So I recently acquired a comic that’s been haunting the back of my mind for nearly thirty years:
I glanced through this comic in the shop back when it was released in 1986, and two parts of the book have lingered with me all this time. One, the pronunciation guide on the cover (and repeated several times inside as a running gag):
I have been sort of privately pronouncing the name “X-Men” this way in my head for years. I usually don’t say it out loud, unlike “Defective Comics,” which I say every time I pull down the Detective Comics box because I think I’m hilarious.
…the shocking Cerebus cameo has stuck with me, because, you see, in the regular X-Men books, Professor X uses Cerebro, a big ol’ computer thingie, to enhance his mutant psychic abilities to find mutants. However, in Xmen (pronounced ZHMEN, one syllable) it is, of course, Cerebus who tracks mutants for Professor X, because “Cerebus” sounds sorta like “Cerebro.” Or, excuse me, “Cerebos,” as the clearly-edited-after-the-fact Us in these word balloons would have it:
I’m not even really sure why I kept this comic, which showed up in a collection recently. It’s not as if I haven’t had opportunities to pick it up in the past, since copies turned up at the shop from time to time. The comic itself as a parody doesn’t really do anything for me. There’s the funny names for the characters, the poking at X-Men tropes, the satirizing of then-current X-Men plot twists and character quirks, and so on, which might play a little better for someone more invested in the X-universe. The comic does feature some nice early work by Charles Troug, who would go on to illustrate Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, so there’s that.
I suppose I mostly kept this comic to finally have a physical representation of those two wires this comic crossed in my head so long ago, a print version of the memories still echoing from that brief exposure.
Speaking of Cerebus, this comic came out last week:
…an anthology of parody/tribute stories by cartoonist Cerebus fans, using the Cerebus character as per creator Dave Sim’s decision to allow other folks to use it in new creative works. For the cover alone this probably deserves a place in your Cerebus collection, and you can read about its creation here (and buy a color print here!). The contents are amusing as well, with even the…less polished entries still having an undeniable and entertaining enthusiasm. Like the Xmen book above, it’s probably best appreciated by those folks still in the bag for the property being parodied, and a little too much “reading someone else’s mail” for the uninitiated. But, I’m still game for new Cerebus spin-off stuff, making me the target audience, I guess.
Almost universal reaction from customers at the shop (and even an employee or two) to seeing Low Society on the stands has been “a Cerebus parody comic…now?” which, well, fair enough. It has been nearly ten years since the series ended, but I do have to note that I’m seeing a small uptick in sales on Cerebus trade paperback collections lately, so someone out there is still discovering and reading it. Or, at the very least, upgrading their collections from the pamphlets to the phonebooks. At any rate, I did fear that once it was over, Cerebus would fade into memory, but there appears to be a little life sticking to it yet. It’s a complex, multilayered, and (especially in the latter half) divisive, problematic and controversial work, and still contains a wealth of material to be mined, discussed, criticized, and, yes, parodied.
Anyway, Cerebus: I still need to reread that someday.