is the creator of Cerebus The Aardvark
, one of the most revolutionary works in comics
history, and the greatest genius ever to work in the medium. Dave Sim is also someone who has used his divorce from his wife as the basis of a ludicrous theology that claims that women are evil 'voids' destroying the masculine 'light'. Unfortunately, most people can't seem to accept that the latter can also be the former.
A native of Kitchener, Ontario, Sim had been drawing and occasionally writing comics for a few years when his girlfriend, Deni Loubert, decided to start publishing a fanzine called Cerberus. The name she chose for her publishing company was Aardvark-Vanaheim and so, as he 'didn't know how to draw a Vanaheim', he drew as the logo a barbarian aardvark. When it was noticed later that Loubert had misspelled Cerberus as Cerebus, he decided that Cerebus was the name of the aardvark.
When the fanzine fell through, Sim started a Cerebus comic, published initially by Loubert, who he married in 1978, shortly after starting Cerebus. The comic, which Sim wrote, drew and lettered himself, started out as a parody of Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan comics, with one not-especially-funny joke (the hero is an aardvark), but rapidly became more...the humour rapidly became more subtle, but the early issues still concentrated on parody of comics or pop-culture. Several characters who would become important later in the run first appeared in these 'earlier, funny' comics (collected in the Cerebus 'phonebook'), including:
Lord Julius - ruler of the city-state of Palnu, this character is just Groucho Marx reimagined as a bureaucratic dictator.
Elrod The Albino - A parody of Michael Moorcock's Elric, who speaks, I say, speaks like Foghorn Leghorn. That's cartoon-chicken style, boy.
The Cockroach or the Moon Roach, Wolverroach, Captain Cockroach, Secret Sacred Wars Roach... a parody of every superhero cliche , but especially the dark vigilante types.
Jaka, a dancer, Lord Julius' neice and the love of Cerebus' life.
However, in 1979 Sim started experimenting massively with LSD. This, combined with the workload of creating the entire comic himself, caused him to have a nervous breakdown and be hospitalised for a short period - he later claimed to have been diagnosed 'borderline schizophrenic'. During this time he claimed to have a vision of a massive story arc that would last 300 issues - something unheard of for a comic at the time (and something in which Cerebus is still unique). At the time Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's run of 100 issues on The Fantastic Four was still the longest run of any creative team on a comic, and that was a team rather than a single individual. Shortly after this, the comic went from being bi-monthly to being monthly, which may in retrospect have been unwise, given the effect the pressure of even a bi-monthly book had on him.
There followed three long story arcs, collected in four 'phonebooks' (the term used because of the size of these 600+ page giant newsprint collections), High Society, Church And State (collected in two volumes) and Jaka's Story, that mark a high-point in comics writing and art, and in what can be done in the comics medium. These comics were at the time almost universally revered amongst the comics fraternity as an inspiration to all creators, and contain some sequences of staggering power (the trial scene in Church And State, the prison scenes with the nurse or the revealing of Jaka's secret in Jaka's Story) that are as good as anything in any artistic medium.
However, during the creation of High Society Sim's marriage to Loubert broke down, and he started the slow, steady descent into absolute misogyny that was to taint his later work. As early as Church And State there is a scene in which Cerebus rapes a character many fans believed to be based on Loubert, although Sim has always denied this. (Cerebus is *not* meant to be a totally sympathetic character - earlier in the same story arc he killed a baby and a cripple). It was also revealed that the Cirinists (a fascist/religious group who take over the city of Iest) are fanatical feminists who believe men should be property.
After their marriage split up, Sim became the publisher of Cerebus in Loubert's place. Because of this extra work, he started working with Gerhard, who drew the backgrounds for the comics, while Sim drew the characters and wrote the scripts. This is an unusual way of working (almost every comic artist works with an inker, and many people have mistakenly assumed Gerhard inks Sim's pencils) but it has led to some genuinely beautiful comic art.
The general consenus is that Melmoth, the story arc after Jaka's Story, dealing with Oscar Wilde, is the last truly good one (although I believe almost all the Cerebus storylines have at least some merit, apart from the appaling Latter Days). Up to this point Sim was mostly known in the comics world for his advocacy of self-publishing and creator's rights, and his extraordinary work. After this, things became very different.
Sim decided to research women for the story arc Mothers And Daughters, and as he admitted himself it was the first time he'd ever spoken to women without wishing to go to bed with them. This is very strange given the very strong, well-written female characters in his work, but apparently the case. At this point, Sim decided that women were emotion-based beings rather than fully human, and wrote this into the story (in issue 186) using a thinly-veiled version of himself to state this. This long rant can be found at http://www.theabsolute.net/misogyny/sim.html . While this drew a lot of criticism, and made sales of the comic plummet, the fact that it didn't seem to affect the overall quality of the comic much meant people could ignore Sim's views at the time.
After this story arc was over, a simillar event caused an even more profound change. Sim, who at the start of Cerebus' run had been politically liberal, was by this time fairly conservative. But he was planning to make the next story arc a parody of religious views (religion is a subject that has been satirised in Cerebus on many occasions, most notably with Cerebus' tenure as Pope in Church And State), and decided to read The Bible for the first time in his life. Reading the Bible, and later the Koran, he decided that they were inspired holy books, and came up with his own religion. Simillar in many ways to Gnosticism, his view was that the Bible and Koran actually tell of two conflicting deities, the true God (who is usually referred to in the Hebrew as Adonai) who is male, and a female demiurge, YooHWHoo (YHVH or YHWH). He developed a bizarre set of beliefs, claiming to be Jewish, Christian and Moslem simultaneously, which has been described as 'agreeing with the fundamentalists in everything except the important matters'.
Sim's misogyny became increasingly blatant , peaking with the Tangents essay in issue 265 (which can be found at http://www.tcj.com/232/tangent0.html ), which is an astonishing scream of hatred against women and 'homosexualists' (Sim's term) and 'the feminist/homosexualist/Marxist axis'. This lost most of the readers who hadn't already been put off by the earlier remarks. Meanwhile the comic became increasingly devoted to Sim's exegesis of the Bible and Koran, and exposition of his increasingly strange religious views (including Cerebus at one point stating the Holocaust was caused by the ancient Jewish people comitting animal sacrifice), but other than the six issues covering the Old Testament and John's Gospel they are still as technically excellent as ever.
Towards the end of the run, even Gerhard, who had worked with Sim for nearly 20 years, wanted to quit, claiming even he found the comic unreadable. However Sim persuaded him to stay and finish what they had started, and issue 300 was released to muted applause in March 2004.
Sim currently leads an ascetic life, praying five times a day, having sold most of his goods and donated the proceeds to charity, and spends much of the remainder of his time providing personal replies to the backlog of mail that built up during the latter part of the run of Cerebus. He has been single and celibate (not even masturbating) for over ten years, no longer speaks to his family (who he considers light-destroying female voids) and has no friends. The proposed Cerebus #301, which was going to have been done by the classic Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totelben Swamp Thing team will not be happening, as Moore and Bissette are no longer on speaking terms with each other due to remarks Sim made in an interview about their relationship, but a quarterly, Following Cerebus is planned.
Cerebus clearly cost Sim much of his mental health, and the last ten years or so have shown an increasing decline in the quality of the work, but he is still responsible for one of the most important acheivements in any art-form, and one can only hope that now he has finished this work he will finally be able to find some kind of peace.