Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Cerebus Around the World

Mara Sedlins:

My husband Ricardo (aka Bebo) and I are about halfway through a two-month stint living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We’re both lucky enough to be able to work remotely, so we plan to live abroad for a few months like this each year. Before I left, Sean and I spent some time setting up a file sharing system that allows us to sync working files and streamline our cleanup process. I have good Wi-Fi, and there’s even an internet café two blocks away where I can print good quality test pages – so, thus far the experiment of working on Cerebus restoration from abroad has been a success!

And then, of course, when I step outside the door - there’s Mexico.

I’ll (mostly) resist the impulse to turn this post into a travelogue – but I will share a few experiences and thoughts about Mexican culture that relate back to High Society and Church and State, at least in my mind.

A quick tangent first – I attempted to purchase a Comic-Con badge for the first time last Saturday during open registration (unsuccessfully – I’ll get another chance as a trade professional later in the spring, but I figured why not give it a shot) in what has to be the most picturesque setting in which anyone has tried to purchase a Comic-Con badge, ever. Bebo and I had just arrived in Guanajuato after an hour-long bus ride from San Miguel - and after some confusion at the reception desk and nail-biting clock watching, I finally got my laptop open at the Hotel Chocolate restaurant with 4 minutes to spare.

For the next hour or so, I alternated between watching the yellow messages on my screen notify me as each day sold out, eating “chilaquiles divorciados” with both mole and chile verde, and looking out at this view:

Hotel Chocolate is up about a million stairs, halfway up a hill overlooked by the giant statue of “Pípila” – a local hero who, during the Mexican War of Independence, broke through a Spanish barricade by lighting fire to the wooden door of a fortress while carrying a long, flat stone on his back to shield himself from musket fire.  To the right of Pípila, sprawling over the right side of the hill, is the former home of Luis Echeverria, President of Mexico from 1970 to 1976. The cab driver who pointed out the mansion said that the people of Guanajuato hope the former president will return one day – so that he can give back everything he stole (!).

These blatant reminders of revolution and corruption felt almost surreal to me, like an exaggerated version of reality – scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in the world of High Society.

Another political anecdote: before the previews at a movie theater, there was an ad for Mexico’s “Ecologist Green Party” (Partido Verde Ecologista de México). It depicted a family hanging out in their living room, discussing the recent sentencing of the man who had kidnapped the father. “It’s too bad he wasn’t able to get the death penalty,” the mother said disappointedly, “since the Green Party didn’t win the election.” “But at least they were able to push through legislation allowing three consecutive life sentences without parole – and that’s practically the same thing!” said the informed 20-something year old daughter happily. It turns out that reinstating the death penalty is, oddly (and controversially), part of the Green Party’s platform.

A few days later, walking home we noticed three young men holding a stencil up to a wall, painting what I assumed would be some interesting street art – but later I saw it was the green party’s logo, with a slogan that roughly translates as, “We Deliver” (i.e., on their promises).

Mexico’s Congressional elections are coming up in June, and the Ecologist Green Party is one of the wealthier, more influential, and more controversial political factions. They don’t actually work with ecological organizations – and the European Green Party has withdrawn recognition of the party due to their support for the death penalty. They also face accusations of corruption and nepotism. Despite these failures, they enjoy a growing minority representation in Congress – and as I’ve seen, their ads seem to be everywhere. Another surreal absurdity that makes me feel a bit like I’ve walked into the political machinations of Iest.

It makes me wonder whether Mexican readers of Cerebus respond even more powerfully than North American or European readers to High Society’s parodies of political corruption.

Now, as we begin work on Church and State I, it seems only fitting that I’m in an environment where the Catholic Church is omnipresent. In both Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, church bells ring from several directions every morning and evening. In San Miguel (population 80,000), there are rumored to be over 300 churches. On public buses and in every cab we’ve ridden in so far, there are images of the Virgin Mary. When you make large purchases, cashiers will often make the sign of the cross several times over the money before putting it in the register. I won’t even start on the Holy Inquisition torture museum in Guanajuato … that’s one of the only times I’ve been glad that my understanding of Spanish is still rudimentary.

I asked Bebo (who is Mexican and grew up Catholic) whether he thought there would be a Mexican audience for a book like Church and State, or whether religion is so ingrained in the culture that people aren't cynical about it. He speculated that those who would be interested in Cerebus in the first place are probably people who wouldn't mind seeing the church knocked down a few pegs. I would think that a critique of church hierarchy would resonate especially well in a place where it has such a powerful historical presence.

These thoughts about the potential for the themes of High Society and Church and State to be especially relevant to Mexican readers naturally led me to wonder about translation. So it doesn't surprise me at all that both High Society and Church and State I have already been translated into Spanish (although it looks to be Spain Spanish, as opposed to Mexican Spanish). I have to say, I’m in awe that such a thing is even possible!

The complexity and number of issues that would need to be addressed to translate Cerebus seems staggering:

·       Obviously, all the lettering would need to be redone (unless someone can create a “Dave Sim font”? multiple Dave Sim fonts? How many Dave Sim fonts?)

·       The translations would need to map spatially onto existing areas allocated to text – or, in cases where that isn’t feasible, text bubbles and even whole panels would need to be redrawn.

·       A talented translator would need to work creatively to preserve the tone and humor of the writing.

·       Jokes and references (including certain characters' speech mannerisms) may need to be adapted in order to translate culturally. Bebo mentioned that big budget animated movies (usually Disney and in this case Dreamworks) sometimes do this, quite successfully. Here , Donkey is voiced by a Eugenio Derbez, a very successful Mexican comedian. Donkey’s lines are not simple translations, but rewritten entirely for a Mexican audience, complete with local songs and sayings uncommon elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

I’m curious about how the above issues were addressed in the existing translations – and whether there are more Spanish editions in the works!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dave Gibbons

(Photograph: Harry Borden)

(from a letter to Dave Gibbons dated March 2004 - Reprinted in Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004)

Dear Dave,

Thanks for your letter and "Cerebus Archive testimonial" of 5 March. Coincidentally, they arrived the same day that issue 300 of Cerebus was hitting the stores.

I can't think of a better way to have celebrated the (at least) physical conclusion of the series than with such fulsome praise from the brilliant artist of Watchmen. In my own eyes, you have flattered me out of all proportion - both because of your own well-deserved prominence in the field (I remember a retailer telling me a while ago of Paul Levitz gob-smacked astonishment at a DC retailer meeting - and this years ago! - when it became obvious that yet another printing of Watchmen was required to meet the unrelenting demand almost two decades after the initial success story: 'Who are you guys selling these things to?') and because of my own modest and marginal standing in this field.

It was very generous of you and meant more to me than I can ever express.

Thank you again

Monday, 2 March 2015

Cerebus #20: Mind Game

Cerebus #20 (September 1980)
Cover Preliminary Sketch and Final Cover
Art by Dave Sim

Cerebus #20: Assembled Mind Game Montage
(click image to enlarge)

(from Reading Comics The Hard Way article, posted 20 August 2014)
...Cerebus has been drugged by the Cirinists ( an all-female cult whose apparent purpose is "to wipe out fun in our lifetime" ) and finds himself, or his consciousness, floating in the mystical realm of the Seventh Sphere, also the hangout of Illusionist guru and 182-year old hippie Suenteus Po. The aardvark plays the two cults off against each other in attempt to return to reality  -  although by the end of the issue he doesn't seem to have succeeded. This was all a fine introduction to Dave Sim's cantankerous, controversial character for me, and to Sim's mastery of witty dialogue and expressive cartooning. But ( there's always a "but", isn't there? ) the experimental storytelling caught me by surprise. The Seventh Sphere (which is the background for every scene ) is depicted as a black void with areas of "shimmering grey" and the only character visible throughout the story is Cerebus, manipulating the unseen cultists as he wanders through the darkness. The grey areas are actually a portrait of Cerebus, chopped up and spread throughout the 20 pages of story, with the smaller images of the aardvark pasted on top...

Dave Sim with the assembled Mind Game montage
Aardvarks Over UK Tour '93
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 4, 1983)
...The idea was inspired by Neal Adams' "hidden head" trick which (as far as I know)  he only did twice: once on a BEN CASEY Sunday page and once in a Deadman story in STRANGE ADVENTURES. The principle of the idea was that unrelated background and foreground elements make up the giant head. It's an exercise in the thinking side of drawing, since the initial layout has to be conformed to, and the composing elements must retain enough individual identity to still communicate the scene in each individual panel.

The very idea that someone who is basically just employed to communicate story elements in sequential pictures would walk that extra mile for the sake of artistic integrity impresses the hell out of me.

It also induces great guilt, which should not be discounted out of hand as a motivating factor.

Here I am, freed of all artistic constraints, my income being directly tied to the sales of the book I draw, and I haven't come up with a single idea like the "hidden-head page". That was when I decided to take it a step further and do a hidden full figure, life-size of Cerebus... Any way, Cerebus' mental acrobatics seemed like the best way to kick off the endless complications and intrigues to come. The Illusionists versus the Cirinists in Togith. Pictures within pictures illustrating the story within the story.

The title "Mind Game" was freely swiped from John Lennon's "Mind games" and is respectfully dedicated to his memory.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Susan Alston: CBLDF Podcast

(Podcast #10, 17 February 2015)
In this episode, CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein talks to former CBLDF Executive Director Susan Alston about the early days of the Fund! Topics discussed include: Mike Diana, Paul Mavrides, social media, the Supreme Court, and much more.

Susan Alston was Dave Sim's last girlfriend. She was the CBLDF's first Executive Director (1993-1997) and former board member (1997-1999), and is currently a development, marketing, and communications professional based in western Massachusetts, USA. Alston began her career as Assistant Director of Marketing at Bank of Boston, then as Director of Administration at Tundra Publishing, owned by Kevin Eastman. In 1993, Tundra merged into Kitchen Sink Press, whereupon Denis Kitchen offered her a part-time position overseeing CBLDF administration. Shortly thereafter, with the onset of the Mike Diana case and a large donation from Dave Sim, the position was moved to fulltime. After leaving CBLDF in 1999, Alston took her interest in fundraising, marketing, and communications and honed them at positions with Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, VNA HealthCare, and Center for Human Development. In 2012, Alston earned her Master’s degree in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy from Bay Path College. Alston rejoined the CBLDF in 2013 serving on its newly formed Advisory Board together with Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Matt Groening, Mike Richardson, Chip Kidd, Louise Nemchoff and Frenchy Lunning.

Neil Gaiman: My Credo

Neil Gaiman: My Credo (14 February 2015)

Neil Gaiman's 'My Credo' is a response to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris on 7 January 2015 and the subsequent attacks in Copenhagen, Demark on 14 February 2015.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cerebus Archive Number Three: Bonus Prints 24 & 25

BP #25: Photorealism Phantasy

BP #24: 'CATCH!'
Cerebus 29 Cover Recreation

Previously Announced First Release Bonus Prints For Cerebus Archive Number Three:

About The Kickstarter Bonus Prints:
The Bonus Prints are ONLY available as an "ADD-ON" to a portfolio pledge for an additional CAD $9 per bonus print. The above 'First Release' prints are now available as Kickstarter pledge rewards for Cerebus Archive Number Three. 'Second Release' bonus prints #1-21 from Cerebus Archive Number Two are also still available. Once the total pledge amount has passed the $20,000 mark, you may add 12 Bonus Prints from the First Release and/or Second Release BP lists. If total pledges exceed the total raised from the previous Kickstarter campaign (CAD $42,028) all 31 bonus prints will become available.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) RIP

Spock & Cerebus... and Wolverine too! (1981)
Art by Dave Sim

(from a letter to Cerebus The Newsletter #5, 1982)
...please find enclosed two drawings Mr. Sim did for me at Creation Con in Rochester. Fans will remember Rochester as being "Cold as a bitch and dead as a doornail". Well, whatever. I got the first drawing on the Saturday of the Con. Mr. Sim seemed very nice, intelligent and humorous. However, on day 2 (Sunday), something happened. He was clearly cranky, tired and washed-out. (Fans who have read Swords Of Cerebus #2 know what he did Saturday night.) As well as this second drawing I bought an original page from #21, and Mr Sim told me I could have the drawing as well as the page for a mere $25 if only I would please get him some coffee and aspirin. Of course I agreed and hurriedly ran to get him the articles he asked for. I only found out recently exactly what happened (hee-hee).

Anyway, so here they are. Share them with the fans if you please. Sim was very happy with the results of "Spock and Cerebus" (oh, yes, and Wolverine, too)

Gerhard: Manhattan On Mars

Manhattan On Mars (2015)
Art by Dave Gibbons & Gerhard

(from Gerz Blog, 24 February 2015)
Charles had Dave Gibbons do this little Dr. Manhattan. Then he commissioned me to draw the "crystalline clockwork ship" and Martian landscape as seen in "Watchmen". I don't own a copy of "Watchmen" (I don't know why I don't) but I found this image for reference. Charles requested that the "ship" be more exposed, rising up out of the soil... [Read the full article at Gerz Blog]

(from the comments at Gerz Blog, 24 February 2015)
Nice job, Gerhard! If only I'd had such a good background man back in the day ; )

Friday, 27 February 2015

Weekly Update #72: Sticking My Foot In It

Cerebus Archive Number Three
Signed Limited Edition Prints From 'Church & State I'
Kickstarter Ends Saturday 21st March 2015

Hello, everyone!

Well, when I stick my foot in it, I really stick my foot in it:

1.  Sincere and abject apologies to all of our U.K. and European pledge partners who missed out on the TRAUMA ONE and TRAUMA TWO pages on Wednesday.  No excuses.

2. Sincere and abject apologies to the owners of the original pages who made them available for restoration.  You should have been asked for permission to use your page whether you perceive it to be "your page" or Your! Page!  Your Page: your perception.

3.  Off-White House Copies have been moved from the basement to Camp David and two work stations are being developed for processing them

4.  Scanning of the Cerebus Archive original pages hits a -- hopefully - temporary wall but has now been accomplished up through page 3 of issue 142

1.  To be honest, I thought, if anything, we'd be facing the opposite problem:  a backlash because of the price point on the TRAUMA ONE and TRAUMA TWO pages.  I was really bending my mental slide rule almost double in response to a fax from Sean explaining why the hourly rate for scanning had ballooned over the previous week and asking if something could be done about his and Mara's hourly rate on those pages.  It seemed to me a "shortest distance between two points" situation:  if we could get sponsorship for TRAUMA pages, we wouldn't have to recalculate the CHURCH & STATE package deal (which should be covered with the remaining funds from CANT or -- at worst -- a dip into the CAN3 funds).  

Then Funkmaster brought up the "economies of scale" problem -- another sharp bend in the slide rule -- having to do single prints is more time-consuming for him.  All his calculations are based on 10 pages/roughly 300 copies.  The Bonus Prints -- once they get down around 20 or so as with the Barack Obama Zombie Cover -- is really pushing his numbers the wrong way.

By the time we had crunched the numbers, I thought "This is going to be Sticker Shock Squared" and I assumed that would hold for -- however long -- a few days?  A week?  Worst case scenario:  the end of this Kickstarter.  In which case we would just roll the TRAUMA pages over into the next campaign.

Funkmaster faxed me at 12:30 am and I was already asleep so I didn't get the fax until 4:30 am when I got up.

"Oh, boy."  Well, in one sense it was GREAT news:  sold out in 90 minutes!  In the other it was TERRIBLE news: unfilled demand.  So that was what I attempted to solve:  could we contact the people who had purchased the 1/1 prints and see if any -- or all -- of them would agree to have TRAUMA ONE and TRAUMA TWO FUNDRAISER prints done?  Clearly separate from what they had, with them getting "remarqued" Cerebus drawings on their 1/1's and the #1/20 of the subordinate prints for their trouble.

This isn't completely "off the table" but it ran afoul of another problem:

2.  This runs into a Wave vs. Particle angle of perception.

Wave Perception of CEREBUS original pages is that the person who bought the original page owns that page and has absolute control over it and its use.

Particle Perception is that Dave Sim owns the artwork in any meaningful sense.  It isn't possible for Dave Sim to steal or misappropriate CEREBUS artwork.

There's no right answer. Either answer is right for the people who hold that answer to be right.

So, if you have a Wave Perception then please let me know what compensation you would like for my theft of your personal property. I'll be happy to work it out with you in complete privacy. Likewise if you don't want your -- or "your" -- original art used in any way besides restoration purposes.  I can't close the door on the TRAUMA ONE and TRAUMA TWO pages already offered, but I can create a firewall wherever you want it created.

I don't think anyone would just -- perversely -- hold Wave Perception. For them, it's sincerely arrived at and intellectually honest.  I am not prepared to argue Particle Perception with that for one second.

If you have a Particle Perception, as I say, the idea of making a subordinate batch of prints available for the UK and European pledge partners is not "off the table". But it is getting there.  :)

I'm not saying that in that sense that I Own Your Artwork and I'll Do What I Want.  I'm saying that in the sense that the reason that we did this was to try to raise money to take pressure off of Sean and Mara on the TRAUMA pages so they don't have to rush through them and to take pressure off of the Kickstarter funds so we don't get these "bulges" in the budget.

The Particle Perception is really two different Particle Perceptions as well:  the person who owns the actual page and the person who bought the 1/1 BEFORE and AFTER TRAUMA prints.

My first instinct in the aftermath is just to -- as I've done -- apologize sincerely and abjectly to all concerned and Just Leave Bad Enough Alone.

There is always pressure in crowd-source funding to keep coming up with new pledge items.  That's what everyone who is successful at it recommends.  I don't know if that's true, but I also get a certain amount of static from people who are saying "You're SCREWING UP, Dude!  Follow up with MORE STUFF!" and then citing what other people who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars are doing.

Again, there's no easy answer.

But, I am sorry that this turned into such a fiasco...and such a pressure cooker for Sean.

In future, we'll try to introduce the idea of pledge items at least a week ahead of time and if there's ANY static in any way from anyone, to just back off.  "We'll try again with something else and we'll only do pledge items that cause ZERO STATIC."

3.  Dave Fisher and Rolly S. got a lot of work done on Tuesday getting ALL of the Off-White House Inventory out of the basement and into Camp David.

I have to admit that it's a little disorienting now that I'm down to sorting of the last few items still downstairs.  A big plus there was the discovery of a cache of Letratone I didn't know I had -- including several full sheets of LT3 and LT10.  If I'd have known they were down there, Dede Gardner and Brad Pitt wouldn't be getting albino and cross-hatched aardvarks respectively! :)

I've made up a FedEx box for Sean of all the specialty tones (textures, mostly -- great relief for Sean that he knows he has vintage Thrunk tone on the way).  Different sizes of scraps.  The idea being that the actual physical sheet of tone -- no matter how fragmentary -- is going to be better than any scan that we could shoot of it here.  And he's going to be the best judge of what is going to work the best by scanning it himself and then comparing the different sheets for discolouration, fading and other things that aren't going to be readily apparent to the naked eye.  There's a large chunk of LT 936 and then multiple pages of scraps.  It could turn out that one 1" by 1/2" piece could have all the best original elements, clarity, lack of discolouration, etc.

I'm sure Sean will be posting some of the tone for you to look at as he sorts through it.

There are also mechanical tones in the microscopic range that Gerhard used prolifically on GOING HOME which -- hey! If you're patching those pages, that's what you're going to need.

Disorienting though.

I thought: well I can just throw away the Letraset, the transfer lettering itself.  Then I thought, Well I have no idea where we used some of it.  These are the sharpest clearest copies we have of the letters.

Ooops interruption.  Going to post this and then hopefully continue.

Back shortly I hope!


Okay. That hasn't happened before.  I didn't know if I was going to lose all my typing so I published it and now I'm back -- so if you want to read the start of this Update, you'll have to scroll down.  TimW, I'm sure will fix it when he gets home from work.  Sorry, Tim!

[Now fixed! ~ Tim. W]

Where was I?

Oh, right -- getting the last few things out of the basement preparatory to the complete basement "redo" -- God willing -- starting in the Spring.

Moral questions:  I have a long box of PUMA BLUES and a long box of JOURNEY back issues.  We haven't checked them for grading.  I THINK I'm okay offering them for sale.  I did publish them at one time.  Should I autograph them?  As the publisher?  I can autograph the last issue of THE PUMA BLUES that A-V One did:  I did a pin-up in that one.  But, what about the others?  At least there was no question about moving them back to Camp David.

Should I offer them to Stephen and Michael and Bill Loebs?  Should I autograph them and make them into Off-White House copies before I send them?  Does anyone know where I would send them?  I'll make give Stephen a phone call.  Weird stuff.  Like the giant pile of "Michael and Stephen" photo PUMA BLUES posters.  I asked their editor at Dover if he wants them to promote the forthcoming book collection.  "I mean, if you don't, don't say you do.  They weigh a ton and they're going to be expensive to package, so it's really pointless to be polite about it if you're just going to throw them out.  Think about, 'Well, okay, what can WE do with them?'"

I seem to spend a lot of my life in these kinds of situations.  No idea what to do and no one I talk to about it knows what to do.  And they've all heard these horror stories about Dave Sim.  DON'T UPSET HIM! HE'S CRAZY, YOU KNOW!!

LOL. Well,  no. I'm not upset and I'm not crazy.  I've just got all these we're unsolvable problems.  At least soon none of them will be in my basement anymore!

I can't really say that about the three boxes of letters and weird little gifts, cheques, stickers, etc. that I got from Neil Gaiman's fans when I offered to send a free copy of an issue of the SANDMAN parody autographed to anyone who wrote me a physical letter.

Uh.  Do I REALLY want to hang onto these?  I mean, it was definitely a TRIP at the time and it certainly dwarfed by quantum levels of magnitude the response to, say, issue 300 coming out (so at least I got the one-time experience of literally getting boxes of mail).

They're a little bulky, but yes, I think I do want to hang onto them.  Even if no one ever actually looks at them, they'd probably make a nice free-form sculpture "Letters and gifts from Neil's Fans: 2004".

And then one of the last boxes that was sitting there, I opened up and it was a box of issue 164, second printing, which was the last one I had sent up from Leamington after I had already mailed out, I think, all of the 165's and 164 first printings and a box of 164 second printings. Hundreds of free comic books.  And then the letters dropped off to nothing.  Although I still get the occasional letter from people who are reading Neil's "back issues" and wonder if the offer is still good.  So, for those of you with higher numbers on Kickstarter, the odds are pretty good that you WILL get a #164 second printing Off-White House copy.

I forget what number I was on but...

Spoke to Tim L at Diamond the other day and the VERY good news is that they got orders for 850 of the signed and numbered 30th ANNIVERSARY GOLD LOGO SIGNED AND NUMBERED EDITION of HIGH SOCIETY.  That's about three times what I thought we'd sell after re-listing and cancelling and re-listing three times. So thank you to all the stores that kept ordering those books and all the CEREBUS fans who have booked them.  Sean is all ready to head up to Valencia to supervise the printing as soon as we have our final price quote.

We've been here so many times before I'm not sure even "God willing" is a good idea to bring up...but, God willing we should have the books on their way to the Star System warehouse in Mississippi before the end of March.

As I told Tim, after this many years of the book being out of print, I feel as if I should bake it a cake!

Nothing much to report on CEREBUS: FRACTURED DESTINY, but then I didn't think there would be for a Long, Long, Long While.  "TT" reports that he's "terribly excited" but that HAS to be tempered with "How AM I going to do this?"  That is, approaching Dede Gardner. What do you say?

Oliver is being very kind and saying that the drawings will be an "honour"  (er -- "honor").  But, man, I don't know.  LOL. Speaking as someone who does really detailed scratchy ink line drawings 12 hours a day, they don't really...register...with people. At All.  They're from a completely different planet from computer animation which is really all the average person sees these days that would be called "cartooning".  I mean, literally, maybe one in ten people coming to the house will say "You're a cartoonist?"  with the SDOAR pages there on the wall.  Nine out of ten, I can see by looking at them, it just doesn't fit their radar screen which is cellphone-sized and computer-sized and television-sized.  But pieces of white cardboard (which is what they would see) are obviously not cellphones or computers or televisions, so they don't register as VISUAL ANYTHING. "This guy has white cardboard on his wall for some reason.  Well, okay, the office knows where I am if it's something Really Weird.  He doesn't look scary or anything.  Just old."

People used to "register artwork", way, way back in the early 90s.

I mean, it doesn't bother me.  The same way it doesn't bother me that I'm almost 60 and not 40 anymore.  Here and now is here and now.  Back then is back then.  I really like what I'm doing.  I didn't like it back in the 90s because it registered with people and I don't NOT like it now because it doesn't register with people.  It's more a rhetorical question I won't get any kind of answer to: "What are they going to see when they look at this?"  I could as fruitfully ask, What would Martians think if they could see me?  It's one of the reasons that I thought the pieces should be framed.  "Oh, okay. A FRAME! This must be ART of some kind."

Okay.  Sorry for the inopportune break and the fractured Executive Summary.

Hope to see all of you next week.

And THANK YOU to all of the pledge partners who have made CAN3 so successful so far despite my bungling!

Have to finish answer the mail on hand and then go and get groceries and more mail and drop off a few things at the accountants' office.  Tax time, you know!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Gold Coin?

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.

Another notebook that we haven't looked at yet: notebook #11. Dave Sim covers Cerebus #113 through #117 in this one, with only 66 pages that were scanned and 8 blank pages out of what was an eighty page notebook.

Page 9 of issue 115 (if you're following along in the phonebook for Jaka's Story it is page 39) is where Pud meets Cerebus, who is asking to buy an ale. A rough layout on page 46 starts us off (yes, I cropped the bit off the top of the page that wasn't relevant, but hey, you're getting 3.5 pages this week instead of the usual 3):

Notebook #11 page 46, bottom half
If you compare the above, to the finish page, you can see the resemblance. On the next page in the notebook, Dave plots out some dialogue between Pud and Cerebus and then between Pud and Jaka:

Notebook #11 page 47
It also shows the reunion of Jaka and Cerebus - the look on Cerebus' face as he hears Jaka's voice is not the same as the one on the finished page. The one in the notebook is more of that happy surprised Cerebus face as opposed to the intrigued face we see on the finished page - though perhaps the finished page look allowed Dave to place Jaka's word balloon right in Cerebus left ear, which was also tilted down a bit. If it was his 'happy surprised face' both ears would probably be tilted up or both back, and as he not had yet heard Jaka's voice, how could he be happy and surprised? As we see him, he is just intrigued at why Pud is shouting.

Page 48 and 49 are young Jaka notes, and on page 50 we see the layouts for the next two pages, page 10 and 11:

Notebook #11 page 50
On page 11's fourth panel you can still see Cerebus has that 'surprised' look on his face. The word balloon that would be Jaka's is position just above and to the right of his head, not the same as the finished page.

Then on page 53 we have three pages of layouts, pages 8, 9 and 12 of issue 115:

Notebook #11 page 53
I don't know why Dave put just those three pages together. As if he was happy with what he what he had for pages 10 and 11 and didn't need to redo them.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dave Sim Bulletin: Church & State TRAUMA ONE, TRAUMA TWO-- Cerebus Under The Knife


While there are standard things we do to prepare every page of CEREBUS original art for print, some pages have sustained much more serious damage than the average page. Whether it's exposure to light, the effects of age, or just hard living, these pages have seen rough times, causing their tone to shrink, peel, rip, and buckle. The larger the toned area, and the more complex the tone, the more damage there is for us to repair.
Here are three suffering Church & State originals, in need of immediate medical intervention--

These pages need much more attention than the standard twenty minute checkup afforded the average CEREBUS page.

But with the proper medical care, and some major tone surgery, these pages have a good prognosis for recovery. Here are two before and after example from our recent surgical work on High Society.

Below: the white lines are exposed paper where the tone has shrunk and ripped. This much damage across a whole page can turn a clean, coherent design into a visual mess.

Every sponsored page will be sent directly to Dr. Mara for immediate tone surgery. Besides up to half an hour of work from myself, TRAUMA TWO pages will spend approximately one hour on Dr. Mara's operating table, and TRAUMA ONE pages a minimum of two hours. Once the procedures are safely completed, two beautiful before and after plates, signed by Dave and numbered "No. 1 out of 1", will be sent directly to you, and you will be thanked by name in the newly restored Church & State I book, in perpetuity, your name associated with that particular page.

Dr. Mara Operates, or, Cerebus Under the Knife.

Below you'll find a chart with the available pages. Please visit the Church and State I Kickstarter page to sponsor a page. We'll update the graphic as pages have been claimed. (Note: this reward will be added sometime in the next twenty-four hours. Visit soon, and visit often!)

Thanks everyone for your time, and all of your help in keeping this project moving forward!


Just received word from John re: the best way to make sure you get the page you want--

1) Post a comment claiming the one they want. First come, first served at AMOC, then
2) adjust their pledge AND send me a KS message confirming their pledge and the one they are sponsoring.

Thanks everyone!

Update Two:

Wow-- that was amazingly fast! Thank you so much for your support, everyone. We can't wait to get these pages restored and in your hands.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Cerebus Archive Number Three: Bookplates

Cerebus Trade Paperback Personalised Bookplate
Art by Dave Sim, Tone by George Peter Gatsis
'Unsigned', 'Signed' & 'Your Name Hand-Lettered By Dave Sim' Options Available
Kickstarter Ends Saturday 21st March

(from Cerebus Archive Number One Kickstarter Update #6, 21 May 2014)
...The gag actually goes back almost 50 years now, back, back, into the Vanished Mists of Ancient Times to when men used to wear…hats! See, when you went indoors, you took off your hat. As deference to what were then known as "Ladies". I still do this compulsively in the winter even when I'm only going indoors for five minutes. Anyplace that had a cloak room also had a shelf for hats. And a lot of hats looked alike. So gentlemen tended to put an identifying label in the inside of the brim with their name on it. So it was not unknown for you to pick up a hat and check inside to see if it was yours. So, my Dad got this joke label from someone that said "The HELL it's yours. Put it back. This hat belongs to…" and then he wrote Ken Sim in it. His hat would often get a good workout with guys laughing and then pretty much having to show it to other guys to explain, you know, what EXACTLY did you find particularly funny about someone else's hat? As soon as I needed a gag for an identifying label -- well, what could be more a more Cerebus-like sentiment regarding YOUR personal property?)...

Cerebus Archive Number Three: Bookplate Options
 CAN1 Tone by Sean Michael Robinson (left); CAN2 Tone by George Peter Gatsis (right)
(Click image to enlarge)

Monday, 23 February 2015

Cerebus Archive Number Three: Headsketches

Cerebus Achive Number Three: Headsketches
Fully Inked CAN$150 or Ballpoint CAN$69

Still available are the previous Headsketch styles from CAN1 (right) and CAN2 (left):

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Cerebus Archive Number Three: Bonus Prints Now Available!

Bonus Print #22: Showdown 186

Bonus Print #23: Ultimate Cerebus

The above 'First Release' prints are now available as Kickstarter pledge rewards for Cerebus Archive Number Three at just CAN$9 per print. 'Second Release' bonus prints #1-21 from Cerebus Archive Number Two are also still available.

Pledge: $9 per bonus plate

Bonus Print (BP) Availability Schedule - Funding has passed the $12,000 mark, therefore you may add 7 Bonus Prints. Once $20,000 in funding has been reached, you may pledge for 12 Bonus Prints from the First Release and/or Second Release BP lists.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bill Sienkiewicz's Cerebus

Cerebus (2015)
Art by THE Bill Sienkiewicz!

(via Margaret Liss, The Cerebus Fan Girl!)

Friday, 20 February 2015

A Post About Posters

FunkMasterJohn here, attempting his first blog post and trying to navigate his way without messing up anybody else's work! Most of the content below is from Dave with my commentary added in [brackets].

With the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE Kickstarter, theoretically, starting today, I've definitely gotten inquiries about posters. CEREBUS posters are a very difficult subject, so instead of posting these to the Kickstarter site, I'm getting John Funk to post them here with his own comments and soliciting comments from Pledge Partners and potential Pledge Partners. 

That is, none of these is available YET on Kickstarter.  Depending on how the discussion goes, we could see one or more of them up and available before CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE ships a couple of months from now.   

Basically, John and I are in agreement that this whole operation runs a lot more smoothly if we stick to 11x17 prints and Bonus Prints, so anything having to do with actual posters is definitely adding to John's workload and would have to be compensated separately, as a kind of mini-Kickstarter fulfillment -- involving not only additional packaging and additional postage but additional labour as well. 
[FMJ - it's a bit more work in planning, organising and matching, but I think we've overcome the hardest part of the learning curve on the first two Archives]
The alternative, of course, is just to do the posters as Bonus Prints, reducing them to roughly 11x17 size (with room for signing and FIRST RELEASE gold seals).  That we would be able to do, keeping the price point to $9 + $1 same as any other Bonus Print.  

Here's the status with the posters that are currently in the Cerebus Archive:

Read 'Minds' poster:
Promoting the exhibition of all of the artwork to the MINDS trade paperback at Kevin Eastman's WORDS & PICTURES MUSEUM in Northampton, MA.

Only a handful of these are in the Cerebus Archive, so the questions on this one are: 1)  should Sean attempt to do an accurate reconstruction of it 2) should it be printed this size? (I've put it next to one of the CEREBUS ROOFTOP posters to show the relative size) options: 2a) reduce it to the size of a Bonus Print and make it a bonus print; 2b) figure out how much it would cost to produce them this size with modern printing technology without going fuzzy as oversized prints for civilians who don't know the difference in printing tend to do  3) how much of a premium price would you be willing to pay so that Sean gets paid for his reconstruction, the printer gets paid to do accurate sharp oversized printing on an extremely limited run and John gets compensated for packaging these individually -- either flat or in mailing tubes?  I'm guessing a ballpark figure of $150 with a head sketch and another $50 or so for printing a really short run 100% accurately and mailing them individually.

Original printing. Roughly 18" by 24".  There is enough of a supply of these in the Cerebus Archive that we would be able to offer them as part of CAN3.  I haven't counted them exactly but I think the Cerebus Archive could spare 20 and offer them with a Cerebus head sketch, personalized, for $100 each.  There will be a premium price on the shipping and handling because they can't be packed with the folios themselves, so it's pure additional labour for Funkmaster and Rolly.

Original printing,  Roughly 18" by 24".  Same deal as THE FIRST HALF poster. I'm not entirely certain how many of them there are. I don't really want to UNpack them to count them and then have to REpack them, but I'm guessing that the Cerebus Archive can spare 20 of them and offer them with a Cerebus head sketch for $80 (since there's less room for a head sketch than on the FIRST HALF poster)

Definitely down to the last few of the original posters so this one won't be offered in its original form, but same basic question: do you want this reconstructed at the 17" by 22" size by Sean and are you willing to pay a premium $150+ for it or would you be okay with a reduced version of it as a Bonus Print for $9 + $1 postage?
 [FMJ - if Sean is already reconstructing the size, then you might as well make it as large as you like and not limit it to 17x22. Once you cross the size gap into 'large format' you're at a new cost plateau for printing and shipping, and, for example, 24x36 is not that much more costly than 17x22 or 18x24]

My idea was to do a poster of the CREATORS of CEREBUS rather than the comic's fantasy subject matter for comic stores -- basically a reverse of Meatloaf's BAT OUT OF HELL poster (by Richard Corben) which stood out in record stores for the opposite reason: fantasy subject matter instead of the creator of the music.  

There are a lot of these in the Cerebus Archive but they are all folded down to 81/2x11.  So I have no problem with offering them as Pledge Items for the standard $9 each (autographed and personalized to a first name: no room for a head sketch).  The question that remains is: how much does John Funk want to charge for packaging these with the folios, given that we've abandoned the idea of doing mini-prints because of the labour- intensive nature of packaging smaller items with the 11x17 folios?  Make John an offer and he'll tell you if he can live with it!

I've signed this one in red marker as my recommendation of what works best, comparing that to…

…where I've signed it in black with the same thickness of marker. It tends to blend in and not really look as if it's signed: more as if the signature was printed on the poster.  Likewise with signing inside the photograph area on…

I've actually had to enlarge it so that you can see that the signature is actually there. 

In terms of Gerhard signing these:  I've basically instructed Sean with anything that he reconstructs and/or restores that he supplies Gerhard with digital files so that Gerhard can print (or reconstruct in a different way if he doesn't like what Sean's done) his own versions of anything that has his work on it.  

If he wants to make his signature a pledge item as part of any of the CEREBUS ARCHIVE Kickstarters, he's more than welcome to do that.  He and John Funk both went to the same high school, so I'm sure John would be happy to drop off and pick up any material Gerhard is interested in signing for whatever fee they agree upon between themselves and then I would pay Gerhard whatever the agreed-upon amount was after he's signed everything. 
[FMJ - Yes, I'm in on that! Funny story.....neither Gerhard nor I knew each other in high school, other than the fact that I remembered a 'guy by the name of Gerhard' who could draw really well, but I didn't make the connection. Yet, every time I saw his photo in some CEREBUS ARCHIVE material, or on the web, I would tell Dave that he looked so familiar, but I couldn't place it. Anyway, to make a long story short, the clue was when I read Sean's interview of Gerhard that he gave a few years ago, where Gerhard mentions a name of someone that he was friends with in high school. CLICK. I remembered that name and mentioned it as an 'oh, by the way...' to Dave in one of our faxes and then Dave confirmed that it was the same high school name and after digging up an old copy of my yearbook, I made the connection! Small world, eh?]
As far as I know Gerhard only signs CEREBUS material that he worked on, so it would be limited, for the moment, to these posters.

Weekly Update #71: Cerebus Archive Number Three

Cerebus Archive Number Three
Signed Limited Edition Prints From 'Church & State I'
Kickstarter Ends Saturday 21st March 2015

Hi, everyone!

Okay, the clock is counting down to the start of our latest CEREBUS ARCHIVE Kickstarter -- CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER THREE, the ten earliest CHURCH & STATE pages in the Cerebus Archive.  Funkmaster John's got everything ready, Dave Fisher delivered the fully edited video (thank you, David!) and we're still tweaking a few things, but...with pre-approval from Jamie at looks as if we'll be going LIVE at around 1500 hours!  Roughly one hour from now!

After I'm done posting this, the Funkmaster is going to post a "Visual Discussion" regarding the CEREBUS posters (which I get asked about A LOT).  So that will actually serve as a lead-in since it will go above this one in the pecking order.  It really involves expanding what John is already doing -- it's not that complicated on my end: autographs and head sketches -- so it's not going to be a matter of just making them another $9 Bonus Item, I'm afraid.  Please give us your input on these if you get a chance.  We might not be doing them with THIS Kickstarter,  but maybe the NEXT Kickstarter.

As you can see, this week is pretty much ALL Kickstarter Updates!

1.  Canadian dollar -- after plummeting earlier in the month -- seems to have levelled off at 80 cents U.S.  Good CAN3 news for our U.S. pledge partners!

2.  Funkmaster John's GRAPHIC EDGE PRINT SOLUTIONS will be sponsoring a "Sermon On The Chimney" bookmark I hope to have drawn next week -- one free to each pledge partner as well as producing a CEREBUS wall-cling for selected participants.

3.  All of the Kickstarter expenses are posted by John to the Kickstarter site. We both encourage ALL of the pledge partners to audit us.  Anything doesn't add up or anywhere you see that we could be generating savings, let us know.  It's YOUR money, after all!

4.  Upgrades to shipping are now an on-going policy.  If you pledge a large amount of money (in the most recent case over SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! Seriously!!) and you've checked SEA shipping to an International destination, we will automatically upgrade you to AIR shipping. At our expense.

5.  We have confirmation that MELMOTH, JAKA'S STORY, LATTER DAYS and THE LAST DAY have all arrived at the Star System warehouse in Mississippi and are now available for retailer order.

6.  Still waiting on final numbers for the HIGH SOCIETY SIGNED AND NUMBERED GOLD LOGO 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION but we're still projecting a "March or early April" delivery. 

Progress IS being made on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, the scanning of the CHURCH & STATE I artwork, prepping for the big move of all the CEREBUS inventory from Leamington to Kitchener.

1.  I got 21 cents on the dollar when I cashed my STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND cheque at the CIBC today.  A couple of weeks back it was up around 24 cents on the dollar.  It does mean I can't really recommend either pledging early or pledging late on this (I think Kickstarter bills you at the time of pledging but I could be wrong about that) because it depends on which way the dollar goes and when.  But, it's definitely looking like a minimum 20% off sale for our USA! USA! pledge partners.  John and I will try to keep you posted if there are any sudden and unusual fluctuations.

If the Canadian dollar hits another "air pocket" and drops a few hundred feet overnight, we'll probably recommend that all of our USA! USA! pledge partners cancel their previous pledge and re-pledge at the more favourable rate. 

2.  I haven't mentioned the wall-cling previous to this.  It's a relatively new technology which Funkmaster John has adopted for GRAPHIC EDGE PRINT SOLUTIONS.  Basically it's a textured poster material that comes on a backing paper on which you can print in colour or black and white.  The "new" aspect of it is that you can stick it to the wall and it will hold just as if it was super-glued there.  But you can peel it off just as easily as you can peel a light adhesive label.  And then stick it to the wall again.  And peel it off again.  THEORETICALLY -- the company that makes the stuff promises -- dozens, if not hundreds of times, with no loss of adhesiveness.

I ended up sending a "Cerebus Berserker" sample wall cling to a couple of people for their comments.

It does seem to be a non-comic fan kind of thing.  As soon as you take it off the backing material, it's no longer in mint, right?  But, that's the thing.  TECHNICALLY it IS, if you can place it and replace it with no loss of its inherent adhesive nature.  True, you couldn't get it back onto the original backing paper, but I'm pretty sure an oversized sheet of wax paper would serve the same purpose.

So we have yet to work out what the actual "distribution" is going to be on this: but it seems to me like a "win-win" for the pledge partners.  Either it's the FIRST EVER (i.e. of many) CEREBUS WALL CLING and rare for that reason or -- if we really can't get a substantial enough level of interest -- it's the ONLY CEREBUS WALL  CLING and rare for that reason.

Anyway, much appreciated that Funkmaster John is always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing in printing and is willing to try it out as a Kickstarter pledge item!

 The bookmark will be on the wall-cling material and the original artwork for the "Sermon on the Chimney" piece will be our "end of campaign" art auction this time around!

3.  I just wanted to repeat -- and emphasize -- that we're being as completely honest and up-front with the pledge partners as we can be:  posting all of the expenses for each Kickstarter campaign and always looking for cost savings (the latest was Funkmaster wondering aloud if there wasn't a cheaper place to get the gold seals used on the FIRST RELEASE BONUS PRINTS -- I checked the U-Line catalogue and found out that they were probably 50% less in U-Line quantities than they were from the office supply place we were using. Good call, Funkmaster!).  It's 2015 and every penny counts around here (as I'm sure it does around your own place).

4.  We're definitely trying to take a "Common Sense" approach to all of the various aspects of the Kickstarter campaigns.  Upgrading shipping is a good example.

The other one that we'll be trying for the first time with THIS Kickstarter is "referral rewards".

Basically, we've been hearing from CEREBUS fans who are just now finding out about CEREBUS ARCHIVE.

We don't know HOW common this is, but it seems not to be, let's say, completely exceptional.

So, in the hopes that we can get some links to those people who have been cut off from CEREBUS for a while now, we'll be offering a FREE Bonus Print, PERSONALIZED to ANY new Kickstarter Pledge Partner AND a FREE Bonus Print, PERSONALIZED to the person who served as a "link" -- even if you're not a Kickstarter Pledge Partner, yourself.  Likewise with the "Five-Copy Retailer Package" -- serve as a link to a new Retailer Pledge Partner and both you AND the retailer will get your choice of a FREE Bonus Print each, personalized to you. 

5.  Boy, that was a STEEP LEARNING CURVE shipping books for the first time directly to Diamond's Mississippi Star System warehouse instead of going through Lebonfon! The order came in in the middle of December and finally made it there in late January.  It's always the same story with self-publishing:  there are always problems that need fixing, but once they're fixed they tend to stay fixed.

Anyway, the good news is that MELMOTH, JAKA'S STORY, LATTER DAYS and THE LAST DAY are finally available to stores again for the first time in years.

Had to make the tough call to forge ahead with restorations on CHURCH & STATE I (which is SORT of "in print" with Diamond having 100 or so copies in inventory) rather than READS (which is completely out of print).  My gut instinct is that it's better to have the earliest volumes available in sequence so that retailers can get new readers "up to speed" on CEREBUS.

Which leads to point 6:

6.  I don't think I'm being particularly morbid or fatalistic in keeping my focus on "end of life" issues.  The fact is that there's a LOT that needs to be done before I die and I'm aware of how dramatically I'm slowly down in my late fifties.  It takes me about 70 to 80 hours a week to do what I used to do in 40 hours a week.

I really have no problem with working 70 to 80 hours a week, because I'm determined to get everything done.  If I end up having a few years AFTER everything's done where I DON'T have to work 70 to 80 hours a week, I'll consider that a bonus.

The fact that Kickstarter -- so far -- is able to supply reliable revenues to move all of these various projects to completion is a major plus.  I really don't worry obsessively about money, I just keep in my mind the next thing and the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.  I always knows what I'm doing next.  I'm able to do about ten pages of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND in any seven-week period...

[and my focus has changed. Now that I know I'm not going to be bowling anyone over with my productivity, I get determined that "if this is the last page I ever do" that it's "wall-to-wall eye candy"]

...while keeping up with all of my Kickstarter obligations, scanning the original artwork for Sean's restorations, planning the preservation of the Archive itself, the disposition of the Off-White House Copies and the Uncirculated CEREBUS back issues.  Just since the last campaign ended, CEREBUS Volume One has been brought back into print, HIGH SOCIETY has been fully restored and prepped for being printed, CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE has been made available  through Diamond, half the foundation on the Off-White House has been reinforced to 21st century building standards, we've got a clearer picture of what moving the entire inventory from Leamington to Kitchener is going to involve...

All thanks to fewer than 300 devoted CEREBUS fans.

Okay, roughly one hour to the launch of the next Kickstarter!

Here we go!