Leigh’s follow-up on #8

Welcome back, Laura! It’s great to hear that you’re feeling at least semi-functional.

I just have a couple addenda I want to mention about #8 before moving on to issue #9. As Laura said earlier, we’ll occasionally both post on the same issue, if we find ourselves with enough to say.

I found the facial hair in this issue entertaining:

  • the coked-up prince and the idiot soldier at the end are clean-shaven.
  • the two Conniptin officers who actually know what’s going on are well-decked out, one with a hefty beard and the other sporting some truly impressive, near-VanBurenian sideburns.
  • Cerebus, of course, is furry all over. If facial hair is proportional to competence, this makes perfect sense.

I’ll thank you not to bring up the counterexample of old Harvey Keitel from issue 3. I have my theories, and I’ll not let facts get in the way!

I love this spread below — Sim is starting to think about the pacing and structure of his stories, and how he can use the strengths of the comics medium to support more adventurous forms. Immediately before this spread, Sim has been alternating between Cerebus’ feverish hallucinations (drawn with loopy, organic panelling and dark tones) and the Conniptins in the outside world discussing his fate (drawn with clean rectangular panels, full of white space). Now, he inserts a moment from the hallucination in between two external scenes, sprawling across two pages:

issue-08-04-spread

We’re never confused about which is which because each setting has its own distinctive visual flavor.

It’s similar to what Moore, Gibbons, and Higgins do throughout Watchmen, a visual crutch that enables Moore’s hypercompressed storytelling to succeed. Without the color cues of Gibbons and Higgins, the relentless nine-panel grid would dissolve into a blur, and the rush of rapid changes would simply overwhelm.

watchmen-313Watchmen #3, p. 13, by Moore, Gibbons and Higgins (DC, Nov 1986)

I found this next sequence even more interesting:

issue-08-08-spread

Again, I love the thought of Sim taping up two art boards side-by-side, then grasping his pencil and slinging a bold curve across the entire spread. “This shall be my panel border!” It creates the effect of a strip peeled off of one layer of comics, revealing another layer beneath. For story purposes, it also clearly implies that Cerebus is in a different world than the other characters right now.

Let’s take a closer look at that right-hand page:

issue-08-09-killings

Even here, where the rectilinear panelling comes back, alternating panels are inked black to represent Cerebus’ feverish perception. Notice that his enemies are drawn as hallucinations in black panels, and as themselves in white panels. Incidentally, there’s also a pleasing symmetry created by the alternation of light and dark (again, found also in Watchmen), and the darkness creates a loose inverted triangle on the page.

Lastly, I wanted to continue my occasional practice of pointing out thematic echoes in other works. In this case, the “character, driven by illness/madness, hallucinates that everyone in sight is a version of some other character he hates” scenario is used memorably in Frank Miller’s Daredevil #169:

daredevil-169-optimizedDaredevil #169 p. 2-3 by Miller, Janson, et al (Marvel, Mar 1981)

Again, Dave Sim didn’t invent this idea, but it’s a fun similarity — and makes me wonder how influential Sim was on other comic creators, and how soon that influence began to exert itself.

Also, isn’t it interesting how willing Cerebus is to kill “Elrod” and “Red Sophia”?

2 Responses to “Leigh’s follow-up on #8”


  1. 1 CCBC March 23, 2009 at 1:01 am

    This is good. Seeing Dave Sim’s graphic narration develop is part of what makes this re-reading work. Of course, he will do much better later on.

  2. 2 mateo March 24, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    glad y’all are back.

    I couldn’t be more interested in your assessments and insights of Sim’s techniques. I’ve read these books many times, but have certainly not paid the individual panels and pages the attention you have. Very interesting.


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