There are two books remaining on Carson’s trip through the 1977-2004 World of Cerebus: Latter Days and The Last Day. And my “shooting script” finally needed some actual dialog, again.
BOOK REF: Latter Days
Cerebus was bound by the Three Wise Guys in and around Cerebus #270.
And for the first time in this little story, Carson IS Cerebus (bound to Cerebus, get it? I thought so…).
The dialog (by Carson) underscores another interesting point Dave makes, that goes way, way back in the Cerebus series, about how some characters are being perceived by other characters in ways that may be different than the way a member of the audience (readership) might. How the heck do we know how someone else sees or understands what anything is, or what it means, through the lens of their own personal experience and … and, oh, please, don’t get me started again on reality versus Reality versus “reality” (to borrow one of Dave’s favorite postmodernist constructs). Moving on.
Cerebus #270 p 18
BOOK REF: The Last Day
Cerebus #299 came out on the day before my birthday, in February 2004. On the last page, we fans got a real treat as a fighting-mad Cerebus goes Full Barbarian, grabs a little dagger, and sets off to eviscerate his son (“Shep-Shep”), who has been dabbling in weird science. I just had to own that last page.
And on top of that, I also wanted page 1 of #300 as I figured it would be its perfect companion, no matter what happened next. So I made the offer for it sight-unseen. Amused, Dave and Ger asked me to wait until I saw it to decide. Yeah. Whatever. Almost immediately, and before any of the rest of us ever saw page 1 of issue #300 in print, I also asked Dave and Ger if they would do a sketch for me as an homage to the famous “What Happened Between Issues 20 and 21?” story, as a bridge between these two pages/issues.
They must have laughed, as there ended up being not too much open space between Issues 299 and 300, as you can see. But they did make a clever bridging sequence: Cerebus raises his right arm between the last panel in 299 and the first one in 300 (and needless to say, I got much more than a sketch from those guys).
The centerpiece is also terrific because it reads from bottom to top, which I suspect Scott “Understanding Comics” McCloud would have a field day with.
And as of this writing (March 2019), we are 15 years to the month, perhaps close to the day, since #300 was published in March 2004, when I was having these conversations.
The pages were committed to be displayed that summer, so I did not actually take possession until December. You can see that the “in between” half-page was done in September.
And, the ensemble:
So we end Carson’s grand tour in Cerebus #300, which gets three panels, and then we bring him home:
Panel A: Carson reaches for the little dagger that has fallen on the floor
Panel B: Carson’s reflection in the little dagger
Panel C: Carson and the return of the BWGST in the reflection in the dagger
Last panel. Carson is back in the studio, and back to sepia (as in the final scene of Wizard of Oz).
Carson (has the white sphere in his left hand; things always invert with that dang BWGST): “Home… (softly) … and this is my room…” (this is Dorothy’s last line of dialog at the end of the Wizard of Oz)… there is also a sideways allusion here to the entire last arc of the Cerebus series and the title of Book 13 (Going Home)
Student: “Sir, are you OK? You drifted off for a moment.”
And this is a significantly more obscure reference to an all-time favorite, final movie moment of mine, to commemorate Carson’s passage (take it as you might) from one world into the other, particularly at the staging of Cerebus’s death:
“It’s time for you to leave now. Time for you to go back to where you came from. Back to the place where all the spirits came from, and where all the spirits return. This world will not longer concern you.” – Dead Man, 1995
Dead Man is a terrifically under-appreciated movie starring Johnny Depp, the fantastic Gary Farmer, and includes performances by John Hurt, Iggy Pop, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton, Gabriel Byrne, Crispin Glover, and the last US film appearance by Robert Mitchum. And also features an original Neil Young soundtrack, which he improvised much of as he watched the pre-edited (!) film during its production. A black and white “art house” type of movie, it has been described as a “psychedelic western.” Contemporary reviewers were quite critical at the time, but it now shows up on the “movies you missed” lists. I enjoy re-watching it every 5 years or so. It was released the same year as “12 Monkeys” and “Heat,” making 1995 one of only a few years with three recommendations on my all-time list of ca. 50 films.
You have to see the movie to catch what I mean by the drifting reference (Carson has drifted off… from the student’s point of view, but also from our perspective away from Cerebus’s world, too). Passage and transition. The clip from Dead Man that I am referencing is here.
Another great line from Dead Man worthy of inclusion: “The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn from the crow.”
Fortunately, my twin eagles (Gerhard and Carson) recognized and ignored the more crow-like suggestions I cawed about along the way and turned them into good ideas. Un grand merci, mille mercis, mes amis.
Carson lifts the sphere from the copy of the Cerebus volume that clocked him. The End.
And to coin a phrase (really, to clip one of the few X-Men tropes, from the cover of issue 139, Nov 1980, that has been used as frequently as Wolverine’s many tag lines):
“Welcome to the World of Cerebus, Carson. Hope you survive the experience.”