The Cerebus Re-Read Challenge
Cerebus can be purchased in its entirety from
even better, Volumes 1 and 2 are free!
Minds: I Draw, Therefore You Are
In Reads Dave Sim ended the process of trying on different persona in the back matter. He used Vicktor Davis to explicitly insert his actual identity and ideas into the story. From there forward Dave Sim maintains a consistent presentation of himself as someone who uses his story and the back-matter to defend and document the evolution of his singular world-view. Dave Sim the essayist is here to stay.
Minds puts the last nail in the coffin of role-playing, eliminating the need for the Viktor Davis proxy by having Dave reveal himself, as himself, to Cerebus. He freely speaks to Cerebus as Cerebus' creator and in doing so sets the stage for Sim to understand his own relationship to God. Issue #200 was released in 1995. Sim leaves behind atheism for monotheism a few years later in 1998 (I think). It is almost like Sim forces God to reckon with Sim in the same way Sim forced his audience to cleave to him in Reads. Ballsy.
Sim himself comments on this, later, in issue #299
The momentum of Dave Sim role-playing the collectivist/socialist carries forward into the Minds era, but merges with Dave Sim the essayist. He wraps up his socially minded Guide to Self-Publishing, and becomes the driving force behind the Spirits of Independence tour. Sim uses his place as the King (God?) of Self-Publishers to shed light on the efforts of the entire self-publishing phenomena.
He even devotes a large portion of his cover space to the promotion of other works.
It is apparent that while others look to Sim as some kind of god or father-figure of self-publishing he sees himself as one of the troops, down in the collectivist trenches with everyone else. Looking back on this time years later, in issue #285, Sim proclaims that one of the major disagreements he had with Jeff Smith at the time revolved around whether the tour stops should be curated or not. Sim came down on the side of collectivism, letting anyone who wanted to take part. Smith was on the side of curating in only people judged as likely to succeed, an opinion which led to the Trilogy Tour format that became associated with Smith, Linda Medley and Charles Vess. Sim was not comfortable taking it upon himself to decide who was an was not likely to succeed. Sim judges the debate, saying,
This sounds a whole lot like the homogenized playing field he criticizes Marxism/Feminism for demanding. A compelling fracturing of core beliefs worth further consideration. My guess is that Sim would counter by saying that he is a proponent of a truly leveled playing field and that Marxism/Feminism does not actually represent such due to its inability to gracefully cope with dissent.
How we peaceably coordinate sometimes violently opposed world views without loosing individual identity to either homogenization or entropic bifurcation is a compelling, and I believe essential philosophical question for our time. Sim appears to believe there is a solution but has not, as far as I can tell, offered up a picture of what it would look like. He seems content to stay on the sidelines and observe the whole mess as a merely interesting peculiarity, as is evidenced by this bit from issue #289.
Again, this stance can be criticized as selfishly defeatist but is the one I also find myself inhabiting.
A final thought about the idea that issue #200 was, at some point, the planned end of the book:
I do find it entirely possible that Sim fabricated the idea and wrote issue # 200 to lend validity to the gossip put forth in issue #175. If issue # 200 was never intended to be the ending, but only appear as such, the fairly dramatic change in content during the last hundred issues could arguably be part of experiment set up in Reads. How will people react to this elaborate piece of gossip? How many people would, and for what reasons, accept the false rumor? How many people would accept that the back 1/3 of the book was merely filler intended to meet an arbitrary numerical goal? Why would they think that? What does all of this say about our expectations for a narrative? How will people react to the real Dave Sim taking the reins? What makes one accept or reject his insertion into the book? Remember, in issue #299 he reports on his findings regarding this experiment.
Only Dave Sim will ever know for sure because even should he be perfectly explicit about all of this there will be doubters, which of course is just one more bit of evidence about human behavior for Sim to consume.