box_in_the_box: (Default)
[personal profile] box_in_the_box posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Those of you who didn't live through the 1980s might not remember this, but once upon a time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Cerebus were, in many ways, the same comic book.

Both were independently published black-and-white comic books whose title characters were anthropomorphic animals who possessed comically cartoonish physical features and predilections toward medieval weaponry, and both titles began as parodies of popular Marvel comics - Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird started out by riffing off Frank Miller's Daredevil, while Dave Sim was initially inspired by Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan - so in retrospect, it makes more sense than you might otherwise think that, in 1986, the two titles crossed over, in Eastman & Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (vol. 1) #8.

Another fun fact that might surprise many modern comics fans? While Sim is now known primarily as That Guy, who devotes extended parenthesis-peppered essays to denouncing The Female Void for consuming, suffusing and leeching off The Male Light, there was actually a time when his work regularly exhibited an uncanny knack for comedy (yes, of the intentional kind, no less!), and the following crossover between Eastman, Laird, Sim and Gerhard is just such a showcase of that talent.



In the opening pages of this issue, Renet, an Apprentice Timestress to Lord Simultaneous, steals the Sceptre of the Sacred Sands of Time to travel to New York in 1986 (when this story was written), where she meets up with the Turtles. When Simultaneous shows up to bring her and the Sceptre back, the Turtles try to defend her, so to save them all from Simultaneous, Renet tells the Sceptre to take her and the Turtles "anyplace on this Earth before humans recorded time!"

The next page opens in what appears to be a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, with this bit of dialogue between two mercenaries:

"Okay, now I know today is Tuesday, but what year is it?"
"Hmm... I don't think we record that yet."

As a footnote helpfully informs us, "Yes we do -- it's 1406 - Tarim," another of the mercenaries cautiously but insistently attempts to rouse the one who hired them, with the following results:



This was the first comic book I ever read that had Cerebus in it, so in a very real sense, it was the Turtles who introduced me to this character.

This was also the first comic book crossover I ever read, and for years afterwards, I simply assumed that all comics crossovers were created the same way as this one. Eastman and Laird drew the Turtles, the other characters and the backgrounds, and Sim and Gerhard just dropped Cerebus and his speech balloons into the middle of Eastman and Laird's art.



CEREBUS: HE KNOWS HOW TO MOTIVATE UNDERLINGS.

So, you've got this squat, silly-looking, donkey-eared, pig-nosed, fuzzy gray ... thing, just sitting there, staring at you, and all these battle-hardened warriors-for-hire are all but shitting their pants in fear of it, so hard that Cerebus can verbally smack them the fuck down without even raising his voice.

There's badass, and then, there's BADASS.

Meeting this version of Cerebus for the first time was like discovering a version of Wolverine that had an IQ.



CEREBUS: HE KNOWS SORCERY WHEN HE SEES IT.

How good was Sim, back when he was in his prime? He's the only comic book creator I've ever seen who could portray a character's personality through his LETTERING.

In his early stories, Cerebus maintained such a relatively steady poker-face that I suspect Sim felt compelled to find other ways of hinting at the emotional nuances of Cerebus' dialogue. Whether my theory is right or not, the fact remains that Sim developed an unparalleled skill for conveying vocal tone and inflection through Cerebus' speech balloons.

I love how, just before he shouts his warning to the others, Cerebus grits his teeth and quietly says to himself, "Sorcery." It says so much about how familiar he already is with that world, and what his attitude is toward it.



See the Satanic-looking goatboy on the throne there? That's Savanti Romero (also referred to, on a later page, as "Master Savini"). His name(s) will become significant later on. For now, suffice it to say that he has his own previous connection to the Sceptre, which is why he sensed its presence in his era.



CEREBUS: HE KNOWS THE OBLIGATORY CONVENTIONS OF COMIC BOOK CROSSOVERS.

The "asparagus-face" line still makes me laugh, especially coming from a character who looks like Cerebus.



OH GOD RENET WHY MUST YOU BE SO IRRESISTIBLY ADORKABLE

For as much as fantasy, sci-fi and superhero stories all try to cleave to the Joseph Campbell trope of the young hero-to-be initially resisting the call to adventure, there's something incredibly refreshing to me about a character who simply starts off on her journey out of an entirely angst-free sense of adolescent ennui.

As I said in my previous post, Renet really is a Valley girl version of Doctor Who with a Jack Kirby-style Fourth World wardrobe, plus some Power Girl-sized clocks on her chest.

Meanwhile, Romero and 20 of his troops are riding out of his fortress toward the forest clearing where he spotted Cerebus and Leonardo fighting.



"SCATTER!"

With that, Romero and his troops gallop into the forest clearing. For a brief moment, the troops try to surround the Turtles, Cerebus and Renet, to cut them off, but Romero is apparently not in any mood to dick around, so he just settles things via the expedient of setting off a one-man Michael Bay-scale shock-and-awe fireworks show, the explosions of which knock the Turtles, Cerebus and Renet unconscious.

Before we get too far ahead here, I just want to point out that this page is the start of a game-changer in this crossover. You know how, in most comic book crossovers, after the two sets of characters come into conflict over their initial misunderstanding, they then team up and are treated as reasonably equal partners?

Yeah, well, that doesn't happen here. Oh, sure, the Turtles and Cerebus team up shortly after this page, but at every step along the way, it's Cerebus who's setting the terms, calling the shots and displaying the superior skills.

This is rare enough in crossovers in which the two sets of characters team up in a comic book miniseries or one-shot outside of their respective titles, but for one character to show up another set of characters in their own damn book is practically unheard of. And yet, it's entirely appropriate to these characters, because while the Turtles are bright and promising students, they're still only TEENAGE ninjas, whereas Cerebus is already a VETERAN barbarian by this point.

Why am I pointing to this page in particular as an example of this? Because at the same time that everyone here is getting wrapped up in their drama, Cerebus is the only one among them who's even bothered to keep an ear cocked for additional trouble, which is why he hears Romero's horses. Like Robert De Niro in Heat, Cerebus is always ready to run as soon as he feels the heat around the corner.

Getting back to the story, Romero realizes that there's no way Renet knew what the fuck she was doing, because an adept wielder of the Sceptre could have countered all of his magics, and more. As such, Romero sees Renet as no threat, and tells his troops not to bother with killing her, the Turtles or Cerebus while they're still unconscious, thereby revealing that he's never read the Evil Overlord List.

As they return to his fortress, Romero tells his troops to "prepare yourselves to serve the new master of the world!"

Our heroes are treated to a rude awakening shortly afterwards ...



CEREBUS: HE KNOWS HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AN OPPORTUNITY.

Again, this was the first Cerebus story I ever read, and I LOVED his character for being smart enough to turn just about any temporary setback into another step forward toward his goals.

Anyway, our heroes head off to the Mos Eisley spaceport nearest sleazy town, where they're greeted with something less than warmth at the local tavern ...



So much coolness on this page. The reactions of the patrons and the bickering bartenders are classic. Leo's mistrust of Cerebus speaks well of his relative wisdom as the Turtles' leader. And OH GOD RENET WHY MUST YOU KEEP ON BEING SO AWESOME IN YOUR AWKWARDNESS

Yes, Renet is more than a bit of a ditz, and yes, she's far too easily freaked out (the previous page showed her complaining about the tavern's smell and just about losing her shit when one of the Turtles tricked her into thinking that she'd sat in some puke), but goddamn, when she's not scared or confused, she's got such a relentlessly upbeat attitude that I can't help but find it endearing.

After all, whether she's talking about the 1980s or New York or bars or beer or the beach, it's all new to her, and seeing the world through her eyes just puts a smile on my face.



CEREBUS: LIKE ROGER SMITH, HE KNOWS HOW TO NEGOTIATE A MOTHERFUCKING DEAL.

There is nothing on this page that is not pure win, from Cerebus stealing the other guy's chair up top, to his dry, cutting wit at the end, but his Crowning Moment of Awesome has to be his ability to sell the mercenaries on the insanely massive LIE that he seems to have come up with on the spot.

Why is Cerebus so short? Probably because his growth was stunted from his body bearing the weight of his HUGE FUCKING BALLS.

And this seems like as good a time as any to break for a "To Be Continued!"

ETA: Part 2 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Cerebus crossover is now up!

Date: 2009-12-11 07:30 am (UTC)
darkblade: (Default)
From: [personal profile] darkblade
This is AWESOME!

Date: 2009-12-11 07:44 am (UTC)
darkblade: (Default)
From: [personal profile] darkblade
Especially since as a child of the 90s I never got to read much Cerberus and I have been able to find are the later stuff it is nice to see Cerberus being badass in a not creepy drug addled misogynistic way.

Date: 2009-12-11 07:46 am (UTC)
sun_man: this is Dick Grayson (Default)
From: [personal profile] sun_man
I love Cerberus

You know what this makes me want?

Date: 2009-12-11 08:15 am (UTC)
nefrekeptah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nefrekeptah
This makes want a Cerebus/ Ninja Turtles/ Usagi Yojimbo three way cross-over; a "Crises on Anthropomorphic Earths," if you will.

Heck, Battle Nexus. They can fight it out.

Re: You know what this makes me want?

Date: 2009-12-13 08:23 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
It WOULD be pretty awesome, but given that Cerebus is canonically dead at this point, I doubt it'll be happening any time soon. Still, Usagi and the Turtles have teamed up before; that's something, anyway.

Date: 2009-12-11 09:54 am (UTC)
angelophile: (Chuck Norris Approved)
From: [personal profile] angelophile
God, I love Cerebus. Of course, it probably helps that I gave up trying to read the collections after the end of Church and State.

Date: 2009-12-11 11:03 am (UTC)
angelophile: (Bubo - ?)
From: [personal profile] angelophile
Well that flew over my head. I'm more of a John Hegley man myself.

Date: 2010-01-20 02:53 pm (UTC)
colonel_green: (Default)
From: [personal profile] colonel_green
Just my opinion, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't read "Jaka's Story", the volume after "Church & State". It's the best of the lot, I think.

Date: 2009-12-11 11:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tahngarth.livejournal.com
Ahhh, pre-crazy Dave Sim. Good times.

Date: 2009-12-11 01:35 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
Oh, man. I REMEMBER when Cerebus was this awesome! From the rocky start, through Red Sophia and The Cockroach/Moon Roach/Wolveroach/etc. and Professor Charles X. Claremont and the Woman Thing/Sump Thing battle, through High Society (my absolute favourite part) with Lord Julius, Duke Leonardi and Astaria, up to about the middle of Church and State, with the whole Pope riff and his amazing abuse of same. Church and State may have lost me by the end due to how absolutely plodding and heavy it got, but holy cats, the Gerhardt backgrounds! That man was a background FIEND!

To say nothing of the endlessly entertaining letters column, with Mike Bannon revealing the biggest problem with Cerebus was the lack of Scooby-Doo, and other awesome non-sequiteurs.

Seriously, thanks for posting this. It brings back the good memories I have about the character. Heck, I used to (before one of the times my collection went bye-bye due to circumstances) have a signed copy of the one where they all get stuck in a closet. That was some brilliant work, right there.

Date: 2009-12-11 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brallaqueen.insanejournal.com
I remember buying this from a charity shop and thinking "But..but..this isn't like the cartoon?!"

Date: 2009-12-11 02:40 pm (UTC)
victory_or_death: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victory_or_death
This post is Awesome-coated Awesome with Awesome filling. Thanks!

Date: 2009-12-11 02:42 pm (UTC)
victory_or_death: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victory_or_death
Ok, I read your blog and you said you pronounced her name, at first, like Rene (with a silent T)....so how is it pronounced?

Date: 2009-12-11 06:42 pm (UTC)
victory_or_death: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victory_or_death
Actually I just checked out the episode, "Time Travails" that closely follows the issue you posted. At the 6:06 mark there is a homage to Cerebus. :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMHseWi2mXk

Loved it.


Date: 2009-12-11 04:10 pm (UTC)
blake_reitz: (Default)
From: [personal profile] blake_reitz
Yeah, this is 100% win. Hm. I don't want to sound like dick, but it would have been great if Dave Sim died like ten years ago. No grievance against the guy, but he's often said that upon his death, Cerebus is going into the public domain. And that means Cerebus could have crossed over into the cartoon!

Actually, he wouldn't even need to be public domain for that. Not much of a chance of that happening now, unless Dave Sim wants to license Cerebus to Nickelodeon. Which, even trying to think about breaks my mind.

Date: 2009-12-11 04:40 pm (UTC)
foxhack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] foxhack
Spongebob / Cerebus crossover?

Just imagine the possibilities...

Date: 2009-12-11 05:11 pm (UTC)
blake_reitz: (Default)
From: [personal profile] blake_reitz
It's giving me goosebumps.

Date: 2009-12-11 07:47 pm (UTC)
ulf_boehnke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ulf_boehnke
Well, he did meet Spongeboy and the Flaming Carrot, while he flew to the moon in a giant tower...

Date: 2009-12-11 07:08 pm (UTC)
ext_171733: (Default)
From: [identity profile] werehawk.livejournal.com
I loved this comic back when (I started collecting TMNT when issue 6 came out). What a great series. Someone recently posted the Donatello oneshot and that was my other fave TMNT issue at the time.

Date: 2009-12-11 10:03 pm (UTC)
zegim: jaime_portal (Default)
From: [personal profile] zegim
Great, just great!

Date: 2009-12-12 09:12 am (UTC)
lbd_nytetrayn: Star Force Dragonzord Power! (Default)
From: [personal profile] lbd_nytetrayn
Nift stuff. Any more Cerebus material?

--LBD "Nytetrayn"

Date: 2009-12-13 08:39 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
I think I may have run across a colorized version of this in a bookstore once. I didn't buy it, but I did flip through it, and found it pretty interesting, so reading it in its original format is, well, also interesting.
Incidentally, is early Cerebus, by and large, stuff worth collecting, and is there a cut-off point where one should STOP collecting it? I ask this because I bought a copy of the first collection a while back, wasn't too impressed, and, since the books are both huge and expensive, figured that was that. But now there's all this Cerebus love splashing around all over the place, and I'm beginning to doubt my conclusion. Does the series get significantly better right after Vol. 1, or is Cerebus just not for me?

Date: 2009-12-13 11:57 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Thanks! Maybe I'll check out Vol. 2.

Date: 2010-01-20 02:52 pm (UTC)
colonel_green: (Default)
From: [personal profile] colonel_green
Personally, I'd stop after volume 5 (Jaka's Story). "Melmoth", the sixth volume, is inoffensive, but dull.

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