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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Cerebus Vol 14: Form and Void (Graphic Novel)

by Dave Sim and Gerhard

Publisher: Aardvark-Vanheim  (June 30, 2003)

Softcover 300 pages

Finished 8/26/2017

Amazon Listing 

           Also known as Going Home Volume II,  this volume collects issues 251-265 of Cerebus  and is the second to last arc in the 300 issue series.  Last volume we had the F. Scott Fitzgerald analogue F. Stop Kennedy, and here we have the Ernest Hemingway character, Ham Ernestway- not the greatest of takes on a name, but then the author isn’t going for subtlety and often a parody (or whatever) works best with its roots showing.

The Hemingway presented here is not the boisterous hunter, who typed away as the guns of the Spanish Civil War roared about him. He is a black hearted depressed character, full of venom and spite at the world.  The character is often just there, sitting like an idol, as others dance about him, excited to be in the great writer’s presence. When he does speak it is short, choppy, and without grace, which is Sim’s take on Hemingway’s style of writing.
We see a different side to Cerebus, that of the star struck fan. He is enamored of Hemingway who, to our anti-hero, represents a pinnacle of ruggedness and masculinity which comes often into play where Cerebus grew up. And he is treated as one might expect an enthusiastic fan boy to be handled by a chronically depressed celebrity- like absolute garbage. What is most amazing, and emasculating is that Cerebus takes it and laps it up gladly. He is the worst kind of fan and believes himself to be Ernestway’s bestest bud in the whole wide world, despite the character’s obvious indifference to him.
            In context with the rest of the Cerebus series the terms form and void represent the interplay and struggle between men and women in the world. Males are represented as form which fill up the void in life, ie women. As such this volume discusses the conflict ever present in the male and female relations, specifically the balance of power in said relationships. One must always dominate the other. For the man to have access to regular sex, he must bend to the whims of the woman providing the void.
          This is strained past breaking as Jaka and Cerebus head onto Sand Hill Creek, a logging community just outside of the matriarchal Cirinist’s control. As the society begins to adjust to that of what he remembers Cerebus similarly reverts back to his old ways, the male dominator who would brook no disobedience. Up until this arc, Jaka and Cerebus, have always been the fantasy of the other. The great what-if of their lives. Now the fantasy has become reality and lo-and-behold it is a standard relationship with standard relationship problems. Neither wants to admit it, but both understand that this will not last. On the trip both begin looking elsewhere: Jaka to a place where she will be eternally revered without threat of political persecution; Cerebus has a spiritual awakening where Rick, then six days crucified by the Cirinists and fast becoming a messianic figure, tells the aardvark to leave everything behind- which he fails to do.
The final blow comes upon reaching the creek and the entire town shuns the pair. Locking their doors and refusing to speak to them. The reason is that while Cerebus was away, his father had died and his son was not around to perform burial rights which was the custom of the area. Remembering how things were, how he feels things should be, and how much he has compromised as a result of being with Jaka, Cerebus makes the final decision. “Go on. Beat it. Scram” (Which was reflected in the religious visions in Rick’s Story).
           Sixty four out of the 300  pages are dedicated to the appendix and annotations. Sims appears to have become either incredibly narcissistic or incredibly bitter. I suppose it was the continued fall of his star after issue 168, where the collective comics media began calling him a misogynist, that has pushed him over the edge. Once the darling of the industry due to his indie status, he began despised and then, worse yet, ignored by those who would adore him.  He makes constant references to himself as the “evil misogynist Dave Sim”. The anger and bitterness in his writing is palpable. He claims he is using the phrase ironically, but it sure doesn’t come across in that manner.
I have to admit, part of the negative impact of stating his beliefs rests on his own shoulders. Not because of what he has to say, but because of his audience- which he obviously miscalculated. The bread and butter of the comic’s industry was superhero stories, which naturally attracts the kind of people who want to be, or pretend to be, superheroes. Not to delve into stereotypes here, but from my personal experience many many collectors are beta kucks without much experience in wooing women, who views the female sex as one would an alien species, and who truly believes all of the chivalric claptrap various media sources spew out about “what women really want”.
Thus any attempt for them to jump up and join the bandwagon in “defending women’s honor” will not be missed. Especially when the need to actually exert themselves doesn’t extend beyond rubbing their greasy fingers over a keyboard to register their “outrage”. Then they can imagine from the safe confines of their well farted-in chair that they are noble heroes doing good. This is where the male feminist deludes himself that they are doing more than sucking up to women in order to try to get laid. Its simply another way of trying to take down a guy in order to step up in line, but safer because the other guy can’t hit back.
Author Dave Sim
The overly long annotations are none the less interesting and detailed in the author’s obsessive pursuit of the stories behind the stories of Hemingway’s life. Though I have to say I’m not exactly convinced by some of the conclusions he reached, specifically about Hemingway’s homosexality or bisexuality. While the author is not the only one to make this proclamation, the evidence he offers here is rather thin, as few chunks taken from here and there which if viewed alone might indicate something, but in a wider context the same chunks they might indicate something else- maybe Hemingway just liked women with short hair- and most of the “evidence” comes from Hemingway’s own writing, so at most it seems a fantasy, rather than a predilection.
However the detail into which the author goes is impressive, detailed, and interesting. His distaste for Hemingway’s literary style is well founded and one that I agree with. Or at least Hemingway’s style worked best in short stories- short sentences for short stories- but failed absolutely in novel form. The Old Man and the Sea is a dreadful book. Also the readers might be interested to learn that Sim’s opinion on Picasso is ranked down there with Hemingway. All of this he blames on the corrupting influence of Gertrude Stein. While I’m not one hundred percent convinced of this, his reasoning is very interesting and requires more thought.

       For more readings, try my collection of books. 

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