Saturday, 10 December 2016

Kickstarter: Cerebus Archive Number 6

A Portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints with Exclusive Commentary by Dave Sim
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Cerebus In Hell? - Week 24

   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
  CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at

   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at

Thursday, 8 December 2016

CEREBUS ARCHIVE #6 Now Features...#5!

Sandeep's just posted a new pledge item for the Last Day of the CEREBUS ARCHIVE #6 Kickstarter: CEREBUS ARCHIVE #5!  I checked the inventory at Camp David and the lowest number is #9 and the next lowest is...#67?  Something like that.  Then it jumps into triple digits. So, first come first served!

Pig's Ear

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 after last week's notebook entry, I realized that there were a couple notebooks that we've only looked at once before. One of those is notebook 26 (it was previously called notebook 23) in Cool's Right. It covers Cerebus issues #224 to #230.

Here is the cover, just another Hilroy notebook:

Notebook #26, front cover
I don't usually show the back cover, but this one make me scratch my head. It looks like Dave might have had it by his desk, and used it to get his pens / brush started.

Notebook #26, back cover
"Pig's Ear"? I'm not sure, but it doesn't look like Dave's handing writing. However, we know how good he is at changing his for whatever task he has at hand. I wonder who wrote it and what they were referring to - what was messed up?

And here is page one of the notebook, starting with issue 224.

Notebook #26, page 1
A sketch of Rick and some Cerebus dialogue.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Melmoth Kickstarter-- Three Days Left! and MINDS begins...

Sean Michael Robinson:


If you haven't done so already, please check out my lengthy post from last week, which has since been buried under an avalanche of great content, on the why and how of the restoration. Why exactly are we doing this, and what is is that we're doing?

In my long essay at the end of the newly restored Cerebus Volume One (at the printer now!), I make the case that Cerebus's success as a publication involved a perfect alignment of market and creator; fanzine culture and the direct market colliding with a comic writer/artist/soon-to-be publisher capable of telling serialized stories uniquely suited to the new form of comic consumption. 

Time will tell if we make it to the end of this project, but in my most optimistic moments, it occurs to me that Cerebus is now once again in a similar position. Dave Sim has gone to great legal lengths to ensure that his creation will go to the public domain upon his death. so that anyone who wants to can benefit from it in any way that see fit—republish, rework, critique, discuss, collage. It's a concept very much aligned with some of the most idealistic thinkers of the Internet age, a concept that continues to develop as the corporate stranglehold on copyright continues. (There's a wealth of information at Duke Law's Center for the Study of the Public Domain).

It's fitting, then, that just a few hundred people have so far successfully financed this project, have paid for the scanning and careful restoration of around 3.000 pages of artwork through their pledges to the Cerebus Archive campaigns. If the project itself is unique to the print world (image quality not usually considered the domain of the Internet), the funding and organization of the project itself is uniquely digital, in that we're now entering a time where it's possible for smaller audiences to fund and sustain their interests.

Personally, I don't see Cerebus as a niche series, but an extremely unique series, that has straddled enough genre lines and weathered a remarkable series of genre changes and audience expectations, a work ripe for rediscovery. And if that process does continue, it'll be restored, with the aesthetic aspects presented as they were when they left the drawing boards of Dave and Gerhard, the care and attention they lavished on each aspect of the work evident in every panel and line.

Thank you all for making it happen.

Up next—we skip ahead to Minds! The raw scans are coming in now, as I type this. Here are a few closeups.

In fitting with earlier depictions of magic and madmen having their visions entangled with science (see: K'Cor, King of Imesh), Magus Doran has a prominently-featured gyroscope in his waiting room. 

 Sunday Best. Look at how artfully the line weight is communicating both lighting and prominence. 

We Told You So: Comics As Art

We Told You So: Comics as Art
An Oral History Of Fantagraphics Books
by Tom Spurgeon & Michael Dean
Fantagraphics Books, $49.99
On Sale: December 2016

Publisher's Description:
In 1976, a group of young men and women coalesced around a fledgling magazine and the idea that comics could be art. In 2016, comics intended for an adult readership are reviewed favorably in the New York Times, enjoy panels devoted to them at Book Expo America, and sell in bookstores comparable to prose efforts of similar weight and intent. We Told You So: Comics as Art tells of Fantagraphics Books' key role in helping build and shape an art movement around a discredited, ignored and fading expression of Americana the way insiders share the saga with one another other: in anecdotal form, in the words of the people who lived it and saw it happen. Comics historian and critic Tom Spurgeon and Michael Dean assemble an all-star cast of industry figures, critics, cartoonists, art objects, curios and groundbreaking publications to bring you a detailed account of Fantagraphics’ first 40 years. We Told You So is a detailed catalog of the look of a cultural awakening. It’s a story that includes appearances by Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Harlan Ellison, Jim Shooter, Stan Lee, Daniel Clowes, Frank Miller, Peter Bagge, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Dave Sim, Steve Geppi, Todd McFarlane and every other major figure in the arts or business end of modern comics. More than a corporate history or a fond look back, We Told You So: Comics as Art makes the warts and all case for Fantagraphics Books' position near the heart of the modern reclamation of the comics art form.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

"Cerebus Cover Art Treasury" Reviewed!

Cerebus Cover Art Treasury
by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(IDW, 2016)

PAGE 45:
(from a review by Stephen Holland, Page 45 proprietor)
If the 300-issue, 6,000-page magnum opus that is CEREBUS remains one of the most inventive comics this medium has ever produced, with narrative innovations cascading from its pages at such an astonishing rate as to make Niagara Falls look like a domestic, dripping tap - and it does - then its covers were no less ingenious, iconic and iconoclastic, all at the same time.

What makes this luxurious, full-colour treasury even more of a thirstily devoured "Yes, please!" is that so many of these illustrations don't just set the tone but actively inform the story within, which most modern readers have had access to only in the form of those whopping, black and white CEREBUS phonebook collections. They never reprinted the colour covers to keep their costs down, but some seen in sequence form comicbook narratives in their own right (#153 & #154) and they are bursting with clues.

The diversity of their approaches and angles - geometric or otherwise - was jaw-dropping, especially when one considers the relative, relentless homogeneity of the corporations' covers competing for space on retailers' shelves back then, and even more so to this day.

You never knew what you'd be startled by next: stark silhouettes, spot-lit close-ups, balletic action shots, quiet reveries, dream-sequence deliria, architecture only, lunar photography, William Morris wallpaper either hung with framed portraits or used to frame pithy, telling snap-shots; typography only (ever so brave and oh so effective), images rotated sideways to reflect what lay within, woodland landscapes, a funereal flower arrangement, glistening bottles of booze placed in the foreground of drunken misdemeanours, film-poster parodies, cosmic chess matches, or Dave / David Sim drawing the divine Mick / Michael Jagger in precisely the same pose as Michelangelo once sculpted David.

No, I wasn't perceptive enough to spot that little joke - and, trust me, I studied these long and hard as I acquired each treasured gem. The good news is that, thanks to the conversational back-and-forth between Dave Sim and Gerhard's annotations on almost every page, you'll be privy to even more process notes and private self-indulgences. Take the cover to #77. Here's Gerhard:

"Dream covers are always fun. When I was drawing the water pouring from the statue, I thought it might be fun to have the water fill the letters M and T... as in 'MT is full'. Say it fast, and you'll get the joke... or not."

Dave was joined by landscape artist Gerhard in CEREBUS #65, though not on its cover which was the typography-only effort bearing the truism (which has stuck with me ever since), that "Anything done for the first time unleashes a demon". There were some very, very fine titles: some portentous, some ripping the piss - out of themselves, readers' expectations or Marvel's melodrama - some simply playful yet salient, like "Sane As It Ever Was".

From #65 onwards Dave continued to write and draw all the characters while Gerhard would render the backgrounds in meticulous detail, providing both textures and colour. The cover to #66 is a ripped-open version of #65, exposing Gerhard's first cover and colour contribution.

"It was interesting watching Gerhard tearing art paper carefully so it LOOKED like torn art paper."

That's what I mean by meticulous.

"It took me years to figure out that Gerhard LIKED doing precise measurements / vanishing point stuff: that it was his favourite part," observes Dave of the phenomenal window on #68.

Of #162's extraordinary spectacle: "Vanishing point and applied geometry. It was there in front of me the whole time." And once again of #164's delicious, crystal-clear, blue-sky winter panorama with its single shattered skylight because we'd been there before.

Neither of the artists is here merely to pat themselves or each on the back, though. They're both commendably candid about their mistakes, shortcomings and where things didn't work out the way they had planned. But it was a monthly comic which only once fell behind schedule (towards the end of CHURCH & STATE) so at the end of the day, a) they had to go to print and simply strive to do better next time b) you simply don't know what it will look like until the printed article appears right in front of you.

Sometimes I found myself shaking my head, bewildered by what one or the other considers a failure. The library cover to #151 with its tumbling book and exceptional sense of space has always struck me as one of the ten best covers ever to grace a comic, but Gerhard was so frustated by its colours that when he hung it on its clip on completion, he did so facing the wall.

"In these situations," writes Dave, "you take the hint and just hope it's still on its hook, face to the wall, when you come in tomorrow. It's HIS cover."

Hilariously, however, Dave confesses that during much earlier days - the beginning to HIGH SOCIETY - he tried his hand at watercolours for the covers without comprehending that you were supposed to dilute them. You know, add water. So he used them as you would oil and acrylics, virtually smearing them onto the board. Such is the way of the self-taught artist. I actually liked those covers, but you can't un-see something once you've been shown.

Successful experimentations are equally well documented, like Gerhard's discovery that using a toothbrush to flick white or red ink onto the boards was far more effective for snow, stars and blood than an airbrush. There are lots and lots of different space and star effects in evidence. Also, in one instance, a book bearing bloody finger prints. They're Gerhard's, if that ever proves forensically relevant.

You may have noticed by now that the covers are presented in different ways. The majority are shot from the originals before some or all of the lettering and extra effects have been added which, with attendant notes, gives extra insight into the process behind them. I find it fascinating to peer behind the curtains to see bits pasted on here and there, and what was entrusted to the printers instead.

Others are reproductions of the covers as we encountered them complete with the ever-evolving CEREBUS logo and other typography. I learned a new word: "majuscule". Sim has long been hailed as one of the medium's all-time greatest letterers, sliding sentences up and down, giving them an extra lilt or cadence (when Thatcher is speaking, for example), and deploying the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia in places. At least one is the result of Sim and Gerhard revisiting a cover, recreating it for a commission.

They're reproductions or recreations because some of the originals have been sold, and so many more have been stolen. I'll leave the introduction to fill you in on that aspect.

So yes, there are practical and commercial considerations as well as artistic ones assessed. From time to time, Dave's Inner Business Manager retrospectively smacks himself upside the head to much comedic effect when either carelessly or wilfully making design decisions which ran the risk of thwarting his own sales.

When getting it right on #52 he writes: "Cerebus breaking a chair over the head of a barbarian. Yes, Dave, BRANDING. What is it you're not 'getting' about what you're trying to sell here?" In addition both Cerebus and the logo are found at the top, so easily seen even in shops with semi-tiered shelves which obscure some comics' bottom halves. Everything is a learning curve including copyright infringement, though Dave did get away with it on satirical grounds.

"The three 'Wolveroach' covers which I really just did to show Frank Miller and Joe Rubenstein how the WOLVERINE mini-series covers SHOULD have been done - more like Neal Adams. Thus overshooting the 'Branding' runway and smashing through Marvel's intellectual property fence and leaving this mixed metaphor jackknifed into their swimming pool with its tail in the air."

Of the second in the series, #55: "Now that you mention it, it DID look sort of familiar".

From the ridiculous to the sublime, we finish where Dave Sim and Gerhard concluded, with the final ten issues sub-titled CEREBUS: THE LAST DAY. For this Gerhard supplied a detailed 360-degree view of the room divided into nine covers which conjoin seamlessly with each other and at each end. This in itself constitutes sequential art when considering that time passes ever so slowly inside, but the pan is paused with #298 for a halting juxtaposition.

That's what I meant when I wrote at the start that the exterior art informs what lies within and - at times - creates a narrative all of its own.

This is a gallery we never thought we'd see because of those aforementioned colour costs which would have jeopardised the self-publisher's finances, so bravo to IDW for enabling this miracle.

I'd only add that to close this book immediately after the final cover is to feel almost as bereft as Mark and I did after reading the very last panel on the final page of CEREBUS itself twelve years ago.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Cerebus #201 Ashcan Edition

(via email 22 November 2016)
I don't (yet) have a complete collection of Cerebus's original issues. I'm doing pretty well, though, and I fill in the odd gap here and there as I'm able. A couple of years ago, I found myself in a different city and wandered into their local comics shop. They had Cerebus 201 -- one of the issues mysteriously missing from my shelves -- sealed in a nice plastic bag for less than cover price.

It wasn't until I returned home and opened the bag that I found the bonus, tucked into the centre-spread of the comic. I hadn't seen one of these before: a digest-sized mock-up of the issue, sent to retailers as a promotional item. It's interesting to Cerebus scholar-squirrels and to cartoonists for showing the pages as they progress through Dave's and then Ger's hands (in reverse-chronological order). Cool!

(Click the following images to enlarge!)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

SDOAR: Tracings, Batch 1

In between my classes coming to an end for the semester I have been busy at work pasting up and tracing the pages that Dave mocked up for me last week. The tracings include information that I will likely simplify out or black over in later stages. I like having the options.

For this first page I still need to photograph a faux fender-bender. All the people I know who would help me with it have been sick with a cold this last week. Hopefully this weekend I will get that out of the way.

I am really looking forward to the above spread. I think the crazy warped star field and all of the little effects I have planned are going to make for a really special drawing. (BTW, Dave, looking at it now the arm between the legs is too overt, so I am going to just have the arm in front of the legs in the end, but I am still going to change that bag of coins into an apple.)

The star field in the background is also very rich in meaning, for me. One of my favorite painters, and the most feminine photo-realist painter ever, Vija Celmins, is very well know for painting insanely accurate and loved-over star field images.

This is an oil painting:

If you ever get a chance to see one of these in person they are absurdly beautiful, delicate images. There are a ton of subtle coloration changes in each star that you cannot see in reproduction, and the way she exposes and utilizes the tooth of the canvas to create the glitter effect around each star is phenomenal.

Here is a video of Vija at work on a star painting in her studio.

If you are worrying, "I hope you are okay getting yourself into the amount of effort that spread is going to take," no worries. I have done my own Celmins'ish star-field painting. Twice in fact, because I was dumb enough to glue stickers all over the first version. Both were 4 feet wide x 5 feet tall, to give you an idea of the amount of paint that had to be laid down.

I do not know what I was thinking gluing those information graphics all over a painting that took me over a month to finish. When I got done with the sixty-five other paintings in the series (about eight year of work) I had to go back and repaint this entire image! I hadn't seen a Celmins in person for the first one, so at least I got to steal the technique for the second go round.

And, having learned my lesson, I stuck the graphics on a piece of Plexiglas over top of the whole thing this time!
Anyway, not only does this page actually look like an easy task, relative to the paintings at least, it is also highly symbolically loaded for me because of the fact that in my own art practice I associate star-field images with fierce femininity, something I think that two-page spread is thematically all about.

Okay, back to the rest of the pages.

I painted that painting two times, I can handle re-drawing the same freaking panel sixteen times over, right? RIGHT!

 All of pages, minus the first one, have been printed out in light grey and are ready for me to start "penciling" on top of.

See you next week.

Saturday, 3 December 2016


Kickstarter $30k Stretch Goal
Cerebus #120 Free Bonus Cover Print

The CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 6 Kickstarter comes to an end one week from today.  Having mulled it over pretty extensively, we've decided to offer a Free Bonus COVER print to everyone pledging for a Portfolio if we manage to hit the $30K mark as we've done with the last two Kickstarters.

It's a bit of a climb, but I'll be right here watching and commenting all day December 10th.  Didn't think there was a chance last time (we were $1K short of the target when I had to pack it in), which just goes to show:  you never know!

And, just to make things a little MORE "interesting", we're going to make the offer that there's a Free Bonus COVER print on the line for each $1K we go past the target you've hit the last couple of times. That is:

$30K - 1 Free Bonus COVER print
$31K - 2 Free Bonus COVER prints
$32K - 3 Free Bonus COVER prints
$33K - 4 Free Bonus COVER prints

and so on.  Appropriate to this being the first MELMOTH Kickstarter, the Bonus COVER print will be CEREBUS No.120, the first Oscar cover.

Start your engines!

Jeff Seiler: Minding Minds

Cerebus Vol 10: Minds (1996)
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(Or: Tending to the proofreading of MINDS for the next remastered volume.)

Having read in one of Sean Michael Robinson’s posts about doing the remastering of Cerebus, Volume I, that he thought that the next book in the queue would be MINDS, I ordered a copy of it from Menachem Luchins, who owns Escape Pod Comics in Huntington, NY. I received it on Tuesday of this past week and set to work on proofreading it on Wednesday night.

This was the easiest book to proof so far, primarily because it’s short (279 pages, including Dave’s introduction) and because, by my count, 62 pages contain no dialogue whatsoever and many more pages contain (literally) just one word. Of course, this makes sense because much of the story is set in the vacuum of outer space. Now, having said that, there are a lot of pages with very dense text. Nevertheless, I powered through the book in one night (7 hours, 30 minutes), making my usual handwritten notes about the various things that needed correcting, IMHO.

The good news was that, this being volume 10, the dreaded P’s that look like D’s (the primary issue I had to deal with in proofreading Cerebus, Volume I) were practically nonexistent. Only 14 examples of that, that I could find, plus a few other letters that need touching up.

I should mention that, since Dave had informed me earlier that he does his writing based on proper English (as in, Great Britain) usage, I decided that I would purchase a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. I called around, here in Minneapolis, and found a bookstore in Dinkytown (yeah, for whatever reason, that’s what they call the neighborhood near and around the University of Minnesota) that had a copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Now, anyone familiar with the OED will not be surprised that the Shorter OED consists of two volumes, comprised of over 3,700 pages. I certainly was not going to purchase the 15 or 20 volumes that comprise the unabridged OED. But, I got a steal--leatherbound, in a slipcase, for just $75.

So, armed with my new weapon and able, for the first time, to be absolutely sure when correcting Dave’s misspellings or usage, I cranked out the whole book Wednesday night. I still have to go back and highlight all of the corrections in the book, so that I can send both the notes and the highlighted book to Sean, so that he can make the corrections. The process that Dave, Sean, and I have evolved to is that I send a copy of the written notes and the highlighted book to Sean, while sending the original handwritten notes to Dave, for him to include in the Cerebus Archive. And, I keep a copy of the notes for myself.

The vast majority of the corrections for MINDS are of punctuation, and the vast majority of those are double quotation marks instead of single quotation marks. And then, commas where there aren’t any; an occasional ellipsis where there isn’t one; and, rarely, a period where there isn’t one.

More good news: I found only two outright typographical errors. The first one is on page 155, where it should be UTENSILS, not UNTENSILS. The other one comes about 30 pages later and I will leave it up to your eagle eyes to find that one.

There are several cases of Dave inserting hyphens into compound words when the OED says that there should not be hyphens. For example, on page 205, OFFSPRING is one word, per the OED, with no hyphen.

One particular example of a hyphen out of place, but which gave me difficulty, was the use of LIFE-MATES, on page 158. I could not find the word in either the OED or my American Heritage Dictionary, which lends credence to the idea of it being two words, with no hyphen.

There was a couple of instances where Dave used a word I had never heard of before and for which the OED came in very handy. The oddest one was on page 205: ICONOLATRY. This comes during the sequence wherein Dave is talking to the pouty Cerebus, who is floating through space in a variety of different chairs (drawn very creatively by Gerhard). Dave asks Cerebus, “I don’t suppose you’re interested in hearing about how the Shaman-King’s mistake was in seeking the ideal Aardvarkian ‘form’ with no regard for the ideal ‘nature’? A mistake grounded in his blind belief in iconolatry…?”

Well, having only a vague idea of what the word might mean, by breaking down its parts--icon + olatry--I looked it up in the OED. “The worship of religious images or icons.” This struck a chord with me and I thought at length about Dave’s use of the word here. Finally, I wrote this note: “The OED defines ICONOLATRY as: The worship of religious images or icons. Thus, the phrase on this page, ‘belief in iconolatry’ is redundant (I think). A better wording would be ‘practice of iconolatry’, or just take out ‘belief in’ and make it ‘blind iconolatry’.”

And, in closing, I would add that this example really illustrates the difference between reading MINDS and minding MINDS. Having read this book at least a couple of times in the serialized version, and at least once or twice in the phonebook, I never stumbled over that word before. But proofreading requires a different mindset: You look at each word, one by one, and then at the entire word balloon as a whole and decide if it works or not. Obviously, typographical errors stick out like sore thumbs (when you’re proofing), but the more subtle things take a great degree of concentration. It requires a combination of looking at the big picture while, at the same time, focusing on each element, right down to the missing or misused punctuation marks. That’s what really eats up the time.

And, it’s why I get paid the big bucks. Like the 12-pointer my sister got on the first day of rifle season, down on our family farm.

Okay, it’s on to the highlighting now, for me. Look for the remastered MINDS in your LCS soon (I hope). And, I hope that these updates are interesting to some of you, especially those of you whose Kickstarter donations help fund the entire remastering project. We’ll plant that flag at the summit one of these days, God willing.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Weekly Update #159: Jerry Siegel

Dave Sim on a missed opportunity to work with Jerry Siegel.

Cerebus In Hell? - Week 23

  CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
   CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
  CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 on sale now!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at