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Not with a bang

I just read the last issue of Cerebus. That’s it; ain’t any more.

For an insane guy, Dave Sim sure draws a pretty comic. It never stopped being gorgeous. I wish I could say kinder things about it; I am staggered by the weight of it. Thousands upon thousands of pages. There have been few such extended achievements.

When both he and Gerhard are dead, Cerebus will enter the public domain. He has arranged for the negatives to remain with trustworthy custodians, and they will be available to those who wish to reprint any portion of it. The attentive will notice that those two statements are not entirely congruent. Who knows?

I’m going to spoil the end now.

Cerebus dies. There’s a three page tightly gridded sequence during which his life fleshes before his eyes. His spirit rises from his corpse. He sees the light. There’s an incredible two-page spread that brings tears to my eyes: everyone is there. The Regency Elf. Keef. Artemis. Elrod. Oscar.


They’re beckoning to Cerebus. Jaka reaches out her hand, flanked by Ham and Bear.

Cerebus adopts his Rabbi fantasy — giving into his fantasy life, giving into escapism — and leaps. But halfway there, he remembers Rick, and realizes that he’s been looking into Hell. He tries to flee. He cries out for help.

“Help, God! The light! The light!

“Help, God! The light has got Cerebus!



And he is gone.

I’d like to believe that Cerebus went to Heaven. I’d like to believe that the final few pages were Dave Sim’s final punchline for all of us who took his rants seriously. I’d love to believe that Cerebus stands as a warning against the isolating effects of fanaticism. But Steven Otte gave him a call and nope. Cerebus is in Hell.

(By the by, he mentioned the infamous potential Onion interview during that call. And I know Steven Otte from the Trinity mailing list, way back. Small world.)

And then I turn back to the two-page spread again, and I’m saddened again, because of what could have been and because of what was instead. I was holding out hope of redemption right up until the very end. It was stupid of me. I don’t regret it.

Exit the aardvark, stage left.


  1. Well, copyright does mean “right to make/distribute copies” and not necessarily “right to the original negatives/manuscript/whatever”. i.e. you can place something in the public domain and still sell copies, you just can’t prohibit others from doing so as well.

    I didn’t read the spoiler because I might someday want to finish reading the epic… I think I stalled at #8 or something. Minds and Reads?

  2. It takes a…special…kind of personality to write 300 issues about one character and end the series by sending that character to Hell.

    I read the series from issue #24 to somewhere in the #220s. I can only think of the series as the most monumental waste of potential in the history of comics, and ranking in the top 10 of fiction itself. All that artistic talent, wasted. Depressing, really.

  3. Yeah, but it’s not clear whether or not it’ll be OK for me to, say, use the negatives to create a remix version in which Rick says “Dude, you’ve got to get these weird thoughts out of your head; if you bottle up your anger at Jaka you’re gonna wind up breaking up with her instead of helping her get over her leftover princess issues.”

  4. I stopped reading the aardvark shortly after Church and State; it felt like it was drifting by then.

    I’ll always love the sequences of Cerebus as Pope, though. “Throw another baby!”

  5. I read it at the comic store.
    When your letters page is the size of your comic it’s time to go write a book.

    Poor bastard.
    Both of them.
    Gerhard will be fine.

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