The Aardvark Warrior

Last week I strolled into Copacetic Comics, on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh.  An awesome place, if you happen to live in the ‘Burgh.

At the time I wasn’t even thinking about Cerebus, a series of comics that I’d been curious about.

But it popped into my mind, and I asked if they had any issues (of the comic).

And they did.

My Cerebus collection is riddled with holes since I’m missing lots of issues, but it’s still a huge source of inspiration.

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Mothers & Daughters, Issue 199, 1994

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Going Home, Issue 233, 2000

Cerebus began as a spoof on Conan the Barbarian, but slowly evolved into a heavy commentary on pop culture, religion, life, and death.  All of it follows a terrific 300-issue story arc, which ran from December 1977 to March 2004.

The incredible, agonizingly-detailed backgrounds are the work of the inimitable artist Gerhard.  There’s a great interview with Gerhard on his techniques here.

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Mothers & Daughters, Issue 199, 1994

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Going Home, Issue 250, 2000

There’s a “masking effect” that Scott McCloud talks about in his great, great book, Understanding Comics.  This is the general idea: when you have a simple character on a complex, more concrete background, the reader projects themselves onto the character.  The character becomes a vicarious personality, a “mask”.  And Cerebus is a prime example of this.  The simple, sinuous aardvark lives and breathes in a tightly rendered landscape of cross-hatching and shadow; and you become him.

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Going Home, Issue 234, 2000

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Rick’s Story, Issue 222, 1998

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Mothers & Daughters, Issue 200, 1994

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Mothers & Daughters, Issue 193, 1994

I can’t explain how a 20-something graphic designer (me) can become an aardvark warrior stranded on the surface of Pluto, confronting his Creator.  But it happened.  Must be that masking effect.

Dave Sim also pushes the boundaries in mixing word and image.  He does more than blur the line between the two- he lights the line on fire and smokes the remains in his pipe.  The result of all this boundary-pushing is a fresh, engaging style of storytelling.

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Rick’s Story, Issue 225, 1998

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Rick’s Story, Issue 227, 1998

(The above, boys and girls, is how we do a drinking scene)

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Dave Sim & Gerhard, Going Home, Issue 260, 2001

 

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One thought on “The Aardvark Warrior

  1. Pingback: Goodness Gracious! | Something's Out There

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