I did not intend to spend a couple of months writing almost 60,000 words about Cerebus. Honestly.

What happened was this. A reader briefly in the early 90s, I always had a vague plan that I’d finish the comic. I did, adding reviews to Goodreads as I went, and then thought, let’s post the reviews on the blog. Maybe revise them a bit. Revise became rewrite, and here we are. 

As I said in the conclusion, there’s something about Cerebus that does this to people. The internet is strewn with readthroughs and reminiscences. If you’re a writer, and you finish it – particularly if you were one of the few who made the trek month on month – you may feel compelled to offer some evidence, a snapshot of you, mad-eyed and frostbitten, on top of this notorious peak.

So there’s a lot of writing about Cerebus already, some of it really good. I wrote my posts as a sort of personal journey through the comic, and as I wrote I realised they overlap a lot with what other critics have said. So I knew I’d need to end with this epilogue, a look at those writers and the context Cerebus exists in now.

Before and early on in the project, I read three pieces, or series, about Cerebus which made a particular impression on me – the Three Wise Criticks of the concluding post.

The first is Andrew Rilstone, who I first encountered as the editor of the seminal RPG zine Aslan and who followed Cerebus til the end, blogging about it as it reached its conclusion. He revisited the series in 2021 and published a short book, When Did You Stop Reading Cerebus?, which is also available as a series of blog posts. It’s about Cerebus as a big, difficult, novel, and how we can’t just ignore the ugly or difficult parts of such books. Rilstone profoundly disagrees with Dave Sim, but the book nonetheless was (kind of) endorsed by Sim in one of his videos. Rilstone is also, as far as I know, the only one of these writers to have done his own Biblical exegesis! (On Mark, a series of posts I enjoyed roughly 10,000 times more than Cerebus’ Torah commentaries)

The second is Douglas Wolk, a music and comics critic who wrote the wonderful guide to Marvel Comics, All Of The Marvels. Before that he wrote Reading Comics, in which he discussed the spectacular craft, innovation and also the extreme disappointment and difficulty of Cerebus. The Cerebus part of Reading Comics is based in large part on his 2006 Believer essay, Aardvark Politick. Wolk was one of the first critics to lay out what you might call the positive case for Cerebus as a great work with terrible aspects, as opposed to the negative case for it, that it’s a great work which turns into a terrible one.

And the third is Tegan O’Neil, who wrote a series of posts about the likely legacy of Cerebus, after a flurry of 2011 interest in the comic (see below). The posts are notes toward an abandoned essay, but she’s the best writer I’ve read about Dave Sim himself, laying out exactly what makes him and his work so tricky to grapple with. I first read her posts doing this project, and they definitely informed my thinking about Sim and his development as a thinker. While in 2011 O’Neil listed Cerebus as one of her favourite comics, she considers Sim indefensible, and thinks the series will survive, but largely as an object of academic study.

For me, those were the big three must-read pieces on Cerebus. They all, I think, are by people who at least once liked (or even loved) the comic more than I do, but that’s fine: most of these write-ups are, and the appeal of Cerebus for me is partly how extreme its highs and lows are.

I would add a fourth piece now I’ve actually read it – Tim Kreider’s “Irredeemable”, published in The Comics Journal in 2011 (excerpted here), which was the major critical analysis that prompted the Tegan O’Neil posts. Kreider’s essay is long and excellent; when I finished my posts, I subscribed to the Comics Journal archive largely so I could read it, and was a little annoyed and envious that it covers so many of the same points, more concisely. If you can get hold of it, it’s a tremendous essay.

Rilstone, Wolk and O’Neil are all ‘long-haulers’ – they had read Cerebus for years and lasted all the way to 300. Kreider is a “finisher” like me – he sat down after the fact and tackled the whole thing. All four write about Cerebus as a whole, which is, I have to ruefully admit, a sensible way to do it. But some bloggers have made a phonebook by phonebook analysis, even if most of them don’t get to the end.

One who did is Carson Grubaugh, an artist who ended up collaborating with Dave Sim on Sim’s most recent non-Cerebus project, The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond. Grubaugh, unsurprisingly given that, agrees with Sim’s ideas more than anyone else I’m mentioning, so caveat lector. But his mid-10s read-through is still invaluable, because it’s the best visual guide to the techniques Sim developed, innovated and used throughout the series. I’ve stayed away from visual examples from Cerebus but this is the place to go if you want to explore the purer craft and technique aspects of the books.

There’s a ton of other critical writing about Cerebus, but I want to mention two other pieces which really struck me. Emma Tinker wrote a PHD about comics and it included a very detailed look at a single sequence from Guys (Cerebus’ drunken dream) which shows how deep you can go into even a fairly brief part of the comic. And John L Roberson wrote a passionate essay about his relationship with Cerebus and his feelings of betrayal at how things turned out, particularly at the level of individual characters like Jaka. I don’t agree with everything he says but it’s a deeply felt example of what I called the “negative case” above.

Then there are the websites. The Cerebus wiki is useful for its collecting quotes and interview responses from Sim himself, which illuminate what he thought he was doing or what he claims to have thought he was doing (it gets complicated). You also get a lot of this, and some useful background detail, in the archives of the still-running A Moment Of Cerebus website, which is also your go-to spot should you want to hear the most recent thoughts of Dave Sim and catch up on his current projects, like the imminent manga parody Akimbo.

Which brings us to the legacy of Cerebus. Before I talk about that, a shout out to two non-Cerebus works of comic criticism which have been a more general inspiration.

One is Elizabeth Sandifer’s The Last War In Albion, which she’s been working on for years, an account of the magical conflict between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison which doubles as a (filtered, but fairly comprehensive given how central those two were) history of comics from the 80s onward. Dave Sim appears in a couple of cameos, but it’s mostly the stories of Moore, Morrison and some of their contemporaries. It’s excellent, and you can back it at her and her husband Penn’s joint Patreon.

The other is Harry Thompson’s 1991 book Tintin: Herge And His Creation, still a model of how to write a book-by-book critical biography and appreciation of a comics artist without using any of the actual art.

And I’d like to broadly thank the various people who’ve commented and promoted the work on Bluesky as I posted it, especially (but not only) Cerebus expert Andrew Hickey, who is as tired of Dave Sim’s bullshit as anyone and knows more about it than most.


Twenty years after the end of Cerebus, Dave Sim still lives and works in the house and studio where he drew the comic. The big Comics Journal essay on his work came out in 2011; since then, while he remains legendary as a cautionary tale about maleness, madness or divorcedness (take your pick), interest in his actual work has been intermittent. His big creative interest until 2015 was photorealism, carrying on from his experiments near the end of Cerebus. It informed Judenhass, his memorial piece about the Shoah; Glamorpuss, his monthly fashion satire; and the uncompleted (perhaps uncompletable) biography/conspiracy/graphic novel The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond

In 2015, a wrist injury ended his drawing career for a long time – he’s only recently begun to draw again. He kept a publication schedule going, though, with the launch of Cerebus In Hell?, a magazine made up of regular first issues, in which Sim makes collages of his own and public domain art and adds captions on top of them. The series deals with contemporary life from COVID-19 to the fight for abortion rights – I’ve not read any of it, though by every account, Sim’s views are extremely predictable and have not mellowed.

The world, or the further-right parts of it, have moved closer to Sim, and one of the questions I had sitting down to re-read Cerebus is “how come this guy hasn’t become a cult figure on the alt-right?”. Reading it sorted that one out: Sim’s views on gender and politics are ordinary enough in those circles, but his religious convictions are intense and bizarre and inseparable from anything else he thinks, worlds away from the convenient surface performances that pass for faith on much of the right, and grossly heretical to anyone who does believe.

In 2020, a right-wing artist did try and hire Sim as writer on his comic, only for a fresh scandal to surface – Sim’s grooming of a teenage fan during his “rock star” days back on the 80s convention circuit. Sim was only too happy to clarify: yes he’d done it, and written about it in the letter columns; yes, he’d slept with her when she was older; yes, it was very wrong and oh, by the way, it was also the only truly happy time in his life. So that was the end of Dave Sim, alt-right comics star.

I found that story a little bit into this project and it was one of the times when I thought, christ, am I the arsehole for even doing this? Sim’s views are repellent; I’m hardly surprised he was a creep, why not just forget him and be done with it? I’m still not sure I have an answer for that. I don’t recommend reading Cerebus, I’m just warning you that if you do read Cerebus you might end up wanting to talk about it.

When Dave Sim dies, he says, all of Cerebus will immediately go into the public domain – he has no heirs and he bought Gerhard’s half of the business. As Kreider points out in his essay, it’s possible to imagine someone putting together a bowdlerised version of the comic, or a “best of” spotlighting individual pages or sequences. Maybe the dream of the New York Times might yet come true!

It seems unlikely, and it’s equally possible to imagine nobody caring at all. Cerebus’ readership now remains mostly people who’ve already read it, whether scratching a completist itch like I did, or recreating an extraordinary, unique event that happened once, in and to comics. A few of those original readers of Cerebus will keep doing what I did, mapping their path through the labyrinth of Dave Sim’s creativity, hate and fear. I will not be the last person, outside the academy, to write about Cerebus The Aardvark. But I don’t think there will be many more.