Sunday, 22 January 2017

SDOAR: Inks

CARSON GRUBAUGH:
Two bridging sequences down, three to go.

Here is a finished page from the sequence that ties issue 1 to issue 2.
As I mentioned over at Dave's Patreon site, where all of the progress is being posted as it happens, this page was particularly difficult because I had to re-create one of Dave's more teeny-tiny-line intensive drawings from Glamourpuss at a 50-60% reduction in size, and, figure out how to get it to merge with the figure in front of it with some kind of photo-negative'ish effect. Not sure if I pulled off the merge effect as well as it could be done, but I do think I managed to preserve most of Dave's details, even with the size reduction. I jokingly told Dave a while back that my goal is to give Sean a headache when he preps these for reproduction. Not sure if I have gone that deep into the page yet but I am on my way!



Also of note, because it will have an effect on the time I can spend with the pages, I was given a third class for the semester at the last minute (Yay $ and CV lines). It is a T-Th class, which were days I had set aside for SDOAR, so that is going to slow down the finishing rate a bit. Hopefully not dramatically.

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: "Going Home"

Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

CARSON GRUBAUGH:
(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...This book also has the most god-awfully ugly art in the whole series. Immediately after reading the book, and determining that I hated Gerhard's contribution to the volume, I started seeing people over on A Moment Of Cerebus comment that it is their favorite Gerhard volume. "Great," I thought, "now I am really going to have to defend myself. So, bear with me as I explain my averse reaction to Gerhard's art in Going Home.

Gerhard is THE best draftsman of architecture in comics; François Schuiten being the only artist I can think of that can give him a run for his money. There is no doubt that when it comes to drawing buildings and putting linear perspective to use Gerhard is gangster-status.

Unfortunately this does not translate to an ability to draw nature. Buildings look good when you draw them bound by solid outlines that do not vary in weight. Buildings are, by definition, artificial. When you draw nature, this same approach of containing the object in a single outline and then "coloring" it in with perfectly straight hatching lines, does not work so well. Everything looks flat, like a bunch of cut-out/sticker/appliqué graphic-icons of corn, flowers, trees, etc. The images are detailed as ever, yes, but they feel fake, collaged. There is just no depth... [Read the full review here...]

CARSON GRUBAUGH'S
CEREBUS RE-READ CHALLENGE:
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Krazy Instructions


JEFF SEILER:
Today's entry is a reply from Dave after I sent him an article about Great Britain granting Shariat courts jurisdiction over Muslims in Great Britain, followed by a London Times editorial saying that "jurisdiction" was going a bit far but that the Shariat courts nevertheless exercise great pressure in the lives of Muslim citizens of Great Britain, such as pressuring Muslim women in one case to withdraw their complaint about not receiving an equal share as their brothers in their inheritance.

In the same letter to Dave, I mentioned that Edward Howard was doing a blog about the most important American comic strips in history. I mentioned that Howard had blogged about Krazy Kat and asked Dave where it was in Cerebus that he had done an homage to Krazy Kat. 

His handwritten reply by fax came on September 23, 2008:

--First, we have to figure out if there's a uniformity to Shariat law -- I'd be willing to guess there's a wide variety (Persian, Indonesian, Saudi, Shiite, Sunni, etc.)

--The Koran is very specific on inheritance but perplexing in its specificity (i.e., parents inherit from deceased children in priority over the deceased’s children -- from what I understand, this has been "glossed" in Islam in the same way that the Talmud "glosses" the Torah. If it's a crazy instruction then the entrenched priesthood finds a circuitous crazy argument to get around the specificity and the question is never revisited -- i.e., Shariat law specifies that children inherit from parents in direct contravention of what the Koran specifically says.

--My own view is that crazy instructions (in Christianity "Sell all that thou hast and give the money to the poor", if you would follow the Synoptic Jesus -- in Judaism "Stone to death someone caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath") are YHWH-inspired tests to prove men are evil allowed by God for that reason and that God is winning his point: You can't make men do something wrong over the long term just by telling them it's a direct instruction from God.

Dave

[Dave also noted that his Krazy Kat homage was page 122 of Going Home.]

And then Dave included a photocopy of pages 45 and 46 of (presumably) his copy of the Koran, noting: Hi Jeff -- The relevant texts from Sura IV "Women". Dave He bracketed verses 12, 13, 14, and 15.

With regard to your children, God commandeth you to give the male the portion of two females; and if they be females more than two, then they shall have two-thirds of that which their father hath left: but if she be an only daughter, she shall have the half; and the father and mother of the deceased shall each of them have a sixth part of what he hath left, if he have a child; but if he have no child, and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have the third: and if he have brethren, his mother shall have the sixth, after paying the bequests he shall have bequeathed, and his debts. As to your fathers, or your children, ye know not which of them is the most advantageous to you. This is the law of God. Verily, God is knowing, wise!

Half of what your wives leave shall be yours, if they have no issue; but if ye have issue, then a fourth of what they leave shall be yours, after paying the bequests they shall bequeath, and debts.

And your wives shall have a fourth part of what ye leave, if ye have no issue; but if ye have issue, then they shall have an eighth part of what ye leave, after paying the bequests ye shall bequeath, and debts.

If a man or a woman make a distant relation their heir, and he or she have a brother of a sister, each of these two shall have a sixth; but if there are more than this, then shall they be sharers in a third, after payment of the bequests he shall have bequeathed, and debts, [and it finishes in verse 16:]

Without loss to any one. This is the ordinance of God, and God is knowing, gracious!

Tending The Flock (of Words)

JEFF SEILER:
Some time back, Dave asked me to give periodic updates about how I go about making my decisions on "iffy" points of proofreading. Usually, the proofing decisions are pretty straightforward--misspellings, P’s that look like D’s, Y’s that look like V’s, the occasional L and I that look like a U, etc. But, every now and then, I get a real gem that takes some actual investigation (research) and lets me, Dictionary Lad, delve deeply into the realm of Webster, et. al. (I utilize the Oxford English Dictionary, Abridged, nowadays, since that is what Dave said that he uses.)

My current project is the proofing of Church & State II (or, as I like to call it, “hurch tate”--seriously, look at the cover!). After proofing about two-thirds of it, I have found two beautiful little gems, which I am now going to share with you AMOCers by transcribing my handwritten notes (which will ultimately go to Sean, in San Diego, and to Dave). Thus:

Page 718, panel 2, balloon 3, lines 3, 4, 5:
Okay, from what I can tell (not being a doctor), these three words don’t belong together. From what I can tell, there is such a thing as UREMIC SYNDROME, which can lead to kidney (or, renal) failure. But, UREMIC FAILURE is not, technically, a medical term. Also, uremic syndrome would most likely not be ACUTE but would, instead, be chronic. Technically, kidney (or, renal) failure could be acute but more likely would be the result of a chronic condition. If you choose to replace these words (and are able to), I would go with just ACUTE KIDNEY FAILURE.

Table of contents, Chapter 31, second word:
The American astronauts (and the collected scientists involved) named the landing spot for the first assault on the moon Tranquility Base (one L). So, I think you should have left it at one L, not two. Still, I can see how it would be difficult to change the lettering on page 1,201. And, I see how you cheated the issue by naming the chapter “BASE TRANQUILLITY” (two L’s), thereby being able to retain the good, ol’ OED spelling.

I think this (and ACUTE UREMIC FAILURE) deserves an entry on AMOC. About my process; as you requested, Dave.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Weekly Update #166: Tales From The Wedding Present Redux


This week, Dave checks out a bunch of comics, including Tales From The Wedding Present!

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 30

Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Sketching the Countess

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.

Covering Cerebus issues #52 to 59, Dave Sim's notebook #6 (previously titled #3 due to the Albatross named notebooks) had 158 pages scanned of which we've seen twelve pages already in five different entries. We've never seen the front cover because there wasn't one. It must've been that well used.

This week we'll take a look at three pages that fall near the end of the notebook and contain sketches of the Countess Michelle:

We really don't see the Countess lounging around like this:

Notebook 6, page 140
Notebook 6, page 141
Notebook 6, page 143
I like the sketch of the Countess taking a nap, looks like it was sketched from a live model.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, part two: Inking and Screening and Resolution, Oh My!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, part two: Inking and Screening and Resolution, Oh My!

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings!

This is the second 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 (and later in the series, color art!) for print.


***

Last week we started this series by throwing out some caveats, stating some goals, and peeping at my work space and equipment. This week we'll be laying down the basic knowledge you need on order to know the behind some of the things we'll be discussing and doing. f you're impatient to actually, you know, get to it, then sit on your hands for a week and skip this installment!

The past one and a half centuries have seen tremendous changes in the ways images are created, and the ways those same images are reproduced. Since the late 1800s, almost all technical innovation in printing has involved improving the reproduction of what are (misleadingly) called continuous tone images: that is, images that, when viewed in the right circumstances, appear to have smooth gradations of tone and value. If you're viewing a postcard with a reproduced photograph, or looking at a color diagram in a text book, in most viewing distances, these images appear to be smoothly changing values of color. But in reality these images are made up of tiny cells, distributed in an array, that through some miraculous flaw in human vision, work together to create those gradated illusions.





Above: a scanned detail of a Dave Sim commission. Below — an extreme closeup of the resulting print. Notice the array of dots that create the image.

But there are limits to this illusion. Certain people (myself included) have close vision that's significantly sharper than the mean, and are able to see individual printing dots when they're anything other than the finest pitches. More significantly, the sharpness of human vision increases with a corresponding increase in contrast, meaning that extremely high contrast images (say, black on white) represent much sharper visual acuity than a field of color. Additionally, we see another corresponding increase when we're presented with edges. Lastly, fine information that is near or beyond the fine-ness of the screen itself, or oriented in direction in a way that is not perfectly aligned with the screen, can cause all kinds of unintentional visual oddities. 

This is why you will never see a professional publication that has a large chunk of text that is screened and intended to be read. And this is why you should NEVER, NEVER SCREEN LINE ART.

I'm going to belabor this point (who, me?) because it seems to have been forgotten or ignored as screening methods have improved, or as expertise (and money!) have drained from the print fields. Unless you're reproducing in color and intending to show the artist's process as the intent of the print (a la IDW's Artist Series, the Cerebus Archive portfolio series, etc), LINE ART SHOULD NOT BE SCREENED FOR REPRODUCTION.





Above: scans of page 225 of the aborted February 2013 printing of High Society, which, as you can see, was half-toned, as it was supplied to the printer as 8-bit grayscale files. Below is an image from the restored files, produced from the exact same scans as the above images, but treated much differently in the prepress stage. Notice that the dots in the Cerebus image above are strange, gradually changing shapes, moire that is a result of the original halftone screen that makes up his fur passing through a second screening process at the printer.



Imagine, if you will, the simplest of print methods, something along the lines of a stamp. A chunk of potato in which you've carved out an object in relief, maybe your name, carving back the potato from the sections of the images that you wish to remain uninked, and then pressing it against a flat surface slightly moist with ink, and then finally transferring that ink with light pressure onto another surface.

Your resulting print, any unevenness in the ink aside, is a binary. Either a particular area of the paper is inked, or it is not. On, or off, no in-between. And, really, how would you represent in between? You examine your print some more, consider that you really would like to have a “gray” area of, say, 30 percent to augment your totally black and totally white portions of your image. So you cut some parallel hatching lines into a previously fully inked area of your potato, and you print again.

This is line art in microcosm, line art at the beginning, just beyond scraping lines in the sand with a stick, just beyond taking an old torch and dipping it in bison blood and dragging it along the surface of your cave. Primal, black marks on white, any “gray” an illusion created by finer marks of black on white.


Okay, let's skip ahead at least a millennium, where we arrive at the present day.

No longer satisfied with the speed of your potato print, you're now interested in taking your paper line drawings and reproduce them with all the bells of modern technology. A terrifyingly fast, abominably loud web press, running off a thousand copies of your masterpiece in an hour. Between you and that copy are a good dozen technicians and a veritable space-shuttle level of switches and knobs and little blinky lights. How do you ensure your drawing survives the process? How can you signal to these strange, unknowably distant beings what it is you want out of your print?

(And please don't tell me that your desktop laser printer, or the, ahem, helpful staff at your local copy center, are any more knowable or accessible :) )

You need to know how to prepare your files. You need to know what to ask for. And you need to know about resolution.

RESOLUTION

In order to actually, you know, get to the part of this series where we actually DO something, I'm going to need you to take for granted a few facts. Rest assured I'll come back to them in future installments, and rest assured, I'll be happy to argue with you about them in the comments.

When you're preparing color or grayscale images for print, that is, images intended to be reproduced as (not actually) continuous-tone images, the limit of your effective resolution is the screen that these images will pass through. The fineness of a screen is measured in LPI — lines per inch. A printer printing on an extremely coarse surface — a cardboard box, newsprint, some kind of screenprinting application etc — will use a really coarse screen, sometimes as coarse as 40 LPI. Printing on a sheetfed offset press on coated paper, or on a very good one-off digital press on coated paper, the LPI might be as high as 300 LPI.

A good rule of thumb for supplying files that WILL be half-toned is, the maximum effective resolution is twice the line screen resolution. So, if your printer will be screening your final image at 200 LPI, 400 pixels per inch is the highest effective resolution you can supply. Anything above that is pointless, as it's lost in the screen. (This is not the case if you're suppling some elements separately, a in a PDF, where you can have images with different resolutions and color spaces coexisting in the same document. More on this later!)

Conversely, when you're printing WITHOUT a screen — whether that's in black, or using a spot color — your only resolution limit is your vision, and the resolution of the output device, whether that's a laser printer or a plate setter at the printer.

Without further ado, here are the resolutions you should be aiming for for suppling files to your printer —

Color or Grayscale--

as low as 100 PPI in some extreme circumstances, as high as 600 PPI on coated stock with good printing should be dependent on the destination LPI. Remember, it's easier to downscale than upscale! I always scan any color art that's going to leave me permanently (go to a client, etc) at-size at 600 ppi, as a safety.

Line art/bitmap--
1200 ppi for laser printers and other digital printers (600 PPI might be acceptable on rough paper if there are no very fine lines or repeating tones present)
1200 or 2400 for web or sheetfed offset with fine lines and tones.

But, fortunately, since we're dealing with line art, just because you're SUPPLYING line art files at that resolution, doesn't mean you need to scan at that resolution!

… and that's all we have time for next week. Next week — we finally (for real!) get to it!Thoughts? Questions? Quibbles? Hit me up in the comments!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

On Sale 15 Years Ago: Cerebus #274

Cerebus #274 (January 2002)
Art by Dave Sim
Photos by Ken Sim, Cover Technician Chris Verhoeven

Diamond Order Code: OCT140536

Monday, 16 January 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Part 3: Song of Red Sophia


PAUL SLADE:
Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords Of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he'd been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. This example's taken from Swords volume 1.

Frank Thorne, who Dave discusses here, drew Marvel's Red Sonja comic in the late 1970s. He went on to create Ghita of Alizarr, his own female warrior, for the Warren magazine 1984




A panel from Cerebus #3:
"I was trying to do Frank Thorne's Sonja, inked like Barry Smith does,
only more hair and aw nuts it doesn't look like anything," says Dave.

Next week: The arrival of Elrod. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: "Rick's Story"

CARSON GRUBAUGH:
(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)

"You heard it here, everyone, "evil misogynist" Dave Sim made my mom cry."
 


CARSON GRUBAUGH'S
CEREBUS RE-READ CHALLENGE:
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day

Saturday, 14 January 2017

People Who Haven't Signed The Petition...

JEFF SEILER:
Two letters (both faxes, both handwritten) for today's entry, since they're both short. The first one, dated September 16, 2008, is pretty self-evidently to answer a couple of questions I had asked of him. The second letter, dated September 19, 2008, refers to my having notified Dave of a post at the old Yahoo Group, put up by Nate, regarding his having visited a comics store in New York, where he saw that they had a copy of one of the Gold Editions of glamourpuss #1 that Dave had signed "To Jim Hanley's Universe, 1/1 Edition" for sale for $100. Nate had thought that since Dave had sent this as a gift to the store, Dave should know that it was for sale. I now have a vague recollection of having gone to the hospital on an outpatient basis for a blood test back then, but clearly I didn't have anything seriously wrong with me as, eight years later, I'm still kicking and still as ornery as heck.

16 Sept, 08

Hi Jeff--

I open mail from people who haven't signed the petition all the time... I just either a) don't answer it or b) send them a copy of the form letter.

Dave

P.S. No, I don't usually have an Eid [Al Fitr] feast at the end of Ramadan but then I also don't feast at the end of each day of Ramadan (which, I gather, is customary), sticking strictly to a) salad, b) vegetable juice, c) bread, d) canned pineapple for all 30 days.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

19 Sept, 08

Hi Jeff--

Actually, that was my intention with the Gold Seal Premium copies -- that the store do something attention-getting with them... some of the stores raffled them off... I'd say putting $100 on it is pretty attention-getting! What I wanted to avoid was stores giving them to their best Cerebus customer and therefore have it vanish without a promotional trace.

Tell Nate thanks for his concern, though, and I appreciate him relaying word through you.

You take care as well... don’t forget to call about your blood tests... and say hi to K.

Dave

Friday, 13 January 2017

Weekly Update #165: What Scrudder Found


What did John Scrudder Find?
Find out right here!

Auction: Cerebus In Hell? "Black Angel" Edition

CEREBUS IN HELL? #1
Lot of THREE Copies of "Cerebus In Hell?" #1 by series creators Sandeep Atwal and Dave Sim
Includes TWO known misprinted "variant" copies AND a regular edition!

You are bidding on THREE Copies of "Cerebus In Hell #1" by Dave Sim and Sandeep Atwal. All three copies have been signed by both Sim and Atwal. The three copies are identified as the "Black Angel Edition", the "Partial Black Angel Edition" and the "Regular Edition":


CIH?#1 - BA - BLACK ANGEL EDITION
Named for the patch of black ink covering all of the angel figures in panels 2 and 4 of page 5. Additionally, black patches of ink are scattered through panels 2 and 4 on pages 8 and 17 (the Cerebus figure is reversed -- white on black -- in panel 4 on page 17) and the lines making up the background are weirdly enlarged in panels 2 and 4 on page 20 (and an inverted devil's head appears on "Frank Sinatra's" right shoulder in panel 4). Signed by series creators Sandeep Atwal and Dave Sim in black ink on the cover: designated "BA" and numbered #1/1 by Sim. There are only 21 copies known to exist besides this one.

CIH?#1 - PBA - PARTIAL BLACK ANGEL EDITION
Named for the patch of black ink covering most of the angel figures in panels 2 and 4 of page 5. Additionally, black patches of ink are scattered through panels 2 and 4 on pages 8 and 17 (the Cerebus figure is reversed -- white on black -- in panel 4 on page 17) and the lines making up the background are weirdly enlarged in panels 2 and 4 on page 20 (and an inverted devil's head appears on "Frank Sinatra's" right shoulder in panel 4). Signed by series creators Sandeep Atwal and Dave Sim in black ink on the cover: designated "PBA" and numbered #1/1 by Sim. There are only 30 copies known to exist besides this one.

CIH?#1 - REGULAR EDITION
A regular version of CEREBUS IN HELL? #1 with no misprinted panels.

All three copies are in "Near Mint" condition, having been sent directly from the printer to the publisher and inspected and immediately bagged by Dave Sim. Please contact seller with any questions. Good luck!

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 29

Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
 Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com

Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Talking to Muffins

MARGARET LISS: 
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.

While we've looked at Dave's notebook #7 numerous times already, we've never seen the cover. The last time we looked at this notebook was in July of 2016 in Cerebus Jam 2: Campaign Stop. Notebook #7 covered Cerebus #59 through 70 and there were 160 pages scanned.

Notebook #7, front outside cover
The first thing that is notable about the cover is that it isn't attached to the rest of the notebook. Going along with that well used look, the text 'pages' is almost rubbed off, as well as some of the rest of the black on that edge of the notebook. Down where it says 'name' the text there says 'albatross encore une fois'. The last of the notebooks named Albatross - at least on / in the notebook.

In case you're wondering, all of the rest of the notebook pages are attached to the notebook. Except the back cover. For some reason I can't remember - and that isn't documented in my letters to or from Dave - the back cover is missing.

Starting on page 122 we start to see the text that Boobah writes down as he tries to write down everything said by Most Holy. On page 126 we catch the end of Cerebus' conversation with "Muffins":

Notebook #7, page 126
At the top of the page, the text continues the conversation between Cerebus and Bran MacMufin from page 2 of issue #67, or page 314 of Church & State I if you're following along in the phonebook. The end of the conversation is seen on page 3 of issue #67 and is almost word for word. The text that is crossed out in the notebook does show up on the final page, though altered:

Cerebus #67, page 3, top panel
Doesn't that handwriting look familiar? Umm. . .

Down the bottom of the notebook page are some potential issue titles, and a list of issues from 53 to 74 with what is happening in that time frame.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, part one: Some Caveats, Some Analogies

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, part one: Some Caveats, Some Analogies

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings!


Mechanical tone that has shifted and shrunk over time, cleaned and adjusted and whole again

Welcome to the first installment of Ink to Pixel to Ink Again, a (mostly) weekly series that will be running here at A Moment of Cerebus until I run out of time or things to say.

Are you a fan of a long-extinct comic or illustrator, looking to produce new editions of that work? A graphic arts professional looking to wring every bit of detail out of a pile of originals? A publisher tearing your hair out over dealing with photographic negatives, or problems with your printer? A pen and ink enthusiast sitting on your first masterpiece, but unsure how to best bring it to print? A Cerebus fan wondering how we've been producing the newly restored books? My mother, wondering why I don't call anymore? Then this series might be for you!

As I'm writing these weekly, with time constraints, each post might not always end up breaking neatly into separate topics, but my hope is that, read sequentially, they'll be able to function as a how-to to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world.

A Little Bit About Me

My name is Sean Michael Robinson, and I'm a writer, illustrator, musician, and father (and not necessarily in that order.) I've done a lot of different kinds of things with my 37 years, but none have been quite the same type of challenge as the Cerebus restoration project.

In September of 2013 Dave Sim began posting messages on A Moment of Cerebus detailing his problems working towards getting new versions of the first two volumes of Cerebus back in print. The two books were plagued by image quality problems, the most dire of which was moire, an undesired pattern resulting from sampling a screen with another screen, visible across most of the screen tone.

As the news from Dave became more dire, I chimed in more and more frequently in the comments. Being a lifelong print obsessive, and having recently completed my own first commercially-available book (Down in the Hole: the unWired World of H.B. Ogden, co-written with Joy Delyria and illustrated and designed by me), I had plenty of opinions about the subject of reproduction. (Most of which I would upend over the next few weeks!)

After a few months of this stalemate with his printer and production person, Dave sent me unbound copies of the two books along with the production files. A few weeks and one successful print test later, I had a new mission — to restore the 6,000 page Cerebus page by page, book by book, using the best available materials on a page by page basis: aged original art, photo negatives, scans of print materials of all kinds. Combinations of multiple sources. Nothing was off limits.

Now, several years after coming on the job, I've restored almost 150 issues, over 3,000 pages of comics. What was once an intellectual challenge has now become somewhat routine (if still laborious). Having finally hit the plateau, it seems like it's time to share a bit of the knowledge I've picked up along the way.

a  negative "cleaned" of developer schmutz solely with curves/levels adjustments in Photoshop




On the right: a scan from the 8th printing of Cerebus Volume One.On the left: the same panel restored from a print scan of the original monthly issue. Click to enlarge.

Some Caveats, Some Analogies

If you're a cartoonist at the beginning of your journey with your skills, if you're mainly interested in making a zine, getting 200 copies of your latest work into the hands of some readers, don't waste your time here. Make your originals proportional to a folded sheet of 8.5” x 11 (or 8.5” x 14”) paper and use the copier at your office or school to run off some copies. Access to a copier and a long-armed stapler, an afternoon of labor, and you're done. Need to add some printed text? Some clip art or something? Print it out and paste it on with a glue stick. A nice copier in good shape, with a clean drum and good toner, running in “line art” mode, is going to give you results that are as good or better (and most likely faster!) than most other “prosumer” options out there, i.e. printing on your laser printer. And you'll save yourself a lot of aggravation and money.

(For more advice on cartooning and developing your abilities without burning yourself out, please see “How Not To Make a Graphic Novel,”)

(I'm adding this analogy as a parenthetical because I doubt it's relevant to everyone reading this. I've also worked as a recording engineer, one of the few things I've done in my life with any regularity that I was actually trained to do. And I met a lot of beginning bands who were hot to trot to record their first glorious masterpieces, just to, you know, hear what they sounded like. And so they bought themselves a four track or eight track, or later, a dedicated recording computer and software, and set about trying to teach themselves everything they needed to know about modern multi-track recording, driving themselves nuts in the process. In my estimation, they would have been best served to stick a single mic up in their practice space and record themselves while they practice. Listen to that in their spare time. Then practice some more. And if they really, really want to document themselves in a more thorough fashion, hire a professional to do it.

In other words, if you're just now making your first comics, you don't need to be worrying yourself over the merits of one scanner versus another, or comparing sheet-fed offset versus web offset processes. You need to be making more comics, and anything that helps you make more comics is a net positive.)

More Caveats

Many of the things that I'm going to be discussing here are, in the grand scheme of things, small differences. Some might say, nit-picky differences. Especially considering we are talking about a narrative art form. If people are already invested in the story of your comic, yes, they're most likely happy to forgive a huge range of reproduction issues.

And in working for print, it's worth remembering that, even if you prepare your files perfectly, all of these fine distinctions can be wiped out by the printer, in an instant, by checking the wrong box, or starting your job on a poorly-maintained press.

That being said, the finer the lines/tone/whatever being used to make your line art originals, the more these fine distinctions make. The larger you work/the more reduction you're applying to the image, the more these fine distinctions matter. The better the paper you're printing on, etc etc etc.

If everything you draw is rendered with super chunky lines made with the tip of a sharpie, all drawn on blotter paper, it's not going to matter a whole lot how much sharpening you apply to an image. Conversely, if you're reproducing a Victorian-era mezzotint or aquatint original and printing on coated stock, all of the sudden all of those “tiny differences” mean a hell of a lot.

It's just these unique set of circumstances that has led to the knowledge I have now. Cerebus is a unique series for a lot of reasons, but it also presents some pretty unique challenges to a printer. Namely, use of sometimes extremely fine mechanical tone, extremely fine-line rendering, and large, bold application of blacks, combined with a large reduction in size from the original artwork. (60 percent reduction from the originals).

Actually Getting to It

Oh, hey, what do you say we start this thing?

The Work Space



Here's a shot of my current work space. When Cerebus Restoration alum Mara Sedlins was also on board, this room actually had two standing desks, instead of just the one you see now.

a. the computers

Even working at the high resolution we are for this project, it doesn't take much money to purchase some serious power these days. These are two Dell XPS models, designed as gaming computers and purchased at the start of the project. Other than running the system on a solid state disk and having a ridiculous amount of RAM, these are pretty standard desktop models. (If you're purchasing a computer purely for production work, I'd recommend going with a desktop, as you'll get a lot more bang per dollar spent.)

b. the monitors



The computer on the left is mostly used for audio these days, but I also use it for “Action” tasks in Photoshop. I'm going to mention making “actions” (poor man's scripting) an awful lot in this series, because, really, doing a bunch of boring repetitive stuff in the background is really what computers are best at. More (much much more!) on this in a later installment. Having a second computer enables me to run a script on one while continuing to do processor-intensive work on another, with no slowdown.

Anyway, the two monitors on the left are standard-definition monitors I've picked up used over the years for a few bucks apiece. On the right though, you'll see my DellP2715Q, a 27” 4k monitor that has changed my workflow completely. More on this in a future installment.

c. a scanner!

How does your artwork get in this here little box?

Used to be it took a giant stat camera and a copy stand and a whole lot of patience and skill to produce production negatives from artwork. Now all you need is a scanner.

For the Cerebus restoration project, almost all of the artwork is scanned by Sandeep or by Gerhard, and delivered to me via jump drives (which you can see scattered in front of my keyboard in the photograph of my work space) But regardless of who's scanning the art, all of the original artwork is scanned on this same type of scanner, the best flatbed scanner known to man — the Epson 10000XL.

(If you want to buy one new, you'll need to purchase an Epson 11000XL instead. But the 10000XL is optically identical, with only the type of ports being different on the new models.)

More on this in the very next installment...

****

And that's where we'll have to leave it for now!

I'll be adding new installments to this series weekly, every Wednesday morning. And I'll be updating the bottom of this post with links to the new installments as they come, so feel free to bookmark the post to keep current.

Questions? Things you want me to touch on in the series? Hit me up in the comments!

Edit: Part two is here!