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Following Cerebus #1
Produced by Craig Miller and John Thorne
Published by Win-Mill Productions; $3.95 USD

I'll come right out and admit I'm one of those feminist homosexualist assholes who pretty much gave up on Dave Sim and Cerebus after the apocalyptic misogyny of his Tangents essay in Cerebus #186. Prior to that I had spent a few years as a Cerebus reader -- it was, in fact, along with Elfquest and The First Kingdom, among the first titles that broadened my perception of comics beyond the Marvel/DC/Harvey/Charlton/Archie axis of my childhood.

Even though I fundamentally disagree with Sim's worldview -- I'm entirely open to the idea that he's off his rocker, although intelligently, almost elegantly so -- I enjoy a lot of his non-comics writing, for example the fascinating interviews he conducted in the back pages of Cerebus with Alan Moore and later Chester Brown. I was delighted to interview him for the Five Questions, and when I was (for lack of a better word) consulting with Barry Windsor-Smith on his Young GODS and Friends hardcover, it was my phone call to Dave Sim that brought him into the project, to write an introduction that later was chopped up and used in a quite unique manner (along with my own abortive attempts and those of others).

Sim's a challenging but often entertaining personality, and no matter what his faults or flaws, no one can deny that his production of 300 consecutive issues of Cerebus is a rare achievement in comics and that he is a singular, iconoclastic presence in the industry and in the artform. Comics over the past three decades would not have been the same without him.

Now that Cerebus is over, the editors of Wrapped in Plastic and Spectrum (two long-running magazines dedicated to David Lynch/Twin Peaks and genre TV and movies, respectively) have launched a new magazine dedicated to covering the history, creation and phenomenon of Cerebus. I found the first issue of Following Cerebus the most interesting new comics journalism debut since Eddie Campbell's Egomania.

The highlights of the debut issue are two interviews, one with Dave Sim and the other, even more interesting and revealing, with Sim's longtime collaborator/background artist Gerhard. The pursuit of art is often a lonely, crazy-making endeavour, and Gerhard shows he has not been immune to the hazards of his chosen field -- hazards doubtless multiplied many times over when working shoulder-to-shoulder with a personality as powerful and volatile as Sim. Gerhard speaks openly about the chaotic final run toward the end of Cerebus's 300 issues, a time when he experienced actual physical pain because of his work. He also explains a good deal about the thoughtfulness he injects into the backgrounds he created for Sim's characters to live out their lives in front of -- artistry of a unique kind that is fascinating to learn about.

Sim's interview is about what you'd expect, interesting in spots and informed by his fervent religious beliefs and hatred of what he calls "feminists." It's tempting to psychoanalyze his perspectives, but by now most informed comics readers know what they're getting when reading Sim. It's a slog through his beliefs to get to the parts that are personally of interest to me, but for Sim and Cerebus fans, no doubt the interview is a treasure-trove of information and insights.

A lengthy article analyzing the "Something Fell" sequences of Cerebus is a good indicator of what to expect from this magazine, based on my years of reading Wrapped in Plastic. I think it's fairly clear from the events of the final issue of the comic what the significance of "Something Fell" is, and certainly the article mentions that, but it goes much farther in exploring possible implications of the recurring incidents in the comic, and again, for Cerebus fans, pieces like this will make Following Cerebus indispensible reading. Beginning with #2, Sim is promising a regular column responding to the previous issue (in #2 he'll address #1, and so on), and that seems to me to be full of intriguing potential and potential intrigue.

A note included with my copy of this first issue points out that the publishers are switching printers beginning with #2, and that's only got to be a good thing -- Cerebus publisher Aardvark-Vanaheim is called "Aardvark-Vamajeo" (!) on the cover, most illustrations are reproduced at an extremely poor and unhelpful resolution, and the layout of individual words is often jarring, with one letter separated from the r est of the word and words in italics strangely e l o n g a t e d. The actual design and layout of the magazine is elegant and of a piece with Sim's designs for Cerebus, though I personally abhor the "Continued on page 43" method of jamming all the content up front. We're here, guys, we're interested -- anyone picking up Following Cerebus will not put it down again because an entire article presents itself before the next one begins. Trust me.

Overall this is an extremely promising debut, of great interest to Sim and Cerebus fans in particular, and definitely worth a look for anyone interested in comics journalism in general. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane



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