High Society (comics)

High Society

Wraparound cover to Cerebus Vol. 2: High Society. The Regency Hotel drawn by Gerhard, though his art does not appear within the book.
Date 1986
Number of issues 25
Series Cerebus
Page count 512 pages
Publisher Aardvark-Vanaheim
Creative team
Creator Dave Sim
Original publication
Published in Cerebus
Issues 26–50
Date of publication May 1981–May 1983
ISBN 0-919359-07-8
Preceded by Cerebus (1987)
Followed by Church & State (1987)

High Society is the second collected volume, and first volume-length story, of Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim's Cerebus comic book series. It focuses mainly on politics, including Cerebus' campaign for the office of Prime Minister, in the fictional city-state of Iest in Sim's world of Estarcion. It is generally considered the best book for beginning Cerebus readers to start with,[1] and has been called "one of the finest storylines of the 1980s".[2]

The story is considered a turning point in the Cerebus series, as Sim moved from the "Conan pastiche" of the stories contained in the Cerebus, to making a "piece of political satire,"[3] the beginning of Sim moving away from individual issue-focused stories and short, two- or three-issue story arcs, to "longer, far more complex 'novels'"[4] lasting hundreds of pages, that were the focus of the rest of the series.

The storyline became the first of the Cerebus "phone book" paperback collections to be published. Its success led Sim to abandon the Swords of Cerebus series of 4-issue collections in favour of the larger collections for the final format of the 6000-page Cerebus saga.


In Cerebus #12, Sim announced his intention to continue Cerebus until December 2003, which, at a bi-monthly pace, would take the series to issue #156.[5]

In Cerebus #19,[6] Sim announced that Cerebus would last 300 issues, and that it would chronicle the life of Cerebus up until his death.[7] Further, the book would be subdivided into "novels". The first of these novels would be High Societyone self-contained story that would nevertheless be only one storyline in the larger Cerebus story.


Arrival in Iest

Cerebus arrives in the city-state of Iest, where he checks into the high-class Regency Hotel (whose design was based on the Chateau Laurier) and becomes embroiled in political machinations as the Chief Kitchen Supervisor to Lord Julius.

Cerebus is kidnapped for ransom by Dirty Drew and Dirty Fleagle McGrew. Cerebus soon arranges with the kidnappers to split the ransom money, but when the time comes to pick up the ransom, Cerebus is betrayed by the brothers and knocked unconscious, and he enters a long dream sequence where he speaks once again with Suentius Po.

When he comes to, Cerebus finds himself back at the Regency Hotel, where he is told that he is expected to pay back the ransom that was paid for his release. He discovers the Regency Elf in his room, who informs him that the brothers have been captured. He goes to talk with them at the prison, but finds out they never got the moneyall they got was a statue of a "duck".

With the help of the Elf, Cerebus contrives to get the money to repay his ransom. At the moment that he seems to have schemed the money out of Holland M. Hadden, Hadden is assassinated by the Moon Roach (a new guise of the Roach; a parody of Moon Knight), who is under the control of Astoria. Cerebus is under the Inquisition's suspicion for Hadden's murder, and is only safe due to his diplomatic statusa situation which is complicated by the Moon Roach's assassination of two members of the Inquisition. Astoria takes Cerebus under her wing, telling him she will make him "embarrassingly wealthy".


Lord Julius puts forward a goat to run against Cerebus as Prime Minister. Election night ends in a draw, with one vote uncounted.[8] Cerebus sets out with Astoria and the Roach (this time in a caricature of Sergeant Preston of the Mounties to find Lord Storm'send in snowy Northbell to secure the last vote. After talking with Cerebus, Storm'send lights a beacon indicating who he has voted for, but refuses to tell Cerebus whom he has decided on. Cerebus, Astoria and the Roach head back through the snow, but eventually are stopped due to a bridge being out. They check into an inn located by the bridge, where they find out that Cerebus has won.[9]

Prime Ministership

(Cerebus #45-50)


The McGrew BrothersDirty Fleagle and Dirty Drew
Fighting brothers who at first kidnap Cerebus for ransom money, but later become part of Cerebus' fold. Visually based on Gene Day and his brother Dan, with speech patterns like Yosemite Sam.[10]
The Regency Elf
A childlike, playful spirit who inhabits Cerebus' rooms at the Regency Hotel in High Society; at first, only Cerebus can see her. She helps Cerebus with some of his political scheming, though, as innocent as she seems, it's all just a game to her. She is inspired in part by Elfquest and its creator Wendy Pini.[11] Visually, the Regency Elf is inspired by Debby Harry.[12]
The Roach
Also called Artemis, the Roach is Sim's vehicle for comic book parodies. In High Society, he follows Astoria, and first comes into the story as Moon Roach (a parody of Marvel Comics' Moon Knight), who commits political assassinations for Astoria, and later as Sergeant Preston (a parody of Sergeant William Preston of the Challenge of the Yukon radio program). As Cerebus rises in the political world, the Roach takes on the rôle of his bodyguard, while secretly and jealously believing that Cerebus is stealing Astoria away from him.
A beautiful political manipulator, Lord Julius' ex-wife, and the main driving force behind Cerebus' campaign to become Prime Minister in High Society.
Lord Julius
Lord of Palnu, a city-state to which Iest is considerably in debt. Cerebus has attracted a lot of attention as he had been Lord Julius' Kitchen Staff Supervisor, and is believed to have influence with Lord Julius.
Duke Leonardi
Leader of Serrea, cousin to Lord Julius. A caricature based on Chico Marx.[13]


Originally published in issues #26-50 of Sim's monthly Cerebus series between May 1981 and May 1983, High Society was published as a 512-page paperpack "phone book" collection in 1986, originally with a print run of 6000, printed by Preney Print & Litho Inc. of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Its tenth printing came out in 2005.

Between 1985 and 1988, Sim underwent negotiations with DC Comics, in which DC offered $100,000 and 10% of licensing and merchandising. During this time, Sim set up a dedicated 800 number and announced in Cerebus #86 (May 1986) that he would put out the first printing of the High Society "phone book" through mail order.[14] The book sold out in less than a year,[14] and grossed $150,000, which made DC's offer seem "kind of puny by comparison", according to Sim.

Sim's artistic partner, Gerhard had not yet joined him when High Society was being made, but had joined him shortly before the High Society "phone book" was first published, and so was able to provide the drawing of the Regency Hotel on the wraparound cover.

The collection was dedicated to Barry Windsor-Smith, Neal Adams and Mike Kaluta.

Dispute with Diamond Comic Distributors

The book was initially not available through traditional comic-book Direct Market distributors, who felt that Cerebus' success until then had been largely due to them,[15] and put up "a lot of resistance"[14] to Sim selling direct. As a result, in 1987 Diamond Comic Distributors chose to drop Puma Blues, which was being published by Sim's Aardvark One International. Diamond's orders accounted for 33% of Puma Blues' sales. In order to get out of the dispute, the book's creators moved publication to Mirage Studios. Sim didn't relent on having the "phone books" distributed by the Direct Market until well into the 1990s.

Foreign editions

Sim had long disallowed foreign-language editions of Cerebus, saying couldn't be sure of the accuracy of the translations since he couldn't read any language other than English. In 2010, he finally allowed a number of translations.

Language Title Publisher Date Translator ISBN Notes
Spanish Alta Sociedad Ponent Mon April 2010 Andrés Moon 978-8-492-44449-6 Hardcover
French High Society: "Une Histoire de Cerebus" Vertige Graphic August 2010 978-2-849-99080-3 Softcover with flaps on the inside front cover[16]
Italian Alta Società[17] Black Velvet Editrice November 2010 Francesco Matteuzzi 978-8-896-19717-2 Hardcover with dust jacket

See also



  1. Wolk, page 298
  2. Grant, Paul J. (January 1993). "A Boy & his Aardvark". Wizard. Wizard Entertainment (17): 56–59.
  3. "Cerebus 2: High Society". Grovel.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  4. "LINES ON PAPER Artist Bio - Dave Sim". Linesonpaper.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29. Progressively, Sim shifted his narrative style from story arcs of a few issues' length to longer, far more complex "novels," beginning with the storyline known as High Society.
  5. Sim, Dave. Cerebus #12. Aardvark-Vanaheim, October–November 1979. "I think it's time for the comic book medium to involve itself with long-term one-man projects. Just as you wouldn't get Neal Adams to take over Krazy Kat after George Herriman died, I hope to make Cerebus and Dave Sim synonymous and produce 156 issues. The last of which should be dated December 2003. Stick around and see if I can do it, okay?"
  6. Sim, Dave. Cerebus #19. Aardvark-Vanaheim, August 1980. "I still plan to do the book for 26 years (as I mentioned in that issue [Cerebus #12]). The first two years, Cerebus was bi-monthly—12 issues. Twenty four more years of monthly issues—288 issues. The last issue will be issue 300."
  7. Salles, Andre (2004-03-10). "See, There's This Talking Aardvark...: After 26 Years and 6,000 Pages, A Farewell to Cerebus". Tm3am.com. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
  8. "Election Night". Travels Through Iest. 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
  9. "The Last Vote". Travels Through Iest. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
  10. Thompson, Kim (August 1983). "The Comics Journal". The Comics Journal. Fantagraphics Books (83): 64–66.
  11. "The Elf". Cereb.us. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
    CerebusWiki entry, featuring comments from Sim
  12. Sim, Dave (2003). "High Society page 96". Beguiling.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
    Essay by Dave Sim on High Society page 96 and the Regency Elf.
  13. Whitey (2010-04-26). "Sim, Dave – Cerebus Volume 2: High Society". Opticalsloth.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  14. 1 2 3 Bisette, Stephen R. (2009-06-17). "SpiderBaby Archive: Taboo Origins, Part 6". Srbissette.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  15. Bisette, Stephen R. (2009-06-20). "SpiderBaby Archive: Taboo Origins, Part 7". Srbissette.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  16. "High Society in French". Cerebusfangirl.com. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2011-04-27.
  17. "Alta Società". Black Velvet Editrice.


Further reading

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