Aardvarkman on the Impostor Syndrome cartoon

About a Jules Feiffer cartoon — still not unearthed (and it’s possible that there’s more than one) — that I recollect one way (described in yesterday’s posting “The Impostor Syndrome cartoon”) but cartoonist Dave Sim (creator of Cerebus the Aardvark) recollects a different way, in a review of Feiffer’s 1993 book The Man in The Ceiling, as quoted on the A Moment of Cerebus blog (“an unofficial cite celebrating the comics art of Dave Sim & Gerhard”) in 2015.

In today’s installment, the Sim account. And then a brisk survey of  Sim, the strip Cerebus, and the character Cerebus (and yes, there will be an explanation of the name).

From Sim on Feiffer:

The first and only time I met Jules Feiffer, I remember telling him how much I liked his strip about Irwin Corpulent. I quoted it badly (a Feiffer strip has an internal melody that is lost in encapsulation): I’m a pillar of the community, got a big promotion, a fancy new office. But inside I’m thinking, you’re a fraud. Someday they’re going to find you out and come and take it all away. I get awards, testimonial dinners. But inside I’m thinking, you’re a sham. Someday they’re going to find you out and come and take it all away.

Etcetera, etcetera in that vein. How wonderful the guy’s life is and the inner voice always saying: Someday they’re going to find you out and come and take it all away.

The punch line is that, one day, he’s sitting in his office and a delegation of people come in. He figures they’re there to give him a good citizenship award or something. One of them says, “Irwin Corpulent, we’ve found you out and come to take it all away.”

“So I cleaned out my desk and I left. When they find you out, they find you out… why argue?”

I told him how much I identified with that strip. He asked me if I knew why I identified with that strip so much. I really didn’t. He said, “Because you’ve never had a large failure in your life. I used to identify with the strip myself until Little Murders closed on Broadway after a handful of performances. Now I don’t identify with that strip. You find out that life goes on. They can’t take anything away from you that really matters.”

Sim’s recollected strip is a tragicomedy of character, turning on  the idea of finding someone out (discovering that they are fraudulent, unmasking them, and depriving them of what they possess); Irwin Corpulent is such a dope, such a schlemiel that he just accepts other people’s judgment that he is the fraud he feared he was and deserves the punishment of losing everything. He is degraded, and his life is changed.

The tragicomedy of character, in various manifestations, is a major theme of Feiffer’s cartooning, so such a strip would be no surprise at all.

In contrast, my recollected Feiffer cartoon is a clever play on words, turning on the ambiguity of find someone out ‘discover that someone is a fraud’ OR (surprise!) ‘discover that someone is not at home’. A joke that heals the wounds of Impostor Syndrome, relieves its anxiety.

And now I shift gears…

About Aardvarkman. On Dave Sim, from Wikipedia:

Dave Sim (born 17 May 1956) is a Canadian cartoonist and publisher, known for his comic book Cerebus, his artistic experimentation, his advocacy of self-publishing and creators’ rights, and his controversial political and philosophical beliefs.

Sim rose to prominence with Cerebus, which began in December 1977. Sim initially conceived it as a parody of Conan the Barbarian and other sword and sorcery comics, but after two years he began to consider the series a self-contained work that would run for 300 issues and be subdivided into “novels”. By the time the 6000-page work was completed in March 2004, Sim had delved into politics and an examination of feminism and gender, while becoming progressively more sophisticated and experimental in storytelling and artwork. Sim worked on Cerebus Archives afterward, and produced the comic books Glamourpuss, which examines the history of photorealistic comics, and Judenhass, about the Holocaust.

From the Lambiek Comiclopedia entry on Sim, about the comic series Cerebus:

One strip from thousands

Dave Sim created ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’, a rare example of a parody that outlasted the thing originally parodied (namely, ‘Conan the Barbarian’). ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’, is the longest self-published comic series ever done. Well-drawn and humorously plotted, Cerebus has earned Sim a solid cult status since he started the series in 1977. The series has been regularly reprinted in fat volumes of more than 500 pages … Sim completed his ‘Cerebus’ saga in 2004.

From Wikipedia about the character Cerebus:

Cerebus is a misanthropic, amoral, anthropomorphic 3-foot-tall (91 cm) bipedal gray aardvark, although like other anthropomorphic characters in the series, he was born to ordinary human parents. He refers to himself by name, in the third person, with occasional exceptions in the early issues. Although Cerebus identifies as male and is treated as such, biologically, he is hermaphroditic.

And from the Toonopedia site on the origin of the name:

In 1976, cartoonist Dave Sim drew a fanzine logo for his girlfriend, Denise Loubert. It was only later that they realized they’d misspelled the name of Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hades, so they decided it was the name of the company mascot … So when, in 1977, Sim decided to publish a comic book of his own creation, “Cerebus the Aardvark” just seemed like the natural way to go.

Yes, inspired error. You were no doubt hoping for a better story, maybe involving a cereal-bus dream or the goddess Ceres plus the 3rd-declension dative / ablative plural –ibus ending of Latin. Well, you take what you get.

One Response to “Aardvarkman on the Impostor Syndrome cartoon”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I was merely hoping for a three-headed aardvark.

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