Dave Answers 6 Questons: June / July 2005
Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for June / July 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!
Q1: You have suggested that Cerebus' "magnifier" trait may have been something that he "picked up" while living with Magnus Doran, however, wouldn't Cerebus' dad's comment on page 80 lead one to believe the magnifier trait was something Cerebus was born with, or at least got BEFORE encountering Magnus Doran (e.g. "...tellin' everybody he's the chosen one-- the son of Tarim 'imself. Denouncin' them as sinners sayin' Vicar Grame is a drunkard and an adulterer")?
DAVE: Magus Doran. No “n”. You’re thinking maybe of Doc Magnus of the Metal Men? It was very difficult to convey, but what I was trying to convey was that by the time Cerebus left his apprenticeship to Magus Doran he really wasn’t very clear on how much of what happened actually happened and how much of it was a dream or something in between reality and a dream which I suspect would be part and parcel of any participation in the magical end of things particularly as an apprentice. I’ve often wondered if the line “But you know I know when it’s a dream” in “Strawberry Fields Forever” was John Lennon trying to convince himself that that was the case in a life that must’ve seemed decidedly dream-like 24/7 between the drugs, the unprecedented fame and, later on, having to actually listen to Yoko Ono. It was one of the reasons that I made “Add One Mummified Bat” one of the Animated Cerebus portfolio stories. Because it was done in brilliant colours and in an animation style, I hoped it would convey the quality of Cerebus’ memory of his experiences as a magician’s apprentice. How could you believe that something that differed that much from your actual reality—the difference between the texture of the Cerebus storyline and the Animated Portfolio—actually took place? And yet, given that that was how you remembered it, how could you not believe that it actually took place? The closest I came to getting across that quality was right at the beginning of Latter Days where Cerebus is trying hard to remember if Magus Doran had actually said the thing that when his father was dying, Cerebus would know and he would come back. Cerebus would have had the same question about the above-cited “Chosen one of Tarim” dialogue and everything that he remembered or thought he remembered as part of his apprenticeship. Did he actually hear that or was it suggested to him later on that he heard that and who suggested it? The entire time passed in a near dream state both for Cerebus and for the magnifier quality that he possessed. On the one hand, it would be hard to picture Young Cerebus daring to denounce Vicar Grame as a drunkard and an adulterer when you see his reaction to Vicar Game’s fire-and-brimstone sermon in Minds, but at the same time most magicians tend to be Jesus wannabe’s (“I’m God and I get all the chicks”)and presumably that would have conveyed itself to Cerebus through however long a period he was an apprentice. It would have been worth Magus Doran’s while to have implanted the notion that Cerebus had already claimed to be the Chosen One of Tarim depending on what his own plans for Cerebus were. The only thing that I had established in my own mind about the apprenticeship period was that Cerebus’ dad brought him to Magus Doran, everything started getting weird and Cerebus got left there under the circumstances depicted in Minds, similar circumstances or unrelated circumstances. Everything stayed weird throughout the period of the apprenticeship. Then the apprenticeship was at an end although how, when and why it ended Cerebus had no real conscious recollection about—and he wasn’t comfortable remembering to the extent that he did remember. Because the circumstances of missing his parents’ respective deaths hinged on or possibly hinged on or possibly didn’t hinge on the remembered or implanted false memory of Magus Doran’s assertion, he forced himself in the aftermath of the trauma to try to remember and got the same result he always got with trying to remember any part of the apprenticeship. Everything was a vivid memory and an implanted false memory and he just oscillated between the two perceptions for however long he tried to remember, which—for obvious reasons—just became a pointlessly disturbing exercise which was why he usually didn’t engage in it. All he really knew for a fact was that one minute he was Magus Doran’s apprentice, and the next minute he wasn’t and he had long before learned to just accept that that was the extent of what he could say definitively about having been his apprentice.
Q1 Cont: Did Cerebus' folks ever come to visit, or were they kept at bay by Magnus Doran's "Jedi-like" mind controlling ability?
DAVE: See above. In order to maintain an internal consistency to the story, I could only go with Cerebus’ recollections which are exactly the way that I’ve described them. Had he tried to remember his parents coming to visit, he would remember them visiting as an actual memory and then remember them visiting as an implanted suggestion and would oscillate between the two perceptions until he made the conscious decision not to think about it anymore.
Q2: There is a certain poignancy to the scene featuring the exchange of painted eggshells between Jaka and Zulli that gives it the ring of truth. Is this based on an actual event?
DAVE: Mm. I’ve answered this before. No it isn’t. It’s my own idealized idea of what a Jackie Kennedy or a Princess Diana could be but aren’t. Women don’t see metaphors and overarching meanings. All they see are their own emotions and the emotions of others. The jumping off point of it was a picture that Susan Alston had taken of herself when she was single and on holiday or a long weekend with a bunch of couples. At one point while everyone was partying, she took her camera and went down to the beach and set the timer and took a singularly mordant picture of herself which I used as the basis of the picture of Jaka in the painting. It seemed a strange and excessively poignant thing to do, to take a picture of yourself alone whose only real point was how alone you were. It seemed to me a Jaka-like thing to do and since Jaka was very much the point of a lot of the story-arc from Minds to the end of Form & Void I was very alert to anything in my vicinity that struck me as Jaka-like. To commission a painting of herself whose only point was how alone she was. Yes, that would be a very Jaka-like thing to do. If it had occurred to Princess Diana, I’m sure she would’ve done the same thing.
Q2 Cont: Is there some special meaning behind it?
DAVE: Apart from “women don’t like to be alone and really, really like to make a point of it to themselves” I can’t really think of anything.
Q2 Cont: Also, if this is "the single most significant episode in [her] recent life" and helps her take "the first tentative step on the road to a brighter future where she will escape the prison in which she finds herself," what happened to so change Jaka by the time we see her in Going Home? (i193)
DAVE: She had just decided not to be alone and for someone like Jaka that’s as close as she’s going to come to an epiphany or even an insight into herself. She enacted this dramatic painting scenario with Zulli and through it decided that the core reason for her isolation was being in Palnu. Palnu was the eggshell that she needed to break in order to go back out into the world. Really all she needed to do was to be in isolation long enough so she could forget the reason for it which was that she had screwed up her marriage by having an abortion. She got out of her mental prison of that unethical choice by deciding it was just a physical prison. And as soon as she went back out into the world she decided she was just going to have fun and not be alone, so that’s what she did. I assume she slept with whomever she wanted to sleep with and avoided any situation that seemed serious or unhappy and just went with those that seemed unserious and happy. She pretended she was just a regular girl who went where she wanted and did what she pleased and ignored that she was the Princess of Palnu and living a completely sheltered and cushy existence—displacing bartenders from their apartments and what-not. She chose a middle-level of perception that as long as she was with people and having fun that she was free. Which is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. She was still alone in the sense that everyone is alone. You are the only one inside your head. Anyone can go out and have three glasses of wine and dance on the tabletops and laugh uproariously at lame jokes but that doesn’t make them any less alone, in my books. Quite the opposite. Those are the loneliest people on the planet. That was her delusional perception of life when she ran across Cerebus. “Okay. This will be fun, too.” But, of course, she loved Cerebus and she had a history with Cerebus so the whole thing became a kind of macabre St. Vitus dance toward the inevitable disaster where Cerebus had been persuaded that Jaka’s way was the right way of living. Have fun and if things get to be not fun, then just pretend that they’re fun until they’re fun again. It dropped him into a female construct where you avoid thinking about what you’re doing until the anvil drops on your head and then you say, “What did I do to deserve this?” Well, in Cerebus’ case it was the fact that he never thought about what actually being back in Sand Hills Creek was going to be like until he was actually there. Having adopted Jaka’s delusional state as his own he just figured they would get there and have fun all day with his parents, with his neighbours. Have a few glasses of wine and dance on the tabletops and laugh a lot and if things turned out not to be fun, they would just pretend they were fun until they were fun again.
Q3: Was Dave accurately relaying to Cerebus what Jaka was thinking about their relationship at the time when Cerebus vowed to take Jaka away from Rick and her home? Or was it only what Dave *said* what Jaka was thinking (in essence "pulling a Rick," presenting his analysis of a woman's behavior as if it were in her own words)? (p. 138) In Going Home she says something different. Did Dave change her so Cerebus could be with her? Or did Jaka convince herself that *that's* what she was really thinking?
DAVE: For Jaka, that would be a core part of “fun as lifestyle”. When she tells Cerebus that if he had said “let’s go” she would have up and left Rick just doesn’t ring true for anyone who has been reading the book all along—and notice that Cerebus just turns it into a joke of tickling her until she pees herself—but it would, for her, make being with Cerebus even more fun because it would mean that this was what she had wanted all along only she just hadn’t realized it until just now (isn’t love just the most amazing thing?). For someone as bound and determined to have fun as Jaka was at the time of Going Home, it would just be a given: fun is fun and being in love is fun. Of course in choosing to be with Cerebus she automatically loved Cerebus more than she loved Rick, ever did love Rick or ever could love Rick. But reread Jaka’s Story where she’s talking about being in love with Rick. Does it look to you as if she could ever love anyone else, least of all Cerebus? I mean, I just tend to see love as being like that, especially for women. No woman ever loves anyone the way she loves the one that she’s with right now. I mean, to me you just can’t help but be suspicious of that both in yourself and in others unless of course you’re still in the game in which case one of the core rules is that you can’t be suspicious of that. Did I love Susan more than I had loved Deni? Did I love Judith more than I had loved Susan? Most guys just understand at a fundamental level that it is worth your life to make sure that the one you’re with right now is the one that you love more than anyone else ever in your whole entire life. For me, now that I’ve been out of the game for seven-plus years it just seems part of the core mythology which is about as solid as gossamer and pixie dust, like wanting to sleep with other people but not being able to stand the thought that your girlfriend wants to sleep with other people. Having had a wife I had no urge to have another wife. I seriously think you have to be genuinely afraid of being alone in order to give marriage a fighting chance. If you’re just as happy—or happier!—on your own than you are in a relationship, your relationships aren’t going to go too good or for too long. As much pleasure as you get getting into the relationship, that’s how much aggravation you’re going to have getting out of the relationship.
I mean, it’s difficult discussing these things with people who see what I see as being a nebulous self-deceiving core mythology as instead being a rock-solid core reality. All you need is love! But that’s about the best way that I can answer the question. When Jaka was with Rick she loved Rick more than she ever loved anyone. When she was infatuated with Andrew she loved Andrew more than she ever loved anyone. When she was travelling with Cerebus she loved Cerebus more than she ever loved anyone. I assume that whomever she loved after Cerebus she loved more than she ever loved anyone and whomever she loved after that guy she loved more than she ever loved anyone. On and on and on until she was dead.
It would be un-gentlemanly to do anything but take her at her word no matter how silly the whole thing looks to anyone willing to actually look at it.
Q4: As Dave states on p205, "The largest unresolved question [is] whether two aardvarks can produce aardvark off-spring . . . . Are aardvarks mutations? Or . . . spontaneous generated aberrations." So . . . can aardvarks produce aardvark offspring?
DAVE: I would assume that at one time they did so. If you look at the generations of aardvarkian ancestors in the aardvarkian suicide scene in Minds, there does seem to be a core Socratic ideal of the aardvark that I assume they all resembled sequentially and procreatively for a period of time.
Q4 Cont: Are they strictly spontaneous mutations?
DAVE: By Cerebus’ time period, they certainly were. By that time it was considered unusual that there would be three of them alive at the same time. It seems analogous, in retrospect, to prophethood in the Torah. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all three considered prophets. Jacob’s sons are considered patriarchs but only Judah I think has a claim to being a prophet. His bloodline produced David and his bloodline produced the Synoptic Jesus. From a YHWHist point of view, Joseph and Benjamin would be considered prophets but that seems like a seriously skewed viewpoint to me.
Q4 Cont: What is Gerrick's true lineage? Is he the biological son of the human Cirin, the aardvark Serna, or some other woman? Also, in the letters page, you state "I should be getting to the Gerrick stuff (is he the natural son of Cirin or adopted, etc.) in an issue or two, unless it fits in better somewhere else." So was there a plot thread that you decided not to include - and if so, can you give us a brief description of what it might have been?
DAVE: Mm. Not really. He was either the natural son of Cirin (actually Serna)and consequently a demonstration of the reality cited above: aardvarks are aberrational spontaneous mutations by that point or the adopted son of Cirin (actually Serna). As seems to me the nature of most parents I don’t think Cirin (actually Serna) could cope with the idea that she hadn’t produced an imperfect replica of herself which is what made her so compulsive about cracking the mysteries of genetics. She was an aardvark and she had to produce a little aardvark or die trying.
I ended up being about as interested in Gerrick as Cirin (actually Serna) was. That is, not very. He was not an aardvark and that’s really all that could be said about him.
Q5: Dave states that Cerebus' destiny has been one of duality: man/woman, captor/captive, ruler/rebel, aardvark/human -- "two incarnations locked into an endless, pointless duality." Does this imply that Cerebus does in fact have a soul that has been incarnating in various roles and physical forms through history?
DAVE: Well, that would depend on your point of view as to whether souls incarnate repeatedly or there are just physical and behavioural similarities which crop up from generation to generation. And it would also depend on whether aardvarks obeyed that rule or were an exception to it. That really comes down to the nature of the soul and what laws it obeys (if any). I don’t know of anyone who has clue one on the subject. As I’ve said elsewhere it seems to me only sensible to believe that each soul is unique and each soul gets its one kick at the can. My soul incarnated inside this body in May of 1956 and departs this body on some date unknown to me. However long a span of time that is, that’s how long I have here to accomplish whatever it is that I’m supposed to accomplish. And then, I assume, I’m done and I either pass or fail on the basis of how I did. If I get another try in a later life in this world or in another world, well, hey, bonus. But I’m assuming it’s do-or-die here. I think a core point of our existence is our complete ignorance of the nature of soul and the realm of spirit. I think you can get ambiguous glances of it by reading between the lines of the Synoptic Jesus (which is what I think I’m reading in Matthew and Mark and writing commentaries on them) but I don’t think those glimpses are anything that can help you in this world. It’s just too different a construct that physical beings are manifestly closed off from, so you’re better off just accepting that and continuing to write your exam here in the Marxist-feminist cesspool.
Q5 Cont: On the other hand, Dave then goes on to say "But of course that would come later" and that "first" Cerebus' success as Pope coupled with a near consensus that he is the ideal aardvark manifested Pope Thrunk who could have successfully completed Cerebus' original destiny. Does this mean that Cerebus' destiny of duality did not occur until AFTER the Pope Thrunk incident? (i196)
DAVE: I would assume that there are always opportunities that if chosen correctly and in a timely fashion will cut through the relentless brainless tedium and slogging futility of our present physical incarnation. I’m pretty sure that if God chose to take command of my soul and specifically tell me to do A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H over the course of the next two weeks that I could transform my own life and the nature of reality itself. I assume that that was what happened with the two Jesus’ and with Muhammad and God’s other prophets and messengers. But that’s an Age of Prophets thing and, to me, the age of prophets ended in 632 with the death of Muhammad. The point of the Age of Prophets as far as I can see was to give us a fighting chance without handing it to us on a silver platter, precisely measured as only God can measure precisely (as it says in the Koran, He will not wrong you so much as the husk of a datestone weighed in the balance). Now it’s up to each of us to try our best in writing each of our individual seventy- or eighty-year long exams.
I was more trying to point out through Cerebus that the right—or, perhaps, better expressed as “optimum”—choice which is personally transformational and transformational of the nature of reality is elusive and unlikely to be achieved. Our own optimum choices exist, I think, at various points of intersection in our lives and most of everything else we choose and experience is just various kinds of futile duality. What I was trying to do was to address the part of him that was aware of that but which still held out hope that somewhere up ahead it was still waiting for him. It is, I think, a delusional perception characteristic of young adulthood. Because I’m still young, I might yet achieve irrefutable greatness. In terms of the whole Aardvarkian Empire dream of his, what I showed him was the specific off-ramp that he had missed that would have led to the highest plateau in those frames of reference and it was a ways back at the time I was telling him that he missed it: a crushing blow to those, like Cerebus, who never quite manage to move beyond young adulthood.
I still have high hopes that the Cerebus storyline itself can prove to be transformational but right now it’s mostly read by atheists so there’s no way of telling if its transformational, efficacious or merely entertaining to certain numbers of a certain kind of atheist. A part of me thinks, “Well, I’ve finished it, why am I still here? Where’s my metaphorical ride to the metaphorical airport?” It has the same experiential texture as writing and exam and then finding out that as soon as you’re finished you have to write another exam on the nature of writing exams.
WILDCARD: So is that Tarim that Cerebus is Talking to? Why does he look like a big round glowing sphere? Is he linked to Po? (i91)
DAVE: Well, they’re all linked in the sense that they’ve gotten immersed in this ascension business “by whatever means necessary” so there’s a lot of residual “means” just lying around in residual physical and spiritual forms. The different elements, the gold sphere and the tower and what-not have just become elements of the equation. Note that the “Tarim” Cerebus is talking to has no idea what is actually “up there” apart from heaven or what it is that you’re going to do when you get there but he (actually he/she/it) has an encyclopaedic knowledge of how to get there, what to avoid, what works what doesn’t work. It’s just obsessive-compulsive behaviour, like a video game. Putting in hundreds of hours figuring out how to get past all of the obstacles at each different level of the game and…then what? The question has no resonance for the obsessive-compulsive. Then what what? With their entire attention glued to the television screen. Spriz, spriz, spriz, fraz, fraz, fraz, glomp, glomp. You know, the investment of hundreds of hours of your life that you’ll never get back? What about it? Spriz, spriz, spriz, fraz, fraz, fraz, glomp, glomp.
I assume that there’s a lot of that in the realm of spirit. That the “Tarim” Cerebus was talking to was a magician of some kind who had found a way to encode himself into the gold coins so that they would function as a kind of tape recorder so he would be able to remind himself of how to work his way through the various levels of the video game when he incarnated in the future (rather than just passing on to the next level of existence which is what all video games are degraded versions of, from what I can see). From the standpoint of the free-floating awareness, Cerebus was him, he had just forgotten that he was him which is why he encoded himself into the gold coins and he knew enough not to tell him that he was him because he knew that when you incarnate you like to think of yourself as an individual and not just the latest version of someone else and that it’s better not to get into the discussion in the first place because all you want to do is post the necessary video game reminders—i.e. get to the top of the tower while you have time.
He looks like a big round glowing white strange thing because that was the easiest way to communicate with Cerebus. Cerebus wanted an answer to what the big round glowing white strange thing was so that was an ideal form to adopt in the realm of spirit, the ideal mental image, if you wanted Cerebus to listen to what you were saying and retain the message you had to impart to him. Get to the top of the tower. Cerebus managed to retain it through all of the strange events of issues 92 through 101. He saw the gold sphere and made the break for it. Get to the top of the tower.