My first comic was THE NEW DEFENDERS #136 with Iceman, Beast and the Angle on the cover. I picked it up because I recognized those characters from the television show SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS. Because I could relate to the Firestar character on the show, I religiously watched it on Saturday mornings. I would view it to the complete end of the show when Spider-man jumped onto the big Marvel logo. At that time I became familiar with the term comic book. So I picked up THE NEW DEFENDERS #136 comic hoping to find Firestar.

I read it and enjoyed the story, but I didn’t see Firestar. So that was my last comic until three or four years later in 1986 when I saw FIRESTAR #4 at the local newsstand. I read it and loved it. That started me on the long path of collecting comic books.

Many people get started reading comics differently. But we all have to start somewhere. It is a little intimating to pick up an issue of say, ACTION COMICS, and realize that it is on issue #581 and you wonder who the heck all these people are and why are they fighting each other because the only recognizable character is Superman. Most comics don’t put a synopsis of the previous issues into the book. Even if they wanted to the publisher wouldn’t have the space to encapsulate all those issues into a couple pages and fit it into each issue.

So I can understand why people are a bit weary of picking up CEREBUS. An independent comic that has been published since 1977, CEREBUS stands out for its overarching storylines and well developed characters. So to just pick up a random issue of CEREBUS puts the majority of people in the thick of a story where they don’t know up from down.

However, most people have heard of the phonebooks that reprint the many chapters in CEREBUS. For anywhere from seventeen to twenty-five dollars you can purchase a reprint collection of the CEREBUS storyline that contains anywhere from twelve to thirty issues of CEREBUS. Quite a bargain at about a buck an issue all with an entire chapter of CEREBUS in one handy volume.

So if the reader is really enthused about starting CEREBUS they’ll ask either "which phonebook do I start with?" or "which phonebook is your favorite, because I will start with that one." On the other hand, some readers are turned off by the price of the phonebooks. While they are a bargain, it is still quite a hefty chunk of change for some of us to lay down on a book we might not like and not want anything to do with in the future.

To tell you the truth, I really don’t know which phonebook anyone should start out with. Each as its own themes, pacing, and humor (or lack thereof). I used to tell people HIGH SOCIETY, because I felt starting with volume 1 (plainly named CEREBUS) was not the ready for primetime Dave Sim whose art and storytelling hadn’t yet fully developed. But as storylines go, I really enjoyed CHURCH & STATE I and II better then HIGH SOCIETY. I’ve also enjoyed every chapter for a multitude of different reasons. So if you ask me, I’ll just ramble on for as long as you’ll let me about CEREBUS phonebooks in general.

Then I realized the answer to the long asked question, "Which CEREBUS phonebook should I start with?" shouldn’t even a phonebook. The issue of CEREBUS a new reader would probably be most comfortable starting with is issue number zero.

Published in June of 1993 to support the Campaign ‘93, CEREBUS #0 collects the stories that happened in-between the different chapters of CEREBUS: the in-between stories. For only $2.25 you get three different CEREBUS stories with a forward to each one by Dave Sim. You should be able to find this comic at your local comic book store (locate your the comic book store closest to you - click here or on EBay.

The three stories gives the new reader a taste of CEREBUS and hopefully leaves them longing for more. Imagine for a minute, Cerebus stuck in a closet with Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, and Senator Claghorn (Foghorn the rooster from Looney Tunes was based on him). As Dave said the "story would ‘write itself’." Originally printed in CEREBUS #51, ‘Exodus’ gives you a glimpse into Dave’s ability to produce different accents, pacing, witty banner between characters, and a very funny story.

The second story reprints the double sized CEREBUS #112 / 113 ‘Square One.’ With only sound effects (not many though) Cerebus deals with the aftermath of CHURCH & STATE. Dave weaves a story with pictures and gives Cerebus some of the most descriptive facial expressions I’ve seen in any comic book. This in-between story is quite a jolt after the humor intensive ‘Exodus’, because the only humor in it is the last two pages.

The third and final in-between story reprinted is from issue #137 (with a little from #138) entitled ‘Like-A-Looks’. Picture Groucho Marx in a dress, but it isn’t really Groucho. No one knows where the real Lord Julius (the CEREBUS world’s verison of Groucho) is and everyone is running around trying to prove that they are the real deal.

With CEREBUS #0 the new reader gets a good glimpse into the world of CEREBUS without having to pay for an entire phone book. The only downside to only getting issue zero is you can’t tell how well Dave weaves a plot and tells an epic story. If you like any of the stories in CEREBUS #0, then check out FREE CEREBUS. It gives a synopsis of CEREBUS from issue #1 to #136 (the end of JAKA’S STORY). Published in 1992 to coincide with the publication of the biweekly reprints and the US Tour ‘92, FREE CEREBUS was handed out free to anyone that wanted one. Nowadays you might have to pay a couple bucks for it, but it is also online with permission from Dave Sim.

FREE CEREBUS will give you a little better idea on which phonebook you want to start with (if as I hope, you do want to start reading CEREBUS). So there is no need to feel like you are a lost soul in a rubber life raft in the middle of the ocean. With both CEREBUS #0 and FREE CEREBUS (along with a multitude of resources online), you’ll be able to dive into the ocean of CEREBUS and swim with the rest of us.

From the Cerebus Fangirl Site found on the web at: contents maybe printed for later reading if you so desire, just don't copy it and say it's yours though.