Dave Answers 6 Questons: August 2005

Recently, Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for August 2005. If you prefer, here is MS Word document with all of the answers and questions. Once again, thanks to Lenny for getting the questions organized, sent to Dave and posted!


Q1: What intentions did you have setting up this first book for the storyline that would cover the final 100 issues?

I had basically had a good long time to mull things over at Peter’s Place from the time I broke up with Zolastraya in May of 1989 until I actually tried again with Susan in 1994. The contrast between the way society was portraying itself and what I saw when I looked at what society was turning itself into seemed to me a terrifically important subject. Still does. I was drinking quite a bit but mostly talking with guys and became aware of the schism between how guys talked with each other and how they talked around women, the extent to which that dichotomy led women to see guys as being different from what guys were actually like, how that led women into thinking that they were like guys, etc. etc. It was a very large onion and no one was peeling it. I was a universal pariah because of issue 186 which had come out a little over a year before starting Guys so, on the one hand I had a much smaller audience but, on the other hand, I had a lot more latitude to be honest in what I was writing and drawing. So as an intellectual exercise, I started peeling the onion—just writing down the actual state of reality as if I was discussing it with a guy—that is, with complete honesty. Then I’d read what I had written and get this small frisson of horror when I realized that women would be reading this. Which only reinforced my original insight for me: these things needed to be said even though I was reasonably certain that the remaining women and husbands and homosexuals in my audience weren’t going to know what I was talking about (and deeply resent it anyway) which turned out to be the case. Embarking on the mission was, as far as I could see, just the next stage after 186 and my career-long pursuit of the truth. I had tacked into the wind and cut straight through some waves with 186 which had told me roughly the vector to follow to find the truth. 201 to 219 were the most honest masculine anecdotes I could come up with that I saw as pointing in the right direction.

Q1 cont: What elements went into separating it from the previous 200 issues, and what did you keep?

Dave: “No chicks” would be the biggest one. Hemingway’s Men Without Women. I had been as guilty as anyone through the first 200 issues of creating really false but flattering female characters, “admirable” domineering wives, strong independent single women, female intellectuals, strong female leaders, all the false feminist hot-button icons that earned you rave reviews and award nominations from the increasingly (or, at least, ostensibly) androgynous comic-reading public. It hadn’t been false storytelling to that point, to me, because the layers of reality had actually still been there. To cite one example, I had played straight with Margaret Thatcher as a matriarch and held up her end of the discussion of what exotic dancing actually was as opposed to what Jaka wanted and needed it to be. And found her side of the discussion to be the more sensible of the two. The reaction from the ostensibly androgynous audience was that I had created a genuinely terrifying presence in the Thatcher character which (ultimately, for me) just reinforced the fact that the androgynous were essentially terrified of the truth and were using their own terror of the truth to convince themselves that the truth was, therefore, intrinsically evil—why else would it be terrifying?

Separating the title character into pre-200 and post-200, before Cerebus had developed his “Acquired Tastes” for sex through his marriage, he had been a pretty rock-solid, stubborn, resourceful, interesting and scrupulously (often sadistically) honest character. Having tried any number of ways to incorporate any number of women into his life by the end of issue 200, he’s pretty much a mess. A self-pitying, immobilized, near-catatonic, vainglorious, vindictive, mean-spirited, lost, anguished, loathsome little drunkard, most of which I would see as delayed reactions to his cumulative experiences with women. That was one of the points that I wanted to get across—the various stages of “coming to” after prolonged exposure to women that I would see at Peter’s Place. The guys who had just broken up with girlfriends or wives—or who were keeping their collapsed relationships together by any means necessary—were complete lunatics whereas the guys who just slept around or who stayed away from women for the most part were the most lucid. Being celibate from May of 1989 to July of 1991 in a bar context I got to see the full spectrum of reactions. The guys going through the break-up were just jonesing. There’s no other word for it. And they would do all of these stupid things because they wanted to be getting laid again so badly that, like junkies, they couldn’t see that what they wanted so badly was the source of their problems, not the solution to their problems—consequently they were very close to being complete lunatics. Of course through most of the summer of 1989, I had been a complete lunatic with the condition gradually lessening through 1990 and, like the guys I saw around me, I only gradually “came to”. Well, except for Steve, who was unhappily married and then separated and literally drank himself to death. Because I knew that I was writing a story as well as just experiencing this part of life I had more of an overview and I examined motives—my own and others’—a little more deeply than I would have otherwise. If that “woman thing” turns you into a lunatic, why do you want it back? The guys would just say, “Women, can’t live with them, can’t shoot them.” Or something equally pithy but I became absorbed in the subject itself. Why did I actively want to get a lunatic back into my life so she could drive me crazy? That was when I realized that it wasn’t me that wanted a lunatic back in my life, it was my dick. “I think you’re an absolute bimbo, but my dick seems to like you.” Needless to say, by the time I was writing this stuff in 1995—Peter’s Place had been gutted by fire shortly after I started sleeping with Susan—there really wasn’t anyone I could talk to about it. All of the guys I knew needed to believe that somewhere there was a woman who was not a lunatic but who was their absolute soul-mate and all they had to do was find her or they were trying to convince themselves that the one they had settled for was their soul-mate and not a lunatic and, of course, it wasn’t something I could discuss honestly with Susan or any other woman. Guys and the first part of Rick’s Story were my best attempt to say, “I think I have finally managed to get outside—completely outside—of the lunatic construct, and here’s what I see.”

To answer the second part of the question, I don’t think I so much retained what was in the first 200 issues as I tried to show that a restoration—of a kind—was possible and that, further, restoration of a kind is always possible. Just seeing all of the guys at Peter’s Place in the varying stages of lunacy and recovery and experiencing the varying stages of lunacy and recovery myself…well, it did give me a very gratifying sense that it is possible to re-achieve coherency no matter how far over the line you’ve let yourself go (although Steve drinking himself to death did indicate that there is a line that you can cross from which there is no turning back and there was no shortage of guys who would understand and agree with what I was saying right up to the point where they fell in love again in which case, as relapsed lunatics, they would become absorbed in explaining to me why their new little yum-yum was different. At which point I could no longer talk a honestly with them).

Cerebus is a mess in the early issues of Guys and he gradually becomes more lucid and resourceful and more like the old Cerebus. Of course he’s unaware of how much everyone in the environment hates him because he’s basically a desperately mean and mean-spirited drunk. He’s hitting the bottle so hard that he basically has only three speeds on his Mixmaster—conscious-and-improving (his sober behaviour where everyone ignores him) unconscious-and-dramatically-worsening (his drunken behaviour which makes everyone hate him) and genuinely unconscious (i.e. sleeping) and he won’t let go of his completely false concept of Jaka.

“If Jaka comes back and loves Cerebus, Cerebus will be okay.” Well, as we see later, nothing could be further from truth. On the contrary, all of his hard-won improvement will just go out the window the moment Jaka shows up and he’ll devote all of his time to trying to become the Cerebus Jaka wants him to be in the hopes that that means that Jaka will become the Jaka Cerebus wants Jaka to be. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. All he had to do was look at the situation with Bear and Zig Pig (life does tend to provide just those sorts of warning signs in proximity if you’re willing to open your eyes and see them)—really look at it and understand how profoundly foolish it was to behave like Bear and decide not to behave like Bear no matter what and then stick with that resolution—and he could’ve avoided a lot of headaches and probably have had a happier ending on his story. In my own case, it meant that when things started getting crazy with Susan—which is nothing against Susan, it’s just the nature of incorporating any kind of female reality into your own life—it was very easy to just pull the plug and say, “No, I’d rather be sane than to live like that” and then to come to realize over the next year or so that I meant that observation in a much larger sense than I originally had and that I was now finished with romantic relationships for good. And it has been for good, I think.

Q2: How did Mrs. Thatcher survive the cataclysm that destroyed Iest? It occurred right after Cerebus and Cirin ascended, didn't it? She was in the upper city close to ground zero, as were Astoria and Seunteus Po. Did Astoria and Po die in the cataclysm?

Dave: I would imagine that Astoria and Suenteus Po died in the cataclysm. She might be a different Mrs. Thatcher along the same lines of the two or three Oscar Wildes in the story. You can pick whichever one makes you less uncomfortable: Mrs. Thatcher had a miraculous escape from the cataclysm or there’s more than one Mrs. Thatcher. I’ll back up your choice 100% whichever one it is.

Q3: Is it the "female" part of Cerebus which enables him to read (or attack) minds? Had there been any clues to this before the psychic assault on Mrs. Thatcher and his apparent reading of Fan Roach's mind?

Dave: Well, yes, analogous to my own experiences with women—particularly my mother—in those areas that I’ve documented elsewhere. We are a long way from women being able (I would suggest “willing”) to discuss what those psychic episodes are all about, how common they are, what parameters they assume, etc. but I do think it safe to say that if/when those discussion(s) finally occur(s) it will be—quite decidedly—over in the area of “not pretty”. I didn’t see the recent movie version of Bewitched, but I read in one of the reviews that Nicole Kidman as Samantha is depicted as trying to wean herself off of using her witchcraft and expressing a certain regret when she backslides and resorts to it. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with but single step.” But, yes, I do think that that side of Cerebus comes from his female nature and that his tendency to be a walking Id means that he just uses that part of his nature as much as he uses his fists—pretty freely.

(Really Esoteric Point Warning! Really Esoteric Point Warning!) Arguably the cartoon violence to which Cerebus subjected Mrs. Thatcher would suggest that the Mrs. Thatcher of Guys and Rick’s Story was possibly more of a Cirinist psychic construct than an actual person, a psychic construct which was intended by the Cirinists to rejoin the Cerebus/Jaka/Rick context in an opportune fashion at the Wall of Tsi. That is, that Mrs. Thatcher was actually killed in the Iestan Tragedy but she had proved so effective in the Jaka/Rick story from a Cirinist standpoint that it was worth reviving her in an illusory way to see if she could dominate Cerebus the way that she had dominated Jaka and Rick. As can be seen by the cartoon violence, the short answer was “no”.

(Even More Esoteric Point Warning! Even More Esoteric Point Warning!) I hesitated to answer the above question directly because it does lead into problematic areas of ways of perceiving reality—on the one hand I think most of the readership would be perfectly content to see Rick and then Jaka showing up in the tavern at the Wall of Tsi as just a forgivable literary conceit, a dual synchronistic coincidence of monumental unlikelihood (what are the odds?) both because of the readers’ actual curiosity about the characters themselves and because the intrusion of “Dave” into the storyline makes any number of literary transgressions more allowable. In the context of the story itself, I think it would be more likely that the two coincidences—Rick showing up and then Jaka—were engineered by the Cirinists through psychic interference as a means of testing the waters of Cerebus’ intentions. Which of the two did he respond to and how did he respond to him or her? I can understand that believing that things like this occur—and are possibly commonplace—in our own world would make most of my readers uncomfortable (the women as perpetrators perhaps more so than the men as objects of such psychic engineering), so I’m pretty happy to just leave it there like that as either a Core Element in Human Reality or as Just Another Really Esoteric Story Point on the Part of Crazy Dave Sim the Evil Misogynist.

Suit yourself, whoever you are.

Q4: Are all the dream scenes Bear describes to Cerebus connected?

Dave: Oh, no, no. Those aren’t dream sequences. When we rejoin them in mid-anecdote, Bear is telling Cerebus how the sequence with Marty the Proctologist ended up after the events documented on page 47 of Guys and Cerebus is laughing in spite of himself because it was a, wattayacallit, good gag even though Cerebus was the victim. That’s Guys nature, to me. A guy can see the humour in a situation in which he himself is the patsy. Women tend not to because of their in-built “my shit don’t stink” natures.

Q4 cont: Is the Cirinist hugging her daughter a flash-forward depiction of the results of the last Fertility Festival?

Dave: No, that was just “Cirinists are people, too.” Something which I have never denied. Even the most psychotic Marxist-feminist is still going to enjoy playing with children. For most Marxist-feminists that excuses dismantling society and causing as much trouble as they can: they love small children. For Marxist-feminists, the fact that you love small children means that everything else that you do is right. It makes a jarring contrast with the events of the Fertility Festival but that was why I included it.

Q4 cont: Also, the scenes of the orgy indicate drug-crazed behavior, torture and dismemberment. Does this mean that a feature of the Fertility Festival is human (presumably *male*) sacrifice?

Dave: Mm. Not necessarily just male. Women, to me, are just inherently crazy and their lunatic desires are usually only suppressed by them in the interests of the larger goal of getting married and having kids, but they do like to push the envelope of behaviours because they’re certain that their inherent lunacy is (how would I put this?) in service to something or attached to some larger purpose or construct. I would speculate that most of them have very clear voices in their heads telling them so and I would speculate further that those voices are all, basically, YHWH. An orgy differs from four chicks going out to a disco and drinking two or three glasses of wine only by degree. They’re doing roughly the same thing, using alcohol to break down their inhibitions and then stimulating themselves into a “rhythmic movement frenzy” that will assist and magnify the effect. I think I’m safe in saying that there are very few men who seriously see dancing as a key component in having a good time. Dancing for a guy is what you do to get on the good side of a woman (or what you did, at one time, to get on the good side of a woman: the bloom seems to be seriously off that particular rose): We’ll enact a metaphorical frenzy and then go back to my place and enact the real thing lying down. That is, I’ll cater to your peculiar female interests so that later you’ll cater to my peculiar masculine interests. The less often that guys get laid after dancing, the less inclined they are to dance. They see it for what it is: they’re being made to look foolish for the collective entertainment of women. Once you get to the point where dancing is just what a woman does until she picks the malign thug (who wouldn’t be caught dancing if you put a gun to his head) she’s going to sleep with that night, as I say, the bloom is off that particular rose. Mid-1980s if I recall correctly.

The advantage of the pagan orgy, of course, is that it includes ugly, old and/or fat women, three groups that are usually excluded from contention at the disco (unless they’re lesbians or it’s a gay club).

Q4 cont: If not, whose bones are scattered, half-buried in the ground?

Dave: Well, remember, I was attempting to create what I saw as an impossible society—a post-agrarian matriarchy—while fudging the details as little as possible. One of the reasons that I introduced the idea of unlimited drinking—no “Last call”—was that I saw that as a likely policing mechanism of those individuals who would be seen in a matriarchy as the most incorrigible and most unwanted men, those that didn’t want to get married, have children and spend the rest of their lives obeying their wives unquestioningly. Looking at our own society, I think I was just asking questions that wouldn’t be quite as readily apparent to others for another decade or so. When marriage becomes progressively less attractive to men, that is, as women become more intransigent about doing things “women’s way”, how do you make marriage attractive enough so that it doesn’t erode into its present 50-50 state—half of all marriages end in divorce—and keep it from then vanishing altogether? No small question for the unfairer sex given that “strong, independent women” have proven to be anathema to successful marriage. The answer it seemed to me, is to make life outside of marriage even more of a living hell than marriage itself and it seems to me that unlimited drinking would lead you in that direction. Essentially you would either die of progressive alcohol poisoning or cirrhosis of the liver or the DTs or you would choose being married as the lesser of two evils. To use my own life as an example of the model you are attempting to deconstruct, you choose to actively worsen the lunacy phase by making non-stop drinking possible, thereby diminishing the likelihood—and then even the possibility—of the recovery phase that I went through. Both results serve the purposes of the matriarchy. The former eliminates from the gene pool men who aren’t interested in getting married and the latter leads to complete capitulation to the female viewpoint. You either die or turn yourself into a completely pussy-whipped husband. Win-win from the standpoint of a matriarchy.

Of course that concept founders on the problem of the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger archetype, the hard-drinking womanizing bad boy. The longer one of them stays alive, the more attractive he becomes as a behaviour model pointing away from the matriarchy’s interests. He seduces women and impregnates them without obeying them unquestioningly which is very bad from a matriarchal standpoint on several counts. He attracts more women than pussy-whipped men do and so his behaviour spreads to pussy-whipped men as a way of attracting women and the women themselves become more obsessed about “getting” him than they are about having babies and rearing them to adulthood. So it seemed to me that a matriarchy would have to find a larger net that would ensnare these alpha males as well. And it seemed to me that the larger net was to have these seasonal festivals where all bets were off. Essentially the same unlimited drinking and carousing and womanizing but on a much larger and more intensive Event Scale. You may be able to drink everyone under the table and fornicate with several women at the same time, but how do you do in an environment where—to be competitive, and competition is the key with the alpha male—you’re expected to do it relentlessly over a period of several days? The bonfire is lit, everyone gets naked and, as I say, all bets are off. The most competitive males would be the ones most likely to drink themselves to death or kill each other in a drunken rage in just such a context. And, of course, it would provide an outlet for the lead-foot lunacy that I see as being inherent in female nature, the urge towards frenzy of which sort dancing is just a low-level and largely harmless (and consequently to them largely unsatisfying) incarnation. Particularly since—as you could see—so much of it involves old women who are past their prime and bitterly resentful that their days of controlled frenzy—dancing and courtship—are over. Such a context would allow them to give vent to all of that suppressed rage and unhappiness in the company of the baddest (and consequently most desirable) of the bad boys. I think in such a circumstance you would see a lot more female teeth and female fingernails becoming part of the fun and “tearing off a piece of ass” would become more than an expression. As I said, all bets are off and only the baddest of the bad asses and the most insane of the women would participate in the inner rings of the dance around the bonfire. The next morning (or next morning or next morning) would undoubtedly find a fair number of casualties dismembered and gallons of blood “spilt on the ground like water” in the unforgettable enthusiasm of YHWH as expressed to Moshe and Aaron in Exodus and Leviticus. A few less bad asses to worry about and a more tranquil bunch of women—their urge for bloodletting and frenzy now temporarily satiated—you couldn’t hope to find. I think we’re going to have to find some sort of equivalent in our society since it seems to me that one of the complete falsehoods that we’ve been selling women for years now (and that women, consequently, have been selling themselves) is that, as a society, we don’t recognize any boundaries to human behaviour. A woman’s right to choose. It seems to me that the idea of the bouncer undermines what women see as the core attraction of the pagan frenzy: the ideal pagan frenzy is intrinsically “not safe”—you can do whatever you want to anyone and they can do whatever they want to you. The threat of Actual Danger which always gets the vaginal juices going. If there are bouncers, all the danger is pretend. Some guy grabs your ass or your boobs and he’s kissing the pavement outside before he knows what hit him. So all you’re really doing as a woman is drinking yourself stupid and whirling around to make yourself dizzy on top of it and being protected from harm by big terminal steroid cases (which undermines the notion of any kind of equality). When you get as close as we are to Aleister Crowley’s “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” in my view you better have entertainments that produce genuine fatalities among society’s most extreme inhabitants or they will begin to devour society from the periphery in. I think that was the motivation behind extreme festivals in most pagan societies. If you are knowingly going to turn your back on God, you have to have a safety valve and a winnowing mechanism for the resultant lunacy.

Of course it seems preferable to me to just enforce laws more strictly and make courts far, far less lenient than they are today across the great democracies—a five-year sentence means you go to jail for five years, not eight months and time served—and return the God-fearing to a supervisory role. But in the Marxist-feminist societies we inhabit, we have been paddling away from that concept as fast as many of our little atheistic paddles will carry us for a number of years, so I think it’s worth considering—and alerting people to—the accommodation and societal endorsement of lunatic extremes those behavioural latitudes are ultimately going to require if (as we appear to be doing) we choose to regress further and further and faster and faster into the outer depths and excesses of the Marxist-feminist cesspool.

Q4 cont: Or is it just a dream? And is the Cirinist battlefield aftermath scene in Latter Days a purposeful invocation of this scene? (i208)

Dave: No it definitely wasn’t a dream—although that’s a lot of the purpose of lunatic frenzy: to incite a dream-like state within yourself by altering your accurate perceptions of reality. It seems to me to be just an obvious extension of the original impulse to flee from God. Once you get far enough away from God, your next urge is going to be to flee yourself and your own inborn sense of ethics—which illusion of escape alcohol and frenzied behaviours helps to create.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll discuss this more in the Wild Card spot.

No, I would consider a battlefield to be an entirely different kettle of fish. A battlefield is where you resolve the shape of your society and the issues of whose governing philosophy is going to dominate and prevail when all other means of arriving at political and diplomatic conclusions have failed. A pagan frenzy, by contrast, is just a means of letting off steam and “thinning the herd” of undesirable characters and characteristics while creating the illusion of net improvement—letting everyone so inclined get their rocks off from “the blood of others”. I’ve often thought that the reason that leftists object so strongly to war is that it’s too organized and purposeful and on too large a scale. That is, they are only able to perceive the scale of the pagan frenzy—one good bonfire and “getting nekkid”—and anything larger than that and more purposeful than that is just inherently objectionable to them. War can’t be any good so far as the pagan is concerned because music, alcohol, drugs and dancing aren’t involved.

Q5: In Cerebus' dream, the landscape is an homage to Krazy Kat & Ignatz Mouse as the Cerebus/Joanne relationship is contrasted with another lovesick woman/reticent man romance. Julius, Astoria and the Albatross all show up.

Dave: It’s less of lovesick woman/reticent man romance than it is an example of the ferociously competitive female determined at all costs to hook and then land herself the husband she has set her sights on. The ferociously competitive female who is aggressively taking advantage of Cerebus’ sleepiness in order to capture some territory, win some concessions and gain some short yardage on her hard and rocky road to winning the diamond on her ring finger—which, whatever feminist portrayal may hold to the contrary, is not unheard of as female behaviour patterns go. Wait until he’s in a good mood or almost asleep and then spring your trap (whatever you feel your best and most effective trap might happen to be: tears, emotional coercion, sex, jealousy or just the wearing down of resistance through relentless battery of the psyche: like pounding Manuel Noriega and David Koreish with amplified rock music and spotlights morning and night in an attempt to compel them to surrender). The imagery that’s going through Cerebus’ mind on the borderland between wakefulness and sleep all reflects this oppressive day-in, day-out reality he is living. Although—in the interests of continuing to get laid, he wouldn’t be allowing himself to be consciously aware of it (the dick is a monomaniacal organ which screens out all input which threatens its territory)—his unconscious mind is telling him what’s going on. He’s Lord Julius and he’s being cornered by Astoria. He’s Marty and he’s approaching the brink of the waterfall into husbandly doom. He is carved in stone and his little rowboat is already going over the edge, having avoided two tunnel entrances with sharp teeth.

Q5 cont: Bear is drowning someone (who?). Sgt. Preston Roach is going down the drain.

Dave: Mm. Bear isn’t drowning anyone. Bear, as the most masculine incarnation that the (by now) 99.9% trapped Cerebus can envisage is trying to “pull the plug” as a means of escaping Lord Julius’ and Marty’s metaphorical fates visible on the horizon. Of course Bear has already fallen prey to Zig Pig and has been devoured whole—a fact Cerebus is aware of—so when he is able to “pull the plug” it turns out that the plug was actually directly underneath him and he turns out to be not so much the super-masculine Bear draining the swamp through sheer muscle as he is the idiotic Sgt. Preston Roach (who was, of course, putty in Astoria’s hands) and (consequently) all he’s done is to seal his own fate by pulling the plug, sending himself swirling rapidly and irrevocably down the matrimonial drain. Of course, in light of Bear’s recent fate, Cerebus himself is more than a little ambivalent at this point so in the next image, instead of going down the drain, Sgt. Preston Roach has been raised up to the top of a tall building, still revolving, but more slowly and Cerebus envisions a tiny Regency Elf, a less threatening female incarnation than Astoria. This causes him to picture his own divided nature relative to the issue of marriage, his head on one side of the image and his feet on the other. He floats within his own hollowed-out interior, the bar dramatically compressed and moved to one side emphasizing his own weakness and diminishment—his loss of crucial yardage and now imminent matrimonial demise—in failing to recognize the threat posed by Joanne in mentally “casting” Joanne as the small, non-threatening Regency Elf—and as a result sees his hollow interior dominated by a giant Missy (more accurately ominous than a tiny Regency Elf but less accurately threatening than the image of Astoria).

Q5 cont: Rick is seen in Sophia's clothes (emphasizing homosexual overtones in Guys?). Jaka appears in a papal gown.

Dave: Homosexual overtones only in the sense that, yes, a man who is pussy-whipped—who has chosen to be pussy-whipped—and is allowing himself to drift into enemy territory without even token resistance as Cerebus has chosen to do is going to be, in all significant ways, about as masculine as a homosexual. No, Cerebus here is still mentally “casting” the two roles, himself and Joanne and ventures into the forbidden territory of contemplating marriage by allowing himself, however briefly, to see her as being as small and inoffensive as a tiny Regency Elf: by not allowing himself to see that when a woman says, “Let’s not fight anymore” what she’s usually saying is, “Capitulate to me. Do what I want you to do. Marry me. Bind yourself to me. Come, permanently, into my context”.

[I wasn’t really going through this at the time and at the same time I was because I had been sleeping with Susan for a period of years, which always raises the question, “So when are you two going to get married?” and implies that not getting married is an insult to the woman involved. I’ve been on something of a binge of reading Simone De Beauvoir lately. Her complete letters to Nelson Algren, her A Farwell to Sartre, The Mandarins (I love Nelson Algren’s comment: “It would appear that Mme. De Beauvoir has invaded her own privacy”), The Woman Destroyed. I think her reputation as The Seminal Feminist is largely undeserved. She was a feminist to the extent that she had to turn herself into something interesting enough to keep Jean Paul Sartre’s attention once she was no longer physically young and attractive enough to do so, but her interests and the core of her writings are almost exclusively female—love, marriage, faithfulness, unfaithfulness “how do you make love stay?”—things which she wraps in heavily over-intellectualized leftist trappings (again, I suspect, so as to keep Sartre’s attention) but her female characters always have those as their primary interests—whatever else they might be pretending to be for the world and posterity. Her female characters are all holding onto some man’s attentions by their fingernails neatly divided into those who manage the trick by various means of deception and those who collapse into psychological train wrecks when they fail in the attempt. She documents this implicit “love coercion” state very perceptively in a sequence in The Blood of Others (Le Sang des Autres):

‘You haven’t the slightest need of me,’ she said. ‘nothing that is really part of your life has any connexion with me.’

‘It’s possible to be very fond of someone without needing them.’

I pressed her arm against mine, but she stiffened.

‘I feel so useless.”

I ought to have been able to say to her ‘I love you’, but I dared not lie to her. I had sworn to leave her free, and to be free, she must be able to see clearly. And clearly did she see my tenderness and my indifference, and she dragged along, like a joyless burden, that love which I did not need.

‘Are you sure that you don’t love her?’ Denise would say to me.

‘It isn’t love.’

‘But perhaps you can’t love in any other way.’

‘Perhaps, but that makes no difference. It isn’t what she calls love.’

What Hélène required was that I should have an essential need of her; then she would have existed in her entirety, she would have had a miraculous justification for being what she was, for being what I should have loved.

‘You do not will to love her,’ said Denise. She shrugged her shoulders. ‘You are deliberately spoiling your life as well. A great love is not to be scorned.’]

De Beavoir divides and sub-divides and re-subdivides herself on the printed page in just this fashion. She is both the rejected lover and the confidant, both rejected by Sartre and, at the same time, berating Sartre for not loving her enough: “A great love is not to be scorned” with the nervous tick of imminent madness lurking at the periphery of the pronouncement.

Cerebus isn’t aware of this comparably unrelenting pressure, consciously, but his unconscious mind is, so Cerebus’ unconscious mind pictures another married couple—Rick and Jaka—as a means of attempting to keep the concept of imminent marriage at a remove from himself (although he is aware enough of reality to picture married life as side-by-side coffins). The couple is Rick and Jaka but the clothes are those of his own previous marriage, Cerebus and Red Sophia. His unconscious mind is registering the fact that if he does actually marry Joanne she will be the one calling the shots as Cerebus was with Sophia and Cerebus will just be the amiable dominated partner that Red Sophia was which is why the costumes are reversed.

Q5 cont: Then, a great 2-page spread wherein Cerebus is feminized, the make-up kit containing a tiny helmet…

Dave: Yes, his unconscious dreaming mind is following the extrapolation. Given that Joanne is going to be the masculine half of the hypothetical marriage, his dreaming mind is trying to picture what life will be like being Red Sophia—the female half of the marriage—and he remembers that this is most of what Red Sophia did—primping and pampering herself, trying new looks and new hairstyles. The helmet is the core of his masculine self that can’t be eliminated even by his free-ranging dreaming mind. It’s a profoundly discordant note both because of its small size and because it’s just mixed in with all the make-up and brushes and things.

Q5 cont: Then we see Cerebus as a youth…

Dave: His unconscious mind recognizes that he’s gone too far in his extrapolation. To even contemplate living life as if he was Red Sophia is not only distinctly un-masculine—a warning sign of how far into dangerous psychic territory he’s strayed in his involvement with Joanne—but also profoundly childish. Only a child would think that being feminine was an option for a male in marriage.

Q5 cont: Then a baby…

Dave: ProFOUNDly childish. So profoundly childish as to be certifiably infantile.

Q5 cont: A woman/mama grabs his hand…

Dave: Not a woman/mama—Joanne. He’s still telling himself the same story, still casting their roles. He’s completely infantilized and she’s just Joanne. He’s the one that has undergone several complete transformations to accommodate himself to her reality while she is completely unchanged. She is only one thing: the relentless would-be bride. The fact that she can get him to think even unconsciously of changing himself in Red Sophia means that she is winning her relentless war of psychic attrition dominating him at every level of reality just as an adult dominates a baby. She is doing what his unconscious and conscious mind are fully aware that she intends to do and has intended to do all along—to take him firmly by the hand, ignore his feeble protests and crying and drag him to the matrimonial altar.

Q5 cont: He rapidly changes from youth, to warrior, to Prime Minister…

Dave: He’s still telling himself the same story. Even if he’s a youth, a blood-soaked warrior or Prime Minister, they are as impotent to do anything as a baby is—she’s still just going to drag him to the altar unless he does something to stop it.

Q5 cont: As the dream continues, Cerebus is getting married, Joanne is now a barbarian Pope…

Dave: Well, you missed the good part where Cerebus—typical of most grooms (sad-ass self-deluding bastards that they are)—thought the assembled crowd of women were applauding him and applauding his choice to marry. It’s only when he looks over at Joanne and sees that she has his sword, his helmet, his medallions and his Papal robes and that the crowd is chanting her name that he registers the extent to which he is going to lose everything of value to him if the wedding ever takes place, the wedding he has allowed himself for the first time to contemplate unconsciously.

Q5 cont: And then Cerebus is a baby with curtains on his head,

Dave: Yes, the curtains have parted and revealed him to the crowd—and to himself—as he is, as he has chosen to be—as the matrimonial patsy, the connubial clown, the “’til death us do part” fall guy—and everyone in the crowd, including Joanne is laughing at him.

Q5 cont: a diaper, and his tail (or diaper?) between his legs like a penis.

Dave: The crowd sees him and he sees himself, accurately, as being completely and irretrievably infantile and completely dominated by Joanne. He has lost everything of value in exchange for nothing and has become an enormous joke.

Q5 cont: Suddenly awake, Cerebus screams "Get Out!" Is this Cerebus casting out the serpent?

Dave: Actually that’s very well put.

Q5 cont: Is the reaction one of anger at being so emasculated, even in a dream? Or a sense of foreboding, perhaps foreshadowing the Joannist movement? Or merely a re-statement of a woman attempting to usurp the male light, no matter how seemingly enjoyable the relationship is? Can you give us your interpretation of this dream? (i218-19)

Dave: I had forgotten the punch-line until I re-read it. She has so completely pussy-whipped him by this point that even with the dream fresh in his mind and the overwhelming sense of urgency that he has experienced—the certain knowledge that She Has Got to Go—all she has to say is “Don’t. Yell. Geez. Now. What’s the matter?” in a chilly voice, like a mother speaking to her infant—and he folds like a house of cards. “Oh. Aye. Sorry. Sorry. The matter is…uh…”. Pavlov was right. That was pretty good. I laughed when I reread it. The look on his face when he realizes that he just folded like a house of cards and snaps back into the urgency of She Has Got to Go. I was quite pleased with the way it works on the page.

I was well past that point of romantic ambivalence in my last two relationships with Diana and Susan. When it was time to go, it was time to go and no two ways about it, but I certainly remembered with Zolastraya and with Kallin completely missing the point that I had allowed myself to be so subsumed within their context which context was so completely dominated by the urgent need to get married that I seriously wondered if I shouldn’t get married, very, very seldom thinking to myself—except in my most lucid moments—“But… there is no part of me that wants to be married. To anyone.” If you aren’t going through it—and by 1994-1998 when I was sleeping with Susan, I was no longer going through it—it provides a sublime measure of masculine comedy. Only someone who is thoroughly pussy-whipped is going to seriously wonder and doubt why he doesn’t do something that he has absolutely no interest in doing.

And it certainly foreshadows the Joannist movement. In the upper reaches of all that is critically important to men, it is exactly these sorts of half-victories, half-defeats, in my view, that undermine men’s own best efforts and core self interests. Neither Joanne nor Jaka ever got Cerebus to the altar, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t, in tandem, completely destroy every aspect of his life that was worthwhile years and years after they were both dead just by the gravitational effect they had on his decision-making at those critical junctures in his life when he should’ve known better than to stay in proximity to either of them. If it only knocks you five degrees out of whack, the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step ends up thousands of miles away from its intended destination.

Put another way, I wonder if the Synoptic Jesus would’ve allowed Susanna and Joanna and (especially) Mary Magdalene to “tag along” if he would’ve known the feminist cesspool/nightmare that would hatch out of them two thousand years later?

WILDCARD: Does your idea of God take the form of a singular entity that exists independently of the environment/universe we exist in?

Dave: Yes and no. As it says in the Koran, He is closer to you than your own jugular vein. That’s pretty close. I think God is Pure Spirit which implies to me that He has an infinitely greater Super-Real Existence than is possible with any kind of physical incarnation. That is, I assume that God perceives accurately. Whoever you are He perceives your spirit or whatever residue of your spirit still exists within your soul (since I also assume that most people are actively destroying their own souls and the spirit within their soul) since that’s the only real thing about you. My view of the Big Bang was that it represented the attempt on the part of spirits (spirits having flown, as it were) to flee from God into a context where God could not be directly perceived (“To Your Scattered Bodies Go” as the early seventies sf novel would have it). For His first creation—unwilling to blame his/her/its self for his/her/its own unhappiness (the most glaring and recurrent trait at the core of atheism)—this would seem eminently sensible. It’s God who is making me unhappy so I want to go where He isn’t. Well, that isn’t possible in a literal sense. God is everywhere so there’s nowhere you can get away from Him. I think physical incarnation was God’s counter-offer—the best He could do to accommodate the rebellion. If every rebel spirit was willing to erode from a state of pure spirit into a state of individual soul which would be entrapped physically (inside a planet, inside a star, inside a human body) the insulating layers would make anyone going for the soft option deaf and blind to God. Which seemed like just what the doctor ordered for the rebel spirits. If you can go where you can’t see or hear God then you no longer have to take God into account. Of course the point that is missed is that you are still going to have to take God into account because the question of whether He exists or not will dominate any environment where He can no longer be directly perceived even as He dominates, inescapably, the realm of spirit where He is directly perceived. The core of each of God’s creations is awareness of God and obligation to God whether those obligations are being met or not. By choosing to lock yourself up inside a planet or a star or a human body—as we all chose at the Big Bang—you just make that awareness and obligation more relentless. You either acknowledge and do something about it or, at one level or another, most of your time and energy will be devoted to suppressing it.

WILDCARD cont: Is God formed of the environment/universe that we exist in, existing in all things and being a product of the system it inhabits? Or somewhere in between?

Dave: I’m not sure if you’re using the term “it” to refer to the environment/universe or to God, but for obvious reasons I’ll choose to answer as if it’s the former case. The environment/universe, so far as I can see, is a physical construct which God assisted in creating as a means of helping His creations who wanted to get away from Him to get away from Him. As if you were a particularly belligerent two year old who just wanted an environment where he/she/it could no longer hear or see Daddy because he/she/it hated Daddy. Hated hated hated Daddy (God isn’t Daddy, of course, God is our Creator—but for the sake of belligerent argument on the scale of aptitudes available to your average two-year old let’s stick with the misconstruction). So Daddy—ever resourceful and always happy to help out at the point of irresolvable impasse—created a combination space suit and isolation tank (stars, planets, replicating forms) for each and every he/she/it so each and every he/she/it would never have to see or hear Daddy again. And then allowed exponential growth in the population (“multiply thy conceptions”) so as to effect the Big Bang, thus hurling everyone untold trillions of light years away. You are no further from God when you’re a trillion miles away from your starting point than you are at your starting point, but those are just the sorts of things which belligerent two-year olds are going to be partial to. “Not only do I want to achieve a new state of existence where I can’t see or hear you, I want to be as far away from here as I can get as fast as I can get there.” God lives but to serve. Ergo, the Big Bang.

I would assume that in many ways the whole exercise is about as complicated for God as a game of Blind Man’s Buff. Everyone and everything that incarnates physically spends its entire existence feeling that there’s something, you know, missing and with an insatiable deep longing to understand, to connect, to love and be loved, deaf and blind, wandering aimlessly arms waving piteously in front of us. ‘Hello? Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?” Well, certainly. God can. But we—most emphatically—wanted to be cut off from Him. We have the options of a) growing up and accepting the reality of God and submitting to His will (i.e. going home) or b) remaining intransigent two-year-olds throughout our existence and actively suppressing His reality in our lives (i.e. staying permanently lost). It’s not just women who have the right to choose. We all do.

Picture a slide image projected onto a human being. Is the human being inside the slide? Is the slide inside the human being? Did the slide create the human being? Are the slide and the human being “of one substance”? No, the image projected by the slide is an illusion created of light. The human being is real. The relationship between what we call physical reality and God is analogous to the relationship between the slide’s image and a human being: there are degrees of “realness” and “Realness”. We understand that a human being is far more real than a projected slide image. Of course even the physical reality of the human being is a complete illusion—“physical reality”—made up of oscillating light waves/particles flying in loose formation and insulating us perfectly from conscious awareness of God. That, as far as I can see, is the way we wanted it. As someone once said, It’s a valuable lesson about life. “You can get what you want and still not be very happy.”