Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: Touch Not The Priestess

MARGARET LISS:
This week we're looking at issue #83, and in specific, pages 8 to 10 or if you're following along in the phonebook, CHURCH & STATE II page 642 to 644. Dave first sketched out some layouts for page 8 and 9 on page 28 of the notebook and added the punch line from page 9 (though it isn't per verbatim yet):

Notebook 6, page 28

We then skip a head to page 32 of notebook 6 for the dialogue for the pages. The notebook pages between page 28 and page 32 have some dialogue for the earlier pages in the issue, a blank notebook page, and a "Got Live If You Want It Tour '86" poster sketch. Perhaps just unused slogan for the UK Tour that happened in 1986?

Starting at the top of page 32 the dialogue for page 8 goes across for two lines of the Countess' dialogue, and the it goes down to the line at which time Dave starts numbering the bits of Michelle's soliloquy by which panel they appear in. He also crossed off some bits that didn't make the cut.

Notebook 6, page 32

It looks like Dave revised the dialogue at least three times that I can see. The first 'revision' was the addition of the words 'frankly' and 'I mean' in front of two pieces of the Countess' dialogue. Those pieces appear on the finished page just like they do in the notebook.

Then we can see some blue pencil crossing off dialogue and adding new dialogue. For example, the bit labeled '2' was "Of course I never ASKED. I didn't even know who he was until the end of my first year....". Dave crossed off 'Of course' and replaced it with "at the same time." The marked up text is the line that is in the finished art, page 644 of CHURCH & STATE.

There are a couple lines that weren't used "He never explained why I was an exception to the rule" and "The next day he told me that one day a woman would stand against him that her will (?) would ultimately prevail."

Was this unused dialogue from Weisshaupt about the United Feldwar States' defeat to the Cirinist forces? The revolution which happens while Cerebus is on the moon, from which he returns to a Cirinist held Iest. Or was he talking about Michelle, how she was the exception to his male only University? Yet he keeps her in an apartment with a job of which he controls the wages. Even then, she still helped him in the end, giving Cerebus his message.

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

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

It Looked Good On Paper!

DAVE SIM:
One of those "It Looked Good On Paper" things -- literally! Mimi Cruz and Alan Carroll of Night Flight Comics had sent us this incredibly cool photo of the Salt Lake City Library: worm's eye view of the superstructure for our 2006 signing. I did my part: a worm's eye view of "old Cerebus" with "Torah Cerebus" in behind and then in behind him was going to be "bartender Cerebus". Then Gerhard traced the photo and -- as soon as you looked at it -- it was definitely "What in the HECK am I looking at?"

So we went to Plan B instead.

It was when we got back from Salt Lake City that Gerhard announced that he had had enough.



Monday, 21 July 2014

Eddie Khanna: Action Comics #563

Action Comics #593 (DC Comics, January 1985)
by Robert Loren Fleming & Keith Giffin
EDDIE KHANNA:
Dave, there it goes again.

I had this comic out for some reason. I had been reading it a few years ago because of the Ambush Bug story and I guess I never put it away. So I saw it was still out, flipped it open and boom, right on the front page is a picture of Cerebus on a wall behind Ambush Bug.

Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any stranger, I looked over at the advertisement on the inside front cover for model cars.

Is it just me, or is that Stan Drake’s infamous convertible that someone has drawn to sell these things in the comic book medium (available as a t-shirt)?

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any stranger than THAT, Fisher's post the very next day on AMOC was about the model car you used to draw Stan Drake's convertible, along with the photos of it.

That was why I asked him if he knew the brand of the model car you used. I’m pretty sure it’s not Monogram Plastic Model Kits, but you never know. Just curious. Also curious about who the artist who did the original drawing used in the ad was.

(postscript)

Leaving a restaurant a few days ago, and what appeared to be the exact same car pulled up at the stoplight as I was crossing the street. These cars aren't really common around here.


DAVE SIM:
In answer to your question, Eddie, no the model in Dave Fisher's photo was an all metal (with plastic detailing) model I found in a downtown Kitchener junk shop back in the glamourpuss days. Very weird day: they had a model Corvette and facing it they also had a jigsaw puzzle of an SL 300 gull-wing Mercedes like the one that Alex Raymond owned.

"Oh, well, it's a 1957 Corvette.  Not a 1956.  If it had been a 1956,  THAT would have been a coincidence."

When I opened your envelope and saw the ACTION COMICS cover, "Oh no. NOW what?"

That's a pretty good one, I have to admit: a little picture of Cerebus directly facing the inside front cover with the 1956 Corvette.

See, I think that's Comic Art Metaphysics.  The issue of ACTION COMICS came out in late 1984 which was just after Judith Bradford had come to my attention.  As I look at it now, God saying, "I didn't give you the talent I gave you so you could use it to get yourself a teenager for a girlfriend."
Which, to me, is basically what God was saying to Stan Drake in September of 1956.  So it seems like a metaphysical version of "Oh, no. Here we go again with the teenaged girlfriend."

"I'm CAR-RAZY" is a good way of putting it.  

Eddie and me are LOUSY with examples of this at this point. As soon as I've got the Stan Drake section completely refurbished on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, we'll start sharing a few more of them with you here.

We'll STILL have enough left over for a couple of good sequels if SDOAR sells.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Estate Of Craig Miller: Original Art For Sale

Cerebus #80 (November 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Click image to enlarge)
HOWARD MILLER:
(Father / Administrator of the Craig Miller Estate)
The original art from Cerebus #80 pages 8 & 9 will be on display for accepting bids and sale at the San Diego Comic Con in the Anthony Snider Booth.

This is part of the Estate of Craig Miller building a trust fund for Craig Miller's 10 year old daughter, Jennifer Miller. Craig (1959-2012) was a writer, artist, publisher and massive collector of all comic related items. He co-authored 12 issues of the Following Cerebus magazine with Dave Sim. Anyone interested in obtaining copies of any of those issues can contact me at the following address:

Howard Miller
2525 Ohio Drive, #3107
Plano, TX 75093

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Countess & The Aardvark

Cerebus #53 (August 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
DAVE SIM:
(from the Cerebus Wiki)
The Countess, visually, was based on Karen McKiel, the Aardvark-Vanaheim secretary from 1982 to 1988 (?). She was an interesting character and very much a first generation feminist in the strong, independent woman mold. Nothing particularly new or interesting then or now. It was really at one step remove from the situation (being a married man at the time) that I began to remark upon the societal change that was taking place with most girls/women having jobs and either taking it as a given that that was always going to be the case or that the job could be the lifestyle choice while they tracked down a husband whereupon they would either chuck it in (the vast minority) in favour of marriage and children or (the vast majority) put it on hold until the marriage and the children had been accomplished, whereupon it would be resumed in earnest. Boyfriends and husbands would be expected to fit themselves in and around the margins of the career wherever they could find a spot (cooking dinner, cleaning the apartment, doing laundry and shopping for groceries seeming like some valuable places they could occupy in their largely orbital existence around their strong, independent woman).

Karen was kind of interesting in that she had a predilection for other women's boyfriends and husbands. She liked to test the bonds of other people's matrimony and usually found it wanting. Which seemed to both satisfy and frustrate her since she was also in search of a husband of her own. In her own terms, she liked to "cause shit". She was a big fan of the TV show Dynasty (the Prince song - "Kiss"? - with the line "You don't have to watch Dynasty/to have an attitude" was certainly bang-on for the time period) where causing shit seemed to be a major female preoccupation. I didn't really interest her for the longest time because I was in an open marriage. Having sex with someone you were allowed to have sex with was no challenge and, therefore, no fun. There needed to be the possibility of fireworks not only in bed but in the resulting soap opera.

This many years later on, I can see in reading the Countess' dialogue my attempt to sort of wed Karen McKiel to that Dynasty brand of high-stakes relationship power fantasies that she liked. But, in a literary sense, it really just rings false. Even contriving Weisshaupt's overblown infatuation with Michelle which blinded him to who she actually was and compelled him to try and make her into someone she could never be (and, in rereading these sections that does seem to be my subtext: Pygmalion gone seriously awry at any number of levels. Not the least of which is that My Fair Lady was concerned with turning a flower girl/guttersnipe into a lady, not turning an average girl into Donald Trump) just seems a transparent literary device to cover for the implausibility of the plot point, the tip of the playing card is showing between my fingers when it's supposed to have vanished.

I started having an affair that was off-again, on-again through the ensuing year with Karen about five months after Deni and I officially split up, having an affair with your boss' ex-husband having an illicit tinge that having sex with your girlfriend's open-marriage husband just didn't have. My dedication in Church & State Vol. 1 to Jessica - Karen's own euphemism for her vagina - and that "somewhere it is always January 23, 1984" (the night we first had sex) certainly indicates that it was worth waiting for. Ultimately, of course, I ran afoul of the Holiday Rule which is a centerpiece of most women's on-again, off-again relationships. As a guy, if you want to stay in the game, you had better time your "on-again's" to coincide with Christmas, Thanksgiving and her birthday and, in this case, agree to drive home to New Brunswick with her sister and brother-in-law for Christmas. I declined and she came back with news of her new boyfriend that she had met while down there.

That really wasn't the end of things. She stayed the secretary for a couple of more years until the Bank of Montreal called asking for me and she tearfully showed up at the studio door to tell me that she knew what it was about: she had been paying her personal Mastercard from the company's account we had opened for depositing our Mastercard phone orders. I guess she had figured since it was all one big happy Mastercard family, no one would notice. If it wasn't quite a Dynasty flourish worthy of whatever-her-name-was-who-was-the-Queen-Bitch-on-Dynasty, it wasn't through lack of effort on Karen's part. To add insult to injury, several years later we had to pay tax penalties on her clothing purchases on her company Visa (evidently it was important to me that she look good in the office, thus justifying a clothing allowance of several thousand dollars) when the charges were, naturally, disqualified.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Weekly Update #40: The Presses Are Rolling!

Lebonfon President, Alain Roberge, checking printed signatures of CEREBUS coming off press.

DAVE SIM:
Executive Summary
  1. First pages of the CEREBUS volume were rolling off the presses at Lebonfon today. You should be able to order a copy at your local comic store the first week in August
  2. We're counting on the CEREBUS fans who order a copy of volume one to help us move, a step at a time, towards the Legacy Edition
  3. CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE is getting pretty close to being done. I signed Plates 5 through 9 earlier this week, so right now I only have the front of the folders to sign and Plate 10
  4. Operation Sable Airlift is on hold until I get the "miniature" and "standard" brushes that Tim sent me and can determine if they're the same as what I'm using.

1.  Sorry, I'm late getting here. No caffeine for Dave during Ramadan and that means mail-answering Friday is just a regular 12-hour day instead of the 21-hour day I've gotten used to. Good news is I'm all caught up on the mail!

Got a fax first thing this morning from Dean McCoy letting me know that pages were rolling off the presses at Lebonfon. He said that they got a couple of pictures of Alain Roberge, the company president, looking over the first few pages and e-mailed them to Tim. So, Tim I'm guessing is just waiting for me to post this stuff so he can plug the photos in. It's going to be WAY past Tim's bedtime by the time I'm done here, but we're all pretty happy that we're this close to having finished books after a couple of years of hard work. We're also all pretty confident that this is going to be the BEST version of the CEREBUS trade to date.

Lebonfon President, Alain Roberge, checking printed signatures of CEREBUS coming off press.
2.  As you've read in Sean's update from this week, our first major concern when we all have printed books is going to be: what is the best way to improve on what we've accomplished so far?

George has already composed a list of "clone tone" pages:  pages where the tone had shrunk on the original artwork or where there is smudging or I just didn't trim it properly.

 It raises the interesting question:  if I didn't trim it properly 35 years ago, isn't that an idiosyncratic trait of the artist that should be retained where possible?  I don't think so:  if I had been able to just snap my fingers and have the tone exactly where I wanted it and not where I didn't want it, all of the cutting would be 100% accurate.  So it has more to do with intention than ability.

George has also flagged a couple of panels that he thinks could develop the dreaded moires in the finished printing.

The big plus with this edition is that it's going to have Sean's solutions and George's solutions side-by-side.  So we should be able to have a "guided tour" by both of them when we have the finished books.  All of us.  Including those of you who are going to order one.  And then we can ask the most intelligent questions:  which of these solutions works the best in YOUR opinion?  What matters to you as a reader and what doesn't?  

How important is 100% accuracy?

These are the areas we're going to get into: this is what it looks like NOW on the 16th printing.  Is this what we're happy with it looking like from now on?  The obvious answer is "no" from mine and George and Sean's perspective.  We're going to want to improve things and we're going to want to develop a policy on how to do that.  And that gets into financing.

Sean and I exchanged faxes on the subject with him pitching the idea of "adopt a page".  If we agree that we want all of the tone to be 100% accurate, Sean will be able to give us a ballpark figure on what it's going to cost to do that.  Some pages are going to be more complicated than others, depending on what interference there is between the tone and the artwork under it.  More complicated means more hours and that means more expensive.  So "adopt a page" seems to make sense:  here are the pages that Sean is going to be working on in the near term, a list at A MOMENT OF CEREBUS.

So, how many people are willing to adopt a page and pay the amount needed?

Well, we'll see. If you have a copy of the book and you're looking at the page(s) we're talking about and you can't really see any difference, the odds are you aren't going to want to adopt too many pages :).  Which doesn't mean that we don't do the restoration, it just means that we have to slow down to what is affordable on an on-going basis with basic revenues.

Of course, there's a bright light on that horizon, too:

Right now, we definitely have our Patron Retailer, "TF", on board for a $10K donation...

(even more interesting was "TF"s suggestion that Sean and Mara shoot footage of themselves restoring the work and that we make a documentary about Restoring Comic Art.  Which seems like a GREAT idea.  And also solved one of the problems I was facing: not wanting to have the $10K as income because A-V would have to pay tax on it and I'm already having to guess if the CEREBUS ARCHIVE KICKSTARTERS are going to maintain the current income level, how many we will end up doing before the end of the year, etc.  So I suggested that "TF" become the producer of the film and pay Sean for filming it.  Coincidentally, for the same amount of money that Sean would charge for his restoration work.  And that Sean would "comp" A-V his restoration work in exchange for permission to film my work without paying any fee for the rights)

...so, as I see it, we're going to be able to see "adopt a page" in theory before we see in it practice.  Sean will be posting a list of pages along with the charge for the restoration and we can see how fast that eats up "TF"s $10K.  Which SHOULD tell us if we just keep going along steadily or how much "start and stop" we're going to need to do as we wait for the money to replenish.

And, as I say, we're going to want your input as involved CEREBUS fans.  I'm guessing you will be less obsessive than me and George and Sean but probably more obsessive than, say, the average comics retailer.

The Cerebus press sheets on skids wait to be bound.
3.  We were in the process of developing "Kickstarter Helper" and just today John informs me that there's a Kickstarter being done for that.  Basically software that will let us do more things more quickly and efficiently in order to cut down on the "execution time" on each Kickstarter.  A lot of it is just "routing" problems:  As soon as the campaign is done, I should have a list of all the people who are getting stuff personalized to them.  Kickstarter isn't really set up for that, so we need to graft the ability onto the information.   But, as I've said before, we want to be all the way through the process of packaging and fulfillment before making any hard decisions about CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO -- which I should be starting on soon.

The Cerebus press sheet samples heading out to Dave, Sean & George.
4. MANY thanks to all of the people who are out tracking down Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2 brushes for me.  A GREAT relief to find out that the idea that the sable is an endangered species didn't originate in England -- home of Winsor & Newton -- in which case I would figure the worldwide supply was down to single digits.

Nope. Evidently Winsor & Newton still makes the brush and sells it on their website.

Do they just not ship it to North America?  Is it North America or just Canada?  Sean said as far as he knew there weren't any Series 7 #2's in California.  I plan to take a day when Tim's brushes come in to compare them to the two best I have right now.  And then compare those to the sable/nylon blend and nylon versions I got from Wyndham's.  Sean suggested that the nylon brushes don't work as well or last as long but -- at $8 each instead of $36 each -- you can afford to blow through them a lot faster.

I'm inclined to think that the actual problem is my hesitancy in having too much money tied up in brushes -- when the right way to think about it is: the more brushes I've got, the better the odds that I have the ones that I need.  The two best ones I've got for sharpness of line and flexibility are quantum levels better than the other four.  Stands to reason that if I can get in even, say, 20 or 30 of them that those odds are going to go up.  I might even find one that makes dog meat out of the best two that I have right now!

This is on my mind because I've just run across largely the same problem with pencil sharpeners and ink.

I keep refilling the same ink bottle from a larger ink bottle and getting used to the texture of the ink.  Which is thick and then needs to be thinned.  Well, this week I ordered a small ink bottle of Speedball Superblack.  Which seems counterintuitive:  why would you order a dinky little 2 ounce bottle of ink that you have a 30 ounce bottle of?  But it made a world of difference.  I've come to the conclusion that the Speedball Superblack is the perfect consistency when you get it, but it dies pretty quickly.  And diluting it and doctoring it is the equivalent of putting electrodes on a dead horse and then running juice through it so the muscles twitch and saying "It's ALIVE!"  No, it's dead. Put it to one side and start over with a new horse -- er, little bottle.  Like, once a month, or every time I order new artboard.  EAT the $5 charge or whatever it is.  You're making your life a lot easier.

Same conclusion that I came to with the electric pencil sharpener.  The Xacto one that I've got works beautifully.  Needle sharp pencil points which is what I need.  Needle sharp for about a month and then it doesn't really sharpen like it used to.  The blades have worn down.  Now, it seems completely Looney Tunes to buy a new electric pencil sharpener every month.  But, how does the expense compare to the 20 minutes it's taking me to sharpen pencils for the really tiny, detailed -- under the magnifier lamp -- faces I'm doing?  First in the pencil sharpener, then with an Xacto knife, THEN on coarse sandpaper?

I know these things and then I have to relearn them.  DON'T "Make Do" -- do what you need to have optimum materials and keep them that way.

Maybe I can sign my electric pencil sharpeners and sell them on eBay with Cerebus head sketches on them or something.

See you all next week!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Cerebus Restoration Update: 'Proving' Proofs

SEAN MICHAEL ROBINSON:
Things are mostly quiet on the restoration front, as we wait to see the results of the Lebonfon Cerebus 16th edition replacement signatures.

Because of a few delays, I ended up traveling on the day that the proofs were supposed to arrive, but thanks to a Fedex redirect, I was able to pick them up in Seattle when I got off the plane. It's always disorienting to see “proofs,” these days, as most printers use what are generally referred to as “soft proofs” – either screen proofs that are worse than useless, or laser printer proofs that aren't fundamentally different than what you might generate by yourself using a desktop laser printer. 

The proofs looks just about as expected, and I spent most of my time looking them over making a mental checklist of possible “Legacy edition” style edits and tweaks to the pages, mostly involving tone cloning to shore up any areas of tone shrinkage from pages sourced from aged original art. These are the type of time-consuming fixes that Dave and I had talked about but that for the most part I restrained myself from executing, only fixing what seemed to me to be the worst instances, and making sure I demonstrated all of these potential techniques in a few places for demonstration purposes

The only other real news this week is that I took an hour or so to page through the source material available for High Society, and I think we are going to be in much better shape. I separated out the material by source and resolution, and spent a little time adjusting my automated formula, and then pointed Photoshop's batch action command at the whole folder of negatives and said “go.” Two days later, the three hundred or so pages were done being processed. Right before we headed out to the airport I flipped through the folder and took a look at a dozen or so pages. They looked perfect.

Why the difference from the Cerebus material to High Society? I'll go into more depth later, but the short reason is that my automated process relies on several steps of different types of sharpening, and that this sharpening is prone to bringing out the noise in newsprint scans. I dealt with this a few different ways in the Cerebus pages, but there's not really one solution to the problem. You either use some kind of noise reduction and then have to compensate by bringing back any lost line detail by sharpening by hand, or you can use more mild noise reduction and have to spend time solidifying your blacks afterwards. (“Noise” in the case of newsprint is just whatever the computer sees and brings out that your eye doesn't perceive as signal – pulpy colored portions of the paper, gaps in the blacks that create the “dusky” solid black look, anything undesirable that's there, but that under normal circumstances your brain is capable of filtering out. Take all those things and sharpen and contrast-adjust them, and all of the sudden they're much more visually prominent than they were before.)

None of these things are problems at all if you're sourcing your material from negatives, which, if properly scanned, have almost no “noise” to bring up. You can nuke them with sharpening, layer upon layer of the most aggressive sharpening you have, and they just look sharper.

I'll have step-by-step pictures for this when the book comes back from Lebonfon.

But for now, the future – for the next book, things are looking up. But no more real work until we get the results from the Lebonfon printing. And when that happens, I'll give everyone a walk through the process of the replacement signatures, and talk about some of the challenges they presented, and what those challenges say about the eventual Cerebus Legacy edition.

Sean Michael Robinson can be found online at Living The Line.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: Form & Void Shooting Script

MARGARET LISS:
With issue #248 - 250 Dave wrote his first shooting script in 25 years (not counting Spawn #10). He stated in the Chasing Scott notes in the back of FORM & VOID that he lost the better part of an entire day from "reducing all of the script pages onto half-sized photocopies, spraying the backs with spray adhesive, and pasting them into (his) notebook, two to a page." Those small script pages take up pages 44 to 60, eighteen pages in total, in notebook #26, which used for issue 240 to 250.

Here is an example of a page were Dave was marking up the script he had pasted to his notebook in an attempt as he says in the Chasing Scott notes to document where and why he had chosen to deviate from the art descriptions. As we can see in the script below for part of page 335 through page 337 of FORM & VOID.

Notebook #26, page 47
(Click image to see bigger version that makes all that small type more legible)


Dave penciled in all the 'THROB THROB THROB' that he lettered around F. Stop's pounding head. And changed a close up of F. Stop going from unbuttoning the top of his pants to unbuttoning a shirt cuff. Amazing how close he stayed to the script.

On the second page of pasted in script on page 55 of the notebook, we see him having some fun with the notes with a quick note to Gerhard "I was going to mention that there should be buoys or little lighthouses or something to mark where the wall is and signal the various vessels to steer clear, but then I thought, No, I won't have to mention that because Ger will know it already".

Notebook #26, page 55 part 2

Later in the notebook, Dave has handwritten notes that appear to state that he doesn't mind if Ger sticks to the script or not with regards to the descriptions of the hole in the ground that is now Iest, but I don't know if he just photocopied it and gave it to Gerhard with the script, verbally told Gerhard or something completely different.

From reading the script to comparing to the issues, it would appear that Gerhard did exactly what was in the script. The one thing I'd thought Gerhard would do was add more ships, per Dave's direction page 51 for page 350, "Okay, you're kind of on your own over the next bunch of panels. We are PANNING still from left to right, west to east across Dead Salt Lake... Could be a good chance to draw some boats, anyway."

Notebook #26, page 51 part 1

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

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Gerhard's "Robert Crumb" Backgrounds

(Click image to enlarge)

DAVE SIM:
Gerhard "Robert Crumb" background pages 380-383 of LATTER DAYS. He does a very good "heavy line work" Crumb style and a creditable teeny-tiny Mr. Natural and Flakey Foont.

Technically, the idea is a good one: you do a master background and then "pan" across and around it, so you get multiple panels from one drawing. The problem is: who does the "tech" side of cutting and pasting the drawing in digitally? Gerhard just used photocopies: the more the lines fattened up, the more Crumb-like they looked.

Tech question: how much control do you have to exert to still be considered "the artist" of the piece? That is, do you have to tell the "tech" person exactly how "quickly" or "slowly" to pan and if you just leave it up to them, are they then the "director"?

You'd really need to develop a whole different "studio" system than anything that has been done so far, but, technically, I still think there's a very good idea there.

The Master Background Artist can put more time in on a single piece and actually get three pages out of it -- so you can justify working three days on the drawing if you're doing "a page a day". Of course then you have to KEEP doing it, and factor in employing a full-time "tech" guy to implement it and develop an instructional language indicating right to left and left to right, quarter inch increments, hold on this section, zoom in [percentage required for each approach].

Of course, then the partnership broke up and the whole intellectual exercise became moot.

I used it on JUDENHASS but that bombed dramatically and came out while the level of Dave Sim Hate in comics had yet to peak so no one looked at the technical side of it.

Maybe someday someone will!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Leah Moore's Aardvark

DAVE SIM:
Is there anything more precious than a gift from a child?

Leah Moore surprised me with this at her Dad, Alan's, place. Quite an accomplished piece of work for whatever-age-she-was at the time (1988 according to the Cerebus Archive).

I think she spelled "aardvark" incorrectly and -- back in the day -- when Leah whited out a mistake, it was Whited Out (and no mistake!). The white paint must be a sixteenth of an inch thick! There's a smaller blob next to my name where I'm guessing she had added an "m" or an "s" before checking with Mum.

You'll note a small burn hole in the left side of the piece, from Dad's spliff. I gave Alan Holy Hell for that, let me tell you: "LOOK what you've done with my piece of Genuine Original Leah Moore Artwork, Alan! Just LOOK!".

He wilted appropriately before Leah's and my (ahem) stern joint gazes of condemnation and was suitably sheepish the rest of the afternoon.

Shortly after the same visit, photocopies of the MAD LOVE company bullet I had designed for Alan, Phyllis and Deb which would debut on the cover of AARGH. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Cerebus: "Passage"

DAVE SIM:
Original thumb-nail sketches of the "Passage" storyline -- four pages of the original art of which have been included in CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE: pages 3, 4, 5 and 6. Can you spot the four pages on the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE ad on its way to Diamond Comics for PREVIEWS?! The first A Moment of Cerebus viewer to do so... will have done so before anyone else! :)
Also, scans of the really bad photocopies which are all that remain (so far as we know) of the first two pages of the story. So old that the cellophane tape holding them together just dropped off, leaving the charming yellowed "period" adhesive stains you see here. Also, note my ca. 1990 beginning attempt at "restoration" -- i.e. re-inking the solid blacks with a rapidograph and brush. I figured out pretty quickly that that wasn't going to work.

Passage was reprinted in full in Following Cerebus #2 (2004) and pages 3 to 6 formed part of Cerebus Archive Number One (2014).

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Dream Another Dream Kickstarter: Gerhard Print Stretch Goal Added


Cerebus: In My Life - Anthony Phillips

Cerebus #36 (March 1982)
Art by Dave Sim
ANTHONY PHILLIPS:
I read Cerebus when I was a teen. It was probably the deepest comic I'd read yet. This was just around the time the term "graphic novel" was becoming popular, but men like Sim, Moore, and others had been doing this for a while.

Cerebus taught me that this art form was depthless. Longer page counts than any novel, and filled with art - comic form was WORTHY... as any other medium. It had paid its dues. I started to be proud of what I'd read.

And Cerebus had scenes of such breathtaking beauty and sadness. Single pages that stood striking and stark. Jaka returning the sword is one scene that really got to me. I love seeing these sorts of frozen moments now.

Now Playing On Cerebus TV...


Friday, 11 July 2014

Weekly Update #39: Free 'Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing' Download

DAVE SIM:
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  1. The CEREBUS volume is in Lebonfon's hands now!
  2. CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE signed and numbered on track for August delivery!
  3. Winsor Newton Series 7 #2 Brush Crisis threatens completion THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND!
  4. George Peter Gatsis offers free digital copy of THE CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING at cerebusdownloads.com with any purchase of a Cerebus Book Club Package.
  5. Paul Slade's suggestion of "Pick and Choose" CEREBUS ARCHIVE packages and THEMED PACKAGES don't seem viable.

Wow! This was getting pretty exciting while I was going crazy keeping a bunch of other things going. 

Thanks to Sean and Dr. Mara for documenting things so thoroughly. The earliest history of CEREBUS is pretty sketchy so Sean's theory that Preney shot the #1 negatives from a printed copy is very possible.  The interiors of #1 were printed by Fairway Press while Moir Press did the covers.  I like to think that I was sophisticated enough at the time -- I soon was, anyway! -- to know that I needed those negatives!  The general printing policy was that printers owned the negatives unless otherwise specified.  They recycled them for $ as I recall.

I'd forgotten what solicitation time with Diamond is like.

Having turned in the ad a week ahead of time, I figure, "Okay I'm done". That works until the ACTUAL DEADLINE day arrives which was yesterday. Matt needs a barcode (BARCODE! EVERYTHING NEEDS A BARCODE NOW! I FORGOT!). Matt needs a shot of the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE cover!  Right! Right! Matt also wants to know if the CEREBUS volume is on track because they're getting ready to issue a Purchase Order. So I had to POTENTIALLY lie and say, "Lebonfon has the digital files as of today".

Not knowing if Sean had actually turned them in.  I figured he had, but yesterday being the deadline, I didn't want to fax him.  The last thing you want on Drop Deadline Day is an "Are you done?" question.  It's like that scene in JAWS where Richard Dreyfuss is tying off the flotation drums and Quint's going, "Mr. Hooper" while he's aiming at the shark. And Dreyfuss goes "DON'T WAIT FOR ME!"

What do you know?  This time Richard Dreyfuss comes through!  Way to go, Sean and Dr. Mara!

Next step is proofs, then, then approvals and then, God willing, onto the press.

Pretty exciting indeed.


2.  I spent most of the week on CEREBUS ARCHIVE.  I've already been paid for those, so in my mind, that shifts the focus.  You do the stuff you've gotten paid for and put the stuff you won't get paid for until they're done to one side.

So, all of the bookplates that needed to be signed have been signed and all of the signed bookplates that needed names hand-lettered onto them have been hand-lettered onto them.  That was certainly a weird day.  How many ways can YOU find to letter "Nathaniel Oberstein" into a space roughly an inch by two inches?  I used 05, 03, 01 and 005 Archival pens, so a lot of shifting gears.

All of the fully inked Cerebus heads are done (more on this in a moment) as are the ballpoint pen Cerebus heads. All the ones that needed to be personalized have been personalized.

The membership card is done.  Colour on the front: Basically the first panel of "Dead Cerebus" from #300 -- with no white light in his eye and the number "261" in red. 254 single orders and 7 retailers. On the back "This card certifies that this person is one of the two hundred and sixty-one people keeping a dead aardvark on life support in May of 2014" and room for your name and my signature.  Should look pretty good with the UV coating.

John delivered the first plate -- CEREBUS THE BERZERKER -- which I signed last night.  About six of them had little red speckles on them so those are being rerun.  According to John's schedule, I should have all of the plates by the 24th.  It takes about an hour to sign 300, so that's the most non-intrusive thing right now.  Just put my head down and go.


3.  THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND suffered a couple of blows this week.

First: the CEREBUS ARCHIVE material needing to be done. So a lot of jumping on and jumping off. I barely got a page done.

Second: I finally got around to ordering Alex Raymond's -- and my -- favourite brushes: Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2. This was partly prompted by my decision to ink the heads on the front of the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE's with one of my #2's (I've got six of them, one unopened). It was the one that was in the worst shape, but it was still a viable #2.

Well, now it isn't.

Cerebus brush strokes at that size, you have to get way too much ink on the brush to do them properly. And that kills the brush. Mind you, the ink goes on like a dream (and people were paying good money for single heads), which is why I decided to sacrifice one of them: the inked drawings look really good. I think all 26 people who pledged for them will be very happy.

The other reason is that I have to get away, mentally, from babying the two best brushes and have more than one back-up.  I always wonder, "How many of these did Alex Raymond have at one time?" I'm willing to bet dozens. Just because: some of them are better than others and you don't know until you're using it if it is or it isn't. And if you only buy one, you're always going, "Um, no this is fine." Because you just paid $36 for it, right? Even if it's quirky in some way or just not as smooth as it can be. I mean, they're meant for watercolours. Cartoonists are the only people stupid enough to use sable brushes for india ink. We're lucky that ANY of them last longer than a day or so. I've got one -- marked with masking tape on the back end so I know which one it is -- that is an absolute dream and has been for a few months now.

So I (big spender) ordered two from Wyndham's.  And Chris faxes me back and says, "I don't know if you're aware that sable brushes can no longer be imported into North America.  They've declared the sable an endangered species (which I don't agree with)."

No.  No, I didn't know that.

So Chris sent me what he had: a nylon #2 and a nylon/sable blend #2.  Which I haven't tried out yet.
But, they were, like, $8.  So I'm not expecting much.

I know it seems like I'm always asking for something, but here's an Open Need On-going if I'm going to finish THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND properly.

If you want to help out and are near an art store that sells painting supplies, can you see if they have a Winsor Newton Series 7 #2 brush?  You should be able to see through the little plastic case over the bristles if it comes to a point.  If there are little hairs sticking out of it, it's not worth taking a chance. But if it comes to a point it's APT to be (no guarantee) functional.  If you want to donate it into the cause of Finishing the Graphic Novel that never ends, you can just send it to Box 1674 Station C Kitchener ON Canada N2G 4R2 and I'll trade you a CEREBUS comic with a good head sketch or something else (within reason).  Or if you just want to be reimbursed, send the receipt and I'll send you a cheque in US funds or Canadian funds.  Or if you want to be reimbursed AND get a CEREBUS comic with head sketch -- let me know if there's a specific issue you want. #0 Gold? Done -- our operator (me) is standing by.

It's apt to be seriously wasteful:  as I say, you never know if it's a good brush or a so-so brush or a no- good brush until you're using it for a while.  But, considering I just raised $30,000 so I could pay $10,000 for a substandard printing job, I have to get a better perspective on this.  Paying out a few thousand dollars for 100 brushes and getting 10 really good brushes out of it, makes a lot of sense. Particularly if this "sable crisis" has spread to...or originated...in England, the home of Winsor & Newton and soon there won't be ANY Series 7 #2's anywhere for love or money.

It doesn't SOUND as if it makes sense, but it does.

This is one of those instances where I'm not going to be able to find a comparable brush, I'm pretty sure, as eco-friendly as I like to be.  It seems every time I turn around I'm being offered something not quite as good with the implied sense that I'm Obligated to agree that there's no difference. Because it's 2014 and We're Fixing Everything That's Wrong.

Alex Raymond used the Winsor Newton Series Seven #2, for me, ends the discussion.


4. George Peter Gatsis -- MANY thanks to George, by the way, for doing yeoman's work on cerebusdownloads.com: which has been generating an average of $200 a week (up until this week when we flatlined, anyway -- maybe it's the World Cup) -- is offering a free digital copy of THE CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING to anyone ordering one of the Cerebus Book Club Packages (basically anything more than a single volume) all this month. Thanks to Steve N. who prompted this by offering $50 for a copy and then actually paying $50 (THANK YOU, Steven!) -- which prompted George to go digging through his Lebonfon digital files where he found the latest incarnation from 2010. THE CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING all this month at cerebusdownloads.com.  Thanks, George!  Hope your movie is coming along good!


5.  On the idea of "pick and choose" or "themed" CEREBUS ARCHIVE packages. I'd have to say no. This gets into personalizing the packages which is fine if everyone wants the same thing, but everyone wants different things.  The idea is to have a simple package that can be offered for sale on Kickstarter and then through Diamond that John can produce individually as needed. The package took me two years to come up with and I went through every possible mental permutation before arriving at the one that I did. It's RELATIVELY simple but that means it's also RELATIVELY complicated.  What I'm finding out right now is how long it takes John and I to actually execute the package. This week was really taken up with CEREBUS ARCHIVE which is fine every once in a while but if it becomes steady, then THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND is going to become a pipe dream.

I COMPLETELY understand if you don't want the early material.  There IS a danger that we won't MAKE IT to, say, JAKA'S STORY if the drop-off is too severe between NUMBERS.  What I'm hoping is that 250 people is a reasonably solid number and that we can afford to drop down to 100 and still be viable.  My gut instinct tells me that there is a core number who can a) afford these b) want to have them c) will order them and that "chasing orders" by offering WAY TOO MUCH variety is a recipe for disaster.  A lot of people tend to complain but that doesn't mean that they would order if I did it their way:  a lot of people just like to find fault and suggest what they consider a better way -- but purely as an intellectual exercise.  They don't actually order things, they just, you know, intend to.  :)

The idea of CEREBUS ARCHIVE is: "Here's what I THINK I can do.  Here's what I'm PRETTY SURE I can do...AND do THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND."  The jury's still out on whether that's true.  But the impetus is going to be in the direction of:  how do I further simplify the CEREBUS ARCHIVE program so it isn't eating SDOAR time, not "how can I add a number of new wrinkles to the CEREBUS ARCHIVE program so NO ONE has any complaints about it?"

It really is an either/or.  I don't have a work/life balance.  I have a work/work/work balance.  There are three different kinds of work that I do and it's just a question of what I'm doing 12 hours a day six days a week.  I'm coming up on two hours of typing this and I still have a ways to go.

I appreciate ChrisW picking up on that (still enjoying your book, Chris -- you are a WILD MAN!).
If you want to be reading THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND someday and you'd rather that was 2017 than 2020, then I'm afraid this is Monty Python's Scotch Tape Store.  You can buy CEREBUS ARCHIVE or you can buy CEREBUS ARCHIVE.  And we have some lovely CEREBUS ARCHIVE on Kickstarter.  Or you can have CEREBUS ARCHIVE.  It's far more a fund raiser for restoring CEREBUS than it is anything else.  If you can afford $79 and postage costs to help us restore CEREBUS, many many sincere thanks.  Here's what we can offer you as a reward.

Coincidentally I am thinking along the lines that Mike Kitchen is talking about: bonus prints.  If you buy the CEREBUS ARCHIVE package, you have an option to purchase an additional print -- one, per campaign -- and we'd have maybe a dozen to pick from.  But I still have to mull that one over.  It's adding a step to John's process and introducing a variable that is apt to cause trouble.  "This isn't the bonus print that I ordered."  Now we have to mail something separately to you.  The bonus prints would have to be pre-printed (that's part of the potential attraction -- you could have them pre-printed: but that gets into the problem of how many of them are you going to have and how many are you going to pre-print?  If you have 20 options and you print 50 of each, that's 1,000 prints that need to be stored -- and dug through -- any time someone orders one).

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Okay, I have to put some time in on the Patreon site which has been skipped the last couple of weeks before my 5:30 prayer and then HOPEFULLY actually get back to THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND for the 6 pm to 11 pm stretch. Unless a bunch of faxes and phone messages came in while I was here.

See you next week!

So, for the moment, we are sticking with the CEREBUS ARCHIVE program as constituted.  I think we would have to see two or three NUMBERS go out of here smoothly and on-time before we add any more buzzsaws to our juggling act.    :) 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Restoration Update: The Day Arrives As A Surprise, or, Too Much Cerebus

Sean Michael Robinson:

Too. Much. Cerebus.

So, would I call it a good, adult idea to, I dunno, prep almost a hundred and twenty pages of a visually complex graphic novel sourced from literally dozens of disparate sources, all while developing and perfecting your methodology for doing so, all in, jeez, less than a week?

No. I would say that's not a very good idea, certainly not a very adult one.

Well, that's what we did.

Finally back to two working computers, Dr. Mara and I pounded through the rest of the pages last night. We were joined by Mara's husband Bebo and my wife Rachel, who manned our "catch it before it's too late" station well into the night.

This. This is what too much Cerebus looks like.



Bebo's proofreading station, with scattered printings and correction notes.
Missing--elaborate color-coded marker system.

My workstation-- a $2000 computer with a $12 monitor. Notice my loupe, my tablet, and the raft of paper that threatens to overturn the file copies I have out for reference. Hey, Sean, is that some newsprint schmutz on that panel, or some exploding rock? Dunno, better check in the TOTALLY RAD STACK OF DAVE SIM FILE COPIES! O man.

 Mara's work station, complete with her loupe, the missing markers, and half a dozen jump drives. Oh, and a snazzy Exclusive Diamond Distribution Lectern.

Staying up all night, at 34? Makes you a little bit like this guy. No, no, the purple one.



There'll be more to follow when I've, you know, slept and bathed. But here's a last parting image that demonstrates what my major takeaway has been from this experience so far. Want a quality image? Don't spend your time trying to polish what you have. Spend your time looking for a better source.

More on this next week. But in the meanwhile, every Cerebus fan reading this right now, I would love (love love love) it if you would take out your copy of Cerebus #13, pictured above, and examine the printing. If anyone out there has a copy with relatively black blacks, that still has fine detail in the lines, please let me know in the comments. I would love to get a test scan from you, and possibly a scan of the entire book, for possible inclusion into future Cerebus editions.

Until next time!

The second image here was sourced directly from Heritage's auction website.
This was the brilliant idea of George Peter Gatsis, who accumulated dozens of images from their website.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: Lord Julius

MARGARET LISS:
Last week we saw the fleshing out of an individual issue, issue #114 in JAKA'S STORY, and a couple pages from that issue, which showed us how Dave would sketch out an idea and then hone in the fine details of the dialogue and layouts in his notebooks. This week it is page 840 from CHURCH & STATE II, or if you're following along in individual issues - issue #93 page 4.

Notebook #7, page 72

The first thing you can see is how the page on the other side bleeds through on page 72 of notebook #7. When I was scanning the notebooks, I wanted to ensure that I got all the detail on the page - from the lightest pencil mark to the darkest sharpie marker. This also resulted in whatever bleed through there was showing up as well. One can make out Cockroach in his Secret Sacred Wars Roach incarnation. The sketches are roughs for Dave's homage to Frank Miller's cover for Batman: The Dark Knight #2, which is the cover for Cerebus #93.

But when we focus on this page of the notebook, we can see the dialogue for page 4 of issue 93. 

The conversation is between Bishop Powers (1, 3) and Lord Julius (2, 4, & 5) and the 'she' in the conversation is Astoria, who is being held prisoner. Dave has the conversation broken up by panel, and when we get to the fifth and final panel, Lord Julius' dialogue is crossed off several times. This is the finished dialogue in the book for panel #5:

"Say, do you mind if I tag along? This sounds like the chance-of-a-lifetime to discuss a restructuring of my alimony payments..."

Dave went through several iterations of the punch line: "...some jointly held property we've been quarrelling over" to "...our joint bank account" to "...reducing my alimony payments". Rather than having the ex-couple having joint ownership of something, Lord Julius is the one making the spousal support payment to Astoria. Lord Julius, Grand Lord of Palnu, to whom everyone else comes to asking for a reduction in interest rates, even he is paying his ex-wife, leader of the Kevilist (re: feminist) movement, money. A good punch line and one that still makes me chuckle. I chuckled again when I read Dave's different iterations in the notebook - even Lord Julius can't get his alimony reduced, just restructured.

Along with having the final punch line written out, the next page in notebook #7 has a rough for page 4, and it is pretty much panel for panel with the finished page. The one difference? Dave put the final punch line's word balloon above Lord Julius' head rather than below it.

Notebook #7, page 73
There are also some sketches of Lord Julius from the same page, and some sketches and dialogue for the next page in the issue. It makes me wonder if Dave had the notebooks out when he was working on the actual pages, or if once it was in the notebook, he had the concept he wanted set in his mind and just went with his memory of it.

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

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Cerebus Restoration Bulletin #2 -- Two Days Remain

SEAN MICHAEL ROBINSON:

Greetings everyone,

With two days remaining, we're powering through, despite some pretty heavy computer-related setbacks. Mara is setting up our template on a borrowed laptop while I'm blasting through the remaining pages, doing my best with the time remaining.

In the meanwhile, with the discussion of Dave's "cartoony" style versus his more recent strides towards realism, I thought I'd share one of the biggest shockers for me through this process so far. Here's a panel from the VERY beginning -- issue one, page two of Cerebus. For me, this goes a long way to showing that aesthetic judgments are complex and many-faceted, and it's easy to pass judgment on an image without understanding how the mechanics of the reproduction, or even things like the cleanliness of panel borders, are affecting your view of the image as a whole.

This panel has everything I love about early  Dave's artwork -- exuberant acting, atmosphere, strong design, and, muscular and inventive inking. It's a shame it's been reproduced so poorly in the past.

Will do my best to rectify that.



Tarzan No. 211

DAVE SIM:
Robert R sends me old reading copy comic books from time to time (which is really all I need: they're only for reference) that he thinks I'll be interested in. He has a strange track record of finding books that bang a gong, but not for the reason that he thought. In this case TARZAN 211 from DC which he thought I might like for the Hal Foster TARZAN material in the back. What REALLY got me... well, you can just read my letter to Robert to find out. Thanks again, Robert!

First person who can identify the day that Hogarth TARZAN Sunday page appeared…well, they'll win something. But first they'll have to prove what Sunday it was because I have NO idea. Although a part of me thinks, I can just drop down to 103 Queen Street and there it will be on the wall in the second room.