Note From The President, Cerebus Zero, June 1993Copyright 1993 Dave Sim
Easily the most common (and difficult) question I'm asked about Cerebus is to describe what the book is about. In an age when most movies, novels and television shows can be distilled to a 'sound byte' (High Noon in Outer Space, Westworld Done with Dinosaurs), a description of Cerebus becomes an ever-more daunting task.
Put as simply as possible, Cerebus is my attempt to document a life for twenty-six years and three hundred issues. Cerebus began in December 1977 and concludes in March 2004 at issue 300, with the death of the title character. It is my attempt to by-pass one of the major faults of comic books (and strips, for that matter); the fact that the characters never age or change and that most attempts at change can be summed up as gimmicks and temporary modifications introduced for the purpose of boosting sales.
Sometimes the Cerebus story-line is funny. Sometimes it is sad. Sometimes it crawls along month to month with very little happening and sometimes it flies by at breathtaking speed with everything happening at once.
I create the book consciously this way because that this is the way I see life; my life and the lives of those people that I know. In some story-lines, Cerebus is a central figure and a driving force behind the events taking place. At other times he is a secondary figure, observing rather than participating. Again, this is very much like my own life and the lives I see around me.
The comic book you hold in your hands contains three individual stories; two of them funny (at least I hope you find them funny) and one that is a little more serious. Taking place as they do at three very different points in the Cerebus story-line, they should give the new reader a fuzzy snapshot (as it were) of the range of approaches and interests that make up Cerebus.
It's very gratifying to me that there are so many people attempting extended stories in this day and age; Colleen Doran with A Distant Soil, Martin Wagner with Hepcats, Jeff Smith with Bone, Larry Marder with Beanworld. We are making a place for ourselves amid the work-made-for-hire super-hero landfill that so dominates the comic book field. Even in the 'mainstream', Neil Gaiman, against over-whelming odds and corporate brainlessness, is going to complete the first very large and self-contained narrative ever attempted with Sandman. This has been a great help to those of us labouring in the marginal world of self-publishing; new readers now understand how to approach the extended story; you buy all of the reprint volumes to date until you're 'caught up' and then begin buying the current issues. This comic book you're holding, along with the reprint volumes Cerebus, High Society, Church & State, Jaka's Story, Melmoth and Flight constitute the complete story-line from Cerebus number one through to Cerebus 162. We're just past the half-way point (as I type this, I have just completed Cerebus 172). The past fifteen years have been the greatest adventure of my life; and it just keeps getting more and more enjoyable.
You might be curious as to why this column is called 'Note from the President'. It is partly a play on the fact that I am the president of Aardvark Vanaheim; the publishing company which I own and which published the reprint volumes and the monthly comic book. But it also has a great deal to do with my particular perception of the ideal role for the comic book creator; to preside over his creativity. Nothing is done with Cerebus as a character, a comic book, a story-Iine or a commercial entity without my express approval. I don't have a 'boss' who tells me how things are or are not going to go. As a reader, whether you love what I'm doing here, or whether you hate it, you only have one person to point your finger at.
Cerebus is a six thousand page story-line, documenting the ups and downs of a single character's life (as well as the lives of those around him). Cerebus, like Howard the Duck, is a funny animal in the world of humans. Everyone, whoever they are, feel themselves to be unique and, more often than not in the last half of the twentieth century, feel themselves to be out-of-place wherever they are. Documenting that, to be best of my abilities, seemed (and still seems) a worthwhile use of twenty-six years of my life. Cerebus is not a hero, a villain, an anti-hero, or an everyman. He is capable of being each of those and he is most often none of those. He's Cerebus.
An aardvark in the world of humans.
If you enjoy this small sampling, you might just like the other three thousand and some odd pages which document his life to date; and I hope you'll enjoy the two thousand and some odd pages I haven't drawn yet (with the assistance of Gerhard; those are his brilliant backgrounds on the second two stories in this book).
Ladies and gentlemen; Cerebus the aardvark.
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