Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Prepare To Breathe Your Last... Duck!

Cerebus Meets Howard the Duck
(BEM #34, 1981)
by Dave Sim

(from the From Under The Stairs blog, 23 November 2012)
BEM has some great interior illustrations, but there's no time to show them all... but how about this one by Dave Sim? Love it! By 1981 Howard the Duck had become my favourite comic (I was still filling in gaps in my collection as many of them weren’t distributed in the UK). HTD #24 was a comic I read and re-read, and I would imagine would be my choice for my favourite Marvel comic ever. Steve Gerber became the first comics writer whose comics I’d buy on the name alone. In fact, I think he was the first writer, other than Stan Lee, to have his name splashed on a Marvel cover as a purchasing incentive (Omega the Unknown #9). I'd seen Cerebus but it was expensive and although I loved the artwork, I didn't get into it at the time (I now have a whole shelf with all the "telephone books"). But it was great to see this illustration in BEM #34 from 1981. Hope you like it too!

Russell Willis's interview with BEM Editor, Martin Lock, in 2012:

Monday, 18 September 2017

On Sale 35 Years Ago: Cerebus #42

Cerebus #42
Art by Dave Sim

This, I think, is a good cover. All of the individual elements work (except the free-pour physics) and add up to a strong overall image.

Diamond Order Code: OCT140536

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Pressed Aardvark #3: 1991 to 1995

I love researching bizarre stories from America’s past, so a few years ago I treated myself to a subscription to newspapers.com. This gives me access to a huge searchable database of old US newspapers – the oldest dating back to the 1700s. On a whim the other night, I plugged the word “Cerebus” into the site’s excellent search engine, selected the years 1978-2017, and started rootling through everything that came up. I’m pulling out only the most noteworthy items here, of course. This time round, we’ll be covering the years 1991 to 1995, a period which saw the publication of Cerebus 142–201. In terms of the phone books, that’s Melmoth, Flight, Women and Reads.

The Observer (England), January 13, 1991.

Cerebus is given a paragraph in the “What to Read” round-up running alongside this piece, but it’s the article’s headline I found most striking.

Even in a decade of truly awful headlines on comics articles – mostly of the “Zap! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids any more!” variety – this one manages to distinguish itself. Pretty clearly, the sub-editor responsible found he’d filled only two of the three decks required, and opted to fix this problem simply by adding “Aarrgh!” at the end.

I don’t know why we don’t see this technique deployed by other headline writers, really. Here’s just a few of the opportunities they’ve missed:


St Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1992.

Dave and Gerhard were doing an American tour in 1992, and this piece represents the many city papers which gave them a story as they roamed round the country. Each one gives its readers the usual Cerebus 101 information, which it would be tedious to repeat here. But many also included a few quotes from Dave, and you’ll find my selection of the most interesting ones below.

The pics I’ve added after these quotes come from June 4’s Star Tribune and July 7’s Indianapolis Star respectively.

Dave on refusing to deal with corporate publishers:
“If you can do something exactly the way you want, you’re gonna have more fun.” – Star Tribune, June 4, 1992.

“One of the problems with co-operating with a corporation is that new pressures are brought in. They want changes in the characters.” – Chicago Tribune, April 25, 1992.

“I basically don’t want to deal with those people.” – St Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1992.

“With any contract, I would only get 10 per cent of the money. Gerhard and I make much more doing it this way than we could at any large company. Here, once our expenses are covered, the rest is ours.” – Chicago Tribune, April 25, 1992.

Dave on Cerebus himself:
“Loathsome, reprehensible, self-absorbed, self-centred, greedy and a raging alcoholic.” – Indianapolis Star, July 7, 1992.

“I think everybody knows someone like Cerebus. Someone who you wish wasn’t your friend, who makes you so mad, you swear you’ll never speak to him again, and then he does something unexpectedly nice and you can’t help liking him.” – St Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1992.

Dave on his audience:
“With our small, dedicated audience, we can take chances. In fact, they demand it. It’s much more artistically satisfying.” – Chicago Tribune, April 25, 1992.

“I’m comfortable having a specific audience to write to. I like the idea that my audience doesn’t see what I do as controversial. […] Most of them are people who gave up on comics.” – South Florida Sun Sentinel, May 3, 1992.

“Most of them started reading it when they were 17 or 18, and a lot of them are in their late 20s or early 30s by this point.” – Indianapolis Star, July 7, 1992.

Dave on the importance of ambiguity:
“Wilde said, ‘An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable manner of style’. You quickly get to the point where all your characters are two-dimensional, good or bad.” – Star Tribune, June 4, 1992.

“There are a lot of different interpretations of the story. Not everyone sees the same characters as good or bad, rulers or followers. I meant it to be that way. I find life to be universally ambiguous.” – Chicago Tribune, April 25, 1992.

Dave on resisting the temptations of merchandising:
“I want the book to stand on its own for the art and writing, not as a trinket. […] As soon as you go into merchandising, everyone nods sagely and says ‘Ah, now we know why you are doing it’.” – South Florida Sun Sentinel, May 3, 1992.

Dave on the early days of Cerebus:
“I tried to do Cerebus so it looked like the whole issue was drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith except Cerebus, who I wanted to look like he was drawn by Chuck Jones. Because I thought that hadn’t been played with. When they were doing Howard The Duck, Howard was always rendered with the same kind of texture as everybody else.” - St Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1992.

Dave on what he’ll do after completing Cerebus:
“You shouldn’t ask a prisoner halfway through a 26-year prison term what he plans to do when he gets out.” – St Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1992.

“I will continue to do comic books. I’ll just do stories as they occur to me. Basically I’m still 16 years old at heart. I mean, this is how I used to spend my summer vacations.” – Indianapolis Star, July 7, 1992.

Dave on the numbers:
No direct quotes here, but Dave was presumably the source for each paper’s estimate of Cerebus’s circulation. The Indianapolis Star and the Star Tribune both put this figure at 20,000 copies a month, while the South Florida Sun Sentinel opts for 18,000-19,000. The Star Tribune adds that he was then getting 400 to 500 readers’ letters per month, about 20% of them from women. 



Lansing State Journal (Michigan), May 4, 1992.

Another “not just for kids anymore” article, and another god-awful headline to go with it. The picture shows Michigan State University librarian Randall Scott with a few selections from the library’s collection of 70,000 comics.

Also quoted is an MSU graduate student called Peter Coogan, who planned to write his thesis on superhero comics. “Every time a new medium comes about, people frequently think it’s bad for other people,” he points out. “Novels, films and jazz all started out as disreputable art forms. Comics did the same thing. Gradually, they all get accepted and are now being studied academically.”

Naming Cerebus as “the best comic being produced”, Coogan continues: “It’s basically for adults and quite serious. It deals with big issues – religion, politics, rape.”


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 9, 1995.

The occasion here was Dave’s Pittsburgh stop in 1995’s Spirits of Independence tour, where he and Gerhard appeared with fellow self-publishers Don Simpson, Steve Bissette, Jim Valentino, Paul Pope and David Lapham.

Comparing the tour (a little optimistically) to Lollapalooza, the Post-Gazette calls it “a travelling circus of today’s hottest and most relevant self-publishing cartoonists”. Dave, it adds, “is believed to be a very wealthy man after nearly two decades of doing things his way”.

Pausing only to note a hollow laugh from the direction of Kitchener, we come to the story’s direct quotes. “It’s taken a while for the idea to sink in with the creative community,” Dave says of self publishing. “Certainly the publishers work hard to make comic publishing look like brain surgery. But if you can balance a checkbook, you can publish your own comics. It isn’t that much different.

“As long as you’re not stupid or greedy and keep your expectations modest, it’s pretty much risk-free at this point. […] Here’s the solicitation. You send it to the distributor who puts it in his catalog. Retailers order this many. The distributor sends you a purchase order. You tell the printer that many. You send the comics to the distributor. Thirty days later he pays you. You pay the printer and you do it again. Simple.”

How much of that model would still work today I have no idea. Back in 1995, though, Steve Bissette was just as keen to promote the idea. “When I worked on Swamp Thing for DC, at its peak it sold 65,000,” he says. “But when you’re working for a company like DC or Marvel, the money you earn is paying for editors, lawyers, book keepers and the leather covers on the seat of the helicopter owned by the executives. The barest amount of money is trickling down to you.

“ But I don’t resent it anymore. That’s the ecology of business. I learned their jobs; they can never learn my job. They can never produce a comic book. So who’s at a disadvantage?”


South Florida Sun Sentinel, December 7, 1995.

An extract here from a column listing the day’s upcoming events online – don’t ask me – and an amusingly inaccurate description of Dave. I do hope some eager parent logged on with little Johnny in her lap and that both were suitably baffled by the result.


Observer (England), December 24, 1995.

The Observer got a lot of letters responding to its December 10 “100 Women Who Shook The World” article. Sean Goldithorpe’s contribution was this balancing list of equally remarkable men .

Ranked at number 63, he places one “Dave Sim (creator of graphic book Cerebus)”. This puts our hero just 58 places behind Jesus Christ and only 40 behind William Shakespeare. Among those left eating Dave’s dust, we find Henry Ford (73), Ernest Hemingway (84) and all three Marx Brothers (sharing number 99).

For more of Paul Slade’s writing – including a history of Reg Smythe’s Andy Capp strip and a look back at some notable comic book lawsuits – visit PlanetSlade.com.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: September 2017

Here a selection of good looking comics heading in to your local comic store in November (or there abouts) as listed in the Diamond Previews Catalog for September. As always, I'm keen to know what other comics Cerebus readers enjoy, so let us know what you're currently reading in the comments section below. Thanks.

Smile Of The Absent Cat
by Grant Morrison & Gerhard
Heavy Metal, $14.99
In Stores: 8 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP171696

The publisher says:
The story is about about Louis Wain, an Edwardian artist known for being the first to do "cat cartoons." As he died penniless and insane, a state that Morrison assumes all creators strive for, the graphic novel focuses on what happens to the world Wain made ("Catland") without its creator and how it will reflect the real events in his life. The main character is a detective who recently returned from the first World War. 

Gerhard says:
I came across that listing myself [on Amazon.com]. I asked the editor at Heavy Metal how that book was going to come out in November when I have only received the script for the first two chapters. He said the listing was news to him, too. I see they still haven't taken it down. If and when I ever do get the whole script, it will be the complete 48 page story that is published. It'll have to get a lot colder in hell first, I guess. I JUST got the 8 page script for chapter 3. If Dave and I had kept this pace, Cerebus would have taken 300 YEARS.

The Death Of Cerebus In Hell? #1
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
Aardvark-Vanaheim, $4.00
In Stores: 29 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP171028

The publisher says:
Epic-length four-part DEATH OF CEREBUS IN HELL? Wrap your copy in a black plastic bag for even greater collectibility! Also reprints online strips from August 2016: Cerebus buys a demon horde; Cerebus in Wonderland; Canadian Hell; Lucifer runs for Ruler of Hell; Cerebus reads Black Panther; Super-Cerebus hurled back in time; Chester Brown and the Whore of Babylon; Giant Jabberwocky Uncle Sam with Bat-wings and a Dragon Tail; The Legion of Miniaturized Super-Cerebus Robots; Bolgiaflix;Jaka the Aardvark; unauthorized Cerebus the Barbarian GPS wireless tracking system bicycle helmet headsets; Squirrel Girl and more!

Shadows On The Grave
by Richard Corben
Dark Horse, $19.99
In Stores: 17 January 2018
Diamond Order Code: SEP170040

The publisher says:
Richard Corben follows up 2014's Spirits of the Dead with a new collection of original short stories, ranging from gothic tales worthy of Poe, to Twilight Zone-style encounters with the weird, to a full-length fantasy epic featuring a barbarian reminiscent of Corben's most notorious creation, Den, immortalized in the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. Collects Shadows on the Grave #1-#8.  

Magritte: This Is Not A Biography
by Vincent Zabus & Thomas Campi
SelfMadeHero, $14.99
In Stores: 8 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP171871

The publisher says:
Intoxicated by the promise of a promotion, Charles Singular for once allows himself a small extravagance: he buys a bowler hat. But there's a problem: this is no ordinary hat. This one once belonged to the surrealist painter René Magritte, and by donning it Charles has unwittingly stepped into the artist's off-kilter world. What's more, he can't escape. At least, not until he has illuminated the secrets behind Magritte's work. What follows is a hallucinatory journey through Magritte's imaginative landscape, a place where facial features mutate, the crescent moon appears in unexpected places, and answers prove frustratingly elusive. 

Stardust Nation
by Deborah Levy & Andrzej Klimowski
SelfMadeHero, $19.99
In Stores: 8 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP171873

The publisher says:
For the high-flying, heavy-drinking advertising boss Tom Banbury, the art of persuasion relies on an infiltration of the consumer's mind. In the case of his colleague and confidante Nikos Gazidis, the overdeveloped sense of empathy that makes him so well suited to the business has resulted in a strange psychiatric condition. Nick has unwittingly crashed into the consciousness of his boss. While Tom drinks to forget the troubles of his life, Nick is forced to confront a past that is not his own: a childhood scarred by the small wars waged by an abusive father - and by the events that brought these battles to a close. When Nick enters the panicked silence of the Abbey, a fortress for the rich and unstable, his sister guards him from the visiting Tom Banbury. But can this peculiar bond be broken? Or has Nikos Gazidis taken an empathetic leap too far?

The Smell Of Starving Boys
by Loo Hui Phang & Frederik Peeters
SelfMadeHero, $29.99
In Stores: 8 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP171872

The publisher says:
Texas, 1872. With the Civil War over, exploration has resumed in the territories to the west of the Mississippi, and the geologist Stingley is looking to capitalize. Together with photographer Oscar Forrest, who catalogues the terrain, and their young assistant, Milton, Stingley strikes out into territory that might one day support a new civilization. But this is no virgin land. As the frontiersmen move west, it becomes clear that the expedition won't go unchallenged. Stingley has led them into a hostile region: the native Comanches' last bastion of resistance. The Smell of Starving Boys is an intense Western about the clash of two worlds: one old, one new; one defined by rationality and technology, the other by shamanism and nature. 

The Comics Of Joe Sacco: Journalism In A Visual World
Edited by Daniel Worden
PYR Books, $30.00
In Stores: 29 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP172186

The publisher says:
Now in softcover, this book-length study of the artist who brought journalistic reportage to comics The Comics of Joe Sacco addresses the range of his work from his early comics stories as well as Palestine, Safe Area to Goražde, Footnotes in Gaza, and The Great War, a graphic history of World War I. 

The Expanding Art Of Comics: Ten Modern Masterpieces
by Thierry Gronesteen
PYR Books, $65.00
In Stores: 29 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP172188

The publisher says:
In The Expanding Art of Comics: Ten Modern Masterpieces prominent scholar Thierry Groensteen offers a distinct perspective on important evolutions in comics since the 1960s through close readings of ten seminal works. He covers over half a century of comics production, sampling a single work from the sixties (Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt), seventies (The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius by Moebius), eighties (Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), and nineties (Epileptic by David B.). Then this remarkable critic, scholar, and author of The System of Comics and Comics and Narration delves into recent masterpieces, such as Building Stories by Chris Ware. 

Why Comics? From Underground To Everywhere
by Hillary Chute
Harper Collins, $40.00
In Stores: 6 December 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP172194

The publisher says:
As comics as an art form continue to gain in popularity and critical acclaim, comics expert Hillary Chute reveals what exactly it is that makes comics so unique. What is it that makes comics so special? What can this unique art form do that others can't? Chute reveals the history of comics, underground comics (or comix), and graphic novels, through deep thematic analysis, and fascinating portraits of the fearless men and women behind them. Chute has created an indispensable guide to comics for those new to the genre, or those who want to understand more about what lies behind their favorite works. Foreword by Gary Panter and cover by Jaime Hernandez.

Inside The Mind Of Jamie Hewlett
by Julius Wiedemann & Jamie Hewlett
Taschen, $59.99
In Stores: 29 November 2017
Diamond Order Code: SEP172175

The publisher says:
From the legendary Tank Girl to live-action animations with art-pop noisemakers Gorillaz, dabblings with Chinese contemporary opera to an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, artist Jamie Hewlett is one of the most energetic figures of contemporary pop culture. Hewlett emerged in the mid 1990s as cocreator of the zeitgeist-defining Tank Girl comic. With then-roommate, Blur frontman Damon Albarn, he went on to create the unique cartoon band Gorillaz, a virtual pop group of animated characters, which recorded four studio albums and mounted breathtaking live spectacles. This new TASCHEN edition, Hewlett's first major monograph, illustrates this thrilling creative journey with over 400 artworks. Through stories, characters, strips, and sketches, we trace Hewlett's exceptional capacity for invention and celebrate a polymath artist who refuses to rest on his laurels, or to be pigeonholed into a particular practice. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Melmoth Thumbnails Part 2

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.

So in last week's Melmoth Thumbnails Part 1 we looked at Dave's nineteenth Cerebus notebook. More specifically we looked at page 35 which had the thumbnails for three pages of Melmoth. Here now is page 36.

So on the page you can see a couple of the thumbnails from the previous page. As you can see, they are much larger than the thumbnails on this page. A couple pages were skipped as well.

Notebook 19, page 36
The thumbnails start with page 120 of Melmoth, or page 12 of issue #144.  And this is where the major difference between the thumbnails and the finished pages is located. Panel two of page 12 in the thumbnails shows someone with their hands above their head - I'm thinking Astoria in chains.  But the finished page shows the tower coming apart and lifting off:

Melmoth pages 120 through 122
The rest of the pages are pretty close to the finish pages, without Gerhard's awesome backgrounds. Nor can you see how Gerhard's backgrounds are not complete at the edges. Like Cerebus is not yet cognizant of his surroundings, being half wake.

The Death of Cerebus in Hell? #1-- Tots Sincere Elegies, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: SEP171028

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 29

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29

A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 29
Archiving, and Making it Work On-Screen

This is the twenty-ninth and final regular installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art for print.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

Last week we sent our (rhetorical) books off to the printer and spent a bit of time ruminating on the nature of mistakes.

What to do after your book comes back?

Hopefully it's a time of celebration, of salesmanship, of showing off to your friends and potential readers. Sending out review copies, soliciting interest, planning publication number two and three and...


When all of that's done?

Correcting Any Mistakes

Don't drive yourself bananas with this or anything, but if there are obvious, glaring mistakes in your book—say, a misspelling, missing words, or even (gasp) moire or visible stair-stepping resulting from downsampling or any other obvious errors that you wouldn't want in a future edition of the book, then take the time to correct them now. 

Why? Well, for one, it might help assuage any hard feelings you have for missing the mistake in the first place. For two, it's good general life-efficiency policy to "touch once"—that is, if you go and get your mail, deal with it on first contact rather than sticking it in a stack and thus having to deal with it a second time later. Presumably you've already taken the time to sit down and go over the book. Might as well enact any obvious corrections now rather than having to remember to do so at a later date.

(The above is assuming everything is mostly hunky dory. If there are borderline issues, probably best to leave it alone for now, as you might find that the fine distinctions disappear or are softened over time, and you might not care quite as much a few months or years from now, when you're ready to reprint ).

And then...

Archiving Your Work

As we've talked about periodically in this series, you should keep a thorough backup of all of your work for the book. I'd recommend the following—

-A directory with the name of the book and author
-Separate sub-directories for
     -all of the raw scans for the project
     -all of the PSD (or layered TIFF) files you used for adjustments and cleanup etc
     -all of the flattened 1-bit TIFFs
     -the layout documents and exported PDFs (dated. yes, keep all of these!)
     -any text documents or other "raw material" type stuff

All of these extras are designed for maximum efficiency should you need to do anything different to this book in the future. Need to swap out a page? Need a blowup of an original? Need to publish a color art book of your line work? Need to access publishable documents two decades from now when your Indesign-running desktop has long-since been bricked? This is what you need.

Take this master directory and put it in redundant storage. I.e. redundantly backed up to a cloud service you trust (Backblaze, for instance) and/or backed up on your fireproof and waterproof external hard drive or RAID enclosure. Remember, with digital, if it's not at least two places in two physically removed locations, it's not really a sure thing.

Once you've got that set up, what's left?

Screen Editions

It would take a much longer post to do justice to this topic—and such a post will likely appear here in the next few months!—but I want to touch on the very basics of this now.

What looks good in print (1-bit TIFFs) looks decidedly crappy on a screen. Screens, even 4K monitors, don't really have that high of a resolution when compared to one-color printing on smooth surfaces, so you need to take advantage of the screen's color/gray capabilities. And that means converting your image files to lower-res grayscale images, and introducing anti-aliasing.

This is pretty easy to do. In the main directory for your book, make a new folder, and name it something along the lines of Book_Screen-resolution_Images. Then fire up the ol' Photoshop and we'll make a script to turn your high-res 1-bit bitmaps into something a little more palatable for on-screen consumption.

Let's take a look at a single-panel from Death of Cerebus in Hell? #1 (available for ordering at your local comic shop now—how's that for product placement??)

First, let's take a look at the panel at-size--that is, 1-to-1 pixels, exactly as it is in the file I sent to Marquis—

Maybe it's obvious from the above, but this is way, way too large for screen viewing. 

Can we just shrink our 1-bit bitmap down to size? Say, same size, but change the resolution to 300 ppi?

Here's what that looks like, at-size. (one to one pixel ratio).

So, pretty horrid. Without the benefits of anti-aliasing (i.e. gray pixels giving us the illusion of smoothness) this looks broken and jagged, and the tiny-toned figures have turned to a horrible eye-melting moire pattern.

So! Before we downsample, we're going to do a few things—

1. Go to Image-> Mode-> Grayscale to convert your bitmap to a grayscale image.

2. We're going to eliminate the finest details, the ones that will be below the threshold of the downsample anyway, as a means of warding off moire in our image. We'll do this through blurring. Take your source resolution (in my case, 2400), divide it by your target resolution (in my case, 300), then multiply the resulting number by .5 pixels. This is the amount of pixels Radius you should use to gaussian blur your image by prior to downsampling. This is essentially an anti-aliasing filter, eliminating fine-edged information that wouldn't appear in the final screen image anyway.

In my case, this results in 4 pixels. I'll bring up the Gaussian blur from the effects menu and run it at that Radius.

NOW I'm going to--

3. Downsample my image (Ctrl-Alt-I) to 300 ppi using Bicubic resampling.

4. Next, we'll (what else?) sharpen our image just a bit with a high Threshold, so we can reclaim a bit of detail while not bringing back any of the potentially "moire-ey" details. Here's what I ended up with--

5. Lastly, we need to assign a color profile to the image so different viewers consistently apply the same kind of file handling to the image. Go to Convert to Profile and select Epson Gray Gamma 2.2.

And now we're done!

Here's the resulting image one-to-one--
And here it is reduced by half so I can fit the whole thing onto AMOC's Blogger image profile-- 

Quite an improvement from the above!
From here, it's very easy to make a screen-res version of your book. Just run Photoshop's Image Processor and use your new script, copying the results to the new directory you made earlier. Then open up your layout file, Save-As as "SOandSoBookScreenRes", and then, in the Links panel, Relink the entire book to the new folder. Export as PDF and viola, a nice-looking screen-res version of your book.

The End of This Series

And with that, we end the regular appearance of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again. But I will follow up soon with some addenda posts, specifically--

--a post linking to scripts I use on a regular basis and other practical goodies (coming very soon!)
--avoiding moire (mostly a regurgitation of previous posts on the topic)
--working with color and line art simultaneously
--any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading, and thanks for linking. Now that this series has (mostly) wrapped up, now would be a good time to spread the word. Do you know someone who might enjoy this series or benefit from some of the information? Pass it on!

Next: Vacation? More Historically Significant Robot Genital Misprint Cards?

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at LivingtheLine.com.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Flaming Schwarzkopf Experience: Sweltering Aardvarks

Sweltering Aardvarks EP (2017)
 Sweltering Aardvarks 2
Dave Sim's Lament
50 Songs In A Blender
Sweltering Aardvarks 1
Sweltering Aardvarks 3
Prune Danish

(View on: Deezer, iTunes, Spotify)

Monday, 11 September 2017

Sunday, 10 September 2017

YDKJ: The Art Is Done


Hi all, nice to see you. In the words of Aaron Lewis, " It's been a while." (F**k that dude for ruining such a common phrase!)

Over the summer I steadily plugged away at the art for:

and am now done with BOTH issues. That is right, folks, a two-issue mini-series that will be part of the promotional strategy for Vol. 1 of SDOAR.

Now that the art is done I will piece the books together digitally, letter them, and pass everything over to Sean to perform his dark magicks on.

In the process of mocking the book up it struck me how much ground we manage to cover in two goofy issues: 90's Bad-Girl/Jacques Derrida mash ups, the political atmosphere of the United States, art history, the universe, nipple-censorship, Boris Vallejo, menstrual blood, the human brain, a call for diversity, and so much more!

So much thanks to Benjamin Hobbes for the AvenJacques logo. Killed it!

I mean, any book that can make Aunt Sadie react like this

has got to be freaking awesome.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Neil Gaiman "Back-Up" Plan

23 February 07


Just wanted to extend my thanks again for your offer of help with the "buyout" of Gerhard's 40% share of Aardvark-Vanaheim. We had our first meeting with the accountant and I now have a number to work with and I'm pretty sure I can manage it on my own but, as I told you on the phone, it is a great relief to know that I have "back-up" if needed. It is certainly more than I could have asked or hoped for.

Having said that, I'm going to float a "trial balloon". That's really all it is: I haven't cleared any of the details with my accountant or lawyer to even know if it's do-able from a tax standpoint or from a legal standpoint which is why I thought I would pitch it to you first and if you were interested then I could determine how viable an idea it actually is.

The idea is this: that you would acquire a 10% stake in Aardvark-Vanaheim from Gerhard in lieu of giving me an interest-free loan. Give or take, this would be roughly $50,000. You would do this on the understanding that I would acquire the stake from you on the same basis: paying you back as I was able to with no interest accruing only instead of writing the cheque to me, you would write the cheque to Ger.

The benefit to me would be the public vote of confidence from Neil Gaiman that you have every faith that I can continue to run Aardvark-Vanaheim profitably as I have for the last 30 years. I have no idea if this is necessary, but I suspect there might be a loss of confidence in the comicbook field resulting from the A-V split that may or may not result in diminished sales. Nothing so far, but this would give me a way of countering any malaise if I see it setting in. The benefit to Ger is that he would get a larger lump sum as soon as we sign an agreement and larger instalment payments with both you and me kicking in.

The benefit to you? Well, that would really depend on your experience with Terry P. on Good Omens. I notice you haven’t "co-written" too much since then. If your reaction was "Never under any circumstances will I ever do anything like that again ever" then please ignore the following. What I was going to suggest was that we co-write something (I’m assuming that you still think I’m at least as good a writer as you are) and that I would serialize and publish it through Aardvark-Vanaheim – using the comic-book format in much the way Dickens’ work was serialized in a comparable format text with illustrations by me -- with all of the profits going to you until the $50,000 is paid off. We both have very full plates, so what I was going to suggest is that we keep it as simple as possible – two or three pages at a time, ping-pong style. Basically, as a minority owner of Aardvark-Vanaheim, you would become a self-publisher temporarily until the $50,000 was paid off, at which time you would cease to be a self-publisher. Since you would be bringing a lot more to the table than I would, I’d also be happy to give you jurisdiction over whatever we came up with. Your call as to whether it would just be serialized, or serialized and collected, serialized and collected and shopped around, etc.

I’ll show you what self-publishing is like and then you have the option of showing me what the real world is like if that interests you.

As I say, it’s just a trial balloon. The first paragraph on this fax is the important one.

Okay back to work and

Thanks again,


From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2007", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Melmoth Thumbnails Part 1

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.

Dave Sim's nineteenth Cerebus notebook covers Cerebus #141 through 149 and we last saw pages from it in March's A Deal For A Single Gold Coin.

On page 35 of the notebook are thumbnails for pages three though five of Cerebus #144, or pages 111 through 113 if you're following along in the Melmoth phonebook.

Notebook #19, page 35
So you can see how Dave laid it out in pencil and then went over the pencil with pen.

Melmoth, pages 111 - 113
The thumbnails look pretty close to the finish pages, without Gerhard's backgrounds. On the second page (page 4) the Cerebus in panel four of the  thumbnail is a tighter shot then the one used on the finished page and on the third page (page 5) the first panel has Great Andrena holding scrolls, but the final page does not.  It makes me wonder why the first two pages were finished with pencil while the third page is still rough pencils.

Next week we'll see page 36 of the notebook, part of which you can see through page 35. More thumbnails!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Strange Cerebus #1-- Flesh-Searing Freedom of Expression, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 28

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A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 28
Going to Press

This is the twenty-eighth installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art for print.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

Last column, we left off with getting a wet proof from your printer of choice. And now it's time for the real deal—actually printing your book.

Your printer will have very detailed instructions for you about their scheduling, preferred processes, and rules governing everything from shipping insurance to spoils and overs. Read these, then read them again, then ask any questions that you have. Better yet, ask them in writing. It makes any future dispute resolution much easier if you can just forward a previous email chain discussing the issue. 

I'll say it again—get it in writing. And if it's not on the quote, it's not real. Ask them to add it to the quote—whatever "it" is—before you sign the quote. Despite the lack of legalese, the quote is a contract, and the printer is very conscious of that fact. If they tell you they'll give you a deal on something, and it's important to you, ask them to add it to the quote.

Okay. You've signed your quote, you're on the printer's schedule, and you've uploaded your gargantuan files to the printer for their prepress department to take a look at. What's next?

If there are any issues concerning file handling or any other things you're picky about, include these issues in writing with your files, and follow it up with an email with the same text. Name it something like "ProjectName for Soandso Publisher--File Handling and Prepress Instructions". And then spell out everything they might need to know about the project. Never assume that anyone has communicated anything to anyone else. If you said something in a phone call, it didn't happen, unless you got confirmation in email afterwards, and cc'ed all of the relevant parties.

Cerebus in Hell? is actually really challenging from a technical perspective, owing to the method that some of the letterers used to create the balloons and some sound effects, so I send out a fairly detailed set of prepress instructions with each issue. Here's the one that went out for the last issues I sent in:

Enclosed are the production pdfs for--
Aardvark Comics One (Cerebus in Hell One-Shot)-- September 2017Strange Cerebus One (Cerebus in Hell One-Shot)-- October 2017Death of Cerebus in Hell (Cerebus in Hell One-Shot)-- November 2017 Here are a few notes about the files — 1. The supplied files are a mixture of very high resolution (2400 ppi) 1-bit bitmap images and high resolution grayscale overlays. Some of these grayscale overlays are actually threshold-converted images as well, i.e. they're actually 1-bit images but applied in the layout as 8-bit images so as to keep transparency. Because of these factors, it's very important that the prepress operator make sure that — 1a. the RIP engine is set to do no downsampling whatsoever, on neither the 1-bit or 8-bit images (as downsampling the technically-eight bit but actually 1-bit with transparency images will cause moire)1b. use the finest halftoning possible for the remainder of the grayscale images (the word balloons, mostly)1c. please make sure the platesetter is set to operate at 2400 ppi. Additionally, 2. Please don't downsample or rotate the 1-bit images either, as it will likely cause moire due to the extremely fine mechanical tones present in the files. Whomever did the prepress work on the previous issues of Cerebus in Hell? has done a fantastic job. If it's possible to have that same person work on this one, that would be great!  I realize with files set up this way, there's a lot of opportunity for error, hence this message :) Please contact me with any and all questions or requests for correction! All the best,
Previous, less-complex jobs had slightly less complex instructions. Here's the email I sent  out with Going Home. 
Hello [redacted], 
I am sending the files over for GOING HOME right now, via DropSend. Please confirm that these new interiors have been downloaded (Going Home export 9-4-2016 FULL V3.pdf) and please delete the previous version of the files! 
Here are the prepress instructions--
1. All pages have been supplied with 2400 ppi 1-bit bitmap image files embedded. Please do not downsample these images! The book has lots of very fine mechanical tone and downsampling, even to 1200 ppi, WILL CAUSE MOIRE on some pages. 
2. Please please please no downsampling or halftoning! :) 
3. Because of the high resolution of files embedded, some older versions of Adobe Acrobat or other PDF softwares will display the pages with horizontal bands across the images. If these appear, please just zoom in and confirm that they disappear. This is a PDF viewer problem, not a problem with the files. 
4. During printing please keep a copy of our press test from March 25th on hand. This was a press test on Rolland Enviro Satin, printed with variable densities. Our goal during printing is to hit around 125 density, i.e. the darkest pages of our "light/standard" test signature. 
5. If it is possible, Patrick, to schedule this printing to take place after your routine press maintenance/cleaning, that would be ideal :) Or whenever we'd get the cleanest, most even results across the form. 
6. As we discussed before, when we get to the binding stage, we'd like the binding/spreads to be a bit "loose" if possible, enabling the spreads to open flat with minimal effort.
Thanks so much for all of your help! If you have any questions about any of these files please let me know. 
All the best,
 Lastly, if this is the first time you're working with your printer, and you have no prior relationship with them, consider including text at the end along the lines of "Please confirm receipt and agreement to these terms", or even stronger language, if you really want to be sure. Maybe "Please do not move forward with prepress until you have agreed to these items. My acceptance on the final print job is conditional on these items being followed correctly."This is all to cover you in the event that they don't do what they've said they'll do.

Which, I'm sad to say, is a problem you'll find with many printers. They won't follow your instructions, and worse yet, after the fact they'll explain to you why it doesn't matter that they didn't, and how you can't possibly see a difference with how they did it instead. No, really, you'll have this conversation many times.

Which is why I'm so pleased we're working with two great printers now, who both know that I'm a complete pain in the ass, and are willing to work to meet those exacting standards. 

Seriously. If you have opinions about how your book looks, be a pain in the ass. But also be really, really specific, and as helpful as you can.

Then, having cleared all of these hurdles, it's time to check over your digital proofs, and print.

Check check and then check some more. Pages in the right order? All the pages there? Any spelling errors? Author's names spelled correctly? Your mother's name spelled correctly? That little "PRINTED IN CANADA" line in the indicia in place so you don't have to pay a border tax?

All good? Then tell 'em to run it.


If you're printing locally, or you're willing to fly, then you might be able to visit the printer while your job is running. Just know ahead of time it'll be really loud, really scary, and if something DOES go wrong, it's possible the most you'll be able to do is jump up and down and stammer and say "Make it better please!" 

You know, maybe it's best not to visit the printer.

Sean visits "the printer", circa 2012. I learned a lot, but, mostly, I learned to find a different printer.

While you're waiting for your book to come back from the printer, it might be useful to reflect a little bit on the nature of...errors. Of mistakes. 

If you're human, like the rest of us, your book with have something about it which you won't likely be happy with. Maybe right after it comes back from the printer. Maybe a year from now. But if you've taken all of the precautions listed above, showed the proofs to your friends and colleagues, then rest assured you've done your best, and know that the majority of your audience won't notice, or is more concerned with, say, the content, or the condition of the dust jacket.

You WILL make mistakes. The PRINTER will make mistakes. And should these mistakes be noticed, the reading public will be unable to distinguish these two things from each other. This process is fraught with peril. That anything gets printed at all is a species of miracle itself. Just remind yourself that we live in a fallen world, and there are cracks in everything. And be kind to yourself. Every project is a process as well as a product, and every time you tackle a job like this, you're bringing yourself closer to real mastery of your various skills.

And ultimately, you can be thankful that you're not the guy who, say, mounted the biplane steel engraving upside down.

And you're definitely not the anonymous Topps employee who approved this, ahem, gem of a card for distribution to the robot-loving children of America.

(And if you are that guy, well, I suppose that's quite the anecdote to unload over cocktails.)

Next: The LAST INSTALLMENT! Of the regular column, that is. A few bonus single-topic columns to follow!

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at LivingtheLine.com.