Friday, September 4, 2009

High Society

High Society. That's the name of the book, and the first issue or chapter. From the time you first look at the cover of the phone book, even if you haven't read the issues it comprises, you know that you're in for something special. The picture of The Regency (the lavish and famous hotel in Iest that the majority of the action takes place in) on the front is truly stunning. I don't think the picture had appeared in this form before. Dave had done the drawing some time ago, but it wasn't until his friend, and co collaborator Gerhard got hold of it that it became what adorns the cover. Gerhard was one of the most gifted background artists I have ever seen. The detail and depth that he gives The Regency makes it almost photograph like in it's clarity. Gerhard didn't become the regular background artist until issue #63, and High Society encompasses issues #26 - #50 (the phone book came out later again).

Cerebus drags his way up the steps leading to The Regency and is prepared for a fight. He's trekked a long way on foot, and he's been carrying a hefty sack full of valuables over his shoulder. Cerebus knows that his very appearance will alert the hotel guards, and the snobbish desk clerks that he is not the sort of person they want soiling their establishment with his dirty feet. It does appear from the look that the clerk shoots down his nose at the glowering aardvark who approaches his desk, that Cerebus was correct. However the second he mentions his name, it all changes. The clerk not only offers to show him to a room, he gives him a suite, and refuses to accept payment for it. This preferential treatment only serves to make Cerebus suspicious.

When the clerk comes to show him to the dining room the smell of his fur when it gets wet joke gets another airing, Cerebus having bathed in the interim. Cerebus still wants a fight, and so proceeds to make himself the most difficult customer he can imagine. He orders prime rib of yak with rum and raisin sauce (yuk! Rum and raisin is an icecream or chocolate flavour, not an accompaniment for a roast rib of a hairy asian beast of burden), four bottles of Chateau Dehrsion (it's Cerebus' version of Dom Perignon), four different years, and for dessert any fruit that is out of season. When all of these unreasonable demands are met with a polite nod, and a murmured 'yes sir' Cerebus gives up.

No sooner has the clerk departed, than Cerebus is besieged by various well attired gentleman desperate to make his acquaintance, speak very quickly about the company they represent, and give him money for the privilege. Cerebus finally manages to get a foreigner by the name of Scorz to explain exactly why they are doing this. The conversation is extremely amusing because of Scorz's habit of referring to Cerebus as Famous the Aardvark, in fact he does it so often that Cerebus begins using it in reference to himself. The businessmen see Famous the Aardvark....sorry, got me doing it now! Cerebus as a conduit to Lord Julius, and no business can be done unless it has Lord Julius' say so. By the end of the evening Cerebus has managed to garner over 5,000 crowns, and cemented his reputation as a tough negotiator with nerves of steel. Unfortunately his mood has not improved, and more than ever he desperately wants a fight.

In search of the conflict he takes a cab to the toughest tavern in town, throws a bag of flour over the crowd, and challenges the entire assembled assortment of thugs to a fight. I love Cerebus' thinking as he gets ready for the brawl: 'Impossible odds; mentally unbalanced foes; cramped quarters for a good punch-up...and people say Iest has no night life.' I always see Cerebus like this, ready for a fight, legs bent, head down, fists clenched. To me that pose is Cerebus, and it doesn't matter where the story takes him, to me that is what he is, was and will forever be. His fun is spoiled by the arrival of the dock police, who have orders to protect him. Disgruntled, Cerebus trudges back into Iest's night, wondering how he can lose his security detail.

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