Whither Cerebus?

I have this habit of being in the middle of some Really Important Thing (typically work) and suddenly having the weirdest recollections of books, music, films, actors, writers, random people pop into my head and force my fractured senses to break off from whatever they’re doing to ask “What the hell ever happened to [fill in the blank]?”

Wikipedia is a dangerous drug for people like me.

Did you know that really whacked-out German performance artist Brother Theodore was aided in his flight from Nazi Germany as a young man by Albert Einstein?

You do now.

And because of my unrepentant ability to be distracted by really trivial shit, a thought popped into my head late last night because i was apparently threatening to actually get some solid writing done for a change. The thought in question was this:

“What the hell ever happened to Dave Sim?”

Dave Sim, if you don’t know (and you should know if you don’t know), is the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, a sort-of-fantasy, sort-of-superhero series that almost single-handedly defined the concept of creator-controlled comics. I interviewed him once back in the day, always enjoyed Cerebus back when i was reading comics, but then lost track of that and a lot of other things i used to be interested in during the dark years of having small children about the house. About the last thing i remember reading of and about Sim was the widely discussed and disastrously misogynist polemic he devoted an entire issue of Cerebus to back in ’94 or ’95, and which subsequently cost him a bundle in credibility and sales.

The idea with Cerebus was that the book had a fixed length. The comic was supposed to run for 300 issues, then end with the aardvark’s tragic death. I wasn’t sure of the math off the top of my head, but i thought i could recall that that creative endgame should have actually passed a few years back. But if so, wouldn’t i have heard something about it? And if not, why not?

A couple of Google searches later turned up the revelation that Cerebus 300 came and went four years ago, and that the reason i didn’t hear anything about it is that Dave Sim appears to have surfed that initial wave of anti-feminism (his phrase) up and onto a long beach of being a bit of a... well, in the interest of not crossing the line into libel, let’s go with “radical intellectual”.

Understand that i’m all in favor of free speech but i’m not so much down with accepting hate speech for the sake of free speech. That is, i’m apparently one of the few people in the world who thinks that there is a line between the two and has no problem with that line being drawn. I respect Dave Sim’s right to speak and write his mind, just as i’m sure he respects my right to listen, read, or not as the inclination strikes me.

Here’s Dave Sim writing his mind:

No one wants to be a woman.

If, prior to our life on this earth, we were presented with the option of being male or female, a short description of the functions of the male versus the female genitalia (with emphasis on menstruation, menstrual cramps, PMS, labour pains, yeast infections, et al) would most certainly result in so vast a number of us choosing the male “equipment” (what, is this a trick question?) that it is difficult, if not impossible, to envision any woman being born into this world at all.

To me, it seems less a case of penis envy (Sigmund Freud having lived in altogether too chivalrous a time period for such “plain talk” as I offer here) than it is one of vagina abhorrence from the standpoint of the “would-be tenant” in contemplating a role as “owner-proprietor”. Alas, for reasons known only to our Creator, (almost exactly) half of us come out on the losing end of the coin toss. If things seem pretty “even steven” (leaving aside the fact that a penis, self-evidently, constitutes an anatomical “presence” and a vagina, self-evidently, an anatomical “absence”) over the course of the first ten or eleven years in the life of a boy and a girl there does, alas, “come the day...”

It would take a very hard-hearted individual, indeed (someone like myself, for instance) to find anything amusing in the level of Mortification at the Sheer Cosmic Unfairness of It All with which a young girl must greet the news that every twenty-eight days or so for decades-upon-decades stretching as far into the future as a ten- or eleven-year-old can possibly conceive - that a “little friend will be coming to visit”. A “little friend” who (it seems) will be just as catastrophic and humiliating a mess as the one who has (just now) paid a first most unwelcome social call.

No one wants to be a woman.

Taxing the limits of my own not-inconsiderable imagination, I have no doubt that had I a “little friend” who paid me such “visits” - in a desperate attempt to cling to what remained of my sanity in the aftershock of the full extent of the horrible news “sinking in,” I am certain that I would very quickly set about the business of manufacturing a fairy-tale world for myself in which I was - in all other regards - indistinguishable from a gender which does not...


(From The Comics Journal. There’s a whole series of things there to read, or not; see above.)

Blogger Andrew Rilstone has written an ongoing and better analysis of Sim’s late-career intellectual escapades and sanity than i could ever come up with. There are likewise plenty of places supporting Sim’s views, i’m sure. Maybe he’s got a blog, i don’t know. I don’t have the time, inclination, or knowledge of Sim’s work to add to any of it. I’ll just say the following, as a one-time reader and fan.

Everybody is a complete fucking idiot from time to time. The trick is to focus your creative energy on the moments in between.

Dave — Sorry you apparently couldn’t figure that out.