Thursday, 23 February 2017

Sketches of Familiar Faces

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.

We've looked at Dave Sim's notebook #9 six times already and last November's Cover Thumbnails. It covers issues Cerebus #80 through 86 and had 118 out of 200 pages scanned.

In the past we've seen some sketches of people that weren't directly Cerebus characters in the notebooks. For example, sketches of people he saw while on vacation, covered in Vacation Time: San Jose and Vacation Sketches Part Deux. We've also seen some other Sketches of People in a different notebook.

I found a couple more sketches in notebook #9:

Notebook #9, page 47
Notebook #9, page 48
Notebook #9, page 49

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, Part 7: Scripting & Upscaling

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

Index | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Part 7
Scripting & Upscaling


This is the seventh 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 left off in the middle of making an "Action" command in Photoshop, that we will use to adjust and prepare our original art scans.

Here's what mine looks like, after having dumped the less desirable color channels and converted to grayscale—

(You can see there are a few extra moves in there I could delete if I wanted to really clean it up, but  none of them will slow down the script)

Now we're going to make one last move before we upscale our art to the actual resolution we'll be working at. I'm going to make a Levels adjustment to knock out a bit of the paper color and see if we can enrich the black a bit prior to the upscale.

If you still have your original art with you, scan your eyes over the page and try to find the finest detail that you can pick out with your eye, whether that be a dinky little line or spatter or a spatter tone. Now zoom in on that area of your scan. Really, really far, like 400 to 700 percent, depending on the resolution and size of your monitor.

Now hit CTRL-ALT-L to bring up the Levels command.

We're going to talk about this window a bit, as we'll be spending an awful lot of time here. (Adobe's official explanation of the Levels histogram, which is a very concise unpacking, is here.)

The above histogram represents the distribution of tonal information within the layer that you're currently modifying. See those two peaks? Those represent the "black" of the ink (on the far left) and the "white" of the paper (far right). And that valley between them represents all of the gray information distributed throughout the image. The lowness of that valley indicates there's not much information there at all, compared to the spikes for the "black" and the "white" of the paper. Which is what we'd expect to see for a grayscale line art scan.

What we're going to do now is move the black point of the image (circled in magenta above) all the way over to the edge of the first peak, effectively making our "black" ink actually black. And then we'll move the white point of the image (circled in lime green above) to the right to meet the edge of the paper peak, essentially knocking out some of the paper color of the image.

While I'm making these adjustments, I'm watching two things carefully. In the areas of black detail (i.e. dense hatching), I'm looking to make sure moving the black point isn't causing any of those details to fill in at all. I want the black point adjustment to only impact the solid black areas and not cause any other effect. Similarly, as I adjust the white point, I'm watching to make sure that the very finest details aren't shrinking at all. All we're trying to do is prepare the page, not get rid of any information. (Yet another reason to be conservative here—we're going to be running this script on every page. So hopefully this is a representative sample of the whole!)

Okay, after you've blackened the blacks and knocked out a bit of the paper color, grab the Mids control (circled in cyan above!) and move it about a bit. This controls the overall exposure (or gamma) of the image. Moving it to the left (towards the black point) will lighten up the page overall. Moving it to the right (towards the white point) will darken up the page overall. Play with this and see if any additional details becomes visible as you move it to the left, or if the blacks become richer without losing any detail as you move it to the right. (Later, when we're dealing with photo negatives, this will be an invaluable technique.) After you've settled on a good home for your Mids you might be able to back off a bit on your other adjustments.

Here's where I ended up on mine.



Now, turn off your Actions recording and let's make sure your adjustment is helping your image. 

ALT-CTRL-Z steps backwards/undoes that last thing you did in Photoshop. SHIFT-CTRL-Z re-does that last thing. Skip around in your image, zoomed in, undoing and redoing the last step, and taking a look at the effect. And get used this these shortcuts. We'll be using them a lot. 

Now that we're prepared our scan, we're going to upscale our image to our final resolution and size. Hit ALT-CTRL-I to bring up the IMAGE SIZE menu. (Or go to Image-> Image Size. But really, the keyboard shortcuts save you valuable time. Best to take a bit to learn them, especially for things you'll be doing over and over again.)

Here's the Image Size menu. All of the darker gray boxes on the right are breakout options boxes. If you click on the arrow on the right of each, they'll open up additional options.

First, we're going to change our Percent number. Our overall artwork needs to be shrunk to 62.4 percent of its original size, so that's the value I'll enter here. (In the original run of the Cerebus book, the artwork was usually reduced to 60 percent of its original size, but in the remastered books it's slightly larger than that).

Next we'll change the Resolution to our target delivery resolution of 2400 Pixels per Inch. You'll notice that when you change this value, your Percent value changes as well, in this case, multiplying your percent reduction (62.4) times the resolution change (4), leaving us with 249.6 Percent.

Lastly, we're going to change the type of resampling that Photoshop applies to our image. Select Preserve Details from the menu. And then change the "Reduce Noice" slider to zero. (You only need this if you're working with a color image, especially one suffering from JPEG compression or some other kind of artifact that might otherwise get caught up in the upscaling algorithm).

(This is already an overly long entry, so I'm loathe to get too far into the differences between these resampling methods. But I think it's important to note that Preserve Details is fundamentally different from Bicubic Smoother, which is the other method you might use for enlargement. Preserve Details is a fractal method of interpolation that is ALMOST ALWAYS the way to go for upscaling. Exceptions would be upscaling certain kinds of line art with mechanical tone where the mechanical tone has not been adequately captured by the initial scan, in which case Bicubic Smoother is the better way to go)

Here's a screenshot of my final settings.

And now we click OK and wait for a minute... 

(Still waiting... now you see why I told you to make all of this an Action! So you don't have to stare at the clock or check the news or check your pointless Facebook feed and find out no one loves you and everyone is clearly happier than you are and hey look there's a video of a man catching a trout with his face, better check out the comments, and it looks like Sylvia's broken up with David again and...)

O hey, it's done!

A Brief Detour—Why Do We Upscale?

As I mentioned back the first and second installment of this series, just because we plan on delivering 2400 ppi 1-bit bitmap images to the printer, doesn't mean we have to scan at that resolution. Grayscale and color scans have much more data per pixel than a 1-bit image, and we can use this data to upscale to our desired resolution, with very little downside at all.

Below you'll find a comparison image I've made with a small portion of the page we're working with. The first image has not been upscaled, only converted to a 1-bit bitmap. The second one has been upscaled exactly as detailed below, and then converted to a 1-bit image, with nothing else done to the image.

As you can see, the upscaling has achieved the goal of bringing us into a much finer resolution space with much smoother edges and details, without affecting the balance of details and dense areas in any way. If you want to make a comparison image yourself, then make a version of your page upscaling with "Nearest Neighbor," then copy and paste the result onto a new layer of your working image. 

Back in The Present

Now I'm going to go to the Layers panel and right-click on the layer with our image, and click on "Duplicate Layer." Name this new layer "Sharpened." We're going to make our final adjustments on this copy, so as to maintain the original below.

Next, with our Action still running, click the "Make New Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Name this new layer "Cleanup." Next, go to Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Threshold. This will create a way to preview what our final 1-bit image will look like after we convert it. But for now, turn off this adjustment layer by clicking the Eye icon next to the layer name.

Lastly, click on our "Sharpened" layer and then turn off your Action. We're going to spend a bit of time now playing with different possibilities.

And here's our script and layers panel so far!

So, uh, cliffhanger?? Will we sharpen? Will all of our detail remain? Will the printer forget to clean the press and drive our book to Dotgainville? Find out NEXT WEEK!

(To download the top portion of the page I'm working with here, click this link and then click on "full res version," then the download button. Then feel free to follow along!)

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

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Monday, 20 February 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Part 8: The Secret

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. We're currently covering the intros from Swords volume 2.
“This is a picture of me in high school,” says Dave,
"(it’s also a picture of me in public school and senior public school, but we won’t go into that.)”

Next week: Dave discovers he can do anything he wants.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: "The Last Day"

Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...By this point I have pretty much exhausted my relationship with Cerebus, for at least another ten years. I am not the kind of person who returns to things I have already consumed, especially not things as immense as Cerebus. I know what put Cerebus back into my mind, but I do not know why I felt the need to actually re-read it. That will probably reveal itself in time. I am glad I did. It has been an enriching and enlightening experience. I probably learned, and revealed more about myself in these commentaries than I did about Cerebus or Dave Sim, as is appropriate for any commentary on another's work. You can only ever really find out about what you bring to the table. I am very grateful that re-engaging with Cerebus led me the A Moment of Cerebus community and the opportunity to work with one of my heroes/influences.

Thank you to Tim for providing the venue and to everyone who took the time to read any or all of these. I hope they were worth it.

Most importantly, thank you, Dave Sim for pouring yourself into Cerebus with such relentless fervor for so many years. It is shameful that comics community has marginalized Cerebus to the extent that it has. I honestly believe Cerebus to be the greatest work of comic-art to date, and the most personal, intimate, vulnerable piece of literature or art I have ever encountered. Show me one other instance in which an artist/thinker's dramatic evolution was documented so carefully and openly within a single work. It does not exist... [Read the full review here...]

Saturday, 18 February 2017


Cerebus In Hell? #1
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
In Stores Now!
Thought we should have some "rookie content" given that this is the first Saturday that CEREBUS IN HELL? #1 is in the stores (and thank you to all of the stores who have ordered copies! Matt D at Diamond tells me that CEREBUS IN HELL? #2 is "in the house" and now has a March 1st "street date" i.e. the February issue will ALMOST ship in February)

Sean - Can you download these? I don't think there'll be room for them in the first trade (tentatively scheduled for Christmas release), but -- someday -- in an OMNIBUS CEREBUS IN HELL? COLLECTION?  It's much easier for me to annotate as we go.
(Don't know if Sandeep wants to annotate his: different writers have different attitudes on annotating their work):

page 1 - This one is one of Sandeep's but it always reminds me of "But let him summon his associates; we TOO [emphasis mine] will summon the guards of Hell"  part of Sura 96 "Clots of Blood", the first sura revealed to Prophet Muhammad.  That "too" in there seems to me to validate my God/YHWH theory.

page 2 - This was the second one that I wrote, back when CEREBUS IN HELL? was called DESECRATING CEREBUS.  I thought there was a "vandalizing" sense to the word "desecrating" but, no, it means "to make not sacred".  Oops.  The burning of the Temple of Dagon takes place in 1 Maccabees 10:49.  I think Judas Maccabee was supposed to be the meschiach (messiah) and was on track until he signed the treaty with Rome.  D'OH!

page 3 - There WAS a movie adaptation of THE LIFE OF PI, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a HIT movie. I think the character was actually a panther, as well, not a leopard.  But, close enough for comic-strip humour!

page 5 - One of Sandeep's. I forget what he had at first instead of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (a Dean Martin tune I think) but he can be forgiven, being a mere infant of 46 years.  I read that a member of Bennett's band had given him the song at some point and it sat in Bennett's underwear drawer for a number of years before he even looked at.  Still a great tune.

page 11 -  The guy nailed to the dirt is one of the few Scriptural figures in DANTE'S INFERNO (that I recognized anyway) Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest who condemned Jesus: "that one man should die over the people".  I had Sandeep change it to "two thousand years" for that reason.

page 12 - This was the first DESECRATING CEREBUS strip that I did.

page 13 - This one got built around the phrase "Internet-meme cat video" when Sandeep used it in conversation.  Being a complete Luddite, I'd never heard of such a thing.  If you can't build a gag around the words "Internet-meme cat video", you're in the wrong line of work.

page 14 - I always find the impulse to make up admission rules so as to exclude specific people inherently funny.

page 15 - I researched all the names online of boyfriends/husbands/fiancees on SEX AND THE CITY.  There sure were a lot of them!

page 20 - The first Francis Albert strip!  Based on Frank Sinatra's full name, Francis Albert Sinatra.

page 22 - Personally, I don't think there's any doubt that DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is THE definitive Batman.  Congratulations, Frank!  Spoiler warning! This strip ISN'T continued in #2!

And now TRAVIS with what OTHER comics are in your future and Sean with final (?) MINDS corrections!  

Diamond Previews Picks: February 2017

Travis Pelkie begins the first in a new regular monthly AMOC series (if Travis can be persuaded!) highlighting the Cerebus-related comics and books featured in the latest Diamond Previews catalog. Travis is co-founder of the Atomic Junk Shop, a site about comics and other fun pop culture.

Cerebus In Hell #4
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
Aardvark Vanaheim, $4.00
On Sale: 26 April 2017

The publisher says:
Cerebus makes another attempt at proving his "post-revolution" worth after the snakes take over the Infernal Realms in the epic graphic-novel length  (for this comic, anyway) 6-page "Bipedal Gender Evisceration Bloodbath Countdown of Doom the Reality Show on Ophidian Sportsnet Two." Sixteen more epic-length four-panel comic strips complete in this issue!
Diamond Order Code: FEB171010

Shang-Chi Master Of Kung Fu Vol 3
by Doug Moench, Mike Zeck & Gene Day,
Marvel Comics, $125
On Sale: March 2017

The publisher says:
Shang-Chi continues to have his deadly hands full with foes like Shockwave, the sinister Agent Syn and the weapons master Zaran! But will his mastery of kung fu be enough to overcome monstrous menaces and the mindless minions of Mordillo? He thought he'd seen the last of his most bitter enemy - but an unholy resurrection will bring Shang-Chi face-to-face once again with his fearsome father Fu Manchu! And the family reunion will get even more bitter when Shang's sister, Fah Lo Suee, renews their sibling rivalry. There'll be gang wars, death cults and mind-blowing martial-arts mayhem on land and on sea! Plus: What if the Master of Kung Fu fought on the side of Fu Manchu? Collecting Master Of Kung Fu #71-101 and What If? #16.
Diamond Order Code: SEP161119

Travis adds:
On March 1, the third Omnibus of Master of Kung Fu should be released by Marvel. As it covers issues 71-101, it stops just before Gene Day took over on pencils, but he inks the issues prior to that (and hopefully there is a fourth Omnibus coming that will have the Gene Day penciled stuff).

Splitting Image 80-Page Giant
by Don Simpson, Jim Valentino, Larry Marder & Bob Burden
Image Comics, $7.99
On Sale: April 2017

The publisher says:
To celebrate Image Comics' 25th Anniversary--the original parody book by DON SIMPSON that skewers the formation of Image and the bozos that founded it! And here's the rub--IT'S ALL TRUE!! (Well, mostly, sort of.) Plus, as a super-special bonus (because we had more pages to fill), we include the normalman-MEGATON MAN SPECIAL by SIMPSON, VALENTINO, MARDER, and BURDEN! Square-bound even! Never before reprinted (and we can certainly see why). A piece of history at your fingertips (now go wash your hands)!
Diamond Order Code: FEB170579

Travis adds:
Also in the current Previews catalog, as part of Image's 25th anniversary celebration, there's the Splitting Image 80 page giant, reprinting that 2 issue parody of the Image founders by Don Simpson. But also included is the normalman/Megaton Man Special, which includes a Cerebus cameo.

Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus Plus
by Shannon Wheeler
Dark Horse Comics, $29.99
On Sale: June 2017

The publisher says:
A deluxe hardcover featuring 32 new color story pages! This 600-page Omnibus Plus edition features five previously published Too Much Coffee Man books, plus an all-new color section! These semiautobiographical, hyperintellectual tales will appeal to both comic book insiders and pop culture fanatics. The most complete Too Much Coffee Man collection!
Diamond Order Code: FEB170076

Travis adds: 
Neat! A Too Much Coffee Man Omni! I like what I’ve read (and Dave's parody in GUYS!). Also, I believe it is the first/only comic book series/character to have an opera inspired by it! 600 pages for 30 bucks (with a color section) is a pretty good deal!

More Diamond Previews picks at Atomic Junk Shop's regular Flippin' Through Previews column.

Finishing MINDS For Good: Restoration, Proofing & The Picking Of Nits

Sean Michael Robinson:


The restoration work is all done on Minds, as of Friday morning! Which leaves me with just a few loose ends to wrap up.

As we've done in the past, I'm looking to you, Cerebus restoration patrons and fans, to help in this final polish.

Some of these things are definitely in the "picking at nits" category, but, hey, when has that stopped us in the past? If you're the type of person bothered by minute grammatical distinctions, or horrified that we're proofreading and editing twenty-year-old comics, please consider yourself warned and read no further!

Without further ado—

Page 52 panel 2 — the reverse lettering has been damaged, either when shooting the photostat or the negative itself. Because of this, it's not clear what might be missing from the first panel. My best guess (and proofreader Jeff Seiler's guess as well!) is that there were two ellipses after each "A". Which would look like this—

So -- yay or nay?

Page 82 --

Cerebus' father visits Magus Doran for help with his problem child.

Proofreader Jeff suggests adding commas throughout Cerebus' father's speech. For instance, "Th' hat. 'Is Mum's idea it was." would become, ""Th' hat. 'Is Mum's idea, it was." He's suggesting four on this page.

To my sensibilities these are unnecessary, and the absence of the commas here is actually working to communicating the rhythm of his speech patterns. So I have a strong "no" here myself, but wanted to run this by you all as well. (And Dave!)
Yay or nay?

Page 205

In panel 3 the Dave character says to Cerebus: "...with no regard for the ideal "nature"-? A mistake grounded in his blind belief in iconolatry."

Jeff Seiler points out — "The OED defines ICONOLATRY as: the worship of religious images or icons. Thus, the phrase "belief in iconolatry" is redundant. A better wording would be "practice of iconolatry" or just take out "belief" and make it "blind iconolatry."

Normally, I'm against "correcting" dialogue. After all, couldn't the speaker be in error? But should this general tendency to leave well enough alone change when the speaker is, in a certain way, also the author?

Any thoughts on this? Leave as is, or change to one of Jeff's suggestions?

Page 152—

In the second word balloon, Dave lists the Five Cornerstones of Cirinism, followed by a colon, and then each cornerstone listed individually, terminated by a period. Jeff desires these periods to be semicolons instead, and while that might be slightly more correct on some Algebra of Grammar level, on an aesthetic level, it looks wrong, and seems to unnecessarily complicate the structure of this section.

Anyone want to stick up for Jeff's semicolon suggestion?

Page 245—

Cerebus is about to have his "injury-to-eye" experience, whilst "Dave" quotes Pink Floyd lyrics to him. In panel five, the lone balloon says,


Unfortunately, according to that pesky OED, and the Pink Floyd lyrics in question, it's "pinprick."

So, change to

or preserve the rhythm of the sung lyric by changing it to



Pages 104, 105, 100, 101, 110

These pages have larger image areas than the surrounding pages (as befits the scale changes depicted in the drawings themselves.) Unfortunately, that means when I enlarge these images to 104 percent of their original size (as the rest of the artwork has been enlarged), there's no room left for page numbers on these pages.

So I could 

a. shrink the artwork a bit for these pages
b. leave the page numbers off for these pages (what I'm inclined to do!)
c. put a small white box over the artwork to accommodate the black page number

Page 270

In the third panel, Cerebus says, 



Which Jeff believes should be 



I could go either way on this one. It's freezing, Cerebus is miserable and not at his most articulate. Is this a "mistake" of the character, or did "The Letterer" just leave out a word accidentally?

Finally, the end

The last decision is the one I could use the most input on. Unlike the majority of the books so far, MINDS is already the perfect length to accommodate the signature length of our new paper (which need to be multiples of 16 pages). Which means, we can either not add any pages of length, or we'd need to add sixteen pages to add any at all.

Which means, if we don't add any physical pages, then we have either one or two pages total to fit in the following--

a. Cerebus Archive thank-yous
b. credits on the restoration, scanning, copy edit, etc
c. Aardvark-Vanaheim address and book logo
d. Art Dragnet credits and thank-yous
e. any art enlargements

I say "one or two," because for the first time, I'm considering using the facing page of the last story page of the book. 

I've avoided it before because I think it typically looks pretty tacky, but it doesn't seem quite as bad to me this time as the last story page is really an advertisement for the next volume anyway. 

Any thoughts on this? Should I cram it all into one page to preserve that last white space at the end of the story? Or spread it out over two? Something else?? If we do use both pages, what image might you want to see enlarged for the final page? 

And that's where Minds is at! Looking forward to your magical solutions.

Friday, 17 February 2017


Two more Cerebus in Hell #1's as soon as I can get Sandeep to post the covers here:


Thanks for dropping off the new CIH? strips.  I'll leave the cheque out back in Camp David for you. 

The big priority right now is getting cover parodies and 4 strips for each cover parody done.  I'd like to get BATVARK #1 solicited for a cover date July which means getting it to Diamond sometime early in March.   

I'm going to ask the AMOC readership to make #1 suggestions (as you can see from Sandeep's brilliant STRANGE CEREBUS, it doesn't have to be an actual #1 you're making fun of).  The important thing is that it be an easy cover to modify with one of the template Cerebi we're using. [Sandeep's already got a WATCHMEN parody in development and a finished DARK VARK RETURNS (both very funny)].

For DARK VARK RETURNS I'm going to do "BATVARK'S WEDDING VOWS" as a two- or three- parter so if you can get the DVR one ready to go with the reprints, that should about do it.  Another finished #1!

You Photoshop guys out there, if you can knock together a parody cover and e-mail it to Tim [momentofcerebus at gmail dot com], we might as well all be looking at the suggestions as they come in. It doesn't have to be publication-ready just enough so we can get the idea.



"Attached is a parody cover of X-men 141.  Dedicated to and inspired by Eddie in the comments section. The proportions are a bit off for a typical comic cover... but I can adjust this later if the time ever comes where it NEEDS adjusted."
Benjamin Hobbs

Cover suggested by Lee Thacker

Cover suggested by Lee Thacker

"I've attached a mock-up cover for a famous #1 issue as per Dave's request.
I went with the lowest hanging fruit."
  Benjamin Hobbs

Cover suggested by Benjamin Hobbs

"throwing my hat into the ring..."
Oliver Simonsen

"slight update variation...nevermind...taking my hat back out of the ring lol"
 Oliver Simonsen

In Progress...

Weekly Update #170: The Cerebus / Starchy The Dark Spud Crossover!

...featuring Terrible Lizard Comics, Rick Veitch's Spotted Stone & Rob Walton's Ragmop!

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 34

Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
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