Saturday, 23 August 2014

Cerebus False Starts: Too Much Coffee Liqueur Man

When you're keeping a monthly comic book on schedule, there really isn't an opportunity to "redo" pages. On the other hand, if you have serious doubts, there is a window of opportunity to change your mind. Sometimes the window was a little wider than it was at other times:

GUYS -- The second "Too Much Coffee Liqueur Man" page from GUYS. Just poured onto the page. I was happy with the text but it needed a lot better composition. TMCLM and Cerebus sitting and talking in a dark bar by moonlight needed to be "Will Eisner on Steroids". Do I white out the lettering and redo the composition or just start over? Just start over.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Weekly Update #45: First Delivery!

First 'Delivery' of Cerebus Archive Number One
David Marsh Meets Dave Sim At 'The Print Cave'
Full details at Kickstarter Update #11

Howdy, everyone!

From the comments over the last week starting with Margaret's question about "negative touch-up", that was actually the next stage after the negative had been generated.  As Sean figured, they would take the negative and put it on a light table and scrape off any emulsion that was on there that was in any area that was obviously intended to be solid black.  And the scraping is clearly visible on the negative if you're holding it up to the light, less visible if you have it on the light table which tends to glow in your eyes (which assisted in figuring out where there was emulsion that shouldn't be there: you either had the white glow or you had a black speckle or streak of some kind).

Part of the reason for using George and Ringo was that I needed one of them to come back in his dotage at the end of GUYS and that required a Beatle who had made it to his dotage: Ringo actually looked like that by that time.  John only made it to 40, George to 46 (I think). Also they were the two Beatles who were "Beatle-like" without being musical icons in their own right.  The Ingrid haircuts, black suits, skinny ties.  It was like an approved Cirinist uniform.  They're neat and tidy, they can have their hair LONG as long as they keep it CLEAN.  Androgyny is BOTH APPROVED OF and REWARDED, slovenliness is NOT.  You trade your masculinity for a cushy job. Which, to me, in retrospect, was what The Beatles did when they went from hardcore Rockers to hardcore Mods.

Thanks to Paul Slade for the Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2 brushes which arrived safe and sound. You folks have a lot of guts, I must say. Someone tells me there's an embargo on importing sable brushes to North America and, mentally, I just kiss sable brushes goodbye.  I think it must be a generational thing:  "Dave needs these brushes.  I can get them.  Too bad, Canada Border Services."  Everyone is their own judge about what's legal and what isn't legal.  Pretty powerful. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
1.  "Drum scan" turns out not to be the way to go.

2.  "TF", our $10K Patron Retailer has sent a cheque to Sean's newly formed business Living The Line and that is now what we are using to finance moving HIGH SOCIETY ahead.

3. I'm getting seriously off-schedule on everything.

4.  Sean's keeping me posted on progress which has a pretty good variance day to day -- as low as 17 pages and as high as 35 pages. Which leads to a couple of options:

Adopt-a-Page where Sean, now that he's getting faster and better at this, estimates what it will cost to FULLY restore a page, attached that amount to the page and then individual CEREBUS fans sponsor that page being restored.

4a)  George Gatsis made the offer when we first came up with this of "cutting masks" for Sean on a volunteer basis so all Sean has to do with, say, tone repair is drop it into the allocated space.  I'm presenting this for discussion here.  Hopefully Sean and George will respond.

4b)  I'm asking Sean here if he can do a complete restoration on one of the "Mind Games II" pages along the lines of what I discussed last week:  sharpening everything so it matches my original intention of an "in line" white box, sharp corners, line work that doesn't intrude or extrude over the clear lines, cloning of tone where needed and let me know what he thinks that would cost on an hourly basis.

4c) I am in receipt of the three sample signatures from Lebonfon:  NORMAL, DARK and VERY DARK.  The signatures contain a variety of pages.  Page 560 of CHURCH & STATE, pages 33, 51, 54, 89, 90, 116, 141, 148, 205, 262 from HIGH SOCIETY and 10, 127, 137, 129 from CEREBUS.

5.  The first "delivery" of a CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE was made this week when I headed over to The Print Cave (Graphic Edge Print Solutions) to scan some bonus prints for the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO campaign and David M. of Waterloo dropped by to pick up his copy (see photo by John Funk)

6.  Unless something changed, all 30 Canadian CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE went out in the mail today.  Next will be International (so John can get experience making up the customs forms necessary) and then USA! USA!  Which will be bulk shipped both to FedEx and through Menachem Luchins of ESCAPE POD COMICS.  Thanks, Menachem!

7.  Speaking with Matt Demory, my Diamond Brand Manager, he says that 54 copies of the Remastered CEREBUS trade have been ordered and shipped.  Since it hasn't been in PREVIEWS, yet, that would be you guys!  :)!  So I'm going to authorize Sean to post his best post-mortem on the CEREBUS trade next week for discussion, on the assumption that 54 of you will have their books by then.  

1.  Sean had a bee in his bonnet that wouldn't leave him alone about getting a "drum scan" done of one of the pages.  He backed off of that when he got an outrageous quote for one.  I suggested that he go ahead.  With "bee in your bonnet" stuff you really need to cross it off the list of options or you'll always have it in the back of your mind.  Sean's verdict when he finally got the drum scan in:  "It looks slightly sharper as-is on screen, but behaves the same as the regular scan under process.  No benefit to it."  Which is more than a bit of a relief.  Had it created a superior digital file, where do we go from there? How superior is it and how much money do we have to pay for it.

2.  I'm still trying to figure out how best to compensate "TF" our $10K Patron Retailer and will be discussing that with him in an upcoming phone conversation.  Without his contribution, we would -- at this moment -- be in the situation of my having to pull the plug on Sean and Mara at least until CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO was generating revenue.   As Sean says, this guy should be CELEBRATED in some way.  But. Some people aren't "into" being celebrated and you have to respect that.  The big question will be, Does he want something personally or does he want something for the store?  I'm thinking of doing fully inked drawings of Cerebus on THE FIRST HALF and the THIRD QUARTER posters which should like nice on the wall of a Cerebus fan or a CEREBUS store.  Of course, that involves getting caught up on and staying current with everything, which hasn't been working out lately.

3.  Last Friday I allocated my entire 21-hour non-fasting day to writing the commentaries for CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO and getting the video for the Kickstarter campaign done in raw form (so I could get it to Fisher for editing).  This was the reason that I said there would be a two to three week delay in my answering the mail -- which is starting to pile up -- and answering phone messages. As it turned out, it took the 21-hour non-fasting Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday until I had everything done.  On the one hand, this is a good sign -- the total commentaries on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO run to 21 pages in rough form rather than the 11 pages on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE.  So, more bang for the pledge partner buck.  Also, Sean will be pasting the commentary pages up and actually incorporating illustrations of what it is that I'm talking about.  However, this is dragging me away from a lot of other things that I'm supposed to be handling.  And, of course, it's dragging Sean away from his restoration work.  Then Matt Demory reminded me about doing a CEREBUS Trade ad for PREVIEWS which then needed to be done for the end of this week.  So, I ended up having to interrupt Sean doing the HIGH SOCIETY restorations to get him to do CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO production and then had to interrupt him to get him to paste up an ad from my mock-up.

I'm HOPING that at some point things start going more smoothly, but, right now, it was all I could do to get one page of STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND done this week.

4a)  An example of things that have been left behind as I try to stay current with everything is George's offer a while back to cut masks for Sean on a volunteer basis so that Sean could stick with the pure restoration (and I apologize to everyone for the things that I haven't gotten to).  I'm not sure how that would work, but it is gratefully accepted as an offer if he and Sean can find a way to make it work.  I think we can all agree that -- with the bulletins that Sean has been posting that -- we're better keeping Sean investigating all the ins and outs of what's "under there" on the negatives -- and how to bring those things out -- where possible.  On a related note:

4b) This is along the lines of the "drum scan" scenario.  We might as well find out exactly how complicated we can make the restoration so that it matches my original intention from 30 years ago.  I'm anticipating serious "sticker shock" but I might be surprised.  Sean is estimating about $20 per page for the restoration he's doing now.  But, that's like asking me how long it took to do an average page of CEREBUS.  There really aren't average pages, just different pages with different problems.  And,  in this case, because what I was attempting to do on "Mind Game II" was outside of the range of my abilities 30 years ago, we might be looking at a one-time 20-page charge that is exceptional. MOST other pages won't require that level of sharpness and concision.  It would be overkill.

4c) Sean has already indicated to me that the mezzotint that I used on these pages -- the really dark sort of fleck tone (LT 307) -- got very special treatment from Preney.  A lot of research on Sean's part to get All The Way In There and see what they did.  They masked the areas off and shot them separately.  There's a faint residue of the edge of the masks on some of the pages.

Coincidentally, CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO contains three of these "Mind Game II" pages, so those of you pledging for the package will be able to see in meticulous detail what the mezzotint actually looks like on the page and how difficult it is to reproduce.  This was also one of the reasons that I picked HIGH SOCIETY page 141 as one of the test pages. The Cerebus Demon Head is done in mezzotint.  Page 141 reproduces well sometimes and not so well other times.

5)  I'm happy to say that we seem to be reaching the point of actually getting CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE delivered to everyone who has been waiting so patiently. [Full details at Kickstarter Update #11] David Marsh came by Graphic Edge Print Solutions to pick his up the other day and becomes the first person to actually get one of them! They came out, I think, really well.  Exactly the way that I pictured them.  We had some last minute "tweaking" on the packaging -- abandoning the staple idea (and John's subsequent glue idea)  for packing tape on all four sides.  My thinking was that the three layers of cardboard serve to make a good storage container for the portfolio itself.  If the cardboard was glued, you'd really have to rip the top layer of cardboard off and definitely lose the "storage box" quality.  It's a comic-fan thing.  Like the plastic bag that the portfolio comes in.  It's not quite form-fitting, but -- hey! -- we always want a plastic bag for something of value!

I got some criticism last week for not posting regular updates to the Kickstarter site. Of course, last time, I took flack for posting TOO MANY updates to the Kickstarter site.  You can't win.  I think all I can honestly say is that we are doing the best that we can and we're going through it for the first time.  We're learning a lot of things as we go, and I'm sure we'll be learning more things because we're not all the way through the process yet.  Hopefully by the time CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE and FOUR are shipping, a lot of the (this time) unavoidable glitches will have been smoothed out.

One of the things we'll be doing differently next time is doing finished portfolios -- say 40 at a time -- and shipping those, rather than my signing 300 plate 1s, 300 plate 2s, etc.  It doesn't sound like a huge volume but it does fill up the Print Cave (as you can see by the PARTIAL stack of the cardboard in behind me in the photo John took).

It means not everyone will be getting their packages at the same time, but hopefully we can also let you know where you are in the "batting order" as we go.

6)  Please don't hold me to this!  This is one of the reasons that I haven't been posting updates.  I'm not in control of shipping.  I had asked John that the Canadian orders would go out by last Friday which he couldn't do and then promised for Monday and, now, here we are a week later.  It happens.  I told HIM that I would have everything done on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO last Friday.  And I didn't have it done until Tuesday.  Late on Tuesday.  There is an inherent disconnect between what we intend to do and what we actually do.  I don't know if that just has to do with age.  John's 54 and I'm 58.  I'm sure it's part of it.

Anyway, we won't be launching CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO on Kickstarter until everything is out the door and on its way to you.

And, as always, if anything is wrong with your order, please let us know and we'll make sure to replace anything that needs to be replaced and reimburse you for your shipping costs.

7)  Nothing to add to this one except:  I did commit to a full-page ad in PREVIEWS for CEREBUS VOLUME ONE REMASTERED.  I'm hoping that this will generate some sales to help with the restoration costs.  This is something I'll have to be monitoring with Matt:  what is the pace of sales on the CEREBUS trade now that it's back in print and do we anticipate HIGH SOCIETY doing the same thing when we have it back in print.  As with everything else, I couldn't promise him a delivery date for HIGH SOCIETY with Sean in the middle of it.  And, of course, he can't promise me a figure on ordering the book until he sees how CEREBUS sells.

As I indicated to Sean, the goal posts definitely keep shifting in this game.  So, it seems the most sensible thing is to forge ahead on HIGH SOCIETY, get HIGH SOCIETY back in print and then see where we're sitting.  Do we keep going ahead at the same pace or take a break until we see how CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE does through Diamond as an unsigned edition and CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO on Kickstarter?

Right now, I've got to run.  Sincere apologies, again, to everyone waiting for an answer to their letter and/or phone message, to the Patreon Patrons because I didn't have time to do an Update there this time around...and anyone else who needs to be apologized to.

I'll be back here -- God willing -- next Friday.   

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Peeping Inside the Process


Hey everybody,

This week I've been doing a bit of negative-peeping.

Actually, a lot of negative peeping. In fact, it's more like a negative cabaret.

So, waaaayyyy back in the pre-computer age, offset printing involved photographing artwork with specialized high-contrast film that was then used to create printing plates. When I talk about negatives for the Cerebus material, it's this intermediate stage I'm referring to-- large, at-print-sized negatives, emulsion on a clear carrier, that is the reverse of the printed image.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I'm not speaking from direct experience here. I've never handled these negatives myself. So far, all the material I've been working with, with the exception of printed material scanned by Mara from Dave's file copies, has been supplied to me.

So as I've been working with the material, I was surprised to discover that there's a lot more hiding out in there than I thought.

Although the negatives are high-contrast, under extreme adjustment there's still significant amounts of continuous tone image hiding inside. In other words, not just black and white information, but gray-scale information as well.

What does this mean on a practical level?

For one, it's possible to radically adjust the exposure of the page. How do you know if a page is too dark if you haven't seen the original artwork? Well, Cerebus's tone is the one constant, and since he appears on nearly every page, I can use his 30 percent dot-tone to eyeball the page back into the tonal range it started at on Dave's drawing board. (This process is aided significantly by the softness of flatbed scanning. Edge information is represented by ambiguous, "soft" gray pixels, which shrink/retreat when we lighten the image, thus thickening or thinning each as you change the exposure).

But most significantly, it means that there's extra information that can "correct" problems in the original printings.

Here's an example from issue 26, the first issue of what would become High Society. This first one is the negative scan. It looks about the same as my printed copy.

The second has been exposure-adjusted, using Cerebus's dot-tone to judge the density. Then I've goosed the area with the broken-up white lines to bring out the surprise--Dave's beautiful fancy-pants coat texture, hiding within. Not only does the image have a much more pleasing balance on the whole, whole sections hiding within the negative have been brought out.

Before this week, I had no idea this was possible. I had assumed, incorrectly, it seems, that the negative film itself was much more high-contrast, more like the printed material it was used to generate, which is, of course, the ultimate high-contrast, either black ink or paper.

Here's another example of using extreme contrast adjustment to work with damaged material. In this case, not only is the page under-exposed, causing the tone to clog up, but the negative has picked up either dirt or pencil left under the tone, causing the figure to look terrible. (It's the bottom of page 11 in the collected High Society). Fortunately, the pencil, or whatever it is, is just slightly grayer than the tone in the negative, meaning that I can eliminate it with an extreme adjustment.

And so the process of discovery continues! (By the way, I'm always on the lookout for an expert--if anyone has any experience working with or even making offset plate negatives, I'd love to pick your brain about a few things!)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: Melmoth & Tiny Thumbnails

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Last week we saw the nearly finished pages - albeit in his notebook - for issue #174 in Notebook #18, this week we'll look at the opposite end of the spectrum - MELMOTH and tiny thumbnails.

Dave started sketching the outline of MELMOTH and some of the first couple issues in Notebook #15, but it is notebook #16 that contains most the majority of notes about the shortest phonebook.

In issue #143 we don't see Cerebus as much as we hear him eating. Dino speaks to Janice, the very uncooperative hostile "waitress", about what Cerebus had eaten so far: five plates of deep-fried noodles, six raw potatoes and twenty-nine hard-boiled eggs.

As you can see on page 28 of Notebook 16, Dave has some very tiny thumbnails of the first 4 pages of issue #143 (pages 89 - 92 of the phonebook):

Notebook 16, page 28

Along with the small thumbnails is the text that will go on mostly page 91 of the phonebook - Janice's response to Dino's inquiry about what Cerebus is eating. Except instead of twenty-nine hard-boiled eggs, the notebook has it as "twenty eight devilled eggs".

The close up shots of Dino and Janice, the 6 panel layout and the word balloons on the top of the panels remained the same in the finished pages. With basically just the ordering of who is in what panel having been changed since Dave sketched out these small thumbnails.

The next page of the notebook has most of the same dialogue from the previous page, and different roughs of Oscar and Robbie from page 101 of the phonebook. Included is the line printed on the page as well.

Notebook 16, page 29

The final page with material for issue #143 is on page 30. We have three very tiny thumbnails of page 11, 12 and 13 (pages 99 though 101 in the phonebook) along with the text printed on the finished pages. Even though the thumbnails are very tiny, the layouts are the same as the printed page.

Notebook 16, page 30

Margaret Liss is The Cerebus Fan Girl and maintains the Cerebus Wiki.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

High Society: "The Aardvark Initiative" -- a Restoration Bulletin


Hey Dave,

First off, I got a chance to read your Cerebus Archive Number Two notes last night at the airport. There's a ton to digest, but I wanted to tell you how great I thought they were! I love the range of topics you manage to cover, in such a committed way. Truly, great stuff. Looking forward to my second, more leisurely, pass at it later tonight.

Second, I got this email from Dean this morning, regarding the test pressings/ink density tests for High Society--
Hello Sean / Dave,
To update, we were delayed slightly in getting going due to additional modifications (not to the files) we wanted to make and consultations with various experienced pressman. The test sheets will ship out tomorrow and will hopefully arrive by the end of the week.I look forward to hearing your feedback.
to which I replied:
Excellent Dean. Looking forward to seeing these.
Out of curiosity, did you get to see the results yourself? Any thoughts you had? :)
to which he replied:
Hi Sean I haven't seen them yet personally, but I've been told the results were very good.The were a series of modifications we did that we now refer to as the "Aardvark Initiative"  :)
So, all of this ties in with something I was reminded of last night, reading your notes on the Mind Games pages.

It's possible the reason those pages of mezzotint reproduced the densities they did is because someone at Preney + Litho decided they were going to fill in too dramatically, and masked off the areas of tone and dodged them in the exposure.

A few weeks ago, assessing the High Society materials and working on the print test, I got bogged down by the Mind Games pages. If I used the standard page formula I've been using, the tone was coming out waaaaayyyy darker than in the books. I even had a second example of it, from Dean Reeve's pages supplied through the Dragnet, and it was doing the same there as well. (It was actually a little mini-crisis for me. "Is my process somehow making the mezzotint tone darker?) So I went into the negative scans and did an extreme contrast adjustment, so I could see "into" the areas that would otherwise reproduce continuous black. When I did this, I could see areas of by-hand touch-up to the blacks to keep them solid, and what looked like the edge of a mask to expose the tone areas separately. In other words, someone did a lot of work on those pages to create the negatives that made the book. (Either that, or my sharpening process is "grabbing" more detail in the tone, darkening the overall effect.)

So, when I sent those two (or three?) Mind Games pages to Dean for the density test, I included them as-is, instead of as the density that they had been before. I did this for two reasons--one, to see how they would have reproduced without the original intervention by P + L, and two, so we'd have a few "ringers" in there, pages I thought would likely have a healthy amount of dot-gain on the darker exposures. This is useful so I have an idea of the extremities of the effects of Lebonfon running their press at what they consider "too dark" or "too dense". If we send them an extremely dense page, what happens? What does it look like? So, we'll find out.

Short version-- the Mind Games pages, as-is, reproduce very dark. I sent Lebonfon dark (i.e. unadjusted) versions of the pages so we could see them as-is in print and make further decisions based on that. I've left all of these pages alone since then, waiting to see the result and waiting to see what you'd think.

It'll be easy for me to make them the exposure of the Preney version, by the way. Just wanted to give us both the opportunity to see them both ways.



Art Auction: Glamourpuss #3 Cover Mock-Up

Auction: Glamourpuss #3 
Cover Mock-Up
(Click image to enlarge)
This offering is a full-scale mock-up of the cover page for Glamourpuss #3. Glamourpuss herself is a photocopy-printout on white paper. Sim has hand-lettered the type and brushed on watercolour, with some type instructions in the margin. It looks like a page ripped from a quickly brushed coloring book. The final published comic book, of course, had digital coloring and was typeset, with the final placement of the type slightly altered. 

Bonus: the tracing paper from the zombie variant cover of the same issue, plus a b&w print-out of Sim's mock-up digitally typeset, which you can see is also different from the published comic. 

Cerebus False Starts: John Lennon

When you're keeping a monthly comic book on schedule, there really isn't an opportunity to "redo" pages. On the other hand, if you have serious doubts, there is a window of opportunity to change your mind. Sometimes the window was a little wider than it was at other times:

Issue 156 pages 12-13 double page spread. The John Lennon/Illusionist page. I forget which album cover it was that had him with multiple pairs of glasses on (I know they reproduced it on the cover of SHAVED FISH, the only Lennon album I owned). Got as far as blue-pencilling the Lennon head and then lettering.
"Illusion within illusion within illusion -- the history of our movement"; "Beneath the mask always ANOTHER mask…";"Ina world of illusion, how you tell ally from foe -- who is an illusionist and who is an illusion?"; "No one (I think) is in my tree"; "No secret handshake no signpost on the road";"But you know I know when it's a DREAM";"But here we are NOW, Young Cerebus -- you have seen behind the last of my many masks";"The time has come the Walrus said to talk of many things of…"; "Too nasal"

Most people are Extreme Literalists and I thought, no, they'll read that and go "Suenteus Po is John Lennon?" So what do I take out? The lines from "Strawberry Fields Forever" or the Lennon head? Maybe they'll get it: The Walrus is from the "Walrus and the Carpenter". The Walrus was Paul (John Lennon was the carpenter: Jesus, get it?). No, I'll be answering questions about this for the next forty years. Too bad, I would have liked to have drawn that head with the multiple glasses.

Art fans will have kittens: I just folded the double-sized artboard in half for easy storage. When you've wasted part of your morning on a discard you're not exactly disposed towards treating it charitably.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Cerebus False Starts: Going Home

When you're keeping a monthly comic book on schedule, there really isn't an opportunity to "redo" pages. On the other hand, if you have serious doubts, there is a window of opportunity to change your mind. Sometimes the window was a little wider than it was at other times:

GOING HOME -- Issue 238 page 1 - Making the point that a lot of tourism is pretty thin gruel. If you don't know the significance of the local thing it's pretty much "smoke and mirrors". In that light, tourism brochures can be pretty depressing: sad that the local community puts such store in it, sad that people find themselves so far from home and this is the thing with which they've rewarded themselves for going so far afield. ("Educational!"). And then I thought, No, really the point is that Cerebus and Jaka have had what appears to be a tiff but is actually a core schism. That was better represented, I thought, with a two page sequence of them "Not Speaking" against a bleak Ontario-style landscape.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

In The News!

Brandon Sun, 22 March 1982

(Submitted by Eddie Khanna. Thanks Eddie!)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

In The News!

The Medicine Hat News, 8 July 1983
(Click image to enlarge)

(Submitted by Eddie Khanna. Thanks Eddie!)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Weekly Update #44: A Cerebus Facelift


Howdy folks!

Answering questions from last week: no, there won't be annotations or the SWORDS INTROS in future printings of the CEREBUS trade.  For the same reason there isn't a new cover, because, personally, I always hated that:  having to buy something I already have to get something that I want and then finding out that I have to buy it again.

Also, the book is large enough as it is.  It was already a tough decision to add in the SILVERSPOON pages a few years back.  Once you start down that road, then there's always "Oh, HEY! What about adding THIS in?"  I suspect it's a not uncommon problem in the field. Matt Demory at Diamond, when I called to tell him we were on track for the promised ship date asked very pointed questions about this being the SAME book.  The price didn't go up?  It wasn't different from the CEREBUS trade they have always sold?  You have to be consistent or you generate hostility where you are Very Far from the centre of the universe.  It's important here at AMOC -- and thank you, all -- but elsewhere it's just "You aren't doing something just to GOUGE PEOPLE again, are you?"

  1. CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE begins shipping.  Assume that John Funk is doing it as fast as he can and that he'll post to AMOC or the Kickstarter site or both to let you know if there's an unavoidable delay of any kind.
  2. I'm not a facelift kind of person, so the restoration work is going to stop short of what I would consider a CEREBUS "facelift".
  3. 30+ years + adhesive = authentic yellow stains on original artwork: just like the Golden Age!
  4. Getting on top of the artists materials situation: thanks to Tim W and Margaret Liss for the Winsor-Newton Series 7 number 2 brushes ("M-2" edges ahead of "T-1" for current fave); new pencil eating sharpener makes points needle sharp.
  5. Thanks for a great start to Dave Fisher's glamourpuss art auctions! We're both sincerely gob-smacked!
  6. R.I.P. Robin Williams.

1.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE is all finished on my end. John Funk will, I'm sure, keep you all updated on the progress of the shipping.  As with any other business where A-V stuff is only part of what he does, it depends on what else is going on.  We're both anticipating that things are going to go a lot more smoothly on NUMBER TWO because we aren't doing everything for the first time.

This is going to be an abbreviated Update for the reason that I'm starting CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO today.  So, John's looking at that, too.  I've assured him that we're keeping things as much the same as we did last time as possible.  It seems silly with 261 people to pretend to SURPRISE you with the same stuff.  No, here it is.  If there's something you didn't get last time and you want to get it this time, here you go.  The only major difference is going to be the BONUS ITEMS which we're going to introduce, like, two or three (or four or five) per week.  And a real variety of material.  The idea being to keep the pledges up as close to what they were last time this time.  I don't want to be accused of fishing anyone in.  This is like a PBS pledge drive.  You know -- donate $79 and you get this token of our appreciation.  You don't get something that screams $79 at you.  It's charity, pure and simple.

We have no way of paying for the restorations just out of general revenues so it comes down to: How many CEREBUS fans are there who are willing to donate to keep the work moving forward?  That's how fast we're going to be able to go.  You've heard the term "cash flow"?  The way we're doing things what we have is "cash rip tide".  At any minute we might have to move everything WAY UP the beach to the tree-line because the beach might not, you know, BE there.

We're keeping you posted every step of the way for the exact reason that you're the ones financing it.

And thank you, thank you, thank you!

2.  There are interesting questions about the restoration.  A while ago, Sean asked me if he had been too aggressive or not aggressive enough in squaring the corners in the book.  It's no small question.  I'm doing the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO Notes on issue 28, pages 6, 7 and 8 (and have been since 1:30 this morning).  My intention with those pages was to do very sharp "in-line" white borders and very sharp panel borders.  And everything is pretty ragged because I've never been in that ultra-sharp Steranko graphics category.  It can all be fixed in Photoshop.  Or "fixed".  I realized looking at the pages today, it's the same (to me) as contemplating a facelift.  I'm not a facelift kind of person.  A facelift looks like a facelift unless it's a happy accident for a person with unusual features that lend themselves to it.  Even then, it still looks like a facelift.  It just looks like a GOOD facelift.

I can't even picture doing that to myself, so I tend to look at the artwork the same way.

This is what it looks like.  In a lot of ways, this IS idiosyncratically IT.  Everything needs to be on a case by case basis.  That's what I'm looking at in the new printing of the CEREBUS trade.  And looking at and looking at and looking at. I get a very good feeling every time I pick it up.

What do I think needs fixing?  I saw one example where the top of Cerebus' head the tone was running in one direction and on his neck it was running in another direction.  It called attention to itself.  But the longer I looked at it, the more I thought, But, does it need FIXING?  Is it BROKEN?  Or is it just what it is?  On that one I'm leaning in the direction of saying, "If you have to look at it that long, it probably DOES need fixing." So that's what I'm preparing myself for the next time I'm going through the entire book page by page.  Use that mental reaction as a template and see how many of them there are.  Then give Sean a list or give George a list and just make it a "Hey, when you get a few minutes..." thing.

And that would also give Sean and Mara a guideline to what sort of things I think need to be fixed and what things don't trigger that mental reaction in me. I always remember the anecdote in May Peng's LOVING JOHN about John Lennon recording Mick Jagger and putting reverb on his vocal. And Jagger specifically said, "Don't."  There are a lot of Lennon songs that wouldn't be Lennon songs without reverb ("Starting Over" comes to mind).  But I can't think of any Mick Jagger ones.

I just have to figure out what I consider inappropriate reverb. And tell my "producers".

3.  It's very interesting to have lived long enough to see adhesive on the pages turn yellow.  I used to think the Golden Age guys were just, you know, messy.  No, when you have adhesive that's 30 or more years old, odds are this is what it's going to look like.  Same as I never thought I would live long enough for CEREBUS back issues to smell like Golden Age books.  It's just the mould that's inherent in newsprint with any amount of moisture (times x number of years).  CEREBUS No.1 is now as old as FAMOUS FUNNIES No.1 was when CEREBUS No.1 came out.  As Sugar Kane said in SOME LIKE IT HOT, "Makes a girl think."

4.  Thanks to Tim W and Margaret Liss for the Winsor & Newton Series 7 number 2 brushes!  I'm working my way through them and labelling them.  So far "T-1" and "T-2" and "M-1" and "M-2". "M-1" I thought I was onto something because it was FRACTIONALLY longer than the others -- which was something that only happened with my favourite glamourpuss brush -- this time, it turned out to be in the "phantom bristle" category.  Not only was it longer, but there was, like a single bristle, that I can't see but which lands on the page before anything else does and throws me off.  I've got it in the "brush infirmary" contemplating whether to amputate.  I did that with one of them once. Very weird experience with the scissors under a magnifying lamp going "Okay, I can't see it, but it's ROUGHLY right here.  So this is ROUGHLY where I want to cut."  Like combing a microbe's hair or something.

"M-2" is the best so far -- when I was inking a "not much bigger than a postage stamp" Salinas CISCO KID strip I had traced -- I had already resolved to do the hatching on the Kid's trousers with a Gillott 290 or a fresh 102.  Whichever was working that day.  But, I went, "Oh, no, I can do this with this brush."  WHAAAT?  But, when you can, you can.  So I'm saving the "M-2" for fine detail.  Although my hand goes automatically to it.  Like Homer Simpson with donuts. "Ohhhhhhh.  'M-2'."

 But "T-1" is a very close competitor.

Very weird that they got through if there's supposed to be a ban on them in North America. Tim even wrote on the customs declaration "artists brushes". So, if nothing else, we can say definitively that Canadian Border Services is short right now on "sable sniffing dogs".

Seriously, it's a great luxury to have brand new brushes. They come with some sort of light adhesive on the bristles that you have to wash off before you use them. The texture was amazing. Mmm. Right. Sable. This is why they make coats out of these things.

Also bought two new pencil sharpeners which are a) HUGE and b) have no automatic "shut off".  You can literally just keep pushing the pencil in until the pencil is gone (assuming that's your idea of a good time).  But the points are needle sharp and if they aren't, a couple of swipes on the sandpaper and they are.  So I need to buy several boxes of pencils.  But I am getting on top of the "materials" situation. FRESH materials. That's the ticket!

5.  Also Dave Fisher and I were both jazzed by the results of the first glamourpuss art auction which exceeded our expectations. Thanks to everyone who participated.  Fisher isn't QUITE ready to quit driving a cab just yet, but if this keeps up, we have high hopes for him being able to devote more time to working, one step at a time, towards the major Heritage Auctions glamourpuss original art auction.

I have to admit, most of my reaction has been "Ted Adams likes THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND...A LOT! And that's all that really matters right now.  Get ten pages done, make them as good as I can make them and as long as Ted likes them and cuts a cheque -- hey, Fat City."

CEREBUS is the focus.  CEREBUS is the bread and butter.  WINGS is not THE BEATLES.  The PLASTIC ONO BAND is not THE BEATLES.

But, like any artist, I'm far more interested in what I'm doing now than in what I did 30 years ago.

So, for all -- however many of you -- who have followed me out into the woods here on my quirky new interest and (to whatever degree) share that interest: MANY thanks!

6.  R.I.P. Robin Williams.  I forget the sequence of events EXACTLY, but Brian Hibbs, of COMIX EXPERIENCE told me that Robin Williams was a customer of his (about which Brian was very classy -- never made an issue of it or a fuss: let the man shop for his funnybooks in peace) and...was buying CEREBUS?  Had bought CEREBUS?  Anyway, I said, the next time he's in, ask him if he'd like to be on the comp list. Brian phoned a couple of weeks later and said he had been in and, yes, he would like to be on the comp list.  And give me a post office box address in San Francisco.

I never heard from him, but it was like when Deni and I used to send John Lennon CEREBUS at the Dakota Building address.  Hey, at least it never came back "Return to Sender".  Only this was better because he definitely said he was interested in being on the comp list.

I think the only time I wrote to him was when I had been to Lenny Henry's 40th birthday party in 1998 (I think Tim has a link to my posting about that) and they had had a bunch of video tributes and one of them was from Robin Williams.  He definitely "closed out the show".  So I dropped him a note basically telling him that and enclosing some copies of the photos Dawn French had sent me.  Never heard from again, but then I didn't really expect to.  I'm not and never was a famous person. That was the only time I ever visited that world.

It was a weird week.

I started thinking very intensively about that party and my subsequent visit in 2000.  One of the people I had met at the party was Alexei Sayle.  And the next day THE NATIONAL POST printed Alexei Sayle's tribute to Robin Williams from THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.  Which was brilliant. His analysis of Robin Williams' technique as a stand-up comic.

A weird week buck grist for a week's worth of AMOC posts, so consider this a teaser.

The best quote I've read so far was Jon Lovitz talking about meeting Mr. Williams in college and saying to him, "Do people say to you, Why are you never serious?"  And Mr. Williams said, "Yes."  And Jon Lovitz said, "Me too. What should I say to them?"  And Mr. Williams answered "Why are you never funny?"


See you next week, God willling.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

What You See When You See


Greetings everyone!

I'm off for the week, but the art hunt continues. This week I'd like to take a look at a few pages from the collection of Gregory Kessler. Gregory was kind enough to take his collection to be scanned, and his artwork had an immediate effect on the High Society restoration. His eye for iconic pages has preserved some of the best artwork and significantly enriched the final book.

So, what can you learn from looking at artwork intended for reproduction?

For those of you used to seeing this artwork in reproduction on newsprint, the originals can have a much different character. Not only are you looking at the ink work sans contrast adjustment, other information presents itself immediately, including Dave's blue-line lettering guides. These guides would have been dropped in the photographic process by a filter attached to the lens of the camera. Having color scans of the artwork means that I can do the same thing now, in Photoshop, grabbing and deleting the blue channel from the scan prior to converting to grayscale.

I always thought of the second half of High Society as Dave's "French" period, with strongly designed pages dependent on a careful balance of flat black, applied pattern, and toned cross-hatching, reminiscent of mid 19th century French illustration. Look at the cross-hatching on Jaka's face, all missing from the original printings.

Some of the pages make you more aware of the mechanical processes than others. The echo effect on this particular page has always seemed a bit plugged-up in reproduction, and seeing the original in color it's easier to see why-- the white-dot echoes (pasted onto the page) are not quite white enough to reproduce cleanly as actual white on the lettering, not without additional attention. What would have been complicated photographically, masking off these additional areas and adjusting the exposure to them separate from the remainder of the page, takes just a few moments in Photoshop to "correct," and thus bring Dave's original intent to the page.

Here's a close-up of the borders to one of the pages above. The latter portions of High Society had their borders created with Letratape, a product of the Letraset company, which also manufactured the  mechanical tones present on the pages, called, fittingly enough, Letratone. The tape came in little plastic rolls-- you could pull out the amount that you'd be using, lay it down, and then square off the corners with an exacto knife. As you can see, the tape has shrunk and pulled away from the corners over time, which doesn't pose a problem, except adding a bit of time to the cleanup of each page. In the closeup you can see that the sticky edge of the tape has attracted a bit of grime over time. 

I personally haven't seen any Letratape since 1998 or so. Here's a photo of a sizable collection, from the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. It's hard to imagine what Church and State and Jaka's Story would have looked like without it.

Next week the High Society restoration kicks into high gear. In the meanwhile, if you know of anyone who has Cerebus pages we can scan, please let them know we're looking for them! I have been shocked so far how much a difference the original art is making to this endeavor. The more of that art we have access to, the better these books will be.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: The Gathering


A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Cerebus #174 is the last issue in the phonebook WOMEN, and to set up these notebook pages, the final pages of issue 174 is where Astoria makes a guard go away with a poit reminiscence of Cerebus telling Astoria to go away in CHURCH & STATE II, Cerebus flies (!) and a figure dressed as death walks through the street. Eventually Astoria, Cerebus and Suenteus Po make their journeys through Upper Iest to all meet up outside the Papal throne room.

Halfway through notebook #18, there are some full page layouts with tighten pencils for pages #12 - 20 of issue 174, here is page 13 via page 102 of the notebook:

Notebook 18, page 102
You can follow along with WOMEN page 239. On the finished page, the top panel is just one instead of the three panels pushing in on Astoria. Also missing - the final text of "That was so cute." "He's precious." with regards to Cerebus landing. Other than those couple of items, that is the finished page - well, minus Gerhard's spectacular backgrounds.

Notebook 18, page 103
WOMEN page 240 is on page 103 of the notebook
Other then moving the bottom panel with Astoria between the two bottom panels of Cerebus charging forward to kill Astoria, this page is pretty much the same. There are little changes, the G is missing from the first panel so we just have AAAA, but the shadow falling on Cirin's gown to Astoria looking over at Cerebus' sword, this page is pretty close to the printed page.

Notebook 18, page 104
WOMEN page 241 is on page 104 of the notebook
Of the three pages shown above, page 104 of the notebook is the most like its printed counterpart, page 241 of WOMEN. Cerebus stopped in his tracks by Po to Cirin throwing the assassin across the room landing with a 'crak' and an 'unh'.

But look closely at the above page, and then look at the finished page, one big difference - in the notebook page, Astoria's right arm is in a sling, while in the phonebook it is Astoria's left arm that is in a sling.

I don't know why Dave made that mistake - he isn't mirroring the pages, as these tight layouts are the same as the printed pages. There are no other sketches of Astoria with her broken arm other than these layouts. Perhaps he was so focused on the content of the pages that the small continuity items like this slipped by? While it may have slipped by in the notebooks, it sure didn't slip by on the finished page.

Margaret Liss is The Cerebus Fan Girl and maintains the Cerebus Wiki.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Cerebus False Starts: Flight

When you're keeping a monthly comic book on schedule, there really isn't an opportunity to "redo" pages. On the other hand, if you have serious doubts there is a window of opportunity to change your mind. Sometimes the window was a little wider than it was at other times:

FLIGHT -- Issue 151 page 11 - The scale -- or, rather, Scale -- was too small for where I had left the cliffhanger at the end of MELMOTH. We needed a big two-page spread of Cirin culling the library and then have you turn over the page and see FRAGMENTARY images of Cerebus attempting to flee, sword first. There. THAT'S Scale. You can see the order the process went in: light sketch layouts, then the border tape, then starting to tight pencil. I did get as far as tight pencilling the bottom right panel before I went, "No, I don't like it. WHY don't I like it?" Answer: no Scale.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Cerebus: The Challenge

"The Challenge" unpublished CEREBUS story. Half-sized layout (on illustration board! I must have been feeling wealthy that day!) of page one as well as the page one typescript. Obverse: the script was typed on the only examples of the "48 Weber Street East" stationery in the Cerebus Archive. Weirdly symmetrical: Deni was living at 48 Weber Street West when I met her and our first apartment together -- the one used as the model for Rick and Jaka's apartment in JAKA'S STORY -- was at 48 Weber Street East (torn down in 1978) to make way for the office building there now.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Gerhard's Eternal Struggle Against Death

Poster: The Knick (2014)
by Gerhard
(Click image to enlarge)
Yesterday was an exciting day, here at central. A couple of weeks ago, I had received a tweet from @Cinemax saying they'd like to send me a little something relating to their new show The Knick. The Knick is Steven Soderbergh's new drama about a struggling hospital in 1900 New York City, an idea that promises a wonderful mix of period style and gorey historical surgical techniques. Needless to say, I sent them a response as soon as possible and then waited. Yesterday, the wait was over and I received what may be the coolest promotional package ever. More...

Okay, so this is pretty awesome: a turn of the century surgeon’s kit to promote the upcoming premiere of The Knick, Cinemax’s medical drama series set in the year 1900. Clive Owen stars as John Thackery, the brilliant and arrogant head of surgery at New York City’s Knickerbocker Hospital, whose addiction to cocaine and opium balances out the pressures of working in the medical field, in a time with shocking mortality rates and no antibiotics. See the gallery below for more photos of the contents, including replicas of 1900-era medical supplies, surgery slides, a welcome letter from Dr. Thackery, and a syringe that doubles as a USB drive (pre-loaded with promo materials). More...

Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing: PDF Download

Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing
by Dave Sim
Join the monthly 'Digital Book Club'
for your PDF-download at

In The News!

Wisconsin State Journal, 1 May 1993
(Click image to enlarge)

(Submitted by Eddie Khanna, Thanks Eddie!)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

In The News!

The Medicine Hat News, 30 December 1986
(Click image to enlarge)

(Submitted by Eddie Khanna. Thanks Eddie!)

Be A Patron For Dave Sim

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The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is a work-in-progress graphic novel in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics, focusing on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the strange circumstances of his death at the age of 46 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette on 6 September 1956. Follow Dave Sim's progress on this 'years-in-the-making' graphic novel through his regular updates at

From this week's update:
"...The glamourpuss pages were all done in the form of an "illustrated essay": usually one illustration/panel recreation/traced photograph per page and then the text done in the Joe Kubert font. THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND is definitely closer to a graphic novel approach with multiple panels per page and graphic novel structural limitations: word balloons that are word balloon length and captions that are caption length." Read the complete update here...