Dave Answers 6 Questons: September / October 2005

Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for September / October 200. 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've said that you had never read the Bible until late in Guys, when you picked up a copy to prepare for the Bible parody you knew was coming up in "Rick's Story," and that when you read it you realized that it really was the Word of God. But the Bible parody in "Rick's Story" certainly seems like a real parody. Rick himself seems genuinely crazy, and the occasional glimpses we get of how future generations will interpret his work all seem to be: (a) perfectly reasonable interpretations of his actual words and (b) completely at odds with the reality he is witnessing.

Dave: That depends on how you perceive and therefore define reality. If we switch the subject back to Jaka’s Story you can say that Mrs. Thatcher was just this vile, oppressive matriarch who needed to “lighten up” and see that Jaka was a brilliant artist who needed to be left alone because she hadn’t done anything wrong. Or Mrs. Thatcher was a corrective presence in Jaka’s life who helped her to see—however temporarily—how wrong and corrupting her behaviour had been, the profoundly negative effect that she had had on Pud and Rick’s lives. They were contending realities. I think it’s worth noting that Jaka’s response to the ending on the story was to return to Palnu—not to say, “Well screw you, I’ll find someplace to dance where you haven’t taken over.” I don’t think she would ever admit it, but I think she felt properly chastised by the experience and pretty much literally “went to her room.” That is, Mrs. Thatcher’s version of reality prevailed.

Rick’s impressions of what was going on around him certainly didn’t seem to be aligned with conventional viewpoints of reality. That was why I thought it would make an effective parody. What happens to this Jesus-like figure—the mental image that I had of Rick when I created him—after his happy marriage blows up and he hits the skids? At the time, I thought it would be really interesting to portray someone who ardently believed in Heaven and Hell as empirical realities which, obviously, orthodox monotheists do and who saw himself as having a central role in adjudicating between the two. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time that this was nothing new. Vast populations in First Century Judaism thought that Jesus was crazy and relative to orthodox Judaism at the time—and now—he was. “He hath a devil, why hear ye him?” from John’s Gospel pretty much sums it up. Virtually all Arabs in Mecca—and virtually all Jews and Christians— besides a rag-tag band of slaves and societal cast-offs thought that Muhammad was crazy. Relative to the Koreisch, the family that dominated Meccan society and had control of the Grand Mosque he was crazy. His clan protected him because that was what clans did, but they all thought he was crazy, too. Most of them died without converting to Islam.

Q1 cont: So, if you already knew the Bible was the Word of God when you wrote "Rick's Story," didn't it bother you to be parodying it?

Dave: Not at the time, no. I was still on a quest for Truth as an absolute and I wasn’t about to give the Bible a free ride just because it was the Bible. I wanted to understand it thoroughly enough to address it on my own terms, but not necessarily on its own terms and certainly not in the terms of any accepted orthodoxy. Of course, at the time I wasn’t thinking of the Bible as having terms of its own separate from accepted orthodoxy. Like most atheists, I assumed that there was a universally-agreed upon assessment of what the Bible was and what it was saying with hair-splitting differences about specific aspects i.e. I knew that Jews didn’t believe that Jesus was the son of God but I did think that there was this monolithic societal presence that we could safely call The Church in all its oppressive, mindless glory that used ancient fairy tales as a cudgel to keep the faithful in line, to line its own pockets and keep anyone from having fun. I assumed that the structure of the book would be roughly along the lines of the world existing on the back of a giant turtle, how the turtle came to be, how the world came to be, if you went too far out on the ocean you fell off the edge, those kinds of things: primitive ooga-booga cosmology that idiots were still following six thousand years later that was no different from Indian legends and Norse mythology. Basically, what I wanted to do was The Life of Brian but with a good deal more depth. The Life of Brian—apart from some good lines and sight gags—was from the Kurtzman/Elder school of parody. Take every Jesus joke you can come up with—the more blasphemous the better—string them all together and call it a movie. For the people who like that sort of thing those are just the sort of things that they like. Put another way, if you asked Kurtzman and Elder to do a political parody they would not have come up with High Society. It would’ve just been a lot of tummeling (a Yiddish term I once heard explained as “You know when Jerry Lewis running around the stage and chewing the drapes and talking in that high-pitched idiot voice and is being so annoying that you have to change the channel? That’s tummeling.”)

Q1 Cont: And if that realization was something that came to you gradually over time, how long would you say it took to sink in? Is there a definitive point in time you can point to, both in your own life and in the development of the Cerebus saga, and say, "Here. After this Cerebus was being done by a Dave Sim who believed in God and in following the Scriptures," or is it a gradually dawning awareness that began somewhere near the end of "Guys" and seeped into your life and art so that one day you woke up and realized that you had been following Scripture for some time?

Dave: There isn’t a definite point, in terms of an hour or a day. After I broke up with Susan in March of ’98 I went through a period of great relief because I was allowed to actually think again—I didn’t have to close off whole realms of contemplation because they would lead to arguments in the relationship that would threaten the foundation of the relationship. The Marty and Cerebus parts of Guys were helpful in that way, a good way of letting myself think fictionally what I wouldn’t allow myself to think in the real world. This is what relationships are, Dave, this is what you are choosing and this is what you are doing. This is what you envied in all those people who lived for backyard barbecues and renting a house on the lake for a long weekend and going to shop in town in boutique-y little stores. “You doing anything for the Labor Day weekend?” “Yeah, me and the girlfriend have rented a house with two other couples on Martha’s Vineyard”. “Oh, niiice.” With exactly that note of profound envy that you were obviously going to have a much nicer long weekend than they were going to have. And, of course, what it was was three women who were all fully engaged in that woman-of-the-couple thing and three guys sitting around with rictus grins on their faces biting their tongues and not saying anything about whole realms of experience and thought that had been colliding since 1970. The first tectonic shift in my thinking was, to me, a very natural one and came back in 1996-97 on my first time through the Torah. I already had a sincere conviction that there were governing forces in the universe. Those Who Are in Charge of the Universe was a definite best assessment for me. Things didn’t happen by accident. There was definite cause-and-effect centering on intent. Bad faith choices led to bad faith consequences. I was convinced that that was what John Lennon meant by “Instant Karma”. I think he tried to do the same thing I tried to do—clear the decks as much as possible and engage the world as little as possible except in a political way (the Bed-Ins, Bagism and all that stuff in his case)—and found the same thing that I did. The more you clear the decks, the faster whatever goes around comes around. And of course he had millions and millions of dollars to keep his decks cleared which would’ve been a plus, but the level of materialism, I suspect, that is built-in at that level just meant larger consequences. As a rap artist eloquently put it, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” Or as Paul McCartney put it in “Band on the Run” “Gonna give it all away/to a registered charity”. The joke, of course, is that you don’t even though you know it would improve your life dramatically to do so. Big Money=Big Tar-baby.

Sorry, big digression there. Consequence-based-on-intent has a fundamental underpinning of Intelligent Design to it. I remember Susan reading an article about Woody Allen and telling me, “He believes the same thing you do. There’s no such thing as an accident. Everything happens for a reason.” Coincidentally, Woody Allen is in the news this morning with his 70th birthday coming up on December 1st and being featured in Vanity Fair. Being a monotheist I find it quite self-revelatory when he says “All the crap that they tell you about…getting joy, and having a kind of wisdom in your golden years—it’s all tripe…I’ve gained no wisdom, no insight, no mellowing. I would make all the same mistakes again, today.” I think the distinction is obvious. If you believe that everything happens for a reason but you don’t attach that reason where it belongs—to God, you just “end up” the way you “end up” rather than arriving at any kind of destination. When he was asked about Mia Farrow discovering the nude polaroids of Soon-Yi in his apartment he describes it as “one of the fortuitous events, one of the great pieces of luck in my life”. To describe that as a fortuitous event and a great piece of luck boggles my mind. So I would draw a sharp distinction between the “Fortuitous Event” theory of predestination and my own Those Who Control the Universe or The Larger Forces at Work in the Universe long-standing articles of faith even though they looked interchangeable to Susan. To draw an even sharper distinction, I wasn’t too far into the Bible before it occurred to me that I was probably being perverse in using that terminology—Those Who Control the Universe—rather than saying God. That is, I was being a forensic atheist. I will believe in forces at work in the universe that have all of the qualities and aptitudes and inclinations of God, but I won’t call them God. Well, why not? That became the $64,000 question. Why not, indeed? Particularly since the Torah didn’t have anywhere close to the structure and content that I pictured it as having. There was very little ooga-booga and a lot of “whatever goes around comes around”. Bad decisions produce bad consequences. So, I began to incorporate this into my interior monologue of examination with the sudden awareness that there was someone listening to my thoughts—something I had pretty much taken as a given for years—who wasn’t me and could very well be God. Fortunately I avoided the infantile approach of “God if you can actually hear what I’m thinking right now show me a sign of Your Presence.” The problem was mine, not God’s. I had led myself up to the threshold of a very sensible conclusion—everything that I had attributed in my life up to that point to Unnamed Forces were actually attributable to God. To counter-balance that Giant Leap Forward with just another example of forensic atheism—God, either prove yourself to me, or I won’t believe in you—would be to make a Giant Leap Backward. I imagine God gets a lot of that. I understood that there was a commitment that was called for on my part. I had to take the Giant Scaffolding of My Belief System, pick the whole thing up and turn it 180 degrees and I would be a monotheist. Or I could just continue to build the Giant Scaffolding of My Belief System so that it avoided everything having to do with God and the Torah. I could follow Alan Moore, with whom I had had the “Dialogue; From Hell” and decide to become a magician just by adopting his viewpoint that magic and Magic were the all-encompassing natures of reality and Natures of Reality that obtained and that I should be ingesting large quantities of illicit substances and conducting rituals in order to give myself larger insights and awarenesses. I all I had to do was to decide that the Bible was this weak and ineffectual Magic Textbook and that what I needed was something with more meat on its bones. That, to me, was the bridge from forensic atheism to polymorphous perverse sophistry. I can pump myself full of magic mushrooms, chant an unspeakable name 800 times, puke, and see a vision of a giant spider-god who will tell me about the upper branches of the Great Kaballah Tree. Me and Madonna and Britney Spears—forward into the future. To me, that seemed the exact wrong response to “Instant Karma”—the Yoko Ono response: Things are not going the way I want them to, so I must buy an Egyptian sarcophagus for the living room that will bring me better luck and more power.

To me there was an inherent purity to the Bible and to belief in God that made all of that garbage look exactly like what it was. I don’t doubt for a minute that it was efficacious. You know, you get your right astrologer and your right hank of hair and your right pentagram and you can put a curse on Paul and Linda McCartney for occupying the Presidential Suite (and therefore trying to steal your Presidential Suite magic) at whatever hotel it was you and John stayed at in Tokyo. You can even get Paul McCartney busted for marijuana possession (a really unlikely event for someone that high on the worldwide VIP list), but at the same time your husband can get shot to death a few months later. Instant Karma. For someone like myself who was on the track of Truth those sorts of “power over others” things were anathema. That was what people tried to do to me, in my experience. Love was always the means used by my family and later by my wife and girlfriends to try and divert me from the quest I was on. For me, the question was one of choices. What did I choose? Instant Karma only happened if I made bad choices and the answer there, to me, was to make better choices, not to find some “ooga-booga” way to allow me to make bad choices without consequence.

So, I continued this interior monologue directed at God for a period of time and then realized that that was a bad choice as well. Billions of people all over the planet bowing to God and worshipping him and Dave Sim just has this very familiar buddy-buddy relationship with God where he lets God know what his best current thinking is today and critiques what God’s been up to lately. No, that’s still forensic atheism. “God and me are buds” is no great improvement on atheism or agnosticism. If anything it’s worse—instead of ignoring God or pretending God doesn’t exist, I’d be either attempting to lower God to my level or raise myself to His level. As it says in the Koran, “He is God, high let Him be exalted above what they join with Him”. The only sensible response was to finish the Giant Leap Forward—and begin praying regularly and sincerely on my knees, concluding prostrate—or take a Giant Leap Backward and continue to treat God as my buddy. Remember the old song “Signs”? Pretty typical of the hippies of the time “If God was here/ He’d tell you to your face/ Man you’re some kind of sinner”. That’s exactly what the hippies most deplored on the part of The Big Bad Church—presuming to speak for God. It’s a very easy but to me perverse snare to drop into. Basically, the prayer was pretty close to the one that was on the inside back cover of issue 300, except it was in reverse order. “If I am worthy of forgiveness in your eyes, I ask forgiveness of…” came first and then the “Almighty God, I thank you for…”. Basically “I’m sorry” and “thank you” which it seems to me what all prayer is mostly. I don’t believe in asking God for things. If I could ever compose an exhaustive list of things to thank Him for (eyesight, hearing, health, success, interesting work, inexplicably loyal atheistic readers, food, drink, Eddie Campbell, Chester Brown, Gerhard, nice house, nice neighbourhood, City Council meetings for starters) I’d feel like a world-class ingrate when I got to the end “And by the way, could I also pretty please have…?” There is something about the experience of saying out loud what it is that you want to be forgiven for that eventually makes you sick of whatever it is. “Every day I have to ask forgiveness for smoking and drinking” “Jeez it was just three days ago I was asking forgiveness for masturbating and here I am asking forgiveness for it again.” It makes you ridiculous in your own eyes, in my experience. Don’t ask for absolution or a Get Out of Jail Free Card, improve. Went through a ridiculous (but I suspect common) phase where I spent a lot of my time telling God how I weak I am. Which was ridiculous because I knew I wasn’t weak and I’m far from omniscient. What could be more futile than trying to convince an omniscient Being of an inherent falsehood you can’t even bring yourself to believe? When I first read about jihad back in ’99, the concept that you are waging jihad “holy war” on your own unholy nature, I took to it like a duck to water. I tend to think that it’s only Muslims who can’t conceive of waging war on their own unholy nature who blow themselves up—it’s really just an appropriate—but misdirected—self-loathing. I can’t stop masturbating and drinking and God is closer to me than my own jugular vein. I must blow myself up next to an infidel to make amends.

I’m not sure that I am following scripture although I thank you for the thought. I certainly am trying to and on my good days I like to think that I am, but you would have to go a long way to find anyone who thinks that I am. It was one of the net effects of finding out just how diffuse the number of beliefs are that make up Judaism, Christianity and Islam in toto. As I pointed out to someone recently, I don’t think there are Jews in the world anymore who stone people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. I certainly hope there aren’t. But, in choosing not to stone people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, they are certainly violating a specific instruction from the YHWH (Numbers 15:32-36) Arguably you can’t follow Jesus unless you sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. How many people do you know who have done that compared to the number of people who call themselves Christians? How many Muslims kill the infidels wherever they find them, striking off their heads and striking off every fingertip? I mean, “wherever ye find them” is pretty specific. That was when I realized that whatever illusion there is that there is such a thing as orthodoxy (right belief) among the monotheist faiths, it’s just that—an illusion. Likewise orthopraxy (right conduct)—whoever you are you’re making your own choices. The Sunnis and the Shiites start the Ramadan fast on different days. Different Christian sects celebrate Easter on different days. All that I think is the case with our present world is that people are being too easy on themselves by trying to minimize the importance of choice rather than making what they think are better choices. “If I get to make up my own mind about what constitutes orthpraxy then I choose to believe that prayer and scripture and church attendance and fasting and giving alms to the poor are all a bunch of hooey. In my version of Christianity, you do what you want to do whenever and whatever you want to do and everyone has to leave you alone because that’s the way Jesus would’ve wanted it.” To me, that’s “baby with the bathwater” stuff. I think you’re still expected to improve and what’s more you’re expected to decide on and choose what improvement is. Everyone responds to scripture differently, but I think we’re supposed to. What rules you choose to obey and what rules you choose not to obey, I think, counts very heavily towards your final grade on Judgment Day. I never kidded myself that God thought me smoking and drinking was a swell idea. Or, ultimately, that He thought fornication was a harmless entertainment although in our secular society all three would be considered minor things. A good example: in Islam the Koran specifically says that there was no warranty sent down about monasticism. You’re supposed to get married and make babies. I tend to think that only applies to sane time periods when women can plausibly be pictured in the role of wife and mother which doesn’t, it seems to me, apply to our particular time period. But, certainly, choosing to remain unmarried and childless at the age of 50 puts me beyond the pale for most Jews, Christians and Muslims. That doesn’t bother me or interest me. What God thinks of my decision-making is all that matters to me and that I won’t find out until Judgment Day.

Q2. When a relatively sober Rick recounts his final encounter with Viktor (Davis?), the silhouette appears to be that of Dave (p 13). Assuming this is a true story, what does this say about Rick's importance since Dave is manipulating him in person?

Dave: Well, it’s not entirely certain that Rick’s would be an accurate recounting of that final encounter with Viktor. All autobiography tends to be self-aggrandizing and self-serving. Rick would’ve invented the thing about trying to hit Viktor and Viktor bending his wrist because Rick would think that if he didn’t put a physical confrontation in there, it would make Rick look too pliant. Which he is and which most boyfriends, in my experience, are post-1970. You have to get really pliant really quickly or you’re out of the relationship game. Yes, it was a way of incorporating Viktor Davis into the body of the work. Here’s what Viktor Davis—Dave Sim—would’ve said to Rick if he ran across him when he was first courting Jaka. I never had a Viktor Davis when I was starting out—Gene Day recommended that Deni and I not get married (“What’s your hurry?”) but he never said why he was recommending that we not get married. I discovered it on my own. “Oh, this is what marriage is like.” Just as I’m pretty sure that Gene never had a Viktor Davis to suggest he might not want to get married. I tried to be honest with the single guys that I knew when the subject would come up, but there is a weird magnetism at the core of marriage that repels reality like iron filings. The only guy that I really got through to went ahead and got married anyway and then found out that marriage was exactly the way I said it would be and he ended up drinking himself to death. Literally. So, marriage is in a weird category all its own. Like Merlin said about love in Camelot “A kind of seventh day when reason rests.” The pre-pseudo-scripture Rick’s Story texts were a way of communicating what I had to communicate in a more general way to the audience at large, having found that it didn’t work with the drinking buddies that I had over the years. “Just be happy every waking minute for the rest of your life and you’ve got her as long as you want her.” It certainly works. It’s not what I would call much of a life, but it certainly works.

Q2 cont: If this is an accurate description, does it stand to reason that it lends validity to Rick's Prophetic Divinity, even before you decided to move away from a direct parody of Scripture (as it predates Rick's mental breakdown, and communication with Dave via the "Burning Tree")? Did you always intend Rick to end up being a True Prophet, even if his God was Dave-as-God?

Dave: “Prophetic Divinity” is a strange expression. Prophets aren’t gods. Prophets are prophets. Only God is God. All I was trying to establish with Rick was that he was comparable to me as a writer insofar as he was in search of the Truth. Of course, he was far more a romantic than I was so he tended to get bogged down in the “chick thing” a lot more than I did. That was one of the reasons that it was worth bringing him together with Cerebus in this completely isolated desolate tavern. They were both occupying essentially the same “hell” that they both saw as Hell—“Life without Jaka”—and were attempting to work through it in their own ways. Both through heavy drinking and massive introspection, Rick through writing down what he saw as the largest Truths in his life which really amounted to: Here’s the best advice I ever got about chicks from people and, of course, Cerebus trying to overcome his own “what’s the use?” inertia which was soul-deep by this point to the extent that it had permeated even the magnifier quality within him. The magnifier quality worked on Rick in proximity, pushing him out of his perception that the “chick thing” was the highest level to which he could aspire and onto a higher plateau. The “chick thing” to me—and I say this as a guy who gets a lot of wannabe comics riddled with it in the mail—bespeaks a singularly limited horizon in the thought category. You aren’t really trying to understand reality and/or your role in it, you’re trying to understand a gender you aren’t a part of and you’re trying to understand a gender so you can “get” them—literally take possession of them—sexually—which is really just the dog chasing its own tail. You already have the answer. Find the one you want and pretend to be happy all the time. If you forget to be happy or decide to be unhappy and you show it and you lose her as a result, go out and find another one and stay happier this time. I spent a period of time in that mindset—I have to figure out how to get more chicks—but I also recognized the answer when I found it. If you want female sluts, be a male slut. It sounds about as interesting as the “plot” of a porno film and it was.

Q3. All the facial injuries suffered by Cerebus occur on the right side of his head (injury to the right eye, right ear chopped off). When Rick sees the demon half of Cerebus' face, it is also the right side. Is there a thematic reason for this -- for example, a commentary on the right side of the brain (dedicated to art, music and intuition) versus the left side (dedicated to words and logic)?

Dave: Actually that goes back to the early days when I decided to make Cerebus pretty much the only right-handed person in Estarcion. No particular reason, I just thought it would make an interesting plot point that I could make use of some day. In terms of the injury to eye and losing the ear, that was more in the right side=good, left side=bad category—dextram and sinestram in Latin from which we get dextrous and sinister.

(Of course it is true that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. I’m suspect that God did that as a basic protective mechanism for human beings through the depths of the “ooga booga” time period. By the time we had it figured out, we were past the point (most of us anyway) of controlling or trying to control other people’s brains by sympathetic magic. I also tend to think that a physical injury is a wake-up call from God or a calling card from His Adversary. If you get injured on your left side, God is prevailing in your life but has found it necessary to inflict damage on your ‘sinestram’ self. If you get injured on your right side, the Adversary has found an access point and gets a free shot at you. I tend to see it as critically important to live your life in such a way that the former isn’t necessary and the latter isn’t possible.

Q4. In Rick's exit scene (p. 178) he tells Cerebus "WE'LL see each other only once more after today" - goodbye. Cerebus says: "take good care of yourself." Rick tells Cerebus what he told Joanne: "Go to hell." Note that Rick say's "we'll" see each other - so Cerebus' vision of Rick in Going Home would NOT appear to satisfy this prophecy, or was Cerebus' vision interactive and Rick was seeing him too?

Dave: Yes, it was interactive—they both saw each other.

Was the statement "Go to hell" tantamount to a secondary curse, reminiscent of Astoria's final words for The Lion (i98), and Cerebus' final words for Weisshaupt (i76)?

Yep. Those were the Big Three.

The Lion of Serrea agreed he would go to Hell, and Weishaupt replied "I shall" - but Cerebus does not respond. Why would he be angry with Cerebus? Because he now saw Cerebus as a Godless heathen? Is it a reference back to his holding Cerebus responsible for his advice? Has Cerebus somehow died symbolically here to mirror the deaths of Weisshaupt and the Lion?

This gets really complicated, but you DID ask, so here goes. He was angry with Cerebus because Cerebus “lied” about Jaka by saying that he was once married to her. Rick is pretty much in full prophet mode at this point, but Jaka is still really the only Achilles Heel that he has. He’s still the only one that Jaka was ever married to and that perception of himself—as Jaka’s only husband—is so central to his nature that he seriously snaps when Joanne tells him that Cerebus claimed to have been married to Jaka as well. Rick has developed this pristine “stained-glass-window” view of himself by this point that isn’t accurate. It will be accurate but at this point it isn’t. The appropriate God-fearing reaction to Joanne telling him about Cerebus and Jaka being married would’ve been “Cerebus wasn’t married to the harlot” followed by “I am a follower of God, harlots don’t concern me anymore.” Instead the reaction was to see this as an intrinsically evil attack upon him and upon the core reality he still clung to (unbeknownst to himself) by Joanne and Cerebus. Which it wasn’t. Not an intentional or conscious attack, anyway. To Joanne, Jaka was just a name. Joanne was just making conversation. Cerebus had no idea that Rick was going to turn up and that he would have to account for his treating the alternate reality I put him into as this reality. On the one hand Cerebus had experienced being married to Jaka, but no he had never actually married Jaka. But having this core attribute that his entire personality was hunched around—I was Jaka’s only husband—wrenched away so casually hurtles Rick over to the “other side” and he comes up with this magic spell (which is clearly not “of God”) that has suddenly thrust up from his unconscious awareness (his on-going proximity to Cerebus’ magnifier nature and his own focus on larger doings having thrust him into the larger context that Cerebus’ magnifier occupies). His impulse to lash out at and to hurt Cerebus as badly as he can for the way he thinks Cerebus has hurt him is the trigger and the Adversary, of course, is pleased to take advantage of it. Picture St. Francis of Assisi suddenly getting really steamed as a wounded boyfriend and inwardly calling for assistance from anyone to help him inflict a reciprocal wound. Presumably the Adversary would be tickled to death to oblige the request. This will be a “a good one” on God. And of course the God-fearing part of Rick would just shut down and submerge at the prospect of what the God-fearing nature knew he was about to do—“All that progress and now he’s going to make use of a magic spell to hurt someone? Oy. Excuse me, I think I have to lie down until this is over.”—even while his God-fearing nature would be looking at the long term likelihoods and the bright side that is probably going to result: Rick leaving the tavern from his God-fearing nature’s point of view is a very, very good idea. Telling the harlot and Cerebus to go to hell is a very good idea. Assuming he can just cut and run and get away from Joanne and Cerebus, his God-fearing nature can “hatch out” unimpeded by them and their ungodly natures. Of course, Rick going over to the sinestram side that abruptly, it gets complicated, which I think happens to the Adversary a lot in those cases. You use Joanne and Cerebus against Rick and then suddenly Rick turns Aleister Crowley on you. As George says in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf “By God, you need a pig to show you where the truffles are.” Who is on whose side?

At the core moment of the invocation: “Branch breaks branch/the one branch is now two/One branch is me/One branch is…” Well, obviously the word—Adversarially inspired—is intended to be “you”. But Rick is supposed to be punishing Cerebus, wounding him. How does he accomplish that by making the two of them co-equal branches? The Adversary has over-played his/her/its hand and Rick’s God-fearing nature asserts itself and breaks free of his unconscious choice which had been to call on the Adversary to help him hurt Cerebus and to break free of the Adversary’s attempt to use that base desire to make Cerebus and Rick into one divided prophet, a broken branch. The God-fearing part of Rick, when he hesitates and sees the actual “you” he almost invoked surrenders control to God and God then moves the spell from infernal—two co-equal branches—to godly, the three (the Adversary) and the One (God) “For the three at the table/and the one at the door.” Of course when the revised spell hatches out, the one at the door will end up being Jaka (the three at the table Marty, Bear and Harrison) so the Adversary, looking that far ahead, sees the trade-off God is offering him/her/it through Rick. Let Rick go and you can use Jaka to get Cerebus.

Is Jaka Cerebus’ God? It’s a bit of a stretch, but the Adversary has worked with less auspicious material. Rick has broken free of the idolatry and paganism inherent in the branch itself and, inadvertently, has thereby broken free of Jaka as well. She will be the one at the door, but he won’t be there if the Adversary takes the bait God’s offering. Rick is basically (through divine inspiration) giving Jaka to Cerebus, something he wouldn’t consciously be able to do if he knew that that was what he was doing. God is making use of the fact that Rick is leaving and has severed his connection with Cerebus and Joanne and to make Jaka Cerebus’ problem instead of Rick’s. The trade-off for the Adversary is that he/she/it gets Cerebus potentially while losing Rick. Since the prophecies in the Book of Rick are about Cerebus, that seems like a fair trade. Let Rick go, and count on the fact that Jaka will lead Cerebus so far astray from a God-fearing life that the prophecies will never come true. What the Adversary forgets is that Rick has captured Cerebus or has captured the Adversary part within Cerebus—the Adversarial/pagan/Tarim-worshipping/he/she/it inside Rick’s book. If the Adversary lets Rick go, the Adversary lets Rick’s book go which means, if you’re the Adversary, part of you is going with Rick one way or the other trapped inside his book by the spell, even while you have traded to stay with Cerebus. Essentially you have to allow yourself to be torn in half or one third/two thirds or one quarter three quarters. Which is God’s joke on the Adversary knowing that he/she/it will forget that part in his/her/its eagerness to “get” Cerebus.

At the critical moment of separation—Cerebus inhabited by the Adversary is staying, Rick’s book with the Adversary trapped inside it is leaving and Cerebus is enacting Bear’s parting line of dialogue from Guys—“You take good care of yourself”—but a substantial part of what Cerebus considers to be him is already trapped in Rick’s book and is pulling more of him out of him as the book is going away. The Adversary realizes this too late so when Cerebus starts to say “Take good care of yourself” he gets as far as “Take…” and the Adversary tries to change it into “Take Cerebus/Usss With You” as a means of avoiding getting divided. And as the futility of that becomes apparent it changes into “Take good care of Usss”. Which is kind of funny if you have a really bizarre sense of humour that delights in so-esoteric-it’s-verging-on-opaque-for-everyone-except-me things like this (which, obviously, I do). Rick will definitely take care of the Adversary but not the way the Adversary intends it. And of course, subsequently, Cerebus is severely diminished as we can see by his severe state of disorientation, the reduced size of his medallions and his inability to figure out if he should leave or stay. It becomes an opportune time for me to show up. This is the best he’s ever going to be. He’s missing a substantial evil part of himself which means at least potentially he can be filled with something good. If I can’t get through to him this last time, Jaka is going to show up and he’s going to have to go through that whole nightmare of a roller-coaster. Which, of course, is the choice he makes.

Q5. Please discuss the significance of the Booke of Ricke in terms of the larger novel of Cerebus. In particular, does the Booke of Ricke reflect in part the eternal battle between God and YHWH (as perhaps everything in creation does)? Are parts of the Booke reflections of YHWH's contact with Ricke, rather than his direct contact with God?

Dave: Well, as you can see from the earlier answer, yes it does. I hope you don’t mind that I changed Yoowhoo to YHWH. I really don’t think name-calling (and I’m speaking from experience) should enter into an honest disagreement. If YHWH is his/her/its chosen name, I’m certainly amenable to using it. Not with “God” attached because I don’t think YHWH is a god. He/she/it created nothing but was his/her/itself created as the Koran pretty specifically states.

Q5. cont Do such parts contrast with Rick's encounter with the burning tree, which would appear to be Rick encountering the One True God?

Dave: I tend to think that anything that has to do with fire is “of the Adversary” and that that was true with Moshe’s experience at the burning bush. I think God says to Moshe “Draw not nigh hither” and YHWH picks it up from there— “Take off thy shoes for thou art standing on hallowed ground.”—overriding God’s warning.

Q5. cont And yet the Burning Tree's use of modern vernacular in its advice to Rick that he go out and get some nice "duds" for his date with Joanne make it appear that he was talking, perhaps to Dave (p. 140).

Dave: Yes, I was indulging in what I saw as a comparable non-God appearance in my own “scripture”. Instead of a burning bush, I had a burning evergreen tree (refer to my Torah commentaries on the first chapter of Genesis—trees are male, plants are female) whose flames were like water flowing upwards. I thought the combination of the tree and the water reference (water is God’s chosen medium) would take the edge off of the unintended blasphemy.

Q5. cont Did you see this as God speaking through Dave speaking to Rick?

Dave: No, this was Dave attempting to speak to Rick without losing favour in the sight of God in doing so. Having reviewed my own “dating guide” scripture, this seemed to me like a good conclusion to come to and valuable advice to impart. Of course it’s worth noting that I was still fornicating my brains out at this point smoking like a chimney and drinking like a fish—and trying to rationalize how I could continue to do so while still submitting to the will of God. It was the best I could do under the circumstances. If I was to talk to the me back then from here in 2005? I’d say, “Don’t be ridiculous.” Although I did incorporate the “One God, having one name one face and one aspect which is God” into my prayer. I think that’s important because otherwise you get into all that Alan Moore/Kaballa nonsense about God’s emanations having individual personalities. That’s joining gods with God, to me, and that’s where the trouble starts. One God—“high may He be exalted above what they join with Him!”

Q5. cont Finally, does the enlargement of the typeface as Rick encounters God (or God through Dave) symbolize Rick's movement to the One True Path, or perhaps an indication that this was a true contact with God-who-is-Dave, as the received communication is overpowering - both to Rick and to the comic page?

Dave: No, further elaborating on the above answer: Maybe if I enlarge the type and do a progressive close-up on a Renaissance-style painting so you can see every detail of the paint, maybe that will make what I’m saying Right instead of (as I suspected even at the time) “right”. The fact that the painting was crumbling to bits with big cracks through it should be a clue. I’m definitely not God. Trust me on that one, guys (and Margaret).

WILDCARD: Is there an allegorical connection between Cirin's speech about the asteroids, and the souls "encased in hard rock until the end of all days," and the ideas you put forth in issue 289/290?

Dave: Not consciously, but I would imagine I was getting “fed” these little tid-bits as I went along. At the time I would’ve just seen it as conventional female vanity. If, at any time in history, women had been able to see what a planet is, what the earth is, I’m pretty sure they would have the same knee-jerk reaction. If it’s round it must be a pregnant belly or nourishing breasts filled with milk. What else exists as far as women are concerned and what else would reality be based on?

Is the "Sea of Sadness" for Tarimites analogous to the faces on the Tower?

I certainly couldn’t rule it out. On a related note I just read several books on Islam over Ramadan (Belated Eid Mubarak to everyone reading this next week!). I already knew that haram meant “forbidden”. But I also found out that much higher on the scale of the forbidden and the blasphemous is “tahrim”. I assume that YHWH had a good laugh out of Tarim and Terim for many years, but maybe he/she/it isn’t laughing quite so loudly anymore.