The Church and State storyline (whose covers I have been discussing) is sixty issues long, so I have only begun to touch on its covers (and don't worry: I don't intend to talk about them all). I thought that at this point I'd move away from talking about the "mini-series" to mention a few specific, individual covers -- largely because I like them, though in most cases I also have a few points I want to make about them.
Here, for example, is the cover to issue #61:
The cover to issue #68 --
Next look at the cover to issue #85:
that out of the ordinary. What makes it work for me, however, is Cerebus's very subtle reaching out towards the bottle that Mick Jagger carries in his hand -- an indication of desire for drink that is both funny in itself and which promises further humor inside.
For the cover to issue #100, Sim took slices of four of his earlier covers -- those to issues one, fifty and seventy-five (all previously discussed), plus a bit of the cover to issue twenty-five which I didn't get around to mentioning. The overall effect is not all that overwhelming, but it's a nice way to mark where he's been and how far he's come:
A few of the issues from the "Church and State" story also allow me to show a bit of Sim's use of parody. One early three-issue sequence shows the sole superhero of Cerebus's world, the Roach, transform into his latest incarnation, Wolveroach, a direct parody of Marvel comics' Wolverine, who was then just getting popular. The covers were in particular a reference to Wolverine's first four-issue individual series, which was penciled by the then-emerging star artist Frank Miller (and written by the X-Men's then-current writer, Chris Claremont). Sim did three "Woveroach" covers, each of which is, basically, an iconic Wolverine image -- to the point where, if I recall correctly, Marvel made some noises about suing him for trademark infringement. In any event, compare Sim's cover to issue #56 with this two-panel sequence from the early pages of Claremont & Miller's 1982 Wolverine #2:
One other parody which Sim uses is more subtle, to the degree that not everyone might even agree that it's a parody -- but I think it is. On a number of Sim's covers, he uses a style of lettering which (it seems to me) is directly modeled on the style that comics great Will Eisner used in his stories of Jewish life on the lower east side, a sort of dramatic style merged with a "religious" look. Not everyone may see it, but I see the lettering in this cover to issue #64 --
Incidentally, on this list of comics' ten greatest letterers, Will Eisner was #2, and Dave Sim was #1. The listmaker explains why, in his opinion, Dave Sim is the greatest comics letterer of all time:
Novelty balloons. Novelty letters. Balloons that form panel borders. Balloons that fade into crosshatched blackness. "Telepathic" balloons that strike like pointed weapons. Thought balloons that-- get this-- do NOT belong to the character they point to, but belong to a Godlike Creator-Figure TALKING IN THAT CHARACTER'S HEAD. One character with four different internal monologues. I'm only scratching the surface here. Dave Sim has, quite simply, done more with lettering in Cerebus than anyone else has, anywhere. If you HATE Cerebus and want to be a letterer... buy it anyway.-- Just another piece of evidence as to Sim's originality in the field.
Back to the covers.
A nice two-image sequence are the covers to issues #65-66. The first is simply a text on a black background -- illustrating Sim's talent for titles, but not really a striking design as such. The second rips away part of the previous image, to show Cerebus and one of his toadies creeping around in a basement looking for something:
The final series from "Church and State" that I wish to mention are the three covers from issues #71-73:
Finally, various elements of some of the series are brought back. So in this cover to issue #83:
So those are the covers to the "Church and State" series. Immediately after that, as I have noted before, we get a very different storyline, one in which Cerebus and a few other characters live together in a tight, emotionally fraught setting: this is the story collected in the phonebook Jaka's Story (issues #114-137).
All of the sudden the covers are quiet, lushly colored, with characters shown reflectively, often partly obscured or turned away from the viewer. Typical are these early covers for issues #115-117:
While the covers for "Church and State" varied widely -- jumping about in tone -- the covers for Jaka's story change (for the most part) slowly, forming an ordered progression which recapitulates, in simple graphic form, the entire story of the book. (Thus we are going to have some spoilers for Jaka's Story in the next batch of images.) The above images are distant, for instance, but the framing creeps slowly closer while staying similar in tone, as in these covers to issues #118 (again Jaka walking) and #119 (again a character looking out a window):
Then Sim shifts his viewpoint and shows us Pud (the person shown above)'s fractured view of himself on the cover to issue #123:
Then, in the next cover, we are inside: a reverse view of the window, with Jaka looking out -- obscured now not by the window frame but by her turning her back to us. Merely implied is the voyeurism of the viewer, looking at Jaka's wet and clinging dress from behind her (and that voyeurism too is part of the tale):
Over the next several issues we get more buildings (interiors and exteriors), more characters shown alone, often obscured or turned away; until at last we come to Jaka's climactic dance in issue #129:
But the dance is interrupted (#130) -- note the close-up, the subtly implied dramatic tension as we see only the smashing of the door without knowing who is breaking it or why:
And then the scene shifts yet again, to Jaka's interrogation (with a white color scheme displacing the black) for the final few issues of the story:
And the final issue of the story -- the epilogue -- in which some high-society people discuss the ending is marvelously and quite differently shown with a photograph of what they might discuss it over:
For now, I shall stop here. Those are some of the covers from the first 45% or so of the series -- all that I had read when I began to write it (although I have since read one further volume, Melmoth, an extended aftewards of sorts to Jaka's Story). I think I'd like to keep discussing Cerebus covers -- if only because I like them, so they're fun to write about -- but if I haven't convinced you of the marvel of Sim's covers by now, I probably won't. I also may add a final post simply adding a few thoughts about Cerebus as a whole in the wake of the discussion thus far, or reviewing the further volumes as I read them.
So while I doubt I'll be able to find the time to write it any time soon, watch this space for an eventual part five.
Update: Part five is now online here.