I apologize in advance for using the word “pamphlets” to describe comic books.

§ September 16th, 2013 § Filed under cerebus, collecting, x-men § 9 Comments

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.

And two:


…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.

9 Responses to “I apologize in advance for using the word “pamphlets” to describe comic books.”

  • Lawrence Fechtenberger says:

    I am no lawyer, but… that pronunciation guide probably would have been no defense in a trademark infringement case. The only reason this publisher did not get sued (and successfully sued) is that Marvel’s lawyers decided that it was not worth the effort.

    And please note: trademark infringement, not copyright. There is not an hour that goes by without someone referring to copyrights when he means trademarks, but we shall avoid such crass errors here, shall we not?

  • Masonic Youth says:

    I read “High Society” about 10 years ago, found Vol 1 later at a library, and for the longest time that was all I had read of Cerebus. Then I found a “Church & State” TPB at a used bookstore a couple of years ago and got 30-40 pages in before I realized it was VOLUME TWO. I set it aside, until last month when I was in Boulder and found “Jaka’s Story” at a used bookstore.
    So that prompted me to finally order Church & State Vol. 1 from an eBay seller, and now I’m starting a re-read, beginning with High Society.

    Some of this is clearly due to chance findings at used bookstores, but some also is due to the Comics Journal re-evaluation a year or two ago, and also the fact Cerebus came up in a “Deconstructing Comics” podcast recently as well.

  • Interstate Shogun says:

    Gnatrat: The Dark Gnat Returns is another mid 80′s parody comic that sticks in my mind too. I don’t have it anymore, but my 15 year old self in 1986 thought it was purty funny.

  • C. Elam says:

    I have literally never heard of this one before, and I thought I was aware of a lot of those 1980s B&W parody comics. Good show, Mr. Sterling.

    Other than the obvious punning involved, I have got to think the Cerebus/Cerebos cameo was influenced by the unlikely Cerebus/X-Men crossover that was discussed a few years earlier. Of course, Wolveroach pretty much ensured that would never come to pass.

  • Chance says:

    Isn’t it possible that the “edited-after-the-fact” of Cerebus to Cerebos is a deliberate, subtle joke on the part of the parodists, mocking how close they are skirting to outright theft?

  • d says:

    hmm..if I’d have known there was a Cerebus appearance (even a parody one) I probably would’ve bought this back in ’86.

  • Nifty finds.

    Still, my favorite X-Men parody is the “F-Men” from E-MAN.

    The whole “Dark Albatross” storyline was a hoot, with meta commentaries on Marvel creators (Stan Lee, Jim Shooter and John Byrne, with Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum being “characterized” as a part of the tale).

    But Cerebus… I have a few phone books, and nearly all the individual issues. I truly NEED to read that whole epic start to finish.

  • philfromgermany says:

    There was also a parody book called Loco vs. Pulverine.

  • David G says:

    I wonder if the uptick in cerebus interest is due to the kick starter stuff a while back, which was then followed by the strangely addictive Moment of Cerebus blog:

    http://momentofcerebus.blogspot.com.au/

    Which makes me want to read Cerebus again, even though I only did it a few years ago.