Time can really slip past a person can’t it? That question came to mind this past Saturday as I decided that I wanted to reread some Cerebus. Cereus is a comic book by Dave Sim that ran from December 1977 to March 2004. It told Cerebus’s story for three hundred issues which were also collected in large paperback editions. I came to Cerebus late. It was a comic that I had always meant to start reading but never quite did. I finally started to read it in the late 1980s when Cerebus bi-weekly was published reprinting the very first issues of the series. I bought the first forty two issues of it as well as tracking down some other back issues where I could. Then I just kind of fell off of it since I didn’t have all the connecting issues. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s that I bought all the collected editions that I was missing and decided to buy the collected editions as they came out. That’s how I read Cerebus up until 2001 and issue 266. Then I decided to read the monthly issues because I wanted to be there first for when it ended.

I haven’t reread any of the Cerebus issues since the series ended in 2004. That was twelve years ago. That’s a long time. But Dave Sim has a YouTube channel now where he gives people updates of his plans to preserve Cerebus and get all the books back into print. For the last three weeks he’s been telling us about the origins of one of the characters called Jaka. She’s Cerebus’s one true love who doesn’t love him back. She’s also the title character in Cerebus volume five which is named “Jaka’s Story”. These videos made me want to read “Jaka’s Story” again so I pulled it off the shelf. The printing I have came out in 1996 which is when I last read it. Twenty years ago. There is that time thing again.

Upon reading “Jaka’s Story” I was surprised by two things. First that I remembered almost nothing about the story and second that I think I liked it a lot more now than I did twenty years ago. Obviously I liked it back then since I kept buying it but I don’t remember it having as emotional an impact on me as it did with this reading. I hardly ever read all day or read a lot of the same comic series in a row but I read all four hundred plus pages of this one over a Friday night and Saturday morning. Then I read the next two volumes “Melmoth” and “Flight” (both smaller two hundred page volumes) on that same Saturday. I was hooked and couldn’t stop. Cerebus is good stuff.

All three volumes are different from each other. Sim does a good job at summing up “Jaka’s Story” in his intro but I’ll sum it up even shorter. It’s about the everyday life moments of a married couple, Jaka and Rick, as they go about their business. Plus there are a few other characters going about their business too. Cerebus is barely in this volume but his presence is often there. At the end the story turns political as our characters get caught up in things bigger than themselves.

On a side note I’d like to point out how brilliant Sim’s lettering is in this volume. The art in Cerebus by Sims and his art partner Gerhard is always good but lettering rarely gets mentioned. There is a character near the end of the story that is based on Margaret Thatcher. Normally I don’t like dialogue written phonetically or in a accent but in this case the lettering made it work. Sim would vary the size and spacing of the letter by how Thatcher was speaking. Long rolling sounds were lettered wide and high sharp sounds were tall. It all flowed so naturally that I could hear the real Margaret Thatcher’s voice in my head. Some of the best lettering ever in a comic.

The next volume that I read, “Melmoth”, was about a character that was in “Jaka’s Story”. The character was based on Oscar Wilde. Sim often based characters on real life people. Cerebus was in this volume more than in the last volume but the story was mostly about the death of Oscar Wilde. It was quite poignant because he was heathy and full of life in “Jaka’s Story” but now he was slowly wasting away. The Cerebus part of the story was also about him wasting away but he eventually became his own agent again and took action. That was not something Oscar Wilde was capable of anymore and that made it even sadder by comparison.

“Flight” the third volume that I read was different than the first two. It had a lot more of Cerebus in it and a lot more mysticism. Did I not mention Cerebus is an anthropomorphic aardvark in a world made up of humans? It’s a fantasy world of rival big cities who all have different gods and religions that are real and affect the world. Cerebus is a major player with some gods but he really never knows what’s going on. In this volume there is a lot of explaining what’s going on in the world but Cerebus doesn’t always care. He just wants Jaka and to be happy.

So there you go. Twenty years latter I re-read comics I had no memory of. Or at least I had forgotten all of the details. I hadn’t forgotten how good Sim and Gerhard’s artwork was though. In a rather unusual arrangement for comics Sim does all the figure work and Gerhard handles the backgrounds. To call them backgrounds is a bit of a disservice though because Gerhard really creates environments. They are richly illustrated and meticulously drawn. Sometimes the environment Cerebus is in can be 80 percent of the page and becomes the real star. It’s quite a collaboration. So go check out some Cerebus if you never have or re-read it if you haven’t in a while.