Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Batvark #1-- Light, Frothy Hellfire, the Last Wednesday of Every Month...

JUN171076 BATVARK #1 Order from your Local Comics Shop now!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 18

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

Part 18
Negatives Miscellanea

Greetings!

This is the eighteenth 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.


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

***
This week we'll wrap up the discussion of negatives with some stray observations about working with negatives in general. 

A) As mentioned in an earlier installment, it really is important to clean them of any developing fluid/gunk/tape stickiness/anything else that's visible on the surface before you scan, unless that discoloration etc happens to be in the clear, i.e. separated from the art in a way that would make it easy to clean digitally.

The temptation with most digital processes, I think, is to "fix it in the box," but you're almost always better off getting the cleanest capture of your materials as possible and only saving it for digital cleanup when you really have to.

And then you have situations like the below image, which would be a total disaster to try to deal with after the fact, the mechanical tone making most of the go-to cleanup options impossible. 



B) The best negatives can be very good.

Because we've spent so much time here detailing how to fix problems with negatives, you might make the assumption that negatives are difficult to work with, or always give you mediocre results.

Well, I'm here to reassure you that the best negative can be pretty darn good. 

Take a look at this portion of a page from Church and State. I had cleaned the negative (below) prior to the original artwork (above) coming in from IDW. And at least on this scale, on a screen, these look identical or almost identical to each other.

But the differences, slight though they are, are instructive.






C) Assuming an equally quality scan, original artwork is almost always going to give you a better result, especially in the finest areas.

The above extreme close-ups are pretty good examples of this phenomenon. Although this is a very well-shot negative, there's still some loss of detail in the fine areas. This is actually very similar to the amount of detail you might expect if, instead of scanning your original artwork to color and then sharpening before making your bitmap, you scanned straight to bitmap. Depending on the optical sharpness and resolving power of your scanner, you'd see as much or more blow-out of detail. It's an issue of optical resolving power. The softer the imaging system, the softer the details, and the more likely blowout is. That said, how noticeable this kind of thing is in the printed art is really dependent on the reader's observational keenness, and the, let's say, durability of the artist's individual style.

There's a reason that the Milton Caniff, "Make everything super chunky black and bold as if there's gonna be some color on top of it" style dominated American comics for so long.


D) The tone on a negative is not always the same density as the tone originally placed on the art board.

Just a stray, time-capsule-style observation for anyone reading this now or in the future. It took me a while to figure this one out. Camera operators shooting film negatives would routinely over-expose (actually underexpose, since it was in reverse) sections of very fine tone in order to prevent clogging or dot gain on that tone on press.

When I say routine, I mean that it was done by at least two of the three Canadian printers that worked on the early Cerebus books, and an older prepress person at another modern printer mentioned it to me in conversation. I haven't seen mention of the process in any of the prepress manuals I've read, however, these kind of tricks were likely to travel around in less formal ways.

The process would be something like this—before photographing a page, the camera operator would identify any tones that were of a very high LPI (lines per inch), i.e. tiny dots more prone to gain. Then the operator would cut a mask to cover the tone during a certain length of exposure, and then uncover it for the rest.

Sometimes this mask covered only the figure. Other times it covered an entire panel. Some months, they seem to have experimented with spiking the exposure for the entirety of the issue (leading to much burned-off detail. See Cerebus issues 74 and 75, which are radically different in the original art.)

Here's a sample, from the same page as above. The top one is from the original art. The bottom is from the negative. This entire panel has had its exposure spiked. Notice how everything is fairly uniformly smaller, and some of the detail is burned away.



I don't know that anything should be done about something like this after the fact. I certainly have avoided this kind of thing myself in creating new editions of the books, as it mucks with the overall values of the page when you make some things a different density mechanically than the artist saw them on their board. But there's not really any way to turn back the clock on something like this unless you have the original artwork to compare it to. I mention it for your edification alone.

However!

E) If something applies to one page of an issue, there's a pretty good chance it applies to the rest of the issue as well.

Since we've spent the past three installments talking about correcting existing problems in negatives, it seems worth mentioning that, if you're working with negatives that were created for a serial publication, whatever the "best" solution you've arrived at is for a certain page of an installment, it most likely applies just as well to the remainder of the pages of that installment.

This is because negatives for an entire issue were usually shot one by one, in sequence, in a single session. Same camera operators, same stat camera, same film.

Which gets us to the last observation, for now—

F) Working with negatives is a lot easier than working with original art with aged mechanical tone.

Pluses-- 

-Easier to "gang-adjust", i.e. script the majority of the work.
-Cleanup is easier, as some long-toiling camera operator and stripper already did the worst of it for you in past.
-Although they can get dirty, they can also be cleaned. And nothing on a negative is shrinking or gradually self-destructing, unlike that acid-filled art board with rubber cement and Letratone continually eating away at the surface.

Next week: Newsprint, at last!

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

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Chester Brown: "Daniel Read"


Paid For It (2016)
by 'Chesty Matt' aka Joe Matt
(being a satire of Chester Brown's "Paying For It")


Daniel Read
by Chester Brown
(first posted on Patreon, 27 May 2017)

In response to my Sex-Work Pride piece (April 15th, reposted on A Moment Of Cerebus on April 17th), Sean Michael Robinson posted (on A-M-O-C) an anti-prostitution article by Daniel Read. I posted a short assessment of the article on May 1st, which was reposted on A-M-O-C on May 2nd. Read saw it there and responded in the comments section.

I noted that one of his sources — Melissa Farley — has been discredited. Read half-heartedly defends Farley — who is an academic — by putting down the source I linked to: Maggie McNeill. Read tries to invalidate Maggie’s perspective by noting that she’s not an academic. That is correct; while Maggie did receive a university education (and worked for a while as a librarian), she is not an academic. She’s a sex-worker and has been one for many years. Thinking that Farley knows more about sex-work than Maggie is just ridiculous. Farley’s interviewed some sex-workers, but Maggie knows the business inside-out and has many sex-worker friends (and fans) all over the world. Maggie is obviously going to be much more knowledgable on the subject than Farley. As for my charge that Farley has been discredited: once the courts start to dismiss an academic's “research” as being too biased to be useful, I’d say it’s fair to say that that academic been discredited. (Here’s the link again to Maggie’s piece on Farley, which includes a quote from Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court on why she considered Farley’s work to be of little substance.)

Apparently Read worships academics and doesn’t recognize that they’re humans who are capable of being biased, making mistakes, and even lying. Do academics know more about the professions they study than the people who are in those professions? If an academic claimed to understand cartooning better than I do, I’d be sceptical.

As for Read’s other sources: point-for-point, Read’s statistics are countered by Maggie’s. Anyone who thinks Read’s partisan stats are convincing really should look at the other side’s numbers.

“Vapid” and “semantic” are the words that Read uses to characterize the idea that there’s a difference between legalizing sex-work and decriminalizing it. It’s not a semantic matter to prostitutes.

All of the legalization systems that I’m aware of have required that prostitutes register with the government for a licence. All people engaged in the work without a licence would be breaking the law. In the 1960s homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada — one didn’t need a licence to engage in gay sex, one just needed the consent of an adult partner. What if, instead of decriminalizing homosexuality, the government had legalized it, requiring gay people to acquire licences to have gay sex. Homosexuality was heavily stigmatized. (It still is stigmatized, but the stigma was much more intense in the 60s.) A lot of gays would not have wanted to go to a government office to admit their private sex-life to some bureaucrat. Could they trust that the law wasn’t going to change? Could they trust that the information would be secure? No, if the Canadian government had legalized homosexuality in the 1960s, most gay people would not have registered for licences, and so they would have continued to be criminals for engaging in consensual sex.

Sex-work is as stigmatized now as homosexuality was back in the 1960s. In regions where governments have legalized sex-work, the majority of the workers have refused to register for licences. The result is that a few workers are legal and the majority are still working illegally and are subject to the dangers of working illegally, including the greater likelihood of encountering violence.

Many years ago I asked Denise if she would get a licence if sex-work was legalized. Of course she said no. And why should she? It’s none of the government’s business what she and I do in the privacy of her bedroom — we’re not hurting anyone. The negative consequences of requiring prostitutes to have licences outweigh any potential benefits. Indeed, I don’t even see any benefits.

Decriminalization would allow any adult who wants to engage in sex-work to be able to do so without needing anyone’s permission. And it would allow anyone to pay such a sex-worker for consensual activities. In other words, sex-for-pay should be like all other sex — you should need the consent of your sexual partner (or partners) and that’s the only person (or people) you should need consent from. On the other hand, legalization requires sex-workers and their clients to also get the consent of the government. That’s a big difference, not an inconsequential one as Read seems to think.

Read chides me for ignoring the part of his article that dealt with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the supposed widespread “trafficking” of eastern European women that resulted. I ignored it because, from a 2017 Canadian (and American) perspective, it’s irrelevant to the subjects of decriminalizing sex-work and the morality of the profession. The majority of sex-workers in Canada are not from the former U-S-S-R and have not been forced into the work. Criminalizing ALL prostitution because a small number of prostitutes have been forced into it makes no sense. Police should endeavour to identify who has been forced into the work, punish whoever did the forcing, and leave willing sex-workers and their clients alone.

In my May 1st post, I wrote this about Read’s piece:
“Read’s article boils down to a familiar argument: because SOME prostitutes SOMETIMES encounter violence, ALL prostitution is wrong. Why is it wrong in instances where there’s no violence or force? Read avoids that question, no doubt because he doesn’t have an answer for it.”
Read avoided answering that question in his article, and he avoided answering it when I directly posed it, even though he saw that I’d posed it. I’d say that pretty much proves that he doesn’t have a rational explanation for his negative opinion of sex-work.

/////////////////////////////

In my May 1st post I asked the A-M-O-C anti-prostitutionists who think all prostitution is morally wrong to explain what’s morally wrong about about my sex-for-pay relationship with Denise. Most of the A-M-O-C anti-prostitutionists ignored the question. Perhaps they’ve gotten bored with the discussion, but I suspect that they don’t have an answer to the question. Only the individual going by the name A Fake Name addressed the question. He-or-she writes:
“[I]f you and her [sic] have found a way this works and are both happy, then I’m glad for you, as glad as I can be for someone I’ve never met. I’m not condemning your relationship.”
On April 20th at 19:38 A Fake Name wrote that “paying/charging for sex is pathetic/scummy.” On May 4th at 19:58 A Fake Name wrote that sex-work is “damaging in the long term for both men and women.” A Fake Name WAS condemning my relationship with Denise — he-or-she called it pathetic, scummy, and damaging. If A Fake Name genuinely thinks there’s no problem with my sex-for-pay relationship with Denise, then he-or-she is either contradicting him-or-herself or he-or-she has changed his-or-her mind on the matter. (And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with changing one’s opinion, but A Fake Name doesn’t seem to be acknowledging that that’s what he-or-she is doing.)

If someone wrote that gay people are pathetic, scummy, and damaged, almost everyone would recognize that person as a homophobe. If someone wrote that black people are pathetic, scummy, and damaged, almost everyone would recognize that person as a racist. A Fake Name has a prejudice, and so do the other anti-prostitutionists on A-M-O-C, and so does Daniel Read.


Chester Brown has been writing and drawing comics and graphic novels since the 1980s: Yummy Fur, Ed The Happy Clown, I Never Liked You, Louis Riel, Paying For It, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus. You can help provide him with a stable source of income while he works on his next graphic novel by donating at Patreon.

Monday, 29 May 2017

eBay Auction: "Cerebus In Hell?" Advance Proof Copies

CEREBUS IN HELL?
AUTOGRAPHED PROOF COPIES OF 14 ISSUES

This auction is for FOURTEEN AUTOGRAPHED PROOF COPIES of Cerebus In Hell?, co-written by Dave Sim and Sandeep Atwal. Each issue is 28 pages in total (including front and back covers) for a total of 392 pages.

This auction includes the five issues of CEREBUS IN HELL? published in 2016 and 2017, as well as the next NINE Cerebus In Hell? "one-shots" to be published in late 2017 and 2018. Each Cerebus In Hell "one-shot" reprints Cerebus In Hell? strips but also includes brand new material as well as a parody cover of a well-known comic book.

Auction items include:
  • Cerebus In Hell? #0
  • Cerebus In Hell? #1
  • Cerebus In Hell? #2
  • Cerebus In Hell? #3
  • Cerebus In Hell? #4
  • Batvark #1
  • Aardvark Comics #1
  • Strange Cerebus #1
  • Death of Cerebus in Hell? #1
  • The Vark Knight Returns #1
  • Watchvark #1
  • Amazing Cerebus #1
  • World's Finite Cerebus #1
  • Love and Aardvarks #1
Each issue is signed by Dave Sim and Sandeep Atwal.

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 5: Cerebus #20


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 is the fourth of his five introductions in Swords volume 5. Also check out the full 'Swords Of Cerebus' Introductions Index.


“Cerebus’ mental acrobatics seemed like the best way to kick off
the endless complications and intrigues to come,” says Dave.

Next week: Barry Windsor-Smith

Batvark #1-- Burn for All Eternity, the Last Wednesday of Every Month...

JUN171076 BATVARK #1 Order from your Local Comics Shop now!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Gerhard: The Irony Of Drawing Aardvarks


AMOC:
Gerhard, thanks for emailing across your latest batch of convention sketches from the Motor City Comicon. I was wondering, do all these convention sketches become a chore to do after a while? That's a lot of drawing you get done at each convention.

GERHARD:
No, not a chore. Though sometimes, like at the Escape Pod signing, it seems like I spend the whole time with my head down sketching instead of interacting with people. But if I interact with people, I don't get any drawing done. I tend to talk with my hands.

That's why it's great to have Shelley there (other than that's it's just great to have Shelley there). She talks with the folks while I draw. When it gets slow, she has her crayons and colours; either a sketch I've done or a black and white print.


After a while, the sketches all start to look the same. If I try to change them up a bit, they take too long or don't turn out as well. So it's better to stick with what I can do fairly quickly. I have to keep reminding myself that these are con 'SKETCHES'.

Although, these days they call them 'commissions'. I guess so that they can charge more. To me, commissions are what I do at home at my drawing board. Cons are for sketches.

Every show is basically the same and yet completely different. We never know who we'll meet, what the people sitting next to us will be like (almost always great!) and what kind of celebrities Shel will bump into. Sometimes quite literally. My personal highlight from the last show was hanging out Sunday evening with Dave Gibbons and bunch of other great folks, having a few drinks and lot of laughs.


When I started doing shows again people would ask for sketches and they would want a Cerebus. Nobody wants a sketch of a lamppost and chair... well, that's not true... at a recent show someone overheard me saying that and he asked for a sketch of a lamppost and a chair. We forgot to take a picture of it (happens a lot), which is too bad. It had a sort of post-modern, surrealist quality to it. Jeff Seiler also has a lamppost sketch and many other 'background' objects.

But for the most part people want a Cerebus sketch.

I would explain that I did not draw the characters, Dave did, They didn't care, they wanted a Cerebus. That's when I started calling them 'Gerebus' because they don't look quite like Dave would had done them.

After having spent all those years 'in the background', the irony is not lost me that it's now ME out there, drawing aardvarks.




Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

Keep up to date with Gerhard's latest news at Gerz Blog!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Friday, 26 May 2017

Batvark #1-- What Fresh Hell? Is This?

JUN171076 BATVARK #1 Order from your Local Comics Shop now!

Weekly Update #184: Tales Of The Frozen Dead... and Colin Upton!


This week featuring:
Cerebus In Hell?... In Frozen Dead #1/2
by Johnny Harley

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Cover Art for the Comics Journal

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.

We last looked at Dave Sim's Albatross #5 back in November of last year in The Deciding Vote and Cerebus' New Republic.  It covered Cerebus #45 through 49 and had 79 of the 80 pages in the notebook scanned.

Around that same time, Dave and Deni did an interview for the Comics Journal. Dave did the cover for issues 82 and 83. Looking through the scans of the notebook I found a preliminary sketch for the cover. That seemed pretty much done to me:

Notebook #5, page 62
Only a few minor differences from the finished covers:

The Comics Journal #82-83 (July-August 1983)


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Batvark #1 -- Hell Awaits You At Your LCS, the Last Wednesday of Each Month...

JUN171076 BATVARK #1 Order from your Local Comics Shop now!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 17

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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 17
Working with "Bad" Negatives, B

Greetings!

This is the seventeenth 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.


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

***

It would be hard to talk about bad photography in the original Cerebus series without discussing Gerhard's debut on the book, which happened to coincide with the with the worst photography since the issue we discussed last week. Did Preney Print and Litho have a turnover of their technical staff? Were they experimenting with different film, or new techniques to deal with the increasing levels of fine detail they were being asked to print on pulpy newsprint? We'll never know for sure, but if you have an original printing of issues 65 and 66 handy, the results speak for themselves.

The problem seemed to be the same as the issue we discussed last week— the exposure contrast point being set in a place that caused all kinds of unintentional "detail" to be printed on the negative along with the intentional. Sometimes this manifested itself as clogged Cerebus dot-tone (faint unerased pencil coming through the image). And other pages?

In issue 66, Gerhard's second issue on the book, there's a six page scene in which Posey and Cerebus discuss/rehearse the speech he's planning to give later on. The strange fog in the basement is suddenly cut by the "strange glowing white thingy."

Here's a peek at what that sequence looked like in print—


I actually asked Gerhard about this sequence in my interview with him way back in December 2010. Here's what he had to say:

Robinson: When we hit 305, is this some type of splatter on top of a Letratone?
Gerhard: Nope, again it’s the stipple tone. I would use two layers of it. The lighter gray is one layer, and I would put another layer of the stipple tone on top of it. If you look at the original pages it looks really good. If you look at this page reduced and printed on newsprint, it’s like “Ugh, that looks muddy. Don’t do that again!” That was the other thing learning to draw for reproduction. Most of the stuff I had done up till then was for framing, not reduced and reproduced. I would do the pages and I wouldn’t actually see how it turned out until the printed book came in. And I would look at it and go “Oh, that didn’t work; that did. Do that again; don’t do that again!” These issues were pretty much done without the knowledge of what it was going to look like in the final book.
When I started to work on this section of the Church & State I restoration, I wanted to know what the original art actually looked like. What would it have reproduced like under the best of circumstances, and could I bring the negatives to that state?

Fortunately, I was helped by a visit by the very generous James Guarnotta, who came down to San Diego from his native Los Angeles and brought with him his large Cerebus collection to be scanned for the restoration project.

And he happened to own one page from this sequence!



As you can see from the reproduction here, the original looks extremely different from the reproduction. Gerhard used what's been called a "mezzotint" tone (emulating the traditional mezzotint pattern produced by roughening the printing plate with a rocker, and then smoothing/shaving areas to lighten it). Gerhard used multiple layers of this light fleck tone to create the streams of rolling fog, visually adding to the density of the effect with each layer. He used up to three layers per page to "paint" with the fleck tone, in a really interesting way.

But as you can see from the image above, it reproduced horribly, the two-tiered areas of tone reproducing almost completely black and obscuring almost all of the hatching below with the exception of the thicker contour lines.

Here's a peek at the actual negative.





So, in the grayscale scan, we can already see lots more information than in the newsprint reproduction. I suspect there's more hiding in there. Let's make a fairly extreme levels adjustment, to bring the lightest tone more in line with how it looks on the original art scan.

I bring up the Levels command (Ctrl-L) and move the Mid-point Arrow/Gamma Control to the left, fairly extremely. And lo and behold, the detail begins to appear, and starts to make clear what happened.



Look at the new detail that's opened up on the darkest patches. This is the same problem as the previously discussed issue, with a poorly calibrated stat camera. The overlapping tone has created unintentional dark patches, muddying up the entire effect even before the ink has hit the page.

Although our extreme Gamma adjustment has shown us the detail hiding beneath the fog, we still haven't made it stick. Now instead of running our negative Action, we're going to do the following manually—

a. resize to the desired size (you can even play back just this line of your previous Action)
b. make a copy of the layer, as normal, and name it "Sharpened" (or play back this line of your previous Action)
c. make a Threshold adjustment layer ( (or play back this line of your previous Action)

Now we'll sharpen and adjust manually, in an attempt to keep all the good information while eliminating the bad.

Bring up the Unsharpen Mask filter, 500 percent and 1.3 px radius, and then play with the Threshold command until it's grabbing all of the obvious detail in the light fleck tone but is largely not affecting the noise.



Now I'm going to go in really close, and bring up the Levels command again. Another reduction in the Gamma (Mids) control, and a reduction in the Lights control as well, trying to knock out some more of the noise.



Now repeat those two steps again, until you've knocked out the majority of the noise.

And here's the full result, in direct comparison. The first image below is raw scan, bitmap-converted. The second is the adjusted and enhanced scan, bitmap-converted.





There are still a few weird artifacts in some of the overlapping fog areas, and there's plenty of new noise to clean up in the black areas and lettering, but it's remarkable how similar the image now is to the page of original art we have. 

Next week: The last post on negatives—I swear!

To download the negative scan we've been working from this week, click here.

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

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Snikt!

Snikt!
Wolverine Meets Wolveroach (198?)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday, 22 May 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 5: Cerebus #19


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 is the third of his five introductions in Swords volume 5. Also check out the full 'Swords Of Cerebus' Introductions Index.


"I wanted to show that Lord Julius (like Elrod) always lands on his feet
and that (unlike Elrod) it is as a result of his own political timing
and manipulation of resources at hand," says Dave.

Next week: Neal Adams inspires Dave to walk the extra mile.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: May 2017

Travis Pelkie returns with his regular monthly selection for Cerebus fans of 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. To see your comics featured here or at the Atomic Junk Shop feel free to send an email to Travis at: atomicjunkshoptravis [at] outlook [dot] com.


War Of The Independents #4
by Don Simpson & Others
Red Anvil Inc, $3.99
In stores: 26 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY171763

The publisher says:
Joined by a team of The Tick, Gumby & Pokey, Bone, Flaming Carrot, Felix the Cat, Milk & Cheese, Rat Bastard, Reid Fleming, Usagi Yojimbo, Mr. Spook, Zippy the Pinhead, Toxie, Protoplasman and Too Much Coffee Man, our hero Cerebus looks for his helmet, only to find it in the hands of Public Enemy!

Travis says:
Oh. My. Goodness.  I did not expect to ever see this series again.  A must have for Cerebus fans, as the little grey guy plays a key role in the series, as well as any fan of indie comics from the '80s, '90s, and '00s.  For some reason, I didn't get issue 2, so I have to find that, but the third issue was out about 5 or 6 years ago.  Talk about a long wait!


Groo: Play Of The Gods #1
by Sergio Aragones & Mark Evanier
Dark Horse Comics, $3.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170050

The publisher says:
Shakespeare wrote, "The play's the thing." Or was that Nathan Lane? Either way, the play matters, whether you be man or god... or even Groo. In this, the first installment in the newest Groo miniseries (which is continued from the last Groo miniseries), the stupidest hero in the comic book shop finds himself in a new village... a village where you pray to the proper god or you pray for your life. And even the other gods know that they are all players. It's from the award-winning team of Sergio Aragon├ęs and Mark Evanier, with lettering by Stan Sakai, coloring by Tom Luth, and a running commentary by the gods above.

Travis says:
One of the series in the running to match or surpass Cerebus in number of issues, Groo is also a funny barbarian parody (and the characters met on the cover of an Amazing Heroes Annual -- I think).  More Groo is always good.


Hard Boiled (HC)
by Frank Miller & Jeof Darrow
Dark Horse Comics, $19.99
In stores: 13 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170012

The publisher says:
Carl Seltz is a suburban insurance investigator, a loving husband, and a devoted father. Nixon is a berserk, homicidal tax collector racking up mind-boggling body counts in a diseased urban slaughterhouse. Unit Four is the ultimate robot killing machine-and the last hope of the future's enslaved mechanical servants. And they're all the same psychotic entity.

Travis says:
One of the early things Frank Miller did after leaving the Marvel and DC treadmills.  This is a newly recolored version and people suggest to me that I should get it.


Mr X: The Modern Age
by Dean Motter
Dark Horse Comics, $29.99
In stores: 20 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170040

The publisher says:
In the retrofuturistic metropolis of Radiant City, its mysterious creator, Mister X, must protect the city and its residents from the architecture of the city itself, which poses a danger to all those within it! Collecting every Mister X comic published by Dark Horse Comics, this trade includes Condemned, Excavations, and Razed, along with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes material! All of Dark Horse's Mister X material collected in an affordable paperback!

Travis says:
Originally from Canada's own Vortex Comics, Mister X was revived in recent years at Dark Horse, and this is a collection of the stuff they have published of the character.


TMNT Usagi Yojimbo
by Stan Sakai
IDW, $7.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170382

The publisher says:
The TMNT are teleported to a world of talking animals-the world of Usagi Yojimbo! When the samarai rabbit embarks on a quest to save Japan and the deadly Jei blocks his path, a Turtle team-up may be the only chance for survival!

Travis says:
Two other long running indie cartoon animals here, with Usagi Yojimbo meeting up with the more recent versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Should be fun, and there's also a HC version with extras offered.


Mage: The Hero Denied #0
by Matt Wagner
Image Comics, $1.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170639

The publisher says:
Matt Wagner returns with the third and final volume of his epic fantasy trilogy. This long-awaited conclusion follows the adventures of the reluctant everyman hero Kevin Matchstick, who, after encountering a shaggy and beguiling wizard, discovers he is the reincarnation of the legendary Pendragon and able to wield the power of the mystical weapon, Excalibur. The story picks up several years after the fateful climax of The Hero Defined and finds Kevin beginning to once again doubt the virtue of his actions and the course of his destiny.  This introductory, half-sized issue #0 continues Mage's tradition of an "Interlude" short-adventure, bridging the gap between this series and the previous storyline.

Travis says:
Matt Wagner's roman a superhero clef is finally beginning its final phase with The Hero Denied, and The Hero Discovered reprints (I believe) the Comico series.  Presumably the middle series (Defined) will be published soon, and you can see the Dave Sim and Gerhard stand-ins then.


Street Angel Gang
by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg
Image Comics, $19.99
In stores: 26 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170648

The publisher says:
What if Kal El had been found by the Warriors instead of the Kents? The deadliest girl alive accidentally joins a super violent street gang. Are the Bleeders the family Jesse never had, or is Jesse the child they never wanted? What? Free snacks at the gang tryout party! Also, SCANDAL-one of the Bleeders is a spy!

Travis says:
I believe Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca were influenced at least a certain degree by Dave Sim (some of the lettering in the SLG run had a Cerebus feel to it, to me).  This is the second new book of the character, whose adventures are damn fine funnybooks.


Kirby 100
edited by John Morrow & Jon B. Cooke
TwoMorrows Publishing, $34.95
In stores: 16 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY171932

The publisher says:
The party starts here! TwoMorrows and the Jack Kirby Collector magazine celebrate Jack Kirby's 100th birthday in style with the release of KIRBY100, a full-color visual holiday for the King of comics! It features an all-star line-up of 100 comics pros who critique key images from Kirby's 50-year career, admiring his page layouts, dramatics, and storytelling skills, and lovingly reminiscing about their favorite characters and stories. Featured are Bruce Timm, Alex Ross, Walter Simonson, John Byrne, Alan Davis, Joe Sinnott, Steve Rude, Adam Hughes, Wendy Pini, John Romita Sr., Dave Gibbons, P. Craig Russell, and dozens more of the top names in comics. Their essays serve to honor Jack's place in comics history, and prove (as if there's any doubt) that Kirby is King!

Travis says:
A big book celebrating the centennial of the King.  Cool.


Bernie Wrightson:
Art & Design For Gang Of Seven Animation Studio
by Bernie Wrightson
Hermes Press, $60.00
In stores: 23 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY172114

The publisher says:
Bernie Wrightson, comic book artist and illustrator extraordinaire has worked creating comic books, illustration, and conceptual design for film. Wrightson's extensive design work for the Gang of Seven Animation Studio, while known, has never been documented until now with the creation of this new in-depth monograph that utilizes the archives of the studio. Marvel at concept drawings, model sheets, and hundreds of designs for projects including Biker Mice From Mars, The Juice, and Freak Show. All of the artwork in this book has been scanned directly from the original artwork so fans can savior Wrighton's genius up close and personal. Also included in this monograph is an introductory essay, an in-depth interview, and photographs taken during his tenure as an associate partner of the studio.

Travis says:
A Bernie Wrightson art book! Should be pretty to look at!


Sh*t My President Says
by Shannon Wheeler
IDW, $14.99
In stores: 16 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170525

The publisher says:
Some people are saying, I don't know, you tell me, but a lot of people are saying this is the greatest book of the year. This guy, Shannon Wheeler, he draws these cartoons for the New Yorker, MAD, the Onion-he's very, very, good, okay? Now he's illustrated the most incredible tweets. Wow! You won't believe what he does with these tweets. I mean, these tweets changed the world, folks. It's true! It's very true. EVERYONE is going to want this book - even the haters and losers (Sad!).

Travis says:
Too Much Coffee Man's Shannon Wheeler goes for low hanging fruit with this book of illustrated tweets of the US president.


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