Cerebus has just spotted a bus full of nuns. He is not amused.
Cerebus the Aardvark was a comic book created by Dave Sim that developed slowly from episodic comedy to high drama to Author Tract. Beginning in December 1977 and ending in 2004, it clocks in at over six thousand pages, making it the longest work in comic form by a single author in the West. Somewhere around the sixth issue, Sim decided to devote the next twenty-five years of his life to producing a three hundred issue storyline with a plotted-out beginning, middle, and end.Sim had begun Cerebus as a Conan the Barbarianpastiche in black and white line art, in the same vein as later independent comic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The silly parody starred a barbarian aardvark Anti-Hero, back in the days when having a Funny Animal interacting with humans hadn't been done to death. Along the way, he ran into his Love Interest Jaka, who started off as a one-shot Stripperiffic character. Umpteen issues later, she would re-appear, now fully fleshed-out. He also met the Roach, a superheroparody initially similar to The Tick. Much later, Sim would exploit the pathos inherent in the character.Behind the scenes, Sim experimented with LSD and drove himself beyond exhaustion creating and publishing his comic book. Overwork caused Sim to have a Creator Breakdown. He even spent a day in a mental institution.Around issue 26, the Aardvark gave up his barbarian ways, and thus began the High SocietyStory Arc. He ran into the manipulative Astoria and the scary proto-feminist Cirinist matriarch Cirin. Astoria's scheming got Cerebus a job as prime minister and, later, a brutish, morally warped pope. Back in the real world, Sim split up from his wife Deni Loubert, who was also co-owner of the comic's Aardvark-Vanaheim publishing company, and background artist Gerhard was brought on board starting with issue 65, his highly detailed backgrounds earning praise and becoming a key element of the comic.Cerebus wound up on the Moon (long story), got lectured at by an omniscient Judge who lived there(!), returned to Earth and found that his home had been taken over by the Cirinists. He ran into Jaka, now married to a guy named Rick, and also Oscar Wilde. Yes, the Oscar Wilde, or rather an Oscar Wilde. In the world of Cerebus, you see, characters can exist in multiple iterations at the same time.The comic had, as the summary will imply, gotten more and more experimental. He began Painting the Medium, and diving into Post Modernism. Among other assaults on the reader's sanity, Cerebus met his creator, Dave, who sent him to the planet Pluto and also injured Cerebus' eyeball. Alan Moore (who should know) would later congratulate Sim for doing the most accurate portrayal of the mystical experiences ever put down into fiction.By then the comic had lengthy all-text pages, some of which were used to explain Sim's ever-changing theories on the creation of the universe and on The Bible. Editorials became increasingly controversial and verbose. Mostly, they defended creator rights over comic properties, rights agreed-upon by several well-known and respected comic book creators. It could be argued that Sim's rants were fundamental to the development of independent publishers in the nineties, such as Image. On the other hand, his anti-feminist views, in the beginning moderate, but growing more aggressive issue by issue and finally becoming public with the infamous issue 186, were heavily criticized as misogynistic, nutty and loathsome (as The Comics Journal described them), alienating both the audience and professional reviewers.While reading the Bible and Qur'an in preparation for the Rick's Story arc, Sim underwent a religious experience and converted to an idiosyncratic mixture of Judaism, Islam and Christianity (his political beliefs similarly shifting to more unhinged territory). As a result, the last issues dealt with Cerebus gaining religion, and the final fates of Cerebus, the Cirinists, and their respective empires and allies, and proved to be even more controversial than anything that had come before.To paraphrase Sim himself, he set out to write three hundred issues of a life that "made sense", unlike Spider-Man or Superman, three hundred issues of whose series "don't make sense as a story or a life".While Sim gave us liberty to use his characters without the threat of copyright infringement lawsuits, it has yet to be adapted to any other medium. Oh, and once he dies (Sim, not Cerebus), all of his work will enter the public domain.Generally accepted as proving that works of astonishing scope and dedication can be achieved if you don't mind going completely crazy in the process.Story arcs
Cerebusnote Issues #1-25, not really an arc so much as a mostly episodic series of shorter stories ranging from one to about four issues
High Societynote Issues #26-50
Church and State I and II note Issues #52-80, 81-111
Aborted Arc: An early story arc had Cerebus and a band of mercenaries capture a commander named Krull as part of an elaborate military campaign. A later story even depicts them having difficulty keeping Krull imprisoned, seeming to foreshadow an upcoming conflict or complication. However, Sim suddenly and unceremoniously dumps the story line, ultimately having it resolve itself offscreen. Not only that, it is never mentioned how (or even if) Krull affected the campaign's outcome.
Acid Reflux Nightmare: Jokingly referenced rather than used. In the Guys story arc, Cerebus has an alcohol-induced nightmare involving Roaring Rick Veitch and his Rare-Bit Fiends. This is a parody of Veitch's actual comic/dream journal Roarin' Rick's Rare Bit Fiends, which was based off Windsor McCay's comic strip Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend, whose title referenced the notion that eating too much Welsh rarebit would cause nightmares.
Action Girl: Red Sophia in the early issues...granted, Cerebus doesn't think any of her victories have been against formidable opponents.
Adventure: Pretty much every issue until High Society, either as standalone stories or as 2-3 issue arcs.
An Aesop: The Victor Reid subplot in Reads delivers one about how artists shouldn't "sell out".
Aesop Amnesia: Immediately after Minds, Cerebus goes back to his Jerk Ass persona and self-destructive way of life..
Elrod is a parody of both Elric and Foghorn Leghorn. It's unclear whether Sim actually likes Elric, but he has a very high opinion of Foghorn and considers his cartoons to be some of the very best Looney Tunes shorts.
Most of the male characters in Guys hit this trope to some degree as well.
Cirinist society actually enables this trope; unmarried men tend to be sequestered in bars because the state provides free room and board for them and all the alcohol they can handle. The thought process is that they will either get tired of that lifestyle, shape up, and leave to find a wife, or eventually drink themselves to death.
Anthology Comic: Some of the one-shot specials (Cerebus Jam, The Cerebus World Tour Book, etc.) fell into this category. Each story within was helmed by a different guest artist (sometimes solo, sometimes in collaboration with Sim).
Anti-Hero: Cerebus, although before things got serious, he was really more of a parody than a straight example.
Whenever "Something fell!" shows up, expect something major to happen soon. It doesn't even have to be said to have power: Jaka nearly falls off a gangplank at the end of Going Home, but recovers and gets Cerebus out of a really dangerous situation. At the end of Form and Void, she does fall down, and proceeds to add salt to an already open wound and cause Cerebus to finally and utterly reject her.
"G'wan! Beat it! Scram!". It's originally advice given to Rick by Cerebus as a way of getting rid of pesty women, but it takes on a much darker significance later on when Cerebus hits Jaka with it at the end of Form and Void, screaming the "SCRAM!" at her.
"Mungu Mkono" (Swahili for "the Hand of God") in the latter parts of the story.
"Devils, vipers, and scorpions"
Art Evolution: Sim's artwork and character designs showed drastic improvement over the course of the first hundred issues or so, especially after Gerhard took over backgrounds, freeing Sim to focus on the characters. The art also took another leap when Sim began experimenting with photorealism in the later issues of "Chasing YHWH". He carried this technique into glamourpuss and Judenhass.
Ascended Extra: According to Sim, Jaka was originally supposed to be a one-shot character.
Asexuality: Only at first. In Cerebus and High Society, Cerebus seems uninterested in women, apart from Jaka, and at first even that was only because he was drugged. After his marriage to Red Sophia in Church and State, sex becomes almost as sought after as booze, and it ends up getting him in trouble in many, many ways.
This being said, Cerebus had a crush on a blonde girl when he was a kid. Also, although this one is more of a retcon, Cerebus tells Michelle that he lived with a woman for a time many years prior. There seems to be a degree of affection between him and Michelle as well, although nothing comes of it.
Cerebus does this in High Society after learning that his would-be kidnappers used their real names (and real signatures) to sign the ransom note.
He also does this in Reads in the Beat Panel between Astoria telling him he's a hermaphrodite and his reaction.
Author Avatar: Some readers believed that Rick himself was this for Sim, which Sim has gone on record denying. There are also two more explicit author avatars: "Dave", who mainly just appears as a voice in Cerebus' head, and Viktor Davis, an author whose career resembles Sim's. (Sim's full name is David Victor Sim.)
To elaborate: Reads, in addition to the comic material, has two lengthy prose sections, with parts spread over each individual issue in the arc. The first is a fictional depiction of a "reads" writer who lets his greed get the better of him and sells his work to a big-name publishing company, and what happens to him and his work afterwards.note This theme also shows up in Spawn #10, a crossover with Cerebus. The second is a surreal attack on the readers' perceptions of the fourth wall, narrated by Viktor Davis, and also introduces the "male light/female void" material in issue #186, which is where the serious misogyny accusations began.
Applies not only to the story but to Sim's notes, both in the individual issues and the phonebooks, for content and for sheer verbosity.
Becomes most troubling with "Chasing YHWH" of which Sim seems to believe every word. This culminates in the opening pages of The Last Day, which is a combination of the Big Bang theory and Sim's unconventional views on the God/YHWH problem.
Babies Make Everything Better: Averted. Neither Cerebus, nor (if Latter Days is any indication) Sim himself seem to have a high view of either babies or fatherhood in general. It gets even worse in The Last Day.
Backstory: Cerebus's past before becoming a wandering mercenary, such as his stint as a city guard.
Badass: The unnamed Hsifan Assassin from issues 21 and 22. Even Cerebus and the Roach barely put up a fight except when he's posessed by Elrod.
Badass Pacifist: Suenteus Po; although he definitely wasn't always that way, when "onscreen", he manages to solve all of his problems with reason and will. He encourages Cirin and Cerebus to try to do the same at least once (it fails miserably, though they do show him just enough respect to wait until he's out of sight before they start beating the shit out of each other).
Issue 51 was a self-contained, comedic story set just between High Society and Church and State.
Issues 137 and 138, set between Jaka's Story and Melmoth (both extremely moody and emotional stories), tell a light-hearted story about Lord Julius and his staff.
The largely comedic Guys comes between the Mother and Daughters Arc and Cerebus' emotional reunion with Jaka.
The first few issues of the Latter Days arc bridged the heavily emotional ending of Form and Void and the main portion of the new arc where Cerebus finally defeats the Cirinists once and for all.
Briar Patching: Weisshaupt is forced to resort to this when Pope Cerebus threatens his men with eternal damnation if they obey his orders.
Brick Joke: In The Last Day, an aged, decrepit Cerebus has a scene where he begs God for "a last proper fart" before he dies. Guess what the last thing he manages to do after he falls out of his bed but before breaking his neck and dying is?
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": In Estarcion, books are called "reads", although they are much more heavily illustrated than normal books.
The Cat Came Back: In High Society, Elrod turns up at the Regency Hotel unannounced to meet Cerebus, much to the latter's annoyance. Cerebus beats Elrod over the head and pays a taxi driver to take the unconscious nuisance to the docks and put him on the next boat going far away. Of course, by the time Cerebus returns to his hotel room, he finds that Elrod, now sopping wet, has somehow managed to beat him there.
Red Sophia's standard attire, which is only fitting since she's a direct parody of Red Sonja. This leads to a funny remark from Cerebus about the side effects of such attire.
(Red Sophia tries to put the moves on Cerebus, to no avail) Red Sophia: Alright, you furry gray celibate. What do you think of these?! *whips her top off* Cerebus: They'd probably heal if you'd stop wearing that chainmail bikini.
Inverted by the Cirinists; often their eyes are the only parts uncovered.
Weisshaupt stands out as the most accomplished, but Astoria and Lord Julius are also particularly adept.
Suenteus Po is a literal version; he is perhaps the wisest character in the series yet is so humble that he believes any sort of action on his part that affects the world, in any way, would be arrogance. Thus, he spends all his time and intellect on playing chess...by himself. This is the only thing he does for several decades.
Chess Motifs: Scattered throughout the first half of Mothers and Daughters
Chick Magnet: Cerebus (makes no sense, but...) and Dirty Drew.
Child Hater: Cerebus. Most kids aren't too crazy about him either.
In a sense. The Cirinists started out as a benevolent association of mothers who grouped together to bolster their communities. The movement spread like wildfire, and when it began to meet resistance from multiple fronts, a disciplinary / defensive section was formed...which then took over the movement when the aardvark Serna, Cirin's best friend and co-founder of the movement, stole Cirin's identity, usurped her leadership, and had Cirin humiliated and punished as a traitor.
By the time of High Society, the Church of Tarim has been corrupted from within by selfish and greedy individuals.
Cosmic Plaything: Ultimately subverted in Minds where Cerebus finally accepts that it's his own fault that his life turned out the way it did.
The short-lived Cerebus Radio show had brief cameos by impersonators of Rocky and Bullwinkle in the adaptation of Issue 6. Bullwinkle does the pull-a-rabbit trick and pulls Cerebus out of his hat.
Cerebus has also appeared as a major character in the first issue of Dave Ryan's War of the Independents alongside other characters such as The Tick, Fone Bone, The Savage Dragon, and others. How big of a part he'll play in the overall series remains to be seen and, due to variousproblems, will likely remain to be seen for quite some time.
Cult: Several show up in the early story arcs, including the Cirinists prior to their seizing power.
Culture Police: The Cirinists, in a rather idiosyncratic and selective way. Anything they believe is harmful to the welfare of mothers and children will make them go into full Knight Templar mode. Pretty much anything else, they will ignore completely.
In one of the early Latter Days stories, Cerebus spent a lot of time in the bushes watching Gorsky's wife while she bathed.
David Versus Goliath: Anytime Cerebus has a one-on-one fight with anyone, they're always much, much bigger than he is, with Necross being the most extreme example. This becomes his main disadvantage when he fights againt Cirin in Reads.
Deconstruction: The later books do this to the earlier books. In the earlier books, any violent or morally questionable action Cerebus takes is treated as being all in good fun. Once Cerebus Syndrome set in, the consequences of Cerebus' actions are thoroughly explored and often very unpleasant.
Defeat Means Friendship: Parodied. Elrod offers his friendship to Cerebus after their first encounter and subsequently follows him around, but is oblivious to the fact that Cerebus wants nothing to do with him.
Defictionalization: Happens in-universe: Joanne, introduced in the last "living with Jaka" scenario in Minds, appears in Guys as an actual character.
Dismantled MacGuffin: Cerebus' helmet, medallions, and sword from the first issue. Crafted by the first of his aardvark ancestors, they would have given Cerebus the power to conquer the world if he'd had them when he found the Pigt idol...but he sold the helmet a few issues prior.
Surprisingly the Cirinists, who were the closest thing the series had to a Big Bad.
The T'Gitans in the first phonebook.
Drunk with Power: Cerebus becomes this when he is appointed pope (and, to a lesser extent, when he is elected Prime Minister). A certain thing about throwing innocent babies like footballs and booting old people off of buildings to prove Broken Aesops...
"You live only a few more years. You die alone, unmourned and unloved." The Judge ended up being half right. Cerebus does die alone, unmourned and unloved, but lives for much longer than the rest of the cast except for Cirin.
Cerebus' father...which leads to Cerebus being shunned by his home town.
Dying Race: Elrod is the last ruler of one, but this is eventually subverted.
Rick, in his insanity, sees both Cerebus and Mrs. Thatcher in this fashion in Rick's Story.
The Empire: The Cirinist-ruled region of Estarcion.
Enemy Mine: Cerebus and the Roach in High Society.
Even Evil Has Standards: During the Church and State arc, where Cerebus is at his most amoral, he reveals that he is disgusted by pedophilia. This plays into a later story arc where he tries to scare his would-be disciples off by stating the most evil thing he could think of.
Cerebus, at the very end of Form and Void, is publicly ostracized from his hometown for missing his father's funeral; the only way he finds out why is because he happens to catch someone outdoors before he can get home.
Suenteus Po is a self-imposed version; he is fully aware of his Weirdness Magnet nature and is resolved to interact as little as possible with the world to keep his "magnifier" from affecting things too much. It doesn't work.
Genius Bruiser: Cerebus is one of the best warriors on Estarcion and rather intelligent. However, he is entirely unsophisticated, being interested only in fighting, drinking, sex, and indulging his short temper, and can be shockingly dim-witted at times.
Jaka acts this way in Going Home, but not really anywhere else in the series.
Genre Shift: From an adventure parody to...whatever the hell it became.
Go Into the Light: Subverted. Cerebus dies, and is eventually dragged kicking and screaming into the Light. By itself, this pretty much indicates that Cerebus went to Hell. This was all fine and good until Sim suddenly decided he wanted an even more Broken Base than he already had. In the author annotations to the final trade paperback, Sim mentions the possibility that Cerebus actually went to Heaven and was just panicking needlessly at the last second.
Inner Monologue: Cerebus has these. Sometimes, they turn into arguments between different parts of his personality.
In the Hood: Po's disguise in the Mothers & Daughters arc. Po is revealed to be rather Genre Savvy. He knows that there is nothing inconspicuous about his disguise. He simply chose it so that people would think he was The Grim Reaper and be too scared to approach him.
Irony: Sim, at one point, pointed out the irony of readers' horror at Sheshep Ankh's sphinx cloning experiments when said readers were completely accepting of Cerebus, who by his very nature is equally monstrous in the most literal sense of the word.
Keet: The Artist when he debuted in Issue 25. He drops this when he reappears in High Society and by Church & State...
The Lad-ette: Mary Ernestway, and her real-life counterpart, Mary Hemingway.
Lampshade Hanging: Minor typos and inconsistencies nobody but the author could have possibly picked up on are returned to, expounded upon, and made into plot points.
Lampshaded Double Entendre: How Cerebus makes the Artist understand that Sumpthing and Woman-Thing are not fighting each other, but are actually...well, you know.
The Last Dance: Subverted. Cerebus goes out to singlehandedly face an enemy horde at the end of High Society, only to realize at the last second that the army consisted of former allies who stopped their attack and made peace upon recognizing him.
Leeroy Jenkins: Cerebus in the first issue. Subverted in that (1) he probably only made the mission slightly more difficult than it would have been and (2) that the mission's success was still mostly due to his participation.
Love at First Sight: Cerebus and Jaka. Granted, Cerebus was under the effects of a mind-altering drug at the time, but he still cared about her even after it wore off.
Love Dodecahedron: One of the key themes of Jaka's Story. Jaka is married to Rick and loves him. Cerebus loves Jaka. Pud Withers...well he feels something for Jaka. And just to mix things up a bit, Oscar clearly has a crush on Rick.
Love Triangle: The Roach thinks one of these exists between himself, Astoria, and Cerebus.
Astoria and Lord Julius, back when they were married, anyway.
Cerebus and New Joanne
Mayfly-December Romance: Cerebus and Jaka (although Cerebus' incredibly slow aging isn't revealed until the last two phonebooks).
Medium Awareness: Cerebus has this forced upon him by "Dave" in Minds. As a result, in Rick's Story, as he's debating on whether or not to open the package Dave left at the bar, he wonders if his stagnation has pissed off Dave and/or Dave's readers enough to want him dead.
Mind Screw: Happens both to the reader and to Cerebus. The latter is the whole point of the various "Mind Games" issues, and is in large part how Cerebus interacts with Suenteus Po before they meet face-to-face. The reader gets slapped with this in the second prose section of Reads.
Nonstandard Character Design: Cerebus (and the other two aardvarks) are drawn in a very simple style, with liberal use of zip-a-tone. The rest of the world, characters included, is drawn much more realistically, and with no zip-a-tone whatsoever.
Not So Different: Cerebus and Cirin are both power hungry aardvarks who are prone to violent outbursts. Both are unexpectedly strong (he's a shrimp, she's middle-aged). Finally, both tend to zealously guard their egos.
Orphaned Punchline: Invoked by Cerebus in Latter Days when he recounts the most disgusting thing he ever said and spares his audience everything but the punchline.
Our Albino Is Dead: Elrod's death in Issue 22. The cover even advertised it as "The Death of Elrod". However, later on, when Elrod learns what he is, he winks out of existence, and thus, actually DOES die.
Painting the Medium: Used in many ways over the course of the comic, sometimes obviously and sometimes less so.
One of the most obvious ones happens during Minds. "Dave" brings Cerebus close to Cirin to show that her telepathic denials of the truths he's trying to show her are so strong that they're actually distorting the "reality" around her, depicted as the edges of the panels fragmenting.
After Cerebus wins the election in High Society, the several next issues are tilted and have to be read sideways, signifying that his world has been "knocked sideways." In the penultimate issue of the same storyline, where the crisis is a fact, for a few pages the direction of the panel spins around so that the reader has to keep turning the comic around in order to read it.
Post Script Season: All lingering plot threads and character arcs were pretty much resolved by the end of Minds, but the series ran for another 3 arcs/100 issues... some people believe he did this solely because he'd earlier stated that the series would run for a total of 300 issues. Dave Sim himself stated in an interview with The Comics Journal, "Cerebus #1-200 [is] the completion of the story. The yin and yang."
To illustrate how severe the Ending Fatigue got by the end: Gerhard, basically the last person that Dave hadn't driven away from the comic with his crazy, Reclusive Artist behaviour (although by this point Dave and Gerhard never spoke outside work), was interviewed by The Comics Journal and admitted that even he was lost as a reader and became very frustrated with the drudgery of working on a book "even I couldn't read anymore", to the point that he motivated himself to finish The Last Day with the mantra "done by Christmas, done by Christmas...", because Dave happened to mention at one point that the book would be "done by Christmas" if a certain amount of pages were finished per day. Gerhard also admits in the same interview that after Cerebus was finished, he was so burnt out by the experience he didn't feel like drawing for nearly six years afterwards.
Issue 3. In all honesty, the first two issues were basically straight-up fantasy adventures that happened to star a Funny Animal and had some comic relief thrown in here and there. Issue 3 was where the parody started becoming apparent.
Guys, Rick's Story, and Going Home. They could also count as one huge Breather Episode considering how dark Form and Void was.
Latter Days subverts this. The first half of the book is extremely light-hearted. Then the Three Wise Fellows die during a Time Skip and things stay pretty bleak for the rest of the arc and series.
Jaka tries to get Cerebus to invoke this trope in High Society, when Iest is under siege. He refuses and slaps her in disgust. He later apologizes, but still claims that she was in the wrong for trying to convince him to run out on his men.
Women features a major one to The Sandman, in the form of The Clueless: Swoon (The Roach, parodying Dream), Snuff (Elrod, dressed as Death), Sulk (Despair if she was Red Sophia's mother), Sleaze (Desire, implied to be modeled on Astoria), Kay Sarah Sarah (the Roach as a female parody of Destiny)
Smart People Play Chess: Taken to extremes by Suenteus Po, who has grown so weary of the world that he hides in his small apartment and plays chess against himself...for decades. All of which seems to have been a way to protect his secrets from the Big Bad, who can read minds. When she tries to read Po's mind, she sees chess...and nothing else.
Smug Snake: Po admits that both Astoria and Cirin are experts in guile and trickery, but he also accuses them of being overconfident to the point where they have both dangerously underestimated Cerebus.
Something Completely Different: High Society was the point where Cerebus pretty much stopped being a sword-and-sorcery comic. Also, several entire story arcs either shove Cerebus into the background or tell stories in a time or place where he isn't. Melmoth (which tells the story of the death of Oscar Wilde) is the most obvious of these, as well as Jaka's Story and Rick's Story. Also, another one of the later trades consisted almost entirely of an exegesis on the Torah.
Cerebus embodies this trope due to his "magnifier" ability. This is later revealed to be a trait common to aardvarks.
Elrod also embodies the trope, since he's a physical incarnation of chaos.
Speech Bubbles: These were one of the small but distinctive features of Cerebus; they could be incredibly expressive and as artistic as anything else that was going on in the comic.
The Spock vs. The McCoy: This is the essence of Sim's views on the differences between men and women, although greatly simplified.
Status Quo Is God: The first 25 issues typically followed this pattern: No matter how much money Cerebus made on a job or through one of his schemes, he'd either lose it or simply waste it away and be forced to continue his career as a wandering mercenary.
Stepford Smiler: Cerebus becomes one to increasing degrees in Going Home and Form and Void, per advice from Victor Davis via Rick on how to handle women who are fundamentally unhappy.
Sometimes Dave Sim's mockery of superhero comics ceases to be Affectionate Parody and enters the realm of outright disdain.
Sim tends to resort to name-calling with anyone he disagrees with (such as calling Scott McCloud a weenie and calling Heidi MacDonald a moron). Whether-or-not this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek is...not very easy to determine.
Sim had public fall-outs with Jeff Smith and Terry Moore, infamously publishing an editorial accusing Smith of lying about an argument they had over issue #186 and challenging him to a boxing match, to which Smith replied, "Get stuffed."
From the famous feuds file again, Sim also managed to piss off Gary Groth, editor-in-chief of The Comics Journal, and the journal's subsequent hostility to the comic was also alluded to in several Take That, Critics! outbursts. The feud between Sim and Groth reached such a height that it led to an infamous Award Snub, where one of The Comics Journal's lists of the best comics very noticeably left off Cerebus, despite the fact that at least one Journal writer admitted in an interview that Cerebus should have been on the list, but that Groth did not allow it.
Sim opened the "Tangent" essay in issue #265 by slamming Carol West, who had resigned as Aardvark-Vanaheim's administrative assistant in disgust after seeing the first draft of the essay.
Miz Thatcher, which surely must've caused Sim embarrassment; he has since said that she was right all along, as his politics shifted to being more obviously ultra-conservative about the same time as his religious conversion and he reinterpreted the themes of Jaka's Story in that vein.
The front cover of issue 290 is a movie poster parody that describes Cerebus as "the latest issue of the comic book liberals love to hate". The rest of the text degenerates into further pointless Strawman Political insults, ends in "OKAY OKAY JUST STOP WHINING! PLEASE!" and then restarts but changes the description to "the latest issue of the comic book that many people buy".
Take That, Critics!: In Melmoth, Oscar Wilde's high opinion of Daughter of Palnu and his unflattering description of "reads" fans is basically Sim both being defensive and taking a swipe at comics readers who disliked the direction he'd been taking the comic in since Church & State.
Talk Show: Women features one (the daytime version), with Red Sophia and her mother as the guests.
Tarot Motifs: The cover art for the issues in the Reads arc as well as the cover for the phonebook.
Telepathy: Women in Cerebus have a degree of mind-reading ability, and in the case of the Cirinists, take it almost to a Hive Mind level. The real Cirin reveals to Cerebus that women who are especially talented can actually influence the thoughts of others, or even outright brainwash them. She speaks from experience, since this is how Serna stole her identity and usurped her.
Cerebus, almost all the time. The only times he breaks this are in the very first issues, and in High Society when giving political speeches.
Jaka in her first appearance (later retconned as her trying to pass herself off as a northerner, although this isn't revealed until much later, so the reader is left wondering why she started talking differently for a good portion of the series).
An unspecified amount of time took place between the end of Church and State II and the beginning of Jaka's Story, but it was enough time for Cerebus' proclamations as Pope to be proven false and the Cirinists to take over and seize his gold.
The first few issues of Latter Days featured several skips, in which Cerebus seems to go into a fugue state and lose large swathes of time.
Several decades are skipped between the end of Latter Days and the start of The Last Day.
Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Cerebus and each of his love interests, since he's only three feet tall and they're normal-sized women.
Oscar, who massively inflates the tales of Jaka's childhood with his Purple Prose. Being a parody of Oscar Wilde, this is very much in character.
Rick, who turns his memoirs into a holy text revolving around Cerebus after seeing Cerebus confront and dominate Mrs. Thatcher, who had engineered Rick and Jaka's divorce and then ordered Rick's maiming for hitting Jaka. Being quite deranged, he turns everything Cerebus says into scripture, regardless of Cerebus' intentions. He even writes a lengthy description of Cerebus' bar in the Old Testament style of description.
Cirin and Astoria, whose in-story Author Tracts are documented in part in Women. Being parodies of second-wave and third-wave feminists, respectively, they are seen as mutually opposing ends of the same extremist viewpoint.
Mary Ernestway and her diary about Ham's last safari. Being a textbook Ladette, she over-inflates her contributions to the safari, as well as misinterpreting the ethical and social implications of some events. She is also seriously overbearing and condescending toward Ham, and drops hints in her diary that Ham liked to cross-dress, engage in Gender Flip sexual roleplay with her, and enjoyed buggering her. Given that Sim took Mary Hemingway's diaries almost verbatim as the source for Mary Ernestway's diaries, this leads to questions about Ernest himself...
The Judge is retconned into being one during the Mothers & Daughters arc.
Sim himself. He describes Victor Davis as himself during a period when he was drinking heavily and trying to get laid at the same time...unfortunately, he was a mean drunk, which made getting laid that much more difficult, which led to him drinking more, and so on. Later on, as Sim's anti-feminist and religious material increasingly influenced the comic...well...
Writing for the Trade: Pretty much the entire point of the comic, to the point that it's impossible to tell where one issue ended and another began after the fourth phonebook, when the stories stop having individual titles. The trades are printed together as a single story, because that's how they were written, which means monthly readers were basically getting 20-page chunks of a larger book every month, which simply cut off at whatever happened to be the 20th page that month. It got to the point where almost every issue ended with the left-hand page of a double-page spread and the next began with the right. Also, since recaps or even character pages weren't done, you had to get a half-dozen issues to start just to try to stay afloat. Another indie comic famously used the line "I haven't been this confused since I started reading Cerebus at issue 50!".
Wrong Genre Savvy: The Cockroach, who thinks he's the protagonist of a superhero story.
Yoko Oh No: invokedA non-musical example in Ziggy, Bear's on-again-off-again girlfriend, who everyone else calls "Zig-pig" because she's incredibly obnoxious, has a nails-on-chalkboard laugh, and because Bear utterly folds in her presence, putting up with all of her crap because it means he gets laid. By Cerebus and the Starkey brothers' reaction to the one time in the comic where she shows up, it's apparent that this is something that's been happening for years. It's bad enough that when she shows up, almost everyone else in the bar makes plans to leave for good the next day because Bear leaving with her shatters the already-tenuous atmosphere in the bar.
The following tropes themselves are spoilers for the series; read at your own risk:
Back for the Finale: Most of the more notable characters show up in the afterlife in issue 300...then it's possibly subverted since Cerebus might be in Hell and his old acquaintances might be demons who lured his soul into a trap.
Downer Ending: Even if Cerebus went to Heaven, the world he left behind is still a mess and will only get worse and worse.
Even before this point, many of the indivdual arcs (Church & State, Jaka's Story, etc.) ended on a depressing note.
Ear Ache: During his fight with Cirin at the end of Reads, Cerebus gets most of his right ear cut off.
Earn Your Happy Ending: The Mothers & Daughters arc and the first half of Latter Days. Unfortunately for our (anti)hero, Sim decides to subvert it both times.
Happy Ending: Rick's Story. As in the Earn Your Happy Ending cases, Sim subverts this in later phonebooks.
Hermaphrodite: Cerebus is revealed in Reads to be one, with both male and female genitalia and reproductive systems. This becomes a plot point in multiple fashions in later story arcs. Bear unknowingly lampshades this in Guys when he's chewing out Cerebus for a hissy fit Cerebus threw: "It's like you're part chick or somethin'!"