Dave Answers 6 Questons: September 2004

Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for September 2004. 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: Spheres: Weisshaupt left a flawless gold sphere for Cerebus. Why was Weisshaupt able to make a flawless sphere, when, apparently, no one else could do so?

Dave: It was kind of an esoteric point, but I assumed that these Ascension rituals had been going on for some thousands of years, always with the gold sphere being needed to trigger the event. Weisshaupt just added his own innovation of determining and/or having revealed to him that the size of the sphere was irrelevant. It didn’t need to be the size that Cirin was later attempting, which I assumed would be the norm, it just had to be a gold sphere. The idea being that because of the extended period of time over which these Ascensions were taking place various innovations would be incorporated (“let’s try a larger sphere”) and gradually become the new norm (“the sphere has to be larger”). It would depend on what you blamed the failed Ascension on. The sphere wasn’t big enough, the sphere wasn’t perfect enough. God only knows what it was when it started or what it was that actually would work. Of course judging by the result—Cerebus’ tower actually got off the launch pad—you’d probably be safe in assuming that Weisshaupt was onto something. Which would have been disastrous had the city of Iest actually survived. Anyone capable of making a gold sphere could initiate the launch sequence. A flawless sphere of the size of Weisshaupt’s wasn’t any big trick. A flawless sphere the size that Cirin was attempting was a virtual impossibility.

Q1 cont: Did it have something to do with the gold that was used (i.e., gold from coins struck by Tarim)?

Dave: Again that was kind of an esoteric point that I never resolved, being in the same category as “something fell”—it was lost to the ages. Presumably the perfect gold sphere at some time in the distant, distant past was either made by the coin-maker Tarim (the human individual whose relationship to Tarim was analogous to Jesus’s widely accepted relationship to God) or incorporated coins that that same Tarim had made.

Q1 cont: Was his posthumous aid to Cerebus mystical in nature? Or did he have accomplices?

Dave: I would imagine he had accomplices. He was like a spider at the middle of a web of his own devising with a pretty fair grasp of how everything was going to unfold (and with all the arrogance that tends to engender). Cerebus was one of the few variables that his multi-levelled calculating mind just couldn’t get “on top of” and which, consequently, proved his undoing. My own view is that spiders tend to attract exactly those sorts of incarnations, er, like flies.

Q1 cont: If so, anyone we know?

Dave: It was a, wattayacall, very large web.

Q1 cont: Finally, why did the sphere Cerebus held turn back into coins (and why did it turn into a sphere in the first place when Cerebus touched it)?

Dave:Another esoteric point having to do with Cerebus’ magnifier nature and the uncertainty of how far back it goes, how efficacious it is, the extent which it incarnates things on its own depending on its own level of gullibility. You saw Cerebus’ reaction to the coin when Bran told him that it had been minted by Tarim. My best guess would be that that was an identical reaction on the part of the magnifier effect which inhabited him on the “next level up”. You just don’t muck around with anything having to do with the earthly Tarim, in the same way that even an atheist is going to be subdued around the Shroud of Turin. My best further guess would be that there was a magnifier nature of which the magnifier nature itself was unaware on the next level up from it as it was from Cerebus. And who knows what powers there were “up there”. Or, viewed perversely, what sense of humour. The higher nature would regard the degree to which the lower nature had been spooked and basically pull a practical joke by having the coin minted by Tarim attract all of the gold coins and form itself into a sphere. Why? Because BOO is very funny. Ask any brother who scares crap out of his sister by doing it. It’s hilarious. Or, it could have been an actual effect that was predestined because the human incarnation Tarim was actually an aardvark or part aardvark, so when Cerebus picked up the coin, it initiated the same launch sequence that it had originally been designed to initiate. Since all of that was taking place on upper levels of reality, I never settled the question for myself anymore than I could give you a definitive answer as to whether guardian angels exist or if I have one.

Q2: What is the meaning of the faces on its tower and how did they get there?

Dave: I always wondered about that myself. Again, one of those things lost to the ages. Trapped souls from some mystical war in the distant past? Sculptures? Sculptures inhabited by the souls of the dead? Picture the Ka’aba in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. We know that people have been circling the Ka’aba every Ramadan for, at the very least, two thousand years. If you believe Islamic history, they’ve been doing so since Adam first built it and since Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt it. It’s reasonably certain they’ve been doing so since Muhammad helped rebuild it in the seventh century. Now, what’s the idea behind it? Why do people circle the Ka’aba seven times? Do you think that someone said six to ten thousand years ago, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Check this out.” Or do you think it goes much deeper and much higher up than that? My guess is the latter. That would be the same answer I would give to “the meaning of the faces on its tower”. I’m sure there is a very deep, deep meaning to it. But it goes back too far to even begin to speculate upon successfully.

The fact that I introduced the wall of faces way back in the early part of High Society has always interested me because I really didn’t have a story attached to them and no one even remarks on them until Prince Mick pages and pages later. Of course my suspicion now is always that anything that I can’t account for as coming out of my own imagination I always figure was a “plant” by God to try to “fish in YHWH,” something that I wasn’t remotely aware of in a conscious way, something that came from my being “tapped into” a reality that I was only vaguely aware of. Certainly the idea of rock having a personality which would be implied by all the faces, I imagine, would be very appealing to YHWH since that was supposed to be the Big, Shock Surprise Ending—it turns out that YHWH was Mother Earth all along! Gasp!

And the fact that this personality filled rocks which were in a cup-shaped, vaginal opening motif surrounding the Upper City like labia and then WHOOSH they would grow into this giant penis shape. Yeah, I can see how, conceptually, that would get YHWH a little runny between the legs.

I know most of you aren’t remotely interested in the Torah, but—since this ties in with one of my theories that I’ll probably never be this close to, again, I might as well do an Oh, That Reminds Me:

I don’t know what the best current Orthodox Jewish thinking is on why Moshe had to die instead of going into the Promised Land and what, exactly, was his big deal crime in in Meribah in Numbers 20, I’m sure I could look it up in the Talmud if I was interested, but really I’m not. See, my theory is along these lines. Starting at verse 2:

And there was no water for the Congregation: and they gathered themselues together against Moshe and against Aaron.

And the people chode with Moshe and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the YHWH.

And why haue yee brought up the Congregation of the YHWH into this wildernesse, that we and our cattell should die there?

And wherefore haue ye made vs to come vp out of Egypt, to bring vs in vnto this euil place? It no place of seed, or of figges, or vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drinke.

And Moshe and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly, vnto the doore of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell vpon their faces: and the glory of the YHWH appeared vnto them.

And the YHWH spake vnto Moshe, saying, Take the rodde, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron, thy brother, and speake yee vnto the rocke before their eyes, and it shall giue foorth his water, and thou shalt bring foorth to them, water out of the rocke: so thou shalt giue the Congregation, and their beasts drinke.

And Moshe tooke the rod from before the YHWH, as he commanded him.

And Moshe and Aaron gathered the Congregation together before the rocke,

Okay? You got the set-up? Remember. It’s my theory that YHWH is the living thing inside the earth and inside every rock. “…speake yee vnto the rocke before their eyes, and IT shall giue foorth HIS water…”

…and hee said vnto them, Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rocke?

And Moshe lift up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rocke twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the Congregation dranke, and their beasts.

See, I think God must’ve just cracked up at this point. Just killing Himself laughing. YHWH is sitting there waiting for Moshe to ask YHWH nicely in front of everyone to give him water. And what does Moshe do? He gives YHWH two good smacks in the face and says to the crowd, “Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rocke?”

And of course YHWH who has NO sense of humour, immediately reacts with

And the YHWH spake vnto Moshe and Aaron, Because ye beleeue me not, to sanctifie me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this Congregation into the land which I haue giuen them.

This is the water of Meribah [that is, Hebrew for “strife”] because the children of Israel stroue with the YHWH…

I may be reading it wrong, but that to me is one of the great punch-lines in the Bible. I wouldn’t be surprised if three to four thousand years later, God still has to stifle Himself when He pictures Moshe smacking YHWH in the face. I also think that that’s what the gig is with Balaam and his talking donkey two chapters later.

And the YHWH opened the mouth of the asse, and shee saide vnto Balaam, What haue I done vnto thee that thou has smitten mee these three times?

God really trying to patch things up as best He can, but undoubtedly knowing that Moshe is still Moshe Toast at this point because of YHWH’s hurt feelings.

Anyway, I have trouble keeping a straight face whenever the Sunday comes along that I’m reading Numbers 20 aloud. SCHMECK SCHMECK “Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?”

Moe Howard couldn’t have done it any better.

Q3: Please explain the symbolism in Cerebus’ dream.

Dave:You mean, like… “You: Jung, Me: Free Associate”? Why not? Shoot.

The Lion's emblem is seen on a door…

The Lion of Serrea. And, uh, that was the design on the door to the Prime Minister’s office. I once did some freelance work for a Waterloo publisher who lasted about five minutes in business and he had a double door with a lion’s head carving that looked just like that. I thought that was really cool and I always wanted one.

…a chair of mountain-like skulls…

Bran was Cerebus’ hierophant and pretty much Cerebus’ Pope as well, believing in Cerebus to a far greater extent than Cerebus believed in himself, so he here sees his most ardent believer still occupying the catbird seat for the Ascension. Even death can’t stop him. Of course as soon as Bran gets up and walks away, the chair shrinks dramatically. Which can be a premonition of the “earth below us, drifiting falling, floating, weightless…” (sorry, I was having a Disco flashback) which is imminent or self-doubt that he has sufficient belief to hold the catbird seat on his own.

…Bran's death…

Aha. A trick question. Bran was dead at that point.

An emaciated dying Weisshaupt is seen through a keyhole.

A premonition and a warning that Weisshaupt is still a player even though he’s dead

Astoria, once again, has no… (Priest?).

Bananas. It’s a Neil the Horse reference.

The Prime Minister needs only one ear to defeat Weisshaupt.

Premonition about Cerebus’ fate just before the Ascension. Although it was actually the next Ascension after this one in Reads. Premonitions tend to get things all mixed up like that.

Weisshaupt offers a position to Astoria?

To Bran. Another trick question.

("Think of your career" "you'll ruin everything")?

That’s what Astoria has to say to Cerebus. Cerebus’ dreaming mind is telling him just about how important Astoria is to what is going on and what is going to be going on by the size of her.

The Tower is still growing (still time to do a Final Ascension?).

Actually, the tower is, you know, still growing. It’s kind of, you know, literal.

Thrunk dressed as president's ankle?

Cerebus can defeat Weisshaupt—even though he’s dead—even more easily than he beat the Giant Stone Thrunk. The same illustration as Astoria. He’s much, much smaller than he was in real life.

A sword in a scabbard.

Gerhard drew it. You’d have to ask him.

The Moon

Cerebus has a premonition that the Moon has something to do with what is about to happen. A premonition or a lucky guess.

The Elf tells Cerebus he's forgotten something

…he’s forgotten the gold sphere.

the coins become a sphere

…the sphere is all taken care of…

…and "you go up"…

….Cerebus is about to ascend.

Please discuss.

Just did.

Q4: Breaking glass: When the piece of glass corkscrewed into Cerebus' chest during Church & State, did you put that in as descriptive prose, or did you see it as having a symbolic resonance? And does this glass also connect with the piece of glass that appears in Bear's hand while Cerebus is breaking through the window?

Dave:I think you asked me about this before and I was too lazy to go back and actually take a look at the sequence itself. I apologize. Part of what I was dealing with in the super-slow motion of Cerebus bursting through the window was the sheer implausibility of it as a movie cliché—I mean, what are the odds of going through a pane of glass and not even getting a scratch?—and trying to address that in some way. “The glittering rectangle shape of a splinter, cork-screwing from the point of impact, leaves a nearly imperceptible trail across the sweat-slickened fur of the Earth-pig’s left breast.” Well, there to me is exactly the problem. If you can get all the glass shards going straight out and perpendicular to the point of impact, you’re laughing. But that seems really unlikely because of the amount of force being generated and the “spin” that’s going to result as soon as the splinters are behaving independently in reaction to the force generated at the point of impact relative to their now considerably lighter and independently moving selves. All you need is one “problem child” shard and you might as well be trying to burp a live chainsaw. So what I did was attempt to introduce a mystical event at the microcosmic level, taking the assumption that whatever is in control of Cerebus at this point—realizing that a successful Ascension may be at stake—was sufficiently engaged and sufficiently efficacious to be watching for exactly that “problem child” shard. That the thing in control of Cerebus was efficacious enough even at the speed with which things were happening to essentially be able to relocate the glass shard through space/time, functioning within the physical properties of the higher realm where the relocation can only take place if there’s a plausible recipient who will accept the relocation on the paranormal terms necessary. Which was why Bear got it, because it was predetermined that he would blame it on “the little people” and his own nature would take it as a given that he would “take one for Cerebus,” another criteria that needed to be established in the elongated micro-second where the shard is either going to cut a major artery in Cerebus’ chest or it’s going to go elsewhere. (C&S II)

Q4 cont: And is this connected to Cerebus’ mysteriously cut thumb in the hotel? (#112/113)

Dave: Yes, yes exactly. It was too big a stretch of reality to relocate something that large without there being a recoil effect. And however long Cerebus was gone, the recoil was right there waiting for him when he got back. I’m not sure that what we call the real world doesn’t operate on exactly that sort of basis and that there is no such thing as an inexplicable event. Everything happens for a very good and a very specific reason, it’s just that we’re not privy to the logical outcomes that are taking place within those microcosmic time spans and the trade-offs being enacted. As an example, I can picture God and His adversary negotiating every bullet trajectory in a major battle, the disposition of all the grenade fragments at a superhumanly accelerated pace and with exactly these kinds of dislocations being added up and compensated for even as they’re taking place. Only at the time I wouldn’t have thought of it as God and His adversary. More like ‘the powers that be,’ or ‘whoever is in charge of the Universe.’

Q4 cont: Does this connote a connection between Bear & Cerebus that is not apparent? (i102)

Dave: Only insofar as these are the kind of connections that I see as being extremely likely in our own reality. What the nature of those connections are or the equivalent-of-physics that’s at work or the properties of Higher Reality Laws of Motion, I couldn’t even hazard a guess. The sequence of Cerebus going through the window after running from the Throne Room was, I think, unconsciously based on the Cowardly Lion fleeing from the Wizard of Oz and crashing through the window. Which was always where they put the commercial break and it was time to put my pyjamas on and brush my teeth.

Q5: The Judge sees all and knows all (but his perception is colored by his own personal bias, his "love" of Terim). So why, when he's already explained Tarim and Terim and said that that's it, that's the story, does he say "Thank God" on (I believe) more than one occasion? It's the first time that God is mentioned in the book. Everyone else says "Thank Tarim" (or some other deity). If there was only Tarim and Terim and the Judge knew this, why would he say "Thank God."?

Dave: Because that was what Jules Feiffer wrote in the Judge’s monologue in Little Murders. It had to be two syllables or it would undermine the whole rhythm. “My mother, thank God she’s not alive today.” It’s the most amazing monologue I’ve ever seen as delivered by Lou Jacobi in the movie version. When I met Feiffer years later he told me that it was the first thing he wrote, that it was originally going to be the core of a novel and only later became a play. He wasn’t that fond of Jacobi’s performance. He said the guy who played it in the original Broadway run was much better. “Three families…and what they had in common was…PER…SE…CUTION (pause) PER…SE…CUTION…(pause) So they weren’t so GLIB about God.” What an absolute joy it was to go over that and over that and over that and to mimic the run-on sentences and the sudden peculiar interjections. I don’t know when I’ve ever worked harder or had it feel less like work. Just an amazing piece of writing. So, yeah, the “God” didn’t fit, but neither did “I was cheering for Weisshaupt myself” coming from a supposedly omnipotent being. One of those times my own story had to scootch over a bit and make room for Feiffer.

WILDCARD Q: Early on, it appears that you produced Cerebus on an issue-to-issue basis, with very little long term plans other than getting the next issue out. Some significant events happened in your life, like having a nervous breakdown and OD'ing on acid during this period. Subsequently, Cerebus became a monthly comic, you vowed to produce to 300 issues, telling the life story of your character. How did these life-altering events change your ambitions for the comic, and how did they influence your thought-processes?

Dave: In all honesty, they just sharpened everything up. The clearest memory I have of those times is that I could see everything very, very clearly and that other people—my wife, my family, my friends—couldn’t. Mostly I just wanted to watch everything coalesce and get right to the centre of it, but I kept getting bogged down in trying to explain what I was going through, the experience that I was having—and enjoying at a fundamentally pleasurable level—and that just didn’t lend itself to explanations to people who were all in a distinct group-think mode centred around Deni and how worried she was about me. She basically dragged everyone else into it. It’s only been in the last while that I realized how aberrational my life with Deni was, relative to my life previous to Deni. Previous to Deni I spent 98% of my time alone. I stayed up late, late at night and went for long, long walks around my parents’ neighbourhood and basically just thought non-stop, trying to figure things out, writing stories, that kind of thing. That was what I was doing the first time I got really high and it just emphasized the process. I’d get lost in thought and suddenly found I was five blocks away from the last place I had been consciously aware. Which I really, really liked: this really intensive form of thinking that was almost physically over-powering. That was the summer before I met Deni. I’ve just started wondering lately how much of the problem I faced with the nervous breakdown and the acid OD was just the extent to which women are sort of phobic about thinking, about ideas. You know, ideas and thinking being all well and good as long as you understand that the really important thing is family and friends and how much everyone loves you and cares about you and worries about you. That was the first lesson I learned was that you have to portray yourself as normal at all times, so I learned how to portray myself as normal, normal enough to pass all the tests which, in my view, meant being fundamentally uninteresting and uninterested. i.e. the nature of reality and our place in it wasn’t important except as, maybe, party chatter if you had a few friends over. What’s on television tonight. That was important. I basically learned to portray an inverted version of my personal hierarchy. The more unimportant I thought something was, the more important I had to treat it. The more important I thought something was, the more I had to treat it as unimportant.

It was only when I broke up with my last girlfriend in 1998 that I decided, Listen, I’ve tried it their way and it just wanders around in these strange tight little circles until everyone’s basically miserable and trying to pretend not to be (I had something of an epiphany eating by myself at La Costa and I saw a guy outside wearing a t-shirt: “I’m so miserable without you it’s almost like having you here.” I was, as the ladies say, in touch with that emotion). So, I decided to go back to how I was before I met Deni. I was standing out on my balcony and I thought, “Okay, let’s go back to thinking as a way of life—back to the life I was leading twenty-two years ago—and see how long it takes to get tired of it.” That was six years ago and I’m still waiting to get tired of it. So far, I haven’t even come close.

So, the answer to your question would be: I learned how to invert my priorities so that what was important was unimportant and what was unimportant was important. Fortunately, working hard is taken as a given in our society—as long as you actively hate it and complain about it all the time and would rather be doing absolutely nothing instead, just lying on a beach somewhere drinking yourself stupid—so I just learned to complain about my workload when it was definitely what I would rather be doing. The only thing that beat work hands down was marijuana and a blowjob. So, I learned to pretend that Deni and friends and family were my first priority, my work was an unfortunate necessity and marijuana and sex were a distant fourth and fifth. And when I broke up with Deni, I just transferred all that baggage to Linda, then Karen…then I had my sleep-with-anything-with-breasts-and-a-vagina-that-moves time period when reality and portrayal finally matched up: blowjob uber alles…and then I had several girlfriends after that where I pretended, again, to have as priorities things I wasn’t really interested in.

Essentially, I was having my cake and eating it too. I was basically alone as much as was my preference because I was working long hours—which was what I wanted to do—while pretending I’d rather be home watching television or helping with the housework or visiting with friends and relatives or shopping for a dining room set or whatever else. My last three girlfriends were way, way out of town girlfriends so that I only had to see them every three weeks or so.

And most of the time I was doing all the conventional couples stuff, I was actually thinking about the book or whatever new theory had popped into my head that seemed to be worth dissecting at length while biding my time until it was time to have sex again.

On those many occasions when girlfriends would ask, “What are you thinking about?” and I actually told them, it only emphasized that a relationship probably wasn’t the best idea for me by a long stretch.

The thought processes—whether I was thinking about the book or just thinking—were always the top priority and the unchanging reality of my life. Start with a supposition and see how far it was from a possibility, what might be in the way of it becoming a likelihood, check the math as I go along and if I get somewhere then double back and see if I can explain it all to myself without fudging anything. One of my favourite phrases when it came time for me to explain to people why it was that I was alone all the time was, “My mind is a playground.”

And it really is. That’s not hyperbole. My mind is like Disneyland for me.

I just learned eventually to stop pretending that it wasn’t or pretending that I shared everyone else’s priorities. I realize that for most people their mind isn’t a playground. It’s a torture chamber which I figure is why so many people are afraid to be alone. If they’re alone they’re locked up in the torture chamber. If they’re with someone else they’re not.

So picture my mind being a playground and then for twenty-two years I let my dick make my decisions for me and then I decided to go back to the playground. And I’ve been there ever since. The End.