Church & State I

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Phonebook Volume #3
Collects Issues: 52 - 80
1st Printing525 signed & numbered out of 6,000 print run
Date of 1st PrintJune 1987
# of Pages592
Current Printing9th

Print Run Notes

CFG Blog: Phonebook follow-up

Question: “I have several copies of the first printing Church & State I: one is signed and numbered 136 / 525 by you and Gerhard and has no page numbers, the other first edition isn’t signed nor numbered, and has page numbers. I don’t remember seeing anything in the back of the issue stuff in Cerebus for a signed & numbered edition of C&S I – was this something ou came up with due to the “misprint” of not having page numbers?”

Dave Sim's response: "I think what happened with C&S I was that the first printing didn't have page numbers and we decided to go ahead and sign and number those to fill the orders, letting customers know t hat they would get an unsigned unnumbered copy with page numbers. . . .and then had Preney scrap the non-page number 1st printings and reprint it, so only the signed and numbered copies didn't have page numbers and the unsigned unnumbered copies did have page numbers. It bothered me that the first printing was actually the second printing, which as I recall, led to my decision to make the first printing the signed and numbered printing from then on: basically doing what I thought, in retrospect, should have been done with C&S I."

Daves Q&A

Q: Did Michelle murder the Count?

DAVE: It wouldn't surprise me that Michelle murdered the Count, but it wasn't something I consciously decided either way.

03/04: Q: Who did Bran send a message to in Church and State not long before Thrunk shows up (issue 72) and why?

DAVE: Presumably to the Pigts and/or some group affiliated with them.

03/04: Q: The Pigt shaman who kills himself suffers a Death of the Soul that has cataclysmic repercussions. But Bran repeatedly kills himself and gets re-incarnated - how?

DAVE: Faith. The pigt shaman was essentially an "ancestor worshipper," which, to me, is probably the lowest grade of faith: that your dead relatives are efficacious in some way. Bran had faith in Cerebus and Cerebus, as a natural magnifier, magnified that faith at many levels within Bran Mak Mufin. He consciously lost faith when he killed himself, but his conscious faith was only one level and not as important a one as the other levels Cerebus had reached (with Bran's acquiescence). He literally had faith that wouldn't die.

05/04: 1. Before you decided that the Big Round Glowing White Strange Thing was YoohWhoo, who did you intend the two voices to be that we heard when Cerebus climbed up to the Regency to talk to (what turned out to be) the fake fake Regency Elf? (i73/C&SI)

Moved question and answer to issue 70 article.

Q. How reliable is the information Theresa is feeding Weisshaupt in general, and specifically how does what she say about Sir Gerrik square with the apparent contradiction of Astoria's statements about Cirin having given birth to a human son in "Reads" ("Appointments" in C&S I p.211)?

DAVE: Well, one of the problems with a pathological liar character like Astoria is that pathological lying becomes endemic in proximity to her. Remember, she's based on Bridgette O'Shaugnessy as portrayed by Mary Astor, who told her stories a little differently each time out and a little differently to each person she told them to. Or a lot differently. A pathological liar also derives great benefit from a Star Chamber approach to government such as Cirin practiced—providing she has immunity—because all of the proceedings are completely secret. Something happened behind closed doors in the series of events that Theresa is describing that probably resembles the story she is relating in certain particulars and is wide of the mark in others. I assume that Theresa is a pathological liar herself. The type tends to attract true believers who have a tendency to swallow everything whole and—when they finally start connecting the dots—tend to imitate the behaviour. If there's no way of knowing what actually happened, there's no reason that Theresa can't tell it in her own way. The temptation to manufacture reality and to dictate it to others becomes too great. At that point the only guessing game is Which reality will ultimately prevail? So you might as well get yourself a dog in the fight just for the sake of having a dog in the fight. Who knows? You might win. It's one of those `well met' circumstances. Cirin and Astoria were very much suited to each other. One hyper-secretive and the other a pathological liar. And, as I indicated last time (at least I think it was last time) Astoria wasn't particularly good at what she was doing, so she tended to alternate between the urge to be a true revolutionary working to replace the system with one of her own devising and the urge to play Samson in the Temple—bringing everything crashing down on everyone and everything including herself. It's a very sloppy form of anarchy and it works at cross purposes to itself. Replacing a system is a very different exercise from bringing everything to crashing ruin. So, I assume that Theresa would be pretty much the same. Of course the overall point—whether it's Astoria's or whether it's Theresa's point—is a natural extrapolation of the abortion debate. "It's none of your business." Did Astoria believe that a mother had the right to murder her own children or was this one of Theresa's innovations? I was less concerned with who thought it up or how it came to be discussed than in introducing the idea that once you have let daughters—the daughter impulse which is always to shock their mothers as a way of indicating their own superiority by not being shocked—off the leash it doesn't take long to find the darkest corners of reality and begin to treat those corners with perfect equanimity. The recent move by Planned Parenthood to promote their cause with an "I had an abortion" t-shirt, it seems to me, is an attempt to recover that 70s frisson of sang froid, the "doesn't bother me" philosophy that so titillated daughters at the time and which they found so compelling as lifestyle choice. "My mother is such a fossil. She thinks abortion is evil. She's SO uncool." There'll be a lot of psychic debate going on between women right now about "I had an abortion" on a t-shirt and what it means. I suspect for a number of pro-choice women it's just very creepy to picture themselves wearing an "I had an abortion" t-shirt and that (I would suspect largely unexpected) reaction within themselves is probably causing a certain amount of (equally unexpected) self-examination of how they actually feel about abortion. Having an abortion is one thing, advertising it jauntily on a t-shirt is another. At the other end of the spectrum where "Doesn't. Bother. Me" is the ingrained, genetic level response to everything—the triple-X Hardcore Feminist crowd—I would suspect that for an unknown number of women neither abortion nor infanticide are causes for concern. Kill a baby, kill a fetus, what's the difference and what's the big deal? "Doesn't. Bother. Me." The fact that women in our society who murder their children are treated far more leniently than men who murder their children would indicate that this is, indeed, one of those dark corners of reality that is a little more crowded than most people in our society would accept it as being. Still an occult—in the original sense of "hidden"—sensibility but one which is quite widespread and one which is just biding its time before actively declaring itself. For that sensibility, wearing an "I had an abortion" t-shirt would be a good place to start.In documenting Cirinists and Kevillists, I tried to outline what I saw as some of these interesting dark corners which daughters tend to find so enticing in their on-going need to shock their mothers. The actual facts—given that I was documenting women at war with each other and with society—I never really concerned myself about. Take the question: Was Sir Gerrik adopted or Cirin's natural son? In a woman's world, it depends on who you ask. A big part of living with women involves simply believing everything that they say—their version of events, no matter how improbable. At this point we get into the areas of "Are women like that? or did Dave Sim just have this awful run of bad luck that the women he was with were always peddling a point of view on something?" I'm happy to discuss this further, but I'm just going to make a lot of you feel bad or angry or sad or a mixture of those. It's why I showed a reasonably abstemious fellow like Weisshaupt drinking like a fish. If you actually try to determine the nature of reality by listening to women, you better have a bottle near to hand.

Q2. How did Lord Storm'send come by his knowledge of the Kevillists, the growth of the tower, the significance of the events Cerebus initiates as Pope etc? He tells Cerebus that Tarim fever sweeps through every decade or so, until someone says "enuf is enuf" - What's this mean? (i80)

DAVE: Well, you have to remember that I had a really bad grasp of what the Meschiach—a messiah—is at the point I was writing this. "Tarim fever". I came from the benighted generation directly after John Lennon's. Let me see if I can describe this. I assumed, like John Lennon, like most atheists that Jesus was less of a manifestation of God's will and God's revelation of Himself to the world than he was a…job description. As John Lennon said about going to the cinema and seeing Elvis singing on the movie screen and all the girls in the audience jumping up and down and squealing: "That looks like a good job." John Lennon wanted to be Elvis and he got to be Elvis. I don't think there was anything larger in John Lennon's world. He looked around and there was no one bigger than Elvis and when he got to be Elvis, there was no one bigger than John Lennon. Not even Jesus. How many magazine covers was Jesus on last month? In the same sense that the Beatles were all said to be fascinated with Hitler. Famous name. Big crowds. Power and control. It's really all that you have in the skyer-no-higher—Lennon's toppermost of the poppermost—category when you're an atheist. Elvis Presley allowing himself to be called The King. Only half-heartedly protesting that there was only one King and that was Jesus—and then going out on stage dressed as Captain Marvel, Jr. It's a mixed message in Elvis' case. How devout was he? You had the Gospel singing and then you had the exponential fornication, the under-age fiancee. In John Lennon's case there's nothing to clutter up the message. In "apologizing" for saying the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, he said, "I didn't mean anything against God as a thing or Jesus as a person." That's a very good summing up of the atheistic view of both. God as a thing. Jesus as a person.At twenty-five or so—I didn't really discover the Beatles until a good ten years after they broke up—I assumed that the world was made up of individuals who were all "in" on this messiah racket and that they were all contending with each other as to whose guy was being advanced at any given point. Hitler, John Lennon, Elvis. It was part of the distorting effect of television which was difficult to see at the time because I was in the first generation of television children. Television was just as much a substitute religious altar in an atheistic family as it was an entertainment source. It was the grown-ups who were insisting we had to watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, had to watch JFK's funeral, had to watch the Gemini astronauts walking in space. I was seven years old. Watch the television. This is important. Okay. I'm watching, I'm watching. Television made of civilization a community of people all engaged in what Joni Mitchell called "the star-maker machinery". Watch the television. This is important. At one level "the star-maker machinery" was just about big houses and fancy cars and swimming pools and all that. But, I assumed in the rarefied heights the game was a good deal more serious. Even when you dismiss "God as a thing and Jesus as a person," as could be seen with John Lennon, you still have an awareness that the "toppermost of the poppermost" exists. Although the controversy over Lennon saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus was ancient history by the time I was reading about it and watching it in documentaries, it didn't surprise me nearly as much that John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus as it did that he backed off so quickly in reaction. I mean, I was an atheist. Why not John Lennon? Why couldn't John Lennon be the Jesus for this age the same way that Jesus had been the Jesus for his age? It's an atheistic question, founded on ignorance. Not stupidity. Ignorance. Wilfully ignoring something you should pay attention to and understand more thoroughly. The more I examined the situation in that strange mental landscape inhabited by writers where all questions apply to yourself and all questions apply to your work, the best assessment I could come up with was that there was some sort of exponentially wearing quality that level of fame seemed to have and that "taking the Jesus step" just amplified the crushing burden implicit in that Famous name/Big crowds/Power and control equation. Of course, now, I realize that someone in John Lennon's situation is just courting disaster through transparent stupidity. You want to be Jesus? You remember what happened to Jesus? Okay, bud. You asked for it. I mean, you're a singer. The reaction I had Cerebus give to Estarcion's Frank Sinatra. When did a singer get to be thought of anywhere NEAR this category? And on what basis? The number of underage girls who want to have sex with you? Moon June spoon? Having "come from" that side of things, that level of absolute atheism, it just seemed obvious. Sinatra! Presley! Kennedy! They were obviously Exalted Beings. More than mere mortals. What more is there to say? But all of them —I see now in a life where God has His pre-eminent position—functioned on a very mundane and largely disreputable level. They're only "up there" to someone even further down than they are. I'm going on at length about this, because this was really how I saw the world as I was working on Cerebus through most of High Society and Church & State. People hook up with other people. One in ten million is a Brian Epstein and one in ten million is a John Lennon. I was pretty sure I wasn't in either category. Apart from really liking hotel suites—the bigger the better—I could never see the percentage in materialism and materialism on a profound level seemed to be a necessary part of the equation. George Harrison buying a castle to live in. You aren't going to get to that point unless you think buying a castle and living in it is a great idea. Really consider that mentality. Waking up in the morning and going, "Yeah, I'm going to buy a castle and live in it." The idea of owning and living in a castle or a mansion repels me. All I see when I look at world-class materialism is: you own it, you have to take care of it. As one rap singer rather famously—and astutely—remarked, "Mo' money, mo' problems." I mean, not necessarily. It depends on what you spend your money on. If you like supermodels, cocaine, platinum jewelry and antique sports cars you will indeed have many, many problems to go along with every dollar in your rapidly diminishing bank account. I just wasn't in that category, nor was the medium in which I was working. A comic-book convention is a flea market, not a rock concert. Even Todd McFarlane's home in one of Oregon's posh bedroom communities was a "mansion," not a mansion or a Mansion. There was no access point to that toppermost of the poppermost from where we were, so the point, very early on, became making the book into an "in context" monument, to try to make Cerebus the 6,000 page graphic novel and Cerebus the character into comic-book fixtures. I assumed that the portrayal of JFK's assassination as "martyrdom" and John Lennon's "The way things are goin', they're gonna crucify me" were just pointing towards the year 2000 and that these kinds of messianic expectations were just going to start coming closer and closer together like labour pains. Again, in retrospect, I think this was a skewed and disproportionate view of reality which resulted from being born into an atheistic family, in the first television generation with televised images taking the place of the religious altar and celebrity substituting for scripture.Now, trying to bring this around to Lord Storms'End, I also assumed that in this structure that I pictured there were a lot of abstainers. I certainly started out as a would-be contender and then turned abstainer. Why bother? If you aren't a materialist, all that leaves is (if the ladies will forgive me) pussy. And the one time that I had three women I was sleeping with at the same time—very, very brief time—told me that a lot of female genitalia sounds a lot better than it is in actual practice. I hadn't realized, at the time, how deep this thought went. Access to a lot of female genitalia was like "Mo' money, mo' problems." More female genitalia, more problems. But, I still wanted to get laid. A lot. It was a contradiction I continuously evaded and then paid the price for evading well past the age when I should've known better. When I finally stopped evading it, when I finally recognized what getting laid actually was, then I was a complete abstainer and I got off the treadmill I had been on, started climbing out of the pit I had dug for myself. But, it's interesting to me that—back in the days when I was completely absorbed in the contradiction, I was coming up with characters like Suenteus Po and Lord Storms'End. It was as if I was really trying to tell myself something. Which, I think now, I obviously was. When you really start to abstain—when abstention becomes your way of life—you really start to figure things out and the more you figure things out, the more you abstain, and each begins to reinforce the other. If I see a picture of a millionaire in front of his mansion, I just look at it and think, wow, what a headache: think how much of your conscious attention has to go into maintaining that. When I think of all the things that go wrong around this dinky little place that I live in and multiply them by mansion scale. Wow. Boggles my mind. How aggravating. So, it interests me that I tended to document that viewpoint as the highest imaginable reality long before I experienced it. I wish I could supply you with backstory for Lord Storms'End but, just because of the nature of the character, I wouldn't have come up with backstory for Lord Storms'End so I have none to offer. Obviously, wherever he came from, whoever he was before, whatever pit he might have dug for himself—and he is, clearly, well-informed on any number of levels, several of which you identified—he realized at some point that no good could come of it. And he chose to just be a farmer. Actually clings to just being a farmer. For his own safety and for the safety of others. And, of course, Cerebus' magnifying nature screws that up—gets him where he lives and breathes, the same as Cerebus got Suenteus Po. They know abstaining is the only sensible course and then, suddenly, there they are, nattering on and on, interfering, trying to affect events, advocating, showing off what they know, using what they suspect as a cudgel. It's another vice, because the urge to show off accompanies ideas when you're a thinker. You always want to "try an idea out" on someone else. But that's the opposite of abstention. It's one of the reasons that I'm glad that socializing went by the boards for me through the ostracism and vilification for not being a feminist. I know how valuable it is to just keep to yourself. I never would've discovered it otherwise.

Q3: Why did Weisshaupt say that she (the Countess Michelle) would stand beside Cerebus?

DAVE: Oh, well, that was just Weisshaupt's vanity on the Napoleonic Scale. He really assumed, as those sorts of individuals tend to assume, that his passing would leave a huge void in the history of Estarcion and the forthcoming Ascension he both anticipated and was trying to engineer. If he had made the Countess into His Nibs Paramour, again on the Napoleonic Scale, then a crucial role needed to be found for her when His Nibs was gone and His Nibs had determined that she would be by Cerebus' side. People in proximity to that sort of Napoleonic vanity tend to get swept up in it despite themselves. Michelle is a tad too emphatic that this won't be the case: she's obviously afraid that Weisshaupt can still control her life from beyond the grave. It's very much analogous to Susan Alexander, the singer in Citizen Kane or John Lennon with Yoko. Michelle was a very regular chick who liked regular chick things—housekeeping and trashy romance "reads" among them. It's always sad when one of those runs afoul of someone's Napoleonic masculine vanity.

Q4. The Death of Weisshaupt: Weisshaupt is portrayed as an egotistical idealist who sees himself as a pivotal figure in history. He can't even comprehend the fact that Cerebus is just a greedy primal force and not someone with an agenda. However, upon his death he has an epiphany in which he sees some special role that Cerebus is playing in the grand tapestry. He calls Cerebus Most Holy - which is startling in terms of the secular viewpoint he held throughout his life. What spurred this change of viewpoint?

DAVE: The deathbed epiphany. It was a very unnatural death. I've often wondered at the fact that no one has asked "How did Weisshaupt get that emaciated in that short a space of time from when he has his heart attack to when Cerebus comes to see him?" I was trying to indicate that this had been a serious contention on a serious high plane of existence and that—whatever the magnifier quality Cerebus had was, guardian angel, demon, whatever—was nothing to mess with one-on-one even if you have a roof full of cannons on your side. That just made it worse. Remember this is the scene that Cerebus involuntarily hearkens back to when F. Stop is looking to steal Jaka. That primal whatever was always prepared for that level of threat. So, it was really a matter that Cerebus' context crushed Weisshaupt's context, literally draining him physically. Having no idea if these things actually happen in the physical world, I speculated that there would be serious repercussions which would result. The literal calling forth of the Giant Stone Thrunk, as an example. Whatever it was that Cerebus or the magnifying quality within Cerebus did, it was just that disproportionate and created an equally disproportionate repercussion.

Q4: Did Weisshaupt see anything in particular?

DAVE: I assume that he did. What he would have seen would, I imagine, have been terrifically personal and terrifically powerful. It would be my guess that events that take place on an elevated plateau like that make use of one's own personal imagery as a way of explaining what has taken place/is taking place. Particularly with Cerebus being right there, I would assume that what Weisshaupt saw—his context having been crushed as it was—would have been analogous to Cerebus seeing the Giant Stone Thrunk outside his window. Uh-oh would really understate the case.

Q4: At the time you wrote the story, what did you intend that he saw?

DAVE: Well, that was too complicated to get into. Remember, I'm trying to write the equivalent of a good, epic Russian novel. It's already difficult enough to get the layers of complexity in the physical world to fit into place. If I started getting into the inner psyches of the various characters—apart from Cerebus—it would certainly be interesting but it would eat pages like nobody's business. "Cerebus Dreams," "Weisshaupt Dreams," "Astoria Dreams." I tried to incorporate that where it was relevant and to do so in such a way that it emphasized what was going on in the "real" world. But you go too far with that and the reader starts losing their grounding. I mean, I did that intentionally in Women, with the Sandman parody. Let's really lose our way here when it comes to deciding what's real, what's a dream and what's a "dream". But on an ongoing basis when you're already doing a very complicated story a little documentation on the elevated plateaus goes a long way and then it's time to come back to earth.

Q4: Also, how does this view fit in with Weisshaupt's apparent knowledge that Cirin is an aardvark?

DAVE: I would suspect, just judging from Weisshaupt's reaction, that that would have seemed a good deal less important all of a sudden. I think his own uppermost reaches of his own spirit were suddenly aware of just how large the context was that he had previously considered to be sort of within his grasp, within his ability to control and manipulate. I have to be vague about it, because I only know this physical, material plane, same as you. But, I would suspect that human beings do get glimpses of the bigger picture which are enough to turn their hair white, like in HP Lovecraft's fiction. I mean, my assumption is that if you ever actually did see God or even achieved an awareness of the smallest fraction of God you would probably just *plit* explode like a bug on a windshield.

(Note: Question on Weisshaupt being told to Go to Hell moved to that page)

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