Cerebus is an impressive achievement in comic book self-publishing. Created by Canadian cartoonist Dave Sims, the series ran from 1977 to 2004 and went for 300 issues. It’s difficult to summarize, probably due to the wide range of topics that Sims covers. While his lengthy writing career hasn’t been without controversy. Whatever his darker opinions may be, it can’t be denied that he is a brilliant creator. The series changed tones a lot, as the character began as a sword and sorcery parody, and before it ended Cerebus performed the roles of barbarian, prime minister and Pope. None of this is really important though! What is important is that I am going to take issue #109 from April 1988 and make a soundtrack to a comic titled Abhorring Vacuums (sweet title). Lets get epic!

For some backstory, let me just summarize where Cerebus was by the time issue #109 came out. Cerebus had already moved on from being a simple warring barbarian, in fact, he was the recent prime minister of the city state of Lest. He was doing what many a statesman do, writing his memoirs, when he became embroiled in politics again, though not of his own volition. Eventually there’s some business with a magic sphere and tower, the result being that he has crash lands on the moon in some kind of final ascension. Expecting to find a god named Tarim (or maybe not a god, who knows?), Cerebus was instead greeted by a balding, mustachioed Judge who has been watching the Earth for aeons. Since this is a recap, it doesn’t require a song, however, there’s always time for Phil Collins, so listen to Easy Lover. It’s damn good.

According to the Judge, mankind has speculated on the nature of Tarim for untold generations. The reason isn’t that they want to be closer to the rest of mankind, but that they want to be Him. The Judge offers to let Cerebus know what it is like to be Tarim and to do this he instructs Cerebus to close his eyes. At this point its time to listen to Lower Your Eyelids and Die with the Sun by M83. No explanation needed, listen and read and everything will be clear. To see nothing but darkness is to be Tarim, it’s cold because cold is the absence of heat, and it’s black due to the absence of colour. The dialogue in this issue is sparse, but effective, as is Gerhard’s supplemental art. Normally very detailed, this issue opts for sparely drawn panels that are deeply black. The endless void that is the universe thinks with one single mind and that mind is Tarim. To demonstrate how creation happens, it’s necessary that Cerebus tilts his head slightly back and to the left.

Only then can Cerebus open his eyes. And what does he see? A single point of light. One moment it wasn’t there, and then it was. Terim. The Light. Terim is a female god that is worshipped by the Cirinists, who oppose Cerebus. He didn’t believe in her, but she is real. Check out Bring the Light by The Smashing Pumpkins. Terim gave form to the formless void that was Tarim. By just appearing as a point in infinite night, this radiant perfect spot overcame Tarim’s existence. As Tarim focused more and more on the light, the act of creation occurred. Between the two forces energy was felt, and the energy folded in on itself and matter came to be. Energy and matter, the foundation of the universe, all this experienced on the moon by an anthropomorphic barbarian aardvark.

Now the two forces are inseparable, always existing side by side. The track Splitting the Atom by Massive Attack is a good choice for this. Tarim has observed Terim across the void, but Terim has much to teach Tarim as well. Inside of her, a ripple on the surface of the light formed. Black spots of energy and matter, previously unorganized, begin to harmonize and assemble, “until it bisected her like a peach.” The void Tarim watched, as the light spoke to him, and eventually she split. Something emerged from her as the universe continued to be created. Between two individual forces, one male and one female, life can now begin. And that’s how the issue ends. It’s pretty cosmic, and cosmically pretty.

The Quick and Dirty

Recap: Phil Collins – Easy Lover
First Section: M83 – Lower Your Eyelids and Die with the Sun
Second Section: The Smashing Pumpkins – Bring the Light
Third Section: Massive Attack – Splitting the Atom

  • Hi Paul,
    Nice Cerebus write-up. I just wanted highjack your Mixtape and add my own two TMNT cents. In July 1986, Mirage published Vol 1 issue 8 “Team Up with Cerebus” http://goo.gl/G9TCq . In this issue the Turtles teamed up with Cerebus to get the Time Scepter back from Savanti Romero. At a certain point, the Mirage’s licence lapsed and they were unable to reprint this issue. In 2006, this issue was rewriten to omit Cerebus http://goo.gl/IHezw . After the sale of TMNT to Viacom, the licence seems to have been restored and IDW reprinted Vol 1 issue 8 in The Ultimate Collection Vol 2 http://goo.gl/TI9vY .