The Cockroach's real name is Artemis Strong.
Full Listing of Roach Personalities and their First Appearances
|Name:||Parody of:||First Appearance:|
|The Cockroach||The Batman (inspired by Marshall Rogers)||#11|
|Captain Cockroach||Captain America||#21|
|Moon Roach||Moon Knight||#30|
|Sergeant Preston Roach||Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Superman||#44|
|Secret Sacred Wars Roach||Secret Wars cross-over Spider-Man, Frank Miller's Dark Knight||#81|
|Multiple Personality Roach||Too Many To Name||#174|
|Kay Sarah Sarah||Destiny from Sandman||#179|
|Forty Thousand Eyes Roach||Reflects the Cerebus print run||#182|
|Fanroach||Go to the Comics Journal interview with Dave who talks about Fanroach.||#203|
"These are bizarre times."
Cerebus #11, p.2
"EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! Hsssss!"
Cerebus #11, p.5
HIS first incarnation is that of The Cockroach, a parody of The Batman, based on an interpretation of that character popularized by the cartoonist Marshall Rogers, with whom Dave Sim corresponded in the 1970s. We first encounter him in the story in the Lower Feldan city of Beduin, buying the Black Blossom Lotus off Cerebus. He throws the 'purest magic object in the known world' into the Feld River after purchasing it, explaining to Cerebus that he acquires potent magical artifacts and destroys them in this manner to prevent modern incompetent magicians from wreaking havoc with them, which would be 'bad for business'. By hanging around a bit too long Cerebus discovers that this businessman has a multiple personality. By day, he is an (unnamed) merchant, but at night, he becomes The Cockroach, a masked avenger, who continually pummels passers-by on the mistaken assumption that they had something to do with the death of his parents at the hands of Red Claw cultists thirty years before.
He is about 50 years old when Cerebus meets him as he explains to one victim:
"It's not easy losing your mother at nineteen...I've been all *sob* alone ever since you, you Red Claw Followers killed my mom and dad! THIRTY YEARS...THIRTY *SOB* YEARS!"
Cerebus #11, p.9
Since the Roach relieves his victims of their valuables during his vengeful assaults, Cerebus realizes that he has accumulated a fortune in gold over three decades. He also discovers that the Merchant identity has no knowledge of the existence of this treasure and so will not miss it. In an attempt to remove the gold from the Merchant's dwelling, Cerebus visits him during his sleep and pretends to be his dead father's ghost, returned with the word of the Living Tarim - 'condominiums'. He persuades the Merchant to fetch a wagon that he can use to transport the gold but his actions cause the Merchant and Cockroach personalities to become aware of each other. The Merchant decides that he will use the gold stolen by The Cockroach to benefit the poor in the name of Tarim and forces Cerebus to flee the city when he alerts the constabulary.
Undeterred by this set-back, Cerebus returns to Beduin in search of the gold. He encounters The Cockroach again but plays for sympathy by claiming that he too is an orphan like The Cockroach because his parents were murdered by the Red Claw Cult. This ploy works and Cerebus manipulates the Roaches' paranoia by informing him that Elrod intends to steal his gold. Cerebus persuades The Cockroach to help him remove the gold to a safer place.
"Eh? My --- My cockroach sense is tingling! How odd...especially since I didn't know I had a cockroach sense!"
Cerebus #12, p. 11
This time Cerebus attempts to steal the gold by means of a boat on the Feld River. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, Elrod the Albino just happens to show up at the very moment that Cerebus and The Cockroach make their way down the river. Of course, Elrod and The Roach end up in a fight, the noise of which attracts the attention of the local constables, who arrive in force. A large brawl follows that leaves the Roach unconscious and Elrod standing over a pile of unconscious bodies, while Cerebus departs down the river.
Cerebus often refers to him as "the bug" or "cootie" throughout their time together.
"Captain Cockroach is a prototype of the supermen of the future!"
Cerebus #21, p.16.
"BAAWW! I don't wanna die! I don't! I don't! I'm the wave of the future!!"
Cerebus #21, p.18.
IN his second appearance (Cerebus #21 - #22), he has been discovered and rescued from the Beduin constabulary by President Weisshaupt, who manipulates him into a new identity as "Captain Cockroach", a Captain America parody. Weisshaupt tricks the Roach into believing that he has immersed him in 'alucase', a special solution created by a Professor Reisenshein, which has the miraculous property of making his muscles grow larger every time he uses them. Weisshaupt then convinces him to move his entire collection of marble statues from the basement of his Oval Hideout to the attic and back again, multiple times. As Weisshaupt later explains to an incredulous Cerebus:
"It's actually not difficult to build a physically superior specimen... The tough part is finding someone gullible enough to work at it for six months..."
Cerebus #21, p.10.
President Weisshaupt uses Captain Cockroach as a propaganda tool against the military tribunal that governs Beduin, presenting the Roach to the population as a superman and saviour of the city from the 'Hsiffy' menace in order to raise funds from them by persuading them to invest their life savings in totally worthless war bonds issued by his United Feldwar States Government-in-Exile. This underground government consists almost solely of the President along with the Cockroach and Bunky the Albino, Elrod's new role as the Cockroaches' sidekick, a partnership that will recur throughout the rest of the Cerebus story. Impressed by the Captain's display of muscle power and his enhanced stature and by alarmist tales of an imminent Hsiffy invasion, the Beduinese hand over their gold in exchange for these bonds that the President promises they can redeem in the future for doses of 'alucase' so that they too can become part of the new 'master race' like the Captain and 'beat the Hsiffies'.
Eventually, after an adventure involving a Sopai assassin, The Cockroach finds himself on his own again, when the coup d'etat plan concocted by Cerebus and Weisshaupt against the military tribunal fails and the Lower Feldan authorities imprison Weisshaupt.
In the letters page of Cerebus #27, Sim says in response to a reader's query about the whereabouts of the Roach that he is still "making sure that the drapes don't eat the house plants.", the last order given to him by Weisshaupt before he got himself captured.
The Moon Roach
"Unorthodox Economic Revenge. Hssss."
Cerebus #31, p.14
"There is EVIL! Evil that hangs in the air. Evil swirling all around him...His roach-sense, honed to perfection, tells him that evil is nearby, growing faster by the moment...he steels himself -- readying mind and body for the confrontation...his features betray no emotion...but deep within his roach-mind he wonders...can it be that the evil is already here...now...or...?
Or is he just jealous because an over-sized rabbit is hustling his chick?"
Cerebus #33, p.7
AT the end of Cerebus #30, he returns as the "Moon Roach", a parody of Marvel Comics Moon Knight character. Moon Knight was considered by many to be a Marvel rip-off of DC's The Batman, whom the original Cockroach character parodied. Moon Knight also had a split personality problem, working by day as a cab driver and by night turning into a dark avenger, which is one more reason why the Roach might empathize with him.
The notebook pages in High Society issue 1 have a picture of a "Corn Roach" character. Never used in the story, he "eventually became the Moon Roach."
Moon Knight subdued criminals by knocking them out with crescent-moon-shaped boomerangs. Moon Roach has adopted this concept to his own unique idiom, and attacks people by dropping large crescent moons made of stone onto them.
Somehow now in Iest and with this new identity and costume, the Roach kills Holland M. Hadden, a prominent local businessman, whom Cerebus has just managed to inveigle into signing a lucrative contract, by dropping one of these stone moons on him, crushing him totally. The Roach once more stands between Cerebus and the Gold he covets.
Cerebus chases the bug and discovers that he lives with Astoria, a young woman who exerts control over him having seduced him at some point in the past, though she claims that he 'ravished' her and that she took pity on him, sensing
"something decent in him." She has implanted his new-found interest in economics and in the plight of the poor and oppressed and has created a new 'normal' personality for him: Artemis Strong (there is no particular reason to believe that this is his real name). Astoria alleges that he came up with the Moon Roach personality himself, but Countess Michelle later contradicts this story when Cerebus meets her. According to the Artemis personality (as related by Astoria) he worked as a gardener for an important Feldan government official, until one day he discovered a strange glowing costume in his greenhouse that took him over, turning him into the Moon Roach. She claims that she simply wants to help him 'establish diplomatic contacts to aid the Feldan people'.
The Roach continues to make trouble for Cerebus after this first meeting, dropping another giant stone crescent moon on the Grand Inquisitor of the Eastern Church of Tarim, who questioned Cerebus about Hadden's death, as suspicion has fallen on him because of the meeting they had shortly before his murder. Cerebus chases the Roach but discovers that he and Astoria have fled their original rooms to another hideout.
Astoria shortly afterward approaches Cerebus with a 'business proposition' that she and the Moon Roach will ally themselves with Cerebus and assist him in his advancement up the political ladder in Iest. It becomes clear that Astoria ordered the Moon Roach to kill Hadden and the Grand Inquisitor and she continues to use him to assassinate government officials, but this time with the purpose of strengthening Cerebus' position rather than weakening it. With Cerebus now her main ally, Astoria ignores the Roach and even abandons him sexually for Cerebus, with whom she starts sleeping.
This results in increased tension between the Moon Roach, Cerebus and Astoria with the Roach jealous of Cerebus and angry at both of them. In an interesting character development, that betrays a deeper side to the Roach, he becomes love-lorn, despondent and melancholy about the fact that Astoria has dumped him for 'an over-sized rabbit'.
"Any moment now, Astoria would appear, hastening to the Roach-lair, unaware that Roach-eyes were watching her every move...What would she do when she found him gone? The Moon Roach intended to find out...He would not be cruel though! When she starts to cry, he will be at her side in an instant, consoling her. He...the sound of spiked heels on pavement brings his Roach sense to full alert. So! She had managed to stay away for almost a full hour! But soon, now...soon she would be begging his forgiveness...pleading with him to let her stay...imploring him to...
A clever ploy!...but the Moon Roach will not be fooled by a mere look-alike"
Cerebus #33, p.11
The Roach then decides to strike back at Astoria for having deserted him by killing officials in an attempt to sabotage her plans in Iest for Cerebus. He drops a giant crescent moon on the Governor of the Legislature, precipitating a crisis among Astoria's allies but one which she manages to resolve. By this point, Cerebus with Astoria's assistance has gathered so many supporters that the Bug finds himself unable to significantly damage Cerebus' position in Iest, regardless of who he kills. Without their support, the Roach finds himself reduced to working as a cab driver just like The Moon Knight, who had an alternate identity as "Jake Lockley", a cab driver. The Roach assumes the role of "Blake Jockley" (Cerebus #39, pp.8-10), which he appeared to have created around the time of Cerebus' arrival in Iest (see Cerebus #26 p. 24. Compare the cab driver who takes Cerebus to the Ram's Lords Tavern to the Roach's later appearance as Blake Jockley).
In the guise of Jockley, the Roach appears at the Ambassador Suite in the Regency Hotel and ends up in a brawl with the McGrew Brothers whom he he mis-identifies as
'Red Claw Onliu tenement owners' who sawed through
'his parents semi-detached dwelling' killing them, indicating a return to the original Cockroach persona and its delusions, a regression possibly occasioned by Astoria's abandonment of him. Much like his relationship with Elrod, who became his sidekick after a fight, the McGrew Brothers also form a partnership with the Roach following his battle with them. This team will re-appear later in the story, just as Elrod also returns as his sidekick at various points.
Apparently accepted back into the fold, the Moon Roach, along with the McGrew Brothers join Cerebus' campaign entourage during the Election, acting as bodyguards. He continues to pretend that Astoria still has a romantic interest in him, despite her complete indifference, treating it as part of some cunning ploy to deceive everyone around them:
"It's working. So far no one suspects that Astoria is really the Moon Roach's chick..."
Cerebus #40 p. 5
Astoria's only reference to the Roach in her Journal, according to the Narrator of The True History of the 1413 Election, is as a 'substitute wheel'. By this point, the Roach has become a 'spare wheel', redundant and largely useless in Astoria's eyes. The Roach remains, as usual, totally oblivious to the true state of affairs, seemingly having retreated into the safety of a comforting delusion.
However, at the start of Cerebus #41, reality has finally crashed in on the Bug, who breaks down in tears, confessing to Cerebus:
"Astoria doesn't love...m...me she l...loves YOU!
Cerebus #41 p. 3
Kevitch, a new sub-personality of the Moon Roach, intervenes at this point and takes control of the Roach, causing him to affect a nonchalant, cool attitude toward his lost 'love' Astoria, an outlook more in keeping with a teenage boy's preferences in a comic book hero:
"Suddenly, realizing what a fool he's making of himself, the Moon Roach straightens up! His eyes narrow to thin slits of icy contempt. 'To be honest,' he hisses...I DON'T CARE, KEVITCH! I DON'T! I DON'T! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE - ALL OF YOU!! I WANT TO DIE! DIE!! DIE!!"
Cerebus #41 p. 4
He may be named after Bill Sienkiewicz (pronounced 'sin-kevitch'), Moon Knight's most famous artist. Dave Sim socialized with Bill during the years that the Moon Roach appeared in the Cerebus story; Bill's work impressed Dave greatly. Bill also went through a divorce at the same time as Dave separated from his wife, Deni, and the Moon Roach's unrequited love for Astoria and her abandonment of him for another may represent a reflection on the mutual experience of two young comic book guys finding themselves dumped by the woman in their life for another man. There may also be an element of "kvetch" a Yiddish(?) word meaning someone who comments abusively on things.(?)
This sub-personality is co-existent with the Moon Roach, and they often have mental conversations with each other. Like an obsessive comics fan, Kevitch comments on the Moon Roach's actions, offering encouragement and occasionally ridiculing him and correcting his continuity errors.
The Moon Roach's emotional state continues to worsen, despite the Kevitch personality's efforts and he starts drinking heavily. While the Roach lies in a drunken stupor, Kevitch reveals to the Regency Elf that the Roach has decided that he can win back Astoria if he finds the Albatross, a statue of a duck that she seeks for some reason. The Roach never seems to go anywhere with this plan.
By Cerebus 42, the Moon Roach's psyche had started to splinter, and the Roach assumed several of Superman's characteristics. This never reached the proportions of a full separate identity, but the imagined vulnerability to "frostonite" (analagous to Superman's "kryptonite") a.k.a. conditions of extreme cold remained an aspect of his personality for a long time.
At the point of the Deciding Vote in the Election, when Cerebus stands on the cusp of victory the Roach creates a new supplementary identity, more in keeping with a member of a Prime Minister-in-Waitings Official Bodyguard: Sergeant Preston.
Sergeant Preston of the Northern Iestan Mounted Police
"...And so, in his guise as mild-mannered Sergeant Preston of the Northern Iestan Mounted Police he is now able to do his duty...to insure that no harm befalls the next Prime Minister and his beautiful young mistress. 'On Huskies' he cries, this stalwart and pure defender of the True North, strong and free.!"
Cerebus #44 p. 1
"I'm Sergeant Preston of the Northern Iestan Mounted Police' he announces...I don't have the authority to arrest you...so I'm just going to rough you up a bit, INSTEAD!"
Cerebus #47 p. 4
IN Cerebus #44, he adopts this new identity possibly in anticipation of Cerebus' imminent victory in the election and forthcoming role as Prime Minister of Iest. He doesn't drop the Moon Roach identity however and switches back and forth between them with the Kevitch independent personality interjecting commentary. Although acknowledging Astoria as the Prime Minister's mistress, the Bug still believes that she harbours a 'seething passion' for him. He engages in a drinking contest with Astoria and they both get stinking drunk on White Lightning moonshine, leaving Cerebus with the task of manhandling them back to Iest. The Roach reveals the secret of Cerebus' superiority to him:
"He's made of gray frostonite...the' only substnce that c'n remove our powers 'n' make the world spin *hic* in th' oppopposite 'drection."
Cerebus #44 p. 14
With Cerebus as Prime Minister and Astoria as his secretary fully occupied in running the government of Iest, the Roach once again finds himself in the position of 'spare wheel'. He takes matters into his own hands and in an attempt to make himself useful (and presumably to win back Astoria's favour) he engages in independent investigations of criminals and subversives opposed to the new government. Unfortunately, the Roach manages to capture the criminals working on the Prime Minister's behalf.
Undeterred by a setback like this, the Bug continues to act against opponents of Cerebus, unofficially tracking down and assaulting persons whom he has overheard the Prime Minister ranting about in private meetings that he has eavesdropped on.
"Sergeant Preston stands poised in mid-leap, awaiting the completion of the Prime Minister's coded psionic instructions...all fifty-six Roach senses humming...'fifty-seven' says Kevitch, correcting him..."
Cerebus #48 p. 3
However, everything the Roach does seems only to make matters worse for Cerebus and doesn't bring him the recognition he desires from the Prime Minister and Astoria. 'Sergeant Preston' becomes a notorious figure to the population of Iest, his persecution of subversives precipitating a brief rebellion against the government that ends with the Lower City in flames and the Anarcho-Romantic political faction demanding that Cerebus as Prime Minister '...disband the Northern Iestan Mounted Police and fire your "Sergeant Preston"', something Cerebus cannot do as he has no knowledge of the Preston persona.
His final act as Preston involves his attempt to save the Prime Minister from an apparent assassination attempt in the War Room during the Hsifan Invasion of Iest. In reality, Cerebus had simply got drunk on whiskey but Preston mistakes this for poisoning and douses him in a bucket of 'liquid frostonite' in order to stop him falling asleep and dying.
With the collapse of the Republican government and Cerebus' departure from Iest, the Bug abandons the Preston personality and next appears briefly in the guise of a Priest of the Eastern Church of Tarim, which resumes control of the country.
Described himself with the adjectives "The Purely Platonic Priest Roach" and "The Passionately Pious Priest Roach".
"These atheists are a superstitious and cowardly lot"
Cerebus #51, p.10
"I can't arrest you, because there's no law against talking funny -- not YET anyhow! But I'm keeping my eye on you -- get me?"
Cerebus #51, p. 11
Following the collapse of Prime Minister Cerebus' Republican government in Iest, he assumes a new identity as a Priest in the resurgent Eastern Church of Tarim, although it seems unlikely that he had really joined the priesthood. He only appears briefly as this personality, during a single issue, searching the ship that Cerebus and a number of other characters, including Lord Julius and Elrod have hidden themselves on in an attempt to flee the retribution of the Church. He has not returned to Astoria, based on what the Countess Michelle reveals to Cerebus.
"SNIKT. SNIKT. SNIKT."
"SOUGHT BY A LEGION OF DREADED FOES! HOUNDED BY HUMAN JACKALS! SCORNED BY THE WOMAN HE LOVES! THE WOLVEROACH HIDES...NO...MORE!"
Secret Sacred Wars Roach
"THA POK THA POK THA POK"
Cerebus #81 p. 2
"All the time I feel their eyes upon me...the unspoken question When will the dreadful power within him break free"
Cerebus #81 p. 9
normalroach: A parody of normalman normalroach reappears in Cerebus #154, in which he seems to be integrating his personalities into a more coherent (or at least self-aware) whole. These are led by a new identity, the Punisheroach.
Punisheroach is a parody of the Marvel Comic's character "The Punisher", a vigilante who goes after drug dealers with large caliber weapons and extreme prejudice.
The Roach is now exhibiting clear telepathic/mystical powers, and a much clearer picture of the world than he normally has, though still far from completely sane. He also has semi-automatic crossbows with exploding quarrels (designed by the Claremont part of his now-"integrated" personality. Actually, they appear to be "fully-automatic", but the Roach probably calls them "Semi-automatic" because it sounds cooler).
Later, after an abortive love affair, he turns into Swoon. Swoon is a parody of the DC Comics character Sandman, AKA Dream of the Endless, a personification of dreams (created by Neil Gaiman). The black cloak, the white on black word balloons with bumpy edges, the black-pit eyes, are all taken directly from Sandman. The fancy lettering of the word Swoon is similar to that of the logo of the Sandman comic book.
The Roach also decides at this point that since he is Dream, Elrod must be Snuff, a parody of Dream's older sister Death, a frequent supporting character in Sandman. Sandman is well known for having bad luck at love affairs with mortal women, and for being generally over-solemn and having no sense of humor.
This is the first time that the Roach has taken on a personality that was not a "super-hero", which may go some way towards explaining Elrod's uncommon reluctance at going along with it.
Dave speaks about the Cockroach
Digital High Society #26 Notebook
p. 56: Dave refers to the Moon Roach as Artemis Strong.
Q1: Why did you spell the Roach's name "Artemis" instead of "Artemus"? "Artemis" is/was female.
Dave: Well, yeah. That's the point. Sort of making fun of the feminists who are using male spellings for their names (like Yves). The obvious next step is for them to start calling men by women's names. You know, Maybe if we give them the names of carers and nurturers they'll stop being evil wicked men and become more...well, more like us perfect beings. (bat, bat).
Q2: In Mothers & Daughters, we see that the Roach is aware of the chess game between Po and Cerebus. When did he become omniscient?
Dave: The Roach became omniscient on page 5 of issue 154. He was also omniscient at several points in the latter part of Church & State. Like anything else, I suspect that omniscience is subject to entropy and gravitation. I trust that's obscure enough an answer for you.
Q: What is the Roach character doing, so far he’s been MoonRoach, Captain Roach, Wolveroach, Punisher Roach ...?
Dave: He’s just comic books personified! All of the things that I do with him are improvised at the time based on whatever is going on in comic books, and it becomes more and more difficult to do a parody of a superhero, because most superheroes look like parodies anyway now. You can take as many spikes and chains and capes as you want and it’s not going to look too terribly different from the superheroes that are at the top of the sales charts right now.
Basically, because I’m trying to do a life, and I’m talking about my own life as much as life in general, that’s what my life is made up of, it’s a very ordinary kind of life, and every once in a while I go to a comic book convention or a comic book store and there they are the guys in the four colour tights, all around me. So I just condense them all down to one superhero. But that is a very strange way to live, whereas I think my life is a lot like everyone else’s, except every once in a while along come the guys in the long underwear.
Q: Larry noticed that the cab driver who drives Cerebus to the Ram's Lords Tavern in the first issue of High Society is, in fact, the Moon Roach all along. Dave: "...I used a cab driver secret identity for the Moon Roach, which was a parody of the Moon Knight, one of whose secret identities was as…tad a!…a cab driver."
In terms of Wolveroach, that was keeping a comic-book point of identification in my comic book that was moving very far away from what comic books are understood to be in just about every other area. The super-hero parodies, up through Swoon, were grounding exercises. I have to remember that this is a comic book so I better have something in here that looks like a comic book.
But, even there -- I'll do Wolverine, but what I'm really doing is Neal. Wolverine is just Neal's Batman with a different mask. Moon Roach is Moon Knight, but Moon Knight is just Neal's Spectre (hood and cape) and Neal's Deadman (shiny black costume).