Maybe you've seen Conan the Barbarian, or read the Robert E. Howard books, or maybe even the Roy Thomas and Barry Smith comic books. You know, big guy with a sword who rapes and pillages his way through "ancient times", slaying armies, wizards and monsters along the way. Ok. Now imagine those same stories, but every time you think of Conan, swap him with a little gray, angry aardvark-thing. Got it? Good. Welcome to CEREBUS.
I can only assume that it started off as a joke. Sword and sorcery, popular at that time during the seventies, was ripe for parody. And CEREBUS certainly succeeds in poking it in the eye. From Howard to Moorcock to Tolkien, even Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Dave Sim applies his razor sharp wit and clever observations to create a work that's surprisingly relevant today, decades since its initial publication.
Somewhere along the line, however, CEREBUS began to evolve beyond the simple fantasy satire. I'd say towards the middle of this volume, with the story "The Walls of Palnu", that finds Cerebus the Aardvark under the employment of Lord Julius, a seemingly moronic, yet cunning ruler who knows a thing or two about bureaucracy. It's here that Sim turns his biting wit to politics, economics, and class warfare. And it's here in this first volume of CEREBUS tales that the seeds for Sim's subsequent, acclaimed classics, High Society and Church & State, are planted.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.