Monday, 24 October 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: Volume 10 "Minds"

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...A final thought about the idea that issue #200 was, at some point, the planned end of the book:  I do find it entirely possible that Sim fabricated the idea and wrote issue # 200 to lend validity to the gossip put forth in issue #175. If issue # 200 was never intended to be the ending, but only appear as such, the fairly dramatic change in content during the last hundred issues could arguably be part of experiment set up in Reads. How will people react to this elaborate piece of gossip? How many people would, and for what reasons, accept the false rumor? How many people would accept that the back 1/3 of the book was merely filler intended to meet an arbitrary numerical goal? Why would they think that? What does all of this say about our expectations for a narrative? How will people react to the real Dave Sim taking the reins? What makes one accept or reject his insertion into the book?... [Read the full review here...]

Cerebus Vol 11: Guys
Cerebus Vol 12: Rick's Story
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day


whc03grady said...

"Issue #187 finds Sim drawing himself into the book as himself...."
I always thought that was Serna/Cirin.


iestyn said...

I think there's an allegory there, relating to all life becoming an epilogue after one finds god and sees his true purpose for you

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, whc, so did I. Pretty sure that's Serna.

Dave? Wanna chime in here?

Carson Grubaugh said...

Damn, yeah, Now I really want to know. I assumed it is Sim because of the earring that I have seen him emphasize in a couple other self-portraits. The Comics Journal cover being the one that comes to mind right now.

Dave Kopperman said...

When the issue originally came out, I might have thought it was Astoria (since the image comes a bit before any of Dave's direct interaction with the characters). But it's pretty clearly supposed to be Dave - earring, yes, but mostly the man's button shirt collar coming out the top of a sweater (see pic of Dave with BWS).

whc03grady said...

Yeah, you might not've noticed, but women nudging into men's territory is, like, one of the central themes of Cerebus, so a woman like Serna/Cirin wearing a man's button shirt collar under a sweater isn't much of a, whattayacall, stretch. Dave Sim may comment here that it is in fact a picture of Dave Sim and of course that'd end it, but you can probably keep your "pretty clearly".


al roney said...

It's Dave. He is, after all, the "god" of the story...

Jeff Seiler said...

Nope. It's Serna. And the drawing is not in opposition (well, as positioned, it could be taken that way, but...) to the Void. It's leading the Reader *into* The Void.



Oh, Daa-aave...?

Dave Sim said...

Um, it's supposed to be me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense the way you're reading it. There's Comic Art Metaphysics, FRACTAL Comic Art Metaphysics and unintentional Fractal Comic Art Metaphysics.

Dave Sim said...

Carson - the drawings inside the lettering in the pants wetting page are mine.

The ambiguity of the use of the term "epilogue" was intentional: epilogue to MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS and everything from GUYS on being the Epilogue to the 6,000 page graphic novel. FRACTAL Comic Art Metaphysics (intentional).

Carson Grubaugh said...


BTW. I love how contentious Cerebus fans can get. What this fact told Dave in his ongoing sociological experiment, I can't imagine.

Dave Kopperman said...

What's Pretty fascinating about this discussion is that it marks the perspective between those who read Cerebus as a philosophical text, and those who read it more as a work of great literature. I'm in the latter camp, which isn't so much a comment on my agreement with Dave's philosophies (I'm about 50/50 on that) as it is due to the fact that I tend to pretty much be immune to the philosophy of others in general.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Dave K.,

I view the literature and philosophy as inseparably intertwined.

Cerebus becomes great literature precisely because it was a tool for Dave Sim's ongoing philosophical explorations. Most literature represents a static viewpoint or range of viewpoints interacting within a static framework. With Cerebus the framework, and viewpoints within, remain active because Dave could re-evaluate, as well react to reader-interaction data, on a month by month basis. This is a very rare, maybe singular, work that shows dramatic shifts in commitments. Sim is relentlessly honest and vulnerable on a personal level. He struggles and grows in the public eye. I can't name any other serious literature that was released, piecemeal, over such a large span of time, nor an author who staked their life and reputation on the reception of said work so openly and frequently. Mark Danielewski's The Familiar, currently waiting for volume 4 of 27, may be the first attempt after Cerebus.

Foucault did something similar by using historical research as a means of generating philosophical understanding. While each book was a self-contained thesis his body of work was a growing, active project. Notably, Foucault is the only major philosophers who makes dramatic shifts in stance more than once (as far as I know). Most of the big names, if they shift at all, only do it once (Early and Late Heidegger or Wittgenstein are a pretty common divisions for study, for instance). Maybe the idea of doing philosophy by doing something other than proper philosophy is the more honest way to do it?

All of the as-it-happens philosophical work, in turn, feeds back into why Cerebus is such a great work of literature. It becomes more varied, nuanced, and rich exactly because it does not represent a constant understanding of the world. It easily vacillates between very down to earth, wise, adult books like Jaka's Story or Melmoth and existence-sized metaphysical, knowledge-seeking, slightly childish books like Flight, Minds, Latter Days.

Looked as a set of philosophical conclusions: IMO Dave is a fantastic observer/critic of human behavior, motivation and social/ethical structures but a terrible metaphysician (he uses the term 'metaphysics' in an archaic, mystical sense, rather than the current analytical sense), and rarely, or poorly, touches on epistemology and the related issues of language, meaning, information, etc. It really is, for me, his process and the trail of evidence of growth it leaves behind, that is most compelling thing about the work, as a piece of philosophy. And all of that make for GREAT literature.

*rant* *rant*

Dave Kopperman said...

I'm not saying Cerebus isn't a philosophical text (it clearly is and becomes increasingly so during its run, made explicit as Dave's self-described search for truth). And I agree that much (not all) of the symbolism and drama is put forth to argue that philosophy. It's simply that since I don't generally take on the philosophies of others easily, the philosophical musings become more thematic texture to me, not truths that require divining out further evidence through the text - i.e., I would be disinclined to read the silhouette as (human) Cirin because that character had already said their piece and moved offstage. In other words, it doesn't make TEXTUAL sense to have it be (human) Cirin. I can't speak to Mitch's reasons, but I believe Jeff - and please correct me if I'm wrong here - probably views the philosophical essays and related extra-textual pieces (15 Impossible Things, Tangent) as equally important, and I've always tended to regard them as secondary importance. It's not that they don't have bearing on the central text of the work, but they're not part of the art or literature of the work, which I think is an important distinction.

I'd be tempted to disagree that Dave isn't at least an interesting metaphysician. I'm certainly not in a position to judge, but Dave's musings in that arena are about as cogent and well-argued as, say Wittgenstein. Dave may even be better at epistemological reasoning, given his native command of symbolic language. He doesn't have to explain the relation of language and meaning because he just shows it. Certainly I find disagreement with many of his conclusions, but it's impossible for someone as ethically grounded and highly structured as Dave to not be adapt at the logical underpinnings of philosophy, even if he's not as well versed in the... well, in the bullshittery that goes along with that.

Jeff Seiler said...

Dave--Yes, I do believe that much of the back-of-the-book items are important (such as the first [only?] comic book story that Neil Gaiman ever drew), but I don't put them in with the canon.

Years ago, Jeff Tundis attempted to draw up a list of the one, true canon of Cerebus. There was much debate over whether such things as the EPIC issues and TMNT #8 belong in the canon (I say yea on the former, nay on the latter), but I never argued for the essays being considered as "part of Cerebus".
They are important--the Alan Moore dialogue, "Mama's Boy", "Why Canada Slept", "Islam, My Islam"-- and much more, but they are not canonical.

Jeff Seiler said...

Carson, I made the mistake of writing to Dave, once, that I didn't think anyone else had ever published serious literature "piecemeal" (your word, not mine) the way he had, especially over that length of time.

He pointed out that, as two examples, both Dickens and Dostoevsky, initially, had some of their novels published serially.

Carson Grubaugh said...


Ulysses was originally released in pieces as well; at least initially, I believe.

My point was "...released, piecemeal, over such a large span of time..." The Twenty-Seven-Years of month-by-month release, without ever moving to a totally new work. Also, were Dickens and Dostoevsky writing a new chapter each month, or was the book in the can before hand? The interaction with the audience through the letter columns, cons, fluctuating sales numbers, resigning employees, etc. These all create a constant source of feedback and potential for the work to grow in relation to the new data.

I actually see what Dave did kind of like a Socrates in reverse. Instead of asking other people what they think and picking it apart, you put your ideas out for the world to criticize, and refine from there.

Carson Grubaugh said...

MZD's The Familiar is going to be twenty-seven, roughly eight-hundred-page volumes, so far released at a clip of two a year'ish. Also, the first ten volumes were supposedly in the can before the publisher committed to publishing.

So maybe half as long as the time it took to make Cerebus and not produced one book at a time.