick's "book". No question. Cerebus IS. Cerebus is AT LEAST as real… as the little cartoon snake that just got trapped in a book or a Book on page 170. Note that the "n't" are faded as Cerebus' argument collapses, overridden by the magnifier's now inescapable awareness of the super-reality so that the bottom panel actually reads "Cerebus is…WRONG.")

"It thrice binds `its' selves".

(Three defences have been mounted endeavouring to establish that it is Cerebus who is telling the truth and all three have been declared wrong by the magnifier itself. The It magnifier has literally bound its selves in the three contextual levels by the admission: in this case, the thrice-used term, ALL qualifies the previous WRONG, the acknowledgement that the defences have collapsed on all three contextual levels. Wrong. All. All. Wrong. Backwards or forwards there's no room to manoeuvre, which is why Cerebus is just swept along. This is the last conscious attempt to assert his own perception of reality. Obviously what he is trying to do is to explain, to say to Rick, "All Cerebus said [to Joanne] is We're all in a book written by someone named Dave." So there's a bit of commentary there on moralistic absolutism of the kind Rick has retreated to because of the level at which he has been offended by these two key individuals daring to think that Cerebus was once married to Jaka. It would certainly take a lot of explaining to get across the context in which that had happened-that Dave showed him, pretty vividly, what being married to Jaka would have been like. That it wasn't a dream, it wasn't a hoax and it wasn't an imaginary story. The problem would be describing what it was. Even Cerebus isn't sure what it was, let alone how he would explain it. But there is a level of truth to it even though it certainly isn't as true as Rick thinking that it was a lie. And then in the first panel of page 173, Rick and the magnifier quality both declare "WITH" at the exact point where Cerebus and the magnifier quality-now seen as what it is, a puny little snake-part company. The "WITH" doesn't follow sequentially if you refer back to what Cerebus is trying to say, so Rick has sort of overpowered him with his own moral absolutism. "ALL WRONG. ALL CEREBUS. We're ALL." It would be an interesting speculation as to what the rechannelled thought was leading to. "We're all with…" would appear to be the magnifier quality/snake trying to retain the connection to Cerebus which is severed at that point. Like the poet in Barry Windsor-Smith's "The Beguiling" Cerebus can't pass through the final impediment. He gets most of the way through and the magnifier quality/snake detaches from him. And, now that the magnifier quality/snake has been detached from Cerebus he/she/it on its own is no match for Rick, who turns the second syllable of "within" into an instruction, as if he was talking to the cat who's been scratching at the door. "In." And all the magnifier quality/snake can do is respond "in. in. in." and become imprisoned in Rick's "book". The largest accomplishment for Rick is that it is now a two-man parade, the religion that is getting started: Rick and Cerebus, not Cerebus and the snake. His motives are suspect, but Rick has cleansed Cerebus of what is basically a demonic possession. And then Cerebus, having lost his magnifier, makes the only assessment that he can "coming to".

It's Rick's book.

See the actual spell is:
Lies wound the truth
the truth will bind lies
the truth said but once
the lie thrice denies.
I bind `he' by `listen'
twice bind `she' by `look'
It thrice binds `its' selves
within MY book.

But it would only work if Cerebus said it because the magnifier/snake was binding its selves. It could only do that by acknowledging that it was Rick's book. What I suspect is that I got YHWH as well. It depends on how much he/she/it identified with the misspelled three-headed dog that guarded Hades and how far up and down the metaphorical ladder the "reality"/reality/Reality model holds true. By having Cerebus say "your book" I suspect that I was identifying a YHWHist reality at a number of levels. I'm saying to YHWH, here, here's your book that you identified yourself with back when you had no idea where I was getting my ideas from but that I certainly seemed to be on your team. Here's the metaphorical you binding yourself into a little cartoon book that I dropped into the fires of hell. It's all just extrapolation and speculation, but it certainly started with the Infinity Serpent making a break for it and my thinking, Where do you think you're going?

Now there is a large potential for blasphemy here. On a metaphorical level, I'm enacting the part in Revelation where an angel comes down from heaven and "binds that old serpent" for a thousand years, which is one of the Davidic messiah prophecies in Christianity. I'm not willing to go anywhere near that far. I just backed into the situation because I drew this ghost image of a snake retreating from an accounting and I figured I better close it off much tighter than that to be on the safe side. The Davidic messiah is also called "the Branch," the branch of the House of Jesse, one of King David's progenitors, so I hide behind the old "I didn't say it, the puppet said it" routine, much beloved by ventriloquists. It's Rick's book, Rick's "spell," so I double up the branch. Let's let fictional Rick be the Branch and let's give him a real branch. So "Branch breaks branch". Rick saying that he might be the Davidic messiah but the branch served its purpose, it bound the Infinity Serpent, now he'll break it in two.

"The One Branch is now two" and effectively negated. There is, from what I understand, only one Davidic messiah. First the branch of the House of Joseph and then the branch of the House of David is supposed to come.

(For all I know, it might not even be blasphemous. What little I know about it I got from a book on Sabbatai Svi, the 17th century Jew who declared himself to be the Davidic messiah and was pretty widely believed among Jews since his declaration coincided with the proliferation of commercial printing and moveable type so his message swept through the Hebrew underground like wildfire. He was actually imprisoned in a Muslim country (Turkey?) and entertained pretty lavishly in his cell which was adorned with a lot of overstated materialism by his legions of followers. The Muslims were wary because this could be the guy and they didn't want to have a Jesus situation on their hands by possibly martyring the guy. Literally most of Europe started emptying of Jews, all headed for the Holy Land because the Davidic Messiah was here. Finally, one day a guy showed up in his cell and told him that he was the Branch of the House of Joseph, so Sabbatai couldn't be the meshiach because the Branch of the House of Joseph had to declare himself first. They, evidently, debated this for days on end and the new arrival wouldn't budge an inch, so the whole thing collapsed and virtually everyone abandoned him. At the point the Muslims gave him a choice between some gruesome fate like being forced to swallow molten lead or something or converting to Islam. Sabbatai chose to convert to Islam.

Now, as with so much that I find about post-Scriptural Judaism, Christianity and Islam, I don't know where they get this stuff from. I've read the Torah at least a dozen times and there is nothing about a Davidic messiah unless you are reading an awful lot into the text, which is what I think happens. I mean, a lot of people can accuse me of that, but at least what I'm trying to do is to figure out what the story is, not building this precarious house of cards that the Rabbis have built over the centuries in the Talmud.) Anyway, if the metaphorical branch is broken, that, to me, negates any potential charge of blasphemy. But, just to be sure:

"One branch is me, One branch is…"

And here I won't let him finish. Just to be really sure, I create a whirlpool so he's looking out of the page and seeing me and seeing that I won't accept him saying "One branch is you." You know: don't drag ME into this. And at that point he understands that there are two different levels of reality going on here. Breaking the branch once isn't enough, that still allows for each of us to have a branch.

"Branch breaks branch, once, twice more".

Four pieces, that's safe enough, I think (I really wanted to be sure that there was no mistaking my intention)… This also had its own strange comic-book resonance with the only Carl Barks Donald Duck comic book I own, a coverless copy of "The Golden Helmet" (Four Color #408, 1952) which concerned itself with the eponymous helmet which, whoever discovered it, became the owner of North America (hey, it's a Donald Duck comic, folks). Anyway there's a part at the end where everyone is getting tempted to keep it when the best thing is just to throw it in the sea so no one owns North America. Like the $100,000 cheque for Spawn 10. Don't think about it, just sign the back and send it to the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund. Anything else will just be asking for trouble. I do tend to think that way

…which causes Rick to basically go back to the story as it's unfolding and to use the branch fragments just as a basic plot point, fortune-telling being way, way down on the scale that the previous sequence was skirting around: The Amazing Kreskin Rick predicts! There are going to be three guys at the table and someone is coming in through the door! Of course the residual magnifier/snake just about jumps out of its skin. Not paying close enough attention it could be that what Rick is saying is that the Davidic messiah is at the door right now! YIKES! And then Cerebus panics when Rick says goodbye, because there is a residual magnifier/snake inhabiting Cerebus who is obviously thinking about how to reunite with the separated part of his/her/itself now trapped in Rick's book. So, on page 179, Cerebus is going through magnifier/snake residual trauma, because most of the magnifier/snake quality is leaving and a part of him is terrified because he doesn't know what life is like without the magnifier/snake (or even how long he's "had it," a plot point I never addressed formally-whether Cerebus had just been born that way or if he "caught" something while he was an apprentice to Magus Doran). Consciously, as Rick's walking out the door, Cerebus is trying to say, "You take good care of yourself," (the same line Bear used on Cerebus when Bear left-translated from "guyese" it means "I'm abandoning ship, so you're on your own and I don't really care what happens to you") which is almost coming out right at first, but-as the magnifier/snake residue goes into "override" mode- then first changes into "Take Cerebus with you." (Take…Cerebus) and secondly changes into "you `re taking us with you" (You. Take. With. You.) and finally "you take good care of us" (You. Good. Care. Of.) combined with the original "You take good care of yourself". The residue doesn't have a choice, it has to abandon ship and rejoin the part that's leaving. So, basically Rick cleanses Cerebus, thinking that he is completely conscious of what he is doing-he sure looks like he knows what he's doing-but clearly he isn't. All he knows is that he's been hurt, he hurt Joanne because she hurt him, and now he's hurt Cerebus because Cerebus "made him" hurt Joanne. My assumption is that he would "come to" some miles away, vaguely dissatisfied, but now determined to preach his message as a solo act until it's time for he and Cerebus to have their final meeting. So Cerebus is finally just Cerebus again, probably for the first time since he was a kid and he just runs around bumping into himself for a few pages. The part of him that has been making most of his major decisions is gone, so all he can do is second-guess himself. "Stay" and "leave" sound equivalently plausible and implausible because he hasn't made a completely autonomous decision in so long, he doesn't know how to make one. Cerebus' medallions-of magical origin-have shrunk through the sequence of events showing the extent to which he is now Cerebus only and how much "residue of residue" there is left: some, but not a lot (he would never have been able to stick with Jaka for any length of time while the magnifier was in the driver's seat-the magnifier wouldn't have allowed it) as in the instance with the F. Stop sequence I described last time. There is a patterned response "aura" around Cerebus at this point where the magnifier residue responds to familiar environments ("Cerebus killed a guy over there once") and can resonate with those people who are having their own problems with levels of demonic possession (like F. Stop who, unbeknownst to himself or Cerebus, "resonated" with Cerebus' memory of Weisshaupt). I really wish that this was easier to describe, but it isn't and since I got eight more letters today and I still haven't answered the five from yesterday, I'm going to have to cut my explanation short (relatively speaking at ten pages).

But before I do, I have to mention that this did manifest in my life after I had it on paper. I was walking out back of the house to Camp David and there was a branch sitting on the walkway that was identical to the one in the book. So, I picked it up right away and broke it into four pieces and threw the pieces in the garbage. Then a couple of months later, around Christmas (you might remember this) there was this strange week where both Somebody-a-Kennedy and Sonny Bono died smashing into trees on the ski slopes at Aspen (DOOSH) (DOOSH). I mean, the imagery and the coincidence-two famous guys in one week?-were just too coincidental. The Somebody-a-Kennedy was the one who had gotten busted for having sex with the underage babysitter he had hired to watch his kids. So from this I took a little word to the wise: don't fuck the babysitter (no, actually, stay away from underage girls). Sonny Bono was a little tougher. To me, that was either Don't go from entertainment into politics or Don't manufacture a persona for a female that makes her look more intelligent than she is (as Sonny did with Cher on their television series). Stick to reality. So just to be on the safe side I resolved to avoid all three of those. DOOSH. DOOSH. Who needs it?

3. You've said that Cirinism reflects closely the TRUE human condition - and therefore, Cerebus can never defeat it. (i194/Minds) You also stated that Cirinism is a system that mirrors human nature and, as such, flourished naturally. The movement is solidly constructed. Therefore, Cerebus would never be able to conquer Estarcion. But of course, Cerebus *did* conquer Estarcion -- or did he? The New Joannists won out in the end, didn't they? Please explain how Cirinism reflects closely the true human condition.

DAVE: You're paraphrasing. What I said was "thoroughly in tune with human nature and human ideals" that's a very different thing from reflecting or mirroring the human condition. Let's start with "in tune". The musical analogy was selected specifically. Take improvisational jazz. All of the instruments can be in tune (relative to themselves and/or relative to each other), but that doesn't make them the same instruments nor does it mean that they're playing the same notes. In fact they likely aren't if they're "in tune" in the broader sense of "relative to each other". In that sense, "in tune" means that there is a pleasing auditory compatibility going on. Everyone's playing and listening and smiling because it's working. How is it working? Music isn't like that. It doesn't lend itself to factual analysis. It sounded good. It was in the pocket, we were popping the gator, etc. etc. Pick your favourite old bluesman phrase. That's why I find music perverse because it creates an illusion that something has happened that isn't demonstrable. Which is fine. To paraphrase Woody Allen, music is a perverse enterprise, but as perverse enterprises go, its one of the more harmless ones. Until you have someone like John Lennon being backed into a corner where he has to sing Revolution to try to explain that while everyone is grooving to his beat (The Beatles are more popular than Jesus) that doesn't mean that they're likely leadership candidates. Likewise with the Police. "Da doo doo doo Do da da da is all I want to say to you. They're meaningless and all that's true." Well, that's perverse. That requires a female "brain" to nod sagely and go, "Ah! Yes! It seems like a paradox, but it's REALITY. It's both meaningless and all that's true." No. It's meaningless. No ifs ands or buts. You have to stretch meaning to the breaking point and beyond to get any "truth"- let alone Truth-out of Da doo doo doo Do da da da. It's perverse in the large sense because most of the generation before mine and my own generation did exactly that: formed their political opinions and attitudes around Da doo doo doo Do da da da. I mean, I was trying to play fair with the material. I don't think a post-Industrial matriarchy is remotely likely and a pre-Industrial one is only marginally more likely, but let's completely convolute reason into trying to making something up that sounds good. Let's try and make some points about women but let's literally become Devil's advocate for a few pages. So I did use clever phrasing like the "in tune" thing. Improvisational jazz leapfrogs. The sax leads for a while and then the keyboardist catches a wave and he takes over and then another instrument and then the vocalist and everyone ends of (literally) God-alone-knows- where an hour later. Well, that's perverse. But for those who like that sort of thing, that's the sort of thing they like. For people like me who like lengthy conflated and well-thought arguments it sounds like hell on earth. For people who hate anyone who talks longer than thirty seconds, it's heaven on earth. The danger that I see is that as you allow that female sensibility that sees more merit in a really good band than in, say, a solid military program and begins to supersede those with the latter aptitude with those with the former attitude, well, to me, that's a recipe for trouble. People who "think" that way are literally going to govern just by being in tune, reading the polls and leapfrogging from what feels good to what feels better and ending up God knows where six months from now with no larger plan than more of the same. And I also carefully used "human," because I think human is a perverse concept. I see it as the underpinning of belief that there is no difference between brainless femaleness and thoughtful masculinity. Let's all just sit around and talk about it and just decide that fighting is bad because it hurts people so, like, let's just stop. No more fighting. Yes, there are a lot of humans who think that way. They aren't men or women or boys or girls, they're just humans and all humans are the same. The development (so far as I know) of the term "Crimes against Humanity" seemed to me the thin end of the wedge on that. To me, the suitable punishment for the Sho'ah, the Holocaust is summary execution. Trying Adolf Eichman? That's insane. How can you have a trial for an Eichman or a Goerring? You're implying that what they did might be defensible, so we better ask some intelligent questions. There is no intelligent question to ask someone who gassed six million Jews. You might as well send a rabid dog for psychotherapy. I better stop there before I give anyone ideas.

4. You described the creation of Cerebus' Injury to the Eye which through a pinprick of novocaine introduced a "design element into what remains of [Cerebus'] existence" as "the natural effect" (not a punishment) of his hurting Jaka and Joanne, and that it shows him what he's done to others. (i198-99/Minds). What does this mean? That from that point on Cerebus felt a pain in his eye when he acted in a way that harmed others? Or something else? Can you expand on this concept?

DAVE: That was personal experience. Even before I believed in God, I didn't believe in a chaotic universe of happenstance and the second time that it happened to me-basically getting a zit on my upper or lower lid-I was trying to understand, Why did this happen to me? My conclusion was that it was because I was hurting people and I was pretty immune to pain myself-emotional pain-so it had to get translated into a physical realm where I could understand, don't do this. Of course, in retrospect, having been clean and sober for a few years now, I think I was missing the more obvious thing that I was smoking enormous amounts of weed and tobacco, staying up late and drinking like a fish all of which are known to enflame the tissues around the eyes. As Dr. Kiss-Kiss pointed out my last time around, I had about eight of them around each eye: it's just that the others were smaller and less noticeable. Go home and look in the mirror. GAH. He's right. Look at that. What am I going to do? Better fire up a doob and whack off to a porno video and try to take my mind off of it. I mean, duh. But that was me. If you are a person like myself who is always looking for punctuation and living metaphors in life, getting a needle in the soft flesh of your under-lid (you can take my word on this) is not something that you're going to forget anytime soon when it happens to you. It is a very, very memorable pain which definitely kept me from going for help on my second go-round until way late in the day.

5. Cerebus' father's death: In your opinion, did Cerebus have a mystical "alarm clock" which he should have heard when his father was dying?

DAVE: I wouldn't approach the question, personally, because it would undermine what I thought was one of the more effective points I was able to make in telling the aftermath of the Going Home storyline-the possibly-real, possibly-false memory of what Magus Doran said or didn't say. In my experience the mind does play tricks on itself like this, which is one of the reasons that I work very hard at remembering sequences of events and conversation while still being amenable to admitting that if I have no conscious memory of it, that doesn't mean that something didn't happen-and within limits. I would have remembered if Jeff Smith had threatened to give me a fat lip, as an example. How would you forget something like that sitting in someone's living room? Chris Shulgan related an anecdote to me from his interview with Ger that didn't ring a bell. And that's what I told him. I don't remember that taking place, but that doesn't mean that it didn't take place. And it also doesn't mean that it did. For emotion-based individuals, which Cerebus definitely is, the memory seems to play these tricks in moments of great emotional stress. I think I mentioned last time (or it might have been in a letter I wrote) that I think Cerebus missed the point in a lot of ways about the nature of Sand Hills Creek (local mythology holds that Kitchener was once called Sand Hills, which rych mills, a local historian has pretty definitely disproved). The place I pictured was closer to the size of Gananoque than any incarnation of Kitchener I remember, but there are similarities: one being that people who leave tend to come back no matter how much they didn't like the place and couldn't wait to get out. That's always the side I knew. Someone would move away from Kitchener and then I'd see them back at Peter's Place a year later. The side I never thought of (always being on this side of it) was that there was never a big Hey, Welcome Home. Just a, ? I thought you moved to Vancouver. So, what I'm saying is I think Cerebus was expecting more than he would've gotten even if he had come home before his father died. His father wouldn't have welcomed him back and neither would anyone else. There are Sand Hills people who stay and Sand Hills people who go. Cerebus went. It put him "out of tune" with Sand Hills Creek. He was probably always thinking in the back of his mind of being the homecoming hero which only showed how out of tune with the place he was. He got shunned as much for showing up with a harlot as not being there when his father died. There's a whole list of things that would've gotten him the same reception, unwritten rules for those places that everyone knows who stays there. I was documenting something that was the complete opposite of me. I've lived here since '58 apart from three months in Honolulu and two months in Gainesville Florida. Warmer weather wasn't a good enough reason to be away from the place that I live. That was seventeen years ago and I've never once thought, I should go live somewhere else for a couple of months or a few years.

Q: Was the phrase "Our fathers died. Suddenly in the night they died and in the morning we knew." (i241/Going Home) an indication that Cerebus had heard the alarm clock and that he knew his father was dying?

DAVE: There is a distinct possibility of that. If you go back through Going Home and Form and Void, you'll find any number of episodes where you can picture, Yes, it would make sense that while this was going on, Cerebus' father was dying miles away to the north. I tried to put a number of them into the storyline for exactly that reason-that Cerebus was going to spend literally decades mulling over when it could have happened, if Magus Doran said what part of his mind told him was a memory, if he had heard the interior alarm and overlooked it. It does come on him abruptly that he's going back to Sand Hills Creek-abruptly enough that it could be logical response to the events he was living through or it could have been the form that the interior alarm took. Driving himself crazy mentally calculating (with insufficient data), Would he have gotten home in time if he had gone straight there when it first occurred to him to go home? Go back through Guys: how often was he so falling-down drunk he couldn't have heard a window breaking let alone an interior alarm? It's very convenient to scapegoat Jaka, but what if that's way off the mark? Nothing in the fragment of Zeke Morton's recollection tells us anything about whether the event he's describing was last week or ten years ago.

I didn't, by the way, intentionally put that quote in because it worked with the story-this is the first time I noticed how well it works with the story-but because it was easily one of the best of F. Scott Fitzgerald's notebook entries. As I think I wrote in the annotations, I think he was "doing" Hemingway. It certainly reads like very good Hemingway, the earliest meticulously sculpted fragments that Hemingway wrote for the Bill Bird edition of in our time which were later interleaved with the longer (and to me less sculpted) short stories in the later editions of In Our Time.

Q: If not and was it only a matter of a son's natural duty to his father? And if there was no alarm clock, how could Cerebus have possibly known when his father was dying? Was he supposed to have called home on a regular basis (does that make sense given the level of technology in Estarcion)? Or was he wrong to even have left home? Is it a son's duty to stay by his father's side his whole life to ensure that he could be there at the needed moment? If so, then wouldn't the very lifestyle Cerebus chose - leaving home to find his fortune - appear to be his "sin," rather than allowing himself to be distracted by harlots?"

DAVE: Those are all terribly interesting questions for just about anyone other than me. I mean, in my case my estrangement from my family came down to: "Does honour thy father and mother" apply to atheists? I write quite a bit more about this in the annotations to The Last Day, but there is no answer to those kinds of questions that I can see in a general sense. You have to do what you think is either right or more likely to be right. I think men tend to pretend to be more interested in family than they actually are, just as women pretend to be more interested in sex than they actually are, for obvious reasons in both cases. But I think that's starting to break down as people become more interested in their own reality than in portraying themselves as something they aren't. It took me forty years to figure out that I prefer to be alone, but once I figured it out, everything became very straightforward. I don't let my dick ensnare me in that opposite context where everything is family and friends and soap opera. It's just not worth it. If you're happy in that context or you're happy pretending to be happy in that context, that's great. But, I can say from experience it's not for me. If I dealt in "son's duty" questions as I used to, I would still be married to Deni. I'd be miserably unhappy, but I'd still be married to Deni. And I don't think that's particularly a slight against Deni. I'm pretty sure it was marriage-the constant presence of someone grafted onto me-that made me miserably unhappy.

Once you have reached a state of perception where you are able to fully realize that everything and everyone lives for a very short while in cosmological terms and are essentially composed of oscillating particle/waves flying in loose formation-I mean, you can have a relationship with those things if you want but, to me, your only relationship is with God because God is the only Being that genuinely exists and isn't just this weird conglomeration of tiny sparklers. I can look at a nicely built 19 year old girl and say that is a beautifully assembled conglomeration of tiny sparklers but I have no more interest in having a relationship with that conglomeration than I do with any other conglomeration that is comparably temporary. Those are just the sorts of things that make people say that Dave Sim is offensive, but that's my honest answer to the questions you pose. The only real part of my day is the fifty minutes I spend praying, everything else is like a big weird television show that I'm walking around in. I like ideas. I like discussing ideas like this and reading other people's opinions but that's about the extent of my interaction that I think is sensible. And to me, stepping outside of sensible is just asking for trouble.

6. In the memorialization of Iest's Destruction, we hear what purports to be Cirin conceding that a MALE god is above The Great Lady (i249/GH). We also hear a criticism of strangers raising Cirinist children. This criticism was stated exactly by Astoria in her Kevilist Origins (i163/Women and also see i169/Women - the letter from the old lady). We also see criticism of Cirin. These ideas appear to be way outside of classic Cirinism. On top of this, we have Rick's reference in Rick's Story that Cirinist dictates on hemlines are changing (i223/RS) (a departure from the initial movement's rule of everyone dressing the same to equalize all (i194/Minds)), and lesbians kissing in public (i236/GH). So it looks like Cirinist society is undergoing radical changes. Perhaps Kevilism is making inroads? But even that wouldn't explain an acquiescence that a male God rules over all.

DAVE: The point I was trying to make with the Memorial Service of Iest's destruction was twofold: 1) Cerebus gave up too soon on the service. He's obviously far away when the womyn-actor gets to the part about "He whose grace and mercy surpasseth all" and ready to pick a fight with Jaka over it when obviously something has happened that is a major Cirinist departure and 2) that the Cirinists were starting to run out of gas, like the difference between Khomeini's Iran in 1979 and 2004, so, yes, they're now working on a fusion of some kind. If you're familiar with the Bible at all, this is mostly Isaiah and Jeremiah inspired text. It seems a good place to try to achieve an accommodation of some kind with the Judaism that Rick is also encountering off-panel in this storyline. What's a good analogy? This is probably provocative, but I think if Mayor Giuliani after 11 September had announced a month of prayer and fasting-voluntary-that you would've found the seeds sown for a large scale repentance which would have benefited the entire Republic. We the people don't know why this happened, but we the people know from thousands of years of experience that prayer and fasting are the single most appropriate reaction to any disaster of this scale. Isaiah and Jeremiah document exactly that kind of disaster and counsel exactly that kind of reaction. Sackcloth and ashes would not have been inappropriate. The problem being that prayer and fasting is in service to God, not the state or City Hall, so there's no way of knowing which way the rabbit is going to jump when you unlock the cage which is what secular humanists and Marxists are always nervous about. And what the kings of Israel and Judah worried about. Every time Jeremiah opened his mouth it was seriously bad news for His Highness. In a general sense relative to 9-11: What if it does too much good and not in a way that's beneficial to Marxism (which it likely won't be)? Particularly in a huge Jewish community such as you have in New York City, generations of whom have lived through 9-11s of varying sizes simply as a matter of day-to-day living. And this is what I was hinting at here. It's always a mistake to think that the Torah or the Gospels or the Koran can be channelled by secular interests because they're the new kid on the block and you've got everything locked down tight. Just ask the Kremlin-appointed Polish government after John Paul II had paid a visit. The rabbit will jump. That's a given. Where? About the only thing you can count on is: the least beneficial place for your Marxist regime. It was the mistake the Cirinists made because they could see that Isaiah- and Jeremiah- style texts were appropriate to the scale of the disaster. It will help the daughters and the mothers to repent and (as we read it tapering off) to devote time to their own mothers instead of to careers and somehow find a way to bring the men back into this instead of them standing around going, "Well, whatever you think, dear. I have every confidence in your judgement as a mother." "We have to get back to family in some way." As I think we're seeing now in North America. "Maybe it's not just the glass ceiling because the wheels seem to be coming off in places we didn't even know had wheels."

When you ask about Kevillism making inroads, uh, no-that's what Mothers & Daughters was about. This is much later in the day and a more fundamental fragmentation-as opposed to a schism-than that. Mothers & Daughters is the schism, the duality. What little we see of the Cirinist modifications in Going Home, it's clearly the sort of fragmentation that we see in our own society. There are now as many different kinds of feminism as there are women and-as the saying goes-the problem with atheists isn't that they believe in nothing when they don't believe in God, it's that they believe in everything. They don't know a good idea from a bad idea because good and bad are meaningless concepts except when it comes to what kind of latte their local coffee shop makes. A good latte or a bad latte. It's the problem that occurred with feminism along about the time that they started talking about the fictional Sisterhood which only the complete idealogues on the Left Coast like Trina Robbins ever bought into because it's just so USSR in tone. I mean, all very empowering on paper, but ultimately this is a gender whose members flip out if someone shows up at a party wearing the same dress as them. I can't even picture myself giving two thoughts to being at a get-together and the other guy is wearing the same sweater I am. Hey, check it out. We both wore the same sweater. How about those Blue Jays? But being mysterious and unique seems to be critically important to women and it's impossible to have a group of unique individuals accomplish anything. Guys just want to figure out what needs doing, divide it up fairly and get to work so you can get it done. Nobody is stuck on his idea if someone comes up with a better one. Feminized-human-being guys, yeah, probably, they're going to get huffy if you overlook their Unique and Individual approach to something. But regular guys, no. That was why I thought any viable matriarchy would need a habit or a burqa, as standard issue-if there is only one area where you are totalitarian, this is where it has to be: this is what ALL the women wear: a shapeless head-to-toe sack that obliterates all individual characteristics. Then they start to function the way guys do, cooperatively. But if you allow them-and here I'm not talking about Dave Sim, I'm talking about Cirin making political decisions to make a matriarchal society workable-if you allow them to have their own style, they'll start ranking on each other and that will take the place of any kind of cooperation. That was Astoria's "contribution": mothers wear the habit, but daughters can wear what they want until they become mothers. I saw an Astoria in a magazine a while back: there was a great photo of three chicks in Tehran, each with the head scarf worn a different way. The one looked conventionally subdued as is associated with Muslim women, she had the most covered up. The second one looked a little mischievous with the scarf kind of loose and a fringe of hair showing and shorter sleeves with some arm showing. The third one looked like Madonna, dark sun glasses, kick-ass grin, scarf all the way back on her head, plenty of make-up, sleeves rolled up. Trouble on a stick and proud of it. Trouble on a stick, in my experience, is not a selective condition. A chick who is trouble on a stick to date or to have for a friend or as a citizen is also not going to be employee of the month wherever she works. Y'see what I'm saying? That's why the cover-up has to be universal or it has to be a status thing as, from what I understand, it was when it was introduced for Muhammad's wives. We only cover up the best ones from head to toe because you're not worthy to look upon them. That will "play" with women like Aunt Polly's fence in Tom Sawyer. The troublemakers will contend to be the most covered up and that eliminates your troublemaker problem because covered up women have nothing to cause trouble about. Anyone looking at them is just looking at them. There's no lust from men, no jealousy or superiority from other women. They actually turn into the human beings-in the sense of the Yiddish term, mensch-that they keep hyping themselves as wanting to be. I think this is what worries Western women about the meeting of Islam and the West, why you're not hearing a lot of Yeah! Let's kick some misogynistic Muslim ass and humiliate these bastards (with the exception of the recent prison scandal, a prison which was supervised by a woman) and liberate our Muslim sisters. Western women have just steamrolled their men, but steamrolling Muslim women- as I'm sure they are all fully aware in their little psychic ways-is a much tougher nut to crack. The one that always grinds Western female gears is being called a slut by other women. In a room of Orthodox Muslim women and any Western women, there is no question who the sluts are, self-evidently, particularly in their own eyes which is the worst for women-fingernails on the chalkboard when she FEELS like a slut.

Q: Additionally, we learn later that possession of a firearm by an unmarried INDIVIDUAL (male OR female) is prohibited (a sign that new Cirinism doesn't differentiate as sharply between males & females? or classic Cirinism in that unmarried Daughters are not accorded the rights of Mothers?) (i262/F&V). Can these changes be seen as instances of Rickism/Cerebism making inroads into Cirinism? Or is there another explanation?

DAVE: Yes, exactly. Full-throttle matriarchy or full-throttle feminism and you gradually don't have anything for the men to do because you just disagree with them on principle about everything. You have to keep going to the secular-humanist Marxist well for your ideas. Make organized professional sport into a religion, combine prostitution and theatre in interesting ways, but stay away from anything having to do with God because He will eat your secular- humanist whatever-it-is for breakfast. You can't just graft it on and trust that local traditions will carry the day. Just ask all of the largely Catholic countries that used to worship goddesses and figured what could it hurt to change her name to Mary? Ouch. Well? There's your answer. My own best assessment as merely the author is that the thin end of the wedge was Astoria winning the notion mentioned above-that daughters don't have to wear the shapeless sack until they become mothers. It was Serna's weakness for Astoria that compelled her to capitulate. Cirin would have known-having seen how successful it was-that that was the one rule you didn't break for anyone or for any reason. Serna just didn't want to see Astoria covered up. She wanted to look at her a lot-in a purely aesthetic way: look at Serna and Cirin uncovered on page 168 when they were both young. Astoria looked like an exponentially prettier version of Cirin, a way of mentally turning back the clock to those days with the same patron/protégé relationship only with the roles reversed and the prettiest one uncovered. Feel free to see lesbian overtones if you really want to, but my guess would be "purely aesthetic".