Wednesday, 29 March 2017


My laptop computer died today so it looks like that's the end of my participation here on AMOC apart from the Weekly Updates. I'm going to get all the digital files salvaged from the hard drive and preserved on an external hard drive but I can't see myself buying another computer at my age. I'm surprised I put up with it this long.

I am glad that my computer lasted long enough to see SOMEONE take my side against Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer after fifteen years. Thanks, ChrisW! You made my year!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, Part 11: Repairing Old Tone on Line Art Originals

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

Part 11
Repairing Old Tone on Line Art Originals


This is the eleventh installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

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


Having spent the last two installments of this series discussing different techniques for cleaning line art originals for print, it's now time to broach a subject that's hung over this project since its inception—mechanical tone.

From the very beginning of the series, Cerebus originals were created with a melange of line art techniques. A variety of pen and ink contour lines of varied (and varying) width. Swaths of solid black ink, applied with brushes. Hatching, cross-hatching, textured marks of all kinds. Later, spatter and splatter, applied with a toothbrush. And, famously, a wide variety of mechanical tones, printed on clear carrier with adhesive on the rear, applied to the board over the line art, the excess cut away with a craft knife. 

Certain kinds of mechanical tones are easy to recognize. (See the 30 percent Cerebus gray above). Other patterns are much more organic and might appear to be pen and ink marks or splatter on first blush, especially when integrated with hatching or other actual pen lines, a technique Gerhard brought to a whole new level on his stint on the book.

But all of these tones present a real problem when preparing these pages for print. Simply put, over the intervening decades between these pages being drawn and this restoration project, the tone has shrunk.

This shrinking has been proportional, and ongoing, which means that, all other things being equal, the older the page, the larger the area of tone, the more visible shrinkage there is. (Why is the shrinkage more visible on a larger piece of tone? Imagine if you will, that a certain tone is shrinking at a rate of, say, ten percent over fifty years. A ten inch long piece of tone applied fifty years ago would now be 9 inches long, leaving a one inch gap in the artwork, which would of course be extremely visible. But a one inch long piece of tone is now still .9 inches long, that .1 inch gap being a lot less noticeable). 

Of course, all things aren't actually equal. The amount of sun a page has received seems to be a factor. Even weirder, different brands of tone and even different types of tone seem to have shrunk at different rates over time. I first noticed this phenomenon when working on Going Home, a book that's less than 20 years old at this point. Much of the tone for the book didn't need correction at all, leaving me to focus on other concerns when cleaning up the pages. But, compared to the rest of the tone, the dark scribble tone used for the black tower was dramatically shrunk.

(Although, as you can see from the extreme closeup above, just a bit of this particular piece must have been mis-cut at the time of the art being drawn! Notice the bit of scribbled pen lines to simulate the scribble tone.)

As I said, the older the page, the more severely this effect is at work. Here's a scan of the photo negative of page 20 of issue 32, with a cover date of November 1981, followed by a scan of the original artwork of the same page. This shrinkage is not that bad visually, considering the age of the original, mostly because of the organic way that the tone was cut to create the rain effect—the gaps are enlarging some as the tone shrinks, but you probably wouldn't notice unless you had the two images overlaid on top of each other. It also helps that so much of it is overlapping the black contour lines rather than butting up right against their edges. But towards the bottom you can see an area where Dave repaired the original tone, or more likely, ran out of room on the original sheet and added another bit and joined them together. That area has now become a big unintentional gap in the tone.

One more example here. Here's a segment of a page of original artwork from issue 6. When I first started this project, this was the panel that made me despair of using the original artwork at all, and led me to (briefly) try to persuade Dave over fax that we might be better off working from print copies and negatives only... Only briefly though!

So, how do we do this?

The method depends entirely on the type of tone, and what portion of it has pen lines or any other textures underneath.

So without further ado—

Repairing Dot Tone:

Here's a page from Jaka's Story that I cleaned a week or two ago. Rick and Oscar discuss children while cleaning the Guffin in preparation for painting it. As they do so, beautiful wispy clouds float by lazily, cleverly rendered with China White washes atop a low-density, high LPI dot tone pattern.

(Slightly off-topic—at the very beginning of the Cerebus restoration project, this is the sequence of the book that convinced me that the project had to be produced at 2400 pixels per inch. In a 1200 ppi resolution space, the dots that make up the dot tone in this sequence are only a few pixels across, and barely look like dots at all. Moire city! )
I'm calling this "dot tone" because it's literally made up of dots that, when viewed from the right distance, make up an illusion of continuous gray tone. As discussed before, this illusion can be disrupted in a bunch of different ways, and dealing with dot tone in the digital realm can be difficult because of the nature of pixels. I.e. sampling dots with squares (pixels) requires those squares to be extremely fine in order to avoid creating other intentional patterns.

Same goes for repairing this bit of tone. We have to make sure that we don't change the added area at all, as we'll risk our patch being visible.

Let's take the lower right panel first, as that's the easier repair.

This is actually looking pretty darn good, but the shrinkage around the arm is bothering me a bit visually. You'll find that the more precise the handling was in the original application of the tone, the more important it is visually to clean up the shrinkage. Let's zoom in (Z is the shortcut—hold Alt to change whether you're zooming in and out, and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to control the actual zoom) to take a look.

So this gap is actually pretty large compared to the neighboring areas, which is why it was standing out. I have on the Threshold adjustment layer right now so I can see what the tone will actually look like as a 1-bit bitmap. Now I'm going to select the Sharpened layer, and use my lasso tool to make a selection of the tone roughly the shape of the gap, but larger. We're going to fly the good tone into our gap and then trim it to fit.

You can see my selection above, roughly the shape that it's intended to fill, but with plenty of extra width. Now copy (Ctrl- C) this selection and paste it (Ctrl-V) into a new layer.

Now bring up the Move tool (V) and begin moving your selection around to fill in the gap, trying your best to align the dots as perfectly as you can. You can use the arrow tools to rock your selection into place as well. Move back and forth between the zoom (Z) tools and move (V) tools until you have the selection in place.

But now our contour line is being obscured by the new tone atop it. Go to your Layers panel and change the Blending Mode from Normal to Multiply. Multiply blending mode only allows the selected layer to make an image darker, which has the effect of making all the white portions of the layer effectively transparent.

And here's the result.

So we have some overhang/extra tone to erase. Bring up the eraser (E) and delete the extraneous tone. Now, click the added tone layer on and off, and make sure that the parts of the new tone overlapping with the old tone aren't causing ANY enlargement of the overlapping dots. If they are, delete the overlapping dots as well. This will be visible in print, so consider yourself warned!

Here's the finished result (although we might do a bit more cleanup on that unerased pencil line/whatever it is)—

Now, if you're me, go ahead and do this same thing somewhere between 5 and 500 times a day for the next four years of your life.

Let's not think too carefully about that part, eh?

Next week: Other types of tone repair. Video??

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

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Reviewed: Cerebus In Hell? #1 & #2!

(from a review by Travis Pelkie, 24 March 2017)
...I love this comic because it showcases how funny Cerebus is just by being an amoral jerk aardvark. His obstinate nature creates chaos and reacts to the absurd situations he’s put into in Hell, and the resulting reactions by Virgil and Dante to his asshole nature are funny. Not all of the jokes land for me. Some are over my head. But the ones that work get me rolling, so overall, it’s an excellent humor comic. You also get, in the comic books, amusing “rules” on how to contribute your own Cerebus in Hell? strip, as well as funny bios of the creators. If you like to laugh, I think Cerebus in Hell? is a really good, funny comic, and if you don’t like it, Cerebus the Aardvark will probably stab you or something... [Read the full review here...]

Monday, 27 March 2017

Swords Of Cerebus: Cerebus #10

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he'd been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. We’re currently covering the intros from Swords volume 3.

"This was the first time that Cerebus is shown to use any discretion whatsoever
 when it comes to a potential confrontation," says Dave.

Next week: The Sarah Bernhardt of comics.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: March 2017

Travis Pelkie returns with his regular monthly selection for Cerebus fans of comics and books featured in the latest Diamond Previews catalog. Travis is co-founder of the Atomic Junk Shop, a site about comics and other fun pop culture. To see your comics featured here or at the Atomic Junk Shop feel free to send an email to Travis at: atomicjunkshoptravis [at] outlook [dot] com. 

Secret Sneyd: The Unpublished Cartoons Of Doug Sneyd
by Doug Sneyd
Dark Horse, $14.99
On sale: April 2017
Diamond Order Code: DEC160115

The publisher says:
Veteran artist Doug Sneyd presents a collection of unpublished cartoon concepts created throughout his career with Playboy magazine. This novelty book is packed from end to end with one-liners and pretty girls-funny, charming, and risqué jokes, each one full of all the life and expression that only a master artist can impart with a few strokes of the pen and brush! Over 200 original cartoons! Foreword by cartoonist Arnold Roth.

Dave Sim says:
(from an AMOC Comment, 27 December 2016)
Of the Playboy painting cartoonists, I'd rank Sokol WAY at the top -- particularly his early to mid-60s work -- followed by Jack Cole followed by Canadian Doug Sneyd... I think Fantagraphics has just solicited a book of Sneyd's Playboy cartoon preliminaries. That was how the cartoonists pitched cartoons to Hefner with colour roughs. I prefer Sneyd's finished work, but I think it would be an interesting reference work for someone who was looking to see how spontaneous you can be with painted colour.  

Drawing & Life Lessons From Master Cartoonists
curated by Craig Yoe
IDW, $49.99
On sale: July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAR170625

The publisher says:
An unparalleled book, the very first of its kind! Taken from uber-rare, never-before reprinted cartooning courses with expert teachings from cartooning's rock stars: Peanuts' Charles Schulz, Little Nemo's Winsor McCay, Superman's Joe Shuster, Flash Gordon's Alex Raymond, Terry and the Pirates' Milton Caniff, The New Yorker's Whitney Darrow, Jr., Betty and Veronica's Dan DeCarlo, Prince Valiant's Hal Foster, Barney Google's Billy Debeck, Plastic Man's Jack Cole, Gasoline Alley's Frank King, Popeye's E.C. Segar, and many more icons of comic art. These esteemed geniuses act as life coaches with inspiring stories of how they succeeded and give stirring and wise encouragement to propel you to your own success. For beginners, seasoned professionals, teachers, students in school classes hungry to learn, and even those that are passionate about comics history, this will be an invaluable classic in the field.

Travis says:
Alex Raymond is included here in a collection of art lessons by famous cartoonists. From the image shown in Previews, he's showing you how to draw nekkid wimmins. A bunch of other great cartoonists as well, including "Batman's Joe Kubert" (hey, that's how he's credited!). 

Motor Girl
Absract Studios, $15.99
In stores: May 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAR171184

The publisher says:
When a UFO crashes into her desert junkyard, Samantha and her imaginary gorilla friend, Mike, repair the ship and win the heart of the little green pilot named Bik. Now an industrial tycoon wants to seize the property so he can  install his new anti-UFO weapon but Samantha is determined to stop him. What happens next is out of this world in Terry Moore's new series, Motor Girl! Collects issues #1-5.

Travis says:
Self-publisher Terry Moore's latest series, Motor Girl, is collected in a trade here, with the first 5 issues under one cover.  Imaginary gorillas, UFOs, and a cute mechanic combine for fun.

Songy Of Paradise
by Gary Panter
Fantagraphics, $34.99
In stores: May 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAR171775

The publisher says:
Fantagraphics is proud to present a major all-new book by Gary Panter. Songy of Paradise is an inspired interpretation of John Milton’s retelling of the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan after being baptized by John the Baptist and fasting for forty days and nights in the Judaean Desert. Panter’s version doesn’t rely on Milton’s words, but faithfully follows the structure of Milton’s Paradise Regained, with one notable exception: Jesus has been replaced by a hillbilly, Songy, who is on a vision quest before being tempted by a chimeric Satan figure. Gary Panter is one of America’s preeminent artists, designers, and cartoonists, whose work defined the L.A. punk scene and the vibrant work of the television show Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Songy of Paradise presents Panter’s singular vision in an ornate, hardcover format that does justice to Panter’s densely packed pages, with a stunning two-color stamping on cloth covers. It will be an art object, a brilliant literary experiment, and the most eye-popping graphic novel of 2017.

Travis says:
This one caught my eye as a sort of companion piece to Cerebus in Hell?, maybe. Songy of Paradise is by the great Gary Panter, with the role of Jesus in the desert played by a hillbilly and the entire graphic novel is "inspired by" Milton's Paradise Regained. Definitely a strange one. 

Comics Revue: April 2017
edited by Rick Norwood
Manuscript Press, $19.95
On sale: May 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAR172362

The publisher says:
America's longest-running magazine of classic comics now has twice as many pages of strips as the earlier version, on better paper, includes 8 pages of full-color comic strips, and features "Tarzan" by Russ Manning, "Rick O'Shay" by Stan Lynde, "Flash Gordon" by Harry Harrison, "Gasoline Alley" by Dick Moores, "Alley Oop" by V. T. Hamlin, "Steve Canyon" by Milton Caniff, and "Casey Ruggles" by Warren Tufts. Plus, in black and white, "The Phantom" by Lee Falk, "Krazy Kat" by George Herriman, "Buz Sawyer" by Roy Crane, "Sir Bagby" by R&B Hackney, "Steve Roper" by Saunders and Overgard, and "Modesty Blaise" by Peter O'Donnell and Romero. 

Travis says:
Dave recently talked about Comics Revue here at AMOC, so here's the listing for the latest issue.  Good looking stuff.

by Stephen King & Bernie Wrightson
In stores: May 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAR171842

The publisher says:
Now back in print: the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King's Creepshow, based on the 1982 horror anthology and cult classic film directed by George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead) and featuring stunning illustrations by the legendary Bernie Wrightson with cover art by the acclaimed Jack Kamen! A harrowing and darkly humorous tribute to the controversial and influential horror comics of the 1950s, Creepshow presents five sinsister stories from the #1 New York Times bestselling author - "Father's Day," "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," "Something to Tide You Over," "The Crate," and "They're Creeping Up on You." Unforgettable tales of terror to haunt your days and nights! 

Travis says:
After the recent passing of Bernie Wrightson, I had to feature this one. A reprint of the movie tie-in comic drawn by Wrightson in the EC style. As I went ahead and ordered this myself, I'll be reviewing it at some point over at AJS.  DC also, coincidentally, had a collection of House of Secrets starting with the Swamp Thing introductory story in this Previews, but it's way expensive and it's DC, so screw them. (ahem!)

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

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Gerhard's TorontoCon Sketches!

"Gerebus" convention sketches
by Gerhard
(TorontoCon, March 2017)

Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

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

"Cerebus In Hell?" Parody Covers: Part 8

Send your parody covers to: momentofcerebus [at] gmail [dot] com! 

looking closely at your VARK No.1, I like the way you Photoshopped the arms. Can you do a "standalone" of that VARK figure and e-mail it to me through Sandeep? It strikes me as innately funny: VARK KILL!! VARK SMASH!! And it's just Batvark with his arms out and taking up more of the panel
To which Lee Thacker said:
The 'Hulk' arms Cerebus jpg: the foreground Cerebus figures are hiding a multitude of sins in my Photoshopped 'Cerebus with his arms out' picture. I'll try to get a 'good-looking' jpg together but I fear this might be a job for Benjamin!
And since I'm Benjamin, I went ahead and made a version, which I've attached. The image was surprisingly complicated to edit. Lee did a lot more than move the arms out as Dave said. The head is smaller, the torso is wider. I think the tail is smaller as well. My version differs from Lee's in that I've removed the sword, filled in the shadow on the left leg (to cover up the fact that there is no sword), replicated the left side of the torso to fill in the right side, and drew in a couple of thumbs.

Jeff Smith vs Dave Sim: Round 1

Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3

by Dave Sim
(Cerebus #264, March 2001)

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you about this, Jeff, but, considering that it took you nearly five years to "go public" with your side of our disagreement(s) – and in light of my own avowed intention to limit myself to writing only "Chasing Scott" and "To Ham & Ham Not" here in the back of the book (and nothing elsewhere) for the three-year-minus-two-months it was going to take me to finish Going Home – I didn't think that time was of the essence.

My "sabbatical" was partly an exercise in self-discipline and partly my concession to the comic-book environment. Having been "all over the place" in promoting self-publishing as a viable direct market vehicle for comic-book creators for three years or so...

[and – whatever else you have attempted to portray my efforts as in subsequent years – that is all that I was trying to do. I know you find it hard to believe that the direct market existed before you came along, Jeff, but believe me it did. And there was a time when virtually the entire direct market – most especially publishers like Gary Groth, Denis Kitchen and Mike Richardson – made a great point of the fact that self-publishing was not a viable option and that Dave Sim was the "exception that proved the rule". My efforts on behalf of self-publishing were not to create a "self-publishing movement" (as you keep saying), but to disprove Groth, Kitchen, Richardson et al and to show that it was possible – more than possible – for others besides Dave Sim to make a living self-publishing their work and only self-publishing their own work. I intended to devote a fixed amount of time to that task (which I did) and then I intended to walk away (which I did) and – if, thereupon, self-publishing proved itself to not be a viable option for others (without my on-going, hands-on interference) – I intended to eat Crow back issues (as it were) and admit that I was wrong and that I was, in fact, some sort of mystical being, the only one endowed with the ability to self-publish successfully. The fact that you are one of the outstanding examples that assisted me in refuting that misapprehension is one of the reasons – 'til now, anyway – that I have not responded to your own vague but passionate insinuations that "Dave Sim is terribly, terribly, terribly wrong and terribly, terribly, terribly evil in some way". However inadvertently, you helped me to disprove the only misapprehension about myself that really concerned me: that I was uniquely and exclusively suited to self-publish. The rest of the "terribly, terribly, terribly wrong and terribly, terribly, terribly evil" stuff is just part of the price one pays for being a non-feminist in a feminist world. Water off a duck's back.] seemed as if a comparable period of keeping the direct market "Dave Free" (outside the pages of Cerebus) was the least that I could do. Apart from a letter to The Comic Buyer's Guide on the occasion of Gil Kane's passing, a press release when Going Home caught us flat-footed by selling out its second print run too quickly and a cover and introduction for Dork Tower and an interview or two for small fanzines, I stuck by that vow. As the three-years-minus-two-months unfolded, I reminded myself that if there was anything which really stuck in my craw, I could address it after the three-years-minus-two-months were over. Many things stuck in my craw (my craw just seems to be constructed that way) but, as the three-years-minus-two-months came to an end, nothing had really "stuck" (craw-wise) that I could count worthy of attention. Attention, in my view, better spent preparing myself, mentally, physically and artistically for the final three year climb up the final rock face on my own personal Mount Everest, the 300-issue Cerebus project.

Except one.

Just about a year ago at this time, I was still "pissed off" (a definite exception to the rule of my largely non-emotional life) about your assertion in your Comics Journal interview (the belated Trilogy Tour issue) that you had threatened to give me a "fat lip" that time that I stayed in your lovely A-frame house overlooking the San Andreas Fault.

Can't remember the last time I ever said this, but I'm saying it now – to you, Jeff.

You are lying.

(If anyone doubts that you are lying, I invite them to read what I wrote about that visit in Reads – page 241 - and compare it with your recollection of what I wrote as you "reconstructed" it – that is to say as you completely fabricated my words – in the aforementioned interview)

Leaving aside your "Big Johnson Bone" fabrications, I'm not sure what my reaction would've been had you, indeed, threatened to give me a fat lip. I find accurate perception a sufficiently arguous on-going task without muddying the waters of perception by dealing in various permutations of the hypothetical. I suspect I would've asked to use the phone and called the nearest hotel and then the nearest limo company and made arrangements to leave (since you had picked me up in a limo, I could at least be sure that one could have made it up those mountain roads) and then I wouldn've taken you up on your little "challenge" once I was sure that I wasn't staying under your roof any longer.

But, of course, there was no "challenge".

That's the really infuriating part of this whole business, Jeff: your assertion in the interview that you presented me with this "challenge", and "everything got very quiet" and then you proceeded to "enjoy your weekend". The comic-book field is not a particularly masculine environment so, for a certain unknown-but-presumably-large percentage of the people who read your interview, the whole thing was very straightforward. You threatened me and I backed down. For a likewise unknown-but-presumably-small percentage of the people who read your interview – that is for the (dozen? two dozen? three dozen?) men as opposed to males in the Comics Journal's readership, let's face it, Jeff. You were calling me a coward who backs down from another man's challenge to settle things man-to-man. And then you compounded your insult by portraying me as a weasel who would stay under another man's roof after having backed down from that man's challenge to a fight.

Off-and-on, I have now spent the better part of a year trying to figure out how to address another man's entirely fictional "challenge" to "step outside" (presumably we would have stepped outside as opposed to "duking it out" in your living room) made five years after the "fact". At the height of my "pissed-offedness", I just kept thinking to myself, "I'd like to see him try."

Once my "pissed offedness" had subsided (it took a few weeks), to my own not inconsiderable amusement I realized that that was exactly the sum and substance of my reaction. All emotion aside:

I'd like to see you try, Jeff.

I have to confess that I never thought that, at the ripe old age of forty-four (forty-five in May) I would be "stepping into the ring" with someone, least of all a fellow cartoonist. No matter how much of a fighter you are – George Foreman aside – it's really a game for one's twenties and thirties. But, clearly, I can't just let this pass without taking some action to defend myself from this... (whatever you call it. Before this, who would have needed a word for "lying about a challenge to fight man-to-man"?)

[I do understand – given the fact that I am not a feminist – I have to accept that it is "open season" on Dave Sim. Any feminist is going to feel him - or herself more than entitled to talk about me behind my back and to exert any and all efforts to destroy my reputation and credibility through gossip, innuendo and outright lies. I would expect nothing les of the unfairer sex and their allies and I knew that was the inevitable result of declaring myself to be "not a feminist" in an almost wholly feminist environment.

But you are supposed to do it behind my back, Jeff. That is how the feminist game is played. "girl fighting", as it were. However. To lie, in a public forum, about having offered to give another man a "fat lip". That's something else again.]

I would assume from your choice of the phrase that you have had a certain amount of fight experience. Offering to give someone a "fat lip" implies a disproportionately larger amount of fight experience on the part of the "offerer" than on the part of the "offeree".

I have to say that in the short space of time that we knew each other, I never once thought of you as being a fighter but, presumably, I was wrong about that. Or maybe I wasn't.

Which brings us back to "I'd like to see him try":

I will fly to Columbus on any date that you would care to name and I will give you three three-minute "rounds" to try to give me a "fat lip". I'm in a the light heavyweight class – on any given day between five and ten pounds lighter than a heavyweight. I would assume you are somewhere in that vicinity as well. I have ten-ounce gloves. Opinion is divided as to which sort of glove dish out the greater punishment: sixteen-ounce (just because they’re heavier) or ten-ounce (because there’s less "cushion"). If your opinion is that ten-ounce gloves won't do the job for you ("fat lip-wise"), let me know which weight you prefer and I'll pick up a pair. Or if you want to go all the way up to twenty-four ounce gloves I'm more than amenable. Likewise with headgear. I'm comfortable fighting without it. If you prefer headgear, just let me know.

I'll let you pick the venue and the time keeper and the referee and I'm more than willing to listen to any requirements you might have that I haven't covered here.

Just in case some "bright lights" out there get the idea of turning this into a benefit for the CBLDF or some other charity at a convention, let me head you off at the pass right now:

Having had a year to try to figure out how to explain this to a largely feminist, largely feminized crowed I figure the best bet is a (may God forgive me) movie analogy:

Do you remember in the movie The Color of Money, the sequel – make that, the "sequel" – to The Hustler where the Tom Cruise character tells the Paul Newman character that he "threw" their big championship game, so he could "clean up" on side bets? And the Paul Newman character corners the Tom Cruise character and challenges him to a game, a for-real game? And he says to the Tom Cruise character, "Let's clean this up"?

That's what I’m doing here. You can't "clean up" a mess like this in a circus atmosphere.

Jeff, I am saying, flat out, that you have lied. In lying, you have made a mess – a non-masculine mess.

You have made a mess.


Let's you and me, man-to-man, clean up the mess that you have made.


Next: Seconds Out... Round 2

Friday, 24 March 2017

Weekly Update #175: A Chris Woerner Top Ten & Starchy the DarkSpud

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 39

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Wuffa Wuffa

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 only looked at Albatross #4, Dave Sim's fourth notebook used during the production of Cerebus, once before back in August of 2016 in Albatross Four. Looking through it again, I saw a sketch for the cover to Cerebus #44 which wasn't shown in the Cerebus Cover Art Treasury book.

Cerebus #44, the Wuffa Wuffa issue, is when Cerebus, Astoria and the Roach head up to Northbell in the snow. So the cover that was used shows a bit of Cerebus in the snow:

Cerebus #44 cover
The  cover sketch on page 59 of Albatross Four shows the sled that they used to get to Northbell:

Albatross Four, page 59
The page also features some quotes, which appear to be from Lord Storm'send. The one that made me chuckle: "If'n I thought about Tarim as much Lord Julius thinks about money, I could be a high priest by now. . .".

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 10

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

Part 10
Still Cleaning Line Art Originals!


This is the tenth installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

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


At the end of our last installment, we were still in the midst of learning to clean our line art originals. And I had done all of the work so far with none of what you might think of as the "traditional" Photoshop cleanup tools. We'll get to why in a bit.

Let's take a look at another page from Jaka's Story, the book I'm currently in the cleanup stage of.

 This far zoomed out, the page is looking pretty good, with only a few visible problem areas. But really good commercial printing has a much higher effective resolution than even the best monitors around, so zooming in "waaaay too close" is important.

First I take care of making the white outer mask for the page with the marquee selection tool and the Paint Bucket, as discussed last week, and then use the Median noise filter on the edge of the panel border, also as discussed. Now I'm going to take a look at that first panel a little tighter in.

You can see we've got the "panel border shmutz" problem happening here pretty severely. Some of this might be caused by the sticky edge of the carrier film for the border "catching" schmutz over time. But some of it also looks like stray ink lines that were incompletely scraped off the border tape. You can also see an area (to the left and right of the Jaka figure here) that weren't scraped off at all). Regardless of the why, if we let this go as-is, it's going to mar the beautiful clean white border that's the intended look here. So clearly we're ready for another technique!

Oh! Hey! How about —

Cleanup Method D: Dodge Tool

Go ahead and select your Sharpen layer, i.e. the layer that represents your actual sharpened, visible artwork. And then select the Dodge tool (or hit O. Learn your shortcuts!)

In the upper tool preferences bar, change the "Range" to Highlights and the "Exposure" to 100 percent. This is now our "schmutz on white" tool, the perfect way to brush an area to eliminate black on white schmutz on a page.

Very important: DO NOT use this tool over an area of dot tone or mechanical hatching! Even if the effect is not visible to you on screen, it WILL be visible in print. Your eye "reads" dot tone as a continuous gray tone, and thus any changes made to it, however slight, are visible in print when it's resolving to your eye. 

With the above caveat in mind, why use this tool? Well, because it's only effecting the highlights of an area, you can sweep over the edge of, say, that cross-hatching, and not have to be as precise as you would be with a brush.

Use it!

So with a little bit of work with the Dodge tool, I've eliminated a lot of the border schmutz, but there's still some work to do. I think it's time, finally to switch to the tool I've been avoiding.

Cleanup Method E: the Brush tool

Yes, the humble Brush tool (hit B for the shortcut). It's the most basic cleanup method available to you. For our purposes, we want pretty specific settings:

Round brush--no fancy pants shapes or blending modes etc.
100 Percent opacity
Hardness at 100 percent
Size controlled by pressure of pen on tablet (buy a tablet!)
Color at either 100 percent black or 100 percent white (X shifts between them)
Size-- As big a brush as you can get away with using (hold [ or ] to change brush size)

Select your Cleanup layer, and then go to town!

So, why have I avoided talking about this so far?

It's simple—I think that the less cleanup you do with the Brush tool, the more efficient you'll work.

It feels good to fill something in all the way black. It feels good to get all of the little dots of noise out of the white. Satisfying, like you're really ACCOMPLISHING something.

But, more often than not, those same things can be accomplished more efficiently with one of the other tools I've discussed so far.

Moreover, you don't actually need to eliminate every speck of white from your black areas! The real problems you need to look for are systemic ones—an entire area of your page with broken up black. The white lines unintentionally in the black, like you see above. Noise that is in a particular shape, or, say, cut lines around an object that was pasted on. Those are the kinds of things that will likely be visible in print, not that little grain of white that will soon be swallowed by the black ink surrounding it.

Lastly, make sure to click your Threshold adjustment layer on and off as you work, to preview what your image will look like as a bitmap. Often times things that you think might be problems will disappear completely after the Threshold adjustment.

(We'll return to all of these issues in greater detail when discussing restoring comics from newsprint...)

....and that's all we have time for this week! Next week—we fix shrunken screen tone... most likely, with video!

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

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

SDOAR: Kick Ass Princess

Well, that took a while! Anyway, here is the Kick-Ass Princesses spread. I was so excited to work on this page for many reasons, most of which I have detailed in past posts. Kind of sad to be done with it.

In his notes to me about this page Dave said:
"... as a comic-BOOK store manager Jack would probably have read or flipped through the COLLECTED FLASH GORDON but probably would never hear of RIP KIRBY. And, as a modern tattooed woman (make sure you keep those tats visible!) all she would have taken away from FLASH GORDON is "Kick-Ass Princesses"."
Dave has also jokingly mentioned making Jack a character feminists will love enough to demand a spin-off title.

I think the idea is pretty funny but was skeptical that any feminist would look at this illustration, see a girl lost in wistful fantasy, surrounded by sexy women in skimpy costumes, and not be offended. So, I tried a little social-media experiment.

This page was started the day after International Women's Day, and I had just figured out that people follow hashtags on Instagram, not just particular feeds. So, I decided to post image updates each day I worked on the page and to hashtag the posts with things like #girlsrule #girlpower #feminist #feminism as well as more descriptive things like #inking #comics #davesim #strangedeathofalexraymond. In the first post I made sure to say that in honor of International Women's Day the day before I had started the Bad-Ass Princesses (Forgot that Dave used "Kick-Ass Princesses." Whoops!) spread for The Strange Death of Alex Raymond. Every subsequent post I made sure to reference Bad-Ass Princesses and Strange Death of Alex Raymond.

No one has called me out for being a dude drawing sexy women, or balked at the idea that Dave Sim is involved with something about girl power. The posts received likes and follows from hardcore feminist feeds with names like girlpoweruniversity, nipplemagazine, sluttygingerbread, nyclitoris, thefutureoffeminine, wearethetulip, and a number of personal feeds with large amounts of feminist memes posted to them.

So, Dave, you are totally right, the ladies do love Kick-Ass Princesses and Jack. I think we should ditch SDOAR and start the Jack spin-off asap!

I think I am going to keep the experiment going with Kick-Ass-Comic-Shop-Manager Jack vs.The-Oppressive-Hand-Of-The-Patriarchy, since the last eight pages are pretty much my hand drawing Jack's face over and over. Maybe we can drum up some new readers?

Cerebus #11: "A Little Behind-The-Scenes Stuff"

So I finally purchased a copy of the Cerebus Cover Treasury. I'd provided IDW with two scans of cover prelim's I own, for #11 and #36, back when the book was in the planning stages, but I'd never heard whether the images would actually see print.

And now my wait is over: neither were used.

But it occurs to me that other AMOC regulars would like to especially see the #11 cover -- a hand-coloured example not unlike the #15 shown in the book. Dave doesn't mention it in his commentary but I seem to remember the #11 original art being sold on eBay and then he did the #11 re-creation shown and auctioned that on eBay not too long after... which didn't sell for nearly as much as the original.

(I paid much less than either the original or the recreation for the hand-coloured example.)

It was nice to have Dave's corrections (or whatever he called them) to the book posted on AMOC, and hopefully for other fans the #11 cover is a similar nice addition.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Speaking of Petunia Con...

"Petunia Con '84" print
Art by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlare)

(from an AMOC Comment, 16 March 2017)
Coincidentally (?)

a) I just sent Conan Tobias [at Taddle Creek] two pictures from the Aardvark-Vanaheim panel -- featuring Bill Loebs, me, Deni, Arn Saba, Jim Valentino and Joshua Quagmire -- at the Real World (?) PETUNIACON '84 in Oakland California (since they were two of the only four photos of Arn Saba that I had for his article on Arn Saba/Katherine Collins for QUILL & QUIRE)...

b) researching LOVE & AARDVARKS #1 in Todd Hignite's JAIME HERNANDEZ book, I just noticed in a period photo of Los Bros. that Mario is wearing a Petuniacon t-shirt (it was the first convention Los Bros. attended: Jaime's was definitely the first mohawk I had ever seen in my hotel suite). It was also Gerhard's first convention.

*I* don't even have a Petuniacon t-shirt!

Los Bros Hernandez: Jaime, Mario & Gilbert (1984)
Photo by Carol Kovinick Hernandez

c) a caption for another photo in the book mentions that I had organized PETUNIACON. Which isn't true. Faye Desmond organized PETUNIACON at the beginning until the Bay Area Comics & Comix retail chain crew got wind of the fact that the only guests were going to be Indy creators and recognized a disaster in the making and jumped in and lined up Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz as guests to prevent the disaster from taking place. I did drawings for the program book, t-shirt and poster but that was the extent of my hands-on participation. Apart from holding the above-mentioned Killer Party in my suite. And insisting that I needed to have a suite large enough for a Killer Party as part of my attendance.