To say this page contains spoilers would be a massive understatement. If you have not read the Cerebus story, but intend to, DO NOT read this page. It contains a treasure trove of information obtained from Dave Sim from June 2004 to June 2006 through online question and answer sessions on the Cerebus Yahoo! group.

It is arranged by volume, with some extra trivia at the end. Further formatting to follow shortly.

Cerebus (#1-25)
High Society (#26-50)
Church and State I (#52-80)
Church and State II (#80-113)
Jaka's Story (#114-136)
Melmoth (#139-150)
Flight (Mothers and Daughters vol. 1)
Women (Mothers and Daughters vol. 2) (#163-174)
Reads (Mothers and Daughters vol. 3) (#175-186)
Minds (Mothers and Daughters vol. 4) (#187-200)
Guys (#201-219)
Rick's Story (#220-231)
Going Home (Going Home vol. 1) (#232-250)
Form and Void (Going Home vol. 2) (#251-265)
Latter Days (Latter Days vol. 1) (#266-288)
The Last Day (Latter Days vol. 2) (#289-300)


Volume 1: CEREBUS

Q1a: Did you deliberately choose the name "succubus" - a female demonic figure from legend - for your soul-sucking creature from #2 or was that a "coincidence" (acknowledging that you would of course see that later as a message regarding God and YHWH)?

DAVE: I'm not sure that I even knew what a succubus was at the time. My recollection of writing that segment was having the mental image of Cerebus' head surrounded by a lattice-work of energy-draining tentacles and then having to come up with the name of whatever it was that was doing that. It's actually interesting to me that I would have chosen "succubus" as a term, rather than coining a fantasy term like G'rikkha or something. "Oh No! A G'rikkha!"

Q1b: Also, the female succubus Khem is hiding out in "The Eye of Terim." Terim, of course, is later depicted as the female deity. Was the later use of the name Terim deliberately linked to the earlier use?

DAVE: I can't say with 100% certainty that that was the case. As I recall, the two different spellings of Terim and Tarim were accidental at first, in the same was that I had trouble bearing in mind that Cerebus was supposed to refer to himself in the third person and would later cover for it by saying that he referred to himself as "I" when he had been around the civilized areas too long. I was covering for not remembering how to spell Tarim by making it the masculine version of the deity's name.

Q1c: Similarly, is the demon Female (Void) sucking the souls out of the Male warriors, who at the end when released are depicted as Lights flying off into the night an intentional direct parallel to the similar description of the Void and Light that you presented in i186?

DAVE: I went back and reread the section and it seems clear to me in retrospect that this was me unconsciously documenting what would have been, at the time, my overwhelming and all-encompassing connection to the female half of reality which resulted from my first non-familial exposure to it as a result of being in my first boyfriend/girlfriend relationship for about a year by this time.

Certainly all of the central YHWHist female realities are there: the living thing in the middle of the earth that's a bright light, the rarest jewel, blah, blah, blah. And it certainly anticipates the ultimate conclusions I came to about the devouring, ensnaring nature of the light as presented in i's289/290 (is that the plural form?) about which, in my view, men would do well to remain always and centrally vigilant if they intend to shilly-shally on the romantic borderlands or (God forbid) plunge joyously headlong,as I did,into the Alice in Wonderland environs of the members opposite.

[Relative to 186, I think it's safe to say that my best amended perception of Reality is that males and females are both light and void. That is, that masculinity is represented in the light by the Spirit of God which "went in unto the light" and the "true light which lighteth every man that commeth into the world" (John's Gospel). Femininity is represented in the light by the empty facade of radiance (un-true light, if you will). Masculinity is represented in the void by the fact that it is the medium in which God exists.

I mean, that's my best guess,that the void is universally conscious and aware for the most part across untold trillions of light years interrupted here and there by pinpricks of empty facade radiance and that the void also constitutes the space between atoms and molecules. It's all one awareness which allows for the literal definition of God as an omnipresent Being. He is literally everywhere around you and inside of you. Boo!

Femininity is represented in the void as a vaginal nature, desirous of things to ensnare and transform. That is, apart from the facade of radiance, with the seminal light there was, literally (to quote Dorothy Parker) "no 'there' there." One of the descriptions of goddess nature is "everything she touches she changes." Well, true enough. All the Spirit of God wanted was to have a co-equal existence with the light and we see what that's led to. YHWH the transformative tar baby. Enter at your own risk.]

It seems to me that I was telling myself that very basic story as well, even way back at issue 2. Notice that all Cerebus has to do is pick up the Eye of Tarim and walk in a straight line to the exit. The thing is there are no straight lines in the female half of reality. They are,physically, mentally and spiritually,all curves which lead nowhere. Fun house mirrors and roller coasters. I was surprised that no one picked up on the analogous usage of "The path suddenly drops and the aardvark stumbles�" segment and the same trick that Viktor Davis played on the reader in i183, where the path suddenly drops away and then comes back when he announces that Cerebus is going to end at issue 200 instead of 300.

In both case, the one unconscious and the other conscious,I was attempting to demonstrate (first to myself and then to the reader) what reality is like once you enter the opposing camp where everything is made up of curves that lead nowhere. On the way in, it all looks perfectly straightforward. That's the trick.

Q2: In either an early letter column or a "Swords" intro you brought up the fact that Elrod always shows up again with no explanation how he extricated himself from the impossible predicament we last saw him in was a "hint" about something important about his nature. Did you know back then they he was a manifestation of the chaos gem or were you referring to something else? (And if so, what?)

DAVE: Yes, definitely. That was what I was referring to and that was what I was trying to prepare everyone for. By i4 I was beginning to understand that if I didn't get a firm grip on all of the continuity at the beginning it was going to cause a lot of problems later on (however "later on" later on would prove to be). It was when I had Elrod give the name of his blade as a "Seersucker! That's a joke, son,but no one's going to get it for at least five thousand years!" That was just too big a break from the internal reality that I was building so I decided then and there that he had to be a rather-more-than-usually-substantial illusion.

Q3: Jaka's self-exile from Palnu: From her letter at the end of i16, it would seem that if she doesn't actually visit on occasion, she carries on a friendly correspondence with Julius. Later, in i24, Katrina relates the story from A Night at the Masque with Lord Julius as the hero, as told by her sister/Julius' niece, obviously Jaka, who must have again been talking to Julius, at least through the posts. She doesn't sound like the missing person who was the object of a 12 year search. Is this just an unintended inconsistency in the book? Was the 12-year search a ruse put on by Julius to cover up that he was, whether rapist or mere humiliator, the cause of her flight? (And if he was, why is she so chummy?)

DAVE: I've just noticed that you guys often manage to ask three questions while only using one number. Well, I apologize that this one gets pretty complicated in a hurry, but here goes:

The situation between Jaka and Lord Julius was the same as the relationship between Lord Julius and anyone. Julius stayed ahead of the game by staying ahead of everyone playing it and being the only one who knew how the whole thing fit together (that is, that it doesn't fit together, but as long as you can keep your forward momentum and treat everyone in your life as a straight man, it all works out in the end. This was my insight at the time that, at essence, conducting an effective and successful leftist government is really no different from how Groucho handles the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera).

The difficulty that this posed for Lord Julius' family and romantic relationships is obvious,it's essentially playing the female trick back onto them. Lord Julius' government, life and relationships consists entirely of curves that go nowhere. He's a fun house mirror and a roller coaster. I would assume that he had a certain affection for Jaka that was probably half genuine familial love and part Groucho "Memoirs of a Mangy Lover". Let me put it this way, if Harpo had had a gorgeous willowy blonde daughter, could you actually picture Groucho keeping his eyebrows in one place when she hit the age of majority? To kick it up a notch, in the context of political power that we're discussing it is, after all, very difficult to differentiate "uncle" and "mangy lover" if you have someone's fate in your hands as would be the case with Lord Julius and his entire family. As can be seen with the Caesars, once you start trafficking at or near the levels of absolute dominion, incest is never very far down on the list of executive privileges you're going to be tempted to allow yourself if only because you're allowed everything else. What is illicit to other people is commonplace for you and consequently not exciting, so you gradually find yourself contemplating larger and larger societal taboos. The situations are not entirely comparable, Lord Julius relative to Palnu was more comparable to Caesar Augustus than, say, Nero or Caligula relative to Rome.

As with the Caesars, proximity is all and the greatest female proximity to the apex consists in legitimized sexuality (marriage), family ties or illegitimate sexuality (the mistress). When absolute power devolves upon an individual man, the latter two categories of women are quite apt to aspire to the primary one, proximity always seeks greater proximity. Given that in any hierarchy a wife outranks a sister, a sister will be tempted to become a wife if it's on offer. This is part of the conundrum that Jaka poses. You can certainly understand a young girl being humiliated as she was on her birthday, being "mistaken" for Astoria, but presumably this didn't come out of thin air.

In one sense a practical joke, but in another sense, Lord Julius was very directly addressing a specific speculation (in a Caesar-like context) which would result from Jaka reaching a marriageable age. All part of the "keep 'em guessing" Lord Julius travelling circus. And what's her reaction? She flees to another city and becomes a tavern dancer. So, to me, at one level she's asserting her basic decency which has been offended at even the surface level of meaning and, at the same time, she's playing right along in the same way that any "woman scorned" usually does when you hit those kinds of hot buttons, she usually goes out and does something slutty (or many slutty things).

On another level she could be indicating, yes, this is what I am and then biding her time until she comes back and takes her place as "Lady Julius". I would assume that she reacted to any overt contact from anyone from Palnu by moving along to another tavern and would only respond to actual letters from Lord Julius, himself, (in her case, sent to various "general delivery" outlets). To which she would respond in what she would see as a comparable fashion to his own as possible. She is a pretty decent and guileless individual on a strictly human level, so she would only be able to address the practical joke at a certain number of levels. (given that she's a largely humourless and intrinsically easily offended individual,that is, that she is irretrievably female,this mostly consisted in being contrary and indulging in contrary behaviours: to punish Lord Julius for not being who she pictured him to be, she would repay unreliability with unreliability: promising, as an example, that she would come for a visit,repeatedly,and then not showing up when she says she is going to, as in i16. There. That'll show him. Which of course it wouldn't.

To her it's about as withering as her later "Ha-ha on you Gertrude Cirinist Poopiehead." In any tit-for-tat exchange she's largely unarmed. The larger consideration that she misses, it seems to me, is that she was implicitly inside of Lord Julius' context to a far greater extent than he was inside of hers. That is, given his greater importance in the larger Estarcion scheme of things, she was Lord Julius's niece to a far greater extent than he was Jaka's uncle. But, these are just the sort of things which feminism,actually their more refined dichotomies, Cirinism and Kevillism,causes to be seen through a glass darkly.
If you are sufficiently perverse, that is, at essence so intrinsically composed of funhouse mirrors and roller coasters, it is possible,as was the case from 1981 onward, to see the former Lady Diana Spencer as larger than the British crown, of greater significance than God's Anointed on earth that the bearer of that Crown is held to be and, as happened with Diana Spencer, feministic "All you need is love" perversions take on a life of their own and, in my view, compelled what would otherwise have been a very nice, pretty nursery school teacher elevated to Princess of the Realm to feel obligated, as part of the feminist zeitgeist in which she unhappily found herself, to contend against the British Crown in the way that a three-year-old rebels against parental authority (because women are incapable of seeing anything as being larger than themselves if they are raised in the feminist manner). The only things that have any importance in the feminist context are a) to be strong, which is to say wilful ("My way or the highway.") and b) to be independent, which is to say contentious and contrary.

The legions of perverse women which feminism had unleashed upon the world, observing these goings-on, nurtured the conflict: every daughter aligning with Diana against every mother, Queen Elizabeth. As long as it's just your mother-in-law, it had what it proved to have: wonderful soap opera potential of the beautiful stylish young girl against the miserable old bag. But this was one of God's Anointed on earth. That's a very different scrap. "Oh, pooh. No one believes that load of old bullocks anymore." Well, if that's what you choose to think, that's what you choose to think, but don't come crying to me if you find out that a good millennium worth of tradition proves to be a slightly larger counterweight to your "Oh, pooh" than you want it to be.
No, of course Jaka couldn't evade detection any more than Princess Diana could (well, somewhat more given the absence of electronic media). But, you can, and both did, create the illusion of having your own life if you're willing to force yourself to be fundamentally ignorant of reality on an on-going basis. In Princess Diana's case you have to date a Muslim to even create the illusion that you're outside of the orbit of your estranged husband. The situations are analogous. How do you stop being Lord Julius' niece? Answer: you can't. Who can you be or aspire to be in 20th century Britain if you're Prince Charles' ex-wife?
Answer: nobody. All options are well down in the pecking order. All you can do is to create either the illusion or the reality of building your own power base or just accept that you're a marginalised,instead of a central figure,in the cast of the play you were just performing in. Completely unacceptable from a feminist standpoint. So, that's essentially what happened with Jaka. Everyone kept watching her to see what sort of a power base she was going to build. Which was fine from the Cirinist and Kevillist standpoint as long as it was just her and Tom, Dick and Harry on the side of a mountain acting out all the parts she had written for them (well, except Dick,that is, Oscar). Once Cerebus moved in, it was a different situation. The self-exiled Princess of Palnu and the former Pope. It was distinctly analogous to Diana Spencer taking up with the son of an extravagantly wealthy arriviste Muslim (and it was certainly interesting keeping track of the many misadventures of Ms. Spencer even as I seemed to be pretty accurately fictionalizing them) where "what is up with that?" it seems to me, became no longer a merely soap-opera based inquiry, given that several ascending layers of reality were possibly and quite suddenly in jeopardy both from the Cirinist and Kevillist perspective (in our world, I mean) and from the vantage point of those institution(s) they were, as usual, attempting to undermine.
I mean, feminism is the real-life version of TV's Survivor. The idea is to pay lip service to pluralism, freedom and inclusiveness while ruthlessly destroying anyone who might even potentially be competition. I don't believe in the conspiracy theories about Diana's death because there were too many layers of reality "in play" that I can see. A direct line attempt to threaten to "bring down" the Anointed of God (it is noteworthy, to me anyway, that so many of those vulgar baskets and balloons and signs outside Kensington Palace asserted that "Heaven has found her Queen" and so on. Diana of the Hunt and all that Alan Moore-like rubbish that was, I think, the actual underpinning of the Diana Spencer Story as she chose, however inadvertently and naively, and to her own decided detriment in the long term,to tell it). Meanwhile, back at my funnybook and speaking of inadvertently, it's a hallmark of Jaka's actual disingenuous nature that looking slutty was probably entirely inadvertent on her part. It was just "fancy dress" in the English sense. Putting on costumes and dancing. It took Mrs. Thatcher to get her, kicking and screaming all the way, to see what a tavern dancer actually is. On another level she could never actually detach herself from Palnu and Lord Julius. Ostensibly because she loves him, but, at a deeper level, because of the extent to which being the Princess of Palnu was central to what she was.

She certainly didn't forget her diplomatic immunity or fail to make use of her status in displacing bartenders from their premises all across Estarcion. She was always the Princess of Palnu who thoroughly enjoyed playing "Just call me Jaka."
I should probably have made clearer in my earlier answer that Jaka was indeed molested as an infant but that the recollection was very deeply buried,only coming out in fever dreams, as an example. That is, my having conveyed that information, there is a part of Jaka you know more about than she does. It would actually be unlikely that Lord Julius would be the culprit. In the context of absolute political power there just wouldn't be any occasions when the Grandlord of Palnu would be left alone with his infant niece. What would even be the pretext? Of course at the Caesarian level you don't need a pretext, but it would be extremely unlikely for an Augustus,although I grant you it would be less unlikely for a Nero or a Caligula.

Q4: In the last of the Cerebus the Barbarian stories before "High Society" we have the Three (girls) killing the One (barbarian) at the door. Were (Ja)nette, (Ka)trina, and (T)heresa meant to represent Jaka's relationship with Cerebus, i.e., slaying the barbarian and "domesticating" Cerebus? Also, were they meant to be "lesser" versions of Sophia, Jaka, and Astoria, the way that the early Pos that Cerebus encountered were "lesser" Pos? Is their names spelling out "Jaka T." just a coincidence?

DAVE: I think I wrote about this in the original Swords introduction. Really, this was just my attempt to do a Clint Eastwood film because Gene Day was such a Clint Eastwood nut. I really did think that The Beguiled was the best Clint Eastwood film I had seen, (That was one of the things that I saw that separated me from Gene, a big reason that we chose different comic book careers. With slight alterations you can Do High Plains Drifter in the comic-book field month after month and make a good living. There wasn't any precedent in the comic-book field for doing something like The Beguiled even as a change of pace, let alone making a living at it.), although I could see a lot to recommend The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars. Great tone, particularly the music and Eli Wallach.

Those sort of got ruined for me when, years after the fact, I saw the fumetti parody in Playboy, "A Fistful of Ugly" or "A Fistful of Garlic" or whatever it was called, with the late Tony Randall in the Clint Eastwood role. There just wasn't enough content to the spaghetti western as form to hold up under the onslaught and besides that the chicks in the fumetti were naked. Game, set and match, Mr. MacEnroe. I thought at the time that young girls, not just their bodies, but the girls themselves, were incredibly interesting, so the idea of Cerebus trapped in a girls' school seemed really interesting as a pure mood piece and writing exercise. I was also worried that I was losing the ability to do a self-contained issue after the three-issue Palnu Trilogy, the two-issue President Weisshaupt/Captain Cockroach storyline. So, I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do a self-contained issue, as I said, a mood piece: all tone, like a spaghetti western but with humour. Of course, the problem was that the next issue he was still in the school, so the issue only appeared to be self-contained, and that became the latest instalment in a large interior discussion I was having about what I was actually doing here.

In one sense, it was all one story, a series of adventures. I was paying very close attention to exactly that sort of continuity so, no matter how you sliced it "self-contained" really had quotation marks around it by this point. I was also aware while I was doing the story that it was dishonest, that "woman as super-hero" quality which had already worn out its welcome as far as I was concerned (if I could only have seen the Diamond Previews catalogues that would be coming out twenty years from then!), which then led to my shifting gears to the opposite end of the thematic spectrum with Charles X. Claremont.

Chris Claremont was sort of notorious at the time for his "Is there any reason this character can't be a woman?" gender-interchangeability shtick. John Byrne rather dryly observed at one point, "Well, apart from the fact that it's been a male character for the last thirty five-years, no, Chris, I can't see any reason why this character couldn't be a woman." That's proven to be a whole less funny in recent years than it was at the time, now that they've done it with the Creeper. The Creeper, for crying out loud.
So I was undermining the basic theme that I started with (that a school full of girls is implicitly interesting quite apart from the sexual frisson implied. It isn't.) and also moving back into complete comic-book fantasy by way of emphasis as a way of retaining the quality of self-contained issues. Did that make "Swamp Sounds" and "This Woman, This Thing" self-contained stories? Or was it a hair-splitting difference between a woven rope and link sausages?

I decided to see it both ways, to try to make each issue self-contained and also part of a larger whole. And, of course, that implied the question of how long I could, or would choose to, sustain that narrative approach, which is why High Society starts pretty timidly with the Regency Hotel in the first issue, then Dirty Fleagle and Dirty Drew, then Mind Game II, then the Regency Elf: I was attempting the same trick, oscillating as wildly as possible when it came to the tone of each issue. But, then it became pretty pointless. Cerebus is stuck in a snobby hotel. You can dance as fast as you can and dress the set differently and light as many sparklers as you want, it's going to be pretty obvious what the book is. Cerebus is stuck in a snobby hotel.
Sorry, returning to your question: The names, actually, were adapted from Deni's two middle names, Janet Catherine and her sister Karen's middle name, Theresa. I was definitely far more interested in Karen at that point than in Deni, both in a less extreme form of the character Michael Caine played in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and in the literary context of the borderland between girl and woman. Karen would've been twenty at the time and I had known her since she was sixteen. Girls all think that they're women much sooner than they are and that was the first time I had seen it up close.

The best example I ever read of that borderland quality was reading about Paula Abdul when she was seventeen or something, and messing around with one of the married Jackson boys and I guess the wife chased her down in her car. And Paula Abdul gets out of the car and just bursts into tears. And the wife is brought up short by it, suddenly realizing this is a little girl I'm dealing with here. This isn't a woman. Too true. I could never figure out why any guy would be interested in a twenty-year-old if he could get a sixteen-year-old. I saw the movie Lola with Charles Bronson and Susan George, about a fifty-year-old man with a fiance in high school, when just looking at Susan George was enough to make my eyeballs bleed. And I thought, well, YEAH! OF COURSE! IT'S SUSAN GEORGE FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD!

However, It's one thing to see it in a movie, quite another thing to see your Achtung-Verbotten-Zis-means-you- schweinhund sister-in-law going through it. Oh, isn't that interesting. And (trust me on this one) it's a whole other thing to be going through it with a sixteen-year old of your own. Maximum distortion funhouse mirror, warp speed roller coaster.

Q5: We just noticed that the 11th printing of Cerebus includes, for the first time, the Silverspoon story (which, technically, would make the "11th printing" the "1st printing of the 2nd Edition" of that book). Why did you choose to include this story now? Have you changed your view of what constitutes the technical "complete Cerebus Novel?" Do you view that as being (a) the 300 issues; (b) the 16 phonebook volumes; (c) either of those PLUS some/all of the miscellaneous material (Swords stories/issues 51, 112/113, Likealooks, ElfGuest/Epic stories/Cerebus 3D/Cerebus Jam/the letters pages & notes from the President) or Cerebus cameos in other creators' books); and/or (d) some other combination of these or other materials?

DAVE: Um, actually, that came about because of a completely unrelated re-reading of Cerebus: this one having been initiated by Joe Matt who suggested that he and Chester Brown should re-read all of Cerebus because I was coming down to visit reasonably often and, basically, Joe's just like that. Pull out a chessboard at lunch. "Let's play chess." Uh, I'd really rather just talk, Joe. "No, let's play chess. C'mon. I'll let you be white." Most of the time you just give in because it's easier than discussing it for an hour or something. So, they both re-read Cerebus. And one of the things Chet wanted to know about was "Why aren't the Silverspoon strips reprinted in the Cerebus volume?" And I said, they are. And he said, mm, not in my copy. Really? And I went home and checked and sure enough, he was right. They weren't in there. One of those "I must've dreamed that last part" moments (apologies to Fat Freddy's Cat).

So, I made a note to put them into the next reprinting, having wrestled with whether or not to promote it as such, since that would seem like I was conniving to find a way to get everyone to buy another copy even though I was aware that a certain number of people would buy another copy. The Silverspoon strips I tend to see as being in a different category because without them Lord Julius just suddenly appears in the story with no explanation.

"Magiking" I figure can be left out because there isn't that big a leap from i12 to i13 without it. Cerebus is on a river and wakes up washed up on a bank, with only one caption indicating you might've missed something. Likewise "What Happened Between Issues 20 and 21". It's more of curiosity item if you're one of those really intense Cerebus fans. i51 and i's112/113 I still don't see sitting comfortably on the end of High Society, or the beginning and end of Church & State OR the beginning of Jaka's Story. "ElfGuest" I tend to leave out because Wendy and Richard just aren't "that way". Like just about everything else about me, they consider it an insult. I'm sure they considered it an insult when I congratulated them on their DC deal in my comp space in Diamond Previews and I'm sure they would have considered it an insult if I neglected to mention them. They seem to me to epitomize the comic-book field in that way.

All of the material that you mentioned, apart from "ElfGuest" for the reasons outlined, I picture doing in a single supplementary volume at some point. That's somewhere up ahead, as in late 2005 or early 2006. Since it will be the last "new" Cerebus volume, we obviously would like it to make its own splash if possible and not to bunch it up with The Last Day. And if the books keep selling at their usual predictable rate we're going to have to be doing a number of reprintings back-to-back through 2004 and 2005, so we'll try and schedule the book for when we catch up. Apart from that, there are a few semi-published stories, including "Passage" which only the near-fossilized Cerebus readers (I won't embarrass Steve Bolhafner by identifying anyone by name) would remember from the Cerebus Fan Club Newsletter days. Actually that was probably before Steve's time, so that makes me the only pre-crustaceous life-form that knows it was an unpublished Cerebus short story done between issues 3 and 4 and originally intended for Dave Cothrane's Faerie Star groundlevel comic (as we pre-crustaceans used to call them back in the late 70s). It only exists in the form of really, really grey photocopies (I tried "blacking in" the grey areas and gave up partway through the first page). Anyway, it's the official first appearance of Cerebus' black vest as well as not being very good. And then there's "Anatole's Solecism" (seriously, "Anatole's Solecism") which I did for Magic Eggrollian Funnies (seriously, Magic Eggrollian Funnies) which survives only in script and rough outline form. These Craig Miller will be publishing in Following Cerebus as curiosity items but they'll almost definitely not be in the Miscellaneous Cerebus volume.

I'd have to say that my personal view is that the 16-volume story stands alone now that the Silverspoon strips have been incorporated. The other pieces are either historical curiosity items or "untold stories" from between the principle graphic novels. It will be a while before all of these pieces are in print. As an example, we had tentatively planned to do a colour volume with Bob Chapman of Graphitti Designs years ago that would contain the colour stories from Epic magazine, the Animated Cerebus portfolio, various unpublished colour pieces as well as a variety of covers without the logos and typesetting and issue numbers on them. There are a couple of problems. Bob has all of the negatives for the Epic stories except, I believe, for "A Friendly Reminder". The negatives for the Animated Cerebus Portfolio were accidentally totalled at Preney which would have meant that we would have had to shoot from a printed copy. Until recently, that is, when I unearthed the original overlays and backgrounds, so it would be possible to reconstruct it probably a lot more cheaply in today's age of computer scans (the original negs were all hand-cut and stripped in by hand, unbelievably expensive and difficult). Of course the backgrounds are kind of rough, which then raises the possibility of getting Gerhard to do new backgrounds. But, then, if Ger's going to do new backgrounds, why don't I redraw my part of the portfolio as well? And then you have people who would want the new version but also the original version, so you have to ask yourself, well, what is it that we're doing here? Reproducing an artefact or using it as a blueprint for a new piece?

A lot of the motivation in doing the Animated Cerebus was to get the animation bug out of my system. Which worked. No more bug. Given that it's out of my system, why stick to an animation format? Why not redraw them as comic strips with all the extra detail and contour you can get in there? And that's fine until you run up against the fact that it's like pulling teeth to get Gerhard and I to do one Following Cerebus cover every three months. And then there's all the covers that we have in their original form. Well, as soon as you print an assortment people are going to want all of them. You can do all of them, but what's that going to cost? And (the more important question from my standpoint) how much are you competing against yourself? If it's a hundred-dollar colour volume, a store that orders one is probably going to cut their trade paperback order by five or ten books and, to be honest, I'd much rather have the chance that ten new people were giving the story a try than that one long-time reader was oohing and aahing over the covers, the Epic stories and The Animated Cerebus. Not the most diplomatic thing to say on a website made up of long-time readers, but I'm afraid it's the way I look at it. These are the sort of circles that I go round and round on a good bit of the time.

There are so many angles and permutations that its really difficult to arrive at a conclusion. The fact that the first priority is keeping the trade paperbacks in print 1-16, I think that shows what I consider, personally, to be The Definitive Cerebus. Collected Letters 2004 is running at about 500 pages at this point, in the same format as High Society. I think Cerebus readers will "get it". At least I hope they will. It seems to fit the bill in the same way that Aardvark Comment used to close out the total monthly Cerebus package. The sixteen volumes needed something like Aardvark Comment to finish off. My own first experience with a collected letters volume was Oscar Wilde's. It seemed very strange, at first, because you're only getting the one side of the story, but, to me, it's certainly the best way of familiarizing yourself with a writer. When I did my Hemingway research, the first thing I did was to read Selected Letters, which wasn't nearly as good because of the motive in selecting the letters (Mary Hemingway wanted to discredit all versions of Papa except her own), but it was still a very good introduction to Hemingway. I actually happened on the idea of doing it myself accidentally. It seemed to me that the easiest way to answer the letters was to put them all in one "save as" computer file and just print them out one at a time as they were completed. At that point, I thought, you know if I just delete each person's address as I go and center their name over their letter in 20 pt. Type, badda-bing-badda-boom instant Collected Letters format. So, I thought, It will make for a nice little one-off volume, a quick eighty- or a hundred-page snapshot of what was going on a month after I finished, as I answered the three-year backlog of mail, leading up to Cerebus 300 coming out and then on through what response there was to issue 300.

I've just finished file No.17 of 50 pages each, so the modest little volume idea has gone by the wayside. It might turn out to be a strange enough book that it could end up becoming the Cerebus introductory volume. Here, read this. If this interests you, Cerebus will probably interest you. And for long-time readers, here's everything that was going on in my life from January 23, 2004 on. As I'm doing here, I tried (and am trying) to answer everything as exhaustively and as honestly as I could (and can), in no small part because somewhere up ahead (with sufficient cross-referencing) I may end up having answered virtually every question anyone can throw at me. This was the idea behind The Guide to Self-Publishing and it seems to me that that's worked for about seven years now: if you make sure that you answer everything in print, rather than in conversation, you can just hand someone the whole package.

A number of these letters are ten and fifteen pages long, so when I say that I'm trying to answer the questions exhaustively I mean to the metaphorical point of utter collapse in a lot of cases. As it stands I'm still answering mail close to ten or twelve hours a day so, obviously, even if there wasn't the "permissions" problem, I would never have time to input all of the mail that I'm answering, but I will certainly be encouraging those Cerebus readers who are interested to post their side of the correspondence to the Newsgroup if they're so inclined cross-referenced to the relevant page numbers.
I detect an ill-concealed lack of interest whenever I mention Collected Letters 2004. I mean, I do understand that people are hoping that I'm going to do more comics, but I have to say that the odds are not very good for a variety of reasons, foremost among them the fact that feminism is still a universal condition in the comic-book field. It would be like asking me to do an astronomy textbook for a world that still universally believes in a "flat earth". Mentally, this is always what I run up against when I consider doing a new comic-book story. I don't believe the earth is flat and, while acknowledging that belief in a flat earth is a fully protected free will choice and honestly meaning no offence, I really don't have anything to communicate to people who do believe in a flat earth beyond what I've already said. When I look at the Diamond Previews catalogue, all I see is super-heroes, soft-core pornography, paganism and Marxist-feminist propaganda, all perfectly valid free will and First Amendment protected choices but of zero interest to me.

If that changes, even incrementally, I think I'll know. But the pendulum has been swinging at top speed away from me for at least the last fifteen years and it shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. I'm very appreciative, more than I could ever express, that the store owners whose customers genuinely prefer super-heroes, soft-core pornography, paganism and Marxist-feminist propaganda are also willing to carry some or all of the Cerebus trades. I consider that a very open-minded thing to do for someone whose only claim to fame is that he's lost the Best Letterer award every time he's been up for it.
I still have high hopes that Cerebus might be a top-selling line of trade paperbacks someday. As it stands right now it seems more polite to just to stay out of the way and let the Marxist-feminists bring the comic-book field to dizzying new heights now that Dave Sim and Cerebus aren't in the way, irritating everyone and being evil. I mean, for me, this is a very comfortable situation. I don't owe anyone anything that I'm aware of, so I'm able to correspond with people who are genuinely interested in ideas. I don't have to worry about any of them. They read the book. They know who I am and they know what I think and they're actually interested in an exchange of viewpoints.

Likewise with Following Cerebus. Craig and John are big boys. They read the book and they're actually willing to attach their names to a magazine devoted to it. Not something I would have recommended personally, but, as I say, they're big boys and able to make their own decisions. And then there's the Newsgroup, the only place in the world right now which is willing to discuss my work or myself as having any sort of merit. And even that is mostly a dozen or two dozen people with 500 people listening. Can you imagine how many of those 500 people would be flat-out humiliated if anyone even suspected how often they sneak over here when no one's watching them because they feel compelled to check and see what everyone's saying on that weird website where freedom of expression actually means something besides using the word cunt nine times in the same sentence or gratuitously insulting people because you're hiding behind a pseudonym?

And personally, I think that's great.

Genuine freedom is an irresistible concept so, to me, anyone in the comic-book field who sneaks over to see what the Cerebus Yahoos are talking about, well, to me that means that there's always hope. Even so far off in the future that you can't even pretend to see it from here, hope is still hope.

As I recently wrote to Stephen Holland of Page 45, the Yahoo newsgroup is something I never would've come up with on my own or have seen a need for. Fortunately, his business partner Mark Simpson did see a need and went ahead and filled it. And here we are on the narrow swaying rope bridge between issue 300 and Following Cerebus No.1. And, having set the whole thing in motion, Stephenmand Mark don't even participate anymore. You can't beat that with a stick.


Q1. What caused the split of the Church of Tarim into Western and Eastern divisions?

DAVE: I’m afraid I never got very far with that. As I recall, it centered on whether or not Tarim had incarnated on earth in the form of the coin-maker—the coin that drew other coins to it and began to form a sphere when Cerebus picked it up. One of the churches believed that Tarim was a deity and the other church believed Tarim was a deity and an earthly incarnation. The Illusionist innovation was to decide that there was Tarim as deity and when Tarim incarnated as a human being he called himself Suenteus Po and wanted everyone who followed him to call themselves Seuenteus Po. That’s my rough recollection of the high-altitude mapping. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really thought that I could fit the history of several worlds into 6,000 pages and, over the course of High Society and Church & State found out exactly how little you could get into 500 and 1200 pages respectively. My initial ambition was to tell the story of Iest pretty thoroughly over the course of High Society and then do a companion volume that would tell the history of Serrea and the Sepran Empire (this might be a good place to point out that Serrea was a typo/misreading on my part of Michael Loubert’s microscopic pencil lettering. The first “r” was supposed to be a “p” and was intended to be the more natural-sounding “Seprea” as the capital of the Sepran Empire) for which Astoria’s assassination of the Lion of Serrea would serve as a spiritual/thematic link. As you can see the assassination itself became about the deepest I was able to delve into the Sepran Empire. The entire Cerebus storyline became Iest-centered because of the space constraints. Michael Loubert was (and I assume still is) a great enthusiast of history and had excited my interest with his knowledge of the various schisms which had taken place in Christianity in general and the Catholic church in particular and the varying reasons behind them. So way, way back I had envisioned Cerebus as a kind of religio-political Tale of Two Cities. There’s a residue of this to the story, but just a residue.

Q2a. Please clarify the Exodus Inward.

DAVE: Oh, heavens. I haven’t thought about the Exodus Inward in twenty years. Well, first of all it’s an oxymoron and at the same time it might not be an oxymoron. You have to go out to come in. It’s also a good ass-covering term for any kind of escapism. At the time, like a lot of guys in their twenties and thirties I really thought that drug abuse was a means of accessing other layers of consciousness and all that rot. Exodus Inward is a good way of describing it if you don’t like to think of yourself as smoking your brains out for no good purpose. Under the influence of the writings of people like Robert Anton Wilson and Aleister Crowley and Tim Leary and that whole crew it becomes very easy to perceive of yourself as being part of an historical trend and tradition and to envision yourself as having a core societal presence rather than having intentionally shuffled yourself off to the margins. Mental masturbation for those people for whom physical masturbation just isn’t enough. Those human beings whose lifestyle most closely resembles laboratory rats with electrodes hooked up to their brain’s pleasure centers.

Q2b: What caused it?

DAVE: See, I had extrapolated from that construct—that drug abuse was a means of accessing larger inner awarenesses and higher states of consciousness—that history was the result of a series of interventions by individuals along the lines of the Merry Pranksters who would—at opportune moments—introduce concepts like the Exodus Inward, in this case by burrowing within the Church. A good analogy would be the Galileo fiasco. Had the Church had a mechanism in place (went my theory) to essentially retreat into itself in a universal state of mortal embarrassment, all aspects of its behaviour in the Galileo case—most particularly the extent to which they attempted to suppress the self-evident truth and the length of time it took them to admit they were wrong—would have certainly fit the bill. Of course, what I misunderstood is that people like the Merry Pranksters get pushed to and also choose to gravitate to the margins. A Robert Anton Wilson or an Aleister Crowley or a Tim Leary is never going to “burrow within” anything except easily duped young women. There was a kind of grandiose conceit to it, that as a drug abuser I was capable of viewing my own interior in an unflinching fashion which would cause societal structures founded upon lies to collapse under their own weight, if they attempted the same thing. Of course what I missed was that I was looking inward only hypothetically and not literally. Had I been looking inward in a literal way, the most obvious question would be “Why am I smoking, snucking and snorting all of these drugs? This is like washing your windshield with mud so you can see better. What is my concept here?” And, of course, I misunderstood the nature of a church which is incapable, structurally, of retreating inward. The whole point of a church is the improvement of itself, its congregation, its society and its future. Like so many people I misconstrued what I took to be Pope John Paul II’s disinterest in doing a bong hit as being an inability to see how necessary it is to examine himself inwardly. At the same time there is a glimmering of value that was entirely accidental. In order to extricate yourself from an unsolvable problem, it is well worth going inside yourself to try to figure out what the problem actually is. It took me years to figure out that it works best when you eliminate all of the things that you’ve convinced yourself you need that you’ve grafted onto yourself over the years. If you’re still smoking pot, looking inward is only going to tell you that you really want to roll a joint. If you’re still drinking beer, looking inward is only going to tell you that you’d really like a beer. And of course, once you’ve eliminated all or most of your self-evident garbage, there’s no real need to look inside yourself in that navel-gazing fashion familiar to the drug abuser and the alcoholic.. When you eliminate the external garbage your inside is the same as your outside at that point and then you can start working on making real progress.
Obviously John Paul II was way ahead of me on that one.

Q2c: Why can an Albatross be used to reunite the Eastern and Western churches?

DAVE: Because it is the most formidable power object in the known universe: a wildly improbable plot device. Like the Maltese Falcon only more politically formidable. In a Real World context,, I called my notebooks my Albatrosses because I was as saddled with them much like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. So I was declaring in a way—by making the albatross statue that significant in High Society—that I was ambitious enough to want to do something of remarkable significance with all the half-witted notions and half-baked philosophies I was sketching out and jotting down in my own “albatrosses”. “Invoke often,” is the first rule of the sort of mysticism that one finds in used paperbacks in 5 for a dollar bins. Unless one is in a New Age bookstore, in which case one can pay 50 dollars to be told the same thing between hemp-derived hard covers.

Q2d: Why does the Exodus Inward end?

DAVE: Usually because you spent last night picking roaches out of the ashtray and rolling your last two incredibly rank and raunchy-tasting joints with them and then find you’ve spent all of your money on ju jubes and barbecue potato chips and chocolate bars and Kentucky Fried Chicken over the last three days so, unfortunately, you’ve got no way to Exodus Inward until you can rustle up 60 or 100 dollars for another baggie.

Q3. What was the relationship between Astoria, Cirinists, and Kevilists at the time of High Society?

DAVE: One of the problems that I had was that I had come up with this great concept of the Illusionists burrowing within the Church and I had no way of showing it. The Illusionists couldn’t let on without spoiling the effect and the Church would have had no awareness of it. That was when I decided to remove it one step and try to introduce an Illusionist who had been so effective at burrowing within another structure—not the Church—that he had come out on top and was running the joint so he had, of necessity, to be more public with his illusions, so I could actually show an Illusionist in action. I tried to think of real-life examples of that and either I remembered Duck Soup or I saw Duck Soup again and I went, oh, yeah, there it is. So I started picturing what that would be like structurally—what kind of societal structure would form around an Illusionist and the answer, of course, was no structure. All the Illusionist could hope to do was to maintain the illusion with double talk and snappy retorts and to make sure that he was the only one that either a) knew how the whole thing fit together or b) knew that the whole thing didn’t fit together but could create the illusion that he did and it did. That was where I started picturing things like the dinner seating that I used in a passage in Jaka’s Story, where everyone obsesses over how they’re doing in the pecking order and the pecking order is like a roller coaster ride.

Took me almost nine years to find the right place to show that.

And that, naturally, led to questioning what sort of an individual would be suited to that sort of environment, most particularly who would last the longest “staying in the pocket”. Which was when I came up with Baskin, this really competent but forlorn little human punching bag who would just keep “taking it” no matter how little sense anything made. And then I thought, what sort of a wife would this guy attract and how would she keep herself in the game? That was a tough one. And again, I kept an eye out for someone who could fill that role in an interesting way. And that was when I saw Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon. In fact the first drawings I did of Astoria she looks more like Mary Astor crossed with Katherine Hepburn. All with very teary, weepy word balloons, “I’m so…tired…of all the lies.” That kind of thing. I thought it would be an interesting match, this Illusionist who is surrounded by absolute chaos of his own creation married to a woman who is an infinite number of layers, every one of them a lie. You keep peeling the onion and all you get is a new story. As Bogart/Spade says to her at one point, “How much truth was there in that yarn?” And she quite cheerfully answers, “A little. Not much.”

So, to finally get to your question, I thought the most interesting incarnation of that relationship would be its aftermath. Lord Julius and Astoria have split up because Astoria, like many a wife before her, has mistaken his charisma for hers. She’s this ambitious figure who has already split from Cirin and intends to make herself Queen of the Daughters in the same way that Cirin is Queen of the Mothers and, because she has maintained her place with Lord Julius for a period of time, she just senses that everything is coming together, all the ley lines of societal force are lining up behind her, the world’s her oyster, etc. etc. And then they split and she finds out that she’s just another person on the roller coaster and, in conventional female fashion, she just starts looking for a Lord Julius substitute. That was one of the reasons that I picked Mary Astor. Consider the relative status of Groucho Marx and Mary Astor in the Hollywood pantheon. It’s a complete misapprehension on the part of a Mary Astor to say, “Now, where am I going to find another Groucho Marx?” There is a kind of “charisma by association” but it does tend to wear off in the face of her misperception of her own illusory importance and the endless succession of intended replacements.

And then, of course, she hooks up with Cerebus on the same basis. “Wait. This weird little deformed guy. They’re still talking about him in Palnu. I’ll hook up with him and make HIM my new Lord Julius.” And, of course, she has no idea what Cerebus is or the kind of effects that are created by his magnification nature, so, of course, she thinks, “Aha! It finally worked. This is my new Lord Julius.”

She was playing two cards at the same time: one, Queen of the Daughters and the other the Eye in the Pyramid which is a way of using the glass ceiling against itself. It’s an organized assault on all manners of bureaucracy from the clerical end of things.
Unlike the actual Eye IN the Pyramid which is more the Eye ON the Pyramid (such as can be seen on the Great Seal of the United States on the back of the U.S. one dollar bill—which is actually a very basic optical illusion peculiar to pyramids. If you look intently at the capstone of any pyramidal shape, so that you are looking at the smallest percentage of the overall pyramid that is still pyramid-shaped, say the top 1/25th of the overall pyramid and then look at the top 1/25th of that pyramid’s capstone, behind the capstone you will see the image of an eye. If you try to look right at it, it will disappear, but if you focus on that pyramid-on a pyramid-on a pyramid, you’ll see it again. I mean, Whoo. Pee. But so far as I know this is one of those great Freemason mysteries that you have to ascend to a nine hundred and fiftieth level to be shown. As pagan mysteries go, it’s kind of like the ending on 2001. What’s the word I’m looking for.
Oh, wait! I know!

Astoria’s concept for the Eye IN the Pyramid is that the apex of any pyramidal infrastructure can be sabotaged from any level below the apex usually quite effortlessly. In a nutshell, if you rely on a secretary you’re toast. That was why she didn’t object to being merely a secretary when Cerebus became Prime Minister. A secretary can do an enormous amount of damage if her boss thinks himself “above” what she’s doing—as most bosses do— and so doesn’t pay attention to it. It’s a very low grade—albeit largely ineffective—form of bureaucratic guerrilla Marxism, but, by the time you’re thinking the Roach is your ticket back to the top, you’re willing to try anything. I was tapped into this about the time the movie Nine to Five came out which, although I haven’t seen it, seemed to subscribe to the same theory. I assume there’s a lot of it going on as the wheels are coming off of feminism. As I say, by the time you’re thinking the Roach is your ticket back to the top you’re willing to try anything.

There are interesting examples of the Groucho Marx/Mary Astor syndrome in the real world, most of them in Hollywood where personal lives are public property. It’s so far advanced that you really have to know which one you are before you get involved with someone in such a way that makes the tabloids. Because if you’re actually Mary Astor, the break-up is only going to emphasize that. Jennifer Lopez, as an example, seems to be making a contact sport out of it. What is it, four relationships where she’s come out being the Groucho Marx and the guy has been stuck being Mary Astor? It’s like she’s trying to set a record for longest uninterrupted Groucho Marx string since Elizabeth Taylor who won every round til it came to Richard Burton. That one came out even and destroyed both of them.

I suspect that that’s the answer to the feminist question, “Why didn’t Hilary dump Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky?” In her heart of hearts she really doesn’t know which of them is Groucho and which is Mary Astor. And, fortunately for her, neither does Bill. Both of them would rather stick it out in an empty marriage than take the chance of ending up being the Mary Astor character. And both have such an over-inflated awe of the other that both believe it could be a real possibility.

And to finally come to the end of your question (which you really believed was straightforward, I’m sure) at the time of High Society, the Cirinists are just waiting to move into Iest. The closest analogy I could draw to that is the United States and Iraq. There would have been a lot of “sidelines people,” “armchair quarterbacks” among the Cirinists who would be wary of trying to take Iest—largely because the Eastern Church comes with it (the same problem you would face taking Saudi Arabia: Mecca and Medina come with it)—but it would be comparable to what the Pentagon knew about the U.S.’s advanced capabilities going into Iraq. It was going to be a cakewalk. There would be roughly the same number of casualties in a year that you would have had in a week in Vietnam. As Collin Powell reportedly said to President Bush, “You realize that you are going to own this place?” That was the level of the debate. Winning wasn’t the issue, there were only the implications of winning. Cirin obviously knew a lot more about Cerebus than Astoria did and that would have been a source of some concern but more in terms of what Astoria might lead Cerebus to do accidentally or that Cerebus’ magnifier nature might cause to happen (a justifiable fear as it turned out) than anything the two of them were going to accomplish together in a programmatic sense.

The Church was the only significant opposition and the Church was done for. It had become too worldly and too timorous. Again the best analogy I could draw would be today’s Christian churches of the squishy Marxist variety. There’s no need to take them over because they’re no longer in the way. They’re partly a quaint custom—great candles, great music— and partly a Marxist-feminist faction differing from the core societal Marxist-feminism only in a few shadings and nuances that can be easily glossed over. Like the worldwide schism in the Anglican Church and Reformed Judaism over same-sex marriage and homosexual clergy. Where the split occurs, I think, will tell us how close to hell we are. 30-70? 70-30? And which faction is preparing to take over the Vatican after Pope John Paul II (God forbid) is called home? There’s a good case to be made that he will single-handedly save Christianity by hanging on long enough for the conservative cardinals to see—in the Anglicans—exactly what a fully liberalized church can expect: literal hell on earth. The longer John-Paul II stays alive the more transparent the Anglican fiasco will become and the more conservative the Catholic Church will choose to be.
The fact that the Conniptins, this ragged mob of barbarians made it right into the heart of Iest at the end of High Society indicates that the fruit is ripe for the plucking.

Q4a. Larry noticed that the cab driver who drives Cerebus to the Ram's Lords Tavern in the first issue of High Society is, in fact, the Moon Roach all along. You show us the cab driver persona in that first issue, we see Moon Knight in the others, L nny is curious if you were tempted to slip in the other 2 personas to complete the set (soldier-of-fortune & millionaire playboy), it might be in the book, but he's too lazy to re-read it?

DAVE: Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. Lenny Coop…I mean L nny (sorry, forgot I was at a KKK meeting for a minute there, brother L nny)…is too lazy to re-read it? L nny’s the one who keeps pushing for these re-reads, isn’t he? Billy Beach’s wife, Francesca, with both of whom and both of whose family I just spent a pleasant week sunning myself on Italy’s Adriatic Coast asked me about the re-reads on the Newsgroup when I was over there and I said, “L nny (which I can assure you is very difficult to pronounce to someone whose native language is Italian), L nny with these organized re-reads of the storyline is like those guys who go to NFL games and spend the whole game trying to start ‘the wave’. Vague sort of peripheral interest in the sport, the home team, the score. But the thing that really floats his boat is standing up and throwing his hands in the air and seeing if he can get everyone else to do it. Gets so obsessive about it he’s still trying to make it happen when the home team gets their field goal blocked.” Whoa! HEY! Blocked field goal, everybody. C’MON! EVERYBODY! WHOOOOAAA!

Q4b: Can you answer his question for him?

DAVE: Huh? Oh, uh,
Sure thing.
Sorry. I forgot these rejoinders are “pre-recorded”. Like the hologram of the dead scientist guy in “I, Robot”. Did everyone see that? What a great movie. Millions and millions and MILLIONS of dollars worth of top-notch CGI special effects and deep, deep, deep Dolby sound that’s so loud it drowns out everything the television-raised pinheads around me are jawing at each other about and all it cost me was $5.99 Canadian. What a bargoon, as Eddie Shack used to say. That’s all I look for from a movie. Same as Spider-man II. WHOA! Did you see Doc Ock climb that wall? With his little CGI-generated arms smashing the chicken soup out of the building? Wicked cool, Dude!

Q4c: What amuses you more--that someone noticed this at all, or that it took twenty years for anyone to do so?

DAVE: Okay, so Kirsten Dunst looks like she’s been staying after hours at a few too many press receptions in the last two years (if you catch my drift) and she now looks more like Peter Parker’s really rather well-preserved for her age all things considered guidance counsellor than his girlfriend. Well, let me put it this way, my finely-attuned “bootie sense” wasn’t tingling, y’all (y’hear whut I’m sayin’?) but…but…
Uh, amuses me? Actually, no, I think it’s great. Big brownie points for Larry on that one (hey, how come Larry gets to be Larry? Larry, dude. Where’s your pointy hood? Like you should be L@Hart or LarHar or L rry? Shouldn’t you?). Just to fill in the brethren and cisterns on the extent of brother L@H@’s accomplishment, so far as we know L@H@ is the first person to notice that I used a cab driver secret identity for the Moon Roach, which was a parody of the Moon Knight, one of whose secret identities was as…tad a!…a cab driver. Very gratifying when someone gets one of my jokes twenty years later.

So, I spend twenty-six years worrying constantly that I’m being too obvious and telegraphing my story points and then spend twenty-six years explaining all the stuff I spent twenty-six years trying to make less obvious. The way I look at it, it beats the only other thing I’m qualified to do which is washing dishes.

Q4d: L nny thinks Larry wants your praise.

DAVE: Uh, yeah. I just said…

Q4e: Was Larry the first to notice this?

DAVE: Yeah. I just said. You can read it up right up there. It doesn’t even move as fast as it does on CNN so you’ve got plenty of time. Let me see. One, two, three, four……..twelve lines up: “so far as we know L@H@ is the first person to notice that I used a cab driv…

Q4f: Do you think he deserves your praise?

DAVE: Shit. I mean, sh*t. How did you do that? This is supposed to be on disk. It shouldn’t be possible for you to interrupt me like that. What is this? One of those computer viruses? I have NO idea where Gerhard’s floppy disks have been. If he’s given the office computer cybernetic syphilis or some damn…

Q4g: Larry thinks L nny is lazy.

DAVE: Lazy? Uh. No, I wouldn’t say that. I think it’s more a case of once L nny has got everyone doing “the wave” he gets this Lone Ranger quality about him. You know. “Well. My work is done here.” He won’t get an actual recharge until you finish analyzing the last five pages of The Last Day (available this Wednesday or next, God willing, at better comic book stores everywhere!) and then it’ll be (two, three, four) Hey, everybody! I, L nny, have a GREAT. IDEA.”

Q4h: Dave, do you think that L nny is lazy?


Q4i: or could he be slipping behind on the reread simply because of a heavy workload and the recently enlarged family? (Talk about 3 questions in one, this is about 6!:^)

DAVE: Yeah. It is. Sh*t. Look at that rash or those three pustules or whatever they are after “about 6!” It’s probably cybernetic syphilis or software crabs or some sh*t. Damn.
Enlarged family? L nny starring in “Honey, I Enlarged the Kids”? Or, wait a minute. “Heavy workload!?” “Recently enlarged family!?”
YOU’VE GOT SOME ACTION ON THE SIDE! Man, fundamentally bad concept talking about it here. These people leak like sieves. What if one of them e-mail’s Mrs. L nny?

Q5a. There has been much discussion as to whether the ending of High Society holds up. Some might contend that Cerebus’ ultimate rationale, “For a while there, Cerebus thought he could make a difference," seems contrived. But others contend that it still rings true: that every world leader, from Hitler to Saddam Hussein to Pol Pot to any of the "good" ones, despite how many selfish and heinous acts they commit, justify their actions under this very rationale. Moreover, the anarcho-romantic Suenteus Po's final scrawling of the word Liberty on his prison wall is quite touching as well as a clever narrative device, in that the entirety of his Cerebus' Six Crises book (Read?) might have been just scratchings on a prison wall as he awaits execution by the new (old) regime. What are your thoughts on this ending sequence in light of your present views?

DAVE: Mm. About the same. I think that true believers—who act on their beliefs—run a genuine risk of becoming the first casualties when things go wrong. I mean, that’s a given, don’t you think? Don’t you think that’s the reason that most people keep their actual beliefs secret where those beliefs don’t conform to the majority viewpoint? One of the problems might even be discussing systems of belief and viewpoints as if they’re the same structural things from person to person. In a recent letter to someone after the death of Ronald Reagan, I remarked on his observation that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” And he was talking about the late 1940’s. I mean there does seem to be a distinction between Government Setting People “Free” Within Its Context (Marxist-feminism) and Freeing People from the Governmental Context Itself (conservatism)— the former with the momentum on its side and the latter trying to take hold where and when it can for as long as it can. The best you can do is to slow the former down temporarily. We arrive into this world well along in the process and drift along with it, tending to see it as a fixed reality until someone like Ronald Reagan wakes up and realizes that liberalism isn’t stationary it’s always Slouching towards Gomorrah..

Of course the ending on High Society and the graphic novel itself is about a revolutionary time period which is well outside of the North American experience. Those historical situations like Russia in 1917 where the pot that’s been threatening to boil over for decades finally does and—whoever you are—you have to pick a side and whichever side you pick is pretty much going to decide if you die tomorrow, next month, two years from now or of old age. The only analogy in my life was the “Exclusives Wars” between Diamond and Capital where every publisher— starting from the biggest and proceeding down to the smallest—was forced to decide whether to go exclusive with Diamond or Capital. We had a “no exclusive policy” since SeaGate, so it was easy enough to announce that we would sell to anyone who could meet our terms. Which, effectively meant that we did our bit in killing Capital. They couldn’t use a tie, they needed a number of wins to stay in the game and Denis Kitchen, God bless ‘im for bucking the trend, was the only one to go exclusive with them. One of those situations where you make your choice and then wait to see what your choice leads to and what happens after that.

Q5b: Do you see it as reckless ambition spurred on by the naivete of youth, or does it hold up for you still?
DAVE: No, I still think it’s a good ending. I still think it’s a very good ending. But, then, I’m one of those people who think that a good ending tells you something about yourself in what you see in it. I mean, what’s your reaction to the Anarcho-Romantic at the end? “That idiot. He never should’ve stuck his neck out.” Well, that should tell you something about yourself. “There’s ambition spurred on by the naivete of youth.” Is that what it was? And how remote are you able to keep yourself in making that assessment? Was it personal ambition or the ambition to bring about a better world? And to put your metaphorical money where your metaphorical mouth was? The act of writing on the prison wall what he did, it seems to me, establishes the bona fides of the fact of his incarceration. A simple criminal wouldn’t do that. Even if the message gets obliterated, someone had to read it and understand it well enough to know that it needed to be obliterated which means, in a real way, as the guy who wrote it, you won the debate. Those, to me, are the sorts of things that count on the Big Scoreboard. That’s the reason that I’m perfectly willing to go to prison to prove a point about this country’s Marxist-feminist hate literature laws. If the only way to prove the point is to get ground up in the wheels, there are a lot worse ways to go. As it stands I’m comfortable with the compromise the Marxist-feminists have chosen: ignore him and his work and bet on posterity forgetting him and his work as well. Every day that goes by that they think that’s working in their favour, in my view, I’m racking up points. Four months into Phase Two of the Marxist-feminist experiment and I’d bet a lot more money on me than on them. Have faith in God and clarity tends to be the net result.

Volume 3: CHURCH & STATE I

Q1: How reliable is the information Theresa is feeding Weisshaupt in general, and specifically how does what she say about Gerrick square with the apparent contradiction of Astoria's statements about Cirin having given birth to a human son in "Reads" ("Appointments" in C&S I p.211)?

Dave: Well, one of the problems with a pathological liar character like Astoria is that pathological lying becomes endemic in proximity to her. Remember, she’s based on Bridgette O’Shaugnessy as portrayed by Mary Astor, who told her stories a little differently each time out and a little differently to each person she told them to. Or a lot differently. A pathological liar also derives great benefit from a Star Chamber approach to government such as Cirin practiced—providing she has immunity—because all of the proceedings are completely secret. Something happened behind closed doors in the series of events that Theresa is describing that probably resembles the story she is relating in certain particulars and is wide of the mark in others. I assume that Theresa is a pathological liar herself. The type tends to attract true believers who have a tendency to swallow everything whole and—when they finally start connecting the dots—tend to imitate the behaviour. If there’s no way of knowing what actually happened, there’s no reason that Theresa can’t tell it in her own way. The temptation to manufacture reality and to dictate it to others becomes too great. At that point the only guessing game is Which reality will ultimately prevail? So you might as well get yourself a dog in the fight just for the sake of having a dog in the fight. Who knows? You might win.

It’s one of those ‘well met’ circumstances. Cirin and Astoria were very much suited to each other. One hyper-secretive and the other a pathological liar. And, as I indicated last time (at least I think it was last time) Astoria wasn’t particularly good at what she was doing, so she tended to alternate between the urge to be a true revolutionary working to replace the system with one of her own devising and the urge to play Samson in the Temple—bringing everything crashing down on everyone and everything including herself. It’s a very sloppy form of anarchy and it works at cross purposes to itself. Replacing a system is a very different exercise from bringing everything to crashing ruin. So, I assume that Theresa would be pretty much the same.

Of course the overall point—whether it’s Astoria’s or whether it’s Theresa’s point—is a natural extrapolation of the abortion debate. “It’s none of your business.” Did Astoria believe that a mother had the right to murder her own children or was this one of Theresa’s innovations? I was less concerned with who thought it up or how it came to be discussed than in introducing the idea that once you have let daughters—the daughter impulse which is always to shock their mothers as a way of indicating their own superiority by not being shocked—off the leash it doesn’t take long to find the darkest corners of reality and begin to treat those corners with perfect equanimity. The recent move by Planned Parenthood to promote their cause with an “I had an abortion” t-shirt, it seems to me, is an attempt to recover that 70s frisson of sang froid, the “doesn’t bother me” philosophy that so titillated daughters at the time and which they found so compelling as lifestyle choice. “My mother is such a fossil. She thinks abortion is evil. She’s SO uncool.” There’ll be a lot of psychic debate going on between women right now about “I had an abortion” on a t-shirt and what it means. I suspect for a number of pro-choice women it’s just very creepy to picture themselves wearing an “I had an abortion” t-shirt and that (I would suspect largely unexpected) reaction within themselves is probably causing a certain amount of (equally unexpected) self-examination of how they actually feel about abortion. Having an abortion is one thing, advertising it jauntily on a t-shirt is another. At the other end of the spectrum where “Doesn’t. Bother. Me” is the ingrained, genetic level response to everything—the triple-X Hardcore Feminist crowd—I would suspect that for an unknown number of women neither abortion nor infanticide are causes for concern. Kill a baby, kill a fetus, what’s the difference and what’s the big deal? “Doesn’t. Bother. Me.” The fact that women in our society who murder their children are treated far more leniently than men who murder their children would indicate that this is, indeed, one of those dark corners of reality that is a little more crowded than most people in our society would accept it as being. Still an occult—in the original sense of “hidden”—sensibility but one which is quite widespread and one which is just biding its time before actively declaring itself. For that sensibility, wearing an “I had an abortion” t-shirt would be a good place to start.
In documenting Cirinists and Kevillists, I tried to outline what I saw as some of these interesting dark corners which daughters tend to find so enticing in their on-going need to shock their mothers. The actual facts—given that I was documenting women at war with each other and with society—I never really concerned myself about. Take the question: Was Sir Garrick adopted or Cirin’s natural son? In a woman’s world, it depends on who you ask. A big part of living with women involves simply believing everything that they say—their version of events, no matter how improbable. At this point we get into the areas of “Are women like that? or did Dave Sim just have this awful run of bad luck that the women he was with were always peddling a point of view on something?” I’m happy to discuss this further, but I’m just going to make a lot of you feel bad or angry or sad or a mixture of those. It’s why I showed a reasonably abstemious fellow like Weisshaupt drinking like a fish. If you actually try to determine the nature of reality by listening to women, you better have a bottle near to hand.

Q2: How did Lord Storms'End come by his knowledge of the Kevillists, the growth of the tower, the significance of the events Cerebus initiates as Pope etc? He tells Cerebus that Tarim fever sweeps through every decade or so, until someone says "enuf is enuf" - What's this mean? (i80)

Dave: Well, you have to remember that I had a really bad grasp of what the Meschiach—a messiah—is at the point I was writing this. “Tarim fever”. I came from the benighted generation directly after John Lennon’s. Let me see if I can describe this. I assumed, like John Lennon, like most atheists that Jesus was less of a manifestation of God’s will and God’s revelation of Himself to the world than he was a…job description. As John Lennon said about going to the cinema and seeing Elvis singing on the movie screen and all the girls in the audience jumping up and down and squealing: “That looks like a good job.” John Lennon wanted to be Elvis and he got to be Elvis. I don’t think there was anything larger in John Lennon’s world. He looked around and there was no one bigger than Elvis and when he got to be Elvis, there was no one bigger than John Lennon. Not even Jesus. How many magazine covers was Jesus on last month? In the same sense that the Beatles were all said to be fascinated with Hitler. Famous name. Big crowds. Power and control. It’s really all that you have in the skyer-no-higher—Lennon’s toppermost of the poppermost—category when you’re an atheist. Elvis Presley allowing himself to be called The King. Only half-heartedly protesting that there was only one King and that was Jesus—and then going out on stage dressed as Captain Marvel, Jr. It’s a mixed message in Elvis’ case. How devout was he? You had the Gospel singing and then you had the exponential fornication, the under-age fiancee. In John Lennon’s case there’s nothing to clutter up the message. In “apologizing” for saying the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, he said, “I didn’t mean anything against God as a thing or Jesus as a person.” That’s a very good summing up of the atheistic view of both. God as a thing. Jesus as a person.

At twenty-five or so—I didn’t really discover the Beatles until a good ten years after they broke up—I assumed that the world was made up of individuals who were all “in” on this messiah racket and that they were all contending with each other as to whose guy was being advanced at any given point. Hitler, John Lennon, Elvis. It was part of the distorting effect of television which was difficult to see at the time because I was in the first generation of television children. Television was just as much a substitute religious altar in an atheistic family as it was an entertainment source. It was the grown-ups who were insisting we had to watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, had to watch JFK’s funeral, had to watch the Gemini astronauts walking in space. I was seven years old. Watch the television. This is important. Okay. I’m watching, I’m watching. Television made of civilization a community of people all engaged in what Joni Mitchell called “the star-maker machinery”. Watch the television. This is important.
At one level “the star-maker machinery” was just about big houses and fancy cars and swimming pools and all that. But, I assumed in the rarefied heights the game was a good deal more serious. Even when you dismiss “God as a thing and Jesus as a person,” as could be seen with John Lennon, you still have an awareness that the “toppermost of the poppermost” exists. Although the controversy over Lennon saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus was ancient history by the time I was reading about it and watching it in documentaries, it didn’t surprise me nearly as much that John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus as it did that he backed off so quickly in reaction. I mean, I was an atheist. Why not John Lennon? Why couldn’t John Lennon be the Jesus for this age the same way that Jesus had been the Jesus for his age? It’s an atheistic question, founded on ignorance. Not stupidity. Ignorance. Wilfully ignoring something you should pay attention to and understand more thoroughly.

The more I examined the situation in that strange mental landscape inhabited by writers where all questions apply to yourself and all questions apply to your work, the best assessment I could come up with was that there was some sort of exponentially wearing quality that level of fame seemed to have and that “taking the Jesus step” just amplified the crushing burden implicit in that Famous name/Big crowds/Power and control equation. Of course, now, I realize that someone in John Lennon’s situation is just courting disaster through transparent stupidity. You want to be Jesus? You remember what happened to Jesus? Okay, bud. You asked for it. I mean, you’re a singer. The reaction I had Cerebus give to Estarcion’s Frank Sinatra. When did a singer get to be thought of anywhere NEAR this category? And on what basis? The number of underage girls who want to have sex with you? Moon June spoon? Having “come from” that side of things, that level of absolute atheism, it just seemed obvious. Sinatra! Presley! Kennedy! They were obviously Exalted Beings. More than mere mortals. What more is there to say? But all of them —I see now in a life where God has His pre-eminent position—functioned on a very mundane and largely disreputable level. They’re only “up there” to someone even further down than they are.

I’m going on at length about this, because this was really how I saw the world as I was working on Cerebus through most of High Society and Church & State. People hook up with other people. One in ten million is a Brian Epstein and one in ten million is a John Lennon. I was pretty sure I wasn’t in either category. Apart from really liking hotel suites—the bigger the better—I could never see the percentage in materialism and materialism on a profound level seemed to be a necessary part of the equation. George Harrison buying a castle to live in. You aren’t going to get to that point unless you think buying a castle and living in it is a great idea. Really consider that mentality. Waking up in the morning and going, “Yeah, I’m going to buy a castle and live in it.” The idea of owning and living in a castle or a mansion repels me. All I see when I look at world-class materialism is: you own it, you have to take care of it. As one rap singer rather famously—and astutely—remarked, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” I mean, not necessarily. It depends on what you spend your money on. If you like supermodels, cocaine, platinum jewelry and antique sports cars you will indeed have many, many problems to go along with every dollar in your rapidly diminishing bank account. I just wasn’t in that category, nor was the medium in which I was working. A comic-book convention is a flea market, not a rock concert. Even Todd McFarlane’s home in one of Oregon’s posh bedroom communities was a “mansion,” not a mansion or a Mansion. There was no access point to that toppermost of the poppermost from where we were, so the point, very early on, became making the book into an “in context” monument, to try to make Cerebus the 6,000 page graphic novel and Cerebus the character into comic-book fixtures.

I assumed that the portrayal of JFK’s assassination as “martyrdom” and John Lennon’s “The way things are goin’, they’re gonna crucify me” were just pointing towards the year 2000 and that these kinds of messianic expectations were just going to start coming closer and closer together like labour pains. Again, in retrospect, I think this was a skewed and disproportionate view of reality which resulted from being born into an atheistic family, in the first television generation with televised images taking the place of the religious altar and celebrity substituting for scripture.

Now, trying to bring this around to Lord Storms’End, I also assumed that in this structure that I pictured there were a lot of abstainers. I certainly started out as a would-be contender and then turned abstainer. Why bother? If you aren’t a materialist, all that leaves is (if the ladies will forgive me) pussy. And the one time that I had three women I was sleeping with at the same time—very, very brief time—told me that a lot of female genitalia sounds a lot better than it is in actual practice. I hadn’t realized, at the time, how deep this thought went. Access to a lot of female genitalia was like “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” More female genitalia, more problems. But, I still wanted to get laid. A lot. It was a contradiction I continuously evaded and then paid the price for evading well past the age when I should’ve known better. When I finally stopped evading it, when I finally recognized what getting laid actually was, then I was a complete abstainer and I got off the treadmill I had been on, started climbing out of the pit I had dug for myself.

But, it’s interesting to me that—back in the days when I was completely absorbed in the contradiction, I was coming up with characters like Suenteus Po and Lord Storms’End. It was as if I was really trying to tell myself something. Which, I think now, I obviously was. When you really start to abstain—when abstention becomes your way of life—you really start to figure things out and the more you figure things out, the more you abstain, and each begins to reinforce the other. If I see a picture of a millionaire in front of his mansion, I just look at it and think, wow, what a headache: think how much of your conscious attention has to go into maintaining that. When I think of all the things that go wrong around this dinky little place that I live in and multiply them by mansion scale. Wow. Boggles my mind. How aggravating.

So, it interests me that I tended to document that viewpoint as the highest imaginable reality long before I experienced it. I wish I could supply you with backstory for Lord Storms’End but, just because of the nature of the character, I wouldn’t have come up with backstory for Lord Storms’End so I have none to offer. Obviously, wherever he came from, whoever he was before, whatever pit he might have dug for himself—and he is, clearly, well-informed on any number of levels, several of which you identified—he realized at some point that no good could come of it. And he chose to just be a farmer. Actually clings to just being a farmer. For his own safety and for the safety of others. And, of course, Cerebus’ magnifying nature screws that up—gets him where he lives and breathes, the same as Cerebus got Suenteus Po. They know abstaining is the only sensible course and then, suddenly, there they are, nattering on and on, interfering, trying to affect events, advocating, showing off what they know, using what they suspect as a cudgel. It’s another vice, because the urge to show off accompanies ideas when you’re a thinker. You always want to “try an idea out” on someone else. But that’s the opposite of abstention. It’s one of the reasons that I’m glad that socializing went by the boards for me through the ostracism and vilification for not being a feminist. I know how valuable it is to just keep to yourself. I never would’ve discovered it otherwise.

Q3a: What was up with the Countess? Who is she? What was her role in the larger story intended to be vs. what her role actually was? My intention with the Countess was to document a female who really just wanted to be a regular female and ended up in this idealized Kevillist circumstance owing to inherited wealth or having Weisshaupt for a sugar daddy. I’ll leave those two as open questions—as a reader (I didn’t remember hinting at Weisshaupt as sugar daddy, but that seems to me to be what I had the Countess talking around in her second appearance).
Why was she there?

Dave: What I was trying to pose for the reader was the problem which results when you feminist-ize society (feminist-ize, not feminize). Essentially you make being female into a political role and a set of political decisions. As an example, in our society, every woman is expected to be in the “pro-choice” or “pro-life” camp and to be willing to denounce the other side and defend her own side at the drop of a hat. Which side are you on? Historically, a lady’s—as opposed to a woman’s—reaction to the question would be that it seems like a very unpleasant subject. And then she would change it or evade it gracefully. Because good breeding and good manners would dictate that she do so. Femininity was the custodian of those natures. Good breeding and good manners were passed down because mother had good breeding and good manners and her mother before her had good breeding and good manners. And suddenly, you not only don’t have good breeding and good manners, you consider the whole idea of good breeding and good manners ridiculous. Everything is open for discussion. Air your dirty laundry. Let’s talk turkey on the subject of mutilating foetuses.

The genuine female interest in romance remains, even as romance itself goes by the wayside. Even at the time I saw this as a societal problem. There was the same impetus to create strong, independent (usually wealthy) female characters that there is today—they’re less characters in the literary sense than they are role models in the Feminist propaganda campaign but as I did so—Astoria being the first major example—I thought, these women are not going to be very happy being like this. Where’s the courtship and the courtliness? Where are the stolen kisses and the “loves me, loves me not”?

Q3b: Why the change from her first appearance to her second appearance?

Dave: I’ve heard that before, but, personally, I don’t see there being a big difference between the Countess’ two appearances. It’s just a little later on and Weisshaupt—her self-appointed Henry Higgins—is dead. She’s taking care of Secret Sacred Wars Roach and the two McGrew Brothers. Men are still drifting in and out of her orbit but structurally it’s unsound. She realizes that they’re just going to drift in and out of her life in fewer and fewer numbers because she’s going to be an old woman soon. She’s a born housekeeper, as I think most if not all women are, which is why I portrayed her doing all of the chores in her second appearance. There is, in both of her appearances, a forced air of feministic superiority—that is, fundamentally bad writing— which, as I recall, was pioneered by Sonny Bono on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. He would portray himself as a buffoon and Cher would portray herself as his dominant superior. That would be the schtick. Which was the complete opposite of the situation. He was the brains and the ambition of the operation. I don’t wince as much today as I used to when I read myself partaking of that poisoned apple—it was twelve years into the Feminist propaganda age and twenty years later on, I can pat myself on the back for at least recognizing that these lives were not going to end happily and that most strong, independent women were going to be getting most of their romance from fiction—the “reads” Michelle continues perversely to read while Weisshaupt is trying to get her to read complicated economic tracts—rather than from their relationships or their marriage(s). It was clear to me in re-reading the material that this was, ultimately, Weisshaupt’s weak spot that, through all of his machinations and manipulations, he still thought that a female needed to be worked into the mix. Not the more natural and sensible “and of course I’ll need a good wife,” but “I need a woman as amazing as myself to install in that position adjacent to me if I am going to make all of this work properly.” If you’ve ever read the litany of attributes that Conrad Black was looking for when he picked Barbara Amiel, it seems cut from the same cloth. On paper, for a woman to see herself in just so heroic and significant a role on the portion of the world stage occupied by her husband must be flattering indeed. But it seems to me that it owes a good deal more to Frank Miller’s Batman and Robin than it does to, say, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I see it as an implicitly unhappy circumstance for women because it means there is always greener grass on the other side of the fence. A feminized Robin is always going to long to be someone’s Juliet. A Juliet is always going to long to be someone’s Robin. And, as a direct result of their implicit dissatisfaction, they’re going to drive Batman and Romeo around the bend with their whining about their unmet needs in their respective categories nine times out of ten—where they don’t choose to oscillate between the two role models: I’ll be this fellow’s Robin until that proves unsatisfying and then I’ll be this fellow’s Juliet until that becomes unsatisfying. It’s no wonder Botox and other longevity treatments are coming into fashion. Courtship and nesting are sequential and consume decades in and around career decisions. I really do think, as men, writers need to be more aware of this and to stop creating these really unlikely fictional female hybrids and mutations. As I reread the Countess’ dialogue, she has too many “snappy rejoinders”. There are a number of notable instances of Dorothy Parkers and the late Anita Loos—women who are genuinely that bright and that quick—but they are the exception that very much proves the rule. Katherine Hepburn wasn’t nearly as sharp as the woman she portrayed in Adam’s Rib and the Katherine Hepburn of legend was more a creation of a succession of male screenwriters than she was of herself.

Okay, you’re all getting angry and sad and irritated again, so, let me shift gears a bit.

The Countess, visually, was based on Karen McKiel, the Aardvark-Vanaheim secretary from 1982 to 1988 (?). She was an interesting character and very much a first generation feminist in the strong, independent woman mold. Nothing particularly new or interesting then or now. It was really at one step remove from the situation (being a married man at the time) that I began to remark upon the societal change that was taking place with most girls/women having jobs and either taking it as a given that that was always going to be the case or that the job could be the lifestyle choice while they tracked down a husband whereupon they would either chuck it in (the vast minority) in favour of marriage and children or (the vast majority) put it on hold until the marriage and the children had been accomplished, whereupon it would be resumed in earnest. Boyfriends and husbands would be expected to fit themselves in and around the margins of the career wherever they could find a spot (cooking dinner, cleaning the apartment, doing laundry and shopping for groceries seeming like some valuable places they could occupy in their largely orbital existence around their strong, independent woman). Karen was kind of interesting in that she had a predilection for other women’s boyfriends and husbands. She liked to test the bonds of other people’s matrimony and usually found it wanting. Which seemed to both satisfy and frustrate her since she was also in search of a husband of her own. In her own terms, she liked to “cause shit”. She was a big fan of the TV show Dynasty (the Prince song—“Kiss”?—with the line “You don’t have to watch Dynasty/to have an attitude” was certainly bang-on for the time period) where causing shit seemed to be a major female preoccupation. I didn’t really interest her for the longest time because I was in an open marriage. Having sex with someone you were allowed to have sex with was no challenge and, therefore, no fun. There needed to be the possibility of fireworks not only in bed but in the resulting soap opera. This many years later on, I can see in reading the Countess’ dialogue my attempt to sort of wed Karen McKiel to that Dynasty brand of high-stakes relationship power fantasies that she liked. But, in a literary sense, it really just rings false. Even contriving Weisshaupt’s overblown infatuation with Michelle which blinded him to who she actually was and compelled him to try and make her into someone she could never be (and, in rereading these sections that does seem to be my subtext: Pygmalion gone seriously awry at any number of levels. Not the least of which is that My Fair Lady was concerned with turning a flower girl/guttersnipe into a lady, not turning an average girl into Donald Trump) just seems a transparent literary device to cover for the implausibility of the plot point, the tip of the playing card is showing between my fingers when it’s supposed to have vanished.
I started having an affair that was off-again, on-again through the ensuing year with Karen about five months after Deni and I officially split up, having an affair with your boss’ ex-husband having an illicit tinge that having sex with your girlfriend’s open-marriage husband just didn’t have. My dedication in Church & State Vol. 1 to Jessica—Karen’s own euphemism for her vagina—and that “somewhere it is always January 23, 1984” (the night we first had sex) certainly indicates that it was worth waiting for. Ultimately, of course, I ran afoul of the Holiday Rule which is a centerpiece of most women’s on-again, off-again relationships. As a guy, if you want to stay in the game, you had better time your “on-again’s” to coincide with Christmas, Thanksgiving and her birthday and, in this case, agree to drive home to New Brunswick with her sister and brother-in-law for Christmas. I declined and she came back with news of her new boyfriend that she had met while down there. That really wasn’t the end of things
She stayed the secretary for a couple of more years until the Bank of Montreal called asking for me and she tearfully showed up at the studio door to tell me that she knew what it was about: she had been paying her personal Mastercard from the company’s account we had opened for depositing our Mastercard phone orders. I guess she had figured since it was all one big happy Mastercard family, no one would notice. If it wasn’t quite a Dynasty flourish worthy of whatever-her-name-was-who-was-the-Queen-Bitch-on-Dynasty, it wasn’t through lack of effort on Karen’s part. To add insult to injury, several years later we had to pay tax penalties on her clothing purchases on her company Visa (evidently it was important to me that she look good in the office, thus justifying a clothing allowance of several thousand dollars) when the charges were, naturally, disqualified.

You know, Neil Gaiman chided me a while back saying that no one is entitled to know these sorts of personal details. I appreciated his very human concern and evident compassion, but I’m in a very different situation from Neil. It’s still standing policy in the comic-book field that “Dave Sim is crazy.” And, as far as I can see, no one seems to have any need to substantiate the charge. Everyone just takes it as a given. “Dave Sim is crazy.” So, as much as possible, I think it’s necessary for me to establish for posterity that a) I’m pretty sure I wasn’t crazy and b) I had very good reasons for believing the things that I believed about gender relations, feminism and the post-70s hallucination in which I see most people living. Unless I cite actual experiences, I think I’m leaving myself open to the charge of evasiveness. I think if there were to exist at some point a groundswell of support for the view that Dave Sim is NOT crazy, I could probably see my way clear to “easing up” a little bit on the subject. But, as I don’t see that to be the case, I’m going to continue to be as honest and thorough as I can be in answering questions posed to me in this forum and elsewhere and I’ll then leave it to posterity to decide who was crazy and who wasn’t

Q3c: Why did Weisshaupt say that she would stand beside Cerebus?

Dave: Oh, well, that was just Weisshaupt’s vanity on the Napoleonic Scale. He really assumed, as those sorts of individuals tend to assume, that his passing would leave a huge void in the history of Estarcion and the forthcoming Ascension he both anticipated and was trying to engineer. If he had made the Countess into His Nibs Paramour, again on the Napoleonic Scale, then a crucial role needed to be found for her when His Nibs was gone and His Nibs had determined that she would be by Cerebus’ side. People in proximity to that sort of Napoleonic vanity tend to get swept up in it despite themselves. Michelle is a tad too emphatic that this won’t be the case: she’s obviously afraid that Weisshaupt can still control her life from beyond the grave.
It’s very much analogous to Susan Alexander, the singer in Citizen Kane or John Lennon with Yoko. Michelle was a very regular chick who liked regular chick things—housekeeping and trashy romance “reads” among them. It’s always sad when one of those runs afoul of someone’s Napoleonic masculine vanity.

Q4a: The Death of Weisshaupt: Weisshaupt is portrayed as an egotistical idealist who sees himself as a pivotal figure in history. He can't even comprehend the fact that Cerebus is just a greedy primal force and not someone with an agenda. However, upon his death he has an epiphany in which he sees some special role that Cerebus is playing in the grand tapestry. He calls Cerebus Most Holy - which is startling in terms of the secular viewpoint he held throughout his life. What spurred this change of viewpoint?

Dave: The deathbed epiphany. It was a very unnatural death. I’ve often wondered at the fact that no one has asked “How did Weisshaupt get that emaciated in that short a space of time from when he has his heart attack to when Cerebus comes to see him?” I was trying to indicate that this had been a serious contention on a serious high plane of existence and that—whatever the magnifier quality Cerebus had was, guardian angel, demon, whatever—was nothing to mess with one-on-one even if you have a roof full of cannons on your side. That just made it worse. Remember this is the scene that Cerebus involuntarily hearkens back to when F. Stop is looking to steal Jaka. That primal whatever was always prepared for that level of threat. So, it was really a matter that Cerebus’ context crushed Weisshaupt’s context, literally draining him physically. Having no idea if these things actually happen in the physical world, I speculated that there would be serious repercussions which would result. The literal calling forth of the Giant Stone Thrunk, as an example. Whatever it was that Cerebus or the magnifying quality within Cerebus did, it was just that disproportionate and created an equally disproportionate repercussion.

Q4b: Did Weisshaupt see anything in particular?

Dave: I assume that he did. What he would have seen would, I imagine, have been terrifically personal and terrifically powerful. It would be my guess that events that take place on an elevated plateau like that make use of one’s own personal imagery as a way of explaining what has taken place/is taking place. Particularly with Cerebus being right there, I would assume that what Weisshaupt saw—his context having been crushed as it was—would have been analogous to Cerebus seeing the Giant Stone Thrunk outside his window. Uh-oh would really understate the case.

Q4c: At the time you wrote the story, what did you intend that he saw?

Dave: Well, that was too complicated to get into. Remember, I’m trying to write the equivalent of a good, epic Russian novel. It’s already difficult enough to get the layers of complexity in the physical world to fit into place. If I started getting into the inner psyches of the various characters—apart from Cerebus—it would certainly be interesting but it would eat pages like nobody’s business. “Cerebus Dreams,” “Weisshaupt Dreams,” “Astoria Dreams.” I tried to incorporate that where it was relevant and to do so in such a way that it emphasized what was going on in the “real” world. But you go too far with that and the reader starts losing their grounding. I mean, I did that intentionally in Women, with the Sandman parody. Let’s really lose our way here when it comes to deciding what’s real, what’s a dream and what’s a “dream”. But on an ongoing basis when you’re already doing a very complicated story a little documentation on the elevated plateaus goes a long way and then it’s time to come back to earth.

Also, how does this view fit in with Weisshaupt’s apparent knowledge that Cirin is an aardvark?

I would suspect, just judging from Weisshaupt’s reaction, that that would have seemed a good deal less important all of a sudden. I think his own uppermost reaches of his own spirit were suddenly aware of just how large the context was that he had previously considered to be sort of within his grasp, within his ability to control and manipulate. I have to be vague about it, because I only know this physical, material plane, same as you. But, I would suspect that human beings do get glimpses of the bigger picture which are enough to turn their hair white, like in HP Lovecraft’s fiction. I mean, my assumption is that if you ever actually did see God or even achieved an awareness of the smallest fraction of God you would probably just *plit* explode like a bug on a windshield.

Q4d: Finally (pushing the envelope of multipart questioning), how does Weisshaupt’s epiphany fit in with Cerebus cursing him to hell? (i76)

Dave: Well, that’s an interesting question. I mean, he calls Cerebus “Most Holy” and then he calls Cerebus “Tarim,” so obviously whatever he’s seeing is escalating Cerebus before his eyes and diminishing himself. Of course Tarim was (as I think I mentioned last time) both the name for God and the name of God’s prophet most analogous to Jesus in the pre-Rick Estarcion. So it’s not clear how high Cerebus is ascending as Weisshaupt’s life is slipping away. I would assume a secular humanist reader would say that Weisshaupt wasn’t seeing anything, or he was experiencing the same visual mirage everyone does when they die just because their brain is shutting down. Now, someone who believes in heaven and hell would probably be reading a more interesting story in a number of ways. To what extent is Weisshaupt’s deathbed faith, his deathbed vision capable of influencing his ultimate fate? If you believe the person you’re talking to as your life is slipping away is a deity or a near-deity and that person tells you to “Go to hell,” Do you? The answer to that question would also be apt to tell you what Cerebus’ ultimate fate was, too, right?

Q5a: In Cerebus’ dream (i78/C&S I), he hears: "Astoria's changing the baby into another aardvark" - A hint that aardvarks are created magically?

Dave: Oh, heavens no.

Q5b: Where DO aardvarks come from? Are they born of women?

Dave: That’s a very Biblical Jacobean way of putting it: “born of women,” so thanks. Always glad to see more of that in the world.

Q5c: Is it a random event (to the extent that any event is truly random)?

Dave: Well, yes. I mean that opens another can of worms as to whether these aberrational forms actually exist in the real world. Apart from my speculations on the role of the Ancient Egyptians in producing literal monsters just because they could, do monsters like Cerebus appear naturally? I should probably digress a bit and mention that this came up in conversation with Billy Beach when I was over visiting him and his family a couple of months back (hello to Billy, Francesca, Kevin and Basta—sp?—Emily from Bahbee). This, it seems to me, was one of the hidden points of Cerebus, hidden even from his author until very late in the day. However Cerebus came to be, I think all you have to do is take one look at him to realize what a bad idea he is. In a larger sense (and because Billy had been kind enough to drive me around to innumerable religious churches and sanctuaries all adorned with oil paintings and frescoes—my first experience with seeing actual frescoes—I was able to make the point more immediately, tying it in with what we had both been looking at all day) this was very much something that concerned the Christian church in the Middle Ages, as the only one of the three monotheistic faiths to allow the rendering of representational religious iconography. Orthodox Judaism certainly doesn’t allow any pictorial representations of, not only God, but God’s prophets, man or any living thing in heaven or earth. Likewise with Islam. So the Christian church was always careful that picture-making and sculpting and what not were only allowed if the resultant art could be used to enhance the worship of God, as an assistance to prayer. Same thing with the music. And, arguably, we see the validity of the Jewish and Islamic argument everywhere. Once you allow the pictorial representation of the human form in religious iconographic art, the horse is out of the barn. Next stop, Robert Crumb.

Or, perhaps more perniciously, next stop Dave Sim.

Creating a half-man, half-animal character like Cerebus is not, thematically, that far removed from gene-splicing. Arguably, the fictionalized hybrid monster is the first step in creating a level of acceptance of the concept and arguably, that validates the Church’s concerns. The sleep of reason produces monsters. First comes the idea, then comes the portrayal—the speciality of artists who are “just f—king around” then comes the actuality, once the idea has been planted in the scientific mind. The abhorrence that I wanted to generate in the audience with the two-page spread of Sheshep in Egypt seemed to have worked very well, but didn’t extend to the comparable walking, talking abomination—Cerebus—they had been reading about for twenty-six years (some of them). Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Sometimes it breeds contentedness that can be just as appalling when you’re forced to stand back and look at it.

Anyway, all of this resulted from a question Francesca asked Billy, but damned if I can remember what the actual question was. Maybe Billy can help you out.

But, the overall idea of the natural generation of monsters seems to be something of a centerpiece of the theory of evolution, unless I’m misreading it. Don’t evolutionists believe that nature skips stages here and there and that natural selection can produce an entity better suited to the environment in the same way that plants develop different quirks depending on the soil they’re growing in, climate changes, etc.? I mean, no offence, but evolution just seems like a YHWH-vantage-point theory—the idea that all life forms are the same as plants, in the process of growing into something else. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think the evidence supports it. Animate life is just too complicated to have “grown” from lower life forms in the length of time the planet earth has been able to sustain life and there is nothing in animate life DNA that indicates the capacity to grow into another life form.

But, leaving aside that a Cerebus is a complete unlikelihood, I wonder if there are equivalents in the realm of spirit. Does spirit evolve or grow or generate itself spontaneously and then replicate? My best guess would be no. But it does seem to be an interesting thing to speculate on. Invisible aardvarks, basically.


Q1a: Spheres: Weisshaupt left a flawless gold sphere for Cerebus. Why was Weisshaupt able to make a flawless sphere, when, apparently, no one else could do so?

Dave: It was kind of an esoteric point, but I assumed that these Ascension rituals had been going on for some thousands of years, always with the gold sphere being needed to trigger the event. Weisshaupt just added his own innovation of determining and/or having revealed to him that the size of the sphere was irrelevant. It didn’t need to be the size that Cirin was later attempting, which I assumed would be the norm, it just had to be a gold sphere. The idea being that because of the extended period of time over which these Ascensions were taking place various innovations would be incorporated (“let’s try a larger sphere”) and gradually become the new norm (“the sphere has to be larger”). It would depend on what you blamed the failed Ascension on. The sphere wasn’t big enough, the sphere wasn’t perfect enough. God only knows what it was when it started or what it was that actually would work. Of course judging by the result—Cerebus’ tower actually got off the launch pad—you’d probably be safe in assuming that Weisshaupt was onto something. Which would have been disastrous had the city of Iest actually survived. Anyone capable of making a gold sphere could initiate the launch sequence. A flawless sphere of the size of Weisshaupt’s wasn’t any big trick. A flawless sphere the size that Cirin was attempting was a virtual impossibility.

Q1b: Did it have something to do with the gold that was used (i.e., gold from coins struck by Tarim)?

Dave: Again that was kind of an esoteric point that I never resolved, being in the same category as “something fell”—it was lost to the ages. Presumably the perfect gold sphere at some time in the distant, distant past was either made by the coin-maker Tarim (the human individual whose relationship to Tarim was analogous to Jesus’s widely accepted relationship to God) or incorporated coins that that same Tarim had made.

Q1c: Was his posthumous aid to Cerebus mystical in nature? Or did he have accomplices?

Dave: I would imagine he had accomplices. He was like a spider at the middle of a web of his own devising with a pretty fair grasp of how everything was going to unfold (and with all the arrogance that tends to engender). Cerebus was one of the few variables that his multi-levelled calculating mind just couldn’t get “on top of” and which, consequently, proved his undoing. My own view is that spiders tend to attract exactly those sorts of incarnations, er, like flies.

Q1d: If so, anyone we know?

Dave: It was a, wattayacall, very large web.

Q1e: Finally, why did the sphere Cerebus held turn back into coins (and why did it turn into a sphere in the first place when Cerebus touched it)?

Dave: Another esoteric point having to do with Cerebus’ magnifier nature and the uncertainty of how far back it goes, how efficacious it is, the extent which it incarnates things on its own depending on its own level of gullibility. You saw Cerebus’ reaction to the coin when Bran told him that it had been minted by Tarim. My best guess would be that that was an identical reaction on the part of the magnifier effect which inhabited him on the “next level up”. You just don’t muck around with anything having to do with the earthly Tarim, in the same way that even an atheist is going to be subdued around the Shroud of Turin. My best further guess would be that there was a magnifier nature of which the magnifier nature itself was unaware on the next level up from it as it was from Cerebus. And who knows what powers there were “up there”. Or, viewed perversely, what sense of humour. The higher nature would regard the degree to which the lower nature had been spooked and basically pull a practical joke by having the coin minted by Tarim attract all of the gold coins and form itself into a sphere. Why? Because BOO is very funny. Ask any brother who scares crap out of his sister by doing it. It’s hilarious. Or, it could have been an actual effect that was predestined because the human incarnation Tarim was actually an aardvark or part aardvark, so when Cerebus picked up the coin, it initiated the same launch sequence that it had originally been designed to initiate. Since all of that was taking place on upper levels of reality, I never settled the question for myself anymore than I could give you a definitive answer as to whether guardian angels exist or if I have one.

Q2: What is the meaning of the faces on its tower and how did they get there?

Dave: I always wondered about that myself. Again, one of those things lost to the ages. Trapped souls from some mystical war in the distant past? Sculptures? Sculptures inhabited by the souls of the dead? Picture the Ka’aba in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. We know that people have been circling the Ka’aba every Ramadan for, at the very least, two thousand years. If you believe Islamic history, they’ve been doing so since Adam first built it and since Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt it. It’s reasonably certain they’ve been doing so since Muhammad helped rebuild it in the seventh century. Now, what’s the idea behind it? Why do people circle the Ka’aba seven times? Do you think that someone said six to ten thousand years ago, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Check this out.” Or do you think it goes much deeper and much higher up than that? My guess is the latter. That would be the same answer I would give to “the meaning of the faces on its tower”. I’m sure there is a very deep, deep meaning to it. But it goes back too far to even begin to speculate upon successfully.

The fact that I introduced the wall of faces way back in the early part of High Society has always interested me because I really didn’t have a story attached to them and no one even remarks on them until Prince Mick pages and pages later. Of course my suspicion now is always that anything that I can’t account for as coming out of my own imagination I always figure was a “plant” by God to try to “fish in YHWH,” something that I wasn’t remotely aware of in a conscious way, something that came from my being “tapped into” a reality that I was only vaguely aware of. Certainly the idea of rock having a personality which would be implied by all the faces, I imagine, would be very appealing to YHWH since that was supposed to be the Big, Shock Surprise Ending—it turns out that YHWH was Mother Earth all along! Gasp!

And the fact that this personality filled rocks which were in a cup-shaped, vaginal opening motif surrounding the Upper City like labia and then WHOOSH they would grow into this giant penis shape. Yeah, I can see how, conceptually, that would get YHWH a little runny between the legs.

I know most of you aren’t remotely interested in the Torah, but—since this ties in with one of my theories that I’ll probably never be this close to, again, I might as well do an Oh, That Reminds Me:
I don’t know what the best current Orthodox Jewish thinking is on why Moshe had to die instead of going into the Promised Land and what, exactly, was his big deal crime in in Meribah in Numbers 20, I’m sure I could look it up in the Talmud if I was interested, but really I’m not. See, my theory is along these lines. Starting at verse 2:

And there was no water for the Congregation: and they gathered themselues together against Moshe and against Aaron.
And the people chode with Moshe and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the YHWH.
And why haue yee brought up the Congregation of the YHWH into this wildernesse, that we and our cattell should die there?
And wherefore haue ye made vs to come vp out of Egypt, to bring vs in vnto this euil place? It no place of seed, or of figges, or vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drinke.
And Moshe and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly, vnto the doore of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell vpon their faces: and the glory of the YHWH appeared vnto them.
And the YHWH spake vnto Moshe, saying, Take the rodde, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron, thy brother, and speake yee vnto the rocke before their eyes, and it shall giue foorth his water, and thou shalt bring foorth to them, water out of the rocke: so thou shalt giue the Congregation, and their beasts drinke.
And Moshe tooke the rod from before the YHWH, as he commanded him.
And Moshe and Aaron gathered the Congregation together before the rocke,
Okay? You got the set-up? Remember. It’s my theory that YHWH is the living thing inside the earth and inside every rock. “…speake yee vnto the rocke before their eyes, and IT shall giue foorth HIS water…”
…and hee said vnto them, Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rocke?
And Moshe lift up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rocke twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the Congregation dranke, and their beasts.

See, I think God must’ve just cracked up at this point. Just killing Himself laughing. YHWH is sitting there waiting for Moshe to ask YHWH nicely in front of everyone to give him water. And what does Moshe do? He gives YHWH two good smacks in the face and says to the crowd, “Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rocke?”
And of course YHWH who has NO sense of humour, immediately reacts with
And the YHWH spake vnto Moshe and Aaron, Because ye beleeue me not, to sanctifie me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this Congregation into the land which I haue giuen them.
This is the water of Meribah [that is, Hebrew for “strife”] because the children of Israel stroue with the YHWH…
I may be reading it wrong, but that to me is one of the great punch-lines in the Bible. I wouldn’t be surprised if three to four thousand years later, God still has to stifle Himself when He pictures Moshe smacking YHWH in the face. I also think that that’s what the gig is with Balaam and his talking donkey two chapters later.

And the YHWH opened the mouth of the asse, and shee saide vnto Balaam, What haue I done vnto thee that thou has smitten mee these three times?

God really trying to patch things up as best He can, but undoubtedly knowing that Moshe is still Moshe Toast at this point because of YHWH’s hurt feelings.

Anyway, I have trouble keeping a straight face whenever the Sunday comes along that I’m reading Numbers 20 aloud. SCHMECK SCHMECK “Heare now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?”

Moe Howard couldn’t have done it any better.

Q3: Please explain the symbolism in Cerebus’ dream.

Dave: You mean, like… “You: Jung, Me: Free Associate”? Why not? Shoot.
The Lion's emblem is seen on a door…
The Lion of Serrea. And, uh, that was the design on the door to the Prime Minister’s office. I once did some freelance work for a Waterloo publisher who lasted about five minutes in business and he had a double door with a lion’s head carving that looked just like that. I thought that was really cool and I always wanted one.
…a chair of mountain-like skulls…
Bran was Cerebus’ hierophant and pretty much Cerebus’ Pope as well, believing in Cerebus to a far greater extent than Cerebus believed in himself, so he here sees his most ardent believer still occupying the catbird seat for the Ascension. Even death can’t stop him. Of course as soon as Bran gets up and walks away, the chair shrinks dramatically. Which can be a premonition of the “earth below us, drifiting falling, floating, weightless…” (sorry, I was having a Disco flashback) which is imminent or self-doubt that he has sufficient belief to hold the catbird seat on his own.
…Bran's death…
Aha. A trick question. Bran was dead at that point.
An emaciated dying Weisshaupt is seen through a keyhole.
A premonition and a warning that Weisshaupt is still a player even though he’s dead
Astoria, once again, has no… (Priest?).
Bananas. It’s a Neil the Horse reference.
The Prime Minister needs only one ear to defeat Weisshaupt.
Premonition about Cerebus’ fate just before the Ascension. Although it was actually the next Ascension after this one in Reads. Premonitions tend to get things all mixed up like that.
Weisshaupt offers a position to Astoria?
To Bran. Another trick question.
("Think of your career" "you'll ruin everything")?
That’s what Astoria has to say to Cerebus. Cerebus’ dreaming mind is telling him just about how important Astoria is to what is going on and what is going to be going on by the size of her.
The Tower is still growing (still time to do a Final Ascension?).
Actually, the tower is, you know, still growing. It’s kind of, you know, literal.
Thrunk dressed as president's ankle?
Cerebus can defeat Weisshaupt—even though he’s dead—even more easily than he beat the Giant Stone Thrunk. The same illustration as Astoria. He’s much, much smaller than he was in real life.
A sword in a scabbard.
Gerhard drew it. You’d have to ask him.
The Moon
Cerebus has a premonition that the Moon has something to do with what is about to happen. A premonition or a lucky guess.
The Elf tells Cerebus he's forgotten something
…he’s forgotten the gold sphere.
the coins become a sphere
…the sphere is all taken care of…
…and "you go up"…
….Cerebus is about to ascend.
Please discuss.
Just did.

Q4: Breaking glass: When the piece of glass corkscrewed into Cerebus' chest during Church & State, did you put that in as descriptive prose, or did you see it as having a symbolic resonance? And does this glass also connect with the piece of glass that appears in Bear's hand while Cerebus is breaking through the window?

Dave: I think you asked me about this before and I was too lazy to go back and actually take a look at the sequence itself. I apologize. Part of what I was dealing with in the super-slow motion of Cerebus bursting through the window was the sheer implausibility of it as a movie cliché—I mean, what are the odds of going through a pane of glass and not even getting a scratch?—and trying to address that in some way. “The glittering rectangle shape of a splinter, cork-screwing from the point of impact, leaves a nearly imperceptible trail across the sweat-slickened fur of the Earth-pig’s left breast.” Well, there to me is exactly the problem. If you can get all the glass shards going straight out and perpendicular to the point of impact, you’re laughing. But that seems really unlikely because of the amount of force being generated and the “spin” that’s going to result as soon as the splinters are behaving independently in reaction to the force generated at the point of impact relative to their now considerably lighter and independently moving selves. All you need is one “problem child” shard and you might as well be trying to burp a live chainsaw. So what I did was attempt to introduce a mystical event at the microcosmic level, taking the assumption that whatever is in control of Cerebus at this point—realizing that a successful Ascension may be at stake—was sufficiently engaged and sufficiently efficacious to be watching for exactly that “problem child” shard. That the thing in control of Cerebus was efficacious enough even at the speed with which things were happening to essentially be able to relocate the glass shard through space/time, functioning within the physical properties of the higher realm where the relocation can only take place if there’s a plausible recipient who will accept the relocation on the paranormal terms necessary. Which was why Bear got it, because it was predetermined that he would blame it on “the little people” and his own nature would take it as a given that he would “take one for Cerebus,” another criteria that needed to be established in the elongated micro-second where the shard is either going to cut a major artery in Cerebus’ chest or it’s going to go elsewhere. (C&S II)

Q4b: And is this connected to Cerebus’ mysteriously cut thumb in the hotel? (#112/113)

Dave: Yes, yes exactly. It was too big a stretch of reality to relocate something that large without there being a recoil effect. And however long Cerebus was gone, the recoil was right there waiting for him when he got back. I’m not sure that what we call the real world doesn’t operate on exactly that sort of basis and that there is no such thing as an inexplicable event. Everything happens for a very good and a very specific reason, it’s just that we’re not privy to the logical outcomes that are taking place within those microcosmic time spans and the trade-offs being enacted. As an example, I can picture God and His adversary negotiating every bullet trajectory in a major battle, the disposition of all the grenade fragments at a superhumanly accelerated pace and with exactly these kinds of dislocations being added up and compensated for even as they’re taking place. Only at the time I wouldn’t have thought of it as God and His adversary. More like ‘the powers that be,’ or ‘whoever is in charge of the Universe.’

Q4c: Does this connote a connection between Bear & Cerebus that is not apparent? (i102)

Dave: Only insofar as these are the kind of connections that I see as being extremely likely in our own reality. What the nature of those connections are or the equivalent-of-physics that’s at work or the properties of Higher Reality Laws of Motion, I couldn’t even hazard a guess. The sequence of Cerebus going through the window after running from the Throne Room was, I think, unconsciously based on the Cowardly Lion fleeing from the Wizard of Oz and crashing through the window. Which was always where they put the commercial break and it was time to put my pyjamas on and brush my teeth.

Q5: The Judge sees all and knows all (but his perception is colored by his own personal bias, his "love" of Terim). So why, when he's already explained Tarim and Terim and said that that's it, that's the story, does he say "Thank God" on (I believe) more than one occasion? It's the first time that God is mentioned in the book. Everyone else says "Thank Tarim" (or some other deity). If there was only Tarim and Terim and the Judge knew this, why would he say "Thank God."?

Dave: Because that was what Jules Feiffer wrote in the Judge’s monologue in Little Murders. It had to be two syllables or it would undermine the whole rhythm. “My mother, thank God she’s not alive today.” It’s the most amazing monologue I’ve ever seen as delivered by Lou Jacobi in the movie version. When I met Feiffer years later he told me that it was the first thing he wrote, that it was originally going to be the core of a novel and only later became a play. He wasn’t that fond of Jacobi’s performance. He said the guy who played it in the original Broadway run was much better. “Three families…and what they had in common was…PER…SE…CUTION (pause) PER…SE…CUTION…(pause) So they weren’t so GLIB about God.” What an absolute joy it was to go over that and over that and over that and to mimic the run-on sentences and the sudden peculiar interjections. I don’t know when I’ve ever worked harder or had it feel less like work. Just an amazing piece of writing. So, yeah, the “God” didn’t fit, but neither did “I was cheering for Weisshaupt myself” coming from a supposedly omnipotent being. One of those times my own story had to scootch over a bit and make room for Feiffer.

Q6: So is that Tarim that Cerebus is Talking to? Why does he look like a big round glowing sphere? Is he linked to Po? (i91)

DAVE: Well, they’re all linked in the sense that they’ve gotten immersed in this ascension business “by whatever means necessary” so there’s a lot of residual “means” just lying around in residual physical and spiritual forms. The different elements, the gold sphere and the tower and what-not have just become elements of the equation. Note that the “Tarim” Cerebus is talking to has no idea what is actually “up there” apart from heaven or what it is that you’re going to do when you get there but he (actually he/she/it) has an encyclopaedic knowledge of how to get there, what to avoid, what works what doesn’t work. It’s just obsessive-compulsive behaviour, like a video game. Putting in hundreds of hours figuring out how to get past all of the obstacles at each different level of the game and…then what? The question has no resonance for the obsessive-compulsive. Then what what? With their entire attention glued to the television screen. Spriz, spriz, spriz, fraz, fraz, fraz, glomp, glomp. You know, the investment of hundreds of hours of your life that you’ll never get back? What about it? Spriz, spriz, spriz, fraz, fraz, fraz, glomp, glomp.
I assume that there’s a lot of that in the realm of spirit. That the “Tarim” Cerebus was talking to was a magician of some kind who had found a way to encode himself into the gold coins so that they would function as a kind of tape recorder so he would be able to remind himself of how to work his way through the various levels of the video game when he incarnated in the future (rather than just passing on to the next level of existence which is what all video games are degraded versions of, from what I can see). From the standpoint of the free-floating awareness, Cerebus was him, he had just forgotten that he was him which is why he encoded himself into the gold coins and he knew enough not to tell him that he was him because he knew that when you incarnate you like to think of yourself as an individual and not just the latest version of someone else and that it’s better not to get into the discussion in the first place because all you want to do is post the necessary video game reminders—i.e. get to the top of the tower while you have time.

He looks like a big round glowing white strange thing because that was the easiest way to communicate with Cerebus. Cerebus wanted an answer to what the big round glowing white strange thing was so that was an ideal form to adopt in the realm of spirit, the ideal mental image, if you wanted Cerebus to listen to what you were saying and retain the message you had to impart to him. Get to the top of the tower. Cerebus managed to retain it through all of the strange events of issues 92 through 101. He saw the gold sphere and made the break for it. Get to the top of the tower.

Volume 5: JAKA'S STORY

Q1a. You said that Jaka vomiting on Pud was the "core moment" of Jaka's Story. Why is this moment so important?

DAVE: Well, I'm not sure if "important" is the correct term. It's the "core moment" insofar as everything is in stasis to that point and that's the point where things start to come unglued. It seemed to me at the time that it was interesting, given the level of sexual tension in our society, that there are as few incidents of rape as there are. I mean, agreed, even one rape is one rape too many-but we are a long way from the opposite extreme-having 4 billion rapes in the average day. I intend the observation in a high-altitude mapping societal-structural sense where all of these guys "want it bad" and yet there are very clear lines of demarcation that are, relative to the size of the human population, seldom violated. Take the three love triangles in Jaka's Story: Cerebus wants Jaka real bad, but he sleeps in the little guest room eating his heart out and actually makes friends with Rick even though he's Cerebus the Barbarian. Pud spends every night alone with Jaka who is dressed in a sexually provocative manner and just makes amiable chit-chat or listens to all of her petty little problems for hours on end. Oscar has got a major woody for Rick. And even with all this sexual tension that is so thick you could cut it with a knife, still all of these people keep very much to their own side of the sexual barricade. Part of my fascination with that comes from being raised as an atheist- that is, with few appreciable distinctions between right and wrong and far fewer between good and evil.. Where does this society-wide sexual stasis come from, was the atheistic question I was asking myself. Why-given that we are just these big bags of chemicals that happened to grow into this configuration out of happenstance (which, as an atheistic secular humanist, I did very much take as a given) and given that sexual desire is the most natural thing in the world and with The Pill causing the danger of pregnancy to plummet dramatically, why aren't we just, you know, jumping on people? And the answer of course is that it's wrong to just jump on people, evil to just jump on people. Good ethical behaviour prohibits it. So, what I was trying to do in Jaka's Story was to document that stasis as accurately as I could, to build the natural tension that that involves and then to have Pud cross the line. He's been thinking about it and thinking about it and now he's going to make his move. And Jaka pukes on him: which seemed authentic in a life sense although the underlying dynamic would remain something of an open question. Why does she puke on him at that exact moment? When I was writing it and laying it out, I thought, arguably, it's a result of a communicable tension-what the hippies would call a "bad vibe". Pud is so wound up about what he's about to do that as soon as he violates Jaka's personal space his tension invades her and the invasiveness of his tension, coupled with the alcohol she's been drinking, causes her to vomit. And vomiting, of course, is a species of ejaculation, right? In a larger sense she makes a mess in his lap with her bodily fluids before he can make a mess in her lap with his bodily fluids. So even if the reader doesn't consciously think of it in those terms-which I assume most readers didn't since it would be a very unconventional viewpoint to regard vomiting and ejaculation as analogous bodily functions-it still strikes the reader as appropriate. It seems like something that would happen in the situation. Or, moving even further back into the realm of spirit it seems possible that what was at work wasn't a communicable tension so much as it was Jaka's own spirit unconsciously protecting her and simultaneously serving Pud with an explicit analogy of what it is that he was about to do, to try to rouse his dormant sense of revulsion both as a means of solving the immediate crisis and to keep him at bay in the long term. Or maybe it was a combination of both.

Q1b: What is its significance?

DAVE: Well, I always found that depicting a subject in the book gave me a lot of time to think about it and to see it from different angles and to gain new insights into a variety of aspects of any given subject just because it would be immediately in front of me for the length of time it would take to finish it. So, in this instance, for two weeks or however long it took to do the lead-up to Pud making his move, I was thinking about the dynamic of sexual politics and the politics of sexual dynamics-there're two reciprocal phrases that imply two differing vantage points on the same subject just by transposing noun and adjectival forms- the rape "vibe" and imminent rape as a spiritual concern. It really depends on how and from where you want to look at it. Just as an example, in doing the sequence, I realized that women derive a great deal of power from the fact that they're the ones who decide -except in the case of rape-if and when sex is going to happen,. So that, in a real way, every rape that doesn't take place is a testament to female power and to the extent that the world largely unfolds along lines of female preference and that female will in the area of sexuality prevails almost universally the wide perception of women as vulnerable victims doesn't seem to be supported by the evidence. Jaka is living with Cerebus and Rick and she's spending all of her evenings with Pud but, even though all three want her desperately, she's only having sex with Rick. Having set the scene and having that much time to document it, I recognized the disproportionate amount of power Jaka had in the story-relative to her physical strength and how that compared to the physical strength of Cerebus and Pud- and helped me to recognize, as a result, the disproportionate amount of power women have in our society generally. Jaka is the sun and Cerebus, Pud and Rick are the planets circling her. These sorts of insights-which can be sudden or "come on you" gradually- occur when you are writing and drawing a comic book because a lot of what you are doing is a dramatically slowed down version of method acting. Putting yourself in the place of your characters and mentally picturing and then physically replicating manifestations of emotion and attitude by drawing the characters' facial expressions, body language and so on. So if it takes you three hours or so to draw a transition from one facial expression to another, you have a lot of time to analyze both what is happening in the panels and what is happening between the panels: what parts of the facial expression changed and-as you erase the expression and change it and erase the expression and change it; at last getting an approximation of the right expression-you have time to ask yourself why the different parts of the face changed the way they did. Why were all of the faces I erased the wrong expression and this is the right one? As to the significance of Jaka puking on Pud I think it offers a potential bridging point of communication between the genders, in the same way that the episode in Church & State-where after Cerebus raped Astoria, she gobbed into his ear-also offers a bridging point of communication. Structurally it's the same net effect as rape, albeit without the physical pain. How do you like it? Having someone's mucus expelled into one of your orifices? It occurred to me that, in trying to communicate across the gender divide, you need points of commonality and one of the points of commonality that occurred to me was that heterosexual women and heterosexual men-and in fact lesbians-have at least one thing in common: they are repelled by the idea of having an erect penis stuck inside of them and the idea of it going "spooey" while it's in there. When you consider the few things that women and men do have in common, it seems worth focusing on and, in my own case, it helped me to understand women and their notion of love a little better. See, even unattractive women have no shortage of men who want to get into their pants and most women have had the experience of intercourse, and most of them
have had the experience because they had a positive emotional reaction to someone so that they were able to overcome their natural revulsion at the idea of what guys-just generally-want to do to them. So that they don't think of it as what the guy wants to do TO them so much as what they want to do WITH the guy. I mean what's the demarcation between a boyfriend and "just a friend"? The former she lets shoot his pecker snot inside of her and the latter she doesn't. Of course women in general aren't pleased by these sorts of distinctions framed in these terms (I remember, years ago, edging close to the discussion point of what the distinction between a boyfriend and a friend was with a female acquaintance and it turned out to be the first time I heard the expression "Don't go there.") because women want to focus on all of the things about the guy that made them want to "let him" that made them (in his case) overcome their revulsion for what erect penises do-his eyes, the jokes he told, what he was wearing, what they did together, some sweet gesture he made as well as all the inexplicable moments that go into the decision-making-all of the cumulative things that add up so that she's a) interested, b) smitten, c) falling in love and then boom d) in love. All the stuff they can't wait to tell their girlfriends about. But, for all that, the demarcation is still the demarcation-the boyfriend is the boyfriend because he's the sex partner even though that fact is usually unspoken on the female side and usually treated as a tangential interest by them. Unless she's a total hosebag who lets virtually any guy stick his dick in her and go spooey, there's the demarcation between the guy for whom she willingly overcomes her revulsion-to the extent that the revulsion disappears-and every other guy. For women, that's love. So the significance of having Jaka puke on Pud was that it was a way of honestly depicting the culmination of a rape scene in such a way that male and female readers will hopefully-whether consciously or unconsciously- have the same reaction and say to themselves, simultaneously, yes, that's really gross and yes, that's a natural culmination for that scene while allowing me to avoid the old cliché of "someone walks in at the exact second the rapist is about to make his move" which is how most rape scenes were dealt with and the new cliché of having the intended victim beat crap out of the guy or shoot him.. It's no small challenge to have women and men both react to a rape scene the same way, but I really think I pulled it off there. And what I ultimately extrapolated was that the line was still crossed: although it was crossed in an unconventional sense that involved vomit instead of semen, it was still enough to shake the story loose and everything begins to go wrong from that point on.

Q2. Missy: What is the significance of using Jaka's doll Missy to represent Nurse's head? (i. 114)

DAVE: Part of it was my desire to avoid showing Nurse so that I could make the transition from portraying this terrifying ogre figure in the beginning part of the story and then making her a pathetic but resolute old woman later in the story. Had I actually shown her early in the story, I would've had to have "de-ogred" her so that she could plausibly be depicted in the later scene or I would've had to have made her part ogre in the later scene so the readers would be sure it was the same woman. So that was the reason behind "not showing Nurse". Using Missy's head for nurse's head was a result of the earliest thinking on Jaka's Story when I was drawing Jaka as a little girl for the first time. A little girl? You give her a doll. That's another example of the interesting areas that method acting takes you into. While I'm drawing the doll, I'm thinking about the nature of dolls for the first time-something I had never given a second thought- and how sincerely creepy it really is. I mean, I grew up with the conventional Marxist-feminist spin on dolls which is that they are part of the oppressive patriarchal societal structure which forces little girls to play with dolls as indoctrination for motherhood. Like John Lennon's Woman is the Nigger of the World which was of that early excessive Marxist-feminist time period. "We make her paint her face and dance." Personally, I don't know too many guys (as in NO guys) who "make" their wives or girlfriends either paint their faces OR dance. 'Honey. We're going to the company Christmas party tonight. Make sure you paint your face and you better dance when we get there if you know what's good for you." If all the other women are painting their faces then for sure she will too, but that has nothing to do with any patriarchy. Likewise women are dancing fools for the most part and that, too, comes from within and has nothing to do with male preferences except when it comes to ogling which is in effect whether the women are dancing or not. Anyway, I started thinking about this doll thing, this compulsive urge that little girls have towards baby replicas virtually from the time they stop being babies themselves. And the proliferation that some of them go through where you can't find the little girl in this picture of her in bed because she's literally buried under baby replicas and animal baby replicas. Being a guy, I tried to analyze what the distinctions were and it goes off in a number of interesting directions. First of all it's a baby thing. Little girls grow up to be mommies and it's the mommies who have the babies, so a lot of it is just jumping ahead. She wants her baby now. So, on the one hand it seems like this unhealthy capitulation to an intrinsic female nature-they want things they aren't old enough to have (which is just going right off the rails with younger and younger girls dressing like five dollar hookers. Sorry, I digress). You don't explain to her that she can't have a baby so there's no use talking about it. She'll start that high-pitched shrieking that can shatter crystal. Little girls react to "can't" the way you and I would react to having bamboo shoots jammed under our fingernails. To not capitulate instantly to what a little girl wants is to subject her to inhuman torture. Sic semper Marxist-feminist incrementalism. Okay, give her something that looks like a baby, something that's baby-sized and baby shaped. And that's interesting in the same way that Santa Claus is interesting. Tell her that this hunk of plastic is her baby. Tell her the fat guy in the red suit is the one who brings her Christmas presents. I mean it's no wonder that most women are clinically insane from a very early age. Yes, that's your baby. Oh, isn't she a pretty baby. Well, no she isn't a baby. She's a hunk of plastic. And it's considered really bad form to point that out. Far healthier (goes the prevailing female thinking from Traditional to Marxist-feminist) that the child be encouraged in every way imaginable to believe that this hunk of plastic is her baby. Well, you know, if you say so. Just don't blame me when that little girl grows up to be intrinsically resistant to perceiving reality accurately. Of course for some of them it isn't a baby replica, it's just where their "Other thing" expresses itself. There's the little girl and there's her Other which, for a lot of them, is their doll, their favourite doll or their dog or their pet rabbit or their hamster or whatever. That intrinsic element of female nature that intrudes upon genuine evil when Other becomes Familiar in the Wiccan sense, where her identity is so tied up with the Other that an inextricable link between the human and the bestial is forged and everything opposed to the link of the human and the bestial is viewed as evil. You see degrees of this with the sort of women who only trust animals and think that animals are better than people. Then there are other women, the genuinely alienated, for whom everything and everyone is the Other. And that was how I pictured Jaka. Her mother dies before she's old enough to be really aware of what a mother is, so it's less easy for her to think of Missy as a baby replica-being to Jaka what Jaka is to her mother (which touches tangentially on another interesting direction: this is me. I, the little girl, am the baby and this hunk of plastic represents me. So I am both me and the Other. I am a little girl and I am a hunk of plastic. Seriously creepy, in my view), so Jaka pictures Nurse as an enlarged Missy. Missy is Other. Nurse is Other. Jaka is Jaka. So she begins to understand her relationships in those frames of reference. There is Jaka and there is Other. Some Others she has control over and some Others have control over her. This becomes the source of her dancing. Through her dancing she has control over Others. There is only one dancer on the stage and everyone else is in the audience. Which is why she's drawn to dancing pre-eminently and
is willing to put anything at risk to keep dancing. It's the only way of life she knows that allows her to control the Others. The only little girl that I really saw grow up from babyhood to adulthood was my cousin Tracy who was born when I was sixteen. I had dinner with her a couple of years back and I asked her, What was the name of your doll again? Cozy Molly. I had remembered that that was the doll's name, but I had thought I must be wrong because it was such a peculiar name.. Where did that come from, I asked her. Where did you get the name Cozy Molly? Evidently my maiden aunts, Aunt Gret and Aunt Fanny (now both deceased) had given it to her and had told her that its name was Cozy Molly. And at that point I didn't want to know-even if my maiden aunts had still been alive and lucid-where they had come up with the fact that this doll's name was Cozy Molly. Whatever the honest answer would have been, I would bet you dollars to donuts it would've been genuinely and sincerely creepy.

Q3. Nurse/Ada Talbot's presence in the cell next to Jaka appears to be more than a mere coincidence. Was she (1) really Nurse and a Cirinist; (2) a Cirinist imposter using information gleaned from Oscar's book; or (3) Nurse and not a Cirinist (her 8 month incarceration time would appear to match up with Cerebus' reappearance after his Ascension)? Was her placement in the cell an attempt by the Cirinists to elicit information and/or break down Jaka psychologically before being handed over to Thatcher? (i131)

DAVE: 1) That's very possible. 2) You've been reading too many conspiracy theory books. 3) That's very possible as well. Actually, all of those things were going through my head while I was working on that sequence and because Nurse never comes back into the story, I was able to leave it open to interpretation, both for others and for myself. You know, one of the possibilities that you didn't suggest was the fact that it might have had nothing to do with getting information or breaking Jaka down psychologically and might instead have just been as nasty as the Cirinists were able to be, given Jaka's diplomatic immunity. They couldn't execute her or torture her and they couldn't execute Rick because of the problems that would cause with Palnu, but that didn't mean they couldn't terrify Jaka to within an inch of her sanity and destroy her marriage as a way of indicating what a dim view they took of her career and (what is the Marxist-feminist discrete euphemism?) family planning choices. From a Cirinist standpoint, they wouldn't be doing anything to her that she hadn't done to Pud. Was it Jaka's fault that Pud's lust for her destroyed him as a person? Was it the Cirinists' fault that Jaka's choices-when presented to Rick-destroyed her marriage?

Q4. The last page is very similar to an earlier page of Jaka's Story, but the picture AND text are slightly different. The 1st picture has a flock of birds in it, the 2nd has a lone bird. The 1st Text describes Jaka's actions prior to receiving the invitation and has a final paragraph that says: "She remembered, most particularly, watching a lone figure in the distance..." The 2nd Text omits the initial paragraphs and modifies the 1st sentence of the last paragraph to read: "As she watched the lone figure in the distance..." It appears you have taken Oscar's Jaka's Story and adopted it to fit the ending of your Jaka's Story (changing it). That is, you are making the point that Jaka is in a similar situation now compared to the situation she was in back then - only now, as symbolized by the lack of birds, Jaka has much less hope - she's been destroyed as an Artist - so now she's only a prisoner. Also, you omit "she remembered" from the text - perhaps signifying that what we are reading is NOT an unreliable memory - but reality (as the narrator/you perceive it). Moreover, this act of using your fictional character's creation to advance your own creation blurs the line between creator and creation. This blurring of reality - "All Stories Are True" and there is NO definitive viewpoint - would appear to be one of the central themes of Cerebus and is expanded upon in the subsequent, Mothers & Daughters. Comments?

DAVE: Mm. Actually the other way around. In the first instance, she had her life before her with all of the different Jakas she intended to be. The whole range of possibilities represented by the flock of birds. In the latter instance she had been destroyed as everything but an artist. That was the reasoning behind the flock of birds becoming a single bird. She had chosen to have the abortion because she was afraid that having a baby would make her ugly.

And the urge to be attractive was strictly a "dancer thing." So thus perished Jaka the mother and thus perished Jaka's child, Jaka's actual Other. And when Rick found out, thus perished Jaka the wife. It wasn't just the marriage to Rick that died and it wasn't just the unborn child, it was her belief that she could be a wife and mother as well as a dancer that died. The dancer decisions would always supersede the mother decisions and the wife decisions. And, of course, the life of a dancer isn't a lengthy one so not only was she reduced to a single identity, the sands in the hourglass were fast running out on that identity. The only thing that was left besides the artist was Jaka the lover and that would die with the end of Form & Void. It would be impossible to
imagine Jaka falling in love and giving it another try after having it brought home to her inescapably that she just wasn't good for men, which I think I'm safe in saying, she wasn't. Anytime her artistic self was aroused, as it was aroused when F. Stop Kennedy tried to tempt her to Mealc, everyone around her got hung out to dry-in that case Cerebus' life being put into grave peril. The "lone figure in the distance" is no longer just a poetic element in the landscape spread before her. The "lone figure in the distance"-suddenly-IS her. It's actually the opposite of "All Stories Are True". "All Stories Are True" is one of those conceits that can comfort people who are burning the candle at both ends and trying to live many lives simultaneously, as Jaka was. The "Having It All" Marxist-feminist hallucination. But the unhappy truth for those people is that the world is, ultimately, far more made up of "This Is What Happened" than it is of "All Stories Are True". There are a plenitude of lives and possibilities before you in your youth that then narrow into a sequence of events which unfolded as they unfolded (Where you can say on your thirtieth birthday: "Huh. So THAT was my twenties") and-over a short space of time-Who You Might Yet Turn Out To Be gets replaced by Who You Ended Up Being. I speak from the vantage point of someone who is a little over a year from his fiftieth birthday. This is Who I Ended Up Being.

Q5. Was the Lord Julius Like-A-Look Victor Davis?

DAVE: In a DRESS? I wouldn't think so.

Q6: What is the origin of the Guffin, and why is it so offensive to Cirinists?

DAVE: I first heard the term used by Alfred Hitchcock in an interview to describe a structural screen-writing concept, that is: an object introduced into the narrative to help drive the story, although I can't remember which of his movies he was discussing. Maybe the bundle of money in *Psycho*? McGuffin? MacGuffin? Maguffin? I think Humphrey Bogart refers to The Maltese Falcon by the same term in the movie of the same name, but I have no idea if that was just in the film script or if it was in Dashiell Hammett's original story as well. So, basically I thought it would be kind of funny to invent an object that was actually called a Guffin and to leave the explanation of it completely to one side so that it was exactly what it was described as -- an object introduced into the narrative to help drive the story. It was obviously a black and white object of some kind and it was offensive to Cirinists which is why it draws their attention to the tavern and sets up the unhappy ending. Since those were the only qualities it needed to possess in order to drive the story forward, those were the only elements I came up with. Feel free to create your own backstory for the Guffin!

Volume 6: MELMOTH

Q1.Given that Melmoth was the first Cerebus story-arc to incorporate large amounts of story from other sources (which of course happened quite frequently later on), how much did you have to change your writing techniques/style/practices to incorporate outside material, and what effect, if any, did doing that have on your overall writing style?

DAVE: Well, my primary experience was that the Oscar Wilde portions of Melmoth didn’t really constitute writing in the conventional sense, it was more of an illustrated journalism. The late Will Eisner (God rest his soul) when I gave him a copy of Chet’s Louis Riel before our three-way “graphic novelists” panel at Torontocon this past June made the excellent point that Riel can’t be considered a graphic novel, because it isn’t fiction. He suggested graphic narrative as the encompassing term which would include both fiction and non-fiction graphic stories. Of course, that still leaves open the question of whether there is a non-fiction counterpart term to the term graphic novel. That is, the term “graphic novel” is to the term “fiction” as “graphic narrative” is to the term “book” and as the term “x” is to the term “non-fiction”.

I had to change the narrative tone of the book to make it work, so the biggest challenge was—as it was pretty much all the way through the Cerebus storyline—to ignore the cries of “This sucks!” and the steadily declining circulation and to keep telling the story the way I thought it needed to be told. Things like the street-sweeper dusting Cerebus off. I’d start trying to do it in two or three panels and think, No, that’s not the way you do it, you have to slow it down. Because the Cerebus story and the Oscar Wilde story might as well have been taking place on different planets—the only things that linked them were the unhappy content and the glacial slow pace—I was able to alternate the textures of the two different ways of telling a story, the one of which was very familiar and the other of which was not familiar. It was a lot easier than incorporating Oscar Wilde into Jaka’s Story, let’s say. There I had to make Rick and Jaka and Oscar Wilde and Cerebus seem as if they belonged together on the page which was tough because I had never seen it done successfully. Usually in a comic book story, if you introduce a real-life person the real-life person sticks out like a sore thumb, they’re drawn more tentatively to try and achieve a likeness and their dialogue is usually very mechanical both of which seem to stem from an unnecessary level of reverence. Doing Oscar Wilde as a good character in Jaka’s Story is a very different ambition from doing a reverential treatment of Oscar Wilde.

Q2. To what extent did the artistic style in Melmoth dictate the subject matter, and vice versa? Many pages seem to be very Beardsleyesque in quality - did the desire to do some pages in that style come first, or was this purely due to Wilde's association with Beardsley?

DAVE: I’d be interested in knowing which pages you found “Beardsleyesque”. I was certainly aware of Aubrey Beardsley’s work through Jaka’s Story and Melmoth but he had too much of a core perception of the “illustration as the totality of the narrative” to be a touchstone for a sequential narrative, in my view. There’s certainly a sense of everyone being “rooted” in their place in the page—partly as a means of slowing things down—which might be thematically linked with Beardsley. I considered using some of his flourishes and affectations but there was always the problem of making it fit with what Gerhard was doing in the background that would compel me to stick to much narrower parameters of the literalism “straight and narrow” than “doing” Beardsley would have allowed, I think. If I was to show Gerhard Beardsley’s Salomé pictures, as an example, and say “here’s what we’re doing on this page” the reaction would be that it was wrong. The perspectives and the proportions are off because Beardsley was doing the Whole Picture in a fine art sense, rather than a composed picture in a geometric sense. Beardsley’s picture’s design was the content was the shape was the point was the outline was the relationship of black to white was the perspective was the proportion, was the idea, was the net effect etc. etc. To communicate that to Gerhard bearing Gerhard’s working methods in mind I’d have to find some analogous background “look” with structure to it—probably Virgil Finlay. Finlay was the logical outcome of Beardsley’s approach if you’re looking at the style from Gerhard’s side of the fence. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I steered Gerhard toward pointillism in the course of the book. He’s so thorough that that just constitutes needless cruelty unless you have a solid motivation for it: like the single instance of showing in The Last Day how blurred Cerebus’ vision had become. I had to do one panel on my own to show him “Go deep into the page, but not too deep, about this deep—don’t hurt yourself.” If I just said “Cerebus’ vision is really blurry so do that whole end of the room in pointillism,” he’d do it and it would be mind-boggling but it would take him five or six days and he would need stomach surgery by the end of it.
I’d say if there’s anything that I took away from Beardsley it was his artistic irreverence for Wilde since, as I say, a reverent treatment would have been the kiss of death. He did Oscar as one of the figures in one of the Salomé pictures and it sure wasn’t something Oscar would have put on his Christmas cards that year. He had a very low opinion of Wilde and Wilde had a low opinion of Beardsley. One of Wilde’s letters concerns the scandalous number of telegrams they sent each other when they had their famous “set to” over Wilde’s critiques of Beardsley’s drawings for Salomé. I think it was Salomé, anyway. Trying to get the last word in at each other so that the telegraph company was delivering message after message after message which would certainly be enough to attract the wrong sort of notice in Wilde’s Chelsea neighbourhood. Wilde considered Beardsley’s work Byzantine and thus inappropriate for illustrating his own work. Wilde still saw pictures through Whistler’s eyes—faux Orientalism was his forte. Beardsley either wasn’t far enough East, for Wilde, or he was too far East depending on which way you were traveling. They were, as Old Joe put it in A Christmas Carol “well met”. There was an intrinsically grotesque quality to Beardsley’s work that suited the degradation Wilde had embarked upon and which he was attempting to wed to his inherent love of beautiful things. Beardsley is arguably the prettiest illustrator of grotesqueries from that or any other time period. The fact that everyone else thought the grotesque look of Beardsley’s work was very well suited to what Wilde was writing should have set off warning bells for Wilde, but didn’t.

Q3. Please discuss the use of a similar, yet slightly different Oscar in Melmoth and how you see him in relation to the other Oscar Wilde “echoes” you've brought up, including Jaka's Story's Oscar and Reads’ Sir Henry Wotton?

DAVE: “Sir Henry Wotton?” I thought. “What the hell is Sir Henry Wotton doing in Reads?” I had to go get a copy and flip through it. I had completely forgotten that part. Had myself snickering pretty good reading it aloud. “Many…satisfactory dealings.” That’s a good instance of being partly autobiographical at least in the observational sense. Jeez, no wonder all these guys just trying to make a living in the comic-book field hate my guts. I mean, there’s the danger. If you are as fortunate as I am—and was—not to have to go out and ‘turn tricks’ to put food on the table, it’s certainly—at one level or another— amusing to watch the mating rituals between publishers and creators. It’s a little less amusing to have one of them come sniffing around your crotch at a convention or a trade show when you’re a self-publisher and you don’t “do” that, but it’s also incredibly insensitive to document it as a thinly-veiled fiction. The fact that I chose Oscar Wilde to deliver the monologue—Sir Henry Wotton, as I recall, is the name of the Oscar doppelganger in The Picture of Dorian Gray—should’ve set off warning bells for me, but didn’t. I was still trying, good-naturedly, to point out the inherent danger in living that way. Whether you’re flattering yourself that you’re a ‘gun-for-hire” or facing the fact that most publishers, like johns, use up creators as if they were five-dollar hookers and throw them away like used Kleenex; and, seriously, no offense intended, just a friendly warning…except there really is no “friendly” way to warn someone about a foundational circumstance like that. The warning itself is completely “unfriendly”—like my choice to be warning guys about how Draconian post-1970 family law is. I’d better stop talking about this now before everyone gets offended again. The answer to the question is that Sir Henry Wotton was intended as Victor Reid’s fictionalized version of Estarcion’s Oscar from Jaka’s Story or the Oscar from Melmoth—he could be either one—and Victor Reid met him exactly the way it’s documented here.
The “Two Oscars” problem is attributable to the fact that I had made the decision to use Wilde as a character in Jaka’s Story before I was too many pages into Ellman’s biography and the character took shape around the pre-debacle Oscar, including the “no artistic license” gag at the end. Of course, once I read the end of the book, I realized that that was going to strike a particularly sour note if it was left as the last that we see of Oscar Wilde. It would be like fictionalizing JFK and Jackie in the summer of 1963 sailing off Hyannis Port and having as the last line Jackie saying, dreamily, “How splendid the second term is going to be…how very…splendid.” It goes beyond irony and intrudes upon the willfully (sorry for the recurrent term) grotesque. I wasn’t prepared to throw any part of Jaka’s Story overboard because of those kinds of sensitivities, so that meant that I had to address it in the little Metaphorical Death book that concludes in issue 150. I toyed with the idea of making it the same Oscar but I thought that would stretch credibility to the breaking point. If you already know your character is going to be sitting in a catatonic trance for a year’s worth of issues, it’s very difficult to start that year-long storyline with a caption that reads “Meanwhile…Two years later…” I was already working out mentally just how slow I could make the story and how few genuine incidents I had to have take place to sustain the narrative. That one caption would have required an increase in the number of incidents taking place because the uppermost question in the reader’s mind would have been, “He already said ‘Meanwhile two years later…’ why are we seeing so much of Year Three when nothing happened then, either?” (everybody sing) “This SUCKS!” The only other solution was that they were two different Oscars which, in the way I saw the world at that time, was less far-fetched than it would seem on the surface. The emotional cataclysm in Cerebus’ life and its effect on the whatever-it-was-that-was-inhabiting-him would’ve functioned as a gravitational force—nature abhors a vacuum—and would naturally draw people into proximity to him in an attempt to fill the gap that was left and to replace what’s now missing. There’s no more Rick, in the story. Instead, Rick is represented by normalroach who’s only there for an issue and is gone. That’s basically what Rick is going through off-stage somewhere, that level of anger and fear and most of it directed at Jaka, Mrs. Thatcher and women in general. Jaka’s there, only now she’s much smaller and she’s now a waitress instead of a dancer—Doris. Pud’s there, only he’s much sleazier—Dino. Oscar’s there, but he’s much older and he’s down the street and he’s dying. The fact that Oscar is the closest proximity to one of the Jaka’s Story characters—he’s a writer and his name is Oscar—indicates that the entire storyline has skewed off in a largely grotesque direction from where it had been.

And it’s not actually that grotesque—certainly not as grotesque as I thought it was at the time. The death is a pretty basic death. It isn’t a writer’s death or a homosexual’s death or a societal pariah’s death or a victim of injustice death. He’s just old, he doesn’t believe in God, he knows he doesn’t have much time left and he just gets variously depressed and giddy, angry and terrified, he obsesses about minor things, makes really bad choices—like continuing to knock back the champagne—because it really is too late unless last minute absolution from the Church actually works. In my early thirties that just looked grotesque. Now that I’m just this side of fifty, it’s more of a There but for the grace of God go I. It seemed grotesque in my early thirties because a part of me still believed in love or still believed in sex and the pursuit of happiness, anyway. What I didn’t recognize was that I was documenting someone who held those beliefs and still wouldn’t let go of them even though he had one foot in the grave. In his mind he’s still the bon vivant man about town, celebrated playwright, maybe he can write something new. But at a certain level his mind knows that the body is telling him it’s much, much later than that. At the age of fifty, I’m aware of my body starting to run down and—because I pray now and believe in God—what I’m aware of is that at some point this rotting carcass that I inhabit is going to run down and my soul will be released. It’s not the Unthinkable Catastrophe that it was when I was an atheist and in my early thirties when I was in denial about the reality of death and that my own death was going to be here before I knew it the same way that before I knew it I was thirty-four. Before I knew it I was thirty-four, before I knew it was almost fifty and someday before I know it I’ll be dead. It’s the destination that was stamped on my ticket when I got here.

Q4. Given the need for a second Oscar to tell the story of Melmoth, and the somewhat tricky shoe-horning of the story of Wilde's death into Estarcion, would it be fair to say that the main arc of Melmoth was not really a Cerebus story but rather something separate inspired by your research for Cerebus?

DAVE: Mm, no, I don’t think that’s true. As you can probably see from my previous answer I view the story differently now than I did then but that was at least partly attributable to the basic insight that I have about what things I know and what things I’m completely clueless about. I knew enough to know that a guy in his early thirties doesn’t know squat about death—even though I discovered my landlord dead in his office the morning after I had been at his Christmas party when I was twenty, Gene Day died when I was twenty-seven and I had watched my maternal grandfather die, holding his hand, just before I did Melmoth at the age of thirty-something—so I had to find an authentic death and stick as close to the documented facts as I could because all of my relationship to death were external at that point. There was a certain value in actually seeing the livid quality of the dying flesh in my grandfather’s face and actually hearing the death rattle and seeing how tense all of his muscles were. But that was all still external. If there was any part of me saying “I’m going to be going through this myself before I can say Jack Robinson” it was a very small part.

Q4. Commercial realities aside, would you have preferred to stop Cerebus for a year to tell the Melmoth story without having to tie it into the ongoing Cerebus milieu?

DAVE: No, definitely not. That’s one of those unhappy accidents of journalism that the Comics Journal suggested in their review of Jaka’s Story (I think it was) and then it just becomes received wisdom that I wanted to stop doing Cerebus and do something serious and important like Melmoth. It said so in the Comics Journal so that’s what it was. Dave didn’t have the artistic integrity to abandon the comic book about the talking aardvark and do Something Meaningful and how sad that is. Well, depending on your point of view, that may be terribly sad, but no, Melmoth was the Death book, the other side of Jaka’s Story which was the Love book. Jaka’s Story & Melmoth are my best try at Love & Death. It was very important to me to keep the Cerebus and Melmoth parts of the story separate because I thought that made an important point about Death. Cerebus is going through a metaphorical death, a death of the spirit and Oscar is staring Death in the face and they’re completely unaware of each other. Everyone around Cerebus is unaware of Cerebus—of what he’s going through: you face a metaphorical death alone. Sebastien Melmoth has Robbie Ross there. Couldn’t ask for a more devoted friend, someone with his best interests at heart, but he’s still facing Death alone. He can’t explain it to Robbie and Robbie doesn’t want to hear it. The doctors don’t want to tell Robbie, he doesn’t want them to tell him and he doesn’t want to tell Oscar. He has no more of a “support system” than Cerebus does. I wanted to convey how universal a thing facing death…and Death…alone is. Wherever you’re reading this you’re only a few miles from a hospital where that’s going on. Someone is dying alone in a bed and someone else has fifteen weeping relatives out in the hall and another three at his bedside, but they’re both going through it Alone. Your wife can climb into bed with you if she wants, you’re still dying Alone.

Q5. How much time passed between Cerebus' arrival at Dino's and his killing of the two Cirinists he overheard talking about Jaka?

DAVE: That one I had to leave an open question. Since the whole point of Cerebus in Melmoth is how irretrievably “out of it” and Alone he is, for me to have any notion of the exact chronology in my mind would undermine the point of the story. The same with Melmoth’s death. You can get a copy of The Letters of Oscar Wilde and make an educated guess as to the time frame from the dates on Robbie Ross’ letters, but the point of the story wasn’t Robbie Ross who was still aware of minutes and hours and days and weeks and tick, tick, tick. It was Melmoth where those things had lost all meaning. You could tell him what day it was and it wouldn’t mean anything. That’s one of the first things that dies, I think, temporal sense. When they announce your plane is boarding you start to forget where the airport washrooms are, your Gate number, the flight number. It just doesn’t apply anymore. Airport reality is going away and soon there’s only plane reality.

Volume 7: FLIGHT

Q1a. The Coins: We see coins decaying at the bottom of the ocean. Is it correct to assume the nine bubbles emanating from one of the coins are meant to represent the nine spheres?

DAVE: Yes. And the planets in the solar system. Mercury, Venus, the Earth, etc. The first coin basically just lets off a shower of sparks and the second coin generates these perfect spherical shapes. I was labouring under the misapprehension that the planets were formed of matter "thrown off" by the sun. Which I'm not sure isn't at least partly true. The planets coalesce in much the same way that the sun coalesces and a planet, it seems to me, signifies a greater level of coherence than does a ring. I suspect that's one of the messages of the solar system. Out of the nine planets, only Saturn and Uranus have rings (or is it Neptune?). Planets and moons are more common. Of those entities orbiting the sun, only the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is largely incoherent. The system which we inhabit is 80 to 85% coherent and 15 to 20% incoherent. There is hope.

Q1b: Are we to believe these coins were minted by either Tarim or Po?

DAVE: It's certainly one of the prevailing belief systems which dominate Estarcion. As to whether you should or shouldn't believe it, you might as well ask "Are we to believe that there was an historical Jesus?" The core nature of belief is choice.

Q1c: Also, it appears that at least one coin bears the image of an aardvark. Does this mean that Tarim was an aardvark?

DAVE: That would be a far less commonly held belief than the belief that Tarim, when he walked the earth, minted coins. The fact that the title character is an aardvark would tend to skew belief in that direction on the part of the reader, which isn't to say that it's insupportable as belief systems go.

Q2a. Strange happenings: Underwater, the coins are still rising - orbiting each other and glowing. At a Chico painting session (great painting!), the nude model sees tiny Cerebi. Just as Cerebus orders the villagers to attack the Cirinists, Thatcher sees part of the city wall grow in a penis-like shape. I guess overall we're supposed to think that Cerebus rousing himself to action and becoming a player again has the effect of causing weird things to happen over the world. Is there a specific pattern?

DAVE: The idea that I was trying to get across was of a transformational state that was so widely dispersed and so various in character that no pattern could be readily discerned-it was impossible to stand far enough back to see the Big Picture (which prefigures the trip through the solar system-a genuine try at standing far enough back). I was already aware that that was the nature of reality-that, in our own world, each day's newspaper essentially documents the fitful progress of the global storyline as it has changed since yesterday. It's the reason I think the news is so compelling. Our higher natures recognize the larger pattern and are absorbed in studying that while our human natures are interested in what we perceive to be disparate and unrelated episodic chronologies. I tried to hint at the former while documenting the latter. It's a tangential observation to the old "if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?" How many things happen that we aren't around to see? How much of the debate between unresolvable dualities takes place outside of the realm of human perception?

Q2b: Is it merely a case that with Cerebus charging and slaughtering Cirinists, his amplified energy is spreading out, along with the action of the Black Lotus (another amplifier)?

DAVE: It's certainly partly that, but it's also the fact that he has accidentally achieved a dormant and quiescent state over an extended period as a result of the profound shock that he's experienced. What is the net effect of catatonia upon whatever the thing is that inhabits him/he is inhabiting? My best speculation was that the spirit enlarges under such a circumstance and effectively begins to seep outward-like the fog created by a dry ice machine-and to permeate all aspects of its surrounding reality: that is, that catatonia has a great deal in common with meditation and other transcendental states: the difference being the respective catalysts, in the first case a psychological trauma and in the second case an imperative toward self-improvement. The danger in the former case is that a comparable trauma is apt to hurl the subject out of the transcendental state with the same force that he was hurled into it. So everything he's become hooked up to through the seepage becomes subject to the same form of whiplash. Depending on the severity of the reaction (which in turn hinges on the extent to which the connection has been made) everything in the spiritual vicinity abruptly begins to rise above or in one sense or another move outside of its previous state and discharges or extrudes or divides one part of its intrinsic nature centering on The Other from the other part of its intrinsic nature centering on Self because Jaka's presumed death is the initial catalyst for the seepage and Jaka's mistreatment becomes the secondary catalyst for breaking out of quiescence. All you need is love to trigger a series of peculiar and occasionally catastrophic episodes over a wide geographic area.

Q2c: Are the circling coins attempting to re-create the sphere, and make what seems to be a physical representation of Einstein's formula E=MC2, precursor to another "big bang"? (i153)

DAVE: The circling coins are enacting, rather disinterestedly by the looks of things, the two dichotomous political positions in the debate on the preferred nature of The Other-whether it is better to just hurl off a bunch of sparks (the spermatozoa/masculine/masturbation position) or to generate small imperfect replicas of oneself (the egg/feminine/procreative position).

Q3a. Po: Suenteus Po is revealed as the third Aardvark. Were all (or some) of his previous incarnations (ex. Goldsmith Po who was burned at the stake) also aardvarks?

DAVE: Well, that would be a position worthy of a certain amount of debate. It depends on what you think distinguishes Suenteus Po from others and whether you think he's right or "right" in his viewpoints. Is it better to live your life in isolation so as to avoid having negative effects on the world and is that what distinguishes Suenteus Po from others? Is Po's largest over-arching reality monasticism or aardvark nature? He would hold to the former
view, I think. He would be of the Gandhi school in that regard, passive resistance and so on. Buddha nature. Cirin, on the other hand, is of a more activist breed. You have to get out there and improve things...even if you make them worse. Po is an aardvark and he imparts as much of the history of aardvarks to Cerebus as he deems necessary, but I don't think he feels any special kinship with his genetic predecessors. How he chose to live his life was, to him, more important than the physical qualities he shares with this particular strain of mutation. It's an interesting philosophical construct: "If I'm so different from everyone else, what possible justification could I have for interfering in their lives?"

Q3b: Po states that "capricious aspects" of his consciousness have a habit of interfering. (i158) Does this mean all (or some) of the earlier Po's whom Cerebus met in Mind Games I-VI were just capricious aspects?

DAVE: It depends on whether capriciousness in this case is a reason or an excuse. If you are pledged to non-interference presumably you don't have any capricious aspects. You just don't interfere. The Buddha scrupulously just sits there. I think it's more likely that Po wasn't completely sold on non-interference and consequently interfered a lot more than he could comfortably accept as an intrinsic reality. Just telling Cerebus what his history was and showing him some of the implications of his own choices couldn't help but change Cerebus' nature. A more well-informed Cerebus was a different Cerebus, potentially a more dangerous Cerebus and he became well-informed through Po's interference. It was one of the net effects of Cerebus going from a catatonic and quiescent state to an active state and going in search of reality. He was going to corner Suenteus Po, another The Other, essentially driving him out of his own catatonic and quiescent state and causing problems for everything that he was hooked up to from his own extended period of quiescence. Interfering a little bit never works because it's impossible to limit it to a "little bit".

Q3c: Could one of these "aspects" have been involved with Claremont in the fake elf caper?

DAVE: Could well have been. One of the problems that I imagine attaches itself to spiritual levels of existence is that the "higher up" you go and the longer and more effectively you achieve a quiescent state, the more things interconnect and the less possible it becomes to limit the effects that you have. What is a stray thought in your own reality can become a transformational insight to someone you are connected with. If the transformation is a negative one, what is your level of culpability for your stray thought? In a lot of ways, Suenteus Po was just trying to get Cerebus to calm down. Calming down as a choice works, calming down as an instruction or a direct order won't. Showing Cerebus the implications of the actions he has already taken as a means of getting him to stop taking action only unsettled him and amplified his discordant effects.

Q4. Cirin reveals she wants to keep Cerebus alive (i152). We learn later that the reason for this is she hopes to create more aardvarks through Cerebus' hermaphroditic nature. Is she incapable of giving birth, and if not does this mean that Sir Gerrick is her real son and therefore her proof that she cannot produce an Aardvark?

DAVE: Cirin was infuriated by the fact that she couldn't give birth to another aardvark largely as an element of her overwhelming maternal vanity, the same maternal vanity that keeps mothers from seeing their axe-murderer sons as anything but misunderstood little darlings. It's all a matter of your reaction to being exceptional. As I say, Po's reaction was: if I'm that profoundly different from everyone else, what business do I have interfering? Cirin's reaction was: I'm that much better than everyone else so it's up to me to produce more like me in order to run everything properly because everyone else has made a mess of everything. Even among the exceptional she was exceptional. She knew that aardvarks were spontaneous mutations and that there were few if any instances of aardvarks even passing on limited aspects to their human offspring (i.e. Shep-shep's three toes). She could accept that about others but not about herself. She had to be the Mother of All Aardvarks. The fact that her son was human was a personal affront to her. There hadn't been a lot of female aardvarks if you read between the lines of the story and you don't need much exposure to Cirin to understand why that is. The exponential magnification of female nature is intrinsically monstrous, obsessive and monomaniacal. Like the Liberal government of Canada which is basically run by its women's caucus. They got elected almost a year ago and the only legislation they have in the pipeline is same-sex marriage. That's what happens when you magnify female interests. Everything else grinds to a halt while they advance their monomaniacal interest. Massive infusion of cash into the Marxist health care money pit, National Daycare program, same sex marriage. One at a time, one after another. The Canadian people had to take the lead in this country's tsunami relief effort. The government barely looked up long enough to vaguely acknowledge that having air lift capability for our emergency response might be a useful thing to talk about sometime down the road. Right now, it's same-sex marriage or death. The fact that Cerebus might be able to impregnate himself only added to her fury since that seemed a greater likelihood of producing purer aardvarkian offspring. She produced a human infant and called it a day-it would be just too destructive of her over-inflated opinion of herself if she had had any more failures. Cerebus didn't produce any offspring for a long time which served as a kind of salve to her ego and compelled her in the direction of genetic engineering. If Cerebus was going to beat her in the baby aardvark sweepstakes, maybe she could beat him on the inside rail down the home stretch by learning how to grow aardvarks from scratch like plants.

Q5. Is there any further explanation for what K'Cor's abandoned, unfinished monument was supposed to be, or represent? In Cerebus #9, we see the plans for the completed monument. It looks like an abstract, armless, humanoid form. A little green man? An Aardvark? K'Cor's ramblings about the Venusians seem like the ranting of a madman, and one could dismiss the whole thing as an early plot idea left in the dust- but you brought it back in Flight. Po refers to K'Cors monument as being "of great and vital importance on many of the inter-connecting chessboards: alignments of power and influence ebbed and flowed in its proximity. Its completion would have wrought profound and lasting change." K'Cor is fascinated with Venus, and the moon- both astrological aspects of Woman. So, who was guiding his hand? Terim/Yoowhoo? Cirin? And if this monument was so important to the interdimensional aspect of Woman, why was it derailed by a woman in the departure of Sedra, all the while K'Cor still being in contact with "The Living Goddess?"

DAVE: Well, actually that was just my peculiar sense of humour. What K'Cor was attempting to build was a giant DNA molecule, a double helix, but he didn't have much in the way of a three-dimensional sense so that's what it came out looking like. Po was responding to the intent behind it, on the spiritual level and, there's my sense of humour again. If you are a human being (or an aardvark-let's say "physically incarnated") the danger with attempting to live a spiritual life is that you can only know it imperfectly "through a glass darkly" so your assessments become imperfect and vaguely (or sometimes specifically I'm sure) ludicrous. "There is a great deal of laughter but it's very high up and very far away." K'Cor was guided by his insights, whether he was inhabited by a higher consciousness or spoken to in his dreams or, more likely, a drug victim. You make your own choices. I suspect I was unconsciously showing myself what it was that I was about to choose-to spend twenty-six years building this giant monument which might prove to be something or might not-that might be useful as a "stairway to heaven" or prove to be as valuable as a giant two-dimensional model of part of a DNA molecule. Time will tell.

Even at the time I was quite aware that there is an enormous difference between an individual woman and womankind contemplated collectively although I hadn't yet arrived at the conclusion that in trying to satisfy and serve the interests of the latter you will, more often than not, alienate the former and in trying to serve and satisfy the interests of the former, you will, more often than not alienate the latter. And since women have, through feminism, universally adopted a collectivist identity in addition to their individual identities, it is ultimately impossible to choose one or the other exclusively. You must in any given circumstance choose to address her as an incarnation of the collective identity or as herself as an individual and whichever one you choose to address she will, in my experience, adopt the protective colouration of the other. The mistake that K'Cor made was in thinking that his allegiance to the collective female identity and unquestioning devotion to The Goddess assured the success of his relationship with Sedra when nothing could be further from the truth. She left him because clearly she wasn't his primary relationship, The Goddess and the collective womankind was his primary relationship. I think most women measure the success of their relationships by the knee-jerk quality of their partner's responses. If she's in "O" mode you have to respond in "O" fashion. If she's in "1" mode, you have to respond in "1" fashion and if you guess wrong as to which mode she is in with your initial response you have to be able to create a plausible cover story as to how you meant "0" when you actually said "1". Of course becoming adept at these things just makes you uninteresting and she leaves out of boredom while failing to become adept at the quick switch makes you perverse and she leaves out of resentment.

Volume 8: WOMEN

Q1a: Cerebus dreams and speaks with the Regency Elf who states that the "real" Regency elf has dark hair, pointy ears, and can't leave the Regency Hotel. Is it safe to assume, therefore, that our Elf is a "fake" Elf, and the duplicate Elf of Flight was a fake "fake" Elf?

DAVE: It would depend, I guess on what you think of elves in general. My own supposition, to quote Neil Gaiman, is "there's something there." Just as the Church in the upper city is ancient, so is the Regency Hotel at the upper city's opposite end. What was there before and to what extent does whatever-is still inhabit the grounds and the building? At the same time it is interesting that, while elves-little people-are a universal construct, I can't remember hearing of elves haunting a building in the way that ghosts are said to do. The omission seems significant to me-a universal construct and no record of any of them ever appearing indoors. If they really are just quirks in people's minds, presumably they would be seen everywhere that people and their minds are found. Not only are they never seen indoors, but when was the last time you heard of an "elf sighting"? I tried to convey the impression that the Regency Elf was more on the order of something like the Loch Ness Monster-a specific beastie in a specific locale that is, if not widely accepted, at least more widely accepted than generally mythologized creatures. I would suspect that more people believe in the Loch Ness Monster than believe in the existence-generally-of mythological creatures.

Of course it also needs to be born in mind that this was a dream and that dreams in a conventional sense usually don't mean much of anything. They're just sensible enough to be interesting but not sensible enough to be the basis of decision-making.

Q1b: Additionally, the Elf says that she was created as a result of Cerebus and Po's FIRST Mind Game, even though it was Cerebus' second - can this contradiction be reconciled by seeing it as the first, from the Elf's own perspective?

DAVE: Well, this becomes a core problem when you move into the realm of fantastic constructs. You're trying to apply conventional forms of reason to what an elf is telling you. But, what the heck, I'm game. Who is to say that the fake elf wasn't created as a result of the first Mind Game which took place a period of time before Cerebus arrived at the Regency? Either she was extruded from Cerebus and inhabited him and only needed a context in which to manifest-which she found in the Ambassador Suite-or she manifested up ahead in Cerebus' life and was basically just waiting for him to "catch up" to the point in his life where-and when-she has incarnated/will incarnate.

Q1c: Was the real Regency Elf somehow involved in this procreation?

DAVE: Well, that's kind of funny in retrospect in a YHWHist context. As it says in the Koran about joining gods with God-"those who do not create but were themselves created"-it's a characteristic vice of such beings to see themselves as both pre-existent and procreative and, of course, like YHWH the Regency Elf is a BRGWST (as long as we're trafficking in imaginary constructs, let's pretend that outsiders are actually taking an interest here and explain that that stands for "Big Round Glowing White Strange Thing"). I would say there are characteristics inherent in the condition, one of which is to have pre-existence as a core belief (YHWH creating the plants before they were in the ground is a good example) and the other is to have an obsessive interest in procreation. I think it was Lawrence Summers, the President of Harvard who pointed out that when -in good politically correct interchangeably gendered fashion- he gave his infant daughter trucks to play with, she instantly christened them "daddy truck" and "baby truck", it's a good example of that. Everything is procreative on the female side of the ledger. God has a Mother God and a Father God, that kind of thing. It seems to me to be a core self-preservation evasiveness that becomes genetic nature. The only alternative being to see yourself as just so much vibrating pixy dust, no sooner manifested than, poof, you're gone-which science would seem to indicate is far closer to the truth.

(having invoked the name of the redoubtable Mr. Summers, I thought that I would mention that his vilification and ostracism seemed to bring about a strange "Dave Sim Reconsidered" thread popping up in the comic-book field which vanished as quickly as it arrived-I suspect because of the cautionary note implied: if you dare to even raise the possibility that the two genders are not interchangeable, there is no "going back" no matter how many times you apologize or how abjectly you grovel before the feminists or how many millions of dollars you promise in funding for feminist hallucinations which I begin to suspect was the whole point of the extremist feminist reaction-feminist terrorism, to call a spade a spade , a kind of intellectual Kristalnacht by which totalitarian feminists ensured that the subject could no more be discussed than a Zionist newspaper could be successfully launched in Berlin in 1937. It's a calculated totalitarian risk, of course, which presumes that
the implicit consequences of running afoul of the Marxist-feminist party line supersedes the urge towards free and open discussion, intellectual curiosity and academic honesty. If you don't want to spend the rest of your life as an outcast-or worse-you WILL believe that the sun goes around the earth, Mr. Galileo)

"Our Elf" (as you so charmingly and possessively express it) I would assume was a creation of that over-arching nature which inhabited and possessed Cerebus all of his life, an extrusion prompted by the Mind Game as, it seems to me, YHWH and all YHWHs in general can be said to be the products of Mind Games. They don't exist but paradoxically they do, however temporarily.

Q1d: Also, was your choice to reveal all this information in a dream purposeful ambiguity with respect to a definitive statement of the Elf's true origins? (i167)

DAVE: I wouldn't describe it so much as purposeful ambiguity as an expression of something I was experiencing in my life for only the second or third time at the time which was an over-arching reality that would not acknowledge my existence because I didn't have a "core woman" in my life. Once you have turned over the determination of the nature of reality to the BRGWST's as everyone besides me has chosen to do, this becomes a brick wall, a deal breaker. If you won't get married again, if you won't have a daughter either by birth or adoption, if you won't have a female confidant to whom you pour out your heart and soul, if you won't subjugate your life to your mother's whims, then you are considered "outside the camp"-unclean. At its most histrionic extremes, the assumption is that Dave Sim will have to kill himself because he doesn't have a woman in his life. It's what happens when reality dislocates so completely that the idea of a man living- happily-without a woman dominating his life is viewed as inconceivable and tragic.

In the context of the story, the Ascension was imminent and Cerebus was going to participate unless he could be deflected and he was, therefore, living in just such a context as the one described above. Essentially that "other half of reality" kept trying to hook him up with someone, anyone, as long as they were female. The Regency Elf was manufacturing a context in which Cerebus was her daddy. It's a level of encroachment I have certainly experienced in my own life and which I have come to see as that opposing force recognizing that unless EVERY man in the world is under the domination of a woman or the domination of a consortium of women, one of those men is apt to see through the illusory construct and persist in identifying it as such. Which, of course, I'm doing. No wife to be suddenly and dramatically taken ill or daughter to suddenly find herself at death's door because I won't give up on identifying what I see as reality. No female leverage whatsoever. In the staccato fashion of the storyline at that point, I was trying to illustrate how desperate that opposing force was becoming, something I have again experienced in my life (Well, okay, who did he USE to go out with? Have her contact him and see if she can't get under his skin and deflect him. It's a long shot, but it's all we've got. There has to be some woman somewhere that we can find and use to beat him over the head with. There HAS to be.) It was really one of the defining characteristics of Suenteus Po and Cerebus and one of the few traits they had in common: no dominating female presence in either of their lives. Jaka was just too far away and Jaka was the only one who would "work" on Cerebus to the extent that that opposing force required. Had there been a means of getting Jaka to the scene of the crime, Cerebus would never have participated in the Ascension. He'd be off somewhere happily sipping herbal tea and munching on cucumber finger sandwiches.

Q2a: We read a letter written by an elderly woman who laments the good old days when men ran the world and women tended the home and raised the children. Their job was to provide comfort for the man so he could go back out into the world to work and rule it. This was life in balance, a hard life, but The Way Things Should Be. It's a much better life than the one where women join men outside the home, strangers raise children, and magic is gone (and elderly women who lament the passing of such days are put to death). These sentiments seem to echo thoughts you have expressed several times over the subsequent ten years (and as recently as your detailed response in a late Latter Days letter column to a colleagueâ€(tm)s wife re The 10 Impossible Things). Does it sum up what you truly believe about how society should be constructed and what is wrong with it today?

DAVE: It's really not in my nature to consider how society should be constructed. That would be conferring on myself an overview that I don't think anyone holds sufficiently to warrant listening to them in the absolutist sense. Society will be as society will be based on the cumulative decision-making of its participants and (more universally) its abstainers. Everyone has free will. Everyone gets to decide for themselves. I think if you look at the way that society was prior to 1970, it worked a lot better. For one thing, more women got married and stayed married which I think is important to women and important in ways which I think women underrate at their own peril. But, it is their peril. My own view is that the vast majority of women want to be wives and mothers and a minority of women want to be frontier neurosurgeons and are willing to trade marital happiness for career success. I think the evidence supports that view. But women are also intrinsically dissatisfied, in my experience. Becoming Stepford Wives was a conscious decision and "living the female dream". Each princess has her own castle and her own little plot of grass where she rules all that she surveys. That wears thin because it there's no social aspect to it. So the dissatisfied princess who badgered her poor husband to buy an overpriced gargantuan house in the suburbs decides, with Betty Friedan's help, that it was a massive patriarchal conspiracy to oppress her natural blah blah blah. Personally what I think worked best for years is proximity and reliability. If, from the time you're married, you can walk home and have lunch everyday with your wife and kids and have dinner everyday with your wife and kids, that marriage is going to "take". If you see your wife every third day and the rest of the time you order pizza, I don't think that marriage is going to "take". It is the fact of the princess being alone in the castle for fifteen hours while waiting for the prince to come home-forty-five minutes both ways because the bigger the castle the further it is from any viable workplace-and the gnawing belief that the prince is having a lot more fun having lunch with five other people and talking to people all day: that's what I think undermined marriage. Men are creatures of habit. Marriage is a habit they can get used to either happily or resignedly. But I think the core thought has to be "This is my family, these are the people I am responsible for," and a reciprocal response on the other half of the deal. "This is what I'm working for" to have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day with these people-to make sure I'm here and to make sure they're here and to make sure that they're cared for. In today's "gay roommate" construct, women are insulted by the idea of being cared for. Which, as far as I'm concerned, eliminates 90% of the masculine motive in participating in marriage. If you don't need to be cared for, what am I doing here? If none of you need to be cared for, why would any of us care? You're all big, strong, independent women-let's just do the horizontal mamba a bunch of times and then move on. When Family Law has been structured the way it has, I think it becomes ridiculous. What you are saying to men is: "You have to please ME or I'm walking away with half of your stuff. With you or without you, it's your call. Decide I'm right about everything or I'll see you in court." I couldn't picture being that desperate for female companionship and I think it's really unfortunate that so many men seem to be that desperate. No one should have that level of control over another person and their worldly goods and their future.

Q2b: And how, if at all, did your religious awakening affect this view? (i169)

DAVE: Mm, no, not really. I mean, in the sense that I was observing a Sabbath and reading Scripture and fasting and then going down to visit Susan and spending Sunday lying around drinking white wine and reading the Sunday Boston Globe and the New York Times. The contrast was pretty self-evident and in a long-distance relationship it really comes down to "God or the girlfriend." As it does to this day. I certainly don't know any women or know OF any women who would be remotely tolerant of someone making five specific daily prayer times THE priority in his life. I think in our dislocated society, it's a given that the girlfriend comes first and God will just have to find a spot wherever He can, which is, of course, repellent to me. I try to keep the occasions when I miss a prayer or I'm more than forty minutes late for a prayer to an absolute minimum. I miss prayer times when I go to visit Chet in Toronto, so I tend to keep the visits to one a month or one every three weeks. But, I can't say that the encroachment from the other side was something that I associated with my faith in God. I think it was a calculated risk that women took, knowing that they were making marriage repellent to men so they've expanded all of the definitions of marriage. You live with someone for a year, you're married. You live with someone for a year and they have a kid, even if the kid isn't yours, you're responsible for him or her. You make more money after a break-up, you owe her on the basis of your improved financial status not on the basis of how you were doing when you were with her. The more repellent they make marriage, the more they have to encroach to keep the revenues flowing to women who are only equipped to be wives and mothers and haven't the aptitude to provide for themselves. The more they encroach, the more repellent they make marriage, so the more they have to encroach and so on. It's getting really severe and we're just getting started
down that garden path.

Q3a: The Judge, still resembling Swoon, points out that he was wrong and he's sorry. Wrong about what? About Cerebus' fate perhaps?

DAVE: No, he was right about that. Cerebus died alone, unmourned and unloved.

Q3b: Or about his creation tale in which the male void destroys the innocent female light? (i171)

DAVE: Well, obviously that would be my view. Reality is not especially happy but it has to be dealt with on its own terms and seeing femaleness as inherently consisting of the suffering of innocent victims-totalitarian feminism is founded upon the, to me, spurious idea that women are owed all of the monetary war reparations in the battle of the sexes-I think is fatuous and unsupported by the facts and all it does is to generate greater and greater levels of ludicrous misapprehension. i.e. how are you going to portray women as victims in academe when the classes are all 75% women and 25% men? I know a lot more guys who are comfortable in their own skins than I know women who are comfortable in theirs and I think being comfortable in your own skin is a hallmark of being on the right track. It seems to me that women have made their choices and pushed the boundaries where they wanted them pushed and encroached where they thought it was advantageous to them to encroach and I still see mostly guys who are comfortable in their own skins and women who are spending a lot of time freaking out more than they ever have before.

Q4: When Astoria was 9 or 10 she fantasized about building her own church. A man gave her a book called The Kevil, yet another instance of a man bringing a spiritual book to someone. Was this man an ancestor of Konigsberg? If not, who was he? (i173)

DAVE: Well, that would be interesting, wouldn't it? There's certainly a relationship of a pebble striking a pond and the ripples you get from that. My own experience with the Bible and the Koran as transformative texts. As if I had been walking around with my clothes on backwards for years and wondering why I always felt so ...weird. Put your clothes on the right way around. Oh, hey! That's MUCH better. Thanks, whoever-you-are. [Me :^)]

Didn't mean to be that jocose about it. Books are very potent items to convey to other people. I might think that Jack Kerouac was something of a bad idea and come down firmly on the side of the viewpoint enunciated by Truman Capote-"That's not writing, that's just typing"-but look at the number of lives that On The Road transformed, the number of people for whom it wasn't just a book, it was a signpost pointing them in a specific direction.

Q5: When Po appears in public, he is immediately recognized by the Iestans. Why? Does he look like he did in earlier incarnations (the only previous hint to his presence was someone saying they saw the pope in town, but he was now over 6 feet tall)? What do we really know about the lifetime deeds of THIS Po (other than his ability to play chess, and traverse the spheres)? How long had he been living in obscurity? (i174)

DAVE: That was something that I couldn't establish in the context of the story because it was something universally accepted by everyone in the context. Picture if you saw Santa Claus outside the Vatican. "It's Santa Claus". Now how did you know that? Uh, he was a big fat guy with a red suit with white trim and a white beard and mustache. Does Santa Claus always look like that? This guy is wearing a red suit and has all those other qualities but you wouldn't describe him as Santa Claus. The question would just be irritating. Everyone knows what Santa Claus looks like. Don't talk stupid. He was even more archetypal than that. "Look It's Jesus."

Well, no one has ever seen Jesus and even the Shroud of Turin would match a lot of folks from Charles Manson to John Lennon and back again. How do you know that that's Jesus? A lot of it would be context. That's Cerebus, that's Astoria, that's Cirin-you'd be watching for another archetypal figure. The tallness? The white hair flopped over? The gray fur? It gets into interesting areas in the same way that the accepted visualization of Jesus gets into interesting areas. They're all different but they're all the same. It's very rare to see a clean-shaven Jesus or a short-haired Jesus. The Shroud of Turin aside, why is that? Occasionally one of the secular magazines will run a feature on all of the depictions of Jesus. Yep, that's Jesus. It's kind of crazy if you think about it. Here's a guy no one has ever seen and all of the depictions of him differ and yet everyone knows exactly what he looks like and everyone just takes that reality very much for granted.

Volume 9: READS

Q1: Back when Cerebus raped Astoria (C&S II, p872), there was quite a bit of controversy among the readers about it, and much discussion about the nature of the act, and trying to understand it. Astoria seemed quite surprised when Cerebus put the blindfold back on, an quite angry when he raped her. In the Throne Room scene with Astoria, Cirin, Cerebus, and Po, Astoria tells Cerebus that she provoked him into raping her. Her facial expression when Cerebus put the blindfold back on her, and then her verbal reaction to the act itself did not seem to be the behavior of someone in control of the situation. Is it still your contention that Astoria really did want Cerebus to rape her, or do you think that she found the idea of being raped by Cerebus such a blow to her sense of self that she has deluded herself into remembering the scene with herself in control of a situation, where she was not? How and when did you come to this decision and did the idea of her desire to try for an aardvarkian offspring develop at the same time?

DAVE: No, the aardvarkian offspring idea as a tactical device on Astoria's part was always there. The idea of women getting pregnant in order to forge a link with someone because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line is nothing new under the sun and is a natural extension of the proximity tactic. Get next to him if you can, if he lets you get next to him, get him romantically interested if you can, if he gets romantically interested, get him to marry you if you can, if he marries you, get him to get you pregnant (and transpose the last two steps if need be). Particularly in a culture like the Aardvarkian Age and our own-where standards are eroding so that the notion of the specific meaning of the term "bastard" has all but vanished from the society's lexicon-you effectively eliminate a major "downside" for women of getting pregnant out of wedlock. Given that the definition of "bastard" probably has vanished from our culture at this point, I'll indicate to any younger readers who are unfamiliar with its dictionary meaning that "bastard" was a term which, once upon a time, applied to a male child born out of wedlock. So far as I know there is no female equivalent term.

[One of my favourite jokes is about the two young guys in a diner who decide to shock the old woman sitting next to them at the counter with a loud discussion
"Did your parents get married?"
"Naw. Did yours?"
"Naw, they never saw the need-they just shacked up together."
Finally she turns to them and sweetly says,
"Would one of you bastards mind passing me the ketchup?"
See? It has no resonance in this day and age. You could probably be arrested in most cities for suggesting there was something wrong with having a child out of wedlock.]

It's just something as a man that you have to watch out for: the "accidentally-on-purpose" pregnancy. My vision of Astoria was always that of the feminist caricature, the strong, independent woman who perceives herself as a dazzling and astonishing individual but who is actually just narcissistic and cynically manipulative and uses her sex as much as anything else to get what she wants. It's really more imitative of masculinity-at least as masculinity appears from the feminine side of the divide-than it is some shining new feminine nature which is how feminists prefer to see it. It seems to me to originate from a father-identification state of existence usually encouraged by a certain kind of father terrified of losing his little girl to a younger "rival" and is, consequently, rather vulgar and incestuous. I did extrapolate from that rather common societal archetype an individual who had connected all the dots and figured out that if she was taking the organic birth control deplored by the Cirinists that she could cut a wide swath through the political scene as a kind of modified courtesan, slut and hooker. Again, I don't think there's anything particularly unusual in this. Once a female has been given carte blanche-either in her family or in her society-to identify with her father instead of her mother sexuality enters the mix. What was perhaps unusual was that Astoria realized she needed to inure herself to the consequences of being the first one into the pool (so to speak) hardening herself against how she was perceived (that is, as a combination courtesan, slut and hooker with the emphasis on the latter two) and inflating her self-perception as a masculine analogue ("I'm only behaving the way that men do and therefore I'm interchangeable with them. I'm not a slut I just have a lot of lovers simultaneously") and disconnecting herself from a core value of her own gender. The disconnect between marriage and virginity exacerbates and "enables" the situation. When it is no longer expected that a woman comes to her marriage bed as a virgin then the opposite condition tends to prevail. Virginity becomes something to be gotten rid of, like braces or Barbie dolls as a means of establishing grown-up bona fides. The inflating of self-perception is a defence mechanism more than anything else. Once a woman has surrendered her virginity out of wedlock and then becomes sexually active she can't see herself in archetypal frames of reference-because that would require seeing herself as a slut and a harlot-so she has to manufacture new frames of reference and try to make them archetypal. She's a Cool Chick or a Hot Chick or a Strong, Independent Woman or something along those lines (although, significantly, she will still portray herself as a virgin or a near virgin to her father). This is all pretty tedious and commonplace stuff, although naturally it is seen as terribly exciting and dramatic for the girls who are going through the transformation and experimenting with the various portrayal options and inflating different areas of self-perception for the first time. It is, I think, genuinely exciting and dramatic for those who pioneer a new state of female existence at odds with the society around them which is what the Astoria character was mostly about. I'm thinking here of Zelda Fitzgerald and Anais Nin and the other girls/women of the flapper generation. There was some insulation to be derived from safety in numbers-if every female in your social environment is a slut then the term itself loses meaning-and the fact that John Held was carving them in stone on the cover of Life magazine and Gloria Swanson was playing them in the movies and F. Scott Fitzgerald was immortalizing them in essays, novels and short stories coupled with the female inclination towards inflated self-perception did make things easier-"everyone's doing it, don't be so old-fashioned". But they were still dramatically at odds with the perception of what a 'good girl' is and they had to harden themselves against that perception and the majority of their society.

Most of their stories didn't end happily-there's the abundance of suitors (mistaken for friends and lovers) in her twenties and then mostly complete isolation in her forties as her looks fade-and that's pretty much locked in as our new societal template. As each successive generation of woman has decided that the problem is that she doesn't have enough freedom-everything would be fine if everyone would just bend themselves to her will and let her do exactly what she wants exactly when she wants to do it (starting with Daddy and Mummy and moving out from there)-at an earlier and earlier age the template reinforces itself. No headstrong wilful young girl-or strong, independent woman to use our modern terminology-is interested in the opinions of forty-year olds so each generation makes the same mistakes and ends up the same way. A handful of Astoria-style exceptions whose abilities match their ambition ending up along and pretty well fixed and the vast majority ending up alone and well below the poverty line. Alone, however, becomes the new "given", all exceptions duly noted.

Astoria is in a tangential but related category because she was a creature of politics with an interest in changing political realities. In the 1970s she wouldn't have been sleeping with the Rolling Stones, she would've been sleeping with Henry Kissinger (EEwwwWWW!). The same disconnect between virginity and marriage has taken place but sex as bait to snag a husband has been replaced with sex as entrée into the corridors of power. There's her own agenda and her own political aptitudes and her cold cynicism and manipulative nature and talents and that is coupled with sex as the trump card in no small part because she is such a pioneer in that area that it is genuinely a trump card in her dealings with politicians and other people she wants to make use of. It's taking the disconnect between virginity and marriage and running with it, basically. Once disconnected why stick around that emotional area mentally? Sex is a more useful tool politically than it is emotionally once its been divorced from marriage so she just moves it out of the emotional category and into the political category in what I assume is a manner comparable to the way that a prostitute moves sex out of the emotional category and into the employment category. It's Astoria's sexual dispassion and its uniqueness to the environment that allows her to pick her spots on the basis of political instinct rather than romantic attachment, the less emotional she is about sex the sharper her political instincts for its political application become and the more effective she becomes in applying it to her political ambitions i.e. Pavlov was right. The rewards she gets reinforce the message for her. In my mind, she devoted a lot of time and energy to overcoming exactly the sort of inherent female inner nature which sees sexuality as inextricably bound up with marriage and emotion and romance and was largely if not completely successful and so had become, by the time we meet her in High Society completely detached, personally, from the sexual act itself. It was just something, to her, that you went through to assist you in your actual interests-manipulating powerful figures into serving your agenda.

[Coincidentally this morning I was reading an article about Hilary Rodham Bonaparte which recounted an episode in the Oval Office in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky fiasco where President Clinton was reading the latest polling that they were having done and mentioned to her that a vast majority of Americans admitted to wondering why she had stayed with him after the big revelation. She is reported to have said, ruefully, "I was wondering that myself." I think the answer is in an Astoria-like level of disconnect. Her marriage was far more a political alliance than it was a romantic one so there was no reason to file for divorce and every reason to stick it out. The arguments in favour of divorce were all feminine and romantic. "He broke my heart and I can't stay here anymore." The arguments in favour of staying were masculine and political. "He's a popular two-term President and a brilliant campaigner and fund-raiser. If I stay married to him I'll have those assets to draw on when I run for the Senate and when I run for President. If I divorce him he may campaign or fund-raise for a Democratic rival. To an Astoria, the resultant "do I stay or do I go" decision is a no-brainer. You would just wait and see if Slick Willy could get out of this one and when it becomes obvious he's going to, it reinforces your political alliance with him and the marriage becomes a moot point.

We just had one of those in Canada with Belinda Stronach jumping from the Conservatives to the Liberals, in the process not only abandoning-promise not to laugh-her principles, but ditching her boyfriend who was the number two guy in the Conservative Party in the process. Same situation in reverse of Hilary Rodham Patton-she saw the Liberal Prime Minister as vulnerable and the Conservative Party as going nowhere so, home is where the ambition is best served. The romantic relationship was a moot point and nothing to give her even a moment's hesitation in her decision-making. It's a complete disconnect from femininity. It is no big surprise that Belinda Stronach has a number of father figures in her life, including her own father Frank Stronach who appointed her the titular head of his Magna Corporation, former Prime Minister Mulroney, former Premier Ernie Eves, Red Tories all who see no dichotomy between Conservative principles and feminism and consequently got bitten on the ass but good by Stronach and are completely mystified by what may have caused it. Astoria-style disconnect would be my answer. When a woman disconnects from her heart she is the living embodiment of the loose cannon. There's no question that she'll jump-"a woman's right to choose"-but it's an open question of where she'll land and where she'll jump to next although it's a safe bet that she will jump...again, and again and again and again...as she tries to reshape her world in her own image]

Of course with any woman for whom sex becomes merely tactical, a means to an end, the disconnect becomes universal and she tends to lose any ability to actually perceive her own reactions. The portrayal becomes the reality. Because it is necessary for her to de-link sex from romance so as to align it more clearly with political instinct and the exertion of control, anything she might tell you about sex or her part in it or your sexual relationship with her is going to be suspect. Like the sex, her reaction to sex is sublimated into other areas. Rape and sex become treated the same way in her mind. She isn't being humiliated by being raped anymore than she is emotionally moved by being made love to. She gives a lover a blow-job for the same reason that you give a petulant and difficult child a cookie-because it gives you leverage over their behaviour. The key for Astoria is knowing when to do it, familiarizing herself with the subject and, as I say, picking her spots. You give the blowjob at the point where it is going to result in maximum leverage.

I wouldn't think she had been raped very often, but her reaction however many times it happened would've been as you saw in the scene with Cerebus. She knew it would be over soon so she just waited as if she was at a dentist's appointment and probably used the muscles in her vagina and her experience with "moving things along" to bring it to a conclusion faster. In that sense she was very much in control of the situation because she was in control of her perceptions of herself. It would be impossible to humiliate or wound her sexually because she didn't connect who she was with what happened "down there". There was no sense that her vagina was reserved for the One True Love She Would Someday Find and therefore no sense that someone not of her own choosing invading it was, therefore, a wounding or even particularly significant event. As I say, to Astoria sex was just like a dentist appointment. This one wasn't going to accomplish anything for her but considering how much her sex had accomplished for her and what she expected it would accomplish for her in the future, she could afford a "freebie" under the circumstances.

One of the points that I was making, or attempting to make-very much apart from who Astoria is sexually which was a central point-was the nature of the religious authority involved and Cerebus' perception of it. If he's the Pope he can marry people, so he married himself to Astoria. It's really an ironic critique of forensic, literalist doctrinaire thinking that occurs in an organized religious context of established guidelines and parameters. Obviously marrying yourself to someone doesn't make rape into not rape, at least in my view it doesn't. If anything it is the worse sin because you are using your clerical status to get laid and using your clerical status to change your marital status so that you can persuade yourself that you aren't committing a sin and ignoring the wishes of your new "wife". From what I understand, Islam has been having trouble with something very like this for some time, although I certainly wasn't aware of it at the time. Rich guys who are allowed to have (like any Muslim who can afford to take care of them) up to four wives and so marry fifteen year-old girls, give them their dowery and then divorce them. Technically it's a marriage and sanctioned by the Koran depending on who is giving you the opinion. Literally, to me, it's obvious prostitution and, depending on the jurisdiction, statutory rape.

Cerebus wanted to have sex with Astoria but he didn't want to sin, particularly now that he was the Pope. So he just took the straightest route to what it was that he wanted and used his own religious authority to legally overcome his personal qualms.

I hadn't realized it at the time, but what I was addressing was what I now see as the bedrock foundation of ethics which is the need of each individual to determine the nature of one's innermost motivation. Cerebus' innermost motivation wasn't to marry Astoria, it was to commit an act of fornication with her. Later, of course, this (ahem) seminal thinking would lead to my own decision to become celibate. I wasn't looking for a wife, I was looking to get laid. When I claimed to be in love, it was just that I wanted to have sex with them more often than once-either because it was convenient and enjoyable to have an "on-call" sex object or because I actually enjoyed their company for a period of time (more often the former than the latter). It's an unbecoming innermost motivation but that was what my innermost motivation was so eventually that made the decision easy. Don't have sex because my motives for having it are wrong.

It was also tackling a core element of the "damsel in distress" motif coupled with sadistic titillation which we see everywhere in our entertainment (first and foremost in romance novels intended exclusively for women). The rape scene that is interrupted at the last possible second is a cliché of monumental proportions. It satisfies the impulse toward sadism on the part of men and masochism on the part of women (which has to be near to universal or romance novels would have different contents and covers) and then provides a kind of cathartic absolution by being interrupted by the heroic last-minute rescue. It allows women to switch gears from the rape fantasy to the rescue fantasy and persuade themselves that their genuine interest is in being rescued. It's having your cake and eating it, too. So, I was definitely interested in doing a scene that not only didn't interrupt the threatened rape at the last moment but which indicated that rape of the conventional sort wasn't possible in the circumstances because the victim didn't relate to her sexuality in any conventional way and so didn't have the conventional response to it-shame, anguish, a sense of having been dehumanized. Sex to Astoria was as human as politics and for her it was in the same category. Sex could help her to change her society into a Dictatorship of Daughters so she thought of it the same way that she thought of her persuasiveness in argument and her calculating mind. It was another tool in her toolbox.

And, of course, Cerebus just falls asleep after which isn't really one of those classic hallmarks of the rapist but more the response of the satisfied husband-which, to his mind, was what he was. This was his wedding night. Through his first marriage to Sophia, sex had become an Acquired Taste and a big part of that Acquired Taste involved going to sleep right after.

Say what you will, that certainly puts it out of the category of a conventional rape scene.

Q2a: There seem to be some parallels between Po's ascetic lifestyle and the way you live your life today. Were you already envisioning moving toward something like your current lifestyle when you were writing Po's speech, or even previously when you were developing his character in your mind?

DAVE: I always saw that way of living as an unattainable ideal. Even when I was a complete pagan and aware of the forces that existed in the universe and the hidden nature of things I was aware that celibacy and ascetic living were efficacious. I was, however, still mired in my own "Acquired Tastes" phase and only vaguely aware that I hadn't smoked cigarettes and pot all of my life-that I had lived for a number of years without thinking that a day where I hadn't smoked a joint or gotten drunk or had sex was a wasted day. I just saw those things as irrevocable. Once I had started smoking pot, I would be smoking it for the rest of my life. I would always be trying to get laid, I'd always be drinking far more than I should. I read books on different mystical strains and philosophies mostly centred on LSD and I did tend to think that was the Stairway to Heaven even though it was actually just an accelerant as I experienced it. My mind did all the same things it just did them a lot faster and played a lot more tricks on me. The one time I went to church with my mother-in-law just convinced me that religion was in the portrayal category, a kind of simpering One Big Happy Family feminized approach where preaching and the Latin mass had been replaced by touchy-feely group hug crap. The same reaction that I had to the PTL Club with Jim and Tammy Fae-which is where I got the idea for Most Holy and the "He doesn't love you, he just wants all your money" t-shirt and which I watched with a compulsive "wiggling loose teeth" obsessiveness way late at night, smoking pot and channel-surfing in search of naked women. In that sense, I was always very self-isolating and solipsistic. I never connected with anything in any way that approached the way I connected with comic books so the world always seemed like a series of transparently fake portrayals which only served to make me more interested in reality and in finding a way to perceive more accurately. Suenteus Po and I shared a motivation in that. But I was still at the mercy of my hormones. I spent thousands of dollars renting a two-bedroom penthouse apartment and decorating it-and instead of staying home and enjoying it, spent most of my nights in shabby nightclubs staring at the chicks. Chicks dressed to the nines was the one portrayal that I was tight with. They took what they looked like and then decorated it laboriously and with dazzling results. It was portrayal but it was interesting, unlike spending an evening as a part of two couples or going on a nature hike or to my parents' or to conventions. And, of course, the more you drink the more a portrayal begins to seem even more real because your perceptions are more easily fooled. And that only worked in nightclubs. I couldn't get severely drunk as part of two couples or at my parents as a means of letting it fool me more easily. Being drunk changes the complexion of the activity whereas the nightclub just continues being a nightclub no matter how drunk you get.

In retrospect, the real breakthrough point for me was Malcolm Muggeridge's A Third Testament series of television programs. It was the first time I heard Jesus discussed intelligently in light of various interpretations of the Gospels from Tolstoy to Dickens to Dostoevsky. It was pure thought, not simpering feminized
emotionalism ("Jesus loves you and we do too") and that was definitely a breakthrough point. His distillation of Dostoevsky's core message as "Accept suffering and be redeemed by it"-that is, be redeemed both
by the suffering itself and by the acceptance of it-really shook my world. I read St. Augustine because he was very big on St. Augustine and found him trite and largely unreadable. Likewise Mother Theresa of whom he was devoutly enamoured. She always reminded me of cat yronwode. But Muggeridge himself seemed transcendentally Christian to me and still does. There was a lot more Muggeridge in Suentus Po than there was Dave Sim at that point.

Q2b: Did the choice/desire for a much more ascetic lifestyle come only after many more years of contemplation and/or the discovery of Islam?

DAVE: The urge to feel good, to stroke my own pleasure centres in my brain by whatever means were ready to hand at any given moment were always in the way. I prayed two or three times a day and started observing a Sabbath and limited where and when I smoked, how often I'd let myself go out and how many drinks I'd let myself have when I got there. Fornication was easy to get rid of. Successfully "closing the deal" is all timing. There is a right time to throw your pitch and the window of opportunity is usually narrow. If your gut tells you that it's time to say "your place or mine?' or a less clichéd equivalent then you say it right then and there without thinking. My newly arrived at ambivalence meant that I would miss the window of opportunity and then there was no point in saying something, the moment was past and most girls who are interested in getting laid rather than just flirting aren't interested in a guy who can't throw the pitch when it's time. They move on and go looking for one who will. If getting laid was the reason they went out to the nightclub they know from experience that the guy who can't close the deal in the club is probably just going to drink twenty cups of tea at her place, shake hands and go home an hour after the sun has come up. I just became one of those guys who didn't close the deal when I was given an opening. End of fornication as an issue in my life.

Masturbation was more difficult. I had been sold the same bill of goods as everyone else. Like the Seinfeld episode where they make the bet about who can go the longest without masturbating and they're tossing and turning in bed and haunted and irritable. We really have convinced ourselves that that's true: that daily or very frequent masturbation is a cornerstone of mental health. It's really just the opposite, in my experience. The longer you go without it (I'm at twenty months right now) the more you realize-like love and sex-that it's a problem and not a solution. Everything works a lot better without it. Combined with prayer and scripture, I just started moving the things out of my life that I knew I should move out of my life. The ones I couldn't move out, I sequestered-I'll only smoke here-and diminished-I'll only smoke these many cigarettes a day. There were opportune contributions. Kitchener banned smoking in all public places. I already knew from Northampton which had had a similar ban that if I couldn't smoke, there was no reason to drink. I'd just get a buzz on and have to go outside for a cigarette and by the time I came back in, I'd have sobered up. As soon as I got a buzz going again, I needed another cigarette. So, that meant there was no motivation to backslide. I haven't had a drink in two years or a cigarette in six years. You start with the things you can diminish and you diminish them and the whole thing begins to reinforce itself. Every vice you get rid of makes you feel that much better. Eating healthy food makes you feel better than eating fried garbage. It's all pretty much a Duh, so you just end up shaking your head at the you that saw it all as being so impossible and such a daunting prospect. Your lungs crave oxygen, not cigarette smoke. Your body craves fruits and vegetables not French fries. You spirit craves Scripture and prayer, not movies and television. Get rid of the self-evident garbage-or diminish and sequester it-and stick with things of value and your life becomes a positive reinforcement no-brainer.

Q3a: Within the body of Reads, we are introduced to Victor Reid, and his alter ego Rotsieve. Given the parallels in the second half of Reads, and your admission of being a diagnosed borderline schizophrenic, could it be said that the authoring of the second half of Viktor Davis' Reads (and to some degree Tangent) could be inspired by your own "Rotsieve?"

DAVE: Yes, "Rotsieve"-Victor spelled backwards-was inspired by my own experiences as a mean drunk. That fed on itself-the longer I went without getting laid, the meaner a drunk I became and the meaner a drunk I became the longer I went without getting laid. It was Valerie-back in the 80s at Peter's Place who christened me "Evad, the anti-Dave" as I recall and then later "Deiter von Evad". It was just alcohol-fuelled rage pure and simple. I never hit anybody or anything but I would develop a very sharp tongue and a cruel wit which was very entertaining as long as you weren't the object of it. I tried to document that part as honestly as I could, particularly as it tended to manifest itself in my relationship with Diana Schutz which is what had been going on just prior to Reads, 1992-93. I'd place these terrifically abusive and interminable phone calls to her when I came home drunk and not remember a thing the next day. Susan Alston didn't put up with it starting in August of '94. The first rule was "don't drink and dial."

By the time I was writing "Tangent," I had been broken up with Susan for three years or so and that rage had evaporated as it sunk in that I was never going to let myself get into the situation of getting laid again. It broke the cycle of dependency between drinking and getting laid. The big difference was that from '98 on it wasn't that I couldn't get laid it was that I chose not to get laid. I could go out and have two, three, four or five beers and know how the evening was going to end which hadn't previously been the case. When the windows of opportunity didn't arrive and my drinking accelerated there was no telling what was going to happen next. Now, what was going to happen next what that I was going to get into a cab well before last call and go home. If windows of opportunity arrived, I ignored them. Consciously missing the first few windows of opportunity to proposition girls who were expressing an interest, scarcely believing that that was what I was doing was the transformational watershed. And then it became my way of life and the more it became my way of life, the less frequently the opportunities came along. I had "gone off" the female wavelength. I don't know what their receptors tell them about me now but it definitely closes off the sexual option.

No, "Tangent" was pure observation that I had picked up over the years while I was trying to get laid and ending up mostly getting drunk. It started as trying to "crack the code"-what did it take to get women to sleep with me?-but ended as perceiving reality accurately.

I already had cracked the code but kept conveniently forgetting. All I had to do was just want to get laid and I would get laid. Just as all I had to do was to want a girlfriend and I'd get a girlfriend. What I was unconsciously raging against was knowing that I wasn't getting laid because in actuality I wanted a girlfriend or if I got laid, I would turn her into a girlfriend. I was lying to myself. It's a very simple rule of thumb for guys that is very difficult to actually accept. It's easier to blame not getting laid on outside forces when the simple truth is that you actually don't want to get laid. And usually for good reason. If it's just getting laid, that's fine. Wam-bam thank you ma'am. But if it turns into a girlfriend situation the split-second decision made after your third or fourth drink can lead you onto a roller-coaster you aren't going to be able to get off for four or five years. That's one decision in your twenties when a year is exactly a year long and you think you're basically immortal and another when years go by the way months used to and the game is no longer worth the candle. If your innermost motivation is sincerely just to get laid, you'll have to, as they used to say, beat them off with a stick.

"Tangent" was just a summing up of everything that I saw going on around me, the fundamental problems with feminism. I could finally be completely lucid and dispassionate on the subject because I no longer had a dog in that fight. As soon as I knew I was never going to get laid again, I was no longer within the societal construct that compelled me to believe or at least pay lip service to inherently ridiculous precepts. Had I attempted 'Tangent' while I was still wrestling with myself about wanting to get laid or wanting to have a girlfriend it would have gotten bogged down in that internal warfare. I wouldn't be able to perceive accurately and put my accurate perceptions down on paper because I would have to maintain at least a toehold in the societal hallucination in order to get laid. As soon as the internal warfare was over-and the internal warfare was definitely over by the end of 1999-it was just a basic exercise in building a rational argument that I knew inside and out and writing it well.

Q3b: And if this is so, did you always assume the reaction would be so slanted on the Feminist/Homosexualist axis (making "Tangent" inevitable, or at least expected)? Or were you hoping to open a more level-headed dialogue using uninhibited (and shocking) prose to spur debate (the failure of which resulted in Tangent)?

DAVE: Well, I didn't see it as uninhibited and shocking. My thesis was just common sense supported by the evidence of what started going on in 1970 and what it had eroded into. The fact that the societal status quo of discussion of feminism is still inhibited-'don't go there'-The reaction to me was just the feminist/homosexualist axis doing what they do best-being drama queens. If you can't refute the argument then pitch a hissy fit and hope everyone just focuses on the hissy fit and forgets the argument. That's all that's going on at Harvard right now, that's all that the feminist who said she had to run out of the room where Summers was speaking because otherwise she was sure she would've fainted or vomited was doing. She was being a drama queen and hoping her drama queen antics would distract people from the subject. Worked good. It always works good. That's why feminists and homosexualists use it so much. Lawrence Summers is throwing 50 million dollars at the problem instead of discussing it. He knows how his team works. Don't call it a bribe, but if they pitch a hissy fit you have to keep throwing money at them until they stop. My guess is that they'll stop when he hits the 75 million dollar mark.

Q3c: (Please note, this is not an attack or a defense of the content of your writing, merely a desire to glimpse inside your creative process. Issue 186 and, later, Tangent have become important touchstones for debate not only on the subject of feminism, but also freedom of speech - at least within this community.)

DAVE: Yes, that's true, it's a small victory but even a small victory is still a victory. We have one teensy-weensy corner of the world where the reaction to criticism of feminism isn't a hissy fit. I think I'm safe in saying that in this teensy-weensy corner of the world it is pretty much accepted as a given that a thorough discussion of the issues involved with whatever science there is to support or refute them is far more valuable than throwing 50 million dollars at the issues involved. That's one small step for man...one giant leap for mankind.

Q4: For the second time in as many collections (first in Women pp87-88 and then in Reads p27) we are shown the phrase "I know things that have been forgot. I know things that will never be forgot." Is this some kind of foreshadowing of the revelations concerning the nature of Cerebus' reality, and your role in it? Or is there some other significance? Did you author that phrase? Or is it a quote?

DAVE: So far as I know, I authored the phrase. It just popped into my head one night as a lot of phrases did when I had been out drinking. It has a nice ominous tone to it. "Forgot" instead of "forgotten" helps the effect. It is quite possible that I was fed the phrase as a foreshadowing of my Torah commentaries but I'm not privy to those creative processes-where they originate and so on-so it would be purely guesswork on my part.

Q5a: Is the rising of Cirin and Cerebus an Ascension?

DAVE: Yes.

Q5b: Where was the gold?

DAVE: The gold was the large sphere that Cirin was trying to make as the Ascension was imminent.

Q5c: Where's the tower? If it is an Ascension (and, actually, even if it isn't), can you compare it to previous ones and talk about Ascensions and their meaning within the greater Cerebus Novel? (i184)

DAVE: It was a different sort of Ascension from the one depicted in Church & State. The core elements are always there but they enact themselves in different combinations. Weisshaupt thought the gold sphere could be carried. All it needed to be was round and made of gold. Cirin thought it needed to be huge largely because of Cerebus demanding that everyone bring him all the gold. She thought that he was privy to some hidden knowledge about the Ascensions and leaped to the conclusion that what he knew was that the sphere needed to be huge. It never occurred to her that he wanted all the gold just have all the gold. In this instance the Throne Room, the Church and the wall of the upper city exploded into small fragments and the tower was the narrow column atop which was the throne itself which ascended whereas in Church & State the tower itself which was the wall surrounding the upper city ascended. Everyone tries to guess what the right combination is. Sometimes as in the Women volume, the tower just falls over. I discussed the meaning elsewhere in these questions, I'm pretty sure, referencing Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. The idea of heaven being "up there" and there being a stairway or a means of ascending into heaven, whether it's Jesus at the end of Mark's gospel or Muhammad's Night Journey, it's a pretty universal concept which I tend to view as being metaphorical as I think I've also said elsewhere. I think our progress is more transformative, analogous to the caterpillar turning into a butterfly with the originating state and transformative states being too drastically different to share any frame of reference so I think the idea of heaven being "up there" tends to be a placeholder concept for the transformative state and a misunderstanding of what earth's atmosphere is which is what I read in Genesis.

Volume 10: MINDS

Q1a: You have suggested that Cerebus' "magnifier" trait may have been something that he "picked up" while living with Magnus Doran, however, wouldn't Cerebus' dad's comment on page 80 lead one to believe the magnifier trait was something Cerebus was born with, or at least got BEFORE encountering Magnus Doran (e.g. "...tellin' everybody he's the chosen one-- the son of Tarim 'imself. Denouncin' them as sinners sayin' Vicar Grame is a drunkard and an adulterer")?

DAVE: Magus Doran. No “n”. You’re thinking maybe of Doc Magnus of the Metal Men? It was very difficult to convey, but what I was trying to convey was that by the time Cerebus left his apprenticeship to Magus Doran he really wasn’t very clear on how much of what happened actually happened and how much of it was a dream or something in between reality and a dream which I suspect would be part and parcel of any participation in the magical end of things particularly as an apprentice. I’ve often wondered if the line “But you know I know when it’s a dream” in “Strawberry Fields Forever” was John Lennon trying to convince himself that that was the case in a life that must’ve seemed decidedly dream-like 24/7 between the drugs, the unprecedented fame and, later on, having to actually listen to Yoko Ono. It was one of the reasons that I made “Add One Mummified Bat” one of the Animated Cerebus portfolio stories. Because it was done in brilliant colours and in an animation style, I hoped it would convey the quality of Cerebus’ memory of his experiences as a magician’s apprentice. How could you believe that something that differed that much from your actual reality—the difference between the texture of the Cerebus storyline and the Animated Portfolio—actually took place? And yet, given that that was how you remembered it, how could you not believe that it actually took place? The closest I came to getting across that quality was right at the beginning of Latter Days where Cerebus is trying hard to remember if Magus Doran had actually said the thing that when his father was dying, Cerebus would know and he would come back. Cerebus would have had the same question about the above-cited “Chosen one of Tarim” dialogue and everything that he remembered or thought he remembered as part of his apprenticeship. Did he actually hear that or was it suggested to him later on that he heard that and who suggested it? The entire time passed in a near dream state both for Cerebus and for the magnifier quality that he possessed. On the one hand, it would be hard to picture Young Cerebus daring to denounce Vicar Grame as a drunkard and an adulterer when you see his reaction to Vicar Game’s fire-and-brimstone sermon in Minds, but at the same time most magicians tend to be Jesus wannabe’s (“I’m God and I get all the chicks”)and presumably that would have conveyed itself to Cerebus through however long a period he was an apprentice. It would have been worth Magus Doran’s while to have implanted the notion that Cerebus had already claimed to be the Chosen One of Tarim depending on what his own plans for Cerebus were. The only thing that I had established in my own mind about the apprenticeship period was that Cerebus’ dad brought him to Magus Doran, everything started getting weird and Cerebus got left there under the circumstances depicted in Minds, similar circumstances or unrelated circumstances. Everything stayed weird throughout the period of the apprenticeship. Then the apprenticeship was at an end although how, when and why it ended Cerebus had no real conscious recollection about—and he wasn’t comfortable remembering to the extent that he did remember. Because the circumstances of missing his parents’ respective deaths hinged on or possibly hinged on or possibly didn’t hinge on the remembered or implanted false memory of Magus Doran’s assertion, he forced himself in the aftermath of the trauma to try to remember and got the same result he always got with trying to remember any part of the apprenticeship. Everything was a vivid memory and an implanted false memory and he just oscillated between the two perceptions for however long he tried to remember, which—for obvious reasons—just became a pointlessly disturbing exercise which was why he usually didn’t engage in it. All he really knew for a fact was that one minute he was Magus Doran’s apprentice, and the next minute he wasn’t and he had long before learned to just accept that that was the extent of what he could say definitively about having been his apprentice.

Q1b: Did Cerebus' folks ever come to visit, or were they kept at bay by Magus Doran's "Jedi-like" mind controlling ability?

DAVE: See above. In order to maintain an internal consistency to the story, I could only go with Cerebus’ recollections which are exactly the way that I’ve described them. Had he tried to remember his parents coming to visit, he would remember them visiting as an actual memory and then remember them visiting as an implanted suggestion and would oscillate between the two perceptions until he made the conscious decision not to think about it anymore.

Q2a: There is a certain poignancy to the scene featuring the exchange of painted eggshells between Jaka and Zulli that gives it the ring of truth. Is this based on an actual event?

DAVE: Mm. I’ve answered this before. No it isn’t. It’s my own idealized idea of what a Jackie Kennedy or a Princess Diana could be but aren’t. Women don’t see metaphors and overarching meanings. All they see are their own emotions and the emotions of others. The jumping off point of it was a picture that Susan Alston had taken of herself when she was single and on holiday or a long weekend with a bunch of couples. At one point while everyone was partying, she took her camera and went down to the beach and set the timer and took a singularly mordant picture of herself which I used as the basis of the picture of Jaka in the painting. It seemed a strange and excessively poignant thing to do, to take a picture of yourself alone whose only real point was how alone you were. It seemed to me a Jaka-like thing to do and since Jaka was very much the point of a lot of the story-arc from Minds to the end of Form & Void I was very alert to anything in my vicinity that struck me as Jaka-like. To commission a painting of herself whose only point was how alone she was. Yes, that would be a very Jaka-like thing to do. If it had occurred to Princess Diana, I’m sure she would’ve done the same thing.

Q2b: Is there some special meaning behind it?

DAVE: Apart from “women don’t like to be alone and really, really like to make a point of it to themselves” I can’t really think of anything.

Q2c: Also, if this is "the single most significant episode in [her] recent life" and helps her take "the first tentative step on the road to a brighter future where she will escape the prison in which she finds herself," what happened to so change Jaka by the time we see her in Going Home? (i193)

DAVE: She had just decided not to be alone and for someone like Jaka that’s as close as she’s going to come to an epiphany or even an insight into herself. She enacted this dramatic painting scenario with Zulli and through it decided that the core reason for her isolation was being in Palnu. Palnu was the eggshell that she needed to break in order to go back out into the world. Really all she needed to do was to be in isolation long enough so she could forget the reason for it which was that she had screwed up her marriage by having an abortion. She got out of her mental prison of that unethical choice by deciding it was just a physical prison. And as soon as she went back out into the world she decided she was just going to have fun and not be alone, so that’s what she did. I assume she slept with whomever she wanted to sleep with and avoided any situation that seemed serious or unhappy and just went with those that seemed unserious and happy. She pretended she was just a regular girl who went where she wanted and did what she pleased and ignored that she was the Princess of Palnu and living a completely sheltered and cushy existence—displacing bartenders from their apartments and what-not. She chose a middle-level of perception that as long as she was with people and having fun that she was free. Which is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. She was still alone in the sense that everyone is alone. You are the only one inside your head. Anyone can go out and have three glasses of wine and dance on the tabletops and laugh uproariously at lame jokes but that doesn’t make them any less alone, in my books. Quite the opposite. Those are the loneliest people on the planet. That was her delusional perception of life when she ran across Cerebus. “Okay. This will be fun, too.” But, of course, she loved Cerebus and she had a history with Cerebus so the whole thing became a kind of macabre St. Vitus dance toward the inevitable disaster where Cerebus had been persuaded that Jaka’s way was the right way of living. Have fun and if things get to be not fun, then just pretend that they’re fun until they’re fun again. It dropped him into a female construct where you avoid thinking about what you’re doing until the anvil drops on your head and then you say, “What did I do to deserve this?” Well, in Cerebus’ case it was the fact that he never thought about what actually being back in Sand Hills Creek was going to be like until he was actually there. Having adopted Jaka’s delusional state as his own he just figured they would get there and have fun all day with his parents, with his neighbours. Have a few glasses of wine and dance on the tabletops and laugh a lot and if things turned out not to be fun, they would just pretend they were fun until they were fun again.

Q3: Was Dave accurately relaying to Cerebus what Jaka was thinking about their relationship at the time when Cerebus vowed to take Jaka away from Rick and her home? Or was it only what Dave *said* what Jaka was thinking (in essence "pulling a Rick," presenting his analysis of a woman's behavior as if it were in her own words)? (p. 138) In Going Home she says something different. Did Dave change her so Cerebus could be with her? Or did Jaka convince herself that *that's* what she was really thinking?

DAVE: For Jaka, that would be a core part of “fun as lifestyle”. When she tells Cerebus that if he had said “let’s go” she would have up and left Rick just doesn’t ring true for anyone who has been reading the book all along—and notice that Cerebus just turns it into a joke of tickling her until she pees herself—but it would, for her, make being with Cerebus even more fun because it would mean that this was what she had wanted all along only she just hadn’t realized it until just now (isn’t love just the most amazing thing?). For someone as bound and determined to have fun as Jaka was at the time of Going Home, it would just be a given: fun is fun and being in love is fun. Of course in choosing to be with Cerebus she automatically loved Cerebus more than she loved Rick, ever did love Rick or ever could love Rick. But reread Jaka’s Story where she’s talking about being in love with Rick. Does it look to you as if she could ever love anyone else, least of all Cerebus? I mean, I just tend to see love as being like that, especially for women. No woman ever loves anyone the way she loves the one that she’s with right now. I mean, to me you just can’t help but be suspicious of that both in yourself and in others unless of course you’re still in the game in which case one of the core rules is that you can’t be suspicious of that. Did I love Susan more than I had loved Deni? Did I love Judith more than I had loved Susan? Most guys just understand at a fundamental level that it is worth your life to make sure that the one you’re with right now is the one that you love more than anyone else ever in your whole entire life. For me, now that I’ve been out of the game for seven-plus years it just seems part of the core mythology which is about as solid as gossamer and pixie dust, like wanting to sleep with other people but not being able to stand the thought that your girlfriend wants to sleep with other people. Having had a wife I had no urge to have another wife. I seriously think you have to be genuinely afraid of being alone in order to give marriage a fighting chance. If you’re just as happy—or happier!—on your own than you are in a relationship, your relationships aren’t going to go too good or for too long. As much pleasure as you get getting into the relationship, that’s how much aggravation you’re going to have getting out of the relationship.

I mean, it’s difficult discussing these things with people who see what I see as being a nebulous self-deceiving core mythology as instead being a rock-solid core reality. All you need is love! But that’s about the best way that I can answer the question. When Jaka was with Rick she loved Rick more than she ever loved anyone. When she was infatuated with Andrew she loved Andrew more than she ever loved anyone. When she was travelling with Cerebus she loved Cerebus more than she ever loved anyone. I assume that whomever she loved after Cerebus she loved more than she ever loved anyone and whomever she loved after that guy she loved more than she ever loved anyone. On and on and on until she was dead.
It would be un-gentlemanly to do anything but take her at her word no matter how silly the whole thing looks to anyone willing to actually look at it.

Q4a: As Dave states on p205, "The largest unresolved question [is] whether two aardvarks can produce aardvark off-spring . . . . Are aardvarks mutations? Or . . . spontaneous generated aberrations." So . . . can aardvarks produce aardvark offspring?

DAVE: I would assume that at one time they did so. If you look at the generations of aardvarkian ancestors in the aardvarkian suicide scene in Minds, there does seem to be a core Socratic ideal of the aardvark that I assume they all resembled sequentially and procreatively for a period of time.

Q4b: Are they strictly spontaneous mutations?

DAVE: By Cerebus’ time period, they certainly were. By that time it was considered unusual that there would be three of them alive at the same time. It seems analogous, in retrospect, to prophethood in the Torah. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all three considered prophets. Jacob’s sons are considered patriarchs but only Judah I think has a claim to being a prophet. His bloodline produced David and his bloodline produced the Synoptic Jesus. From a YHWHist point of view, Joseph and Benjamin would be considered prophets but that seems like a seriously skewed viewpoint to me.

Q4c: What is Gerrick's true lineage? Is he the biological son of the human Cirin, the aardvark Serna, or some other woman? Also, in the letters page, you state "I should be getting to the Gerrick stuff (is he the natural son of Cirin or adopted, etc.) in an issue or two, unless it fits in better somewhere else." So was there a plot thread that you decided not to include - and if so, can you give us a brief description of what it might have been?

DAVE: Mm. Not really. He was either the natural son of Cirin (actually Serna) and consequently a demonstration of the reality cited above: aardvarks are aberrational spontaneous mutations by that point or the adopted son of Cirin (actually Serna). As seems to me the nature of most parents I don’t think Cirin (actually Serna) could cope with the idea that she hadn’t produced an imperfect replica of herself which is what made her so compulsive about cracking the mysteries of genetics. She was an aardvark and she had to produce a little aardvark or die trying.
I ended up being about as interested in Gerrick as Cirin (actually Serna) was. That is, not very. He was not an aardvark and that’s really all that could be said about him.

Q5a: Dave states that Cerebus' destiny has been one of duality: man/woman, captor/captive, ruler/rebel, aardvark/human -- "two incarnations locked into an endless, pointless duality." Does this imply that Cerebus does in fact have a soul that has been incarnating in various roles and physical forms through history?

DAVE: Well, that would depend on your point of view as to whether souls incarnate repeatedly or there are just physical and behavioural similarities which crop up from generation to generation. And it would also depend on whether aardvarks obeyed that rule or were an exception to it. That really comes down to the nature of the soul and what laws it obeys (if any). I don’t know of anyone who has clue one on the subject. As I’ve said elsewhere it seems to me only sensible to believe that each soul is unique and each soul gets its one kick at the can. My soul incarnated inside this body in May of 1956 and departs this body on some date unknown to me. However long a span of time that is, that’s how long I have here to accomplish whatever it is that I’m supposed to accomplish. And then, I assume, I’m done and I either pass or fail on the basis of how I did. If I get another try in a later life in this world or in another world, well, hey, bonus. But I’m assuming it’s do-or-die here. I think a core point of our existence is our complete ignorance of the nature of soul and the realm of spirit. I think you can get ambiguous glances of it by reading between the lines of the Synoptic Jesus (which is what I think I’m reading in Matthew and Mark and writing commentaries on them) but I don’t think those glimpses are anything that can help you in this world. It’s just too different a construct that physical beings are manifestly closed off from, so you’re better off just accepting that and continuing to write your exam here in the Marxist-feminist cesspool.

Q5b: On the other hand, Dave then goes on to say "But of course that would come later" and that "first" Cerebus' success as Pope coupled with a near consensus that he is the ideal aardvark manifested Pope Thrunk who could have successfully completed Cerebus' original destiny. Does this mean that Cerebus' destiny of duality did not occur until AFTER the Pope Thrunk incident? (i196)

DAVE: I would assume that there are always opportunities that if chosen correctly and in a timely fashion will cut through the relentless brainless tedium and slogging futility of our present physical incarnation. I’m pretty sure that if God chose to take command of my soul and specifically tell me to do A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H over the course of the next two weeks that I could transform my own life and the nature of reality itself. I assume that that was what happened with the two Jesus’ and with Muhammad and God’s other prophets and messengers. But that’s an Age of Prophets thing and, to me, the age of prophets ended in 632 with the death of Muhammad. The point of the Age of Prophets as far as I can see was to give us a fighting chance without handing it to us on a silver platter, precisely measured as only God can measure precisely (as it says in the Koran, He will not wrong you so much as the husk of a datestone weighed in the balance). Now it’s up to each of us to try our best in writing each of our individual seventy- or eighty-year long exams.
I was more trying to point out through Cerebus that the right—or, perhaps, better expressed as “optimum”—choice which is personally transformational and transformational of the nature of reality is elusive and unlikely to be achieved. Our own optimum choices exist, I think, at various points of intersection in our lives and most of everything else we choose and experience is just various kinds of futile duality. What I was trying to do was to address the part of him that was aware of that but which still held out hope that somewhere up ahead it was still waiting for him. It is, I think, a delusional perception characteristic of young adulthood. Because I’m still young, I might yet achieve irrefutable greatness. In terms of the whole Aardvarkian Empire dream of his, what I showed him was the specific off-ramp that he had missed that would have led to the highest plateau in those frames of reference and it was a ways back at the time I was telling him that he missed it: a crushing blow to those, like Cerebus, who never quite manage to move beyond young adulthood.
I still have high hopes that the Cerebus storyline itself can prove to be transformational but right now it’s mostly read by atheists so there’s no way of telling if its transformational, efficacious or merely entertaining to certain numbers of a certain kind of atheist. A part of me thinks, “Well, I’ve finished it, why am I still here? Where’s my metaphorical ride to the metaphorical airport?” It has the same experiential texture as writing and exam and then finding out that as soon as you’re finished you have to write another exam on the nature of writing exams.

Q6a: Is there an allegorical connection between Cirin's speech about the asteroids, and the souls "encased in hard rock until the end of all days," and the ideas you put forth in issue 289/290?

DAVE: Not consciously, but I would imagine I was getting "fed" these little tid-bits as I went along. At the time I would've just seen it as conventional female vanity. If, at any time in history, women had been able to see what a planet is, what the earth is, I'm pretty sure they would have the same knee-jerk reaction. If it's round it must be a pregnant belly or nourishing breasts filled with milk. What else exists as far as women are concerned and what else would reality be based on?

Q6b: Is the "Sea of Sadness" for Tarimites analogous to the faces on the Tower?

DAVE: I certainly couldn't rule it out. On a related note I just read several books on Islam over Ramadan (Belated Eid Mubarak to everyone reading this next week!). I already knew that haram meant "forbidden". But I also found out that much higher on the scale of the forbidden and the blasphemous is "tahrim". I assume that YHWH had a good laugh out of Tarim and Terim for many years, but maybe he/she/it isn't laughing quite so loudly anymore.

Volume 11: GUYS

Q1a: What intentions did you have setting up this first book for the storyline that would cover the final 100 issues?

DAVE: I had basically had a good long time to mull things over at Peter's Place from the time I broke up with Zolastraya in May of 1989 until I actually tried again with Susan in 1994. The contrast between the way society was portraying itself and what I saw when I looked at what society was turning itself into seemed to me a terrifically important subject. Still does. I was drinking quite a bit but mostly talking with guys and became aware of the schism between how guys talked with each other and how they talked around women, the extent to which that dichotomy led women to see guys as being different from what guys were actually like, how that led women into thinking that they were like guys, etc. etc. It was a very large onion and no one was peeling it. I was a universal pariah because of issue 186 which had come out a little over a year before starting Guys so, on the one hand I had a much smaller audience but, on the other hand, I had a lot more latitude to be honest in what I was writing and drawing. So as an intellectual exercise, I started peeling the onion-just writing down the actual state of reality as if I was discussing it with a guy-that is, with complete honesty. Then I'd read what I had written and get this small frisson of horror when I realized that women would be reading this. Which only reinforced my original insight for me: these things needed to be said even though I was reasonably certain that the remaining women and husbands and homosexuals in my audience weren't going to know what I was talking about (and deeply resent it anyway) which turned out to be the case. Embarking on the mission was, as far as I could see, just the next stage after 186 and my career-long pursuit of the truth. I had tacked into the wind and cut straight through some waves with 186 which had told me roughly the vector to follow to find the truth. 201 to 219 were the most honest masculine anecdotes I could come up with that I saw as pointing in the right direction.

Q1b: What elements went into separating it from the previous 200 issues, and what did you keep?

DAVE: "No chicks" would be the biggest one. Hemingway's Men Without Women. I had been as guilty as anyone through the first 200 issues of creating really false but flattering female characters, "admirable" domineering wives, strong independent single women, female intellectuals, strong female leaders, all the false feminist hot-button icons that earned you rave reviews and award nominations from the increasingly (or, at least, ostensibly) androgynous comic-reading public. It hadn't been false storytelling to that point, to me, because the layers of reality had actually still been there. To cite one example, I had played straight with Margaret Thatcher as a matriarch and held up her end of the discussion of what exotic dancing actually was as opposed to what Jaka wanted and needed it to be. And found her side of the discussion to be the more sensible of the two. The reaction from the ostensibly androgynous audience was that I had created a genuinely terrifying presence in the Thatcher character which (ultimately, for me) just reinforced the fact that the androgynous were essentially terrified of the truth and were using their own terror of the truth to convince themselves that the truth was, therefore, intrinsically evil-why else would it be terrifying?

Separating the title character into pre-200 and post-200, before Cerebus had developed his "Acquired Tastes" for sex through his marriage, he had been a pretty rock-solid, stubborn, resourceful, interesting and scrupulously (often sadistically) honest character. Having tried any number of ways to incorporate any number of women into his life by the end of issue 200, he's pretty much a mess. A self-pitying, immobilized, near-catatonic, vainglorious, vindictive, mean-spirited, lost, anguished, loathsome little drunkard, most of which I would see as delayed reactions to his cumulative experiences with women. That was one of the points that I wanted to get across-the various stages of "coming to" after prolonged exposure to women that I would see at Peter's Place. The guys who had just broken up with girlfriends or wives-or who were keeping their collapsed relationships together by any means necessary-were complete lunatics whereas the guys who just slept around or who stayed away from women for the most part were the most lucid. Being celibate from May of 1989 to July of 1991 in a bar context I got to see the full spectrum of reactions. The guys going through the break-up were just jonesing. There's no other word for it. And they would do all of these stupid things because they wanted to be getting laid again so badly that, like junkies, they couldn't see that what they wanted so badly was the source of their problems, not the solution to their problems-consequently they were very close to being complete lunatics. Of course through most of the summer of 1989, I had been a complete lunatic with the condition gradually lessening through 1990 and, like the guys I saw around me, I only gradually "came to". Well, except for Steve, who was unhappily married and then separated and literally drank himself to death. Because I knew that I was writing a story as well as just experiencing this part of life I had more of an overview and I examined motives-my own and others'-a little more deeply than I would have otherwise. If that "woman thing" turns you into a lunatic, why do you want it back? The guys would just say, "Women, can't live with them, can't shoot them." Or something equally pithy but I became absorbed in the subject itself. Why did I actively want to get a lunatic back into my life so she could drive me crazy? That was when I realized that it wasn't me that wanted a lunatic back in my life, it was my dick. "I think you're an absolute bimbo, but my dick seems to like you." Needless to say, by the time I was writing this stuff in 1995-Peter's Place had been gutted by fire shortly after I started sleeping with Susan-there really wasn't anyone I could talk to about it. All of the guys I knew needed to believe that somewhere there was a woman who was not a lunatic but who was their absolute soul-mate and all they had to do was find her or they were trying to convince themselves that the one they had settled for was their soul-mate and not a lunatic and, of course, it wasn't something I could discuss honestly with Susan or any other woman. Guys and the first part of Rick's Story were my best attempt to say, "I think I have finally managed to get outside-completely outside-of the lunatic construct, and here's what I see."

To answer the second part of the question, I don't think I so much retained what was in the first 200 issues as I tried to show that a restoration-of a kind-was possible and that, further, restoration of a kind is always possible. Just seeing all of the guys at Peter's Place in the varying stages of lunacy and recovery and experiencing the varying stages of lunacy and recovery myself...well, it did give me a very gratifying sense that it is possible to re-achieve coherency no matter how far over the line you've let yourself go (although Steve drinking himself to death did indicate that there is a line that you can cross from which there is no turning back and there was no shortage of guys who would understand and agree with what I was saying right up to the point where they fell in love again in which case, as relapsed lunatics, they would become absorbed in explaining to me why their new little yum-yum was different. At which point I could no longer talk a honestly with them).

Cerebus is a mess in the early issues of Guys and he gradually becomes more lucid and resourceful and more like the old Cerebus. Of course he's unaware of how much everyone in the environment hates him because he's basically a desperately mean and mean-spirited drunk. He's hitting the bottle so hard that he basically has only three speeds on his Mixmaster-conscious-and-improving (his sober behaviour where everyone ignores him) unconscious-and-dramatically-worsening (his drunken behaviour which makes everyone hate him) and genuinely unconscious (i.e. sleeping) and he won't let go of his completely false concept of Jaka.

"If Jaka comes back and loves Cerebus, Cerebus will be okay."Well, as we see later, nothing could be further from truth. On the contrary, all of his hard-won improvement will just go out the window the moment Jaka shows up and he'll devote all of his time to trying to become the Cerebus Jaka wants him to be in the hopes that that means that Jaka will become the Jaka Cerebus wants Jaka to be. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. All he had to do was look at the situation with Bear and Zig Pig (life does tend to provide just those sorts of warning signs in proximity if you're willing to open your eyes and see them)-really look at it and understand how profoundly foolish it was to behave like Bear and decide not to behave like Bear no matter what and then stick with that resolution-and he could've avoided a lot of headaches and probably have had a happier ending on his story. In my own case, it meant that when things started getting crazy with Susan-which is nothing against Susan, it's just the nature of incorporating any kind of female reality into your own life-it was very easy to just pull the plug and say, "No, I'd rather be sane than to live like that" and then to come to realize over the next year or so that I meant that observation in a much larger sense than I originally had and that I was now finished with romantic relationships for good. And it has been for good, I think.

Q2: How did Mrs. Thatcher survive the cataclysm that destroyed Iest? It occurred right after Cerebus and Cirin ascended, didn't it? She was in the upper city close to ground zero, as were Astoria and Seunteus Po. Did Astoria and Po die in the cataclysm?

DAVE: I would imagine that Astoria and Suenteus Po died in the cataclysm. She might be a different Mrs. Thatcher along the same lines of the two or three Oscar Wildes in the story. You can pick whichever one makes you less uncomfortable: Mrs. Thatcher had a miraculous escape from the cataclysm or there's more than one Mrs. Thatcher. I'll back up your choice 100% whichever one it is.

Q3: Is it the "female" part of Cerebus which enables him to read (or attack) minds? Had there been any clues to this before the psychic assault on Mrs. Thatcher and his apparent reading of Fan Roach's mind?

DAVE: Well, yes, analogous to my own experiences with women-particularly my mother-in those areas that I've documented elsewhere. We are a long way from women being able (I would suggest "willing") to discuss what those psychic episodes are all about, how common they are, what parameters they assume, etc. but I do think it safe to say that if/when those discussion(s) finally occur(s) it will be-quite decidedly-over in the area of "not pretty". I didn't see the recent movie version of Bewitched, but I read in one of the reviews that Nicole Kidman as Samantha is depicted as trying to wean herself off of using her witchcraft and expressing a certain regret when she backslides and resorts to it. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with but single step." But, yes, I do think that that side of Cerebus comes from his female nature and that his tendency to be a walking Id means that he just uses that part of his nature as much as he uses his fists-pretty freely.

(Really Esoteric Point Warning! Really Esoteric Point Warning!)
Arguably the cartoon violence to which Cerebus subjected Mrs. Thatcher would suggest that the Mrs. Thatcher of Guys and Rick's Story was possibly more of a Cirinist psychic construct than an actual person, a psychic construct which was intended by the Cirinists to rejoin the Cerebus/Jaka/Rick context in an opportune fashion at the Wall of Tsi. That is, that Mrs. Thatcher was actually killed in the Iestan Tragedy but she had proved so effective in the Jaka/Rick story from a Cirinist standpoint that it was worth reviving her in an illusory way to see if she could dominate Cerebus the way that she had dominated Jaka and Rick. As can be seen by the cartoon violence, the short answer was "no".

(Even More Esoteric Point Warning! Even More Esoteric Point Warning!)
I hesitated to answer the above question directly because it does lead into problematic areas of ways of perceiving reality-on the one hand I think most of the readership would be perfectly content to see Rick and then Jaka showing up in the tavern at the Wall of Tsi as just a forgivable literary conceit, a dual synchronistic coincidence of monumental unlikelihood (what are the odds?) both because of the readers' actual curiosity about the characters themselves and because the intrusion of "Dave" into the storyline makes any number of literary transgressions more allowable. In the context of the story itself, I think it would be more likely that the two coincidences-Rick showing up and then Jaka- were engineered by the Cirinists through psychic interference as a means of testing the waters of Cerebus' intentions. Which of the two did he respond to and how did he respond to him or her? I can understand that believing that things like this occur-and are possibly commonplace-in our own world would make most of my readers uncomfortable (the women as perpetrators perhaps more so than the men as objects of such psychic engineering), so I'm pretty happy to just leave it there like that as either a Core Element in Human Reality or as Just Another Really Esoteric Story Point on the Part of Crazy Dave Sim the Evil Misogynist.

Suit yourself, whoever you are.

Q4a: Are all the dream scenes Bear describes to Cerebus connected?

DAVE: Oh, no, no. Those aren't dream sequences. When we rejoin them in mid-anecdote, Bear is telling Cerebus how the sequence with Marty the Proctologist ended up after the events documented on page 47 of Guys and Cerebus is laughing in spite of himself because it was a, wattayacallit, good gag even though Cerebus was the victim. That's Guys nature, to me. A guy can see the humour in a situation in which he himself is the patsy. Women tend not to because of their in-built "my shit don't stink" natures.

Q4b: Is the Cirinist hugging her daughter a flash-forward depiction of the results of the last Fertility Festival?

DAVE: No, that was just "Cirinists are people, too." Something which I have never denied. Even the most psychotic Marxist-feminist is still going to enjoy playing with children. For most Marxist-feminists that excuses dismantling society and causing as much trouble as they can: they love small children. For Marxist-feminists, the fact that you love small children means that everything else that you do is right. It makes a jarring contrast with the events of the Fertility Festival but that was why I included it.

Q4c: Also, the scenes of the orgy indicate drug-crazed behavior, torture and dismemberment. Does this mean that a feature of the Fertility Festival is human (presumably *male*) sacrifice?

DAVE: Mm. Not necessarily just male. Women, to me, are just inherently crazy and their lunatic desires are usually only suppressed by them in the interests of the larger goal of getting married and having kids, but they do like to push the envelope of behaviours because they're certain that their inherent lunacy is (how would I put this?) in service to something or attached to some larger purpose or construct. I would speculate that most of them have very clear voices in their heads telling them so and I would speculate further that those voices are all, basically, YHWH. An orgy differs from four chicks going out to a disco and drinking two or three glasses of wine only by degree. They're doing roughly the same thing, using alcohol to break down their inhibitions and then stimulating themselves into a "rhythmic movement frenzy" that will assist and magnify the effect. I think I'm safe in saying that there are very few men who seriously see dancing as a key component in having a good time. Dancing for a guy is what you do to get on the good side of a woman (or what you did, at one time, to get on the good side of a woman: the bloom seems to be seriously off that particular rose): We'll enact a metaphorical frenzy and then go back to my place and enact the real thing lying down. That is, I'll cater to your peculiar female interests so that later you'll cater to my peculiar masculine interests. The less often that guys get laid after dancing, the less inclined they are to dance. They see it for what it is: they're being made to look foolish for the collective entertainment of women. Once you get to the point where dancing is just what a woman does until she picks the malign thug (who wouldn't be caught dancing if you put a gun to his head) she's going to sleep with that night, as I say, the bloom is off that particular rose. Mid-1980s if I recall correctly.

The advantage of the pagan orgy, of course, is that it includes ugly, old and/or fat women, three groups that are usually excluded from contention at the disco (unless they're lesbians or it's a gay club).

Q4d: If not, whose bones are scattered, half-buried in the ground?

DAVE: Well, remember, I was attempting to create what I saw as an impossible society-a post-agrarian matriarchy-while fudging the details as little as possible. One of the reasons that I introduced the idea of unlimited drinking-no "Last call"-was that I saw that as a likely policing mechanism of those individuals who would be seen in a matriarchy as the most incorrigible and most unwanted men, those that didn't want to get married, have children and spend the rest of their lives obeying their wives unquestioningly. Looking at our own society, I think I was just asking questions that wouldn't be quite as readily apparent to others for another decade or so. When marriage becomes progressively less attractive to men, that is, as women become more intransigent about doing things "women's way", how do you make marriage attractive enough so that it doesn't erode into its present 50-50 state-half of all marriages end in divorce- and keep it from then vanishing altogether? No small question for the unfairer sex given that "strong, independent women" have proven to be anathema to successful marriage. The answer it seemed to me, is to make life outside of marriage even more of a living hell than marriage itself and it seems to me that unlimited drinking would lead you in that direction. Essentially you would either die of progressive alcohol poisoning or cirrhosis of the liver or the DTs or you would choose being married as the lesser of two evils. To use my own life as an example of the model you are attempting to deconstruct, you choose to actively worsen the lunacy phase by making non-stop drinking possible, thereby diminishing the likelihood-and then even the possibility-of the recovery phase that I went through. Both results serve the purposes of the matriarchy. The former eliminates from the gene pool men who aren't interested in getting married and the latter leads to complete capitulation to the female viewpoint. You either die or turn yourself into a completely pussy-whipped husband. Win-win from the standpoint of a matriarchy.

Of course that concept founders on the problem of the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger archetype, the hard-drinking womanizing bad boy. The longer one of them stays alive, the more attractive he becomes as a behaviour model pointing away from the matriarchy's interests. He seduces women and impregnates them without obeying them unquestioningly which is very bad from a matriarchal standpoint on several counts. He attracts more women than pussy-whipped men do and so his behaviour spreads to pussy-whipped men as a way of attracting women and the women themselves become more obsessed about "getting" him than they are about having babies and rearing them to adulthood. So it seemed to me that a matriarchy would have to find a larger net that would ensnare these alpha males as well. And it seemed to me that the larger net was to have these seasonal festivals where all bets were off. Essentially the same unlimited drinking and carousing and womanizing but on a much larger and more intensive Event Scale. You may be able to drink everyone under the table and fornicate with several women at the same time, but how do you do in an environment where-to be competitive, and competition is the key with the alpha male-you're expected to do it relentlessly over a period of several days? The bonfire is lit, everyone gets naked and, as I say, all bets are off. The most competitive males would be the ones most likely to drink themselves to death or kill each other in a drunken rage in just such a context. And, of course, it would provide an outlet for the lead-foot lunacy that I see as being inherent in female nature, the urge towards frenzy of which sort dancing is just a low-level and largely harmless (and consequently to them largely unsatisfying) incarnation. Particularly since-as you could see-so much of it involves old women who are past their prime and bitterly resentful that their days of controlled frenzy-dancing and courtship-are over. Such a context would allow them to give vent to all of that suppressed rage and unhappiness in the company of the baddest (and consequently most desirable) of the bad boys. I think in such a circumstance you would see a lot more female teeth and female fingernails becoming part of the fun and "tearing off a piece of ass" would become more than an expression. As I said, all bets are off and only the baddest of the bad asses and the most insane of the women would participate in the inner rings of the dance around the bonfire. The next morning (or next morning or next morning) would undoubtedly find a fair number of casualties dismembered and gallons of blood "spilt on the ground like water" in the unforgettable enthusiasm of YHWH as expressed to Moshe and Aaron in Exodus and Leviticus. A few less bad asses to worry about and a more tranquil bunch of women-their urge for bloodletting and frenzy now temporarily satiated-you couldn't hope to find. I think we're going to have to find some sort of equivalent in our society since it seems to me that one of the complete falsehoods that we've been selling women for years now (and that women, consequently, have been selling themselves) is that, as a society, we don't recognize any boundaries to human behaviour. A woman's right to choose. It seems to me that the idea of the bouncer undermines what women see as the core attraction of the pagan frenzy: the ideal pagan frenzy is intrinsically "not safe"-you can do whatever you want to anyone and they can do whatever they want to you. The threat of Actual Danger which always gets the vaginal juices going. If there are bouncers, all the danger is pretend. Some guy grabs your ass or your boobs and he's kissing the pavement outside before he knows what hit him. So all you're really doing as a woman is drinking yourself stupid and whirling around to make yourself dizzy on top of it and being protected from harm by big terminal steroid cases (which undermines the notion of any kind of equality). When you get as close as we are to Aleister Crowley's "Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" in my view you better have entertainments that produce genuine fatalities among society's most extreme inhabitants or they will begin to devour society from the periphery in. I think that was the motivation behind extreme festivals in most pagan societies. If you are knowingly going to turn your back on God, you have to have a safety valve and a winnowing mechanism for the resultant lunacy.

Of course it seems preferable to me to just enforce laws more strictly and make courts far, far less lenient than they are today across the great democracies-a five-year sentence means you go to jail for five years, not eight months and time served-and return the God-fearing to a supervisory role. But in the Marxist-feminist societies we inhabit, we have been paddling away from that concept as fast as many of our little atheistic paddles will carry us for a number of years, so I think it's worth considering-and alerting people to-the accommodation and societal endorsement of lunatic extremes those behavioural latitudes are ultimately going to require if (as we appear to be doing) we choose to regress further and further and faster and faster into the outer depths and excesses of the Marxist-feminist cesspool.

Q4e: Or is it just a dream? And is the Cirinist battlefield aftermath scene in Latter Days a purposeful invocation of this scene? (i208)

DAVE: No it definitely wasn't a dream-although that's a lot of the purpose of lunatic frenzy: to incite a dream-like state within yourself by altering your accurate perceptions of reality. It seems to me to be just an obvious extension of the original impulse to flee from God. Once you get far enough away from God, your next urge is going to be to flee yourself and your own inborn sense of ethics-which illusion of escape alcohol and frenzied behaviours helps to create.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll discuss this more in the Wild Card spot.

No, I would consider a battlefield to be an entirely different kettle of fish. A battlefield is where you resolve the shape of your society and the issues of whose governing philosophy is going to dominate and prevail when all other means of arriving at political and diplomatic conclusions have failed. A pagan frenzy, by contrast, is just a means of letting off steam and "thinning the herd" of undesirable characters and characteristics while creating the illusion of net improvement-letting everyone so inclined get their rocks off from "the blood of others". I've often thought that the reason that leftists object so strongly to war is that it's too organized and purposeful and on too large a scale. That is, they are only able to perceive the scale of the pagan frenzy-one good bonfire and "getting nekkid"-and anything larger than that and more purposeful than that is just inherently objectionable to them. War can't be any good so far as the pagan is concerned because music, alcohol, drugs and dancing aren't involved.

Q5a: In Cerebus' dream, the landscape is an homage to Krazy Kat & Ignatz Mouse as the Cerebus/Joanne relationship is contrasted with another lovesick woman/reticent man romance. Julius, Astoria and the Albatross all show up.

DAVE: It's less of lovesick woman/reticent man romance than it is an example of the ferociously competitive female determined at all costs to hook and then land herself the husband she has set her sights on. The ferociously competitive female who is aggressively taking advantage of Cerebus' sleepiness in order to capture some territory, win some concessions and gain some short yardage on her hard and rocky road to winning the diamond on her ring finger-which, whatever feminist portrayal may hold to the contrary, is not unheard of as female behaviour patterns go. Wait until he's in a good mood or almost asleep and then spring your trap (whatever you feel your best and most effective trap might happen to be: tears, emotional coercion, sex, jealousy or just the wearing down of resistance through relentless battery of the psyche: like pounding Manuel Noriega and David Koreish with amplified rock music and spotlights morning and night in an attempt to compel them to surrender). The imagery that's going through Cerebus' mind on the borderland between wakefulness and sleep all reflects this oppressive day-in, day-out reality he is living. Although-in the interests of continuing to get laid, he wouldn't be allowing himself to be consciously aware of it (the dick is a monomaniacal organ which screens out all input which threatens its territory)-his unconscious mind is telling him what's going on. He's Lord Julius and he's being cornered by Astoria. He's Marty and he's approaching the brink of the waterfall into husbandly doom. He is carved in stone and his little rowboat is already going over the edge, having avoided two tunnel entrances with sharp teeth.

Q5b: Bear is drowning someone (who?). Sgt. Preston Roach is going down the drain.

DAVE: Mm. Bear isn't drowning anyone. Bear, as the most masculine incarnation that the (by now) 99.9% trapped Cerebus can envisage is trying to "pull the plug" as a means of escaping Lord Julius' and Marty's metaphorical fates visible on the horizon. Of course Bear has already fallen prey to Zig Pig and has been devoured whole-a fact Cerebus is aware of-so when he is able to "pull the plug" it turns out that the plug was actually directly underneath him and he turns out to be not so much the super-masculine Bear draining the swamp through sheer muscle as he is the idiotic Sgt. Preston Roach (who was, of course, putty in Astoria's hands) and (consequently) all he's done is to seal his own fate by pulling the plug, sending himself swirling rapidly and irrevocably down the matrimonial drain. Of course, in light of Bear's recent fate, Cerebus himself is more than a little ambivalent at this point so in the next image, instead of going down the drain, Sgt. Preston Roach has been raised up to the top of a tall building, still revolving, but more slowly and Cerebus envisions a tiny Regency Elf, a less threatening female incarnation than Astoria. This causes him to picture his own divided nature relative to the issue of marriage, his head on one side of the image and his feet on the other. He floats within his own hollowed-out interior, the bar dramatically compressed and moved to one side emphasizing his own weakness and diminishment-his loss of crucial yardage and now imminent matrimonial demise-in failing to recognize the threat posed by Joanne in mentally "casting" Joanne as the small, non-threatening Regency Elf-and as a result sees his hollow interior dominated by a giant Missy (more accurately ominous than a tiny Regency Elf but less accurately threatening than the image of Astoria).

Q5c: Rick is seen in Sophia's clothes (emphasizing homosexual overtones in Guys?). Jaka appears in a papal gown.

DAVE: Homosexual overtones only in the sense that, yes, a man who is pussy-whipped-who has chosen to be pussy-whipped-and is allowing himself to drift into enemy territory without even token resistance as Cerebus has chosen to do is going to be, in all significant ways, about as masculine as a homosexual. No, Cerebus here is still mentally "casting" the two roles, himself and Joanne and ventures into the forbidden territory of contemplating marriage by allowing himself, however briefly, to see her as being as small and inoffensive as a tiny Regency Elf: by not allowing himself to see that when a woman says, "Let's not fight anymore" what she's usually saying is, "Capitulate to me. Do what I want you to do. Marry me. Bind yourself to me. Come, permanently, into my context".

[I wasn't really going through this at the time and at the same time I was because I had been sleeping with Susan for a period of years, which always raises the question, "So when are you two going to get married?" and implies that not getting married is an insult to the woman involved. I've been on something of a binge of reading Simone De Beauvoir lately. Her complete letters to Nelson Algren, her A Farwell to Sartre, The Mandarins (I love Nelson Algren's comment: "It would appear that Mme. De Beauvoir has invaded her own privacy"), The Woman Destroyed. I think her reputation as The Seminal Feminist is largely undeserved. She was a feminist to the extent that she had to turn herself into something interesting enough to keep Jean Paul Sartre's attention once she was no longer physically young and attractive enough to do so, but her interests and the core of her writings are almost exclusively female-love, marriage, faithfulness, unfaithfulness "how do you make love stay?"- things which she wraps in heavily over-intellectualized leftist trappings (again, I suspect, so as to keep Sartre's attention) but her female characters always have those as their primary interests-whatever else they might be pretending to be for the world and posterity. Her female characters are all holding onto some man's attentions by their fingernails neatly divided into those who manage the trick by various means of deception and those who collapse into psychological train wrecks when they fail in the attempt. She documents this implicit "love coercion" state very perceptively in a sequence in The Blood of Others (Le Sang des Autres):

'You haven't the slightest need of me,' she said. 'nothing that is really part of your life has any connexion with me.'

'It's possible to be very fond of someone without needing them.'

I pressed her arm against mine, but she stiffened.

'I feel so useless."

I ought to have been able to say to her 'I love you', but I dared not lie to her. I had sworn to leave her free, and to be free, she must be able to see clearly. And clearly did she see my tenderness and my indifference, and she dragged along, like a joyless burden, that love which I did not need.

'Are you sure that you don't love her?' Denise would say to me.

'It isn't love.'

'But perhaps you can't love in any other way.'

'Perhaps, but that makes no difference. It isn't what she calls love.'

What Hélène required was that I should have an essential need of her; then she would have existed in her entirety, she would have had a miraculous justification for being what she was, for being what I should have loved.

'You do not will to love her,' said Denise. She shrugged her shoulders. 'You are deliberately spoiling your life as well. A great love is not to be scorned.']

De Beavoir divides and sub-divides and re-subdivides herself on the printed page in just this fashion. She is both the rejected lover and the confidant, both rejected by Sartre and, at the same time, berating Sartre for not loving her enough: "A great love is not to be scorned" with the nervous tick of imminent madness lurking at the periphery of the pronouncement.

Cerebus isn't aware of this comparably unrelenting pressure, consciously, but his unconscious mind is, so Cerebus' unconscious mind pictures another married couple-Rick and Jaka-as a means of attempting to keep the concept of imminent marriage at a remove from himself (although he is aware enough of reality to picture married life as side-by-side coffins). The couple is Rick and Jaka but the clothes are those of his own previous marriage, Cerebus and Red Sophia. His unconscious mind is registering the fact that if he does actually marry Joanne she will be the one calling the shots as Cerebus was with Sophia and Cerebus will just be the amiable dominated partner that Red Sophia was which is why the costumes are reversed.

Q5d: Then, a great 2-page spread wherein Cerebus is feminized, the make-up kit containing a tiny helmet...

DAVE: Yes, his unconscious dreaming mind is following the extrapolation. Given that Joanne is going to be the masculine half of the hypothetical marriage, his dreaming mind is trying to picture what life will be like being Red Sophia-the female half of the marriage-and he remembers that this is most of what Red Sophia did-primping and pampering herself, trying new looks and new hairstyles. The helmet is the core of his masculine self that can't be eliminated even by his free-ranging dreaming mind. It's a profoundly discordant note both because of its small size and because it's just mixed in with all the make-up and brushes and things.

Q5e: Then we see Cerebus as a youth...

DAVE: His unconscious mind recognizes that he's gone too far in his extrapolation. To even contemplate living life as if he was Red Sophia is not only distinctly un-masculine-a warning sign of how far into dangerous psychic territory he's strayed in his involvement with Joanne-but also profoundly childish. Only a child would think that being feminine was an option for a male in marriage.

Q5f: Then a baby...

DAVE: ProFOUNDly childish. So profoundly childish as to be certifiably infantile.

Q5g: A woman/mama grabs his hand...

DAVE: Not a woman/mama-Joanne. He's still telling himself the same story, still casting their roles. He's completely infantilized and she's just Joanne. He's the one that has undergone several complete transformations to accommodate himself to her reality while she is completely unchanged. She is only one thing: the relentless would-be bride. The fact that she can get him to think even unconsciously of changing himself in Red Sophia means that she is winning her relentless war of psychic attrition dominating him at every level of reality just as an adult dominates a baby. She is doing what his unconscious and conscious mind are fully aware that she intends to do and has intended to do all along-to take him firmly by the hand, ignore his feeble protests and crying and drag him to the matrimonial altar.

Q5h: He rapidly changes from youth, to warrior, to Prime Minister...

DAVE: He's still telling himself the same story. Even if he's a youth, a blood-soaked warrior or Prime Minister, they are as impotent to do anything as a baby is-she's still just going to drag him to the altar unless he does something to stop it.

Q5i: As the dream continues, Cerebus is getting married, Joanne is now a barbarian Pope...

DAVE: Well, you missed the good part where Cerebus-typical of most grooms (sad-ass self-deluding bastards that they are)-thought the assembled crowd of women were applauding him and applauding his choice to marry. It's only when he looks over at Joanne and sees that she has his sword, his helmet, his medallions and his Papal robes and that the crowd is chanting her name that he registers the extent to which he is going to lose everything of value to him if the wedding ever takes place, the wedding he has allowed himself for the first time to contemplate unconsciously.

Q5j: And then Cerebus is a baby with curtains on his head,

DAVE: Yes, the curtains have parted and revealed him to the crowd-and to himself-as he is, as he has chosen to be-as the matrimonial patsy, the connubial clown, the "'til death us do part" fall guy-and everyone in the crowd, including Joanne is laughing at him.

Q5k: a diaper, and his tail (or diaper?) between his legs like a

DAVE: The crowd sees him and he sees himself, accurately, as being completely and irretrievably infantile and completely dominated by Joanne. He has lost everything of value in exchange for nothing and has become an enormous joke.

Q5l: Suddenly awake, Cerebus screams "Get Out!" Is this Cerebus casting out the serpent?

DAVE: Actually that's very well put.

Q5m: Is the reaction one of anger at being so emasculated, even in a dream? Or a sense of foreboding, perhaps foreshadowing the Joannist movement? Or merely a re-statement of a woman attempting to usurp the male light, no matter how seemingly enjoyable the relationship is? Can you give us your interpretation of this dream? (i218-19)

DAVE: I had forgotten the punch-line until I re-read it. She has so completely pussy-whipped him by this point that even with the dream fresh in his mind and the overwhelming sense of urgency that he has experienced-the certain knowledge that She Has Got to Go-all she has to say is "Don't. Yell. Geez. Now. What's the matter?" in a chilly voice, like a mother speaking to her infant-and he folds like a house of cards. "Oh. Aye. Sorry. Sorry. The matter is...uh...". Pavlov was right. That was pretty good. I laughed when I reread it. The look on his face when he realizes that he just folded like a house of cards and snaps back into the urgency of She Has Got to Go. I was quite pleased with the way it works on the page.

I was well past that point of romantic ambivalence in my last two relationships with Diana and Susan. When it was time to go, it was time to go and no two ways about it, but I certainly remembered with Zolastraya and with Kallin completely missing the point that I had allowed myself to be so subsumed within their context which context was so completely dominated by the urgent need to get married that I seriously wondered if I shouldn't get married, very, very seldom thinking to myself-except in my most lucid moments- "But... there is no part of me that wants to be married. To anyone." If you aren't going through it-and by 1994-1998 when I was sleeping with Susan, I was no longer going through it-it provides a sublime measure of masculine comedy. Only someone who is thoroughly pussy-whipped is going to seriously wonder and doubt why he doesn't do something that he has absolutely no interest in doing.

And it certainly foreshadows the Joannist movement. In the upper reaches of all that is critically important to men, it is exactly these sorts of half-victories, half-defeats, in my view, that undermine men's own best efforts and core self interests. Neither Joanne nor Jaka ever got Cerebus to the altar, but that didn't mean that they didn't, in tandem, completely destroy every aspect of his life that was worthwhile years and years after they were both dead just by the gravitational effect they had on his decision-making at those critical junctures in his life when he should've known better than to stay in proximity to either of them. If it only knocks you five degrees out of whack, the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step ends up thousands of miles away from its intended destination.

Put another way, I wonder if the Synoptic Jesus would've allowed Susanna and Joanna and (especially) Mary Magdalene to "tag along" if he would've known the feminist cesspool/nightmare that would hatch out of them two thousand years later?

Volume 12: RICK'S STORY

Q1a. You've said that you had never read the Bible until late in Guys, when you picked up a copy to prepare for the Bible parody you knew was coming up in "Rick's Story," and that when you read it you realized that it really was the Word of God. But the Bible parody in "Rick's Story" certainly seems like a real parody. Rick himself seems genuinely crazy, and the occasional glimpses we get of how future generations will interpret his work all seem to be: (a) perfectly reasonable interpretations of his actual words and (b) completely at odds with the reality he is witnessing.

DAVE: That depends on how you perceive and therefore define reality. If we switch the subject back to Jaka's Story you can say that Mrs. Thatcher was just this vile, oppressive matriarch who needed to "lighten up" and see that Jaka was a brilliant artist who needed to be left alone because she hadn't done anything wrong. Or Mrs. Thatcher was a corrective presence in Jaka's life who helped her to see-however temporarily-how wrong and corrupting her behaviour had been, the profoundly negative effect that she had had on Pud and Rick's lives. They were contending realities. I think it's worth noting that Jaka's response to the ending on the story was to return to Palnu-not to say, "Well screw you, I'll find someplace to dance where you haven't taken over." I don't think she would ever admit it, but I think she felt properly chastised by the experience and pretty much literally "went to her room." That is, Mrs. Thatcher's version of reality prevailed.
Rick's impressions of what was going on around him certainly didn't seem to be aligned with conventional viewpoints of reality. That was why I thought it would make an effective parody. What happens to this Jesus-like figure-the mental image that I had of Rick when I created him-after his happy marriage blows up and he hits the skids? At the time, I thought it would be really interesting to portray someone who ardently believed in Heaven and Hell as empirical realities which, obviously, orthodox monotheists do and who saw himself as having a central role in adjudicating between the two. Of course, I didn't realize at the time that this was nothing new. Vast populations in First Century Judaism thought that Jesus was crazy and relative to orthodox Judaism at the time-and now-he was. "He hath a devil, why hear ye him?" from John's Gospel pretty much sums it up. Virtually all Arabs in Mecca-and virtually all Jews and Christians- besides a rag-tag band of slaves and societal cast-offs thought that Muhammad was crazy. Relative to the Koreisch, the family that dominated Meccan society and had control of the Grand Mosque he was crazy. His clan protected him because that was what clans did, but they all thought he was crazy, too. Most of them died without converting to Islam.

Q1b: So, if you already knew the Bible was the Word of God when you wrote "Rick's Story," didn't it bother you to be parodying it?

DAVE: Not at the time, no. I was still on a quest for Truth as an absolute and I wasn't about to give the Bible a free ride just because it was the Bible. I wanted to understand it thoroughly enough to address it on my own terms, but not necessarily on its own terms and certainly not in the terms of any accepted orthodoxy. Of course, at the time I wasn't thinking of the Bible as having terms of its own separate from accepted orthodoxy. Like most atheists, I assumed that there was a universally-agreed upon assessment of what the Bible was and what it was saying with hair-splitting differences about specific aspects i.e. I knew that Jews didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God but I did think that there was this monolithic societal presence that we could safely call The Church in all its oppressive, mindless glory that used ancient fairy tales as a cudgel to keep the faithful in line, to line its own pockets and keep anyone from having fun. I assumed that the structure of the book would be roughly along the lines of the world existing on the back of a giant turtle, how the turtle came to be, how the world came to be, if you went too far out on the ocean you fell off the edge, those kinds of things: primitive ooga-booga cosmology that idiots were still following six thousand years later that was no different from Indian legends and Norse mythology. Basically, what I wanted to do was The Life of Brian but with a good deal more depth. The Life of Brian-apart from some good lines and sight gags-was from the Kurtzman/Elder school of parody. Take every Jesus joke you can come up with-the more blasphemous the better-string them all together and call it a movie. For the people who like that sort of thing those are just the sort of things that they like. Put another way, if you asked Kurtzman and Elder to do a political parody they would not have come up with High Society. It would've just been a lot of tummeling (a Yiddish term I once heard explained as "You know when Jerry Lewis running around the stage and chewing the drapes and talking in that high-pitched idiot voice and is being so annoying that you have to change the channel? That's tummeling.")

Q1c: And if that realization was something that came to you gradually over time, how long would you say it took to sink in? Is there a definitive point in time you can point to, both in your own life and in the development of the Cerebus saga, and say, "Here. After this Cerebus was being done by a Dave Sim who believed in God and in following the Scriptures," or is it a gradually dawning awareness that began somewhere near the end of "Guys" and seeped into your life and art so that one day you woke up and realized that you had been following Scripture for some time?

DAVE: There isn't a definite point, in terms of an hour or a day. After I broke up with Susan in March of '98 I went through a period of great relief because I was allowed to actually think again-I didn't have to close off whole realms of contemplation because they would lead to arguments in the relationship that would threaten the foundation of the relationship. The Marty and Cerebus parts of Guys were helpful in that way, a good way of letting myself think fictionally what I wouldn't allow myself to think in the real world. This is what relationships are, Dave, this is what you are choosing and this is what you are doing. This is what you envied in all those people who lived for backyard barbecues and renting a house on the lake for a long weekend and going to shop in town in boutique-y little stores. "You doing anything for the Labor Day weekend?" "Yeah, me and the girlfriend have rented a house with two other couples on Martha's Vineyard". "Oh, niiice." With exactly that note of profound envy that you were obviously going to have a much nicer long weekend than they were going to have. And, of course, what it was was three women who were all fully engaged in that woman-of-the-couple thing and three guys sitting around with rictus grins on their faces biting their tongues and not saying anything about whole realms of experience and thought that had been colliding since 1970. The first tectonic shift in my thinking was, to me, a very natural one and came back in 1996-97 on my first time through the Torah. I already had a sincere conviction that there were governing forces in the universe. Those Who Are in Charge of the Universe was a definite best assessment for me. Things didn't happen by accident. There was definite cause-and-effect centering on intent. Bad faith choices led to bad faith consequences. I was convinced that that was what John Lennon meant by "Instant Karma". I think he tried to do the same thing I tried to do-clear the decks as much as possible and engage the world as little as possible except in a political way (the Bed-Ins, Bagism and all that stuff in his case)-and found the same thing that I did. The more you clear the decks, the faster whatever goes around comes around. And of course he had millions and millions of dollars to keep his decks cleared which would've been a plus, but the level of materialism, I suspect, that is built-in at that level just meant larger consequences. As a rap artist eloquently put it, "Mo' money, mo' problems." Or as Paul McCartney put it in "Band on the Run" "Gonna give it all away/to a registered charity". The joke, of course, is that you don't even though you know it would improve your life dramatically to do so. Big Money=Big Tar-baby.

Sorry, big digression there. Consequence-based-on-intent has a fundamental underpinning of Intelligent Design to it. I remember Susan reading an article about Woody Allen and telling me, "He believes the same thing you do. There's no such thing as an accident. Everything happens for a reason." Coincidentally, Woody Allen is in the news this morning with his 70th birthday coming up on December 1st and being featured in Vanity Fair. Being a monotheist I find it quite self-revelatory when he says "All the crap that they tell you about...getting joy, and having a kind of wisdom in your golden years-it's all tripe...I've gained no wisdom, no insight, no mellowing. I would make all the same mistakes again, today." I think the distinction is obvious. If you believe that everything happens for a reason but you don't attach that reason where it belongs-to God, you just "end up" the way you "end up" rather than arriving at any kind of destination. When he was asked about Mia Farrow discovering the nude polaroids of Soon-Yi in his apartment he describes it as "one of the fortuitous events, one of the great pieces of luck in my life". To describe that as a fortuitous event and a great piece of luck boggles my mind. So I would draw a sharp distinction between the "Fortuitous Event" theory of predestination and my own Those Who Control the Universe or The Larger Forces at Work in the Universe long-standing articles of faith even though they looked interchangeable to Susan. To draw an even sharper distinction, I wasn't too far into the Bible before it occurred to me that I was probably being perverse in using that terminology-Those Who Control the Universe-rather than saying God. That is, I was being a forensic atheist. I will believe in forces at work in the universe that have all of the qualities and aptitudes and inclinations of God, but I won't call them God. Well, why not? That became the $64,000 question. Why not, indeed? Particularly since the Torah didn't have anywhere close to the structure and content that I pictured it as having. There was very little ooga-booga and a lot of "whatever goes around comes around". Bad decisions produce bad consequences. So, I began to incorporate this into my interior monologue of examination with the sudden awareness that there was someone listening to my thoughts-something I had pretty much taken as a given for years-who wasn't me and could very well be God. Fortunately I avoided the infantile approach of "God if you can actually hear what I'm thinking right now show me a sign of Your Presence." The problem was mine, not God's. I had led myself up to the threshold of a very sensible conclusion-everything that I had attributed in my life up to that point to Unnamed Forces were actually attributable to God. To counter-balance that Giant Leap Forward with just another example of forensic atheism-God, either prove yourself to me, or I won't believe in you-would be to make a Giant Leap Backward. I imagine God gets a lot of that. I understood that there was a commitment that was called for on my part. I had to take the Giant Scaffolding of My Belief System, pick the whole thing up and turn it 180 degrees and I would be a monotheist. Or I could just continue to build the Giant Scaffolding of My Belief System so that it avoided everything having to do with God and the Torah. I could follow Alan Moore, with whom I had had the "Dialogue; From Hell" and decide to become a magician just by adopting his viewpoint that magic and Magic were the all-encompassing natures of reality and Natures of Reality that obtained and that I should be ingesting large quantities of illicit substances and conducting rituals in order to give myself larger insights and awarenesses. I all I had to do was to decide that the Bible was this weak and ineffectual Magic Textbook and that what I needed was something with more meat on its bones. That, to me, was the bridge from forensic atheism to polymorphous perverse sophistry. I can pump myself full of magic mushrooms, chant an unspeakable name 800 times, puke, and see a vision of a giant spider-god who will tell me about the upper branches of the Great Kaballah Tree. Me and Madonna and Britney Spears-forward into the future. To me, that seemed the exact wrong response to "Instant Karma"-the Yoko Ono response: Things are not going the way I want them to, so I must buy an Egyptian sarcophagus for the living room that will bring me better luck and more power.
To me there was an inherent purity to the Bible and to belief in God that made all of that garbage look exactly like what it was. I don't doubt for a minute that it was efficacious. You know, you get your right astrologer and your right hank of hair and your right pentagram and you can put a curse on Paul and Linda McCartney for occupying the Presidential Suite (and therefore trying to steal your Presidential Suite magic) at whatever hotel it was you and John stayed at in Tokyo. You can even get Paul McCartney busted for marijuana possession (a really unlikely event for someone that high on the worldwide VIP list), but at the same time your husband can get shot to death a few months later. Instant Karma. For someone like myself who was on the track of Truth those sorts of "power over others" things were anathema. That was what people tried to do to me, in my experience. Love was always the means used by my family and later by my wife and girlfriends to try and divert me from the quest I was on. For me, the question was one of choices. What did I choose? Instant Karma only happened if I made bad choices and the answer there, to me, was to make better choices, not to find some "ooga-booga" way to allow me to make bad choices without consequence.
So, I continued this interior monologue directed at God for a period of time and then realized that that was a bad choice as well. Billions of people all over the planet bowing to God and worshipping him and Dave Sim just has this very familiar buddy-buddy relationship with God where he lets God know what his best current thinking is today and critiques what God's been up to lately. No, that's still forensic atheism. "God and me are buds" is no great improvement on atheism or agnosticism. If anything it's worse-instead of ignoring God or pretending God doesn't exist, I'd be either attempting to lower God to my level or raise myself to His level. As it says in the Koran, "He is God, high let Him be exalted above what they join with Him". The only sensible response was to finish the Giant Leap Forward-and begin praying regularly and sincerely on my knees, concluding prostrate-or take a Giant Leap Backward and continue to treat God as my buddy. Remember the old song "Signs"? Pretty typical of the hippies of the time "If God was here/ He'd tell you to your face/ Man you're some kind of sinner". That's exactly what the hippies most deplored on the part of The Big Bad Church-presuming to speak for God. It's a very easy but to me perverse snare to drop into. Basically, the prayer was pretty close to the one that was on the inside back cover of issue 300, except it was in reverse order. "If I am worthy of forgiveness in your eyes, I ask forgiveness of..." came first and then the "Almighty God, I thank you for...". Basically "I'm sorry" and "thank you" which it seems to me what all prayer is mostly. I don't believe in asking God for things. If I could ever compose an exhaustive list of things to thank Him for (eyesight, hearing, health, success, interesting work, inexplicably loyal atheistic readers, food, drink, Eddie Campbell, Chester Brown, Gerhard, nice house, nice neighbourhood, City Council meetings for starters) I'd feel like a world-class ingrate when I got to the end "And by the way, could I also pretty please have...?" There is something about the experience of saying out loud what it is that you want to be forgiven for that eventually makes you sick of whatever it is. "Every day I have to ask forgiveness for smoking and drinking" "Jeez it was just three days ago I was asking forgiveness for masturbating and here I am asking forgiveness for it again." It makes you ridiculous in your own eyes, in my experience. Don't ask for absolution or a Get Out of Jail Free Card, improve. Went through a ridiculous (but I suspect common) phase where I spent a lot of my time telling God how I weak I am. Which was ridiculous because I knew I wasn't weak and I'm far from omniscient. What could be more futile than trying to convince an omniscient Being of an inherent falsehood you can't even bring yourself to believe? When I first read about jihad back in '99, the concept that you are waging jihad "holy war" on your own unholy nature, I took to it like a duck to water. I tend to think that it's only Muslims who can't conceive of waging war on their own unholy nature who blow themselves up-it's really just an appropriate-but misdirected-self-loathing. I can't stop masturbating and drinking and God is closer to me than my own jugular vein. I must blow myself up next to an infidel to make amends.
I'm not sure that I am following scripture although I thank you for the thought. I certainly am trying to and on my good days I like to think that I am, but you would have to go a long way to find anyone who thinks that I am. It was one of the net effects of finding out just how diffuse the number of beliefs are that make up Judaism, Christianity and Islam in toto. As I pointed out to someone recently, I don't think there are Jews in the world anymore who stone people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. I certainly hope there aren't. But, in choosing not to stone people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, they are certainly violating a specific instruction from the YHWH (Numbers 15:32-36) Arguably you can't follow Jesus unless you sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. How many people do you know who have done that compared to the number of people who call themselves Christians? How many Muslims kill the infidels wherever they find them, striking off their heads and striking off every fingertip? I mean, "wherever ye find them" is pretty specific. That was when I realized that whatever illusion there is that there is such a thing as orthodoxy (right belief) among the monotheist faiths, it's just that-an illusion. Likewise orthopraxy (right conduct)-whoever you are you're making your own choices. The Sunnis and the Shiites start the Ramadan fast on different days. Different Christian sects celebrate Easter on different days. All that I think is the case with our present world is that people are being too easy on themselves by trying to minimize the importance of choice rather than making what they think are better choices. "If I get to make up my own mind about what constitutes orthpraxy then I choose to believe that prayer and scripture and church attendance and fasting and giving alms to the poor are all a bunch of hooey. In my version of Christianity, you do what you want to do whenever and whatever you want to do and everyone has to leave you alone because that's the way Jesus would've wanted it." To me, that's "baby with the bathwater" stuff. I think you're still expected to improve and what's more you're expected to decide on and choose what improvement is. Everyone responds to scripture differently, but I think we're supposed to. What rules you choose to obey and what rules you choose not to obey, I think, counts very heavily towards your final grade on Judgment Day. I never kidded myself that God thought me smoking and drinking was a swell idea. Or, ultimately, that He thought fornication was a harmless entertainment although in our secular society all three would be considered minor things. A good example: in Islam the Koran specifically says that there was no warranty sent down about monasticism. You're supposed to get married and make babies. I tend to think that only applies to sane time periods when women can plausibly be pictured in the role of wife and mother which doesn't, it seems to me, apply to our particular time period. But, certainly, choosing to remain unmarried and childless at the age of 50 puts me beyond the pale for most Jews, Christians and Muslims. That doesn't bother me or interest me. What God thinks of my decision-making is all that matters to me and that I won't find out until Judgment Day.

Q2a. When a relatively sober Rick recounts his final encounter with Viktor (Davis?), the silhouette appears to be that of Dave (p 13). Assuming this is a true story, what does this say about Rick's importance since Dave is manipulating him in person?

DAVE: Well, it's not entirely certain that Rick's would be an accurate recounting of that final encounter with Viktor. All autobiography tends to be self-aggrandizing and self-serving. Rick would've invented the thing about trying to hit Viktor and Viktor bending his wrist because Rick would think that if he didn't put a physical confrontation in there, it would make Rick look too pliant. Which he is and which most boyfriends, in my experience, are post-1970. You have to get really pliant really quickly or you're out of the relationship game. Yes, it was a way of incorporating Viktor Davis into the body of the work. Here's what Viktor Davis-Dave Sim-would've said to Rick if he ran across him when he was first courting Jaka. I never had a Viktor Davis when I was starting out-Gene Day recommended that Deni and I not get married ("What's your hurry?") but he never said why he was recommending that we not get married. I discovered it on my own. "Oh, this is what marriage is like." Just as I'm pretty sure that Gene never had a Viktor Davis to suggest he might not want to get married. I tried to be honest with the single guys that I knew when the subject would come up, but there is a weird magnetism at the core of marriage that repels reality like iron filings. The only guy that I really got through to went ahead and got married anyway and then found out that marriage was exactly the way I said it would be and he ended up drinking himself to death. Literally. So, marriage is in a weird category all its own. Like Merlin said about love in Camelot "A kind of seventh day when reason rests." The pre-pseudo-scripture Rick's Story texts were a way of communicating what I had to communicate in a more general way to the audience at large, having found that it didn't work with the drinking buddies that I had over the years. "Just be happy every waking minute for the rest of your life and you've got her as long as you want her." It certainly works. It's not what I would call much of a life, but it certainly works.

Q2b: If this is an accurate description, does it stand to reason that it lends validity to Rick's Prophetic Divinity, even before you decided to move away from a direct parody of Scripture (as it predates Rick's mental breakdown, and communication with Dave via the "Burning Tree")? Did you always intend Rick to end up being a True Prophet, even if his God was Dave-as-God?

DAVE: "Prophetic Divinity" is a strange expression. Prophets aren't gods. Prophets are prophets. Only God is God. All I was trying to establish with Rick was that he was comparable to me as a writer insofar as he was in search of the Truth. Of course, he was far more a romantic than I was so he tended to get bogged down in the "chick thing" a lot more than I did. That was one of the reasons that it was worth bringing him together with Cerebus in this completely isolated desolate tavern. They were both occupying essentially the same "hell" that they both saw as Hell-"Life without Jaka"-and were attempting to work through it in their own ways. Both through heavy drinking and massive introspection, Rick through writing down what he saw as the largest Truths in his life which really amounted to: Here's the best advice I ever got about chicks from people and, of course, Cerebus trying to overcome his own "what's the use?" inertia which was soul-deep by this point to the extent that it had permeated even the magnifier quality within him. The magnifier quality worked on Rick in proximity, pushing him out of his perception that the "chick thing" was the highest level to which he could aspire and onto a higher plateau. The "chick thing" to me-and I say this as a guy who gets a lot of wannabe comics riddled with it in the mail-bespeaks a singularly limited horizon in the thought category. You aren't really trying to understand reality and/or your role in it, you're trying to understand a gender you aren't a part of and you're trying to understand a gender so you can "get" them-literally take possession of them-sexually-which is really just the dog chasing its own tail. You already have the answer. Find the one you want and pretend to be happy all the time. If you forget to be happy or decide to be unhappy and you show it and you lose her as a result, go out and find another one and stay happier this time. I spent a period of time in that mindset-I have to figure out how to get more chicks-but I also recognized the answer when I found it. If you want female sluts, be a male slut. It sounds about as interesting as the "plot" of a porno film and it was.

Q3. All the facial injuries suffered by Cerebus occur on the right side of his head (injury to the right eye, right ear chopped off). When Rick sees the demon half of Cerebus' face, it is also the right side. Is there a thematic reason for this -- for example, a commentary on the right side of the brain (dedicated to art, music and intuition) versus the left side (dedicated to words and logic)?

DAVE: Actually that goes back to the early days when I decided to make Cerebus pretty much the only right-handed person in Estarcion. No particular reason, I just thought it would make an interesting plot point that I could make use of some day. In terms of the injury to eye and losing the ear, that was more in the right side=good, left side=bad category-dextram and sinestram in Latin from which we get dextrous and sinister.
(Of course it is true that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. I'm suspect that God did that as a basic protective mechanism for human beings through the depths of the "ooga booga" time period. By the time we had it figured out, we were past the point (most of us anyway) of controlling or trying to control other people's brains by sympathetic magic. I also tend to think that a physical injury is a wake-up call from God or a calling card from His Adversary. If you get injured on your left side, God is prevailing in your life but has found it necessary to inflict damage on your 'sinestram' self. If you get injured on your right side, the Adversary has found an access point and gets a free shot at you. I tend to see it as critically important to live your life in such a way that the former isn't necessary and the latter isn't possible.

Q4a. In Rick's exit scene (p. 178) he tells Cerebus "WE'LL see each other only once more after today" - goodbye. Cerebus says: "take good care of yourself." Rick tells Cerebus what he told Joanne: "Go to hell." Note that Rick say's "we'll" see each other - so Cerebus' vision of Rick in Going Home would NOT appear to satisfy this prophecy, or was Cerebus' vision interactive and Rick was seeing him too?

DAVE: Yes, it was interactive-they both saw each other.

Q4b: Was the statement "Go to hell" tantamount to a secondary curse, reminiscent of Astoria's final words for The Lion (i98), and Cerebus' final words for Weisshaupt (i76)?

DAVE: Yep. Those were the Big Three.

Q4c: The Lion of Serrea agreed he would go to Hell, and Weishaupt replied "I shall" - but Cerebus does not respond. Why would he be angry with Cerebus? Because he now saw Cerebus as a Godless heathen? Is it a reference back to his holding Cerebus responsible for his advice? Has Cerebus somehow died symbolically here to mirror the deaths of Weisshaupt and the Lion?

DAVE: This gets really complicated, but you DID ask, so here goes. He was angry with Cerebus because Cerebus "lied" about Jaka by saying that he was once married to her. Rick is pretty much in full prophet mode at this point, but Jaka is still really the only Achilles Heel that he has. He's still the only one that Jaka was ever married to and that perception of himself-as Jaka's only husband-is so central to his nature that he seriously snaps when Joanne tells him that Cerebus claimed to have been married to Jaka as well. Rick has developed this pristine "stained-glass-window" view of himself by this point that isn't accurate. It will be accurate but at this point it isn't. The appropriate God-fearing reaction to Joanne telling him about Cerebus and Jaka being married would've been "Cerebus wasn't married to the harlot" followed by "I am a follower of God, harlots don't concern me anymore." Instead the reaction was to see this as an intrinsically evil attack upon him and upon the core reality he still clung to (unbeknownst to himself) by Joanne and Cerebus. Which it wasn't. Not an intentional or conscious attack, anyway. To Joanne, Jaka was just a name. Joanne was just making conversation. Cerebus had no idea that Rick was going to turn up and that he would have to account for his treating the alternate reality I put him into as this reality. On the one hand Cerebus had experienced being married to Jaka, but no he had never actually married Jaka. But having this core attribute that his entire personality was hunched around-I was Jaka's only husband-wrenched away so casually hurtles Rick over to the "other side" and he comes up with this magic spell (which is clearly not "of God") that has suddenly thrust up from his unconscious awareness (his on-going proximity to Cerebus' magnifier nature and his own focus on larger doings having thrust him into the larger context that Cerebus' magnifier occupies). His impulse to lash out at and to hurt Cerebus as badly as he can for the way he thinks Cerebus has hurt him is the trigger and the Adversary, of course, is pleased to take advantage of it. Picture St. Francis of Assisi suddenly getting really steamed as a wounded boyfriend and inwardly calling for assistance from anyone to help him inflict a reciprocal wound. Presumably the Adversary would be tickled to death to oblige the request. This will be a "a good one" on God. And of course the God-fearing part of Rick would just shut down and submerge at the prospect of what the God-fearing nature knew he was about to do-"All that progress and now he's going to make use of a magic spell to hurt someone? Oy. Excuse me, I think I have to lie down until this is over."-even while his God-fearing nature would be looking at the long term likelihoods and the bright side that is probably going to result: Rick leaving the tavern from his God-fearing nature's point of view is a very, very good idea. Telling the harlot and Cerebus to go to hell is a very good idea. Assuming he can just cut and run and get away from Joanne and Cerebus, his God-fearing nature can "hatch out" unimpeded by them and their ungodly natures. Of course, Rick going over to the sinestram side that abruptly, it gets complicated, which I think happens to the Adversary a lot in those cases. You use Joanne and Cerebus against Rick and then suddenly Rick turns Aleister Crowley on you. As George says in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf "By God, you need a pig to show you where the truffles are." Who is on whose side?

At the core moment of the invocation: "Branch breaks branch/the one branch is now two/One branch is me/One branch is..." Well, obviously the word-Adversarially inspired-is intended to be "you". But Rick is supposed to be punishing Cerebus, wounding him. How does he accomplish that by making the two of them co-equal branches? The Adversary has over-played his/her/its hand and Rick's God-fearing nature asserts itself and breaks free of his unconscious choice which had been to call on the Adversary to help him hurt Cerebus and to break free of the Adversary's attempt to use that base desire to make Cerebus and Rick into one divided prophet, a broken branch. The God-fearing part of Rick, when he hesitates and sees the actual "you" he almost invoked surrenders control to God and God then moves the spell from infernal-two co-equal branches-to godly, the three (the Adversary) and the One (God) "For the three at the table/and the one at the door." Of course when the revised spell hatches out, the one at the door will end up being Jaka (the three at the table Marty, Bear and Harrison) so the Adversary, looking that far ahead, sees the trade-off God is offering him/her/it through Rick. Let Rick go and you can use Jaka to get Cerebus.
Is Jaka Cerebus' God? It's a bit of a stretch, but the Adversary has worked with less auspicious material. Rick has broken free of the idolatry and paganism inherent in the branch itself and, inadvertently, has thereby broken free of Jaka as well. She will be the one at the door, but he won't be there if the Adversary takes the bait God's offering. Rick is basically (through divine inspiration) giving Jaka to Cerebus, something he wouldn't consciously be able to do if he knew that that was what he was doing. God is making use of the fact that Rick is leaving and has severed his connection with Cerebus and Joanne and to make Jaka Cerebus' problem instead of Rick's. The trade-off for the Adversary is that he/she/it gets Cerebus potentially while losing Rick. Since the prophecies in the Book of Rick are about Cerebus, that seems like a fair trade. Let Rick go, and count on the fact that Jaka will lead Cerebus so far astray from a God-fearing life that the prophecies will never come true. What the Adversary forgets is that Rick has captured Cerebus or has captured the Adversary part within Cerebus-the Adversarial/pagan/Tarim-worshipping/he/she/it inside Rick's book. If the Adversary lets Rick go, the Adversary lets Rick's book go which means, if you're the Adversary, part of you is going with Rick one way or the other trapped inside his book by the spell, even while you have traded to stay with Cerebus. Essentially you have to allow yourself to be torn in half or one third/two thirds or one quarter three quarters. Which is God's joke on the Adversary knowing that he/she/it will forget that part in his/her/its eagerness to "get" Cerebus.
At the critical moment of separation-Cerebus inhabited by the Adversary is staying, Rick's book with the Adversary trapped inside it is leaving and Cerebus is enacting Bear's parting line of dialogue from Guys-"You take good care of yourself"-but a substantial part of what Cerebus considers to be him is already trapped in Rick's book and is pulling more of him out of him as the book is going away. The Adversary realizes this too late so when Cerebus starts to say "Take good care of yourself" he gets as far as "Take..." and the Adversary tries to change it into "Take Cerebus/Usss With You" as a means of avoiding getting divided. And as the futility of that becomes apparent it changes into "Take good care of Usss". Which is kind of funny if you have a really bizarre sense of humour that delights in so-esoteric-it's-verging-on-opaque-for-everyone-except-me things like this (which, obviously, I do). Rick will definitely take care of the Adversary but not the way the Adversary intends it. And of course, subsequently, Cerebus is severely diminished as we can see by his severe state of disorientation, the reduced size of his medallions and his inability to figure out if he should leave or stay. It becomes an opportune time for me to show up. This is the best he's ever going to be. He's missing a substantial evil part of himself which means at least potentially he can be filled with something good. If I can't get through to him this last time, Jaka is going to show up and he's going to have to go through that whole nightmare of a roller-coaster. Which, of course, is the choice he makes.

Q4d. Please discuss the significance of the Booke of Ricke in terms of the larger novel of Cerebus. In particular, does the Booke of Ricke reflect in part the eternal battle between God and YHWH (as perhaps everything in creation does)? Are parts of the Booke reflections of YHWH's contact with Ricke, rather than his direct contact with God?

DAVE: Well, as you can see from the earlier answer, yes it does. I hope you don't mind that I changed Yoowhoo to YHWH. I really don't think name-calling (and I'm speaking from experience) should enter into an honest disagreement. If YHWH is his/her/its chosen name, I'm certainly amenable to using it. Not with "God" attached because I don't think YHWH is a god. He/she/it created nothing but was his/her/itself created as the Koran pretty specifically states.

Q4e: Do such parts contrast with Rick's encounter with the burning tree, which would appear to be Rick encountering the One True God?

DAVE: I tend to think that anything that has to do with fire is "of the Adversary" and that that was true with Moshe's experience at the burning bush. I think God says to Moshe "Draw not nigh hither" and YHWH picks it up from there- "Take off thy shoes for thou art standing on hallowed ground."-overriding God's warning.

Q5a: And yet the Burning Tree's use of modern vernacular in its advice to Rick that he go out and get some nice "duds" for his date with Joanne make it appear that he was talking, perhaps to Dave (p. 140).

DAVE: Yes, I was indulging in what I saw as a comparable non-God appearance in my own "scripture". Instead of a burning bush, I had a burning evergreen tree (refer to my Torah commentaries on the first chapter of Genesis-trees are male, plants are female) whose flames were like water flowing upwards. I thought the combination of the tree and the water reference (water is God's chosen medium) would take the edge off of the unintended blasphemy.

Q5b: Did you see this as God speaking through Dave speaking to Rick?

DAVE: No, this was Dave attempting to speak to Rick without losing favour in the sight of God in doing so. Having reviewed my own "dating guide" scripture, this seemed to me like a good conclusion to come to and valuable advice to impart. Of course it's worth noting that I was still fornicating my brains out at this point smoking like a chimney and drinking like a fish-and trying to rationalize how I could continue to do so while still submitting to the will of God. It was the best I could do under the circumstances. If I was to talk to the me back then from here in 2005? I'd say, "Don't be ridiculous." Although I did incorporate the "One God, having one name one face and one aspect which is God" into my prayer. I think that's important because otherwise you get into all that Alan Moore/Kaballa nonsense about God's emanations having individual personalities. That's joining gods with God, to me, and that's where the trouble starts. One God-"high may He be exalted above what they join with Him!"

Q5c: Finally, does the enlargement of the typeface as Rick encounters God (or God through Dave) symbolize Rick's movement to the One True Path, or perhaps an indication that this was a true contact with God-who-is-Dave, as the received communication is overpowering - both to Rick and to the comic page?

DAVE: No, further elaborating on the above answer: Maybe if I enlarge the type and do a progressive close-up on a Renaissance-style painting so you can see every detail of the paint, maybe that will make what I'm saying Right instead of (as I suspected even at the time) "right". The fact that the painting was crumbling to bits with big cracks through it should be a clue. I'm definitely not God. Trust me on that one, guys (and Margaret).

Volume 13: GOING HOME

Q1: In a bar, Cerebus is asked if Jaka is "Scorpion or Lunatic or Angel or just a Woman." The bartender characterizes this as "Prophet Ricke" stuff. This differs from the traditional "Devil, Viper or Scorpion." Is it an example of Ricke mangling the gospel? Or Thomas mangling Ricke's message? And is there more to Thomas that was never revealed (considering his look, an instance of "Something Fell," and the coincidence of the Cirinist rebel attempting to incite Jaka)? (pp102-103/i236)

DAVE: Well, for starters, Thomas is three sheets to the wind—or probably closer to four. What I was attempting to indicate (really, really tangentially, I’ll grant you) was that Cerebus’ magnifier nature had been keeping every possible Ricke intrusion at bay ever since he had left the tavern with Jaka. The Booke of Ricke teachings are sweeping the continent and yet Cerebus never hears a word about them even though a) he’s travelling with the Princess of Palnu and b) using his own name and—obviously—fulfilling the physical criteria for being the Great Cerebus as outlined in one of the chapters in that book. That unlikely reality is analogous to the fact that no one sees him as he really only in this instance it’s an even more advanced and acute form of the condition. The force of his own desire to make things work with Jaka and his elevated awareness that Ricke and Jaka are completely incompatible realities are basically harnessed together and subsume his magnifier nature to their own purpose: to change the very nature of reality in proximity to them.. Unless he can keep Ricke and Ricke’s reality—The Booke of Ricke—away from the two of them Ricke’s reality is going to destroy the relationship with Jaka so his magnifier nature essentially becomes a “Ricke antibody” . The only thing that could (and here does) pierce that insulation mechanism condition would be extreme inebriation which wouldn’t allow Cerebus’ super-reality to suppress Thomas’s super-reality in the same way that drunken people tend not to pick up on obvious social clues like negative body language, cold, evasive and impersonal responses and to just persist in continuing to interact according to their own distorted subjective impressions of the situation: disapproval and attempted suppression are just water off Daffy Duck’s back when they’re all liquored up—and this purely accidental, purely coincidental “bypass mode” (this is really the only time that Cerebus and Jaka aren’t in each other’s hip pockets in the entire storyline and thus susceptible to interaction from and with individuals outside their two-person construct) allowed Thomas to ask the most obvious question that not only everyone who knew the Booke of Ricke mythology would be asking themselves when Cerebus’ suppressant magnifier self was out of range but even more perniciously the question that Cerebus would have been asking himself all along: “Has Jaka fooled him or is Jaka some exceptional female being that doesn’t fit the Booke of Ricke classifications?” That’s why he gets thrown so badly by the question since the four classifications would be the ones that he, personally, would have been oscillating between in his on-going assessment of Jaka—she definitely fits all four depending on her mood—without being able to unconsciously admit to himself that that was what he was doing. Because Thomas inadvertently got all the way “inside” Cerebus’ defensive perimeter his super-reality and Cerebus’ super-reality merged in that moment. So his response is naturally the terror-inducing ‘Something Fell’ rather than, say, ‘You dropped something’ or ‘Oopsie.’ But, no, he’s really just a garden variety drunk. Wrong place wrong time or right place right time depending on your point of view.

Q2a: As predicted in The Booke of Ricke XIV, Cerebus sees Ricke again. He also sees Ricke's disciples "drowning guys" in the river. Why now? Why here?

DAVE: Because the relationship between Cerebus and Jaka ends at the point where F. Stop Kennedy seduces her with the idea of becoming Queen Bee Art Patroness in Mealc. Even though she doesn’t go with him, that’s the point where her reality breaks with Cerebus’—from that point on she’s the Art Patron held captive in a romantic relationship that no longer fulfills her as a woman (a woman’s right to choose!) instead of being a woman finally reunited with her One True Love and it’s just a matter of time before the one reality wins out over the other just as the woman finally reunited with her One True Love temporarily won out over the Strong Independent “Just Call Me Jaka” travelling the world and happy to be alone— and sooner rather than later she’ll ditch Cerebus for her new self-perception either in Mealc or somewhere else. For Cerebus this means that Jaka is no longer a factor in his life—inevitably, either he was going to get Jaka out of his system or Jaka was going to get Cerebus out of hers—so it’s finally time to fulfill his own destiny which doesn’t and never did include Jaka. Because everything exists in the same moment for God, it was a natural placement. Where do Jaka and Cerebus break apart? Right here. Right now. Okay, that’s a good spot for Ricke’s incarnation which will initiate the potential fulfilment of Cerebus’ destiny.

Q2b: How does Cerebus as the fisherman relate to this Christian imagery? (pp 236-237)

DAVE: That was a balancing act on my part between the Synoptic and Johannine Jesuses. Unlike the Synoptic Jesus, Ricke doesn’t say “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” as was said to Andrew and Peter at the outset of the Synoptic Jesus’ ministry. The actual original Torah reference (which I was unable to locate, but I think it’s in Isaiah or Jeremiah) about ”fishing for men” is not a particularly happy one: it’s actually a malign reference essentially indicating that YHWH is going to take God’s followers from God the way a fisherman takes fish out of the water (water being God’s medium, all the way back to the creation of the Seas in Genesis 1). It only has a happy connotation—like so much of the Synoptic Gospels—because of the interpretations that Christian men brought to it. Like “salt of the earth” which is actually a YHWHistic insult, describing the earth’s waste products which are the diametric opposite of God’s medium, water. But because YHWH, speaking through the Synoptic Jesus calls his followers “the salt of the earth” it becomes construed as the highest imaginable praise. To YHWH calling them “the salt of the earth” was a way of indicating that the disciples are clueless putzes who don’t even know when they’re being insulted. To God, the universal acceptance of “salt of the earth” as high praise (universal by everyone except me) is clear evidence that the disciples are guileless and good because they see only good in a reference which is, at best, ambiguous and at worst malign. Therefore proving God’s point that men are good.

Trying to keep Ricke to the Johannine side of things I incorporated water as a key element into the expression. “The waters abound with the new and faithful, but as yet the fishers are few,” which thematically most closely resembles the Synoptic Jesus’ reference to the harvest (‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” Matthew 9:37) but, for me, removing it from a YHWHistic earth/plant metaphoric construct to a water-based metaphoric construct moves it from “ambiguous/malign” to “ambiguous/good” (the fact that Ricke’s still talking about fishing for men is the retained malignity). Still pretty ambiguous, but then I cap it with “Come and See” which is a pure Johannine reference from the first and eleventh chapters of John’s Gospel. In the first chapter in verse 39, it’s used by the Johannine Jesus at the very outset of his ministry in answer to the two disciples of John the Baptist who ask “Where dwellest thou?” Jesus says “Come and see” and he shows them where he lives and they go and hang out at Jesus’ place for the rest of the day.

This contrasts with the Synoptic Jesus who said (Matthew 8:20) ‘The Foxes have holes and the birds of the ayre haue nests: but the sonne of man hath not where to lay his head.” That is, the Synoptic Jesus doesn’t have a home. (What’s perhaps even more interesting is he that he says this in answer to “a certain Scribe’s” assertion: “Master, I will follow thee withosoeuer thou goest” which, as a reply to that assertion, draws the natural inference—again, to me, YHWH considering all men to be not only irretrievably evil but gullible idiots into the bargain—“Not only don’t I have a home, I’m not going anywhere” which it seemed to me was certainly true of YHWH “and still you idiots are following me.” The actual Greek term is ??í?? “he may incline” in reference to his head. Literally: “the son of the man not is having where his head he may incline” which could indicate pointing his head in some direction and following it or “where to lay his head” but the metaphorical use of the holes and the nests pretty clearly indicates a reference to a home, I think)

The second reference in John’s Gospel is in chapter 11. The reference occurs when he has returned to Judea (or, if you prefer the modern term, the West Bank) having heard that his friend Lazarus was sick and when he knew that actually Lazarus was dead. “Then when Mary was come where Iesus was, and saw him, shee fell downe at his feete, saying vnto him, Lord if thou hadst beene here, my brother had not dyed. When Iesus therefore sawe her weeping, and the Iewes also weeping which came with her, hee groned in the Spirit and hee troubled himself, and said, ‘Where haue ye laid him?’ They say vnto him, ‘Lord, come & see.’” (which then leads to the shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35 ”Iesus wept.” Or, in the original Greek, “Shed tears the Jesus.”). To me, this was when the Johannine Jesus knew that his own public ministry was at an end (the reason for the “hee groned in the Spirit”)—all that remained to be accomplished was his lengthy address and instructions to his disciples at the Johannine Last Supper and then the trial and crucifixion. That is, the two “Come and see” references bookend his ministry addressed to his first two (unnamed) disciples and then addressed to himself by the Jews accompanying Mary in reference to Lazarus’ tomb which metaphorically represented his own imminent death.

Sorry, but you DID ask.

Q3a: Although you have stated quite plainly that F. Stop Kennedy is not a literary version of Dave Sim, and quite obviously so (no argument there), haven’t you mapped yourself into your version of the Maury Noble speech (the young Dave looking for fame and love, the maturing Dave looking for truth amongst the meaningless trappings of society, and the older Dave coming to terms with his Creator) (pp 247-266)?

DAVE: I suppose so, but, to me only in the sense that all men either go through only one of those three stages, two of them or all three. If you actually find love, I think it’s safe to say that you stop looking (fame is largely irrelevant, I think) either for truth or Truth or coming to terms with God. I think the response to genuine love is “True enough.” Which as I say compels you to stop looking. Likewise if you look for Truth but rule out God, I think you tend to just settle for whatever else you can acquire or attain in a material or experiential sense and likewise settle for a kind of peace that naturally comes with experience and age.

Q3b: Let it not be lost on the reader that the name of the "middle" character (who would hereby represent that part of your life being left behind) is named Sym-ington (even though, yes, the name is a mingling of Blatchford Sarnemington and Stuart Symington). Could this then also be a case of Kennedy's gin-soaked mind acting as a gateway for some vestige of the God-Who-Is-Dave to poke his head in and dispense a little wisdom, or a sincere glimpse into your own awakening? Or both?

DAVE: Again, sure. The inversion of the sensibility of the Maury Noble monologue from scrupulously secular to God-seeking is far more suited to Dave Sim (the sin and vice-addled “work in progress” of the time) than it is to either F. Scott Fitzgerald or F. Stop Kennedy. It represents a kind of foolish optimism that attaining to a truthful or Truthful state can still be achieved while drinking yourself into a stupor every Friday which is what I was doing at the time. I’ll drink, I’ll smoke, I’ll masturbate, I’ll be celibate while keeping my eyes out for a little nookie if I feel like backsliding, I’ll pray and I’ll develop a nice little relationship with God without giving up any of my actual vices. I’ll just apologize for them a lot. You know: “God and me, we’ll negotiate and come to an understanding of what my vice needs are and we’ll work it out somehow.” It’s an improvement, I think, on the original—Fitzgerald’s cursory assessment of the Bible and the “Old Testament God” in a few glib and artful phrases and then *PLIK* back face down in his gin bowl—but virtually anything would be. An improvement, I mean.

Q4a: Why did you tell of the destruction of Iest in religious verse rather than actually illustrating the event?

DAVE: I think there’s a greater sense of gravitas possible in showing the very human tendency towards memorials or, rather, Memorial. It’s really us at our best, being reverently serious and living up to our potential and sincerely acknowledging the temporary nature of everything we actually experience. Dust to dust.. With that level of devastation I had a long time to mull it over and that was the conclusion that I came to. The best way to show a tragedy on that scale is with Comics’ Longest Pan Shot of the Institutionalized Memorial, the maintenance of the unaltered “Ground Zero” the start of the immediate surroundings left pretty much unaltered but with a “stations of the cross” quality to them, the landscaping which establishes order and beauty in the next outer ring and ,then the outward “life goes on” context once you’re removed from that. I think it’s what they keep missing with the Twin Towers memorial. Modern architecture insults and degrades memory rather than enhancing it.

Q4b: Who authored the verse?

DAVE: I did, drawing heavily on the apocalyptic language of Isaiah and Jeremiah but again, using it to illustrate that that’s the chief purpose of Poetry as opposed to poetry—lyrical writing that is capable of conveying Genuine Enormity with all the wisdom and dignity that you don’t get from the Hysterical Live Reporter on the Scene (“Oh, the humanity!”) A good example was the 1986 Challenger disaster which was “done right”—in the Memorial, rather than memorial sense— by Peggy Noonan’s timely recollection of—and Ronald Reagan’s masterful delivery of— “To slip the surly bonds of earth/and touch the Face of God”. There’s a good instance where I have no problem crediting a woman with the highest imaginable attainment in her field—in this case, speech-writing and having to strike the proper Lyrical Note under a brutal deadline in a context where almost everything is done by committee and where the political impulse is to leach out the content in order to avoid any possible controversy. The fact that she wrote the speech and then fought to keep it intact while everyone else was functioning on a whole other wavelength in the West Wing—well, there really aren’t sufficient words for the enormity of that accomplishment in a context that I revere very, very highly (having been a Ted Sorenson Kennedyite from a very early age).. I heartily recommend her White House memoir What I Saw at the Revolution.

Q4c: Thematically, was it simply a matter of not wanting to "go backwards?" Or was it to give the event a quasi-mythic feel (for example: was it actually the hand of Terim, or was it an earthquake or volcanic event -- much like the practice of finding scientifically sound reasons behind Biblical events)? (pp 349-356)

DAVE: Well, obviously, in my view nothing happens without God’s permission and it seems to me that that’s nowhere truer than when it comes to enormous tragedies. Terim being the Cerebus equivalent of YHWH, no I don’t think it was actually the hand of Terim.
“Mungu. Mungu Mkono.”
God. In the Hand of God.

Q5: Is this the same Jaka as we've seen pre-"Minds"? In "High Society", Jaka says she's been taking care of herself since she was twelve, in "Jaka's Story", she leaves Palnu at twelve. But here, she says, "I mean I was dumbfounded when I finally read it. Not a word about the balls or the masquerades' -- From the age of twelve I used to go through a minimum... a minimum... of five dance cards at each affair". Which implies that Jaka was in Palnu after her twelfth birthday, or that she made regular trips home and people knew about it. ( p.13)

DAVE: Mm. Well, that’s Jaka’s story, anyway—literally! You’re making the post-1970 mistake of thinking that if that’s what a woman says that’s what actually happened. Lord Julius’ birthday party gag was severely, severely traumatic. No, she had never been to a ball or a masquerade. She dreamed of it—that’s really what the dancing in the hidden room is all about—and she was completely sure that when it finally happened, when she finally got to go to one of these legendary balls that she might well be just a tall skinny stringbean of a girl, but DANCING…oh she would show them all how she could dance. Psychologically it was a defence mechanism against her visual perception of herself. She couldn’t stand to be laughed at and she seemed ridiculous to herself so she needed this enormous façade to protect her ego. The fact that she finally has become the swan instead of the ugly duckling and is on the cusp of being able to show off her dancing ability and gets hit between the eyes by Lord Julius’ peculiar sense of humour is really what leads her to the unsavoury occupation that she chooses when she runs away. The dancing had been so close to being released and had then been stymied that she needed to find an outlet that would allow her to stay closed off personally—back into the eggshell—while letting the dancing out.

Even in an environment where psychology per se doesn’t exist, someone as fine-tuned about perception and self-perception as Jaka would have seen that there was something more than a little wonky about a princess dancing in the Lower City of Iest at the age of twelve. If she thought about it directly (which I’m sure she never did) it would have been clear that she had “issues” or, in the vernacular, that she was nutty as a fruitcake.

As a result, wherever possible she “remade” the story of her life so that she had been the belle of the ball—the belle of many balls—as she had so vividly pictured herself being and as she knew she was capable of being. And then at some point (as her personal mythology goes), she fled Iest and decided to dance for a living, leaving out the specific trauma which led to it—except of course with Rick. The husband she could finally tell the story to. Once Rick was gone, the trauma could go with him and she would never again have to face it square on. It was just something Oscar made up for his book that never happened. That’s the reality she was presenting to Cerebus which just goes to show how sad her situation was. It was completely unlikely that Cerebus would ever read the book or, if he did, that he would have any assessment of it except that it should have been about Cerebus and Jaka because Jaka wasn’t really Jaka until she got involved with Cerebus as far as Cerebus was concerned. The fact that Jaka was selling him her warmed-over fantasy instead of telling him what actually happened is a good reason why the relationship would never “take”. She would never be that open again so the relationship with Cerebus was just her latest portrayal of herself which would inevitably be replaced by another.

Volume 14: FORM & VOID

Q1. How did Cerebus & Jaka meet Ham & Mary in the first place? Tangentially, it seems odd that someone of Cerebus' character would be so enamored with a famous author, of all people. Care to comment on this?

DAVE: I'm afraid the answers are going to be very short this time since there's something wrong with the formatting here so that the type is going out too wide so that I can't get it all on the screen and I have to keep hitting "return" and I can't underline anything and I can't hit italic and I can't highlight passages and move them around I know, I know. WAH! and BOO HOO! But it does make this more difficult than traditional inputting and since I'm not getting paid . . .


. . . I would assume that Mary would have approached Jaka in the same way that Mary Hemingway glommed onto--or, rather, attempted to glom onto--Jacqueline Kennedy back in 1964. As I picture it, she and Ham would've been in a tavern and have seen Cerebus and Jaka. Mary would have gone over to introduce herself as the Wife of the Great Man, Jaka would have been mostly or completely disinterested. For the Princess of Palnu Great Men were a dime a dozen and she would've been about as impressed by Ham Ernestway as Zelda Fitzgerald had been impressed by Ernest Hemingway, which is to say, not at all, but Cerebus would have gone into ballistic fanboy mode which would have left Jaka no recourse but to accept an invitation to come over and have a drink and then a further invitation to come back to the house. All part of the sacrifices one makes in the interests of a relationship and which makes relationships intrinsically unstable and unhealthy.

Cerebus wasn't enamoured with a famous author, he was enamoured of Ham Ernestway and the legend which had attached itself to Ham Ernestway. You find that a lot if you do any level of research into Hemingway. For most men of the time period, Ernest Hemingway epitomized masculinity. He was the African adventurer, the boxer, the bullfighter (or, at least, bullfighting aficianado), the big game hunter, the deep-sea fisherman. The fact that he wrote about those things was considered very much secondary to the fact that he did those things. So, Cerebus was cut from the same cloth as most Hemingway admirers. It originated in his unrestricted admiration for Bear and in his desire to BE Bear. As he got to know Bear, he realized that Bear thought that way about Ham Ernestway so that made Ham the Top of the Masculine Pyramid for Cerebus. My own view is that this originates in "sperm nature" and is completely foreign to "egg nature". Men grow out of sperm so they never lose their admiration for that Top of the Pyramid, the one out of billions who made it to the summit. I'm doing a lengthy interview with Neal Adams who is in the category for me and we got to the same point when I asked him Who did he think was the best artist at Johnstone & Cushing when he was there back in 1960. Tom Shueyer. I had never heard of Tom Shueyer and I've never seen his work but now, in a real way, Tom Shueyer is the Top of my Realism School Pyramid because he was that to Neal. It's sperm thinking. You're part of the dog team and there's a dog ahead of you and a dog ahead of him and somewhere up ahead is the "lead dog".

Q2: You have said that the core moment in *Form &Void* was the revelation of Ham's sexuality (pp 522-523). Can you please discuss why this is the core moment in the book?

DAVE: Well, because it was the core moment in my Hemingway research and a core point in the history of masculinity in the Twentieth Century, in my view. Arguably the watershed moment when everything went wrong. If Hemingway was actually a transsexual at heart that certainly eviscerates every idea of what masculinity is for those generations of men who didn't look at Hemingway first as a writer but, rather, first as a man and as a kind of "ultimate man" - the sperm who won, the lead dog. As a boy growing up, I was aware of Hemingway being in that category (as was John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and the other "Right Stuff" astronauts, Norman Mailer -- and for me, Neal Adams etc. etc.) and you just take it as a given that it's real. Thats who they are. The more you read about these guys, the more you realize that they actually were that way. They have their foibles but, as an example, I am untroubled by JFK's womanizing. It's a sidenote compared to who he was and what he accomplished What was interesting about Hemingway was that the more I read about him, the *less* he seemed that way. Even when he seemed to (to himself) be pushing the envelope of masculinity, it seemed to me that he was just being a theatrical idiot. Like eating lion meat. That wasn't masculine, that was Noble Savage crap. "I shall eat the lion and the lion will be contained within me." No, you will eat the lion and you will look like a cartoon schnook caricature of who you want to be.

So it came as no great surprise to me that he liked "playing girlfriend" with Mary and with his other wives. He wasn't an "ultimate man", the sperm who won or the lead dog: he was a girly man who was taking extraordinary pains to compensate for his "swishy" nature with showy displays like eating lion meat and big game hunting and deep-sea fishing. I had no stake in seeing him any other way than the way his own actions and words revealed him to be. If I had, I would have looked at the fact that Mary's autograph original diary no longer existed and that all we had was what she maintained was an accurate typescript of what Ernest had written in the book and I would have erected a firewall between that and my hero Ernest Hemingway: "Mary was just making it up out of professional jealousy and as part of their marital grudge match". But there was a long history of distinctly transsexual behaviour in Hemingway's past and that mammoth typescript for the "Garden of Eden" that even Hemingway pronounced unpublishable in which, it seems to me, he attempted to pull those two sides of his life together -- to preserve his status as ultimate man, the sperm who won, the lead dog, while admitting that he liked turning his wives basically into 'kitten brothers' and bunging them up the ass.

In my view he did a grave disservice to masculinity and set in motion a lot of the crap we are awash in today. He did so, I think, to such a profound extent that most people reading what I'm writing here will see it as a quaint notion of a bygone era that there might actually even BE such a thing as an ultimate man, the sperm who won and the lead dog or that any attention should be paid to it (apart from warning women and children and homosexuals to stand clear and clucking your tongue at it).

Eating the lion meat, I think, provoked the confessional and the confessional amounted to Hemingway -- as a false man, as an illusory man, as a traitor to his gender in whom two whole generations of men had invested their own faith in the intrinsic "rightness" of masculinity, their proxy masculinity, their own perception of Hemingway as a "lead dog" -- making the intrinsically false concession that men and women are interchangeable and that a transsexual like himself could therefore also be a "lead dog". In light of what we have reduced ourselves to as a society I think Hemingway has to shoulder more than what most people would see as his own fair share of the blame.

One of the jobs of the "lead dog" is to perceive accurately and to maintain boundaries. On December 20, 1953 to the extent that it was possible for him to do so, Hemingway took his inaccurate and perverse perceptions of reality and writing in Mary Hemingway's diary, used them to dismantle the ancient and sacrosanct boundary between masculinity and femininity.

Since everyone reading this is going to completely disagree that there's any difference between masculinity and femininity or any value in maintaining a boundary between them, I'll just assert that I think that proves that my perception of the historical record of the last 53 years is more accurate than theirs and as living proof of the (possibly permanent) damage that was done to society by Ernest Hemingway and leave it at that.

Q3a: You have said that Cerebus' sighting of Rick on the shore in *Going Home* was the fulfillment of Rick's prophesy that they would see each other one more time. Does that mean Cerebus' dream vision of Rick was not real?

DAVE: Well, no, it wasn't. Not in the sense that Cerebus' vision of Rick walking on water was real. Part of the problem is the terminology you're using: a dream and a vision are two different things. There's no such thing as far as I know as a "dream vision." The dream was a dream that was informed by larger sensibilities but they were larger *interior* sensibilities (like his magnifier nature), things that Cerebus knew unconsciously from bits and pieces that he would have heard while awake but which he hadn't assembled into a sensible overview because he was just following Ham and walking in circles. Our largest interior selves allow us to do really stupid things like that until, as Cerebus did, we hit the brick wall of imminent mortality when, I think, larger knowledge tends to seep into conscious awareness. "Tends" but isn't inevitable. I think a lot of times our larger selves are perfectly happy to see us go or are so marginalized by our bad choices that they couldn't talk to us if they were using AC/DC's sound system.

"Necessity is the mother of invention." I mean, the dream was of the old Rick, from pre-Revelation time, the shallow young husband who was far more a boy than a man. Obviously he was just a facade and there was a kind of intrinsic message in that facade itself: "here's some valuable information Cerebus' larger self is telling Cerebus, since Cerebus is at one and the same time the promised redeemer of Rick the Prophet's predictions and also as 'dumb as bag full of hammers' like Rick the husband". Can you picture the Rick of "Jaka's Story" giving anyone valuable advice or knowing anything that was worth knowing?

Q3b: If it was real, why did Rick tell Cerebus to leave everything behind, including, apparently, Jaka?

DAVE: Again, this was Cerebus' unconscious mind which knew more of what was going on than Cerebus did consciously. The question posed was the reiterated "What *about* Jaka?" It was close enough to the end of their relationship and the relationship itself had been so intrinsically pointless from the beginning that that was the best answer Cerebus could give himself. The fact that he had no conscious rejoinder meant that he could see the larger wisdom of the reiterated question. This isn't about Jaka. Jaka couldn't be less important in the larger scheme of things. Save her now or leave her behind now, no difference because ultimately you do leave her behind permanently and soon.

Q3c: Was this just an arbitrary test of Cerebus' faith, akin to the trials of Job?

DAVE: No, definitely not, in my view. It was Cerebus' larger awareness putting the pieces together (the imminent volcano eruption which would provide his escape route, the fact that the storm had abated temporarily etc.)and communicating the "now or never" quality to his conscious mind.

Q3d: Why would Cerebus suddenly feel obligated to follow Rick's wishes anyway? Had he come to believe in Rick's divinity/divine inspiration? Why/When?

DAVE: His larger unconscious self would have. His larger unconscious self knew that he had seen a vision of Rick "drowning guys" and this had primary importance somewhere up ahead and that this was linked to the exorcism that he had undergone at Rick's hands back in the tavern. "Why?" Because a religious vision has a very distinct character of super-reality to it that our higher natures find unmistakable. "When?" Immediately. A religious vision is transformational in every sense of the term. The words of "Amazing Grace" document the experience very accurately. "Was lost but now I'm found." Pre-vision you're not only lost but you aren't even aware that you're lost. The vision clarifies both that you are now found and what the actual nature of lost is. The use of Rick's image was, consequently, a good way for Cerebus' larger mind to communicate the information to his conscious mind. The overwhelming sense of the larger importance of the vision Cerebus had seen would tell him that if "Rick" told him something in a dream it was something important. His unconscious larger mind wouldn't have used the *Prophet* Rick to communicate what it needed to communicate because that would transgress reality in a fundamentally blasphemous way, which is why it used *husband* Rick.

Q3e: Can you reveal more of Rick's message that was interrupted by Cerebus' usual ignorance (ie: "Now that [I'm] dead, every[thing] depends on ... [Do you] understand?")? (p582-585/i260)

DAVE: "Now that I'm dead, everything depends on you. Do you understand?" His conscious mind -- loudly mulling over the information previously imparted that Cerebus is apt to run into trouble through not paying attention -- missed what was said. So it functioned as a double warning. It was Inherently True and a core point of the vision Cerebus had seen of Rick that when Rick was dead, everything would depend on Cerebus because his largest awareness would know that he was going to live a long, long time; much longer than Rick. Telling Cerebus that he's not paying attention and then telling him something important that he wasn't aware of consciously that Cerebus missed by not paying attention awakened other parts of his awareness closer to his conscious mind that this was a clear and present danger and would cause those parts to smarten up. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" as the Synoptic Jesus put it. Most of the conscious minds listening, I'm sure, went, "Huh?" Which proved the point to their less conscious and unconscious and super aware minds. "Right. I have ears, but I'm not listening in any meaningful sense of the term. And that's not good." By seeing the conscious mind miss a valuable piece of information because it wasn't paying attention (and that it wasn't paying attention because it was too busy mulling over being told it wasn't paying attention) that would tell other unconscious parts of his mind to pay closer attention.

Q4. It is interesting to note that the Cirinists in the northern country speak, like Cerebus, in the third person. Still, like their southern sisters, they REALLY want to nail Cerebus (hence the expedited gun hunt). This raises the question as to why they are even bothering to observe such niceties. Is there value to having public evidence with which they can indict Cerebus (implying his former positions of Prime Minister and Pope still hold some importance)? If not, why not just send a garrison to kill him in the night? Is it because they want to get him out of the picture in a way which will seem "fair" to Princess Jaka? If so, why would that be important to them? (pp611/i262)

DAVE: It was more because of the inherent problem of what happens if you kill The Great Cerebus. They had killed Rick by this point and I suspect all that had done was to accelerate the institutionalizing of the viewpoint which is essentially what happened with Christianity. Far from slowing the spread of Jesus' teachings, the crucifixion only acclerated it. Like- wise the effort at suppression of the disciples by executing them. Rick's revelation sort of reversed the pecking order in one sense -- as if Peter had predicted the preeminence of Jesus and then got crucified for doing so which had accelerated the spread of the new religion (or Jewish heresy, depending on your viewpoint). It seems to me that if killing the metaphorical "Peter" had caused that acceleration, that would give the Cirinists pause for thought. What happens if you actually kill "Jesus" after that? It would seem too risky. In another sense, that's also what happened with Christianity. I assume that when Herod had John the Baptist executed that that had excited an exponential leap in size and earnestness of the ministries of both the Synoptic and Johannine Jesus'. Which I suspect bought them both a certain amount of time until the Sanhedrin hit the "either/or" wall and had to make a choice.

It bought Cerebus even more time because he wasn't behaving like any sort of Messianic figure. In fact he was really just behaving like a tourist or any one of Jaka's many trophy boyfriends, heading back home to see the folks. It could be a trick or it could be real from the Cirinists standpoint. They were all over him like flies on s--t anytime anything untoward happened but basically they were just staying close and keeping their eyes open. If they could nail him actually transgressing a law that would satisfy the interlinked Cirinist "minds" and make it possible to prosecute and execute him with a minimum of friction. Of course, the backlash among Rick's masculine followers would be more problematic so they would have to really have an iron-clad case. Ultimately, as with Christianity there was no real way to slow things down. Once Rick had been executed, as I think once John the Baptist had been executed it was really just a choice between "fast forward" and "faster forward". "Play" and "reverse" and "quick reverse" had ceased to be viable options.

Q5a: As Cerebus nears his parents' home, he feels that this has all happened to him before. He also is confusing Crotch-Face and Bear, as if he experienced these things in the company of both men. Does this suggest that Bear is an echo of Crotch-Face (and likewise, Jaka of Cherie)?

DAVE: Well, yes, in a sense. I think there's always an echoing quality. In terms of "heartthrobs" Cherie *was* Jaka in the sense that she occupied that part of Cerebus' awareness. Cherie was Jaka was Red Sophia was Astoria was Joanne was New Joanne. As the "angel" says to Jesus in Last Temptation when Magdalene dies, "Take another wife -- they're all the same woman, just with different faces." Likewise confusing Crotch-Face and Bear. It's a good way of indicating that a very real moment is coming up ahead where Crotch-Face, a marginal figure in Cerebus' conscious life and Bear the central figure in Cerebus' conscious life both assume the same level of importance which is to say little to no importance.

Q5b: If we refer to pages 60 & 61 of *Guys*, we see the first version of the scene outside Cerebus' parents house in a drunken vision. Not every line matches up. Some lines previously spoken are thought, and some words previously thought are spoken. You have stated that this was a bad dream, and that a probable reason that Cerebus inserted Astoria into the scene is because he associates her with bad things. Now, however, Astoria has now been replaced by Jaka. Curiously, both times we see Cerebus' reflection in the window, his severed ear is on the wrong side. The empty chair sits in the same place, and the deck is partially torn up. This could all suggest that these events have happened more than these two times, in different realities, and Sand Hills Creek is some kind of dimensional nexus. Was the vision in Guys a signal that he should come back home to Sand Hills Creek?

DAVE: No, on the dimensional nexus. A dimensional nexus or the idea that alternate dimensions exist, it seems to me is a way of simultaneously acknowledging and denying free will i.e. "I made a bad choice but somewhere in another dimension I made a good choice, so that makes it okay." It seems to me a core element of belief in God that a choice is a choice and it eliminates all other choices. As to whether the dream was a signal? Yes, definitely. It was time, or rather past time. This is how the happy homecoming is going to play out because it's too late to play out any other way. The event was preordained in a real sense. He had obviously had the dream before and my own theory is that we all have these sorts of super-reality core moments in our lives that we visit and revisit and usually forget in our dreams The moment is on the cusp of the watershed moment when he crosses over from Jaka as Core Reality to Jaka as Regretted Mistake. His dreaming mind cast Astoria in the role because his unconscious dreaming mind was aware that this was an unhappy event and would be incapable of seeing any event that included Jaka to be an unhappy event even though every event in his life that included Jaka or someone who looked like Jaka had been and would continue to be an unhappy event. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." "Huh?" The severed ear is on the wrong side because I made a mistake, which I have admitted before and which presumably I will have to admit every time we discuss the reflection in the window. I made a mistake and put the severed ear on the wrong side in the reflection. Ger didn't catch it, so there it is.

Q5c: Is it a signal that it was too late, seeing that the chair was already empty? Is the lone, empty chair some kind of Lockout tradition suggesting, perhaps, that Cerebus is some kind of Moorcockian "Eternal Prodigal Son?" Or a magical totem symbolizing that there can never be a "significant other" in Cerebus' life? (pp674-675/i265)

DAVE: Both, actually, and many others besides. On the one hand he has his fulfillment to attain to as the Great Cerebus as described in Rick's book and obviously material goods are going to be of no use in that. In a human sense, it's "Oh, how sad. His childhood home has fallen to ruin and it's been looted and both of his parents are dead." In a theological sense it would be more, "Ah good, a blank slate that can be filled up with the things of God now that all this detritus is gone".

Volume 15: Latter Days

Q1: Cerebus decides to go by the name "Fred" because he no longer feels entitled to use his father's last name which, as it turns out, is Cerebus. So, is our protagonist's full name actually Fred Cerebus, son of Joseph Cerebus, or is this a pseudonym? If it is a pseudonym, did you ever settle on Cerebus' real first name? (i266/LD p15)

DAVE: No one ever asked me about this before.

It doesn’t really specify one way or the other in the actual text but my own impression was always that Cerebus was an unwanted child. Was it here that I mentioned that my mental image of his father was of the gorilla in the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the stork gets drunk and accidentally delivers Bugs to the expectant gorilla family? The gorilla father takes one look at the “newborn”, disappears off screen and comes back with a club ready to put it out of its misery and is only prevented from doing so by the mother gorilla. That was the kind of childhood I pictured for Cerebus. The only difference being that Cerebus’ mother’s maternal instincts were sufficient to keep his father from killing Cerebus but she was about as thrilled by him as his father was. As a result they didn’t give Cerebus a first name, they just called him Cerebus as a kind of reminder that he was both their responsibility and their cross to bear. I assume that their choice to provide for him and keep him alive was entirely religion-based and the decision to not give him a first name would stem from their resentment of the fact that God had stuck them with this midget freak. Not giving him a first name would be as rebellious as they would allow themselves to be.

Cerebus picked the name “Fred” because of Fred, Ethel and the Little Fellow with the Hair. Since his physical sexuality had always been pretty ambiguous he would take any opportunity to identify with the masculine option—in this case picking Sump Thing over Woman Thing.

Q2: Latter Days is basically Cerebus' recollection of events in his life as told to the Interviewer/New Joanne. This means it is subjective in nature and, presumably, what we are seeing did not really happen as he's recalling it. (For example, he's hazy on the details of his first meeting with the Three Wisefellows, and appears to be relying, at least on part, on what they told him of those events). This differs from earlier volumes which appear to be told through the eyes of the universal narrator (presumably, you). Can you comment on why you chose to cast this portion of Cerebus' life in a subjective light and what this means in terms of the history of the character as a whole? (i269/p61)

DAVE: In some ways it was just a literary device: on the one hand it was a tactical narrative choice to try to maintain what I assumed would be the seriously flagging attentions of the reader when they hit the Torah commentaries (I really don’t care about any of this stuff, but I have to keep reading to find out who Cerebus is telling all of this to since Dave has never used Cerebus as the narrator before and it’s obvious from the way the story is being told that it is being told to some specific individual not just to me and the other audience members) and on the other hand as a means of identifying that disinterest as an aberrational condition from my own standpoint even though it was a condition I would have shared only a few years previously. That is, having become “sold” on the veracity of the Bible, I had (in an over-arching sense) arrived at what was to me a self-evident state of existence: I believed that someone purporting to have determined what it is that the Bible is actually saying was deserving of undivided attention given that the Bible is the foundational document of our civilization. At the same time, I was enough a creature of my own time and culture to recognize that that was an aberrational viewpoint to hold in the late twentieth century where the Bible was—and is—pretty much universally dismissed as either fairy tales (by atheists and secular humanists) or as metaphorical, literarily distorted non-historical, non-scientific fables seeking to define the nature of God (by the faithful). Even the most devout tend to deconstruct the text as they would Aesop’s Fables or the myths of North American Indians i.e. What is the universal human psychological condition which led to the evolution and adoption of these false stories as foundational beliefs? To me, of course, this is a twentieth century Freudian conceit: the misapprehension that everything originates in the unconscious mind, everything originates from repressed sexuality. As a result it seemed sensible to cast Cerebus in my own situation: he’s the only one who believes that these stories document historical truths and manages to persuade everyone that he’s right. Of course he only manages to persuade everyone he’s right because the text of the Book of Rick establishes him as the long awaited arbiter, just as Muslims hold Muhammad to be the “paraclete” promised by the Johannine Jesus—the one who would come after him and verify everything that Jesus had taught. Which in Cerebus’ case becomes a good news/bad news situation. It gets him unquestioned obedience and obeisance and something of a free ride, but only until New Joanne starts asking some hard questions as a non-believer at which point he begins to unwittingly undermine his own system of belief because a) he’s so used to being considered The Great Cerebus that he’s ceased to question the fact himself and b) he wants so badly to get into her pants by impressing her with his being The Great Cerebus and giving her the exclusive story that he has no idea how inconsistent his own story is and c) he isn’t aware of the level of attraction that being the centre of a system of belief is to someone who is only interested in materialistic things i.e. being Mrs. The Great Cerebus for the sake of the Imelda Marcos-sized collection of shoes and the Queen of the Circus Ego-boo.

Certainly the text becomes partly suspect as a result because it is being documented by New Joanne but only partly suspect because she obviously realizes that the whole edifice is as shaky as it is and that it was so easy to undermine Cerebus’ belief system just by asking some really basic hard questions. Note the fact that at the beginning she loathes the idea that she might remind Cerebus of Old Joanne and he reassures her that she doesn’t and she is reassured by that fact but as she went along she realized that her only claim to co-equivalent power with Cerebus hinges on her being identified with the only female character in the Book of Rick. She would have been sophisticated enough to know that her only hope was to limit the number of falsehoods that she herself espoused in order to keep from being tripped up herself, foremost among them to cast herself in the role of New Joanne. She wasn’t a pathological liar like Astoria with the psychotic ability to keep manufacturing a new reality anytime the old reality got discredited. She was working the other side of the fence: she was in search of absolute truth, as a journalist, so she adhered as much as possible to the party line once she had discredited it. She was interested in tearing the house down when it was Cerebus’ house alone but was interested in shoring it up when it became their shared property.

I think it’s analogous to the situation with Mary Magdalene which has just started to hatch out in the last few years since The Da Vinci Code was published. I just finished my commentaries on the Gospel According to Mark a couple of weeks back and from my reading of the circumstantial evidence in the text, I think it’s a safe bet that the Synoptic Jesus didn’t go to the cross. Someone else took his place and the short ending on the story (there are two versions of chapter sixteen extant) would seem to indicate that he and Magdalene went west. Picture yourself travelling as Mrs. Jesus and taking up residence in a new country just as his “messiahship” is starting to be taken for granted. I think it explains the French Revolution, for one thing. The royal dynasty that they founded eventually has to face the grisly execution their forebears fled in Jerusalem albeit a rather physically easier one (wouldn’t you rather be guillotined than crucified?). It would also serve to explain the cowardice that’s bred in the French bone and the fact that they can’t help undermining their own best efforts (i.e. the French were the ones who championed the universal adoption of the EU Constitution which they themselves wrote and hysterically dictated that any country voting against it would be deemed traitorous and expelled from the EU—and then became the only country to vote against it). From my reading YHWH missed the point of the Synoptic Jesus, seeing him as the ultimate tactical piece in the Great Chess Game with God. Why have him go to the cross when you can spirit him away, have him produce kids and take over the world that way? The point missed, of course, is that the crucifixion was the defining quality. Without the crucifixion of Jesus, there was no resurrection of Jesus (I think his substitute was resurrected). Healing people and walking on water were basically just magician tricks on a very lofty plateau. Being the meschiach involved self-sacrifice and submission to an excruciating death. To not do so was just plain cowardice that no perceived stature—such as the women had about the Synoptic Jesus—could overcome.
I’ll leave it at that since I intend to publish my commentaries on Mark at some future date. I’m about halfway through chapter one of Luke right now.

Q3: It is interesting that the Wise Fellows would know that Astoria was flat-chested given the fact that, 40 years prior, Astoria said she was going into seclusion (i179) and was most likely killed during the Iesten Cataclysm. Were images of Astoria popular in the Cirinist history books the Wise Fellows probably read while growing up, or did she remain in the public light longer than we thought? (i269/LD p73)  

DAVE: The Seminal Rebel Daughter is always going to be a popular figure and well documented wherever she shows up in the same way that Joan of Arc is pretty well documented visually and in terms of the historical events associated with her. Like Joan, it wasn’t a matter of how long Astoria had lived but what she did in actively working to overturn society and to make daughter nature pre-eminent over maternal nature. As soon as that occurs—the woman who believes herself and is believed by others to be interchangeable with a man—it essentially elbows maternalism out of the way because it’s more fully aligned with YHWH’s own misperceptions of herself as equal parts he, she and it. As soon as he/she/it comes along, all of the she’s abandon the she nature implied by motherhood in favour of the misapprehension of gender interchangeability. It is, in my view, largely because of “St. Joan” that there are no maternal history books. The condition reinforces itself in recurrent fashion once the seminal poison has been introduced. Gloria Steinem will always be the Gloria Steinem of “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” even though she has hurled herself into marriage late in her life. In the context of he/she/it poison it is more important who you were than who you are. The fact that the woman who was the subject of the Roe v. Wade decision is now vehemently anti-abortion is considered an irrelevant point by the he/she/it team. And in a society so thoroughly poisoned by he/she/itism as ours is, this is considered a perfectly valid intellectual position.

Q4a: Why did Garth Inniscent want Cerebus to have a nervous breakdown? Because Cerebus was religious and Inniscent was anti-religious?

DAVE: That would certainly be a big part of it. Those who are opposed to religion tend never to consider the fact that they might be opposed to religion because they’re (for want of a more accurate term) evil.

Q4b: Or because he viewed him as power mad, and possibly a worse threat than the Cirinists? (i279/LD p278)

DAVE: That would be a big part of it as well. Of course, underlying both of those motivations, I wouldn’t rule out plain old green-eyed jealousy. Cerebus had close to absolute power, absolute wealth and an undying devotion to Inniscent’s Rabbi character. For a writer that can be a maddening truth to have to contemplate: your creation is that big a part of the despot’s internal life (and it would be hard to think of anything or anyone closer to Cerebus at that point in his life than the fictional Rabbi character) and yet it doesn’t translate into any “goodies” for you as the writer of that character. Note Inniscent’s observation that Cerebus doesn’t even bother to invite him to dinner to pick his brain. The subtext is leverage. Dinner would be for starters, but after that presumably he would be entitled to an ambassadorship or at least a mansion of his own with liveried servants, etc. etc. It’s only a small step sideways from there to pervert your own talents in order to indirectly exert the power you aren’t being allowed to benefit from. Hell hath no fury like a writer scorned.

The analogy is imperfect but I think Woodward and Bernstein present a comparable example. Two marginalised second string reporters at the Washington Post who used Nixon’s hubris against him and basically brought about his resignation. And, of course, power has accrued to them over the last thirty years as a result. If you bring down a President, you inherit a certain amount of the President’s cachet whether you deserve to or not.

Q5: Cerebus almost tells the Interviewer that he went to the moon, and then cuts himself off. Is his ascension to the moon a secret and not part of his iconic, religious legend? (i288/LD p444)

DAVE: Since there’s no irrefutable proof that he went to the moon, it seems politic to Cerebus to just avoid discussing it. That’s really the first point where he, at least unconsciously, realizes that he needs to tread carefully with the interviewer having already been “bitten” by a couple of hard questions. He doesn’t really know how he got to the moon and he doesn’t really know what he was supposed to learn when he got there, he missed a good chunk of the Judge’s monologue, he’s forgotten almost everything he did hear, he has no idea who the Judge is or how he got to the moon nor did he think to ask. All in all, not exactly a can of worms that he would be eager to open in his new context where he is perceived of and perceives of himself as The Great Cerebus, a figure possessed of absolute, thorough-going knowledge in all areas. It’s typical of Cerebus that he would draw the lesson from that that he has to hide his level of ignorance rather than face it square on and the implications of it.  

Q6: Cerebus' blankouts: He has them (1) while facing starvation at Petrou Pass (indeterminate length)(i260); (2) while trapped in the snowstorm with Jaka (a few seconds?) (i260); (3) when Jaka refuses to leave the tent with him (a few seconds) (i261); (4) when he's being shat upon. Blanks back in reading Morpheus. (a few months?) (i266); (5) after Mr. Gurzky decides not to kill him. (a few weeks?) (i266); (6) After wandering North, then East. (a few weeks? Months?)(i267); and (7) After his last game with Annan (a few months/years?) (i267). Why do we only see it in this short span? Why after his last game with Anan? Are they just stress related? Or is there a deeper meaning to them?

DAVE: Well, example (1) is one kind of circumstance. (2) and (3) it's not just the starving to death (and from what I understand that's one of the conditions that attaches itself -- black-out periods). At Petrou Pass it would've been the result of having done all the sensible things you're supposed to do and then you just find out what the outer boundaries are like. Hunger that takes you to the borderland of clinical insanity with the food sitting right there that is being carefully doled out. You eat your half a biscuit and that's it for the rest of the day. With nothing else to do but sit there next to the tin of biscuits. The only area where I'm familiar with that is fasting, having resolved to fast every Sunday and, every three weeks, Sunday through Wednesday -- no food or drink from sunrise to sunset. Well, when I decided to do that it was, like, December. So I "starved" from 7:30 am to 5:30.
That's one thing. I'm now coming up on the roughest Sunday to Wednesday stretch this week, where I'm up and praying and eating breakfast at 4:30 in the morning (which is still barely pre-dawn, not the hour before dawn it's supposed to be) and that's it until the last prayer an hour after sundown -- around 10 pm. You do tend to get a) hungry and b) tired. If I eat and go straight to bed I can get five hours sleep. It is absolutely amazing how good a salad and a dinner roll taste by 10 at night. I mean, that's the other thing, you can't eat a lot. You're going straight to bed, so it's the worst kind of weight-loss program. Anything you eat just turns into fat. And, like I say, that's still not starving. That's just seventeen hours without food or water.

If, as I have heard, the purpose is to give you a clearer understanding of what it means to do without, it is a very effective learning tool. What if that salad and dinner roll weren't there? That's a thought to give you the serious heebie jeebies at 10 pm at night, believe me. And you tend not to forget to pay the zakat as a direct result. It becomes imperative to see that people don't go hungry as a central pressing concern and not as a remote intellectual idea.

Now examples (2) and (3) were just my strange sense of humour. Here she is. Jaka. This is the one you wanted. Couldn't live without. This is not like Bear or Crotch-Face or the other guys at Petrou Pass where personal honour was at stake. You could only take your share or, in addition to starving to death you're also going to die the death of a thousand black looks from your peers. No, this here is a Princess. All she knows about "hungry is "eat".

Now, whatever it is that you had in the way of experience from Petrou Pass of what the outer boundaries of hunger are like, whatever mental state you've settled yourself into for the long haul on a faint hope. Ka-bing. Gone. Princess ate all the biscuits. All the biscuits. I mean, there it was just a matter of coming completely unglued. Trying not to think about the outer boundaries and now the outer boundaries are here. That experience you hoped never again to have for the rest of your life and that you thought was days away is now right on top of you. And it's pitch dark. I mean, you're coming completely unglued and you can't see your hand in front of your face. Yes, my best guess is that someone in the situation would "go away" and "come back" a lot.
Examples (4) (5) (6) and (7)I had to extrapolate a lot there. I mean a LOT, because I have never had that thing Cerebus had with Jaka. I remember after I had severed all ties with Diana Schutz and she had set me a short story part of which consisted of the narrator describing this old couple who were in an auto accident, both covered head to toe in plaster and they were disconsolate -- DISCONSOLATE -- until they got their beds turned around so they could see each other. I mean, for me, that takes a major, major, major amount of extrapolation. What must that be like? I have to go way, way, way back to the age when you really think if you get lost in a store your parents are never going to find you. They'll just get in the car and leave and forget about you. That's really the only time in my life that I had that compelling overwhelming need for a specific person and the sense that a huge part of me would be lost if they were gone. And I assumed that it would be similar to starving to death in the dark on the side of a mountain. You would just blank out or, maybe more to the point, just stumble into these empty places where The Other used to be and disappear for a while. I never, as I say, had anything comparable to that. Deni and Gone just wasn't in the same category for me as Jaka and Gone were for Cerebus.

Clinical shock, really. Going through the motions but no conscious recognition of anything because consciousness is just too terrible to deal with.

(4) would be just complete wretchedness. You can just barely manage these short periods of consciousness by connecting with the old army days and then something very un-army-like happens. Very tentative handhold gone.
(5) was Cerebus trying to fill the blank with something else -- in this case voyeurism and Gurzky's sheep. Not really at the point of being able to connect with people (and actually more than glad not to), but the affection has been transferred to the sheep. So, again, he loses both in the same episode. No more voyeurism and the sheep are being butchered. Had a nice long run at it, but it was still a pretty tentative handhold. Pretty tentative handhold gone.
(7) was the loss of the ambition. If he could just beat Paul "Coffee" Annan, then everything would be okay. Well, he beat Annan and Annan died, again, he loses both of things that he's been using to keep himself going. Pretty tentative handhold gone. And, of course, ultimately, he's rolled all of these into one big ball called Latter Days and made them the custody of you-know-who.
That's the whole point of the story. I see that a lot in the people around me and I've had bouts of it myself. You're not actually living your life, you're enduring it and keeping track of all your hardships so that when S*H*E finally comes along, S*H*E will understand when you dump all of them on her. There are a lot of people who get married a second time so they'll have someone to take their side against their ex-wife. They're just not comfortable until they have that two-against-one thing happening and they'll do anything to get it. It's a choice, I guess.

Q7a: Did you choose the three words "Devil/Viper/Scorpion" - D/V/S - to correspond to David Victor Sim?

DAVE: I might have, but I don't remember consciously doing so. I wanted three biblical terms that would be the sharp/sharper/sharpest metaphorical tripartite declension of intrinsic evil possible. A scorpion seemed to fit the "sharpest" bill. You can't get much more pointed metaphorically than a scorpion. The devil and the viper seemed suitably "less sharp" incarnations: the allegorical curve of the tail, while the scorpion itself is the sting.

Q7b: And if so, what is the significance of this correspondence to your relationship to the text of Cerebus?

DAVE: You mean, am I a devil, a viper and a scorpion? That seems to me of a piece with the "Dave Sim is Crazy" theories. As I told someone a while back- not wanting to be completely contrary and to attempt to find conciliation where it can be found-I would agree that either the Marxist-feminists are crazy or Dave Sim is crazy. Brian Coppola sent me a quote that was in Latin or Spanish in a letter which has been in my "to answer" pile for months and of course has gone missing just when I want to refer to it. Something along the lines of "We will go as we go, and then we shall see." Which seems to sum it up nicely. I will make my case for my viewpoint over the next number of decades (God willing) and the Marxist-feminists will make their case for their viewpoint and then we will see which viewpoint prevails.

Volume 16: The Last Day

Q1a. Almost four years removed from the grand dream sequence, do you still feel confident in the idea that you have presented a Unified Field Theory given that some critics have said the science is suspect in places (failing to reconcile the actual processes of the strong nuclear force with the weak nuclear force, for example), and that the nature of it being divinely inspired makes empirical testing impossible?

DAVE: I’m afraid that I’m really kind of snowed under with work at the moment (finishing up “Hypothetical Cerebus and the Necronomicon Monks” from a T. Casey Brennan script for a benefit comic book for ACTOR that’s due in July among other things) so this is apt to come across as far more blunt than I intend it to be. Please feel free to mentally insert smiley faces, winky eyes, lopsided grins, ho-ho-ho’s and IMHOs as required so as to ameliorate any emotional trauma.

In other words do I agree with you that atheism is the only sensible choice? No, I don’t believe so. I’ve made my case for my viewpoint and if I suddenly come to the crushing overwhelming awareness that the only thing that makes sense is to become like you again I’ll be sure to let you know.

The strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force are irreconcilable, in my view. That’s the whole point of the debate. The weak nuclear force (YHWH, he/she/it, Marxist-feminists, the Feminist-Homosexualist Axis) wants to be the strong nuclear force (God, masculine men) and can’t be and therefore everywhere across time and space is doing what he/she/it has been doing in our own society since 1970. Screwing things up. The science isn’t suspect, I don’t think. The he/she/its don’t like it because if follows the evidence and concludes that he is preferable to he/she/it. Strong instead of weak.

Also, nice try from the he/she/it side of the fence: slipping an accusation of blasphemy against me in under the fence. Obviously I don’t think 289-290 is divinely inspired. If it was divinely inspired that would make me a prophet and the age of prophets ended with the death of Muhammad. In the context of Cerebus it is “divinely inspired” in that I am Cerebus’ creator. But in the larger context as with everything that I write about religion, 289-290 serve as commentaries on Genesis 1, John’s Gospel 1 and the sura ‘Clots of Blood’. “Here is my best guess as to the nature of reality from the evidence we have on hand.”

Yes, I know you didn’t mean to accuse me of blasphemy, but that’s the nature of atheists. You’re empty vessels wide open for demonic possession 24/7.

Q1b: Is there anything you have learned since that time, or during the original research period, which you would have liked the chance to add in but were unable to given the time constraints? (i289/290 / TLD pp2-40)

DAVE: In other words, is there anything I can add to my case that will help persuade you that I’m right? I suspect not, but I think that isn’t a matter of my theories being flawed as it is your own (that is to say, feminized Marxist-feminist he/she/it) resistance to what it is that I’m saying. I don’t foresee that changing—either the nature of any of you as individuals or any potential audience for the book presently alive (and I might be mistaken; remember I was an atheist until I was forty years old)—which is why I say that Cerebus won’t actually have any true value or cachet until fifty or a hundred years after I’m dead. That having been said let me express my on-going gratitude that, as readers, you have purchased my work and continue to discuss it. I don’t know how many atheistic generations Cerebus will have to be read by before it actually reaches an audience that connects with it in any meaningful way, but of course that’s completely out of my hands.

There were a couple of interesting bits in my interview with Neal Adams coming up in Following Cerebus 9 that confirmed two passages in Genesis 1 for me and I note them in passing in the article and I do see various things that fall into that category in the newspaper and elsewhere but, again, we live in a completely he/she/it context so there’s really no point that I can see in doing anything but making note of it for my own amusement. You’ve got 40 pages of 289-290 which you’ve managed to ignore. To what purpose would I guild my own lily?

Q2. The New Booke of Cerebus is hidden away where it won't be discovered until 2000 years later when the Sanctuary is torn down to build a shopping mall. Since we know Cerebus' ascension took place in 4000BC (because of the Judge's revelation that the moon landing takes place roughly 6000 later (C&S p1202)), this would set the time of discovery at around 2000BC. What is the significance of this date? Are you suggesting that Moses found The NBOC, and correctly interpreted it as the True Word of God? Is there some correlation to the Bell-Beaker culture (2800-1900BC) that overlapped the same area of the real Europe that the fictional Estarcion mimics, and the unspecified cataclysm that sank The God's Fence, split Boreala off the mainland to become England, and raised the land mass of Italy? (i291/TLD p53)

DAVE: My assumption is that everywhere in the universe planets roughly the size of YHWH all enact their various tantrums and plodding resistance to the truth and infantile he/she/itisms in roughly the same way (and for all I know bigger planets are no different in the same way that all he/she/its are the same), so Cerebus’ story could probably have been enacted on any of a trillion times a trillion little blue balls that think they’re God just as there are probably a trillion times a trillion of each of you everywhere in the universe all behaving exactly as you do, each of whom has chosen to turn his/her back on God. Or maybe out of the trillion times a trillions versions of you there might be one or two that are actually God-fearing, but that would surprise me if it was true.

Q3. Can you expand on the nature of The Great Schism (circa 132)? We know it had to do with Cerebus' reaction to being lured into a pro-choice rally and music concert organized by Sheshep (and, presumably, New Joanne) and the subsequent beatings that took place, but was there a greater political (and perhaps military) battle that took place? Or is The Great Schism strictly in reference to Cerebus' divorce from New Joanne, and alienation of his son? (i293/TLD p99)

DAVE: The Great Schism refers to the tactical use of grief/fear by he/she/its to try and seize control and as far as I can see is a universal societal condition as soon as you give he/she/its even incremental access to power. In the context of Cerebus, it had nothing to do with the beatings per se (you betray your he/she/it loyalties in seeing it that way), it had to do with the use that could be made of the beatings politically by New Joanne and all the he/she/its like her. Drama Queens uber alles. In the same way that Guantanamo Bay doesn’t actually bother Democrats but they do see it as the way back into the White House (mistakenly, in my view). It’s the reason that anger has become the only cardinal sin in our society. As long as he/she/its pretend to be fearful of anger and grief stricken by all violence and assert their political view that the only way to move society forward is if no one is allowed to express anger or commit any act of violence then that means the he/she/its have a free ride in whatever direction they choose to go. Of course this only works if there is no actual threat against which it is only sensible to direct anger and violence—in the case of our own world, Islamist extremism. In order to sustain itself as a political movement, he/she/itism in our society needs to convince people that the proper reaction to killing Islamist Muslims who are plotting violence against civilians is grief at their death and/or fear of the people killing them. The proper reaction isn’t grief and/or fear. The proper reaction is relief coupled with determination to kill as many more as it takes until Freedom is the universal condition of man.

Q4. Why has Sheshep suddenly appeared after all these years? Has he inherited Cerebus' alleged "alarm clock when dad is dying" sense? Or has he simply come to gloat over Cerebus' impending demise? (i295)

DAVE: Cerebus, having forgotten everything that had happened, begged God to bring Sheshep back. Since Cerebus had transcribed the Booke which was revealed to him and hidden it he was, at that point, completely useless and bringing Sheshep back was a good a way as any of killing someone who was and had been that useless for that many years and who had let God down that badly.

Q5. Upon realizing that Rick is not among those Cerebus believes to be waiting for him in Heaven, Ham, Jaka and Bear's hands transform into strange two to three fingered appendages. What is the significance of this? (i300/TLD pp236-237)

DAVE: Ham, Jaka and Bear were atheists. What I’m suggesting is that atheists are basically host beings which are wide open to being made use of by malignant spirits whose only job is to lure the God-fearing to destruction. It’s a cautionary note struck for the half dozen (that may be optimistic) or so readers I have who believe in God—and for the first generation of Cerebus fans (as opposed to readers) fifty or a hundred years after I’m dead for whom the Next World will be something more than a concept for a Twilight Zone episode. When you die and you go towards the light, look who is there and remember what they were like when they were alive. I don’t think anyone will heed my advice but that doesn’t stop me from giving it. As I told someone in Columbus, my own reaction to seeing dead relatives and “friends” will be to go down on my knees and close my eyes and begin reciting my prayer. I plan to continue reciting my prayer from that point until Judgement Day. The Koran assures us that when we awake on Judgement Day we’ll believe that we have been dead “for a day or part of a day.” Muhammad in his later years used to spend the better part of the night reciting Suras instead of sleeping so I’m going to try to bear that in mind and deal with the Afterlife as one long night that needs to be prayed through until Judgement Day dawns.

Q6: You knew by #100 that at the end of the series, Cerebus would have a son who would grow up to be Sphinx. How did you get that idea? How did it develop? Was there ever an alternate thought?

DAVE: Well, it wasn’t quite that specific. I did think that gene splicing was certifiably a) (our new word for today) grotesque and b) on its way. Actually, I think the earliest idea that I had was that Cirin was just waiting for Cerebus to die so she could get his carcass and grow things out of him and Cerebus having a conscious awareness of that starting to take place and not being able to do anything about it—his eyes in a jar watching something growing out of his head which is across the room and it’s him as a baby. Like the ending on 2001, but honest instead of vaguely platitudinous. There’s a lot of grotesque imagery attached to gene-splicing and genetic manipulation that you would have to be a scientist to be oblivious to, I think. I kept working at: What would be the most horrifying but accurate image at the core of what this genetic manipulation stuff is all about? Mixing two different species together was always at or near the top of the hit parade. I think there was a night when I was channel-surfing and mulling it over at the same time and I hit a television channel that was showing a special on hieroglyphics and, because I was mulling over the mixing of species through gene-splicing and looking at these human beings with the heads of hawks and human heads with lions’ bodies, I thought, maybe those things weren’t quite as mythological as we like to pretend they were. Before God revealed Himself through scripture, I bet that would look like a really hot idea to the sort of people who like tattoos and piercings and shit like that. And of course a scientist or an alchemist it would just be an interesting challenge. How would you do that? How do you make sure that the head comes out human and the body comes out lion cub? Hmm. And to a scientist or an alchemist it’s just this really interesting problem to discuss over drinks and appetizers. And to the tattoos and piercings people it’s just “Wow! Wicked Cool, dude—I want a hawk’s head”. People with no morals servicing people with no…
Words fail me.
There were a lot of alternatives, all very vague. I just kept picturing those Egyptian hieroglyphics walking around with that smug, self-important look—that same “Hey! Check this out” that you see on the face of a chick with nine rivets and a wire hoop sticking out of her cheek—about them and a retinue of servants to comb out their fur and scoop up their feces. I figured the only thing more abhorrent than that was the gene-spliced baby it grew out of.


Q: In making such a bold statement as "I'm going to put out 300 issues of this for 26 years," how much of the story did you have mapped out at that point, i.e. how much did you know of the story at the time you made the statement, or did you decide upon 300 issues and then begin to map it out?

DAVE: Very little of the story mapped out. I really had only the 300-issue structure which was more of a “comic-book thing”. If I could do 300 issues of a comic book, I’d go down in comic-book history, one way or the other. That was the basis the decision was made on. I had always had a very fertile imagination, so I never had any doubts that I could fill the 300 issues. As I’ve said before, my problem has never been writer’s block, more like holding back writer’s flood. As long as I had complete control over what I did. Doing the Archive, I’ve just reread my multi-year correspondence with Mike Friedrich—his half of it anyway, editor-publisher of Star*Reach, Imagine and Quack! To me as a minor-league freelancer for those magazines. His critiques are good. He was a veteran scripter with some editorial experience and good instincts, but I could never have done an extended work on that basis: where I had to take into account his criticisms and changing things that I didn’t think needed changing. If he had accepted Cerebus as a feature in Quack! I would’ve had to back off from the level of interest I had in order to preserve my sanity: I would’ve been self-editing to try and match the feature to what he wanted it to be instead of making the decisions myself and I would probably have slipped into the freelancer pattern: doing a lot of different things with different people and trying to get a cumulative level of pleasure out of writing and drawing where and when I could so that the negatives on individual projects didn’t bring me down too far. I’m glad that’s not how I had to spend the last twenty-six years of my life.

Q: Early on, it appears that you produced Cerebus on an issue-to-issue basis, with very little long term plans other than getting the next issue out. Some significant events happened in your life, like having a nervous breakdown and OD'ing on acid during this period. Subsequently, Cerebus became a monthly comic, you vowed to produce to 300 issues, telling the life story of your character. How did these life-altering events change your ambitions for the comic, and how did they influence your thought-processes?

Dave: In all honesty, they just sharpened everything up. The clearest memory I have of those times is that I could see everything very, very clearly and that other people—my wife, my family, my friends—couldn’t. Mostly I just wanted to watch everything coalesce and get right to the centre of it, but I kept getting bogged down in trying to explain what I was going through, the experience that I was having—and enjoying at a fundamentally pleasurable level—and that just didn’t lend itself to explanations to people who were all in a distinct group-think mode centred around Deni and how worried she was about me. She basically dragged everyone else into it. It’s only been in the last while that I realized how aberrational my life with Deni was, relative to my life previous to Deni. Previous to Deni I spent 98% of my time alone. I stayed up late, late at night and went for long, long walks around my parents’ neighbourhood and basically just thought non-stop, trying to figure things out, writing stories, that kind of thing. That was what I was doing the first time I got really high and it just emphasized the process. I’d get lost in thought and suddenly found I was five blocks away from the last place I had been consciously aware. Which I really, really liked: this really intensive form of thinking that was almost physically over-powering. That was the summer before I met Deni. I’ve just started wondering lately how much of the problem I faced with the nervous breakdown and the acid OD was just the extent to which women are sort of phobic about thinking, about ideas. You know, ideas and thinking being all well and good as long as you understand that the really important thing is family and friends and how much everyone loves you and cares about you and worries about you. That was the first lesson I learned was that you have to portray yourself as normal at all times, so I learned how to portray myself as normal, normal enough to pass all the tests which, in my view, meant being fundamentally uninteresting and uninterested. i.e. the nature of reality and our place in it wasn’t important except as, maybe, party chatter if you had a few friends over. What’s on television tonight. That was important. I basically learned to portray an inverted version of my personal hierarchy. The more unimportant I thought something was, the more important I had to treat it. The more important I thought something was, the more I had to treat it as unimportant.

It was only when I broke up with my last girlfriend in 1998 that I decided, Listen, I’ve tried it their way and it just wanders around in these strange tight little circles until everyone’s basically miserable and trying to pretend not to be (I had something of an epiphany eating by myself at La Costa and I saw a guy outside wearing a t-shirt: “I’m so miserable without you it’s almost like having you here.” I was, as the ladies say, in touch with that emotion). So, I decided to go back to how I was before I met Deni. I was standing out on my balcony and I thought, “Okay, let’s go back to thinking as a way of life—back to the life I was leading twenty-two years ago—and see how long it takes to get tired of it.” That was six years ago and I’m still waiting to get tired of it. So far, I haven’t even come close.

So, the answer to your question would be: I learned how to invert my priorities so that what was important was unimportant and what was unimportant was important. Fortunately, working hard is taken as a given in our society—as long as you actively hate it and complain about it all the time and would rather be doing absolutely nothing instead, just lying on a beach somewhere drinking yourself stupid—so I just learned to complain about my workload when it was definitely what I would rather be doing. The only thing that beat work hands down was marijuana and a blowjob. So, I learned to pretend that Deni and friends and family were my first priority, my work was an unfortunate necessity and marijuana and sex were a distant fourth and fifth. And when I broke up with Deni, I just transferred all that baggage to Linda, then Karen…then I had my sleep-with-anything-with-breasts-and-a-vagina-that-moves time period when reality and portrayal finally matched up: blowjob uber alles…and then I had several girlfriends after that where I pretended, again, to have as priorities things I wasn’t really interested in.

Essentially, I was having my cake and eating it too. I was basically alone as much as was my preference because I was working long hours—which was what I wanted to do—while pretending I’d rather be home watching television or helping with the housework or visiting with friends and relatives or shopping for a dining room set or whatever else. My last three girlfriends were way, way out of town girlfriends so that I only had to see them every three weeks or so.

And most of the time I was doing all the conventional couples stuff, I was actually thinking about the book or whatever new theory had popped into my head that seemed to be worth dissecting at length while biding my time until it was time to have sex again.
On those many occasions when girlfriends would ask, “What are you thinking about?” and I actually told them, it only emphasized that a relationship probably wasn’t the best idea for me by a long stretch.

The thought processes—whether I was thinking about the book or just thinking—were always the top priority and the unchanging reality of my life. Start with a supposition and see how far it was from a possibility, what might be in the way of it becoming a likelihood, check the math as I go along and if I get somewhere then double back and see if I can explain it all to myself without fudging anything. One of my favourite phrases when it came time for me to explain to people why it was that I was alone all the time was, “My mind is a playground.”
And it really is. That’s not hyperbole. My mind is like Disneyland for me.
I just learned eventually to stop pretending that it wasn’t or pretending that I shared everyone else’s priorities. I realize that for most people their mind isn’t a playground. It’s a torture chamber which I figure is why so many people are afraid to be alone. If they’re alone they’re locked up in the torture chamber. If they’re with someone else they’re not.
So picture my mind being a playground and then for twenty-two years I let my dick make my decisions for me and then I decided to go back to the playground. And I’ve been there ever since. The End.

Q: What WOULD you have done with Reuben Flagg Roach? Please go into an obscene amount of detail, including your thoughts about Chaykin and "American Flagg."

Dave: I’d be happy to go into an obscene amount of detail. Hell, I’d be happy to draw you ten pages of it, but I’m afraid time is sort of at a premium right now with the unexpected reaction from the Neil Gaiman website. Unexpected by me—considering that we got three responses to the 1,000 “Four More Years” packages we sent out to comic-book stores back in 2000 (and it’s always worth mentioning those three: the Laughing Ogre in Columbus Ohio, Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine and Graham Crackers Comics in downtown Chicago). It’s put me two weeks behind on answering my own mail (to the point where poor Jeff S. phoned to find out what was wrong—the peril of timely mail answering as norm), and Ger and I have to do three covers for Following Cerebus 3 (you’ll see why when it comes out) and I still have to get back to the Cerebus Archive in the near future. Right now, I’m about two months behind where I thought I would be by September of 2004, so it’s back to the fifteen-hour-days to try and close that gap.

Howard Chaykin I always admired a great deal. Very intimidating fellow, very sure of himself. I was terrifically impressed back in 1982 when Deni and I had dinner with him and his then-wife Leslie on the first US Tour (see photo on the Beguiling website) that he was planning to do an on-going book called American Flagg whose theme he neatly encapsulated as “the future is the same as the present, only later and more so.” That’s awfully good. That’s very Howard. One good sentence can save you fifteen minutes of explanation, so come up with it, schmuck. It was particularly interesting for me because it was going to be a monthly book and I was already becoming conscious of the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of those in the new direct market age. Of course, to Howard we weren’t in the same league. I was still a strange kind of semi-pro fanzine publisher, which was the reaction to Cerebus and Elfquest. Being in the comic-book field meant living in New York and all that that entailed. Of course now it seems very natural to mention Cerebus and American Flagg in the same sentence, but not back then.

I have several Howard Chaykin stories that have stayed with me over the years. I already told one in the Synchronicity Triptych essay. Back in 1974 when I first met him doing an interview with him for Comic Art News & Reviews he had long hair down to his shoulders and mutton-chop sideburns. Very Neil Young. Overnight, at some point, he realized that this was a mistake. He was living in New York, he was a grown-up who was interested in having a solid career in comic books AND in commercial illustration and he realized that, in the latter category, you weren’t doing yourself any favours showing up for meetings with art directors looking like a Woodstock leftover. The sixties were ten years ago. Get over it. But that also put him in a “minority of one” situation. I can’t think of any comic-book creator of his generation in the mid-70s who didn’t look like a Woodstock leftover, and the community was (and, I assume, still is) particularly brutal with anyone who breaks ranks with the pack. But, I have to hand to him, he didn’t go halfway and get a 1964 Beatle haircut and just shorten his sideburns and start wearing new jeans. He got his hair cut very short—shaved on the sides—bought fashionable dress clothes beautifully cut and tailored and suspenders (which were just then coming into fashion in chic New York circles). The whole nine yards. And, at some point he had to be, you know, seen like this in a comic-book environment. And, again, I have to hand it to him. He didn’t try to put on some Woodstock disguise. This was the choice he had made, this was what he was going to look like. So, as the story goes, he walks into either Marvel or DC one day and sees (whoever it was—the first comic book person who was going to be exposed to the New Howard Chaykin), walks right up to them with a big grin and an outstretched hand and says (by way of introduction):

“Hi. Joe Nazi.”
I also remember having dinner with Howard and an excruciatingly young Frank Miller right around the time the first few issues of Frank’s Daredevil had come out. I’m pretty sure that this was pre-Upstarts, the studio that Howard and Frank later had with Walt Simonson. I was virtually non-existent at that dinner. As I say, I existed on Howard’s radar screen but somewhere between fanzine and professional, a quirky kid. It was a very interesting dinner, though, because it was largely an uninterrupted monologue/interrogation of Frank by Howard. What did Frank want to accomplish, how were things going with his editor, when the editor said that did it have this sort of tone or that sort of tone, is Frank aware of the pitfalls in, etc. etc. I remember Frank being very quiet through most of the dinner, mostly nodding, a lot of shrugging, but a very intense look on his face because he realized what he was getting for free here—a dense-packed education on the ins and outs and why’s and wherefores of suddenly being a Big Name in the comic-book field. Because it had nothing to do with me—as far as I could see I would never have to make my way through the labyrinthine maze/gauntlet that is a New York City comic-book career (otherwise I would’ve been making my own mental notes on every word out of Howard’s mouth)—I was able to observe the whole process from a greater remove and what struck me was Howard Chaykin’s sheer open-hearted generosity in doing this. Howard was far enough along in his career at this point that it was obvious he was never going to be in the category he was educating Frank about. That category happens overnight, the fact that it happens overnight is a big part of it. If you’ve been working in comics for five years you can’t suddenly make that leap. Neal Adams was in that category. Steranko was in that category. Wrightson was in that category. Howard was a very career-minded individual and ferociously competitive and, in context—particularly in the brutal world of the New York City Funnybook Industry—he could certainly be forgiven for taking a “sink or swim” approach to Frank Miller (there were always better-than-average odds that they might end up competing for a plum assignment somewhere up ahead). But, he didn’t do that. He went out of his way to give Frank the advantage of every scrap of information he himself had gleaned —since he had been Gil Kane’s assistant—about the situation in which Frank had suddenly found himself.
The only time I found myself in a comparable situation was in 1993 when Bonemania hit. As I told Jeff at the time, I was quite a ways away from ground zero when this happened to the Pinis and I was only marginally closer when it happened to Kevin and Peter (the only two comparable self-publishing success stories) but here is everything that I know about being an overnight skyrocket success in independent comics. Since there were a lot of self-publishers that I was helping at the time in various ways, there was always the temptation to give Jeff the same sort of limited access that I gave them (always having to bear in mind that I had my own monthly comic book to write and draw). If it hadn’t been for Howard’s example, I don’t think I would’ve given Jeff as much time as I did, dense-packing as much as I knew about the ins and outs and whys and wherefores of being an overnight hit in independent comic books.

Oddly enough, one of the few moments when I did enter the conversation (mentally, anyway) at that long-ago dinner was when Howard offered the opinion that the comic-book collector’s market was crazy because people were buying and selling the first issue of Marvel’s Star Wars comic book for (I think, at the time, it was around $20—it goes for around $60 now, according to the latest Overstreet Price Guide) and it wasn’t anywhere close to being Howard’s best work. Howard drew the cover of the first issue and pencilled the first ten. That was the first time that I had known Howard Chaykin to perceive something inaccurately. Which was understandable in a way. George Lucas had made no secret of the fact that Han Solo had been based to a large degree on the prototypical Howard Chaykin space and/or pulp hero, as typified by Cody Starbuck, the Scorpion and Monarch Starstalker. Sort of Gil Kane’s “laughing cavalier” with a lop-sided grin on his face. I’m pretty sure that this was the reason that Chaykin landed the assignment to do the comic-book adaptation (and the reason Al Williamson was tapped to do the newspaper strip. Whatever Lucas didn’t get from Chaykin, he got from Williamson, thematically and visually). But, I thought at the time that Howard was overlooking the obvious—the book was commanding those prices because it was Star Wars, not because of whomever was writing and drawing it. At the same time his reaction was understandable, one of those molar-grinding incidents of being at a one-step remove from a worldwide mega-hit. How could you do your best work when you could see that Han Solo wasn’t any sort of improvement on Cody Starbuck, but just a watered-down Hollywoodized version of same?
I have to admit at this point that I didn’t—and still haven’t—read American Flagg. I read, I think, the first three issues and just found the ironic “adult” tone uninteresting. No, that’s not fair. I did find it interesting, but, for me, it just suffered in comparison to The Scorpion: the previous example of Howard doing the whole package on his own for Atlas/Seaboard. From the splash page with its white handwritten captions and craft-tinted “photo album” panels, it seemed to me that The Scorpion was the book Howard had been born to draw. American Flagg seemed to me like a parody of The Scorpion—we’re all adults here, we don’t take this sort of material seriously. I really should read Flagg sometime. There’s no question in my mind that it is a better piece of material than the vast majority of what I’ve retained over the years. I understand there’s an anniversary edition of it coming out this year, so I’ll keep my eye out.

At the 1986 San Diego Comicon, Gerhard’s first experience with San Diego, I had told him about all the great parties that they had there and how you just went from one to the other all night. So, it was more than a little embarrassing when we checked into our suite and then went out to all of the primary convention hotels, literally going from floor-to-floor listening. You know, “Where de party at?” Finally we gave up and went back to our suite on the top floor of the Holiday Inn Embarcadero. “Well,” I said. “I guess we’ll have to have the party.” So, I made up a quick invitation and got the hotel to photocopy thirty of them. Nice sized party, I figured. Eventually two hundred people showed up, but there were only thirty invitations and one of them I had definitely given to Howard Chaykin. I had also printed up proposals for a handful of artists if they were interested in doing a book through Aardvark One International. I think I had four or five packages made up for people I knew were going to be at the show. One was Howard. Jaime Hernandez was another. But, anyway, the party was going pretty good when Howard walked in. “Howard,” I said. “Here. Just in case you’re ever looking for a publisher for a project.” He flipped through the proposal. “Dave,” he said, in his matter-of-fact tone, “Are you hustling me?” A little taken aback by the verb, I stammered something about well, yeah, I guess you could call it that. He said, “You’ve said some negative things about me in print which I don’t take very seriously because when I think of you I remember a pimply-faced teenager with stringy hair interviewing me for his fanzine. So, let’s resolve never to work together on anything ever.” He handed the proposal back and said, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and enjoy myself.” And he wandered off into the depths of the party.
What Howard was referring to was my “Declaration of Independence” in The Comics Journal No.105 where I described the “inverted pyramid” of traditional comic-book publishing. I wrote:
“The inverted pyramid is difficult to disguise…but then, little effort is expended in doing so. ‘First Comics! You can count on us.’ (this was the motto of First Comics, publishers of American Flagg among other titles) (This means you can count on Rick Obadiah, Rick Oliver, the production guys.) ‘We publish one of your favourite characters—American Flagg!’ (As Mike Gold says, ‘A great character is forever—a fresh approach is what’s needed, that’s all.”) “created and written by Howard Chaykin, Joe Staton artist.” (Doesn’t really matter who does it, right? A great character is forever.)
This approach is a betrayal of the fans, the readers, the shop owners, the distributors and everyone who had a stake in American Flagg!, emotional or financial. The back issues will decline in value, a slap in the face to those distributors and shop owners who now have boxes of dead or dying wood-pulp they will be forced to sell at cost or below. Chaykin’s assurances all along that “he can’t foresee leaving Flagg!” gave a false message to the marketplace in which economy functions (Flagg! Is, after all, a direct-sales-only comic). The fans feel betrayed because they had come to rely on Chaykin’s Flagg! month-in and month-out; and, more importantly, had been given no indication that this situation could or would change.
If, as I have heard, Chaykin planned it this way all along, we can chalk up another victory for the inverted pyramid. Had this been the ‘independent comic’ it had been declared to be (and I’ll get to my personal definition of that term in due course), it would have run its course over 20-some-odd issues and have left a legacy of a remarkable (I’m going to go out on a limb and add ‘brilliant’) and singular vision. With the replacement of Howard as artist on the series, First Comics and Howard declare themselves to be ‘business as usual’ and neither alternative nor independent.”

Well, you know, I still think I was right about this. But I can certainly see how it would rub Howard the wrong way but—as is usually the case with Dave Sim—it’s more important to me to discuss openly what we think is “good for comics” and what we think is “bad for comics” because the improvement of the medium and the business context within which it exists is more important than who has or hasn’t got bruised feelings about what was or wasn’t said.

I have no way of proving it, but I always suspected that the Black Kiss mini-series that Howard did for Vortex Publications in Toronto was directed at me, Howard at his most eloquent. “Is this what you meant, Dave? A small, prestigious project that will get talked about? Yes, this is the sort of thing I might’ve done through Aardvark One International if you hadn’t lit into me in print. So, instead, I’ve given it to one of your competitors, the guy just down the highway from you.” And then he called the collected version, Big Black Kiss. “And, see? You would’ve made money off of the collected version as well?” This was the reason that I called my 24-hour comic about a divorced wife (at this point Howard and I were both divorced from our wives) “Bigger, Blacker Kiss.” My reply to Howard being: there are larger issues at stake here which is why I wrote what I wrote about your choices on American Flagg! Larger issues that I think need to be discussed and need to have actual examples cited so that the next generation of cartoonists can make up their minds based on the two sides of the debate. The largest issue to me, now, would be, “How long has American Flagg! been out of print? How long has Big, Black Kiss been out of print?” Those questions are far larger than whether I did or didn’t get to publish them myself.

Anyway, I saw Howard at another convention a few years after this and made a bee-line for him. He was glad to see me. I was glad to see him. He said something flattering about the fact that I had figured out very quickly a few things it had taken him years to figure out which, braced as I was for a body shot, left me stammering in the other direction this time. It’s certainly something I would always say about Howard, too. Particularly Howard’s ability to encapsulate a huge argument in one pithy sentence. As you can see here, I just don’t have that aptitude. Howard not only had—and has—a very successful career in the ballbusting brutal confines of the New York City Funnybook Industry, he’s also had major successes in Hollywood career—and not just as a storyboard artist or as a scriptwriter—he’s actually risen to the executive level on the shows that he’s worked on, something which doesn’t happen unless you know your way around and have the ability to think fast and accurately on your feet in a pressure-cooker environment. Very, very rare qualities which Howard Chaykin has in spades. If Howard ever needed me for anything, he remains on a short list of people I would drop everything to help in any way that I could—un-work related, I would assume. He’d be my first choice of someone to have dinner with in just about any comic-book context I could think of. And a big reason for that is that I would never have to wonder where I stood with Howard Chaykin. He would never say anything behind someone’s back that he wouldn’t say to that same person’s face. As was the case at the Aardvarks Over San Diego party. He had something to say and he said it. It cleared the air so that I didn’t hesitate for one second before approaching him the next time I saw him.
Those are the sort of people I have always admired and whose company I have most enjoyed.
I notice in the latest Overstreet Price Guide that all of the back issues of American Flagg! are priced at between 3 and 4 dollars, even Alan Moore’s run from 21 to 27.
MWAH, Howard.

Q: You use black wavy panel borders periodically throughout the whole of Cerebus up until two thirds of the way across page 253 of Minds. The borders disappear, make a brief reappearance on page 264 around your self portrait, and then disappear again. Also, in Melmoth, the borders are black, but not wavy. They pop up a couple of times during the last hundred issues. What is the significance of the black bordering? Is it aesthetic or thematic in nature?

DAVE: Both. #220 was the only Letratape that they had that actually had a hand-drawn quality to it apart from the various thicknesses of basic black strips. "Election Night" (i43) as an example was done with a tape that had a thick and a thin line. It looked all right but it didn't look as if it was drawn by hand. I was always looking for ways to speed up the drawing time and being able to lay down bordertapes turned out to be a good one. I could rough in a page and dialogue and word balloons and then put the border tapes on in fifteen or twenty minutes so that some part of the page was finished early in the proceedings. "This is the configuration of the page, now all I have to do is to fill in the resulting panels." The same reason that I would always try to start inking as soon as possible even if it was just one sound effect or a word balloon or part of a face. It was too easy to get bogged down in the penciling stage, making sure of everything in pencil and then having to face the fact that everything now needed to be inked. The sooner I had something inked on the page, the clearer a mental image I had of my ultimate goal with the page. The pencils were guidelines, not finished art. Also the #220 was on a "carrier film" that was about an eighth of an inch wide on either side, so I was able to draw right up to the edge of the carrier film and use the edge of it as an inset panel with no trouble, so Ger and I ended up with a clean edge to the illustration, a strip of white space and the panel border which looked more difficult than it actually was to do and gave the page a nice illustrative quality. The wavy line would swerve from the middle of the carrier film to one side, so I had to separate the Letratapes into "50 yard line" tapes-where the wavy line was going right down the middle-for the interior panel borders and the tapes where the wavy line swerved to one side as the outside panel borders with the greatest thickness of carrier film on the "inside" of the page. It tended to vary even in a given tape which would start out as a '50 yard line" tape and then swerve over to one side before I had a whole page "ruled up" so I had to pay attention. If you go through the books and look carefully, you can see how much "swerve" there is on any given border-sometimes quite a bit.. In a thematic sense, it served as my overall view of life which was that it was a lot like the monitoring device in the hospital, sort of jagged, sort of wavy. That was the reason that the wavy line disappeared for the duration of Melmoth. Thematically the book was about death, so the borders on all the panels "flat-lined". It also occurred to me that the characters were pretty universally trapped inside this reality-sort of jagged, sort of wavy but intermittently- usually for the duration of one panel or a couple of panels-something they thought or something that happened would break them out of that entrapped state of existence and I would drop the jagged/wavy panel border to signify that. I didn't get obsessive about it. Most of the time it was just something that was in the back of my mind that I tried to keep consistent in the hopes that it might register unconsciously with the reader. Just another layer among many.
And, of course, I put the border tape around my self-portrait at the beginning of Minds as a way of emphasizing that same point with a little edge of irony to it. I'm entering my own book at this point-the Cerebus part of my own book and I'm no different from my characters in a lot of ways. I am, likewise, contained by sort of jagged, sort of wavy parameters that I'm unable to escape that signal that I'm alive but not fundamentally more aware than anyone else who has incarnated physically. I'm Dave Sim, I'm not Tarim. And the decision to drop the bordertapes in the Juno sequence was decided at the exact point where I got through to Cerebus. I didn't get through to him fully, but sufficiently that he genuinely broke out of his sort of jagged, sort of wavy parameters. Once a thing is seen, it can't be unseen. It took some doing but I got him to see exactly what sort of person he was and to see it clearly enough that he couldn't retreat to a higher opinion of himself. I even made the attempt to show him that Jaka wasn't who he thought she was, that she was involved with someone else at that very moment. I really tried to crack open the nut because he had never faced the fact that it was vitally important to him that if he wasn't with Jaka he had to believe that she was somewhere else, alone, pining away for him. I call it the Sandra Dee Syndrome. What I couldn't get him to see was that when Jaka came back, she would be interested in taking up with him again, but she would be interested in taking up with anyone that she had been involved with. Truth be told she wouldn't have gotten involved with Rick again if she had run into him and he was willing to put all of that unpleasantness with Mrs. Thatcher behind them. She practically signed Cerebus' death warrant because taking up with F. Stop Kennedy sounded like fun. It was fun running Cerebus around in circles on the way back to his parents' place and it would be fun being the Patroness Saint of Art on Mealc for a period of time. If she could picture being That Jaka and being That Jaka sounded like fun, it was as like as not that she would go for it. The same as she admitted to Cerebus that the bloom had been off the rose in her marriage and if he had said, "Time to hit the road and go see the Wall of Tsi" she could do that without a backward glance. Not because Cerebus was her One True Love-which is how Cerebus saw it-but because the Wall of Tsi was unfinished business and sounded like more fun that what she was doing now; trying to get Rick to grow up and be responsible and fighting a losing battle to make Pud's tavern a success.

Q: To what extent (if at all) was your thinking about YooHWHoo influenced by Manichean thought? Are you aware of the parallels?

DAVE: I think my own beliefs tend to be Manichean in nature-that of spirit being trapped in matter, although I tend to break that up into participatory, observational and efficacious declensions. I think there is a whole strata of spirit which is purely observational for the same reason that I hold the views about women that I do. You can try to participate if you want, but they are Bizarro creatures. In our post-feminist age, if you try to help a woman the odds are that you're just going to get sucked into her inverted and convoluted context and bear the brunt of the consequences she's called down on her own head. I think from the standpoint of non-physically incarnated spirit-what I would see as "the next level up"-all human beings are like that. You can try
to help physically incarnated spirit but we have no concept of the rules and are prone to go in wrong directions, and those who go in right directions-and, obviously, my own perception of that is the Islamic ideal of submitting yourself to the Will of God-don't need any help. I think we're a temptation to non-physically incarnated spirit in that way. What would it hurt if I got involved in this guy's life and lent him a helping hand? I think in the realm of spirit that most often ends in a vow of "never again." To be physically incarnated is to be implicitly crazy. Pray to God, try to do what's right and hope you're getting out of the whole physical incarnation mess soon.

Late addition, 19 March 05 11 pm.: D.B. Little phoned earlier today to mention that Steve Bolhafner had expressed an interest in any theory I might have as to why the term "elohim" ["gods" as in "In the beginning the gods created the heaven and the earth"] is used in the first chapter of Genesis and do I answer the question anywhere in Collected Letters? The honest answer is that I have answered the question elsewhere and I assume that elsewhere was in one of my letters written sometime in the last year and two months. The problem, of course, is that although Collected Letters is almost six-hundred pages long it only contains the first eleven computer Correspondence files of 50 pages each, January through June of last year. I am now working on Correspondence file #32, so the odds are pretty good that the answer is contained somewhere in the ensuing 21 files which will not be included in the Collected Letters volume. Knowing that such an explanation wouldn't "wash" with the members opposite and realizing that anytime I don't provide a direct and immediate answer to any question I stand accused of being evasive, I provide the following:

My best guess is that it is a YHWHist corruption in the text, comparable to what I see as the YHWHist corruptions of Genesis 14-18 and that the term "elohim" is meant to imply that God and YHWH created the heaven and the earth and everything else in Genesis 1, including the "celestial luminaries" of Genesis 14-18. That is, in characteristic he/she/it fashion, YHWH takes joint credit with God for the creations of Genesis 1 and then takes sole credit for the creations of Genesis 2-the plants, the herbs, man, the garden, the four rivers, the gold, the bdellium, the onyx stone, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of life, etc.

It was a failed attempt, obviously, since Judaism is a monotheistic faith and it is now universally accepted even by the most orthodox of Jews that although "elohim" is a plural form, the reference is to Eloi, The One God.
Elohim (Plural)
Yes, I was made aware of this a couple of years back and it definitely threw me for a while and set off an extended period of examination of the problem posed. As usual, my answer is, of necessity, long-winded and idiosyncratic, so I’ll leave it up to you as to whether it’s worth wading any further than a few paragraphs in.

I tend to see God’s Revelations through Scripture as Universal (yes, all in capitals like that) and I’m reasonably certain that they’re pretty much the same everywhere between here and the Big Bang but our ability to perceive those Revelations accurately on a percentage basis shrink the further we are from the Big Bang and the more physical—rather than spiritual—beings we have chosen to be. Given that I seem pretty solid on the spirit/gas/liquid/spiritual scale sitting here, my guess is that this is what I deserve— passing a few number of decades locked inside a pile of rotting meat—because of the decisions that I have made in the course of the Big Bang and my best guess is that all of us are pretty much in the same boat since we all ended up at the same distance from the Big Bang and we’re all just about needlessly solid. I think the combination of the distance from the Big Bang and our physical solidity means that we have made it very hard for ourselves to take the Long and Winding Road home and guaranteed that very few of us will even take the first step on the long journey. How can God be so cruel? Well, if it’s an example of any kind of cruelty, in my view, it’s masochism. We wanted to be very far away from God, we didn’t want God interfering with us, we wanted a completely separate residence. God just facilitated that while essentially providing us with the means to get in touch and start making our way back any time we thought better of our choices (Scripture and prayer being God’s all purpose “phone cards”). The real problem that most of us face is the hatching out of that decision that got us here. We were so vehement about the level of separation from God that we demanded to be given (and which led, as my best guess, sequentially, to the Big Bang as a way of getting us as far away as we indicated we wanted to be from God) as Our Inalienable Right, that we end up in very confusing environments like this flyspeck out on the edge of an unimaginably large helium-hydrogen explosion chemistry experiment called the Milky Way literally millions and millions of miles away from virtually anything. And it’s not just us, I don’t think. Jupiter made bad decisions and ended up as a big bag of gas in our (relatively speaking) immediate neighborhood, as did Uranus and Saturn and Mars and the Sun. On the stupidity scale, we were all right about the same level, so we’re all just about as fundamentally ignorant (and, if you think about it, quite literally “in the dark”) about everything. You name it and, as completely physical incarnations, whether you are Brad Pitt or Mars’ moon Demos [sic] or an asteroid in the shape of a duck, we all have about the same level of accurate perception: that is, we are all of us as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Now, my best guess is that this far out from the Big Bang and this physically incarnated the best thing God can do for us, again, whether you are Michael Moore or an ice patch on Io, is just to leave you time and space (literally) to think it over. I mean whether your crust looks like Michael Moore or Halley’s Comet, somewhere inside of you is a spirit that separated from God and which is “of one substance with the Father” (I mean, as far as I can see, it’s rude to call God a Father but I think God makes allowances when you’ve chosen to end up this far out of the loop—anything we imagine or picture is going to be in the frame of reference of being as dumb as a bag of hammers so, as I say, I think God makes allowances for the sort of things we’re going to come up with based on how stupid we are). So there is the possibility, however remote, that somewhere deep within the bag of hammers, something within one of the bag of hammers is going to go, “You know? Maybe this wasn’t the best idea I ever had five billion years ago.” And, to me, that’s really all God is waiting for. Now most of us, our spirit is buried so deep inside and under so much gunk that our problems may have started five billion years ago or that we might’ve been making equally bad choices since then. Again, I think this is factored into the equation. That’s why, this far out of the loop, all you really have to do is repent for the stupid things that you actually remember having done since you became the individual physical dumb bag of hammers that you are today. I mean, we are all such dumb bags of hammers (how dumb ARE we?) We are such dumb bags of hammers that we don’t even remember 90% of the things we should repent for. Most of us spend literally years on end, minute-by-minute doing nothing but transgressing and just being bad to the bone and thinking things we would lynch someone else for thinking and at the end of a given year or a given decade, we can remember maybe five things, clearly, that we could say, yes, I can certainly see that I need to apologize to God for that (if we drag ourselves mentally into that headspace, kicking and screaming). And yet that’s enough for God: a sincere effort and a worthwhile use of the miniscule part of your brain that we actually use for anything other than keeping our hair out from the inside of our mouth [sic] for the eyeblink of a lifespan that we’re here. Which virtually all of us find excruciatingly difficult and which we never cease to whine about. As I say, dumb as a bag of hammers.

Now, if you consider that human beings have been trying—for 15,000 years, lets [sic] say— to figure out how we got here, who we are and what we should be doing next, I think it’s safe to assume that Jupiter, Saturn and the crew are in the same boat, only they’ve been around for millions of years and I assume each of the planets in our solar system is sentient as is any chunk of rock big enough to have a molten core. Our chunk of rock calls his/her and itself YHWH. I don’t know if that’s what all of the other planets call themselves, but I assume they all have names. And I assume that they know a handful of things. They know about the stars because they’re sort of hard to miss when you’re turned away from the Sun. And they know about the Sun, just as the Sun knows about the planets. They all know about God although they probably have no idea where they found out about Him. Over the millions of years, they believe in God for a while and then they disbelieve in God for a while. For all I know, Saturn believes in God but Uranus is an atheist and Mars is an agnostic. Two of the larger asteroids believe the Sun is God and Pluto believes all the blackness is God, because Pluto is just like that. And they’ve all believed variations on all three at various points in the last multi-millions of years. I also suspect that out here in “Dumb Bag of Hammers” Territory, it’s very common for a planet to decide that he/she or it is God. Basically because home is where your awareness is and wherever you are you’re the biggest around. From where Mars sits, Mars is huge and Jupiter is this little pin-prick. These are the sorts of vanities that accompany physical incarnation: a disproportionate sense of self coupled with a certain vainglorious self-mythologizing. I’m sure Jupiter makes up amazing stories about how virile he/she/it is whenever he/she/it whips up a particularly impressive storm system that covers a quarter of his/her/its surface.

I also suspect that God takes advantage of those unbecoming natures when it comes to the potential for redemption. First of all, allowing everyone untold millions of years to get their own inflated sense of self buffed to a high-gloss finish and to wait until every one of them is convinced he/she/it is God and then God takes up one of the runts of the litter and takes some dirt and a few clots of blood and makes a self-replicating mini-bag of hammers and tells it to get busy replicating with mrs. mini-bag of hammers. And given that everyone of the dozen or so chunks of rock/bags of gas hasn’t really had much to do but spin around the Sun for millions of years, mr. and mrs. mini-bag of hammers are instantly of interest. It’s like living in a dark basement your entire life and suddenly—*pink*—television. What the…? So all the planets start watching the self-replicating mr. and mrs. mini-bag of hammers and all the cute little mini-bags of hammers they produce. And it goes very fast. You can imagine how short a space of time 15,000 years is to Jupiter. It’s like a half-hour situation comedy.

But the point is—that is, what I think God’s point is—is to show all these huge Bags of Hammers who are all convinced that they’re God what the actual situation is. And to have these little microbes come up with the answers that the Huge Bag of Hammers have had millions of years to mull over and which has led them to nothing more interesting than “I’m the biggest thing around here, so I’m God.” And it must be a fascinating process. Can you imagine after they had all been watching for 14,000 years, suddenly the little microbes have figured out what the planets are. What it was like for Jupiter to realize that this little Galileo fellow was looking right at him! And then the next (in relative terms) 15 minutes of the program as Galileo’s little microbe heirs figure out exactly how big Jupiter is (Hey! I was right! I’m the biggest one!)

But, of course, long before Galileo and his scientific heirs, there was the Prophets and the revelation of Scripture and much more detail about God than anyone else had gotten. And my best guess is that God, knowing the perceptions of the planets, wouldn’t frame the story as “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth…” because that didn’t conform to what the planets knew (or rather thought they knew) at the time. The way to get the planets interested in the story was to start it “In the beginning, the Elohim created the heaven and the earth.” That left all questions open—including the idea that all the planets are co-creators—which, as soon as they understood the concept of Gods, they would naturally assume they were and they would know there was around a dozen of them which they figured were the biggest things around because the stars obviously looked so small and there was no interconnecting awareness such as there is, I suspect, between the planets. In fact, I think that’s the point of Jacob and his twelve sons and the beloved Joseph who has the dream where all his brothers bowed down to him and Jacob and Rachel, his mother and father, were expected to bow down as well. That, to me, was a major hook to keep the planets paying attention to the story and to keep the YHWH fully engaged as well, seeing him/her/itself as Joseph in the story. All of the other planets are jealous because he/she/it is the one where God has chosen this story that’s going to explain everything (these are my microbes: they were made out of my dirt, aren’t they just the cleverest things? Ha. Don’t you wish you had clever microbes like this that everyone can’t wait to see what they do next?) I mean, it’s just another kind of vanity, right? – believing that everyone is jealous of you and believing that you had something to do with it because God made a self-replicating mr. and mrs. bag of hammers out of some of your dirt.

Anyway, that’s my best theory behind the largely inexplicable Elohim (plural). I told you it was long-winded.
I also can’t rule out that it’s just a concession to YHWH assuming that he/she/it is consciously aware that God is a separate being and, of course, that would tie in with the first person plural used throughout the Koran when God is speaking.

Q: What's your take on the Star Wars saga? Do you see any comparisons between your 25 year devotion to a single storyline and George Lucas' 28 year devotion to his? What's your take on Lucas' moral/artistic right to tinker with the previous movies and withdraw/suppress dissemination of the original versions? Is he acting within his rights as Creator? Or does he owe a duty to the fans who supported him through the years who want to see/buy those original versions?

DAVE: I went to see Episode Three a week or so ago, not having seen any of the films since the second one. I sort of wondered to myself about that. Why didn't I go and see any of the other ones? As soon as Yoda came on the screen I remembered. A Muppet with Fozzie Bear's voice. It just blew the whole thing out of the water for me. I had forgotten the skewed syntax to his sentences as an alien motif but I'm sure I found it as sincerely irritating twenty-five years ago as I did this time. It's Fozzie Bear. How do you expect me to take a muppet who sounds like Fozzie Bear seriously as a Grand Master Poobah type. It was silly. Ger lasted one more movie and then had the same reaction, he informs me, to teddy-bears saving the universe.

Lucas just went away and came back and visited from time to time didn't he? I mean the last two films were made back-to-back, but he wasn't actually working on Star Wars for twenty-eight years non-stop. I kept thinking as I was watching the last one about how much Gene Day loved this stuff. I was sorry that he never lived long enough to see the whole thing. He was one of those guys who went and saw the first one eight or nine times. Even back then, I'd much rather have seen a page of Al Williamson artwork or Howard Chaykin's Cody Starbuck than watch the movie. Anything having to do with Star Wars and I just start thinking about Gene Day and how happy it made him. But for me, personally? The dialogue is like fingernails on a chalkboard to a writer's ear. I always loved Harrison Ford's line, that George Lucas should be tied to a chair and forced to recite his own dialogue.

In terms of movie entertainment its on a plateau all its own both because of the length and the devotion of the audience which numbers in, I'm sure, the hundreds of millions. It's like Harry Potter or Sandman. It's really too big a cultural event for someone of my scale to discuss without sounding as if I'm getting above my place. Cerebus isn't in that league and shows no signs of ever getting anywhere close to that league. I'll leave it at that.

Mm. No, he's acting within his legal rights as the Owner/Proprietor in the same way that Ger and I, as Owners/Proprietors of Cerebus, decide what goes into the trade paperbacks. The fact that we're also the creators is a secondary consideration. Aardvark-Vanaheim owns Cerebus and we own Aardvark-Vanaheim. I assume he negotiated a deal which allows him to call the shots like that. He used the leverage from the revenue the movies generated to get that kind of control from the studios and now he's exercising it.

Likewise with the tinkering. Studios don't usually allow tinkering, but if you've made the kind of money Lucas' franchise has that's going to become negotiable and if it's important to Lucas (as clearly it was) then he's going to acquire those tinkering rights which he has. Money talks. Clearly and eloquently.

No, I would see that as being the same thing as the Cerebus back issues. Ger and I have the sole right to reprint those and have chosen not to. At that point it's up to the fans-or, rather, readers in our case-to preserve the original back issues as artefacts because Ger and I aren't interested in replenishing the supply and to pay whatever it costs to complete a three-hundred issue set if that's what you want to do. If you want the original Star Wars the way that it looked on its first theatrical release, then I think you have to find the best print of it or the best videotape of it and work at preserving it if that form of it is important to you personally that it be preserved. Assuming that George Lucas has the largest supply of the original print(s)-assuming that was part of his deal with the studio in agreeing to update it which I would imagine it was I assume that that comes with the legal right to torch them if he thinks the later version is an improvement and should be the only one that exists. If the Owner Proprietor doesn't want to maintain the supply line of something he owns and has a proprietary interest in whatever that thing is, then that thing becomes an artefact and enters a different category. The fact that the number of original prints is a fixed commodity with an uncertain demand means that basic market forces of supply and demand take over. If millions of Star Wars fans want an original print and there are only ten it's going to be very expensive but it will probably be preserved effectively as a result and somewhere up ahead will be available for reproduction if posterity judges the earlier version to be preferable to the later version. If there are thousands of original prints and only twenty Star Wars fans who want the original then it's going to be up to those twenty to get their hands on as many copies as they can and preserve them. The bad news is that you'll probably have been long dead by the time that comes to any kind of resolution. The good news is: in that case, why worry about it?

Q: Does your idea of God take the form of a singular entity that exists independently of the environment/universe we exist in? Is God formed of the environment/universe that we exist in, existing in all things and being a product of the system it inhabits? Or somewhere in between?

Dave: Yes and no. As it says in the Koran, He is closer to you than your own jugular vein. That's pretty close. I think God is Pure Spirit which implies to me that He has an infinitely greater Super-Real Existence than is possible with any kind of physical incarnation. That is, I assume that God perceives accurately. Whoever you are He perceives your spirit or whatever residue of your spirit still exists within your soul (since I also assume that most people are actively destroying their own souls and the spirit within their soul) since that's the only real thing about you. My view of the Big Bang was that it represented the attempt on the part of spirits (spirits having flown, as it were) to flee from God into a context where God could not be directly perceived ("To Your Scattered Bodies Go" as the early seventies sf novel would have it). For His first creation-unwilling to blame his/her/its self for his/her/its own unhappiness (the most glaring and recurrent trait at the core of atheism)-this would seem eminently sensible. It's God who is making me unhappy so I want to go where He isn't. Well, that isn't possible in a literal sense. God is everywhere so there's nowhere you can get away from Him. I think physical incarnation was God's counter-offer-the best He could do to accommodate the rebellion. If every rebel spirit was willing to erode from a state of pure spirit into a state of individual soul which would be entrapped physically (inside a planet, inside a star, inside a human body) the insulating layers would make anyone going for the soft option deaf and blind to God. Which seemed like just what the doctor ordered for the rebel spirits. If you can go where you can't see or hear God then you no longer have to take God into account. Of course the point that is missed is that you are still going to have to take God into account because the question of whether He exists or not will dominate any environment where He can no longer be directly perceived even as He dominates, inescapably, the realm of spirit where He is directly perceived. The core of each of God's creations is awareness of God and obligation to God whether those obligations are being met or not. By choosing to lock yourself up inside a planet or a star or a human body-as we all chose at the Big Bang-you just make that awareness and obligation more relentless. You either acknowledge and do something about it or, at one level or another, most of your time and energy will be devoted to suppressing it.

I'm not sure if you're using the term "it" to refer to the environment/universe or to God, but for obvious reasons I'll choose to answer as if it's the former case. The environment/universe, so far as I can see, is a physical construct which God assisted in creating as a means of helping His creations who wanted to get away from Him to get away from Him. As if you were a particularly belligerent two year old who just wanted an environment where he/she/it could no longer hear or see Daddy because he/she/it hated Daddy. Hated hated hated Daddy (God isn't Daddy, of course, God is our Creator-but for the sake of belligerent argument on the scale of aptitudes available to your average two-year old let's stick with the misconstruction). So Daddy-ever resourceful and always happy to help out at the point of irresolvable impasse-created a combination space suit and isolation tank (stars, planets, replicating forms) for each and every he/she/it so each and every he/she/it would never have to see or hear Daddy again. And then allowed exponential growth in the population ("multiply thy conceptions") so as to effect the Big Bang, thus hurling everyone untold trillions of light years away. You are no further from God when you're a trillion miles away from your starting point than you are at your starting point, but those are just the sorts of things which belligerent two-year olds are going to be partial to. "Not only do I want to achieve a new state of existence where I can't see or hear you, I want to be as far away from here as I can get as fast as I can get there." God lives but to serve. Ergo, the Big Bang.

I would assume that in many ways the whole exercise is about as complicated for God as a game of Blind Man's Buff. Everyone and everything that incarnates physically spends its entire existence feeling that there's something, you know, missing and with an insatiable deep longing to understand, to connect, to love and be loved, deaf and blind, wandering aimlessly arms waving piteously in front of us. 'Hello? Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?" Well, certainly. God can. But we-most emphatically-wanted to be cut off from Him. We have the options of a) growing up and accepting the reality of God and submitting to His will (i.e. going home) or b) remaining intransigent two-year-olds throughout our existence and actively suppressing His reality in our lives (i.e. staying permanently lost). It's not just women who have the right to choose. We all do.

Picture a slide image projected onto a human being. Is the human being inside the slide? Is the slide inside the human being? Did the slide create the human being? Are the slide and the human being "of one substance"? No, the image projected by the slide is an illusion created of light. The human being is real. The relationship between what we call physical reality and God is analogous to the relationship between the slide's image and a human being: there are degrees of "realness" and "Realness". We understand that a human being is far more real than a projected slide image. Of course even the physical reality of the human being is a complete illusion-"physical reality"-made up of oscillating light waves/particles flying in loose formation and insulating us perfectly from conscious awareness of God. That, as far as I can see, is the way we wanted it. As someone once said, It's a valuable lesson about life. "You can get what you want and still not be very happy."

Q: Julius appears to be a master at manipulating Cerebus (anong others). The last time we see Lord Julius and Cerebus together in the first volume, Cerebus is wearing the furry black shirt (when Cerebus leaves Palnu, he is in shadow and we can't see what he may or may not be wearing.) We also learn that Jaka is soon to arrive in Palnu (which "debunks" the theory/story told in "Jaka's Story" that Jaka was missing and nobody knew where she was and Julius was looking for her (itself debunked at the end of "Jaka's Story")) and that she has made Julius aware of her connection to Cerebus. Then the next time we see Cerebus and Jaka (in High Society page 209), Jaka is wearing a furry black shirt. Given the context of the story (Cerebus has just changed into his Candidate duds to impress the Prime Minister of Iest, whom Cerebus was entertaining with Astoria when Lord Julius walks in and berates Cerebus. When Cerebus is informed that Jaka is there to see him.), I have the supposition that "The Night Before" meeting was set up by Julius in order to throw Cerebus off his game for Petuniacon (Cerebus's game, not Julius's). And Jaka's wardrobe was a very subtle clue to this. Jaka DID want to see Cerebus and give him his sword, but Julius was the one who decided when and where Jaka could do that. In fact, looking at Jaka's furry black shirt, it looks to have aardvark proportions, theoretically, it's the same shirt from issue 16. So my question is this: Is my supposition correct? (Regarding the meeting, not the shirt.) Was Jaka sent to meet with Cerebus by Julius to mess with Cerebus's head? Also, was Julius using Jaka to try to manipulate Cerebus later in "High Society" (page 467-ish)?

DAVE: After the Big Trauma, Lord Julius never again had any kind of influence over Jaka for obvious reasons. She was certainly capable of portraying herself as the loving niece and completely ignoring the Big Trauma in her dealings with her uncle but always on her own terms. I mean, picture the level of profound wilfulness that would allow a twelve-year-old princess to be dancing in taverns. The sensible thing for Lord Julius to do was to send some people to get her, but the Big Trauma was pretty well incandescent to the point of emitting its own level of radiation capable of melting lead. All you could do was to keep a few Iestan undercover guards nearby and let her dance in taverns and hope for the best. You see it a lot in our society where you have this disproportionate awareness of the GAMMA RADIATING FEELINGS of little girls which leads to outright capitulation to those FEELINGS in more and more instances which really skews families in weird directions causing them to adopt as realities peculiar notions that are actually just immature female fantasies. It’s certainly, it seems to me, more sensible to hold to the view that Big Traumas are actually little traumas blown out of proportion and to enforce that view by force if necessary until the little princess figures out that she only thinks she’s the center of the universe. But the potential is always there once capitulating to little girls becomes (as it has become in our society) the new normal..

The furry tops was really just because I liked doing fur textures with the Hunt 102 pen nib. Like Charles Shulz with his raindrops. We all have our favourite textures.

In the case of the sweater that Jaka is wearing, that was actually a sweater that Deni owned and that she bought when we had only been married a short time. It was an expensive item, as I recall, and versatile because it was black so it went with everything. It had that exaggerated scoop neck that showed off nice blouses very well and mid-length sleeves. I think she owned it for a few years before she noticed one day that the label was in the front, which, of course was when she realized that she had been wearing it backwards all along. It was actually a crew neck collar in the front with a scooped back. She tried it on that way and it looked terrible but she still had to fight with herself to wear it after that because she had become acutely aware that it was on backwards and never felt quite comfortable wearing it again. Even though it looked great when she was wearing it backwards and lousy when it was on the right way around.

A woman’s lot is not an easy one.

Q: What works did you use as research materials for each of the early phonebooks? For Cerebus (Vol. 1), it's the Barry Windsor-Smith issues of "Conan" published by Marvel Comics (Currently available in "The Essential Conan"). For High Society, It's "The Making of the President 1960" by Theodore Harold White (detailing the Kennedy vs. Nixon campaign). Given the "Cerebus' Six Crises" storyline, did you read "Six Crises" by Richard M. Nixon? For "Church & State," the "Secret Sacred Wars" is a parody of the "Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars" mini series, 12 issues published from 1984-85, created by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, Mike Zeck, John Beatty. The burning at the stake scene was inspired by the music video for "Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)" by the new wave band OMD ( a.k.a Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark). I'm GUESSING you read a biography of Joan because he references the fact that her heart did not burn in the pyre (which is referenced in the "C & S" storyline). Which bio, I don't know. For "Jaka's Story," Oscar Wilde's writing (available in "The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde") and the biography "Oscar Wilde" by Richard Ellman. Are these correct? Can you add to this list of influences?

DAVE: Not exhaustively. No, I never read Nixon’s My Six Crises. It might be interesting at this late date, particularly some of the “pushing back” that he did in the kitchen debate with Nikita Khrushchev and on his tour of Latin America as Vice-President. He was certainly one of the few politicians who not only saw communism as being bereft of validity at the time but who was also willing to say it out loud and publicly. Neal Adams’ Deadman for the Deadalbino parody. I didn’t read any biographies of Joan. I did read Shaw’s play but I think the reference to her heart not burning came from a newspaper or magazine article. Church & State, like most people of my generation, my knowledge of religion stemmed almost exclusively from criticism of religion. Again, not so much books as magazine articles and newspaper articles, television shows. My brother-in-law, Michael, was a great “debunker” as a lapsed Catholic with a devoted Catholic mother. He immersed himself sufficiently to be able to parrot the party line about how Christmas was really just Saturnalia called by a different name, Jesus’ “origin” was swiped from Roman mystery cults of the undefeated sun, the Church suppressed a vast array of literature called the Apocrypha. Even at the time, this struck me as “methinks he doth protest too much.” Having grown up a devout atheist, I didn’t consider any of the Churches or their mythologies to be worth examining anymore than I needed to read any definitive text that could demonstrate conclusively that there wasn’t a Santa Claus. It’s interesting that I was guilty of what the Church was being accused of: dismissing Montanism and other heresies and “heresies” by negative inference. This is what the early church leader Origen had to say about this or that movement so this is what it was. In my own case, reading only writers who considered religion ridiculous I came to the conclusion that religion was ridiculous without ever reading any scripture. Norman Mailer’s Of A Fire on the Moon certainly informs a lot of the ending on Church & State in tone if not more directly. And, of course, the Judge character is lifted directly from Feiffer’s Little Murders. I made Gerhard read Wilde’s “The House Beautiful” lecture when he was designing Oscar’s flat and he certainly got the gist of it as can be seen by the cover to 121.

Q: Was the loss of Cerebus' magic helmet and short sword a deliberate attempt by you to remove some of the more "fantastic" elements from the story, and move it into a more realistic and sophisticated direction focusing more on politics and religion?

DAVE: No, not really. I don’t think you can remove the “fantastic” from a story (or from life) without making it the story (or life) two dimensional and irrelevant. “My job sucks and I can’t get laid” comics as an example seem to me to just be reiterations of failure, people who have chosen to Fail and have so immersed their own soul in the depths of failure that that’s all they know how to express and all that they’re aware of. No, the loss of Cerebus’ helmet and sword was more a reminder to myself that anyone can Blow It Big Time. It’s easy to lose sight of because most people don’t even have a sense of purpose in being here, let alone that they might be Blowing It Big Time. However, even when I was an atheist that was always my core awareness. I tried to come up with the best example of Blowing It Big Time in Cerebus’ context that I could and tried to apply it to Cerebus since I think there are more examples of Blowing It Big Time in this world than there are of fulfillment of an intended destiny and people needed to be made aware of that. The fact that even showing that to people had absolutely no effect is probably one of the most terrifying things I saw in the course of doing the story. I mean, there’s ostensible success—money, chicks, material possessions, happy marriage, beautiful children—but I don’t think that’s actual success. It can be, but it isn’t inherent success if you had greater potential which I think most people do. I think F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elvis, John Lennon and JFK all Blew It Big Time, just to cite four examples even though most people would consider them wildly successful in their chosen fields.

I think unconsciously I was documenting the loss of my soul which was pretty much a given until I started reading the Bible. It’s one of the reasons that concepts like “fun” really don’t resonate with me at all anymore. My only interest at this point is Not Blowing It Big Time and making it to the grave and Judgement Day without any serious slip-ups. Like allowing people to accuse me of blasphemy without refuting the charge. I am on high alert 24/7 for exactly those sorts of things.

Q. What is the origin of the character Bear, and his use of the phrase "wattayacall?"

DAVE: Yes, there is a story behind, wattayacall, my use of "wattayacall". The name "Bear" and the visual look of the character came from a biker that I met at a Calgary signing on the 1983 Canadian Tour and who appears to have vanished without a trace without ever finding out that he had become a character in Cerebus. One of the only times of all the people who *asked* to be put into the book that I actually put someone in the book and to this day he has no idea that he made it, I'm sure. The, wattayacall, verbal tick of using "wattayacall" came from one of the charter members of Gerhard's high school group at Grand River Collegiate--the self-declared "Out to Lunch Bunch"--a guy by the name of Ernie. If I ever knew his last name, I've forgotten it now. The friendship between Ernie and Gerhard had exactly the tone I had been looking for in the relationship between Bear and Cerebus. Both of them were outdoors-y, self-reliant "do it yourself" types--real guys and it certainly looked like a permanent thing which was the other thing I was going for: you'd need a crowbar to separate these two. Entirely unspoken and entirely understood to even an intermittent outsider like myself (who was always just thought of as Ger's strange boss).
Ernie had a real job getting the right word for something when he was talking to you. He was particularly bright--he was certainly one of the few members of the Out to Lunch Bunch who was genuinely interested in ideas of all kinds and usually had an opinion about any subject you could come up with and a good working knowledge of any number of subjects. But he didn't have a ready vocabulary and as a result "wattayacall" proliferated in his coversation to an objectively amusing extent (objectively amusing at least partly because it was so subjectively unamusing for Ernie himself) and, of course, I always kept an ear out for things that were objectively amusing since I made my living from them.

Q. Is there more than one Dave Sim living in Kitchener?

DAVE: Actually there is a David Sim in the Kitchener phone directory who is not me but who is evidently a commercial artist and who I always think I owe an apology or a nice gift for the calls that he must have ended up getting back in the 1980s and 1990s when I actually needed an unlisted number. Several people have told me that they even made a point of driving by his address and sitting and staring at the place, thinking they were looking at the *actual home* of the creator of Cerebus. I can't imagine any of that happened very often or presumably he would have unlisted his own number and address some time ago. On the other hand, maybe he just considers it part of the cost of doing business.