Let me say, without reservation or qualification, that the best comic book series I know has to be "Cerebus" from Aardvark-Vanaheim. It is one comic book that I will read any time, any place, and the only book that I will MAKE time to read if I have to. As a matter of fact, my idea of a perfectly relaxing afternoon is a good bottle of red wine, a hunk of smoked gouda cheese, and a Cerebus collection.
"Cerebus" (formerly "Cerebus the Aardvark") is the brainchild of writer/artist Dave Sim, and appears monthly through the efforts of Mr. Sim and artistic collaborator Gerhard (no other name generally known). The positives for this book are many, and most of them should, I think, be immediately evident to the reader. Foremost among them: the art is clear, crisp, and distinctive. The book is published entirely in black, white and halftones, a choice which greatly benefits the end product, as Dave uses the monochrome style to create some truly brilliant page designs. You can tell a Dave Sim page from across a crowded room. Gerhard's highly detailled backgrounds greatly complement Dave's clear-line style, and the end product is a rich environment as a setting for the stories.
The stories: Cerebus is equally a series of comic novels, and ultimately a single, very long, graphic novel. Each story sequence can be read independently, but much is gained by reading the entire series front to current issue. Sim has woven a story of truly epic proportions which, at various points, is subtle, melodramatic, comedic, tragic, absurd, topical, cynical, oblique, violent, sexual....heck, add your own adjective to describe good literature. Chances are, Dave has done it at some point, and done it well. The characters are real people, as much as the medium can allow (which is a lot, in my opinion), and that is quite a statement when you consider that the lead role is that of a four foot tall talking aardvark. With characters such as Julius, a masterful tribute to Groucho Marx, the Roach, a recurring parody of popular comic book characters, and Oscar, a study of Oscar Wilde (around whom much of the novel "Jaka's Story" is based), the tapestry of Cerebus is a rich one indeed.
"Cerebus" is planned to finish at issue 300, and at the time of writing the series is close to issue 250, in a storyline which is a character study of F. Scott Fitzgerald.. If you are going to discover it, now is the time to do so. Fortunately, for all you latecomers, Dave Sim keeps all the back issues in print through his "phone books" (large collections of back issues that are literally phone book sized), trade paperbacks, and special issues such as "Cerebus Zero" and "Guys Party Pack". Also, keep an eye out for such worthy projects as "The Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing". It is through such writing as this last that Dave Sim has become one of the greatest influences on my decision to self-publish, and, all unbeknownst to him, on the format of "The Journals of Simon Pariah".
Oh....almost forgot to mention....Dave is also quite controversial. But I will let you discover that for yourself.
P.S. There are a number of fan pages out there dedicated to "Cerebus", but one of the best ones I have come across is the "Notes From the President Archive", which is really dedicated to Dave Sim's prefaces to his comics more so than the comics themselves. It has transcripts of some of his better writing, and is definitely worth a look.
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