Monday, 15 September 2014

My Kickstarter Rewards: Margaret Liss!

Not only did I get a head sketch on my copy of the Cerebus Archive kickstarter, but the bookplates - which Dave did different lettering for my name on every one. He also added some lines for sword movement and some bloodsplatter. . .Cool.
(Click bookplate images to enlarge)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

My Kickstarter Headsketch: Dr Farley!

"Awesome!; Totally worth it."
Robin L. Farley

Did you opt for a 'Cerebus Headsketch Reward' as part of the Cerebus Archive Number One Kickstarter campaign? Please share your headsketch with other Cerebus fans. Send in a scan and have it featured here on AMOC. Contact: MomentOfCerebus [at] gmail [dot] com. Many thanks ~ Tim

From The Archive: TMNT Invitation

Treasures From The Archive: Invitations to the Northampton, Massachusetts premier of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES film way back in 1990. We got two of them, printed on bright magenta copy paper (presumably to discourage counterfeiting) and also an invitation to the after-party at the Hotel Northampton (which had been the scene of the Northampton Summit a little more than a year before that).

Saturday, 13 September 2014

From The Archive: Joe Matt's Poor Bastard

Treasures of the Cerebus Archive -- THE POOR BASTARD by Joe Matt. This was during the period after I broke up with Susan (2/98) and I thought it would be interesting to go to Toronto and hang out with Joe, Chester and Seth (this was before they made it clear that they thought I was a misogynist).

And it WAS interesting: like walking into a live version of a Drawn & Quarterly comic book. Joe isn't really a drinker but I was buying (because I was the only drinker at the table) so there was a genuine conflict for him there: not really being inclined to drink alcohol vs. getting expensive things to drink for free. It's like the old Jack Benny routine where the hold-up guy says, "Your money or your life" and you have the longest silence in radio show history. Then the hold-up guy says, "WELL?" And Benny says "I'm THINKING! I'm THINKING!"

Friday, 12 September 2014

Cerebus Action Figure Update: Rotation

For more videos and information check out the Cerebus Downloads website.

Weekly Update #48: "You Are Not Connected To The Internet"

Hi folks!

Okay. Looks like "that's it" when it comes to "interactive" in these Updates.

Same thing that happened last week. Click on "Safari" and a notice comes up that I can't get to Google because "I'm not connected to the Internet". Go through the same drill four times and, no, this is that "rat trapped in a cage let's see how many times we can get him to push the little lever" thing that is a big reason that I'm not connected to the Internet as a policy.

So, sincere apologies, but I'm just going to type this here in the coffee shop and then fax it to Tim W. Oh, wait that isn't going to work. The PRINT function isn't working. If you have questions or comments, the address is Box 1674 Station C Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2. Which leads into our #1 item on the agenda:

  1. Office FAX COPIER SCANNER dies. Again. So, until further notice, these Updates will no longer be interactive. I'm just going to type, print and fax them to Tim W. (I can fax out but not receive faxes).
  2. End of Life Update: funeral home where my funeral is prearranged is closing so, change of venue: (get this:) WESTMOUNT MEMORIAL CELEBRATION CENTRE 1001 Ottawa Street South, Kitchener
  3. Menachem Luchins and the ESCAPE POD COMICS crew come through Big Time and all USPS copies are now on their way -- either to you or, you know, back to ESCAPE POD COMICS (we're all holding our breath)
  4. We've switched to our retailer patron's $10K donation to keep funding Sean and Mara's restorations between CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE and CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO. No CLEAR idea of how much longer it's going to be until HIGH SOCIETY is ready for printing. Keep watching this space
  5. Official Off-White House News Leak: Chris Ryall, IDW editor-in-chief: "We are completely into doing the CEREBUS COVERS BOOK. no matter what. [HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL]'s performance has no bearing on that."

1. I've experienced -- as of Wednesday -- the same partial shut down of the office FAX COPIER SCANNER. Not printing. Or, rather, printing in striped horizontal vanishing bands. Same as last time, I can fax out but no fax can come in. I take it as a given that this is going to be an on-going situation of having to buy a new machine every two or three months. So, I'm going to do that for as long as it makes sense to do so. I really only have it for printing out the Joe Kubert font lettering for THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, photo reference, etc., so a new machine every two or three months until I'm done the book, I guess. The office fax number is 519-576-0955. If the NEW machine works that should be LIVE and available come late Monday night.

Apart from that, today is the first REAL mail-answering day in a number of weeks. So good news on that score. If you've been waiting for an answer to your letter it should be coming to you in the next couple of weeks.

See, I also use the COPIER function to print copies of my typewritten letters for the Cerebus Archive and I can't do that with the machine on the fritz so, even though I've answered the letters on the typewriter (since I a.m.), mailing has to wait until I can print copies again. Again, God willing: Monday. Obviously, no promises.

2. Schreiter Sandrock Funeral Home on Benton Street where my funeral is prearranged has announced that it's closing so my funeral will now take place at (those of you old enough to remember a more rational world, feel free to LOL) WESTMOUNT MEMORIAL CELEBRATION CENTRE 1001 Ottawa St S.

Balloon animals and rubber castle for the kids! Interment via ferris wheel!

Interesting experience: for 10 years, I've been able to picture the room where the "visitation" would take place and now I won't be able to do that (I'm really not curious enough to take the bus all the way out there to see what the place looks like especially with a name like that -- the mind literally boggles) (that's where they're moving their offices so, I'm just going to go along with it. It's not as if I CARE what the place is going to look like where my stiff will be laid out.) (And, since Kitchener has alway been a uranium core feminist environment, what else would you call a place with Dead Dave Sim in it, but a "Celebration Centre"!)

Worth noting (perhaps): I've specified that my remains are to be kept in cold storage for a week before the funeral to allow interested parties to drive in from out of town if they're so inclined. Since AMOC is the only place where any information on my funeral will appear until the event itself, I'd encourage likewise interested parties to write down that funeral home name and address and call them if you hear that I've died since there isn't anyone in town who will know anything about it. It's not much of a casket, but it's paid for and it would be shame to waste it because everyone in town was going "Dave Who?" 

3. Many thanks to Menachem Luchins and his ESCAPE POD COMICS crew for breaking down the mass shipment of CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE for USPS and getting them out, like, within 24 hours. Unbelievable -- but only if you don't know Menachem. We are in COMPLETE agreement that we can't do this again next time. Fortunately, John Funk seems to have found the outfit my lawyer Wilf Jenkins was talking to me about who take mass mailings down to Buffalo and send them out by USPS (Wilf just remembered reading a newspaper article about them).

We'll definitely be talking to them to find out what their arrangement is. As far as John can see, it's really a difference of about $10 (mass shipping them across the border and breaking them down there) versus $20 (mailing them direct from Canada).

So, on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO, we might just offer them as two options: your copy can go out at the same time as the Canadian and International from here or you can wait until the bulk shipment is put together and shlepped down to Buffalo.

I had sent Menachem a cheque for $1500 drawn on the A-V US$ account and he said the total shipping came to about $1200. I suggested that he take everyone out for dinner (including Sarah and the kids) and send me a cheque for the balance because of his trouble. And he says (he says) they couldn't go out for dinner in Huntington Station because they don't have a kosher restaurant. THEY DON'T HAVE A KOSHER RESTAURANT IN HUNTINGTON STATION? I thought it was, like, a New York State bylaw that you HAD to have a kosher restaurant anywhere closer than, like, Albany (or maybe Rochester maybe) to NYC. Couldn't be more surprised. We'll keep you updated as the situation continues to unfold.

Seriously, many thanks to Menachem and crew for all of their help Above and Beyond the Call of Aardvarkian Duty. I had a long and enjoyable conversation with him Wednesday night on the phone.

Even more seriously, I had a major "D'Oh!" on the Kickstarter CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE numbers after the fact: because we included the postage costs with the various different pledge levels, that got included in the total. So, I'm mentally calculating our overhead and our costs to get our profit margin and "ballparking" on that basis and -- obviously -- I'm way south of where I should be. So, that's one of the things that we'll be attempting to fix on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO with a parallel registration site so that we can crunch ACTUAL numbers in a way that Kickstarter isn't set up for. I wish we could just LAUNCH right now, but there is a certain amount of "homework" that needs to be done once we're ALL the way through this first one. Fisher has finished editing the video, so...

We're getting there. But, no, it won't be soon. Soon in 2014 means the day after tomorrow or five minutes ago. In this case it means "On the Friday when I STOP saying 'Soon'". 

4. Sean is keeping me updated on the restorations work -- or was until the fax machine went on the fritz. He got quite innovative right away: short START [two-line message] END faxes duplicated three or four times on the page. Usually one and sometimes two of them come through loud and clear. VERY weird that I can fax him back a full page and there's no problem with it. I can fax OUT no problem. It's INCOMING that's a problem. As I said to Sean, I think God is trying to tell me something but I'm not sure what. Coupled with the inability to access the Internet in the coffee shop, I suspect it's "Communication is fine. Conversation? No, you don't want to be doing conversation online. That's just going to eat your life."

If that IS God's point, it might be a very good one: I've been typing this for an hour and I'm almost done. Most weeks I'm creeping up on the two-hour mark by the time I've read and answered a bunch of comments and then started typing what I have jotted down in my little notebook here.

Many MANY thanks, as always, to "TF" our retailer patron. Without you, sir, this would have been about the week that I'd have to pull the plug on Sean and Mara temporarily while I wait to find out if any cheques came in to the mailbox in the last two weeks. 

5. Needless to say, I found Chris Ryall's reassurances very… reassuring. I have to admit that I was taken completely by surprise when he started his fax, "Amusingly enough, I was reading your latest Update at the exact moment that Lauren handed me the fax saying there's a new Update." (I figured I better warn him). CHRIS RYALL READS THIS STUFF?

I didn't know if he had some sort of signal that tells him that someone mentioned IDW/him or both somewhere on the Internet (which would make a lot of sense for an editor-in-chief when I think of it) (and probably won't work with faxes scanned in, so somebody might want to give him a "head's up"):

Anyway, he's going to be sending me a full communique on the COVERS BOOK(S?) and THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND at some point.

This might be a good place to mention that IDW has a lot more confidence in STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND than I do as a commercial property -- which is kind of an odd reverse of the usual author/publisher relationship. MY take is that we can sell maybe 100 copies in an Artist's Edition if I have enough time to actually construct a market that size through Heritage Auctions (building on the "glamourpuss original art auctions" that Dave Fisher and I are still in the early days of starting to construct).

People who are interested in my photorealism art are a mere handful of people, a pimple on the butt of the CEREBUS audience (which itself isn't huge these days), as I see it. Brian Hibbs' observation on how many copies of Dave Sim's new project he's going to order (when I was working on JUDENHASS and hadn't announced it). "Depends on if it's CEREBUS: THE HA-HA YEARS". Which is, I think, a good way of putting it. This , as far as the market is concerned, is all Dave Sim is good for.

And THAT only potentially.

It BETTER be. HA. HA. If it's not? Kill it.

Anyway: lesson learned. Go through Heritage Auctions and find people who buy the ACTUAL photorealists, send them a preview/catalogue of the glamourpuss art auction material and try to engage them there -- with the fashion stuff AND pages that won't be used in STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. Complete firewall, of course. I don't know who they are, but Heritage contacts them directly.

THEN! THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND PREVIEW ROUGH CUT ARTISTS EDITION. Same firewall group. Send them print-outs of a bunch of the pages in advance of the auction. No one else -- except IDW and Eddie Khanna -- has seen or will see the work at that point. That is, the initial print run of Book One would be 100 signed and numbered copies (with tipped in bookplate, tracing paper preliminary signed and personalized -- maybe photorealism drawing of the purchaser or spouse on #'s 1 to 5, the whole nine yards) and they would be auctioned and IDW and I would split the proceeds.

THAT I have confidence would bring in enough revenue to make doing the book worthwhile after deducting the cost of the 100 copies.

And then IDW is welcome to try to market (how do I put this delicately?) DAVE SIM'S NOT-CEREBUS THE-HA-HA-YEARS CRAP PROJECT to the stores. I think that's the only realistic expectation. I mean, come on, only Rich Johnston even TALKS about Dave Sim (and thanks, Rich, but…you know, it is what it is, right?). That isn't going to change, I don't think. The needle on that dial isn't going to budge. The same force that sold 10,000 copies of JUDENHASS and then dropped to Absolute Zero and has stayed there ever since will, I'm pretty sure (not seeing any variable in the equation) do that to Book One of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. I'm fine with that. If you can do a book for 26 years and have the last 10 years of it completely ignored, trust me, you're fine with anything.

Let me say that I deeply appreciate IDW's confidence in me and SDOAR. All I'm saying is that I don't want them to take a Major Bath between what they THINK the book should do and what the book is GOING to do. My way, they'll at least make a few dollars off the 100 copies and I'll make a few dollars off the 100 copies (and, I'm pretty sure, auctioning ALL of the artwork before the market kills the book BANG DEAD -- so right after the 100 copies have been auctioned) and then we can be 100% realistic about Book Two and Book Three and Book Four, etc.

We'll have a fallback position.

"Right. We can sell 100 copies of this book through Heritage Auctions and that's the ONLY place we can sell it." And we just DO that. No hand-wringing. No "Oh Why Oh Why Didn't This Wonderful Piece of Work Sell Better?" Uh, three guesses and the first two don't count.

Or we can sell another 400 copies or 1,000 copies.

I'm just REALLY concerned about Ted's ambition to get this book on the New York Times Bestseller List. That's a LOT of coin to lose betting that a 100% CLOSED-minded society is a remotely OPEN-minded society. Don't get me wrong, Ted is more than welcome to lose as much of his money as he wants -- and he's pretty adamant that it's his money and that he plans to back SDOAR to the hilt. Personally, I'll just be more comfortable when Bleeding Cool is the only site that even mentions it and it tanks completely if we have that fallback position. We can sell 100 of these to major marginalized art buyers.

Okay, one hour and forty-five minutes. Back to answering the mail.

I'll try again next week, but I suspect this is the "new normal". "You are Not Connected to the Internet". Whoa. Fine by me.

Sorry to anyone who had questions or comments for me.

That address again is: Box 1674 Station C, Kitchener, Ontario, CANADA N2G 4R2!

Bye for now!

Cerebus Archive Number One: Income & Expense Report

(Click image to enlarge)
Now that all of the reward packages have been shipped out, I want to share the financial results for CANO with all of you. There are still some shipping invoices that haven't arrived yet, but they have been estimated in the Actual plus Forecast column.

If you're not familiar with financial reporting (or if your eyes glaze over at the sight of columns and rows of numbers), then this written summary will be of interest. However, if you have any questions at all about these financials or this report, please don't hesitate to e-mail them to me either via the Kickstarter message system or at: cerebusarchive [at] geps [dot] ca.

There are four sections to this summary report: i) Pledges, ii) Reward Make & Ship Expenses, iii) Management Fee, and iv) Cerebus Restoration Expenses.

i) Pledges:
$33,023 was pledged and after deductions for Kickstarter fees and the credit card company fees, we had $30,324.84 remaining.

ii) Reward Make & Ship Expenses:
These are the costs for producing and shipping your rewards. The total expense is projected at $14,366.90 which is $3,276.80 higher than what we had budgeted on back in April, when planning out the campaign. The following activities caused this to go over budget: a) in order to get better price points, we purchased additional Cerebus foil labels and extra stay-flats to take us into the next campaign, and b) the packaging that we planned on did not stand up to testing. Therefore, we had to reinvent the packaging on the fly which had more cardboard components and therefore required much more labour to assemble it. This made for a larger size and caused an increase in shipping expense for some regions. The cost of bulk shipping the USA packages to Escape Pod Comics was more expensive than we had thought it would be.

iii) Management Fee:
This is the compensation to me for my time and effort spent managing the campaign, from the initial project write-up and submission, to recording reservation numbers, e-mail follow-up, setting up and recording the survey results, assigning the 'lowest hold' reservation numbers, deleting non-pledged reservation numbers, creating and testing the packaging, posting updates and many more numerous activities. The 90/10 split was agreed upon at the start. The 90% that goes to Dave Sim, is shown on the final section:

iv) Cerebus Restoration Expenses:
This section shows the amount of money that was spent on the actual project goals (pay for the first printing which did not turn out to expectation for Cerebus and High Society, and the subsequent scanning and restoration work that Sean Robinson is doing). As you can see, of the available $14,362.15 the restoration expenses have already consumed all of that and more. In fact, to date, restoration expenses have exceeded the $14k amount by $22,607.33. Which means that we need to continue with Cerebus Archive Number Two, Three, Four, and so on in order to keep the restoration activity going.

I'm confident that as we move forward with the next campaign, we will get better, faster and more efficient at what we're doing, both time wise and expenditure wise.

As part of public accountability for this project, Dave has directed me to scan and make available to view all of the individual expenses and invoices related to this project. I've placed everything in a folder called Invoices at this Drop-Box location. There is also a folder with pictures of the packaging and of the stacks of packages before they were shipped out.

Again, please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail with your questions regarding this report and the project expenses.


John Funk (on behalf of Dave Sim)
cerebusarchive [at] geps [dot] ca

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: "On Governing"

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 the last few weeks we've been looking at Dave's layouts - a whole lot of drawing. So this week, let's look at Cerebus' book "On Governing".

Cerebus starts writing "On Governing" while in a tavern. In issue #52 page 2 (in the Church and State phonebook it is page 14) Cerebus starts writing:

Notebook #3 page #8
The layouts for page 1 are seen, and a sketch for panel 1 of page 2. The majority of the page are Cerebus first six rules for governing, which are word for word the same as on the finished page. Notice the handwriting on the finish page - the same as in the notebook. 

Part two of "On Governing" is a couple pages later - on page 11 of the notebook and on page 9 of issue 52. 

Notebook #3 page 11
The scribbled out line is "If we had an election and I won, why so why are they always telling me I'm going to" which was replaced with "Why don't they just do what they're told?"  The former doesn't seem very Cerebus like, but the latter of Cerebus wondering why people can't just do what they told? That is so very Cerebus like.

Comparing this hand writing to the handwriting on the finished page - once again it is Dave's writing, so he didn't ask anyone else to write it for him. If you look closely behind the text? It is a ballpoint drawing of Silverspoon and one of his cohorts coming through page 12. It continues to amaze me how much of the finished pages we see in the notebooks - as if they aren't just for sketching out quick ideas,but for laying out complete templates for each page.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Less Work, the Better-- A Restoration Paradox

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello everyone,

Pages continue to trickle in. This week we received two pages from Jason Crosby, Sales and Auction Coordinator for the art auction house/website ComicLink, who are now partnering with us in the hunt for pages. We were alerted to the pages by sharp-eyed Cerebus Dragnet participant Gregory Kessler. Thanks Gregory, and thanks Jason! 

The two pages sent by Jason included this beautiful scan of a later High Society page.

It's an uncomfortable fact of restoration. The pages that we have to spend the most amount of time on are ultimately the ones that will look the worst. Because the better your source material, the better and more effortless your end product can be. I'm very happy when I come up with workarounds or back-end solutions to improve flawed materials, but I'd much rather be spending my time plowing through pristine materials, and producing the best books possible.

So please, PLEASE, if you have access to any original artwork, or you know where some can be found, contact us and let us know. At this point, every scan we get significantly improves the book, allows it to be even closer to its potential. And although it's only a small token of appreciation, Dave has a nifty finder's prize in the works for those who contribute.

Lastly, from the collection of illustrator Dean Reeves, here's a preview of things to come. When I get a goody like this in the mailbox, my fannish impulses take over and I feel obligated to ask. When, Dave? When do we get to these stories?

And back comes the fax, which reads something like the following.

"We'll get to those when we finish the other 16 books, Sean."

Well, uh, back to work then.

Want to hear about some particular aspect of the restoration? Drop me a line in the comments!

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

Cerebus Action Figure Update: Leg Test

For more videos and information check out the Cerebus Downloads website.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

From The Archive: Colouring Cerebus #2

Treasures From The Archive -- This is the only copy of CEREBUS No.2 with my original colour separations used. The colour was solid yellow with a graduated magenta (imitating Jim Steranko's NICK FURY AGENT OF SHIELD cover). Figuring the black would "cover" anyplace that the black and the yellow landed in the same place, I didn't worry about cutting around all the letters and the demon head. Geoff Moir ran out a copy to show me that solid black and solid yellow printed on top of each other make for a "ghoulish green". It took me a while to fix that.

Monday, 8 September 2014

From The Archive: Resizing Cerebus #1

Treasures From The Archive: This is the only copy of CEREBUS No.1 to be trimmed to comic-book size. When Geoff Moir explained the problem to me -- the signatures had come back from Fairway Press and they were 8.5 by 11 instead of 7 by 10 -- he figured the best way to help me make up my mind was to have one copy done each way. As you can see from where the trim line fell on the right side that it's not as if very much visual information would be lost, but it would definitely have looked more like a mistake than the 8.5 by 11 solution: roll the cover to the right and print another strip of black on the back cover where the register mark was now showing. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

From The Archive: Understanding Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics (1993)
by Scott McCloud

" invaluable reference work about the medium...
...Entertaining, delightful, thought-provoking and innovative. Bravo!" 
~ Dave Sim
(from the back-cover blurb of the 1st Edition, Tundra Publishing, 1993)

Treasures From The Archive -- Spiral bound draft copy of UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud along with extravagantly flattering cover letter looking for an endorsement. Of course, Scott would prove to be the first professional peer to publicly label me a misogynist (page 104 of REINVENTING COMICS). Which is one of the reasons that I never take flattery seriously. The ones blowing the most sunshine up your yin-yang when they want something are the ones that will stab you in the back the hardest when they get the chance, in my experience. Oh, well. At least I'll never be able to "pull rank" on him. Which I assume was the whole idea behind the turnabout.

Scott McCloud is a cartoonist and comics theorist best known for his comic series ZOT! and his non-fiction books about comics theory: Understanding Comics (1993), Reinventing Comics (2000) and Making Comics (2006).

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Cerebus Archive Number One: The Diamond Edition

Cerebus Archive Number One
by Dave Sim
Aardvark Vanaheim, $89.00
In Stores: 26 November 2014
Diamond Order Code: SEP140947

The Aardvark-Vanaheim Artist Editions begin here with the ten earliest pieces in the Cerebus Archive, six of them published and four of them never-before seen (pages 3 through 5 of the unpublished "Passage" story). Reproduced full size in crystal-clear, state of the art digital reproductions on glossy card stock. Cerebus Archive Artist's Editions are the closest you'll get to owning the actual Cerebus original artwork (that regularly sells for hundreds and hundreds of dollars) from the award-winning 300-issue series. Note: This is the unsigned and unnumbered version of Cerebus Archive Number One launched on Kickstarter in May 2014.

My Kickstarter Headsketch

Did you opt for a 'Cerebus Headsketch Reward' as part of the Cerebus Archive Number One Kickstarter campaign? Please share your headsketch with other Cerebus fans. Send in a scan and have it featured here on AMOC. Contact: MomentOfCerebus [at] gmail [dot] com. Many thanks ~ Tim

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cerebus Action Figure Update: Posing Tests

More videos and details at

Weekly Update #47: Everything Is Delayed

Hello, everyone!

Comments from last week (sorry, I was informed that I'm "not on the Internet" and couldn't access comments beyond a certain point so if there's an important question from last week's "Comments" section, please post it again this week and I'll answer it next week, God willing):

I did get as far as David Birdsong and Jeff Seiler asking about HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO/DIGITAL.  I'm as surprised as you are.  I was thinking of phoning Ted Adams and asking how it had sold at Comicon (my assumption being that with August shipping they would have had it in preview at Comicon) (in fact, I had briefly considered phoning and volunteering to send them a box of CEREBUS which had come out just before the Comicon weekend to sell as a package deal) (and then thought, "You really don't want to phone ANY comics publisher about ANYTHING just before the Comicon weekend unless you're telling them that you're shipping them something that they NEED").

Anyway, just this week I got a fax from the Senior Editor of their Books division asking me to approve the chapter titles they were putting on the disks.  Which I did -- a couple of corrections like "Summit Enchanted Evening" which is also called "A Night in Iest".  I'm supposed to be getting the finished artwork shortly to approve as well.  Nothing so far.

I think everyone's going through the same thing: time is just going by WAY too fast and, despite the best of intentions to do things on time, everything is delayed.  We INTENDED to do four CEREBUS ARCHIVES a year and -- despite working quite hard at it -- it now looks as if three times a year is going to be optimistic.

For our part, we'll be updating information in what we consider a reasonable fashion which ties in with point #1:

1.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE has now cleared customs in the USA!  We will be updating the shipping to the U.S. pledge partners as more information becomes available.

2. CEREBUS COVERS BOOK(S) completely stalled for the moment CEREBUS HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL is still in the final stages of development

3.  Official Off-White House News Leak:  The first page of George Gatsis tone-mask cutting "looks fantastic" says Sean

4. CEREBUS action figure to be 12" instead of 9" tall.
1. Thanks to everyone for the continued feedback on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE.  The next big test will be the Australian and New Zealand copies where we had to cut down the packaging by about a half-inch all the way around -- that was literally the difference between costing $18 to ship and $45 to ship.  This is one of the reasons John has been asking for photos of the packaging when it comes in.  As long as any dents or damage only go in "so far", we'll be fine.  Further than "so far" and we might be replacing $18 Aussie copies with $45 Aussie copies.  We're already "over budget" on the shipping, but not to any crisis point. Not YET, anyway.

I see this as tying in with the IDW HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL delay:  as I said a while back, I took flack on the first Kickstarter for doing too many updates and am now taking flack for not updating often enough.

It seems to me that the sensible thing is to say:  we'll let you know when your order ships.  So you're not watching your mailbox for something that isn't yet on its way.

Until then, all we can say is that we're doing what we can but there have been delays.  John and I have talked about it and I think we have some procedures that will help next time.  But -- I'm quite serious about this -- something WEIRD is happening with time itself, so I think the best thing I can recommend is:  Don't believe Amazon when they say they have something and don't go by the release dates that have been announced (and I'd appreciate it, Tim, if you would take them down on any projects that I'm doing).  Those are based on the assumption that time is behaving the way it used to and it isn't, so everything is delayed or will be delayed.

I don't think IDW has "dropped the ball" on HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL.  I think it's worth pointing out that this is the first audiobook that they've done, so it's not as if they're just plugging into the same system that they have with the books and comics side of things, which is all done through the same South Korean printer.  This is going to be a Steep, Steep Learning Curve for them, so PLEASE be a little more patient than "It said August, it's now September".

As with CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE:  you have to get ALL THE WAY THROUGH the process the first time to know where the bottlenecks are and "un-bottleneck" them.  And there are usually a few new variables that come up in the course of doing something the second or third time, which we anticipate happening here as well. On a related note:

2.  The CEREBUS COVERS BOOK(s) is/are stalled because IDW is waiting for direction from me. I plan to give direction to them, but right now CEREBUS ARCHIVE, the restorations and STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND are occupying MORE than all of my time.  What I have to do is to mock up the CEREBUS COVERS BOOK a few pages at a time...

[basically what I'm doing with THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND: posting 10 pages when I have 10 pages done.  "Here's the next 10 pages."  with a subtext of "You let me know a) if there's any problem b) when you see a i) first book or ii) second book here".  And that addressed to anyone at IDW who has a strongly-held opinion on the subject.  Which, for the moment, I don't think they do.  They just like what they see.  A LOT!  The four individual issues looked like the first book, I think, until they read what I have done so far on "The issue 5 that never ends".  The more you read, the better it reads.  But the more you read, the bigger a first book you have and -- possibly -- a tougher "sell"]

Chris Ryall sent me a fax a couple of Fridays ago asking about the COVERS books:  could I send him a fax describing the project and they would just circulate the fax worldwide instead of doing a standard press release.  Well, I'd LIKE to, but what it really comes down to is:  I want to make sure that the CEREBUS COVERS BOOK is exhaustive.  I'm 60 years old and partly absorbed in "end of life" issues.  I don't want to do a COVERS book and then have to do another metric tonne of COVERS commentary when I'm in my 70s or 80s.  WHEN I do it, I want it to be the last word on the subject.

And I'm pretty sure Gerhard is the same way.

But is an exhaustive book of the CEREBUS COVERS marketable?  I have no idea.  That's why I want to do an exhaustive treatment -- a few pages at a time -- and "feed it" to Chris and Ted and Scott Dunbier.  YOU guys tell ME.  They'll have a comfort level of however many pages and they'll be looking at an exhaustive treatment and they'll have to decide how much of the latter fits into how much of the former.  But they need to have the exhaustive treatment first.  And, the way I do things, I can only do that in order.  And I can only do that when I have time to do it.

I might have to stop doing these Updates for a period of time.  It takes Way Too Much Time to explain what I'm doing and definitely cuts into a 60-year-old man's time of actually doing what he's doing.  I'm having to explain what I'm doing AND explain how I want things done after I'm dead AND write and draw the most labour intensive graphic novel I've ever done AND do CEREBUS ARCHIVE.

The bottom line, I think, is that people generally don't want me to explain what's going on, they want me to say that the CEREBUS COVERS BOOKS -- Four of them -- will be in stores for Christmas.  And WHICH Christmas.  Well, I can do that, but that just means another false publication date over there to your right.  "Christmas 2016" or whatever.

I mean, let's be honest:  a LOT depends on how HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL does once it's out there. If it's a huge success, then, definitely IDW will want to get the CEREBUS COVERS BOOKS going. But if HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL doesn't sell, they'll be just as happy to save the money. We're still just entering The Rapids of "where we are now": which is (quite possibly) Completely Dead In The Water and CEREBUS ARCHIVE Is It -- ALL THAT IS COMMERCIALLY VIABLE ABOUT DAVE SIM AND CEREBUS. I'll have a pretty good idea when I seen the orders from Diamond for the unsigned CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE.  IDW will know about sixty days after they ship HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL. Is there any market for this stuff? But, until then, all any of us would be doing is guessing. And we all have too much work to do to be guessing about anything.

SO, please, let's not talk about people "dropping the ball":  let's just get out of the habit of trying to figure out when things are going to ship when we're always wrong when we say when they're going to ship.

Everyone at IDW is very busy.  And things that sell a lot of copies are always going to take priority.  They're more than happy to work with me and have bent over backwards to accommodate me all down the line. That's MORE than I could hope for from any other publisher.  They've got my back and I've got theirs.  

Mocking up the COVERS BOOKS will be one of my afternoon things -- between 12:30 and 1:30 or 12:30 and 3 pm.  I'm gradually making my way down that list:  initiating the "end of life" material that has to go to my next of kin, two financial advisors, my accountant and my lawyer.  That took a while.  Big thick package.  The next thing is the certificate for the CEREBUS DRAGNET people.  Then answering the mail and the phone messages that have been backing up.  THEN:  (God willing) mocking up the COVERS books.  Unless (as I'm guessing will happen) everyone who is "in the loop" on my "end of life" stuff now needs to meet with me to discuss it all. 

3.  Definitely the best news around here comes from Sean:  "George's first page of tone mask cutting looks fantastic.  He did the whole page (seven figures) in three hours, which beats my test figure (at 35 minutes) by a significant amount of time.  And his looks better than mine, to boot! The very worst pages number about 8 so far -- the slightly better but still bad pages around 10.  I'll keep feeding him the worst pages until we run out, or he runs out of steam!  Anyway it looks great, and I'm very grateful to him for the hard work.  Reminded him that if the originals turn up for these pages, the work would be replaced..."

It's worth, I think, interrupting here to say:  THINK of that! -- working for THREE HOURS on a single page of CEREBUS to make sure the mask where the replacement tone is going is PERFECT -- and, at any moment, that page could suddenly show up in the "Dragnet" and mean that you've just wasted three hours of your life for nothing:

" which he replied:  "HEY! We are doing this to make the best Cerebus Books ever...or come up with a recipe for the best cheese burger and sweet potato fries...whichever comes first." 

MMM.  Cheese burger and sweet potato fries.  Sorry -- it's a "fasting" Friday and I'm in a coffee shop over lunch hour. 

4.  George and I are also in ongoing discussions about the Cerebus Action Figure, which George has announced is going to be 12" tall instead of 9" tall.  The World's Tallest Action Figure?  Somebody check the Guinness Book!

One of the suggestions I made last week -- after faxing George as many "weapons encrusted" Barry Windsor-Smith CONAN pictures as I could find -- was of finding a taxidermist to put short grey fur on the Action Figure and to get someone who does miniature replicas of medieval weaponry out of actual metal and leather and stuff to do those for the action figure.  Real fur, real metal studs.

George doesn't want control of the figure to get away from him -- he's better equipped to do everything with plastic.  But, that's one of the centrepieces of CEREBUS and always has been:  decentralization.  George can do everything he wants to do.  But someone who does miniature weaponry can be a separate source for accoutrements.  You're fine with plastic?  Okay, all part of George's package.  You want real metal and leather and fur?  This guy over here is selling all of those at his website.  Just click on "CEREBUS Bits" when you get there 'til you drop!  It costs five times as much as the plastic!  For several of you, that's a "yeah? So?"

George said something about bags of gold and I suggested doing actual miniature gold coloured coins. In little plastic leather pouches or actual little leather bags.  Sell them by the pound.  Let YOUR CEREBUS Action Figure stand ankle deep in gold coins!  

The fax wouldn't go through but I even suggested Disney might want to steal the idea:  doing a four-inch Uncle Scrooge figure and a three cubic foot Money Bin full of tiny gold and silver coins that he can "dive through like a porpoise..."  (and however the rest of that goes).

Okay. I HAVE to do an Update for the Patreon people -- it's been too many weeks.

See you all next week, God willing!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Forensics of Exposure

Hello all,

It's been an eventful week at the Cerebus Restoration Fortress of Duitude. Mara has shifted from indexing and scanning materials to cleanup and layout, and is doing an outstanding job so far. We're timing ourselves as we go, getting faster even as our attention to detail improves.

But the more you can perceive, and the more correction you're capable of making, the more possibilities present themselves.

A small illustration--

Mara has been asking me from the very beginning if there are existing ways to check a page's exposure with forensic accuracy. That is, given the consistency of Cerebus' 30 percent dot tone, can you actually measure what that tone should look like in print?

This is a much harder question than it might seem. Yes, there are ways to measure ink coverage on a page. But for a variety of reasons it's still somewhat of a crap shoot to measure tone at the output (print) stage, the chief hurdles being dot gain, and in the case of fine tone, optical dot gain (Yule-Nielsen Effect) as well. The shorter version-- printing causes expansion of ink, and that expansion is a non-linear process, and isn't going to be reliably the same from one system to another. In addition to this, your eye perceives different sizes of tone as different optical densities. A coarse 10 percent half-tone will appear lighter to the eye than a very fine ten percent tone, even without actual dot-gain.

TLDR-- it's hard to trust your eyes.

Combine this with wildly varying sources-- newsprint, photo negatives, original art, all in different conditions, scanned under different circumstances-- and you have a Gordian Knot of exposure.

But as my ability to manipulate this exposure in-file has improved, so has my ability to distinguish the exposure problems from each other, always aided by the constants (or relative constants)-- Cerebus's dot tone, Dave's lettering width. 

So what's the anchor, then?

Well, Dave and I could agree on what the best representative sample of tone was from the recent Lebonfon test printing. So could I use a sample of that, flying it around to test exposure on new pages?

Works pretty well. How about making some digitally pure 30 percent tone to test? 

Still works pretty well, but we're still talking about using my eyes for something there should be an objective measure for. Audio engineers know that their ears get fatigued over a day's worth of recording or mixing--your high end perception starts to change over time, and if you let yourself go too long, you'll wake up the next morning to find you've made an ear-bleedingly bright mix. So instead, you take breaks, you listen to reference music to re-calibrate your ears, you take a look at a graphic equalizer and check out the frequency distribution.

That's what I need, I thought last night. The equivalent to a graphic equalizer. Sure, you can use Photoshop to measure gray density, but if only there was a way to do the same for half-toned material.

I woke up this morning and immediately knew the answer.

Here's a Cerebus figure from page 170 of High Society. His tone looks good in print, and is comparable in-file to the page Dave and I agreed is spot-on in the test signatures.

I've applied some gaussian blur to a segment of tone, with a radius greater than the pixel width of the tone itself, causing the areas to average out to gray. Now that Cerebus's gray tone is an actual continuous tone image, I can use the eyedropper tool and the Info window to analyze it-

And here we have our forensically accurate answer. The Cerebus tone for this particular figure is occupying 28 percent of the white space. With just a teeny bit of room for expansion when it hits the page, it's no wonder this tone is looking optically perfect in print.

After discovering this, I did a quick check of the files that created the test signature, and sure enough, the results of this test align perfectly with my suppositions about the material. The figures Dave and I had deemed "just right?" Between 28 and 31 percent. The ones I had deemed "close but too dark?" 34-36 percent. The one page with very damaged tone that was way too dark? 40 percent. A page that I had done at the end of the day last week, and now deemed too light? 26 percent. How about the issue 5 tone from the replacement signatures, the one I thought was spot-on? 30 percent.

I am very pleased to say I now have my objective measure. I just put together a script and short key for it-- it'll take five seconds to test the exposure when I'm working a page.

It's very possible that someone reading this is now nodding their head, saying, "of course that's how you'd do that." If that's the case, I wish you had told me. It's the kind of solution that seems completely obvious in retrospect, but took me weeks to arrive at without any kind of direction. But once again, it was my increasing perceptual accuracy that drove me to search for a more accurate testing method in the first place.

Let me go ahead and state this publicly--when we're done with this restoration, one year, two years from now, I'm going to write up and share every technique that I've learned, try to help other people arrive at solutions for these problems and see if I can't help expand the common knowledge a bit. It's been a little hard for me at times, essentially learning these skills in public, but I hope that the return is worth it.

Back at it next week! Thanks for your time everyone!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: "Fall and the River"

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.

A couple weeks ago we saw the pretty complete layouts in notebook #18 for a couple pages from issue #174. Except those were done in ball point ink. In notebook 26 Dave used pencils to do a layout, and then finished it up with ink. Starting on page 3, he started with page 169 of Going Home. Though page 1 is a crossed out sketch of Cerebus sitting, and then the text:

Book Two
Fall and the River

With an arrow pointed towards it and the remaining text "Footlight light italic" and "footlight light". Page two is then the two quotes, both from Groucho Marx on F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Notebook #26 page 6
Above is the nearly completed page for issue #240 page 6 (or page 172 in Going Home if you're following along there).  You can see some very light pencil marks - mostly for the panels and the page borders. Other than missing Gerhard's background and the dialogue being moved away from F. Stop's hand in the final panel, this page is pretty much how it appears in the issue.

Issue #240 page 6
Dave did these finished drawings for pages 3 to 15, with page 15 being only half completed - it gives us a look at the  pencils that Dave did first before inking:

Notebook #26 page 15
Other than Cerebus saying 'uh-huh' instead of the 'aye' that made the final cut, the text is pretty much the same as page 15 of issue #240 (page 181 of the phonebook). Panel one and two in the notebook are roughly the same - F. Stop sitting by himself at the table, and then a close up on something from the ship. However, in the final page, the first panel is smaller and instead of the life preserver, it is the bottom half of a porthole. But even in the pencils you can see the motion of the chair as F. Stop pulls it out for Jaka, the ice in Jaka's 'Thank you.' and the motion in F. Stop's head as Cerebus clears his throat waiting for F. Stop to pull out Cerebus' chair.

Issue #240 page 15
From tiny little roughs to polished roughs in ball point ink, to these pretty much finished pages - sans Gerhard's backgrounds and on notebook paper rather than Bristol board - we've seen Dave use them all.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Cerebus False Starts: Bear

When you're keeping a monthly comic book on schedule, there really isn't an opportunity to "redo" pages. On the other hand, if you have serious doubts, there is a window of opportunity to change your mind. Sometimes the window was a little wider than it was at other times:

FORM & VOID page 397. This was a good example of a literal visualization of a scene just not working. The idea is that Bear and Cerebus are sitting across a campfire from each other and Bear is reverently uttering his "uber fanboy" line about Grizzly Beer, that it started being called "Griz" because Ham Ernestway called in that in one of his short stories.

It's really nothing to get reverent about (and I see a lot of that in the Hemingway cult: the Running of The Bulls at Pamplona is nothing to get reverent about -- it's really a pretty stupid thing for anyone to do, but it has this reverence attached to it since DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON: that was the satirical point I was trying to make).

This is what it would have looked like, Bear's features burned out to white and viewed from Cerebus' lower angle. And then I thought, "Well the heat from the fire would cause wave distortion in Bear's features or in part of his features" and thought -- I really don't have that many lines to work with in the first place without having to white some of them out and then "wave" line some of them back in. So that was when I went with the angle I did in the story, viewed from Bear's left and slightly elevated. It wasn't accurate, but it conveyed the idea visually a lot better.