Cerebus Issue #97 – April 1987 (Aardvark-Vanaheim)

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TITLE: Cerebus Issue #97

YEAR: April 1987

COMPANY: Aardvark-Vanaheim

President/Writer: David Sim

Backgrounds, Cover-color and tones by Gerhard

Administrator: Karen McKiel

When it comes to creator-owned success, there are not many people who have had a lengthy run as Dave Sim.

Quitting high school to pursue a career in comics, Sim co-founded Aardvark-Vanaheim with his wife-to-be at the time, Deni Loubert in 1977 and Sim would release his comic book “Cerebus”.

While the couple would divorce in the mid-1980’s, Sim would focus on “Cerebus”, while Loubert would go to found Renegade Press.  And for Sim, he would create a professional relationship with Canadian artist Gerhard, who would become Aardvark-Vanaheim’s co-owner.

As an advocate of creator’s rights, Dave Sim has created arc’s that would entertain readers but content that would mystify or even alienate readers.

From 1997-2004 and 300 comic books published, the book reflects the mindset and the evolving life of Dave Sim.  Especially the last third of the “Cerebus” storyline as Sim’s religious beliefs became an influence in his writing.

But whether or not you love or dislike his work, there really is nothing out there like “Cerebus”.  Unique, entertaining, cerebral, audacious and possibly many other descriptions depending on what arc of his comic books you are reading.

And reading “Cerebus” is not easy as it requires one to read previous issues and with so many issues and a story that started back in 1977, Aardvark-Vanaheim did something different that no other comic books company would do.  And that was to reprint a complete arc for an affordable price.

Back in 1987, the first volume “Cerebus” reprinted issues #1-25 (1977-1981), the second volume “High Society” reprinting issues #26-50 (1981-1983) and the third volume “Church and State I” reprinting issues 52-80 (1983-1985) would sell for $20.00-$23.00.  These trade paperbacks or “phone books” as they were called back in the day (which many would call omnibus in today’s collected comic book years), were affordable (they were printed on newsprint paper as the original comics) and made it easy for fans to go back and read an entire arc and know what the story is about.

Granted, some may ask, why then buy the comic books if you can just wait for the TPB at the time.  To collect “Cerebus” at the time, you were given really interesting insight from Dave Sim in his “Note From the President” column in the inside cover.  And many fans simply loved the letters pages known as “Aardvark Comment” and for some, seeing a photo on the back cover.

So, what is “Cerebus” about?  It’s about a misanthropic, anthropomorphic, 3-foot bipedal gray aardvark and he always refers to himself in the third person.  He is amoral, foul-mouthed, has a temper, likes to get drunk and is never afraid to take on anything.    But it helps that he is a skilled tactician, strategist and swordfighter.

To find a comic book series with wonderful artwork, action that you would find in a sword and sorcery storyline but the main protagonist is a gray aardvark is quite interesting.  Considering that no human questions his existence or why an aardvark can talk, they look at him as a brave warrior, which would change later in the series depending on the arc.

In issue #97, the storyline is part of the “Church and State II” arc.

Cerebus goes to Iest’s Upper City to reclaim the papacy but when Astoria kills the Western pope, he must decide on whether to execute her in order to retain his papacy.  But his conversation with Astoria puts questions in his mind.  If he executes her, Cirin (lader of the matriarchal fascist sect known as Cirinists) would hang Cerebus and then a discussion about Kevillism.

For those not familiar with the religious/philosophical systems of “Cerebus”, Cirinism is a matriarchal dictatorship and a religion that worships “Terim”, the Great Mother.  But Kevillism is more concerned with freedom and a woman’s right to choose.

Needless to say, Cerebus must make a major decision of what he will do with Astoria.

Overall, the issue is an entertaining exchange between Cerebus and Astoria, but I think people will also find interesting of the opening note from Dave Sim of his thoughts of quitting smoking but his thoughts towards anti-smokers.  And of course, the letters section featured in the “Aardvark Comment”.

Personally, if you are curious of checking out “Cerebus”, I recommend checking out the first volume reprinting issues #1-25 and then work yourself from “High Society” to “Church & State” and then to “Jaka’s Story”.  Anything after, I’ll leave that up to you.  And you can find these older collected volumes for an inexpensive price (under $20) these days.  In fact, new high scan digital versions are currently available through Dave Sim’s CEREBUS DOWNLOADS website.  And if you want to give the series a try, you can download the first two volumes on the website.

But if you are wanting something humorous and more intellectual for a comic book series, then definitely give “Cerebus” a try!


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