Monday, 29 August 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Re-Read Challenge: Melmoth

CARSON GRUBAUGH: 
(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...I find it hard to say much about Melmoth, probably because it was my favorite volume of the re-read. The first time I read Cerebus it was all of the heady outer-space philosophy and theology that attracted me. This time around the humbler volumes are the ones that speak to me and Melmoth is the most touching of them all. It is a deeply introspective and focused volume. The book speaks for itself.

Issue #150 marks the middle of the series and the turning point in what Sim has called the Masculine and Feminine halves of the story. So this volume, with it's focus on death, functions much like the Death card in the tarot, as a transition period... [Read the full review here...]

CARSON GRUBAUGH'S
CEREBUS RE-READ CHALLENGE:
Cerebus Vol 7: Flight
Cerebus Vol 8: Women
Cerebus Vol 9: Reads
Cerebus Vol 10: Minds
Cerebus Vol 11: Guys
Cerebus Vol 12: Rick's Story
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Jaka's Story #16

Cerebus #129 (December 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Jaka


CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Many Origins of Jaka (Part 4)


CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Cerebus In Hell?: Daily Strips - Week 9

CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
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Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Cerebus Archive Number 5: Update #2

Hello everyone! A very sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported this campaign so far. We've surpassed our initial goal and are now past the halfway mark for the campaign. To help generate more contributions to help fund the restoration of Cerebus, we're pleased to announce our stretch goals for Cerebus Archive #5!

STRETCH GOAL #1 - $20,000 - NOTEBOOK TWO
If we raise $20,000, every individual who has ordered at least one of the Jaka's Story portfolios, will ALSO receive a digital version of NOTEBOOK TWO! This 199-page notebook features dozens of never-before-seen images by Dave Sim as well as copious notes that went into the development of Cerebus. This notebook is also being offered as an individual reward for $20.

STRETCH GOAL #2 - $25,000 - COLLECTED LETTERS 2006
If we raise $25,000, every individual who has ordered at least one of the Jaka's Story portfolios, will ALSO receive a digital version of COLLECTED LETTERS 2006 (as well as previous stretch goal rewards). This 384 page collection includes letters written by Dave Sim after the completion of Cerebus, including letters to Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr, Neil Gaiman, Joe Matt, Seth, Chester Brown and many, many, many more! This collection of letters is also being offered as an individual reward for $20.

STRETCH GOAL #3 - $30,000 - NOTEBOOK THREE
If we raise $30,000, every individual who has ordered at least one of the Jaka's Story portfolios, will ALSO receive a digital version of NOTEBOOK THREE (as well as previous stretch goal rewards). This 79-page notebook also features dozens of never-before-seen images by Dave Sim and more notes that went into the development of Cerebus. This notebook is also being offered as an individual reward for $20.

STRETCH GOAL #4 - $35,000 - COLLECTED LETTERS 2007
If we raise $35,000, every individual who has ordered at least one of the Jaka's Story portfolios, will ALSO receive a digital version of COLLECTED LETTERS 2007 (as well as previous stretch goal rewards). This 253-page collection includes hundreds of letters written by Dave Sim after the completion of Cerebus, including letters to Gerhard, Chester Brown, Neil Gaiman, Gary Groth, and many, many more! This collection of letters is also being offered as an individual reward for $20.

STRETCH GOAL #5 - $40,000 - NOTEBOOK FOUR
If we raise $40,000, every individual who has ordered at least one of the Jaka's Story portfolios, will ALSO receive a digital version of NOTEBOOK FOUR (as well as previous stretch goal rewards). This 160-page notebook also features dozens of never-before-seen images by Dave Sim and more notes that went into the development of Cerebus. This notebook is also being offered as an individual reward for $20.

Hopefully, these stretch rewards will generate some more contributions. Be sure to tell your friends, families, enemies and strangers about Cerebus Archive #5! Stay tuned for more updates!

Albatross Four

MARGARET LISS:
A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

So we've looked at Dave Sim's first three notebooks, which he called Albatross: Albatross One (Cerebus issues #20 to 28), Albatross, too (#28 to 37), and Albatross 3 (though it was unnamed by Dave, this is where it fits: #37 to 41). This week it is Albatross Four:

Cover to Albatross Four
Albatross Four covers Cerebus issues #41 to 45 with 99 pages out of 108 pages scanned. A couple of the pages dealt with a never published title called Cerebus Collector. There is a contents listing on page 14:

Albatross Four, page 14
Then on page 20 we see a sketch for the front and back cover. I've rotated the notebook page by 90 degrees to make it easier to view:

Albatross Four, page 20


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Jaka's Story #13

Cerebus #126 (September 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Avoiding the Dreaded Moire-- Press Tests and Adventures in Modern Printing




Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings all!

Last week our new printer Marquis put a test form of Going Home pages on the press in preparation for the new fully-restored edition that will be going to press as soon as they can schedule us.

As I've mentioned a few times before, wet proofs (in the previous era of printing, otherwise known as "proofs") are the only real way to know, with any amount of reliability, what your print product will actually look like on press. So-called "proofs" these days are actually output on a laser printer or plotter, and don't reflect the resolution or the gain you'll experience actually on-press. So getting a wet proof is the only real way to get an idea of what your book will actually look like.

In this case, my mission was two-fold. One — get an idea of how much gain we could expect on-press, as a trade-off with the blacks density. This was a pretty minor consideration this time, as I now have a pretty good idea of the type of results they're capable of on their web presses with our selected paper (Rolland Enviro Satin)

Which leaves us with the main goal — to ensure there's no moire.

I've written about moire here before. In a basic way, moire is the third unintended visual pattern that appears when you sample one repeating pattern with another. Take a look out your screen door. Everything you see through the screen is filtered through those perfectly repeating boxes. Because the boxes are mechanically predictable, you most likely don't notice you're looking through a screen at all. But now imagine that, instead of gazing out at your backyard through the screen door, you were looking at another piece of screen, pressed up against the first one. Unless that second piece of screen were to be perfectly aligned with the first, what you would see would be a third pattern, unrelated except through math, that would change with every movement of the second piece of screen.

Make that second piece of screen a different pitch (smaller or larger apetures) or a different shape, and the resulting pattern would be even more wildly different.

This is in essence what moire is. And this is the struggle that has kept many classic comics techniques from cleanly making the leap to digital printing. 

Pixels are the unit of sampling for all visual digital data. A square unit. Mechanical tone (zip-a-tone, Letratone, whatever you'd like to call it), staple of 20th Century cartooning, is composed completely of mechanically-produced perfectly-distributed circles. Sampling circles with squares leaves you a lot of room for error. 

A by no means comprehensive list of Things That Can Cause Moire —

1. Scanning at a resolution that doesn't adequately capture the dot tone (even worse- having your inadequate-resolution scan sharpened automatically by your scan software before you upscale or do anything else to the file!)
2. Working in a resolution space too small to accommodate the pitch of the dot tone
3. Half-toning line art with dots (which is why line art should always be submitted to a printer as a 1-bit TIFF file, along with instructions not to half-tone the images)
4. Resizing or rotating 1-bit TIFF files
5. Resizing or rotating at-size files that are already really sharpened or have little to no ambiguous edges left
6. Resizing or rotating tone many times, especially in small increments

You'll notice the lack of precision in this. This MIGHT. That MAY. You really don't know until your book is on press. You just have to do your best to avoid the things that increase the likelihood of moire, and then cross those proverbial fingers.

All of the above made it easy to pick the pages for the test signature.  Each had to meet some of the following criteria —

a) tone with a high lpi rating (lines per inch, i.e. tiny-dotted tone)

The greater the dot pitch (i.e. the smaller the tone), the greater the risk of moire, as the circles (dots in the dot tone) are being sampled by a smaller number of squares (pixels). (This fact is the rationale behind my decision to work in the resolution space (2400 ppi) that we're using for this entire project, despite that resolution being double the res used by most professional line art print projects. Conveniently, it also enables me to be a lot more flexible with the files — including shrink them uniformly, and resize them to a much greater degree than would otherwise be possible)

b) tone that was exposed, meaning, large areas of it across the page, unbroken by other visual elements

The eye is more forgiving of any visual anomalies that are broken up with other visual elements. Thus, moire, or dirtiness of tone caused by slur in the print stage or overly-fibrous paper, are much more visible when it's a big old hunk of tone uninterrupted by other drawing elements. Additionally, picking tone that had the same density across the page enabled me to better parse how much dot gain was happening across the page.

c) pages with similar or identical tone that were digitally processed differently, or from different sources

Since there are so many ways to screw up (see the above!), it was important to me to make sure that I selected pages from each different source of page (original artwork vs. photo negative made during the monthly production of the book), as well as from each scanner (original artwork having been scanned by both Sandeep and Gerhard, with the same type of scanner, but with slightly different settings and treated slightly differently on my end). The pages that have been problems in the past have been flukes of the media or the scan — some difference in the scanner or scanning procedure that, when treated similarly to other pages of the same type, ended up in moire-ville. (Not a pleasant place to live — everything is plaid.) So covering my bases this time meant each type of scan being represented, a much easier task now that almost all of the book is original art scanned by only two people on almost identical scanners!

d) pages with any other unusual considerations

There are a few pages that had the unfortunate combination of fine-pitched dot tone and the photocopier, i.e. had tone elements photocopied to produce the finished artwork. I wanted to make sure that these elements wouldn't be too dirty-looking on press. I also added a few pages with very dark (40 percent or greater) tone, to better judge dot gain and slur (fine dark tone more easily reveals limitations of press and paper, as the dots of the tone are oriented so tightly together that they easily run into each other, causing visible noise in the tone. Check out pages 352-355 in the previous editions of Going Home to see a good example.)

Lucky for me, Marquis currently only has Rolland Enviro Satin in larger rolls, which means that the test form would be 32 pages long. I sent the following pages —

107, 121, 135, 172, 173, 182-185, 196-197, 202, 256, 285-286, 291-292, 325, 336-339, 351, 353, 355-356, 360, 363-367

The results? Damn good! And thanks to my paranoid working methods, not a lick of moire this time.

The (minor) downside first — no matter how good the printing is, there are limitations to web offset printing, specifically, variation in the impression across a given form. I.e. each page has a different amount of gain and blacks density depending on where it was located on the form. This is unavoidable when printing on a web press, and although it can be minimized by maintenance and condition of the press, there will always be some amount of variation. (If you've ever seen a press in action, you'll know what a marvel it is it works at all! All that paper, moving at that speed... sheesh.)

That being said, there is a minimal amount of dot gain present, and the impression is very clean, even on the areas with dense and dark tone. Compared to the original printings, we are worlds away. Here are some side by side comparisons.

In the multi-page pan shot towards the end of the book there's a tight dot tone that grades from a dark 40 percent to a lighter 20 percent over the course of the seven page sequence. Here's the top panel of page 356, from the middle of that sequence. These are raw scans from my second-printing trade (above) and the press test (below).


And here's a one-to-one comparison. At top, the file that was sent to Marquis, at size (1 to 1 pixels). The tone reads 37 percent at this particular portion of the image. (Was it a graded tone?)

Below is a closeup of the exact same area of the actual press test. The tone has expanded only fractionally, to 39 percent. You can see the bit of slur present in the way the dots are slightly deformed.

And below that is the same area from my second edition printing. The tone clocks in here at 60 percent, and as you can see, there's a ton of dirtiness in the impression.

As I said, this is the extreme — what just happens to be the worst-printed page of the sequence in both the original printing and the press test. But I think it's a fair representation overall of how different this book will look from previous printings.





Which is to say, the march forward continues. This'll be the slickest volume yet.

....and meanwhile, I've managed to go way over on time here, lost in the weeds. Be sure to check this space over the next few weeks for more Going Home before and after comparisons, and if you have any questions for me, I'll see you in the comments!

(Special parenthetical-- also taking suggestions for the image/enlargement for the last page of the book, i.e. the Aardvark-Vanaheim address page. Have a favorite image from Going Home that has thematic resonance for the volume, and would look good large? Let me know in the comments!)










Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Jaka's Story #11

Cerebus #124 (July 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Monday, 22 August 2016

OFF-WHITE HOUSE BULLETIN 1700 hrs 22 AUG 16

DAVE SIM:
I spoke on the phone with Tim L. at DIAMOND COMIC DISTRIBUTORS about an hour ago and he informed me that the REMASTERED version of READS is in transit, but should be at DIAMOND UK later this week or early next week.  Anyone interested in buying a copy of READS should "try again" with their UK LCS in the next few days and the book should "show" as being available very, very shortly.

Thanks to our UK READS WANNABE BUYERS for their patience!

 He also said that he called his counterpart at DIAMOND UK about HIGH SOCIETY, RICK'S STORY and FORM & VOID being "unavailable" and was told that the only CEREBUS trade paperback not available from DIAMOND UK at the moment is GOING HOME.*  Which, of course, is in production right now.

Although my DIAMOND U.S. numbers are a couple of weeks out of date, they've got 1,123 copies of HIGH SOCIETY REMASTERED (please make sure that you're using the REMASTERED order code which is different from the previous HIGH SOCIETY order code!) 576 copies of RICK'S STORY and 254 FORM & VOID, so there should be no problem getting any of those titles through DIAMOND UK.

Hopefully, our OFFICIAL WORLDWIDE DISTRIBUTOR of individual copies of CEREBUS trades, PAGE 45, will be able to stock up soon.  Many thanks to DIAMOND UK for "reaching out" to them (according to Tim L.)

* Tim L. also said that DIAMOND is fine with a $40 cover price on GOING HOME and that DIAMOND still has 149 copies of the CEREBUS trade (my last figure was 381, so GOOD VELOCITY there!)

So -- it's OFFICIAL! -- GOING HOME, the $40 REMASTERED EDITION will be the next CEREBUS trade paperback printed. SeanR has approved the test signature for GOING HOME -- watch for his update coming soon! -- so now we're just waiting for a spot on MARQUIS' printing schedule and we should have a tentative ship date for all of you very shortly!  

Jaka's Story #10

Cerebus #123 (June 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Carson Grubaugh's Re-Read Challenge: Jaka's Story

CARSON GRUBAUGH: 
(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...I suspect some readers will now accuse me of ignoring all of the text pieces that make up the fictional "Jaka's Story" that exists within the narrative; that I am leaving out everything to do with how Jaka become Jaka, the coming of age stuff, etc. That is merely surface fluff for the penultimate act of the book which is about finding one's artistic voice, one's inspiration. As a child Jaka finds her voice in dance, this is suppressed by the society she lives in and it takes her removing herself from that society to be able to do what she loves. But, remember. that story is being written by Oscar, who has been struggling to finish his book and is grappling with his own creativity. Any theme you see in "Jaka's Story" has to be filtered through this layer of understanding.

Ultimately, Oscar has to see Jaka dance to gain his final burst of inspiration and in doing so gives us the clearest picture that Dave Sim can formulate of what an artist is, as summed up in this page from issue #128.

Artists are those who stare into the void (with all the significance that holds in the world of Cerebus) and have the balls not to look away. Not only do they not look away, they summon the courage to assert themselves within the void. By making such public declarations they become vulnerable to the world.

Oscar, in "Jaka's Story," writes a character that found her art in childhood, debt fee to any apparent predecessor other than nature itself. Oscar seems to feel the weight of not, himself, being inspired by such a primal source. He needs Rick telling him stories about Jaka's life. He needs to see Jaka dance because his imagination is not enough to conjure the words.

But, the ultimate point is, as much as we want to think of artists as gods capable of filling blank slates with primal bursts of creativity from within perfectly introspective voids they would be lost without the influences they encounter when they step away from the void. Sim, especially, makes it a central aspect of his creativity to always take his first steps into the void wearing the shoes of others. His frequent mimicry of other artists' rendering styles and writers' voices, use of  parodied characters, and, as I am arguing, the willingness to take on different public persona, bears this out. He feels no shame, and there is none to be felt, in acknowledging that his work does not in fact exist inside of a void. It is indebted to the efforts of all those who influenced him and the giants that preceded him.

It is to Sim's credit that he has a strong enough sense of self that all of this mask-wearing never comes off as desperate grasps for a place to fit in or an identity. His self-confidence is strong enough to allow itself to occupy the stance of others. It is curious to understand what they understand. If this process leads to drastic changes in who Dave Sim is, that is fine, because the core of the self-confident seeker is still there. On the other hand, if that core rejects a position it can say it has done so not because of ignorance but due to the process of living in the opposing shoes and finding that they rubbed blisters into the heels.

Any self obviously has immutable properties, preset assumptions and existing prejudices that will affect how well it plays whatever role it takes on but it is a rare self that even tries. I value those that try... [Read the full review here...]

CARSON GRUBAUGH'S
CEREBUS RE-READ CHALLENGE:
Cerebus Vol 6: Melmoth
Cerebus Vol 7: Flight
Cerebus Vol 8: Women
Cerebus Vol 9: Reads
Cerebus Vol 10: Minds
Cerebus Vol 11: Guys
Cerebus Vol 12: Rick's Story
Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Jaka Ex Libris

CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Many Origins Of Jaka (Part 3)


CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

CAN5 KICKSTARTER UPDATE


CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 5:
A portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints from "Jaka's Story"
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel

DAVE SIM:
Still not able to get into the Kickstarter site and in fact couldn't access the Internet at all yesterday and most of today. Sorry about that, folks!

Right now, Sandeep is spending pretty much all of his time prepping COLLECTED LETTERS 2006.  The idea being that the logistics of HOW to get it to everyone really takes second place to getting it ready, so I'm sure he'll answer the HOW do we get this questions once it's ready to go. We are determined to e-mail it to everyone who pledges for it before the end of the campaign, this time. Which is what was supposed to happen last time.

It's a very basic but HUGE amount of work: going through 400-odd (some very odd) pages and taking phone numbers and things like that out, making sure that we don't end a page just on the recipients' name, etc.  There are inexplicable things -- like numbered lists that should be 1) 2) and 3) and are actually 8) 9) 10).  I just happened to be back at Camp David talking about something else and I suggested, well, do a footnote.  Just "don't know why this is is this way but this is the way it is". Well, that adds time.  There isn't really time to read all 400-pages.

It isn't a publication (publication is STRICTLY getting the 16 volumes into print and producing CEREBUS ARCHIVE: that's a FULL PLATE, I'm afraid!): it's raw research material.  What we're really doing is building Proxy Archives by making the material available. Everyone pledging for all of the Kickstarter stuff, if we do this properly, will end up having their own CEREBUS ARCHIVE that they'll be able to donate to any institution they want when they pass on.

Someone might get interested in doing a definitive HISTORY OF CEREBUS 2006 in which case they've certainly got A-list, first generation research materials with all the letters from that year.

Hard lesson being learned as we speak: don't offer something until you find out how difficult it is to put together.

Sandeep will answer all your questions as soon as he has answers.  Soon!

Gotta say! We're both ready for Funny Friday, this week!

Thank you ALL for your amazing support. I'm pretty sure this is the fastest we've gotten to $18K!

Cerebus In Hell?: Daily Strips - Week 8

CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 ships 28th September 2016
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at CerebusDownloads.com

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Notebook 2a, aka Albatross Three

MARGARET LISS:
A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

We've seen some of the earlier notebooks, but not all of them. For the next couple weeks, I'll be going through these and sharing some of their pages here. Last week it was Albatross, Too and the week before that was Albatross One.

When I started scanning in the notebooks Dave sent me, I just numbered them sequentially, as that is how I was getting them. Then I got the plain blue notebook that didn't have any Albatross name on the front, just a really crushed spiral wire at the bottom of it:

Cover to Notebook 2a
In a letter from Dave to me dated August 17, 2005, Dave had this to say:
I'm not sure what I was up to with the numbering on the notebooks. As you can see from the enclosed package, these are (self-declared) Albatrosses Four and Five and an unnumbered one which seem to cover the same stretch of High Society. I think I might've mislaid one of them and bought an interim notebook to use until the actual one turned up. It definitely sounds like me. I remember this from trying to put the Notebooks in order at various points - they go a little wonky chronologically at various points. 
Looking through the notebook, it's 78 pages (out of a possible 80 pages) contained the notes for issues 37 to 40. It didn't have an 'albatross' designation on the front cover, so I just labeled it Notebook 2a, as it fit between Albatross, Too (issues 28 to 37) and Albatross Four (issues 41 to 45). 

Going back through my notes on the notebooks, there is no Albatross Three. Perhaps this notebook should've been labeled Albatross Three, but it wasn't at the time.

As you can see, the bottom of the spiral was just crushed. I remember being nervous that the pages would be ripped if I had tried to open the notebook while the binding was like that, and that I wouldn't be able to get a good scan of the full page. So I used a pair of needle nose pliers to undo the damage to the spiral wiring: 

Close-up of the cover to Notebook 2a
After I let Dave know about what I had done to the notebook in a letter to him, he wrote back in a letter to me dated February 11, 2006:
The odds are that what was stacked on top of the notebook causing the spiral binding to be a bit flatten was me. Those notebooks took a lot of abuse since they went everywhere with me. By all means anything you need to do to fix them so you can get a better scan, feel free. The blue notebook looks the best it has in years, I'm sure.
And we can't leave without seeing at least one page from the notebook. Here is page 10, with a list of what issues #37 to 50 were to be about. 

Notebook #2a, Page 10
It looks like were to originally have four issues with two days and nights of PetuniaCon, but only got two issues for the two day convention.



Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Earliest Pages of Jaka's Story-- A Closer Look


Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings!

In honor of the currently running, totally bitchen Jaka's Story restoration Kickstarter, I thought I'd take a look at the original artwork of the first few pages of Jaka's Story. Although the restoration work hasn't been started yet, all of the original artwork has been scanned by Sandeep and Gerhard and I've had a chance to sort through and file the digital materials and assess the condition. (Verdict? It's going to be a fantastic looking book!)

Here's a look at the first page on offer in the portfolio (the second page of the book, after the "prologue" lettering). On the left we have a very effective illustration of Nurse-as-Missy, and to the right an early sketch of Jaka with Missy herself, an image that appears to be a preparatory drawing for another one-page illustration later in the same issue (page 25 in the completed book).



Unlike most pages, this one was intended as a step to the "original," rather than a finished page itself. In addition to the stray pen marks at the top of the page (doubtless to get the ink flowing again on a nib that was giving Dave some trouble), there's also some instruction below. "57% PMT." PMT means "photo mechanical transfer"—Dave is requesting that the printer make a positive print of the image at a 57 percent reduction. (57 percent was the amount of reduction from original artwork to printed page all through Jaka's Story and most of Church & State as well. The original artwork's "active area" was 10 inches across, which means that during this area of the book, the printed artwork was approximately 5.7" across. Why the reduction from the previous 60 percent reduction? No one seems to remember, but I'd guess it has to do with the trades, which were now being considered as the monthly book was being produced.)

But that plan to make the PMT seems to have been abandoned, if I had to guess, because of the complexity of having to communicate the layout of the resulting page made the image quality tradeoff not worth it. So the finished page appears to be a photocopy instead. Take a look at the enlargements of the post for a comparison of the two at-size. The photocopy looks pretty good compared to some of the earlier photocopied pages, though there's some expansion in the dark/dense areas, and there's the very fine photocopy dusting (little flecks of stray toner that have darkened or accumulated in the paper over time) that I've come to expect at this point. Of course, since all of the process has been preserved, this page will be reconstructed from the original drawing, and the type reset, for the restoration.





And here's the actual finished page/layout that was shot for the book, all photocopy in one form or another. I've exaggerated the cyan channel in the scan to make it easier to see the blue line pencil.


And here's a closeup of the majuscule — a very small but very telling example of how the photocopier changed and informed the work that Dave and Gerhard did on every book. 

It looks like the majuscules were produced by collaging various photocopied elements together, the cap coming from one source, and then paced upon a hand-drawn box with a borrowed floral motif that was then decorated further with a bit of fleck tone. Much of this detail is obscured in the trade, my copy at least, but it'll certainly be present in future restored volumes.



Page seven of the same issue was constructed in a similar way. (At least, it's page seven now. More than any book I've restored so far, Jaka's Story seems to have endured some significant mid-issue shuffling, if the page numbers are to be believed. That kind of shuffling is a lot harder with linear narratives, but the prose chunks running parallel to the comics sequence makes it possible without revision)






The second page is a paste-up version of photocopies of the main illustration and the text.

I've always found this to be a stunning image, in a book of stunning images, and a perfect example of complimentary use of values and texture for narrative purposes. And the device of nesting panels as visual tells of overlapping interpretation is already hitting its stride, the impassive face of Nurse/Missy as young Jaka struggles with the routine hardships of childhood. Beautifully conceived, beautifully executed on all levels.

And, just because I can, here's a closer look at that beautiful reflection on the floor. Pull out your copy and take a look for comparison.

click to embiggen

In closeup and in color, you can see what a worked surface this is — after an initial application of black except around the circles, china white hatching to the black, then hatching above the china white to blend the effect a bit, along with some stippling in the circles. 

The other pages on offer for the Kickstarter are an almost silent domestic sequence, with striking drawing. The six-panel grid that will undergird the majority of the comics sections of the book keeps them rhythmically consistent and character-focused. To me, the most remarkable aspect of them is the consistency and grounded feel. From the acting to the setting, these are real-seeming people moving and interacting in real environments, expressive and stunningly-rendered textures, careful value balances and masterful use of line weight. Like a virtuoso single-illustration pen and ink drawing come to life. 




And how exactly was all of this done? On a monthly deadline, no less?

More as the restoration proceeds...