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Comic Book: Cerebus the Aardvark
aka: Cerebusthe Aardvark
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 Barbarian pastiche 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 superhero parody 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 Society Story 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
  • Cerebus note 
  • High Society note 
  • Church and State I and II note 
  • Jaka's Story note 
  • Melmoth note 
  • Mothers and Daughters:
    • Flight note 
    • Women note 
    • Reads note 
    • Minds note 
  • Guys note 
  • Rick's Story note 
  • Going Home:
    • Going Home note 
    • Form and Void note 
  • Latter Days:
    • Latter Days note 
    • The Last Day note 

Currently, an animated feature film is in the works. It will be an adaptation of the earlier issues, apparently with Sim's full blessing. If this has gotten your interest, the production company uploads the daily footage (also known as "dailies") to their YouTube channel here.

An even earlier (albeit short-lived) adaptation was done for radio in the early eighties.

Not to be confused with the Guardian-Dog of Hades, Cerberus, and certainly not with that other aardvark. May have inspired a misspelling of a certain video game boss monster.

This comic provides examples of:

  • 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..
  • Affectionate Parody:
    • 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.
    • One of the Latter Days chapters/issues is an Affectionate Parody of Peanuts and uses many of Schulz's narrative devices.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • Cerebus gets smashed whenever he can.
    • 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.
  • Alternative Calendar: Cerebus creates a 4-month calendar...or tries to.
  • Animated Adaptation:
    • Some time in the 80s, Sim made some animation cels for some very short Cerebus stories. Never came to anything beyond that.
    • A feature-length movie, still in development.
  • Animate Dead: Happens in the first issue.
  • 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.
  • Arc Words
    • 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.
  • Aside Glance:
    • 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.)
  • Author Filibuster: It starts with Reads and then gradually gets worse and worse.
    • 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  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).
  • Barbarian Hero: Cerebus is a deconstruction/parody of this.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: The sections involving the Judge and "Dave" have Cerebus and Cirin floating around in outer space with no ill effects at all.
  • Beat Panel: Happen every now and then, with Cerebus' reaction to Astoria telling him he's a hermaphrodite combining this with an Aside Glance.
  • Becoming the Mask: Apparently, some of Lord Julius's "Like-A-Looks" do this.
  • Berserk Button: Talking about hurting or threatening Jaka within earshot of Cerebus is an effective form of suicide. This has been done both humorously and...not so humorously.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Lord Julius in his first appearance.
    • Baskin, who saves Lord Julius in Flight.
  • Big Eater: Boobah has a pretty big appetite. It tends to get him into trouble.
  • Black Cloak: Po and the being who thinks it is Death.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Cerebus's brief tenure as Pope does this.
    • Generally, the humor in Cerebus doesn't so much go away as get darker as it goes on.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Starts with the epilogue of Melmoth and continues right through the Mothers & Daughters arc.
  • Body Surf
    • Elrod as Deadalbino.
    • Charles X. Claremont is revealed to have done this in Church & State.
  • Boobs of Steel: The Cirinist fighters are very big and very strong. The proportions match up. Interestingly, they're not drawn as Amazonian Beauties; they're too straight-up scary for that. Have a look.
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to several characters, but Cerebus gets this treatment the most. Usually (but not always) done comedically.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Cerebus learns in Minds that he's a character in "Dave"'s story`. This affects his life to varying degrees through Guys and Rick's Story.
  • Breather Episode:
    • 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?
  • Butt Monkey: Cerebus himself, frequently.
  • 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.
  • Catch Phrase: A few —
    • Bear's constant use of "Whattyacall" (almost a Verbal Tic).
    • Cerebus' "G'wan! Beat it! Scram!" advice to Rick.
    • The Conniptin war cry:
      Might makes Right! Might for Right! Might for Might! Right for Might! Fight! Fight! Fight!
    • Cerebus's favorite swear word: Tarim (the name for the god that he worships for most of the series). He starts using it as a Battle Cry in War of the Independents.
  • Celebrity Endorsement:
    • In a sense. Sim, for his entire career, has been a very outspoken advocate for independent comic writers and titles, even creating a how-to book for self-publishing.
    • Sonny Strait has confessed to being a fan and is mentioned by Sim several times in Collected Letters.
  • Celibate Hero: Played straight initially. Then, it's subverted and finally retconned away entirely.
  • Chainmail Bikini:
    • 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.
  • Characterization Marches On: The Artist. Remember in his debut appearance how he was just a friendly, over-enthusiastic dimwit who was perfectly happy to be an Extreme Doormat? Remember what he was like later on in Church and State?
  • Character Title: Both the series as a whole and some of the individual phonebooks.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: The Roach from his Captain Cockroach incarnation onward, although he thinks it was through mystical means.
  • Cheeky Mouth: Actually justified here, in that Cerebus has two mouths on opposite sides of his head. Suenteus Po and Cirin are the same.
  • Chessmaster:
    • 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 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.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted. Cerebus had very violent, war-themed daydreams as a child. Also, see Creepy Child below.
  • Child Soldiers: In the Mothers and Daughters arc, Cerebus recalls killing a particularly annoying kid who also happened to be a captured enemy soldier.
  • The Chosen One: Subverted. Cerebus was supposed to be this for the Pigts and would have had a grand destiny were it not for a seemingly-innocuous decision he'd made prior to his first encounter with them.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Elrod, The Roach, and The Regency Elf all qualify.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lots of language throughout the series, with normalroach's tirade at the start of Melmoth as one of the most extreme examples, although it toned down after Sim's religious conversion.
  • Conjoined Eyes: Cerebus.
  • Constructed World: Possibly subverted, as it is implied if not outright stated that the world Cerebus inhabits eventually becomes ours.
  • Cool Airship: Seen from a distance in Form and Void.
  • Corrupt Church
    • 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.
  • Crapsack World: Estaricon in The Last Day.
  • Creator Cameo: Sim makes two major appearances, first in Minds and then in Rick's Story. Also, Viktor Davis shows up in Reads and is mentioned as being a friend of Rick's in Rick's Story.
  • Creepy Child: The bully who stabbed Cerebus as a kid.
  • Crossover:
    • Cerebus guest-stars in issue #8 of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The book is drawn by Turtles creators Eastman and Laird, with the exception of Cerebus himself, who is drawn by Sim.
    • Cerebus also appeared in the highly self-referential Spawn #10.
    • Death from The Sandman appears in a single panel in the opening pages of Flight (the 7th Cerebus tpb).
    • 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 various problems, 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle
    • Cerebus killing the Cirinist at the end of Melmoth.
    • Cerebus killing Cirin and her guards in an alternate scenario in Reads.
      • Subverted when he actually fights Cirin. It initially seems the trope is going this way, then Cirin uses her size and strength to her advantage and nearly kills him.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Deconstructed and parodied with the new fathers in Latter Days. The TPB's annotations confirm that this is a Pet Peeve Trope for Sim.
  • Daddy's Girl: Astoria, in the squickiest way possible.
  • Dark Action Girl: Geet-A, Red Sophia's clone, who seems to do nothing but grunt and fight.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • The Roach has these as Swoon, frequently.
    • 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.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Jaka's Story, Rick's Story, and the Lord Julius story that comes right before Melmoth
  • Deadpan Snarker: Astoria, Cerebus, Michelle, and especially Lord Julius.
  • Death Is Cheap: Played hilariously straight with Captain Cockroach's sidekick, "Bunky", then averted after the Cerebus Syndrome kicked in.
  • Death Seeker: In Latter Days, Cerebus eventually decides to stop aimlessly wandering around waiting to die and let the Cirinists do the job.
  • Decided By One Vote: The outcome of the election in High Society.
  • Decompressed Comic
  • 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.
  • Decoy Damsel: Astoria, in her first appearance.
  • 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.
  • Dem Bones: The skeleton mooks in Issue 1.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    Cerebus: Elrod of Melvinbone plans to come and steal your gold tomorrow.
    Roach: Aha!
    Cerebus: Aha? You mean you've heard of him?
    Roach: Heard of him? He's coming tomorrow to steal all my gold!
  • Dirty Old Man: Sophia's father, who lampshades it himself, albeit accidentally.
  • Disappeared Dad
  • 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.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Artist, Woman-Thing, and SumpThing.
  • Distressed Damsel: Jaka, in her first appearance.
  • The Ditz: The Artist in his first appearance and Elrod more generally.
  • Doorstopper: Why else would fans call the TPBs phonebooks?
  • Doppelgänger: The Regency Elf has one, but she insists that they look completely different.
  • Double Entendre: Cerebus telling Michelle that it's okay that the only guest room available is a girl's room, as he's slept in women's rooms before. Michelle gets the joke and plays off of it.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Bran Mak Mufin stabs himself in the chest when Cerebus' papacy crumbles.
    • Ham Ernestway shoots himself with his own hunting rifle, just like his Real Life basis.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him
    • 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...
  • Dungeon Crawling: The first issue. Plot-wise, it isn't all that different from a Dungeons & Dragons session.
  • Dying Alone
    • "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.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Some of these show up in the early issues.
    • 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.
  • Evil Genius: Weisshaupt
  • Evil Matriarch: Cirin
  • Evil Sorceror: Necross the - Ha Ha - Mad
  • Evil Twin: Red Sophia has one, although she was created via magic rather than the...usual method.
  • The Exile:
    • 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.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: After they're forced to clean up their acts by the Cirinists, Mick and Keef are shown with unflattering bowl haircuts. They're not happy.
  • Eye Scream: "He knows Cerebus is squeamish about eyes." Indeed, he does. The Injury to the Eye Motif is even referred to by name.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Hsiffies are demonized in the early issues in the same way that Asian races have been in Real Life.
  • Fatal Flaw: Cerebus' fixation on Jaka. Even after "Dave" shows Cerebus how a relationship between him and Jaka is doomed to failure, Cerebus still can't get past her, and it leads to very bad things.
  • Faux Action Girl: Although Red Sophia has beaten opponents before, we never see any of that onscreen.
  • Femme Fatale: Astoria
  • Fingore: Rick's left thumb is broken (off-panel, albeit very loudly) at the end of Jaka's Story as punishment for striking Jaka.
  • FlashbackMelmoth, Flight, and Minds each have at least one.
  • Foreshadowing: "You will die alone, unloved, and unmourned".
  • For Want of a Nail: "Dave" reveals to Cerebus in Minds that the entire series, except for the first issue or so, has been a chaotic, fractured version of what should have been Cerebus' real destiny; see The Chosen One, Dismantled MacGuffin, and Humongous Mecha.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Cerebus (four-fingered hands, three-toed feet), and Sheshep Ankh, who looks human aside from his three-toed feet.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Cirinists start out as just a non-violent, weirder-than-usual Monster of the Week, but then things changed...
  • Full-Circle Revolution: In Latter Days, the society created after the overthrow of the Cirinists is very successful for many years, but eventually decays into an even worse situation.
  • Funetik Aksent: Several characters; also Cerebus when he's drunk or has a cold.
  • Funny Animal: Cerebus initially started out as just another one of this style of work.
  • Gambit Pileup: Pretty much describes the politics of Iest.
  • 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.
  • Genki Girl:
    • The Regency Elf.
    • 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.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation:
    • Word of God in regards to Rick's behavior in Rick's Story, as a result of the events at the end of Jaka's Story.
    • A comedic version happens when Cerebus finds out what the Rabbai comic is supposed to represent.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Cerebus and the issues of Rabbai.
  • Graceful Loser: Astoria giving up her political maneuvering once and for all in Reads.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Revealed at the end of High Society.
  • The Grim Reaper: Subverted; the figure in all black with the hourglass believes it's Death, but is actually a self-deluded minor entity who gets wiped out of existence by its own devices.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Sophia's mother.
  • Hearing Voices: This is how "Dave" communicates to Cerebus in Minds.
  • Heel Realization: Played for laughs with The Artist at the end of issue 25, when he thinks he was being insenstive about Claremont's death.
  • Hermit Guru: Po was retconned into being one by the time he actually showed up in Mothers & Daughters.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Played with:
    • In the last "living with Jaka" scenario in Minds, Cerebus cheats on Jaka with Joanne, which leads to Jaka committing suicide.
    • In Guys, after Joanne shows up for real, she and Cerebus have a brief relationship that ends badly. She then starts putting the moves on Rick, partly to screw with Cerebus.
  • Heroic Albino: Parodied by Elrod of Melvinbone.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Happens to both Rick and Cerebus at the end of Jaka's Story, although Cerebus's isn't revealed until Melmoth.
    • This also happens to Cerebus at the start of Latter Days.
  • Heroic Fantasy: Parodies this (at first).
  • Hive Mind: According to Bear in Melmoth, the Cirinists are like this. The real Cirin's confession indicates that he's right.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The entity who believes itself to be Death.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted (possibly due to Sim feeling this trope was overused in mainstream comics). When Cerebus's ear gets cut off, it stays off.
  • Honor Before Reason: Jaka tries to call this on Cerebus when he plans to personally confront the forces closing in on Iest near the end of High Society.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Cerebus and New Joanne. Sheshep Ankh is their child.
  • House Wife:
    • Red Sophia retires from her Action Girl life-style and briefly becomes one of these in Church and State. She still keeps wearing the Chain Mail Bikini all the time, though.
    • Jaka during her marriage to Rick.
  • Ho Yay: invoked
    • Cerebus reveals in Minds that he has nursed an attraction to Bear and is rather conflicted about it.
    • Oscar is very obviously flirting with Rick, but Rick's completely oblivious.
    • Cerebus' dream about Roaring Rick Veitch is heavily loaded with subtext as well.
  • Humongous Mecha: Sort of. The Pigt idol (the giant aardvark statue) would have functioned as one of these had things gone a little differently.
  • Hybrid Monster: Artist, Fred, and Ethel.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: In issue 6, a fleeing, dying man tells Cerebus about some lost treasure in the Black Sun Temple.
  • Infant Immortality: Very much averted in Church and State I and in Jaka's Story
  • 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.
  • Jerk Ass: Cerebus himself. Heavily deconstructed.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Probably at its most extreme in Flight. One issue would end with a Cliff Hanger and then the next issue would go on to something entirely unrelated, just to mess with you.
  • Jumped at the Call: Cerebus, once he finds out that he has been chosen as the new pope.
  • 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.
  • Last of His Kind: Elrod. Ultimately subverted in Reads.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo / Captain Ersatz: The Cockroach parodies many comic book characters, including Captain America, Batman, Moon Knight, Wolverine, Venom, and The Sandman.
  • 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.
  • Lemony Narrator: Cerebus in Latter Days
  • Light Is Not Good: The YHWH, especially in the final issue.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: Several in-universe examples, including Oscar's book about Jaka's childhood and some of Cerebus's narration in Latter Days.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Dozens of significant characters over the course of the comic's run.
  • Long Runner: Considering it was an independent, creator-owned comic, it sure lasted a good deal longer than you'd think.
  • Lord Error-Prone: Silverspoon
  • 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.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Cerebus, the Regency Elf is Your Daughter...sort of.
  • Madness Mantra: "DARRRR! Pret-ty flowers! Pret-ty sunsets!"
  • Mad Scientist: Necross (although he's technically a mad wizard, but still...)
    Necross: Being Crazy and evil at the same time is no picnic believe me.
  • The Magic Goes Away
  • Male Gaze: Those parts of Jaka's Story told from Pud Withers' point of view.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Weisshaupt and Astoria.
    • Cerebus himself also shows some talent at this on occasion.
  • May-December Romance
    • 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.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Missy, Jaka's childhood doll.
  • 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.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: Lord Storm'send is only about as tall as Cerebus (around three feet).
  • Missing Mom
  • Mistaken for Servant: Michelle, although she seems more amused than annoyed.
  • Mommy Issues: Astoria
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Elrod
  • Monster of the Week: For the most part, the first 25 issues followed this format.
  • Mood-Swinger: The Artist.
  • Mr. Exposition: Several characters get their moments of this:
    • The Judge in Church and State
    • Po in the Mothers and Daughters arc
    • The real Cirin in Women
    • Sim himself in Minds.
  • Mushroom Samba: Mick gives Cerebus a codeine-laced drink. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Myth Arc
  • The Napoleon:
    • Take a guess who it is.
    • Cerebus's boss during his brief stint as a shepherd during Latter Days. One of the main reasons he got hired is that the boss liked having someone around who was even shorter than him.
  • Near Villain Victory: The Artist in Church and State II.
  • Never Gets Drunk: The Regency Elf
  • Nice Guy: Rick. Enforced by Sim's idea that it would make the Love Triangle more interesting if the guy who stood between Jaka and Cerebus was really likable himself.
  • Nice Hat: The tweed cap Cerebus wore as a child, the sunhat Michelle wore in Church & State I, and the beret that Jaka sports in Rick's Story could all qualify for this.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Cerebus started off as a parody comic and never really left its roots in this regard. Many celebrities were parodied, including Groucho and Chico Marx; Oscar Wilde (twice!); Woody Allen; Mick Jagger & Keith Richards; Margaret Thatcher; Ernest Hemingway; F. Scott Fitzgerald; and The Three Stooges. Even famous fictional characters were parodied; for instance, Elrod is a combination of Elric of Melnibone and Foghorn Leghorn.
  • No More for Me: When a gardener spots what appears to be Lord Julius in a dress (actually one of his Like-a-Looks), he pulls out his flask, takes one last swig, then throws the rest away.
  • No Name Given: The Artist.
  • 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.
  • No Sympathy: Astoria treats the Cockroach this way near the end of High Society, even after the guy nearly kills himself by becoming a substitute wheel for her coach.
  • Not Himself: Cerebus, whenever he gets drugged.
  • 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.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain:
    • In the first issue, Cerebus demonstrates that he's not just some cute cartoon animal when some random guy tries to grab his tail.
    • There's also The Artist. Remember back in Issue 25 when he was a friendly energetic guy? If you've read Church and State, you might not.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Lord Julius. He often has multiple plans running at once and goes to great lengths to make everything he says and does entirely incomprehensible so nobody knows whether they're doing what he wants or not.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: In one of the stories in the Cerebus World Tour Book, a drunken Cerebus mistakes a corpse for a living person and befriends it.
  • Oh Crap: The Artist, Fred, and Ethel in Church & State
  • One Head Taller: The pint-sized Doris is just slightly taller than Cerebus. Granted, this was more of a one-sided crush than an actual relationship.
  • One-Winged Angel: The Artist
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Crotch-Face
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Cirin's attitude toward Astoria.
  • Opening Narration: Issues 1-26 each had this.
  • 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.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Cerebus' standard expression rarely varies from a frown or scowl.
  • Perpetual Smiler: The real Cirin
  • Pie in the Face: A sign!
  • Pig Man: ...or "Earth Pig Man", in Cerebus' case.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Cerebus. He's three feet tall but can hold his own against just about anyone in a fight.
  • Plucky Girl: The real Cirin
  • 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.
  • Potty Failure:
    • Cerebus, as a kid, got so scared during a church service in his hometown that he wet himself.
    • At one point in Guys, as an unconscious Cerebus is being carried off somewhere, someone notes a horrid smell and yells, "If he's shat himself again..."
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "Death" 's reaction to his fate in Flight.
    • Dave near the end of Minds.
    • The reactions of Cerebus and the Starkey brothers to Bear's girlfriend showing up at the bar.
  • Proper Lady: Michelle
  • Public Domain Character: Cerebus will become one when Sim dies.
  • Punny Name:
    • A sexually repressed momma's boy named Pud Withers.
    • The Aardvark-based cult called the "Pigts".note 
  • Purple Prose: This pops up a few times.
    • The sections of Jaka's Story which depict Jaka's childhood, later revealed to be a novel that Oscar has been writing about Jaka based on anecdotes from Rick.
    • The sections of Rick's Story that are written very much like the King James Bible.
    • Mary Ernestway's diary readings are a loose example.
The first two are deliberate parodies; the diary, not at all.
  • Rage Against the Author: Minds is this trope.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Cerebus and the T'Gitans
  • Rape as Drama:
    • During the Church & State arc, while interrogating a captive Astoria, Cerebus finally has enough of her mind games and her taunts and proceeds to rape her.
    • It's strongly implied in Jaka's Story that Jaka was molested as a young child. Sim later all but confirmed this, hinting (but later Jossing) Julius as the culprit.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Artist gives one to space, no less.
  • Refusal of the Call: Both Cerebus and Michelle initially do this with Weisshaupt's schemes. Cerebus eventually gives in. Michelle doesn't.
  • Revenge:
    • The motive behind Cerebus's actions in Melmoth and Flight.
    • This seems to be the Roach's motivation (in his first incarnation as The Cockroach).
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome:
    • 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.
  • The Rival:
    • Weisshaupt eventually becomes this to Cerebus once Cerebus becomes Pope, although he changes his mind on his death bed.
    • Cirin views Cerebus as this until Minds.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Cerebus in Melmoth.
    • Both Cerebus and The Cockroach in Flight.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat
  • Running Gag: One gag that ran roughly from the early issues through Church and State was that if Cerebus got wet, his fur gave off a hideous stench that even he could barely tolerate.
  • Sand in My Eyes: Soot, actually.
  • Scenery Porn: Gerhard's background art is so very, very pretty.
  • Screw Destiny: Po's advice to Cerebus in Mothers & Daughters regarding the Judge's prophecy is essentially this. Cerebus resolves to do just that at the end of Minds.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • 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.
    • Astoria does this for real in Reads.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Most of Guys consists of these.
  • Seldom Seen Species: Who do you think?
  • Self-Deprecation: Even Sim takes a crack at his own outspokenness on the front cover of issue 290. (See below under Take That for further details.)
  • Self Insert: Sim shows up in person near the end of Rick's Story and converses with Cerebus on the stagnation of Cerebus' life.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Cerebus and Red Sophia.
  • Ship Tease: Cerebus and Michelle, followed by a very abrupt Ship Sinking.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Lord Julius is literally shooed out by Cerebus right before Cerebus does his rather infamous interrogation of Astoria.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: One of the longest setups in comic history.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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)
    • Issue 275 is a huge Shout-Out to Peanuts.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Cirin tries to pull one of these on Po in Reads. It doesn't work. Cerebus pulls one on Astoria later on in the same book. It really doesn't work.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Elrod
  • 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.
  • Social Darwinist: Red Sophia
  • 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.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • 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.
  • The Stoic: Po and Michelle
  • Straw Critic: Oscar's description of "reads" fans probably counts. See Take That, Critics! below.
  • Straw Feminist: The Cirinists are straw second-wave feminists, while the Kevillists are straw third-wave feminists.
  • Stripperific: All but one of Jaka's dancing costumes.
  • Sword Fight: A least until guns show up.
  • Take a Third Option: Astoria in Reads, after Cerebus gives her an ultimatum.
    Cerebus: You can shut up and leave...or you can shut up and die!
  • Take That:
    • 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.
  • Theme Naming: A few instances.
    • The "Mind Games" issues all deal with mental weirdness of one form or another.
    • The "Chasing YHWH" arc in Latter Days, a pun on Chasing Amy and dealing with Cerebus'...unusual...exegesis on the Torah.
    • The names of the Three Wise Fellows are Yiddish variants of The Three Stooges' names, in keeping with their use in the story as Old Testament-style prophets.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: In-universe, part of Latter Days is used to express Sim's disappointment when The Three Stooges brought on Joe Besser and later Curly Joe Derita.
  • Third-Person Person:
    • 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).
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Roach and Elrod, at times.
    • The McGrew Brothers, who started out as Those Two Bad Guys, but quickly degenerated from antagonists to comic relief.
    • Ham and Mary's two gunmen from Form and Void
  • Time Skip:
    • 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.
  • Title Drop: First issue.
  • Token Good Teammate / Token Wholesome: Michelle, arguably the only morally upright character in the series, and definitely the most morally upright female character.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Cerebus and The Artist in Church and State.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Red Sophia, much to Cerebus' annoyance.
  • Tyop on the Cover: The origin of Cerebus' name.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Several examples:
    • 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...
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Cerebus again...until the comic stops being a comedy.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A talking aardvark? Hardly worth commenting on, really. It's later revealed that aardvarks have been around in Estarcion for a long time.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Cerebus, as well as many minor characters.
  • Vapor Wear: In the "affair with Joanne" section of Minds, a full page is spent on Cerebus seeing Joanne putting this into action in various ways.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Cirin
  • Walking the Earth
  • Wall of Text: Happens several times throughout the series, but the absolutely worst case is the "Chasing YHWH" portion of Latter Days.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: The second issue uses "it's" twice where it meant to use "its". One such instance is actually followed only one page later by a proper "its".
  • Weirdness Magnet: Cerebus, due to his "magnifier" ability; later revealed to be a trait shared by all aardvarks.
  • We Named The Sheep Elrod
  • What Could Have Been: In-universe examples:
    • Cerebus is presented with alternate futures throughout the "Mother and Daughters" arc, most notably in Minds.
    • In Guys, Cerebus briefly dreams of an alternate future where he apparently became romantically involved with Astoria.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Played very straight in multiple ways in the comic.
    • Sim himself averts it; despite his apparent misogyny, he condemned violence against women in at least one of his editorials.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Very much averted once Cerebus Syndrome kicks in.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: High Society
  • 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'!"
  • The Hero Dies: Anti-hero in this case, but still...
  • Really Dead Montage
  • You Can't Go Home Again: When Cerebus tries, he finds himself exiled due to his perceived abandonment of his family (he missed his father's death during the time that he was wandering with Jaka).

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alternative title(s): Cerebus The Aardvark
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