Sunday, 3 September 2017

Pressed Aardvark #2: 1984 to 1990

1980-83 | 1984-90 | 1991-95 | 1996-97 | 2005-09

PAUL SLADE:
I love researching bizarre stores from America's past, so a few years ago I treated myself to a subscription to newspapers.com. This gives me access to a huge searchable database of old US newspapers – the oldest dating back to the 1700s. On a whim the other night, I plugged the word “Cerebus” into the site’s excellent search engine, selected the years 1978-2017, and started rootling through everything that came up. I’m pulling out only the most noteworthy items here, of course, and this time round we’ll be covering the years 1984 to 1990.

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), July 10, 1984.
The handful of Australian papers on Newspapers.com throw up dozens of references to “HMAS Cerebus”, which turns out to be a mis-spelling of the Royal Australian Naval base near Melbourne. Its real name is “HMAS Cerberus”, of course, but it always seems to be a toss-up whether any given article will get that spelling right or not. Nearby sports teams and street addresses which take their names from the base often suffer the same fate.

The HMAS Cerberus name has also been used by a whole string of RAN ships, the first of which was sunk in 1924 to form a breakwater for Half Moon Bay. As the postcard below demonstrates, there’s never any guarantee the ships will have their names spelt correctly either.

*****
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May 26, 1985.
All I can tell you about this radio series is that it was a Dave-authorised fan project for a community radio station called TMOA, each episode of which adapted one issue of Cerebus and ran for about 15 minutes. It looks like there were at least 20 episodes made in total, and you can listen to the first six online here.

Rather than full dramatisations, these shows rely on the cast giving each character a distinctive voice, plus some basic narration of the kind you get in audio-described movies. Given the evident budget constraints and the amateur status of all concerned, they’re not bad. The episode listed here is Cerebus #4’s Death’s Dark Tread (not “Thread”), which featured both Elrod’s first appearance and a cameo from Death himself.

*****

News-Journal (Mansfield, OH)
November 13, 1986, November 5, 1987 & November 10, 1987.
That’s a particularly atmospheric logo Dave’s supplied for the Mid-Ohio Con there, an event which the News-Journal always seemed keen to support.

In the two other stories headlined above, the paper mentions that Dave’s art attracted the highest bid at the convention’s charity auction in both 1986 and 1987. The 1986 item was an original Cerebus painting created at the show by Dave and Gerhard, which went for $510. In 1987, the paper reports, “the hottest auction item was Dave Sim’s artwork for the interior pages of ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’ issue 103. The pages brought a high bid of more than $1,600.” To adjust those sums for inflation, you could roughly double them today.

In other financial news, I’ve also come across a February 1986 Pittsburgh Press clipping which mentions a copy of Cerebus #4 on offer for $200, and a July 1988 LA Times small ad asking $500 for “original signed art page from early edition [of Cerebus] with xtras”. The inflation-adjusted figures there would be $450 and $1,000 respectively.

*****

Star Tribune (Minneapolis MN), June 28, 1989
A somewhat over-earnest piece here from Joseph Diliberto, who's keen to argue that comics should be filed alongside prose literature rather than lowbrow TV. "More children should be encouraged to read, and comics are a fun way to do it," he writes. "It's not such a great leap from 'Captain America' and 'Cerebus' to 'Captains Courageous' and 'Julius Caesar'. […] You can keep your trash TV; pass me that copy of ‘Hellblazer’.”

Thirty years on, and far from saving us from trash TV, comics have ended up simply feeding the beast, with Hellblazer itself among the first mouthfuls to be gulped down. Funny how things turn out …

*****

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) , November 10, 1987.
I'm including this piece mainly as an excuse to mention Boris the Bear and that book's role in the black & white boom/bust of the 1980s.

For those who don’t remember this debacle, I should explain that the unexpected success of Eastman & Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984 sparked a flood of shoddy imitators. Gullible retailers wildly overbought these titles, and when the bubble burst in 1987, books and shops alike started falling like ninepins. Needless to say, the promised investment value of all the cash-in books never materialised.

The SMH mentions three examples of such books: Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters, Naïve Interdimensional Commando Killer Koalas and Pre-teen Dirty Gene King Fu Kangaroos. "Someone in the comic industry then decided it was all getting out of hand and invented Boris The Bear who, in his first issue, slaughtered the other cute animal characters," it continues. "Well, except for Cerebus the Aardvark, who had predated the Turtles, and Samurai Penguin, who convinced the bear, actually a robot, that the honourable thing had to be done. The bear then shot himself."

"Someone" in this instance was actually Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, who worked with scripter Randy Stradley and artist James Dean Smith on Boris's 1986 debut issue. It was a far better book than 99% of the other B&W titles of that era, thanks mainly to the fact that Smith – unlike most of the boom’s artists – could actually draw. Some of the book’s jokes were pretty good too.


The story’s Cerebus character is called Sloberus, and he meets Boris in this sequence from the first issue:


Sloberus returns in Boris #8, this time with a much longer snout. In the best comic book tradition he explains that, despite what we saw with our own eyes just a few issues before, he didn't really die at all: 

I don't know where the SMH got the idea that the bear ended up shooting himself, because it certainly doesn’t happen in any of the eight Boris comics I've got. My guess is that the paper's got the canonical adventures of his own book confused with a 1987 back-up story in Slave Labor's Samurai Penguin, where a parody-of-a-parody character called Borax The Bear appears.

"All the characters he once trashed gang up on him," Mark Pellegrini's TMNT Entity site explains, "including Samurai Penguin, Cerebus the Aardvark, the Miami Mice, Miyamoto Usagi and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Here's the only panel from that story I've been able to find online, with art by Mark Buck:
For more of Paul Slade's writing – including a history of Reg Smythe's Andy Capp strip and a look back at some notable comic book lawsuits – visit PlanetSlade.com.

9 comments:

Steve said...


"Paul Slade, Digital Archaeologist"

Indiana Jones ain't got nothin' on this guy!

Steve

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

I still have an appreciation for these Mad Magazine-level parody names. "Slobberus" ... "Galactamungus" ... Heh heh heh!

-- Damian

Travis Pelkie said...

Paul, have you (or anyone else, actually) come across any references to something involving computers called Cerebus? I can't remember if it's a company doing computer stuff, or if it was some servers named that, or what, but I remember hearing about it, and I'm not sure if the name came from the comic or not. If you find anything, let us know!

And I have an issue of Samurai Penguin. If I ever dig it out, and it's the Boris the Bear parody (which I also have issues of!), I'll have to scan some of it!

Paul Slade said...

I don't recall coming across any computer companies, Travis, but there is a Cerberus Capital Management which sometimes gets its name mis-spelt in a earth pig kind of a way. I have an entertaining example of this lined up for later in the series.

Brian said...

Kerberos protocol?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerberos_(protocol)

Anonymous said...

So, the guardian of Hades manages capital investments?

Sounds like my broker.

--Jeff

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Jeff S.: I think they're called "broker" because that's what they make you.

-- Damian

Paul Slade said...

"A stockbroker is someone who invests your money till it's all gone." - old Wall Street proverb.

Travis Pelkie said...

That might be what I'm thinking of, Brian, but I would swear that the thing I'm thinking of actually is/was spelled the same as our aardvark pal. But I could be wrong!