Monday, February 11, 2008
Dave Sim and "Latter Days"
Spoilers for Cerebus up to the middle of the "Latter Days" phonebook.
Okay, so I'm finally working on finishing this massive story since I dropped off during the "Form and Void" phonebook. I finished that the other night and started working on "Latter Days". If you can't remember what that means, let me bring you up to speed.
Cerebus has driven Jaka off and he started looking for a pub to kill himself in. He works as a sheep-herder for a couple years, getting fat, while peeping on the landlady. Eventually he's driven out after the landlady's husband realizes Cerebus is peeping. Then Cerebus finds himself playing Five Bar Gate, Sim's wholly confusing hockey parallel. To show the passage of time, decades, Sim has Cerebus go up against Paul "Coffee" Annan, the unbeatable champ (notice the joke name?). Every year Cerebus loses by shut-out and every year Cerebus goes back.
Then Cerebus takes his not-so-small fortune and buys himself a "titty bar" but he runs out of money. He's calling himself "Fred" at this point for a number of reasons. One, the Cirinists will probably kill him, and two, Cerebus is his dead father's name.
Cerebus is in the bar drinking when one of the Three Wise Fellows comes along, aka Curly from the Three Stooges. Apparently this is all foretold in the Book of Rick, a physical book of prophecy and eschatology. So the Three Wise Fellows (a reference to three Wise Men and three Stooges) kidnap Cerebus and hope to extract the word of truth from him. But everything Cerebus says is discounted, as being demon-talk.
Cerebus finally figures out what to say in order for Mosher, Losher and Kosher (the Three Wise Fellows' name) to release him. It's essentially a battle strategy to have hunting lodges execute the Cirinists. So Dave Sim, who has already gone public with his beliefs on the inequality of the sexes, has Cerebus manipulate the men into murdered thousands of Cirinist women. Thousands.
Cerebus meets Todd "Far Lane" McSpawn who is his arch-rival who is controlling the easily manipulated crowd. In order to win them over completely, Cerebus invents a demon, and gets himself in costume. The result? Cerebus dressed like Todd McFarlane's Spawn and calling himself Spore.
Here's where I have my problems. Well, I've had lots of problems with Cerebus, but here's where I actually was shocked and appalled.
Spore tells the men to gather all the non-Cirinist women (aka the normal women) and then vote on each and every one to see if they are Angels (or normal women), or scorpion/viper/snake. If the woman is voted as being something other than Angel, she is executed. I am not joking. Cerebus tells the men, mostly idiots, to execute the women if they don't like them. So the first woman to go is a bitch obviously. Another one to go is an emasculating harpy. But the pretty sexy ones get to stay!
I flipped to the back of the phonebook in which Sim relays his copious notes on the making-of. He says that he's not seriously advocating this nonsense, and that it's satire, like Jonathan Swift and "A Modest Proposal". It's all for jokes and to show how amoral Cerebus really is.
Ooookay. But in the notes, Sim admits that the shrieking harpy has no place and should be out the door. Seriously?
It's one thing to say that women are not equal to men and they shouldn't be. It's another thing to say that bitches and harpies have no place in society. I will allow Sim his opinion. I respect Sim's talents as writer, artists, letterer, self-publisher, etc, but this is ridiculous. I knew going into Cerebus that Sim was off the wall, but I didn't realize he was that off the wall.
Even allowing for the execution of the women to be satire, it's still disconcerting considering more than once that Sim has said that Cerebus "stands" for Sim himself. In fact, he says so in the same set of notes as the ones aforementioned.
I loved Cerebus up to the "Melmoth" phonebook. It was complex, it was engaging, it was beautifully drawn. But after "Melmoth" the story stopped interesting me. I wasn't really into Cerebus' war against Cirinists. However, "Going Home" and "Form and Void" were very good for the Jaka-Cerebus relationship, how both of them aren't really meant for each other, how both of them are immature disrespectful children. That was the interesting part, not the "let's just kill the women" idea that Sim is not actually putting forth but kind of is.
I will finish Cerebus. I will do it. I like Sim's artistry enough to continue and conclude.