Her mother died when she was three. p. 24, Jaka's Story.
She left Palnu when she was 12 on the ship Merchant of Iest. She was dancing in bars in Iest when she was 13.
When we are first introduced to the character, she is an exotic tavern dancer in Iest. She is approximately 20 years old, and speaks in third-person. We later find out that she was using a fake northern accent (issue 74). At some point prior, criminal E'Lass used her to get a priest to break a ten-year vow of silence. Attempting to learn the location of the Black Sun treasure, E'Lass drugs Cerebus and tests his susceptibility by turning his attention toward Jaka, whom he'd initially expressed no interest in. Cerebus falls madly in love with her, so much so that he spends all of his time gazing longingly at her, ignoring E'Lass. His first words to her, "If you wished, Cerebus would kill you a yak for your supper", leads to Jaka responding that she finds him cute, and giving him a kiss. E'Lass threatens to have his partner Turg end her dancing career unless she helps pry the information from the aardvark. Jaka invites Cerebus to her room, but is unable to betray him, instead telling him about the threat, to which he injures E'Las in revenge. Now aware of the treasure, Cerebus vows to use it to take Jaka to the T'capmin Kingdom if she'll leave with him. She agrees, but before he can get the supplies for their trip, the drugs wear off. Confused, he wanders by Jaka, whom he has no recollection of at all. She's heartbroken, but gives him a bottle of apricot brandy, which he wanted to lick out of her navel, in the hopes he will one day remember her and return. A day she vows to wait for, for the rest of her life.
In issue 74 Cerebus has her brought from her home in the Lower City to the hotel where Cerebus was staying at during his time as Most Holy. Cerebus wants to leave it all and go with Jaka, but Jaka tells him she is now married and about to have a child.
After the Cirinist invasion and take over of Iest, she moves with her husband to a small apartment on the side of the Black Tower where she work's as a dancer in Pud Withers' tavern. The Cirinists find her dancing and arrest her and her husband. She is deported to Palnu where she lives in the suite she lived in as a child.
Met up with Cerebus at the bar he was working at along the Wall of T'si and they headed north to Sand Hills Creek. After traveling with F. Stop Kennedy and Ham Ernestway and making it to Sand Hills Creek, Cerebus tells her to leave. She gets in a carriage to head south.
Dave discusses Jaka
Dave on Jaka from Fantasy Advertiser 94 from Dec 85/Jan 86
MS: I don't even know who (Jaka is) married to yet.
Dave: No, you don't, it's really not germane. This allows me then the luxury of around issue 180 or 212 or whatever to have Cerebus and Jaka decide, OK, let's give it a try, and then do it for 20 issues, and have people say, I had no idea who Jaka was, which will be, in terms of the book, Cerebus' reactions. When you see someone at these intermittent periods and you have this mental image of them, you tend to keep applying the mental image, or certainly someone like Cerebus would without really considering that the image is self-created, and if you just keep your ears open and listen for a little while maybe you'll find out who this person is, and to progressively develop the thing that Cerebus isn't listening, that's through the whole of #36, he had his own idea how the story was going and what she would say.
From the Note from the President, Cerebus 114
"Someone took me to task for revising history and claiming that Jaka was not based on Deni. They were going by Deni's Note in Cerebus #6 which stated that the story-line was a wedding present to her. It was, but it was more or less a cautionary tale trying to inform her obliquely (if not opaquely) of strong emotional ties I still felt for the woman Jaka was based on (blank) who became an exotic dancer (read stripper) shortly after Jaka first appeared. The emotions depicted in the drugged Cerebus reflected the feelings I had toward the mistress I had at the time Deni and I got married. Three menacing figures in the story were named, anagrammatically, out of Deni's last name and my mistress' last name (Loubert and Hitchens became Tchens, Trebu and Lohi). I was naive and ridiculous and the poorest imaginable husband material (still am) but my subconscious was at least able to dredge up what I considered a particularly interesting character out of a singularly unstable period of my life. The really interesting thing to me as the creator of Jaka is that even though I can trace her origins from Deni's wedding present to what I felt for Sally to the lingering allure of Lynn, she resembles these three not in the slightest (except for having Lynn's hair). I had a very clear picture of her from the very beginning. I always found her easy and enjoyable to draw."
"I admire the character (of Jaka) far more than any of the other characters in the book. Cerebus is too much of a born loser; willfully self-destructive. Astoria is too single-minded and humourless. Lord Julius is always "on"; the Roach too out of touch with anything approximating reality, even the Elf is too mindlessly happy all the time. When I'm writing them I'm observing from a discreet distance. I'm interested, but not to the extent of wanting to have dinner with them or anything like that. Jaka on the other hand is someone I would happily spend a lot of time with. She embodies those qualities I always look for in a woman. She has a very simple way of thinking for which she is unapologetic. She's loaded with common-sense and self-confidence. She is direct and has a low threshold for bull-shit. She has virtually no interest in material possessions though she has an appreciation of them. She is almost certainly on the top rung of the karmic ladder and won't be back for another life-time.
"Or rather, she was. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pull out my notebook and see if I can't do right by her."
From the Introduction, Jaka's Story
"First, last and always (to me) he (Oscar Wilde) is an Artist and the tragedy which befell Wilde, I can't view in any other context than 'Society vs. the Artist'. The same holds true for my view of Jaka. Familiar as I am with domestic life and, interested as I was in portraying the roller-coaster madness of small deceptions, petty conceits and mutual mythologizing which (short of 'happily ever afters') ARE married life, Jaka was, and is, to me an Artist first, last and always. That she was a wife, an aristocrat, an object of adoration and lust, an employee and a scoff-law intruded nowhere near the center of her being wherein the Dancer resides. If I identify with her moreso than with Oscar, it must be attributed to our both toiling in fields of endeavour damned by faint and patronizing praise, over-looked and almost universally dismissed by the doctrinaire in favour of the third-rate and the merely lucrative.
"Our reactions are the same.
"The play is the thing."
From Aardvark Comment, Cerebus 268
"For the first time he (Cerebus) was able to see Jaka precisely as she was and as she is and as she always would be: a spoiled, myopic, insensitive, self-absorbed and self-important harlot princess (quite apart from her position in the heirarchy of the city-state of Palnu)."
From his Q&A Session from Going Home
03/04: 14. Many readers perceive a difference between the character of Jaka in the first half of the book and the character of Jaka in "Going Home." Do you think the character changed, and if so why and how, and if not did you deliberately display her in a different way or do you see the perceived difference as largely the responsibility of the readers? DAVE: I think I kept Jaka pretty consistent. In my experience women are like cats. When you don't want them you can't get rid of them and when you do want them it's like trying to pick up lint with a magnet. All that changed was that Cerebus switched from not really wanting Jaka to really, really wanting her (after issue 74-75). As soon as you switch, they switch. Jaka is a self-absorbed aristocratic airhead. She always was.
Q5: Is this the same Jaka as we've seen pre-"Minds"? In "High Society", Jaka says she's been taking care of herself since she was twelve, in "Jaka's Story", she leaves Palnu at twelve. But here, she says, "I mean I was dumbfounded when I finally read it. Not a word about the balls or the masquerades' -- From the age of twelve I used to go through a minimum... a minimum... of five dance cards at each affair". Which implies that Jaka was in Palnu after her twelfth birthday, or that she made regular trips home and people knew about it. ( p.13) DAVE: Mm. Well, that’s Jaka’s story, anyway—literally! You’re making the post-1970 mistake of thinking that if that’s what a woman says that’s what actually happened. Lord Julius’ birthday party gag was severely, severely traumatic. No, she had never been to a ball or a masquerade. She dreamed of it—that’s really what the dancing in the hidden room is all about—and she was completely sure that when it finally happened, when she finally got to go to one of these legendary balls that she might well be just a tall skinny stringbean of a girl, but DANCING…oh she would show them all how she could dance. Psychologically it was a defence mechanism against her visual perception of herself. She couldn’t stand to be laughed at and she seemed ridiculous to herself so she needed this enormous façade to protect her ego. The fact that she finally has become the swan instead of the ugly duckling and is on the cusp of being able to show off her dancing ability and gets hit between the eyes by Lord Julius’ peculiar sense of humour is really what leads her to the unsavoury occupation that she chooses when she runs away. The dancing had been so close to being released and had then been stymied that she needed to find an outlet that would allow her to stay closed off personally—back into the eggshell—while letting the dancing out.
Even in an environment where psychology per se doesn’t exist, someone as fine-tuned about perception and self-perception as Jaka would have seen that there was something more than a little wonky about a princess dancing in the Lower City of Iest at the age of twelve. If she thought about it directly (which I’m sure she never did) it would have been clear that she had “issues” or, in the vernacular, that she was nutty as a fruitcake.
As a result, wherever possible she “remade” the story of her life so that she had been the belle of the ball—the belle of many balls—as she had so vividly pictured herself being and as she knew she was capable of being. And then at some point (as her personal mythology goes), she fled Iest and decided to dance for a living, leaving out the specific trauma which led to it—except of course with Rick. The husband she could finally tell the story to. Once Rick was gone, the trauma could go with him and she would never again have to face it square on. It was just something Oscar made up for his book that never happened. That’s the reality she was presenting to Cerebus which just goes to show how sad her situation was. It was completely unlikely that Cerebus would ever read the book or, if he did, that he would have any assessment of it except that it should have been about Cerebus and Jaka because Jaka wasn’t really Jaka until she got involved with Cerebus as far as Cerebus was concerned. The fact that Jaka was selling him her warmed-over fantasy instead of telling him what actually happened is a good reason why the relationship would never “take”. She would never be that open again so the relationship with Cerebus was just her latest portrayal of herself which would inevitably be replaced by another.
Dave on Jaka Post Form & Void
From the Blog & Mail entry from 12/22/2006:
"Jaka post-Form & Void? That would be a tough call and not one that I've given any amount of thought to. I would say that given that these things tend to occur in a symmetrical way, yes, I would imagine that whatever her life ended up being like it would probably have resembled Cerebus's traumatic beginning to Latter Days spinning out in a comparable "can't win for losing" way. Probably not quite AS traumatic because I would assume that she had closed off most of herself in the aftermath of the end of her marriage. The ending to the marriage was too traumatic, too brutal and with no room to manufacture an alternative happy reality in her own mind that would fit the known facts but allow her to escape the tragedy personally. No, the Cirinists do their work too well for that. The core question would be "How much in love with Cerebus was she?" which is another way of asking "How much had she closed herself off at that point?" And that I would no more attempt to answer than I would attempt to answer for which (if any!) of my own girlfriends or my wife I was their greatest and most significant relationship and for which of them I was just one of the guys they acted out their "strong, independent woman" role against—going through the motions for the sake of having a boyfriend or husband—before moving on to their next "strong, independent woman" drama with their new Best Supporting Actor. They were upset for a period of time, but then the next guy came along and it's "happily ever after" "I've never felt this way before" time again. Certainly in the case of Jaka, she wasn't wife and mother material so I think I'm safe in saying that although she thought of herself as monogamous and bonding for life, she was actually just doing the "I've never felt this way before" "Oh no its coming to an end" "Boohoohoo" "NEXT!" trip. Very possibly she just saw Cerebus as the safe option because he was always in love with her every time she saw him. There was never the remotest danger that she had lost him even when he was married to Red Sophia or when she was married to Rick. Women tend to find that incredibly boring but after a series of traumatic dramas where they win more than lose a lot of them will opt for the safe option at least for a period of time either to rebuild their egos or just to have a nice rest.
In the long term? Jackie Onassis used to say that it's nice to have a son so that when you're old you might have someone to take you to the opera once in a while. It was her way of acknowledging, I think, that—for her personality type—once the youth and the looks go there's not a whole lot left besides those sorts of small faded but real pleasures. And I think it was her way of acknowledging the crucial role of Being a Mother (as opposed to being a mother, a distinction now completely and, perhaps, irretrievably lost to us as a civilization) so that you will have just such a small faded pleasure when you were old: some small vestige of love that isn't an enactment, a euphemism for rutting, nor feigned nor wholly faded and, finally, her own. Someone who actually cared even though she was wrinkled up and aged. It's the reason, I think, that Princess Diana, at the legal dissolution of her marriage to Prince Charles sat in the driver's seat of her car and, reportedly, wept piteously. Although she had two sons I think she, at least in a vestigial way, knew the difference between Being a Mother (in the Jackie Kennedy-Onassis sense) and being a mother—arguably she was presiding over the demise of the former by choosing to be the latter—and knew that she was in the latter category. At that point all you can do is bang as many Egyptian playboys as you can squeeze into your datebook as the clock ticks down to your "best before" date because there isn't much on the horizon after that and what's there isn't pretty. I think she got involved in the landmine cause because she misconstrued the sense in which she had personally stepped on a landmine…
(I suspect that Princess Diana was one of those who hear voices from deep within the earth—guess wHWH?—and that voice cautioned her sibyl-like to "beware the landmine" as she seriously contemplated divorcing the heir to the throne and she took it literally instead of metaphorically: always a danger with voices from deep within the earth from what I can see)
…by seeing herself as more important than the Crown which sense of inflated self-importance is a landmine to which all "strong, independent" women are going to be susceptible in my view: by their own successive "strong, independent" choices they blind themselves to the fact that there are, indeed, larger and more important things in the world than their perceived need for immediate "strong, independent" self-gratification in all particulars (seeing one's own maudlin self-pity as more important than God's anointed sovereign over the English-speaking peoples being a prime example) which means that their lives become filled with metaphorical Larger Spiritual Interest landmines that they can step on at any second. And, as we are seeing, often do.
It seems to me that Jackie Kennedy was far more aware in her heart (where women traditionally go to find their Larger Spiritual Interests) than Princess or Lady Diana ever was of the Larger Spiritual Interests at stake in her life, coming as she did from a time period and a Catholic tradition where duty was not a term that could only be viewed ironically and so delayed her self-gratification choices until both John and Bobby Kennedy were dead (which was still rather short-sighted—John and Bobby Kennedy were not personifications of the United States of America, true, but to a wide swath of the Democratic Party they certainly were at the time that Jackie was choosing to chuck it all in with the net effect that the sanctity of their memories was critically important to the Democratic Party they had both devoted their lives to and that sanctity was certainly bruised irreparably by Jackie choosing to become the trophy wife of a Greek shipping tycoon—but her choices were, at least, less short sighted than Princess Diana's would prove to be)
Jaka gradually merged with my evolving perceptions of Lady Diana and Princess Diana and so became a kind fictional missing link in the long slow erosion of womanhood which began, for Christendom, with Mary the mother of Jesus, leading down, down in our present age down to Jackie Bouvier, down from there to Jackie Kennedy, down from there to Jackie Onassis, down from there to Lady Diana, down from there to Princess Diana and, ultimately—failing the sincere repentance which I see nowhere in evidence in our society—all the way down to the base depths of the Whore of Babylon and the cup of her fornications of John's Apocalypse."