Monday, 22 December 2014

Hard-Boiled Dick - Part 1

Hot Wacks Quarterly was a magazine devoted to vinyl LP collectors (bootlegs, promos, picture discs, etc). From issue #1 (Winter, 1979) to #8 (Fall, 1981), Dave Sim was listed in the credits under "artwork." The four installments of Dave Sim's Hard-Boiled Dick appeared in issues 3, 4, 5 and 7.

(Click images to enlarge)

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Cerebus Archive Number Two: Bonus Print Popularity

(from CANT Kickstarter Update #18, 20 December 2014)
...It goes without saying that the addition of the Bonus Prints was a huge success for this project. There are a total of 1,320 FIRST RELEASE Bonus Prints and they raised approximately $7,000 of the $9,000 total funding increase between CANO ($33k) and CANT ($42k)! Thank you again, for your strong support of that component. If you are wondering how rare or how popular the FIRST RELEASE BP's that you chose are, well, here is the answer in tabulated and bar graph form (don't worry, there will NOT be a test on this, just in case you're already starting into a cold sweat!). If your selections included 1, 2 and 10, then you chose along the lines of many others. But if you were going for the rare ones, then 11, 12 and 16 were the ones that will have the least quantity...

John Balge (1954-2014): Early Canadian Fanzine Pioneer

CANAR #21/22 Double Issue (May/June 1974)
Cover by Gene Day
(from Sequential: Canadian Comixs News & Culture, 30 October 2014)
John Balge died September 14 in Kitchener, Ontario. As the founder and publisher of the fanzine Comic Art News and Reviews, also known as CANAR, Balge was a pioneering comics critic and an early patron of Dave Sim, Gene Day, and other Canadian cartoonists in the early 1970s.

Balge published the first issue of CANAR in 1972, after getting to know Dave Sim through Harry Kremer’s Now and Then Books comic shop. Originally intending to serve only as the financial backer of the zine, Balge became responsible for one-third of the content of the initial issues, which were split editorially into three “columns” or sections, along the lines of a classic collated APA-zine. Dave Sim penned "The Back Alley Report", Rick Seiler "Telegraphics", and Balge "The Red Beaver". Initial issues were only seven pages, gradually expanding with additional contributors, illustrations, comics, and letters from readers.

Already a fanzine veteran, having published his own zine at age 15, and previously editor of Kremer’s Now and Then Times, Sim was responsible for the art, layout and production of the initial issues of CANAR, using a typewriter and Letraset until Balge struck a deal with a professional typesetting company. From the beginning, the zine adopted a slightly rebellious critical attitude compared to some of its more polite Canadian contemporaries. The first issue featured Sim's diatribe against Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comics and a statement of principles by Balge:
"This column adheres to the principle that a thriving Canadian culture is essential for the survival of this nation. Any fool can see that clic art has no great tradition in Canada because the comic books and comic strips are totally American. I believe, judging from the large number of comic books sold in stores throughout this country and the many comic strips in most of our newspapers, that there is a place for Canadian comic art, panel art, the graphic story, or whatever one wishes to call it. This column is dedicated to a truly independent and revolutionary comic art culture, hence the title, "The Red Beaver.'"
According to Sim, Balge identified politically as a Trotskyist at the time, accounting in part for the slightly leftist nature of his cultural nationalism. In his initial column, Balge goes on to critique one of the few other Canadian fanzines of the day, the Montreal-based Le Beaver, published by Ralph Alfonso and Clifford Letovsky, for its muddled nationalism, beginning a long-running exchange of letters.

Sim and Balge, along with Now and Then’s Kremer, became inseparable, travelling together to comics conventions in the U.S. and southern Ontario, interviewing many prominent American comics creators along the way. Issues of the zine are a treasure trove of interviews for researchers interested in cartoonists, writers, and editors active in the 1972 to 1976 period, including Will Eisner, Russ Heath, Harvey Kurtzman, Barry Windsor-Smith, Mike Kaluta, Gil Kane, Steve Skeates, Berni Wrightson, Howard Chaykin, and others.

The zine continued its focus on Canadian fandom as well, with a lively letters page, reviews of other zines, and historical articles on 1940s Canadian comics. As well, both Sim and Gene Day contributed many covers, illustrations, strips, and multi-page comic stories. Richard Comely’s early Captain Canuck efforts were profiled and the triple issue #26-27-28 (1974) featured a cover by the Canadian poet/cartoonist bpNichol as well as a rare interior 3 page Nichol comic, “The Revolt of Rover Rawshanks.”

After ceasing publication of CANAR in 1976, Balge seemed to drift away from organized comics fandom, although he continued to collect comics and kept in touch with Sim sporadically.

Balge is survived by five brothers and sisters. A memorial service was held in Kitchener on October 4.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Cerebus TV Reruns: Sim & Steranko on Kirby!

Jack Kirby
by Drew Friedman
(From Heroes Of The Comics, Fantagraphics , 2014)

The Notion Of Free Speech

(from the No One Is Innocent Blog, April 2013)
...Dave [Sim] is one of the great pioneers of this business, he pretty much created the self publishing business model in Western comics as we understand it. His comics are deep, thoughtful, funny, and Cerebus is probably the 1st comic that attempted to create a full, serialised narrative. Also, if you've ever bought, sold, created or otherwise enjoyed anything resembling a Trade Paperback, you can pretty much thank Dave for that. He's one of the great comics historians as well, as anyone who isn't a total moron and tried reading Glamourpuss will testify.

Sadly, the comics community appears to have become hyper-sensitive in the early 21st Century, and since Dave's points of view on women aren't in sync with the majority, there are attempts to try and ostracize and retcon him from comics history every once in a while. Then everyone remembers that if the history of independent comics is built on Underground Comix, which is inherently about the notion of freedom of speech, not just 'The concepts we want to hear and nothing else' and Dave just gets on with the work.

Oh, and if you have ANY aspirations of  working in comics, you need to read The Cerebus Guide To Self Publishing. NEED to. It'll open your eyes, explain the dynamics of exactly how creating a comics page work, how to talk to distributors and how you'll be talking to Diamond. It badly needs updating for the digital comics era, but beyond that, again. you NEED to read it...

Friday, 19 December 2014

Weekly Update #62: "On the March"

Executive Summary
1.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO is "on the march":  final proofs of all of the prints have been approved and all of the Inked Head (IH) drawings and Ballpoint Pen Sketches (BPS)'s are done!

2.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO solicitation: "Sean Robinson and Mara Sedlins are flat-out geniuses!"

3. Is this how you do a CEREBUS movie?  Like CEREBUS TV, but more carefully?  I'm not sure.

1. Very weird week, which I remembered from CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE:  when you have day after day of just doing the same inked Cerebus head over and over as the "12:30 to 3 pm" block of time, everything becomes kind of surreal.  I'm writing and drawing STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, then doing Cerebus heads, then writing and drawing STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND and then I go to bed.  Picking up milk and orange juice is the only real change of pace, unless I have to respond to a fax or two.

It was particularly weird in this case because there's really not much need to -- you know -- FOCUS.  It's a Cerebus High Society head and -- to be fair -- it has to be the SAME head for everyone, so I do them all from one or two pencilled heads.  One facing right, then flip it over and do one facing left.  On THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, I need a lot more focus.  That's all I can think about.

And of course, I'm working a bit at a time on the movie -- which I wasn't doing during CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE.  So I'm really able to refine a gag, the phrasing, the timing.  There's no real deadline.  It's going to take Oliver forever just to finish what he has done so far.  So, that was what I would do while I was sitting there doing the same head over and over again.  And then that would carry over if I WAS going out to get milk and orange juice.  Just rehearse the same 20 seconds over and over.

And then yesterday, about 11 pm all the heads were done and it was time for my non-fasting day.

2.  Matt Demory phoned from Diamond and left a message that I STILL hadn't sent in the solicitation for CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO.  That was pretty easy, today, boy, because I had just been through the final proof stage on the prints.  On the second-last stage, I had told John we'd be FedExing Sean printed proofs so he could see them up close.  As you can see from Sean's post this week, he was way ahead of us -- taking the digital files and getting them printed on the same glossy card stock at his local print shop and then determining how he was going to make them Even Sharper and more accurate than they already were.

Could. Not. Believe. The. Difference. When Funkmaster John dropped off the second set.

So, as I quoted myself in the Diamond solicitation: "Sean Robinson and Mara Sedlins are flat-out geniuses. Just when I think they can't get a page any clearer than it already is, in comes the next generation of proof to prove me wrong."

And YOU can take THAT to the BANK!

Meanwhile, back at the "midnight start" to my non-fasting day:

3.  There wasn't that much mail that needed to be answered, so -- getting up at around midnight -- I had the mail answered by about 5 am and then I just went, "Well, okay, the post office doesn't open for another three hours. I guess I work on the movie."  So, that's what I did.  But it was weird because I hadn't done it before.  So I started just by playing it again, and this time logging all of the scenes -- how long they were, what the subject was (I'm going to be moving some stuff around).  And then I decided "Well, okay, some of it is too slow."  CEREBUS, to me, has a specific pace.  Warner Brothers cartoon pace, Marx Brothers movie pace.  Which is, like, GONE, now.  Ever since ROGER RABBIT, everything is Tex Avery pace.  Which is weird because before ROGER RABBIT, Tex Avery was this weird, aberration.  Great, but a weird aberration.  An animated cult.  And now it's just How You Do Animation.

So, I thought. Okay, I've got to dub in some dialogue to show Oliver what I mean.  Now how am I going to do that?  CEREBUS TV style.  Where I would often play something on the DVD drive on my computer and then tape it onto the camcorder with the sound off and just talking into the camcorder.

No, that works for CEREBUS TV, but it doesn't work for a movie.  I don't know WHY, exactly, but it took me about two minutes of attempting "demonstration dubbing" to go, "Uh, no.  Plan B."  But I didn't HAVE a Plan B.  So, that's when I just started logging scenes.  8:32 to 8:45 (dialogue or shorthand to tell me what it was).  It actually has a lot more shape than I thought it did.  The pacing is wrong, but it's a nice collection of set pieces that I was already rearranging and contextualizing in my head. But much more orderly than I originally thought.

CEREBUS: FRACTURED DESTINY is now my "working title".

And that's when I thought, well okay.  What about the scene that I had been doing in my head all week?  Uh, well. What? Sit down and DRAW it in three hours?  Well, no -- but What about acting it out?  On the camcorder.  That seemed interesting.  It was CEREBUS TV again: shoot a line of dialogue and then edit the clip, DIVIDE the beginning, DIVIDE the end of the clip and then DELETE either end. That's how I would show Dave Fisher what I wanted the editing to look like.

It was SLOW, though, boy.  I've gotten rusty with the camcorder over the last two years since CEREBUS TV ended.

[Oddly enough I got a phone message from Go Daddy telling me the CEREBUS TV website needs to be renewed.  I think I'm going to do it.  But, that's one of those computer world things I definitely don't look forward to.  I'm not on the Internet, I have no Internet access and I barely understand what they're talking about and at the same time they have to believe that this IS the company's credit card, it IS valid and I AM entitled to use it. "I think this is the password.  It's in my little phone directory under Go Daddy." Their Fraud Sense is definitely tingling when they're talking to me.  Tough to talk THROUGH someone's tingly Fraud Sense.]

So, that took up the three hours pretty good and then it took me about four hours to open the mail, answer it, wrap all the packages and take them and mail them.  And then pick up on the movie where I had left off. The fact that I didn't need to get "A Page" done or x number of heads certainly had its own charm.  It's not a full scene.  Or maybe it is.  As I was working on it, I had to keep reminding myself "This is a movie. People sitting in the dark, eating popcorn."  You don't want to belabour anything.  But at the same time you have to Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Two minutes?  I wasn't really sure. Two minutes is a long time to stay focussed on something AND eat popcorn at the same time.  That's my theory.  Don't get IN THE WAY of your paying customer's popcorn eating.  Be aware of it.  Write something that you can follow while dipping your hand, putting it to your mouth and chewing and swallowing.

So, I THINK I stopped at the right spot. I didn't time it (yet), but I definitely just amputated the gag. "I'm pretty sure it REALLY WORKS up to here. But, anything past there is going to be pushing my luck with the viewer."  I can revisit it (maybe) somewhere up ahead.  But, don't fall in love with your own writing to the point that it's getting in the way of the popcorn-eating that's going on.  And that's the point that I thought I was getting to:  "You have to stop eating for a minute and pay attention. This is funny."  No, it has to be funny enough that it GOES WITH eating popcorn.  "I'm laughing AND eating popcorn AND I'm sitting in the dark.  What could be cooler than that?"

When I did get to the post office, I had two packages from Oliver, including the redone music video and a sample trailer.  Or, really, a sample PART of a trailer.  I think Oliver was doing the same thing.  "This is as much of a trailer as I've got before I'm getting in the way of people eating their popcorn."  It was really good, too, in exactly that way.

As I said (last week? Was it really just last week?) we all have paying jobs, so we aren't "under the gun".  We can afford to do "just this much" and stop and refine it.  Which is really a luxury, especially speaking as the guy who wrote CEREBUS "under the gun" for 26 years.

So, what's next?  I think what's next is that I take the footage that I shot of myself acting out the scene and then do some storyboards where I can show Oliver what I picture it looking like -- where you can't really tell WHAT it is that you're supposed to be looking at:  Okay, Dave, this is YOU acting this out. But how do we translate this into Cerebus and CEREBUS? And I think that's going to mean "Bonus Prints".  Or at least A "Bonus Print".  It depends on how obsessive I get about it, which is happening a LOT now with my work on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.  I start to do the simplest thing I should be knocking off in an hour and two days later I'm still doing every micro-inch to death.  If I do a storyboard and it takes me two or three days in the 12:30 to 3 pm slot, well, no.  That's too slow.  Smaller storyboards?  Just with markers and SOME colour?

Because there was an interesting effect doing the Inked Heads: bold brush strokes with the #2 brush. A lot bolder than I'm doing on 98% of STRANGE DEATH.  Get the ink density right so I can do all of Cerebus' ear with ONE STROKE.  Then getting back on STRANGE DEATH:  "Hey! I can do that here, too! Just in a more limited way".

So, that's what I'm working on, mentally, now:  all the Inked Heads are done (and thank you to all the pledge partners who "went for the gusto"), the prints aren't printed so I can't sign them yet.  "let's try doing storyboards with that same big bold brush look and then slap some watercolour on there. Or crayon. Or pencil crayon. Or marker."  Just "get 'er done".

I will definitely keep you posted here, the minute I think I have a Bonus Print out of the deal.

Okay. It's 7:40 pm and I've been up, as I say since midnight (after a one hour nap), so I'm going home.

See you all next...uh...Saturday? Thursday? Monday?  One of those three, I'm pretty sure.

Have a Very Merry Christmas, everybody!  

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Varying Reasons of Assorted Depths

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.

Notebook #5 covers Cerebus issues #70 to 79. It contained 100 pages at the start, but only 86 pages to scan, with page 83/84 being blank. Starting with page 58 there is material for issue #76, the issue in which Cerebus tells Weisshaupt to go to hell. There are a total of seven pages for the issue, starting on page 56. However, on page 58 is when it starts to get interesting:

Notebook #5 page 58
The page layouts for page 6 through 9, pages 498 though 501 of the Church & State I phonebook, follow the layout of the finished pages with one exception: on page 8 the middle panel (panel #5) shows Cerebus to the far right with the two word balloons are in front of him but on the finished page the layout is reversed: Cerebus is to the far left and the two word balloons are behind him. The dialogue is also pretty much the same, just changing out 'the long night' with 'the eternal night'.

The next page is mostly dialogue, the top of the page starts with the text from page 10 (phonebook page 502).

Notebook #5 page 59
The first bit is the first panel of page 10, but the stuff beside it - is a first draft of the dialogue on pages 14 and 15, page 506 and 507. It has the basics of the discussion about "The President's Uncle", but not per verbatim. There is dialogue along the bottom of the page which is crossed out - about losing track of that Elrod chap, "a mouth without a brain attached" according to Weisshaupt. Or like exhaling without inhaling. . .

It also looks like Weisshaupt thinks that "living without hallucinations is like breathing through one nostril." (used on page 14, C&S I p. 506)

Skip to page 61, where we see Weisshaupt telling Cerebus about the other aardvarks in Estarcion, which starts on page 10 (C&S I p. 502)

Notebook #5 page 61
Dave didn't use much of this dialogue - just the bit about the two other aardvarks. Nothing about them being more human in appearance or them envying Cerebus' purity of form. The other dialogue along the bottom left hand corner - about the end of the world. That doesn't make the final cut.

Though the 'Go to hell'. That does.

Hat tip to Reginald P for the request.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Tiny Colo(u)red Dots

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings everyone!

The past two weeks I've put in some serious time trying to tie up all of our loose ends, including the laborious process of going through the whole of High Society, one last time, to re-check the exposure of each page in preparation for the printing in January. But most of my work this week was finishing up Cerebus Archive Number Two, getting the layout pinned down, working out the kinks of the variable data printing that we'll be using to number the plates, and, most fun for me, tweaking the images for the best possible appearance in print.

If you're reading this, and you have any interest in color reproduction at all, I would whole-heartedly recommend you purchase the book Real World Image Sharpening by the late, brilliant, Bruce Fraser. It's the best possible tech book, concentrating on the theory and real-world application of those theories, rather than just procedures. That focus is why the book can be five years out of date and still be the best guide available for anything related to sharpening. The tools may change, but the whys and the wheres remain the same.

So, what exactly is sharpening?

The original "soft" scan. This represents less than an inch across of the final print.

For a wide range of reasons, and to varying degrees, all digital imaging techniques invariably soften an image. This is true whether you're working with a digital camera, or a flatbed scanner, or even a high-end drum scanner. Additionally, all methods of full-color reproduction do the same thing. Picture, if you will, the millions of tiny colored dots that make up the average full-color print. Through a miraculous flaw in your vision, the result appears as a continuous tonal image. But the result of all those dots is a diffusion of detail, a "softness" that's difficult to avoid.

So, you improve your output device, you improve your substrate, i.e. your paper. Coated paper holds ink with less expansion, therefore, your dots can be smaller, carrying more detail from source to print. Additionally, you compensate for what expansion there is with correction curves that try to predict dot gain and adjust accordingly. But still, the image gets softer. 

That's where sharpening comes in.

Sharpening is essentially contrast-boosting edges, controlled by threshold (i.e. what is considered an edge), amount (strength), and radius. The radius is what gives you real control. How large of an area should this effect cover? Smaller radii bring out high-frequency detail, and larger radii are for softer-focus targets.

The CANT plates are being printed on coated stock, using special high-resolution output devices. The result is lots of room for high-frequency detail, as long as the supplied files are sharp enough. The goal is you feel like you're holding the original art in your hands, and the original target is a flat object, so the more detail the better. (This wouldn't be the case with, say, a photographic portrait, where sharpening brings out unwanted and unnatural levels of detail in undesired areas, such as skin tone)

With that goal in mind, I did extensive proofing on this round of plates, driving back and forth from my studio to the local printer that has a fancy-pants Xerox setup very close to the one that CANT will actually be printed on, each time bringing sharper and sharper files with me, each time being pleased with the incrementally better result. The major takeaway from this is that the real-world, in-print effect of sharpening is fairly minor compared to the on-screen, in-file results, which look dramatically different.

The same area of the print after a minor contrast adjustment and then sharpening. Notice that, at this level of zoom, the sharpening seems too much, too exaggerated, too "crispy." I'm compensating for the loss of detail that will occur during the printing.

Finally. here's a closeup of the same area of the final print. You'll notice that what seemed to be "too much" in-file has softened into "just enough." There's no real gain of information, only full retention of all of the information that was present in the original scan.

Once again, this is difficult to demonstrate on screen, but very easy to see in print. When you all receive your CANT prints in the mail, I hope this will give you some insight into the process that brought them to you.

For a good overview of sharpening, much of which is lifted straight from Bruce's book, check out this summary here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Cerebus Archive Number Three: More Bonus Prints Revealed!

(from CANT Kickstarter Update #17, 13 December 2014)

T. Casey Brennan's story cover-featured on CEREBUS ARCHIVE (the comic book) No.12. I forgot that I had done it This Large as an experiment in how much detail you could get into an "inset" painting working digitally (Sandeep doing the actual production). It didn't really work, but it makes a nice Bonus Print, I think.

I wanted it to look "otherworldly" as if they had been transported to this very stark all-desert planet. Instead it just looks like what it is: a small water colour ink drawing scanned into a digital colour background.

THE LAST SIGNING: Strange Adventures Postcard
Another example where I forgot that I had worked This Large on the original. I like the "ragged" edge to the black (which got cleaned up on the finished postcard) so we're going to leave that in!

Originally used as a variant cover on THE GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING, we also ran it as the "thank you" card for the 2012 Kickstarter. VERY difficult to reproduce accurately because of the semi-translucent yellows and individually mixed blues, solid black and solid painted red. We're going to call this a "Graduate Studies" piece for Sean who, I'm sure, will Tweak It until it glows in the dark!


Bonus Prints ~ Coming Early 2015

Monday, 15 December 2014

T. Casey Brennan's "Doorway To The Gods"

Cerebus Archive #12 (February 2011)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Cerebus Archive #12, February 2011)
...The story behind Doorway To The Gods is an interesting one. By the summer of 1976, as I say, Casey's career was on the skids to the extent that he sold a script to Jeff Zinger for his fanzine The Comic Report -- which Jeff only agreed to buy for some pittance (five dollars a page?) if I agreed to draw it for an even lesser pittance (two dollars a page?). Having very few prospects in the summer of 1976 and, in the spirit of Gene Day's theory that any work is good work, I agreed.

You can see that I had come some distance in my abilities between 1973 and 1976. Even though I was only getting two dollars a page, I was determined to make the story a showpiece. A resolution I stuck with through page 3, when the weight of my meager page rate and the fact that it would be appearing in a fanzine with about 75 subscribers broke my will and I rushed through the rest of it just to have it done.

Served me right when it turned up a year later as a back-up feature in Fantasy Quarterly No.1 featuring the first appearance of Elfquest. It's the reason you should always give 100% effort to what you're doing. You never know where it might turn up and who might see it -- and, if they like what they see, give you more lucrative work...

Dave Sim discusses the influence of T. Casey Brennan, his first mentor in literary allegory (Barry Windsor-Smith being his first mentor in visual allegory), in Following Cerebus #6 (November 2005), which features "The Many Origins Of Cerebus" and "T. Casey Brennan: The Alan Moore Of The 70s?".

Doorway To The Gods
Fantasy Quarterly No. 1 (February 1978)
Story by T. Casey Brennan, Art by Dave Sim

Sunday, 14 December 2014

CANAR: Feiffer's People

Dave Sim contributed to all 32 issues of CANAR (Comic Art News And Reviews) published by John Balgé (1954-2014) between September 1972 and April 1976. Balgé had got to know the sixteen year old Dave Sim through Harry Kremer’s Now & Then Books comic shop in Kitchener, Ontario. Balgé, Sim and Kremer travelled together to comics conventions in the US and Canada interviewing many prominent comic creators of the day, making the back issues of CANAR a treasure trove of interviews with the likes of Will Eisner, Russ Heath, Harvey Kurtzman, Barry Windsor-Smith, Mike Kaluta, Gil Kane, Berni Wrightson, Howard Chaykin and others.

CANAR #10, June 1973
Feiffer's People: Analysis by Dave Sim
All contents of CANAR © John Balgé Estate.
(Click images to enlarge) 

(The Playboy Cartoon Album 4, 1971)

(The Playboy Cartoon Album 4, 1971)

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Glamourpuss Art Auction: Margaret Mitchell

Margaret ("Gone With the Wind") Mitchell
Glamourpuss #8, pages 1-3, 10, 22 (July 2009)
Dave Sim's pencil on tracing paper & work-sheets

Sim's hand-lettered text & paste-up pages with oodles of Sim's print-out reference material & source photos. Margaret Mitchell was, of course, a very intriguing sub-plot throughout Glamourpuss and I'd wager with a high degree of certainty she's going to be an equally vital component to The Strange Death of Alex Raymond. Get her before she becomes incredibly hot.

Page 1 tracing paper:
Photorealism portrait of Margaret Mitchell with Rudolph Valentino; also the cover pages to Ward Greene's "Weep No More" and the imagined cover to "Cora Potts." Pencil on tracing paper. Full tracing page measures 14 x 17-inches. The three illustrations from the actual comic are on this sheet, albeit in slightly different scale, and the "Weep No More" cover is rotated perpendicular. It also has a pair of other sketches, including a cover of "Gone With the Wind" that appears elsewhere in the series. Sheet has a corner crease that does not touch the pencilings;

Page 2 tracing paper:
Full-page head-shot portrait of Margaret Mitchell with her book "Gone With the Wind." Pencil on tracing paper work-sheet measures 14 x 17-inches, no folds but there is a big bite-sized tear out of the page and foldings at edge; none of these touch penciling, but tear comes close (see pic);

Page 3 tracing paper:
Playful portrait of Margaret Mitchell with her first husband Red Upshaw; plus action pose ofMargaret Mitchell with her dance partner A. Sigmund Weil. Pencil on tracing paper, bordered illustration measures 10x15-inches on 14 x 17-inch tracing paper. Page is folded in half. There is a bite-sized tear at top of page the almost touches border pencil.

Page 10 (partial) tracing paper:
Pencil hand-lettering "Gone With the Wind" interpolated with "The Heart of Juliet Jones". Full-page measures 14 x 17-inches crease down the middle top-to-bottom;

Page 22 tracing paper:
Pencil portrait of Margaret Mitchell with her father reading "Gone With the Wind." Page is complete with inner panel top corner, bordered illustration measures 10x15-inches on 14 x 17-inch paper. Bite-sized tear just touches lower border; fold in half.

Dave Sim: Misogynist Guru Of Self-Publishers

The Comics Journal #174 (February 1995)
Art by Bill Willingham
(as quoted in Now I'll Ask You One with David Branstetter, July 2011)
I think the question boils down to: I’m not a feminist but I don’t believe that that makes me a misogynist. I think women should be treated equally but I don’t think men and women are equal. I think men are men and they’re good at that and women are women and they’re good at that. I don’t think men make good women and I don’t think women make good men. There are, no question, very feminine men and very masculine women, but it’s such a small percentage of the population that I don’t think it materially affects the central reality.

I think too many women, as an example, get away with murdering their children. I think anyone -- man or woman -- who murders a child should be treated equally. To me, that’s justice. Why we, as a society, don’t treat male and female child murderers the same is beyond me. Same as I have no problems with female cops and female soldiers as long as they can do the same job a man can do: lift the same weight, hit the same high standards. Otherwise you’re just giving a job that a really competent man could to a less competent person. That’s not treating people equally. Set the standards, stick with them and whoever can hit the highest standard gets the job. I don’t see how you can call that misogyny. I don’t hate women who take jobs away from men who are better suited. I just think the best person should get the job. What's hate got to do with that? I don’t hate women who get away with murdering their kids. But I don’t think they should get away with murdering their kids BECAUSE they’re women. What's hate got to do with that?

Dave Sim at The Spirits of Independence 1995: Austin, Texas 
Photo by John Christian

Friday, 12 December 2014

Weekly Update #61: Headsketch Progress

Hello, everyone!

In the comments last week, Jason Penney has it right about the OWH Copies.  It's a matter of how many of them there are and whether Your Number falls within that quantity.  This was one of those situations that was a "front of the line" program last week (OWH and CAU) -- because I had an interest expressed in managing the program that then fell through -- and is now "back of the line".

I throw it out as an open question: anyone in the Kitchener-Waterloo area interested in doing the (literal) heavy lifting and a lot of "bagging and boarding" of comics on this?  I really go by "get back to me" -- which means by phone or fax or mail "Yes, I'm unemployed/under-employed/this is my idea of a really cool hobby" and then (as Woody Allen put it) "90% of success in life is just showing up." phone 519-576-0610, fax 519-576-0955 mail Box 1674 Station C Kitchener, Ontario Canada N2G 4R2.

1. Progress on the fully-inked Cerebus heads on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO:  roughly 12 done and 30 to go.

2. CEREBUS: THE MOVIE:  between "No" and "Yes", the Film Festival Option.

1.  The idea of getting a fully inked Cerebus head on the front of the CANT folios seems to have spiked relative to CANO.  At least, I don't remember doing forty of them last time.  This week and next week (and possibly the week after that) this will be occupying the "between noon prayer and afternoon prayer" work slot:  12:30 to 3 pm. I can do either four or five depending on how things go with the materials  (Except for today because I'm, you know, writing this  :).  Interesting to remember that, in doing them on CANO, I seriously degraded one of my Winsor & Newton Series Seven number 2 brushes and then found out that the brushes were no longer available.  THIS time, owing to the outstanding and unexpected generosity of Eddie K, Tim W, Margaret L, David B and others, I was able to just dedicate one brand new brush to the task.  Works like a charm.  Except for the evaporation of the ink during the winter months when "room temperature" is artificially created.  Whether I get four or five done in the period allotted depends on how much "mixing of the stew" I have to do to get the consistency right for big bold brush strokes (of which there are very few in STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND but of which there are "nothing BUT" on a five inch by five inch inked Cerebus head):

The ones done so far:  Thuy N (CAN); Jason P (USA); Daniel E (SWE); Tristan B (FRA); Erik V (NET); Anne J (USA); Margaret L (USA); Bechara H (CAN); David B (USA); Damin T (USA); Dagon J (USA); Jeffrey M (USA); Eddie K (CAN); Dean R (CAN: 2); Mark N (AUS: 2); Richard P (UK); Anwar G (GER); Tim W (UK)

Thanks to everyone!  42 is a LOT of work, but it's also VERY LUCRATIVE work at a time when every nickel counts for all of us!

2.  To clarify the arrangement that I have with Oliver on CEREBUS: THE MOVIE:

I never expected that he would actually get the movie this close to done, so I'm having to do more serious thinking on the subject than I did prior to the DVD coming in the mail.

As I've said already, the answer at the moment is between 95% and 99% "No", but I am working to try to figure out a way to turn that "No" into at least a possible "Maybe".  If you remember from last time, the "No" option would have as its consolation prize of a Farewell Tour of comic-book conventions as a means of recouping some of the investors' money and a certain amount of "off the leash" merchandising. And for Oliver and his people to have their moment in the sun.  Well deserved.

This ties in with my observations on "fanzine movies" that I wrote about last time, using Tim Burton's 1989 BATMAN as an example.  What made it a "fanzine movie" (to me) was that it was obviously a result of the success of Frank's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS mini-series three years before.  A Known Director with cachet (Tim Burton), to me, read Frank's work and did a Hollywood fanzine version of it.  If I'm recalling correctly, it still wasn't going to get made until Jack Nicholson became interested in playing The Joker (which, I assume, was the result of his friendship with Marlon Brando and seeing Brando's big payday playing Jor-El in SUPERMAN: if Brando can do it and still be Brando, Jack Nicholson can do it and still be Jack Nicholson).  A major "fanzine" difference that, to me, then eroded into "fan fiction" was the decision to make The Joker the guy who killed Bruce Wayne's parents.  "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

The Joker didn't kill Bruce Wayne's parents.  Joe Chill killed Bruce Wayne's parents.

See, to me, as the custodian of Cerebus, that's the kind of thing that I won't allow to be done in CEREBUS: THE MOVIE.  Which, very possibly, makes the movie "un-makeable": it's a graphic novel and can't be successfully "Hollywoodized" without making it, demonstrably, NOT CEREBUS.

I had to look at what Oliver had done and then I had to say, "Okay, IS this CEREBUS?"

Trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, I think it can be MADE into CEREBUS:  something that actually reflects the book itself and is filled with points of identification for the interested CEREBUS fan that actually adds something to the 6,000 pages.  But I might be wrong about that.  I think it's a fact that if you stay as close to the source material as possible while making a good movie, the more successful a movie you have.  If you change the source material appreciably, it doesn't matter how good of a movie you make, it isn't going to be successful.  Already, I'm going back and forth mentally between "IS CEREBUS" and "IS Oliver's movie" -- pulling the latter in the direction of the former (while still using as close to ALL of Oliver's footage as I can manage)...

(Even the dragon.  That was the first thing I faxed Oliver.  Oliver: there's no dragon in Cerebus. Lose the dragon.  Lose the dragon from the music video AND the movie.  No, I think I can even get the dragon in there. With some tweaking. So keep it out of the music video right now)

At some point, we're going to be done:  here, for good or ill, is CEREBUS: THE MOVIE.  There's a very good chance that I'll be so close to it at that point that I won't be able to say "No" or "Yes".  Only "I don't know".  What I picture at that point is Oliver "doing" the Film Festival route.  If he can't get a major film festival to even agree to show it, THAT will tell us something, I think.

One of this week's new releases, Chris Rock's THE TOP FIVE, was (evidently) the big winner at The Toronto Film Festival in terms of getting studio interest.  The figure of $12.5 million was quoted.  That's our level of interest in Film Festivals.  It would be hilarious if we do that just to get a distribution deal and then end up winning a jury prize or something (what the hell are we going to do with THIS?)  -- with NO studio interest.  But, then, I have a strange sense of humour

So (Big If) we go that route and we are able to get funding from a studio to distribute the film and (let's say) it's $6 million then -- as I picture it -- it would be a matter of dividing that amount between Oliver and his crew of volunteer animators and The Cerebus Trust...

(which took a giant step towards realization this morning when I met with my CIBC Financial Advisor and found out that, yes, all of the structure I have in mind is "do-able": more on that over the coming weeks)

...The idea all along is that we're all volunteering on CEREBUS: THE MOVIE.  We all have day jobs, no one is hurting for money (except in that general 2014 way that we're ALL hurting for money), so we can afford to do the movie that we want to do and not have to change anything to fit a studio and/or distributor's whim.  That's the "quid pro quo":  you take the film that Oliver did and then modified under my direction AS IS or you don't get it.

But, I've definitely emphasized to Oliver that he's to keep track of who did what:  how much work they put in and what that work is worth as a percentage of The Big Cheque.  By the time it's all broken down, everyone might get $123.69 out of the $3 million "movie half" (how much is voice acting worth? How much does Oliver pay himself? How much does each animator get for their 15 seconds or 20 seconds of footage? All questions for Oliver and all of which will have to be dealt with PUBLICLY: with the numbers adding up so everyone can see what everyone got) (and not questions for me, Thank God -- I just get half of the money for The Cerebus Trust :)).

I can see as far down the line as that.  It's Extremely Unlikely, but then the fan of a comic book and a bunch of animation volunteers actually getting most of a movie done is Extremely Unlikely, as well. As in: getting hit by a comet while purchasing a $3 million winning lottery ticket Extremely Unlikely.

But, uh, here we are, eh?

If it goes further than that -- if Extremely Unlikely just ends up being the status quo for CEREBUS: THE MOVIE all the way along -- then we get into "So what if it's a hit?"

Oy vey.

Well -- W!E!L!L! -- before that point, the "artistic bookkeeping" rabbit hole would have to be closed off.  Studios are notorious for putting other projects on YOUR bookkeeping so -- surprise surprise -- your movie that cost them $6 million and grosses $800 million turns out not to have made a plugged nickel.

I think that can be done LEGALLY by establishing what the criteria is.  And in that case, I'd suggest allowing the studio to pick whatever website or industry publication or ranking will be the criteria, but that becomes locked in.  If the publicity says the movie made $47 million on its opening weekend then they will be obligated to cut a cheque for a percentage of that.  NO OTHER NUMBERS factored in.  Obviously a smaller percentage, but an actual small percentage of REAL money is better than a huge percentage of FICTITIOUS money. And to have an agreement already signed that that amount has to be paid within 30 days of the announcement of the figure or the studio is deemed to be in default and will have to pay a financial penalty in addition to the figure.

That's a matter of going All The Way Up The Maypole, legally -- with everything notarized and registered with whatever is the highest legal jurisdiction in the vicinity (presumably Los Angeles County) so we have the papers in hand and it's a gun to the studio's head.  If we don't have the certified  cheque for x% in the bank on Day 39, they are now officially 24 hours away from being in default, with their agreement to that over their signatures.  So that it just takes a court clerk to look at it.  "This has already been adjudicated and agreed to, all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted:  you really need to cut a cheque for [checks the agreed-upon publicized amount, punches in the % on his little calculator] by the end of the business day tomorrow or you are, you know, seriously effed to the tune of $x million on TOP of that amount."

And, at that point, I'm all done thinking about CEREBUS: THE MOVIE, structurally, as a business proposition.  Everything after that is just "due diligence" on building an impregnable "Studio Trap".

Okay -- back to work on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.

See you all next week, God willing!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Origin Of The Mothers

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.

Starting in issue 194 Dave tells Cerebus the origin of how Serna took over the Cirinist movement from the real Cirin.  While it spans pages 148 to 170 in the phonebook Minds, in notebook #19, Dave writes out some of this story over the course of four pages. It starts at the bottom of page 46:

Notebook #19 page 46
The top of page 46 is the dialogue between the artist Zulli and Jaka (which takes place in issue 193, pages 14 and 15 (or pages 140 and 141 of Minds), which I discussed the sketches in this same notebook a couple weeks ago. The bottom of the pages is the beginning of (not the real) Cirin's story. It looks like Dave originally called (not the real) Cirin by the name Elizabeth Rose instead of Serna.

The story continues on page 47:

Notebook #19 page 47
Elizabeth Ivy Rose was the real Cirin's senior military advisor instead of "communal safety officer" which is what Dave tells us that Cirin let Serna have jurisdiction of. The last paragraph on the page is where Dave touches upon "daughterism", aka "Kevillism", or the "individual sabotage against the corrupt state" something Dave doesn't mention the story of Cirin / Serna.

On page 48 Dave has finished his telling of the history of Cirin / Serna and continues his dialogue with Cerebus, "I had to remove two things from you as likelihoods; Jaka and world conquest." Though on page 5 of issue 195, or page 171 of Minds, Dave doesn't state he removed those two things, but told Cerebus that Jaka "doesn't love you 'that way'" and that Cerebus dreams of conquest "are just that  -- dreams". Interesting that Dave changed his phrasing.

Notebook #19 page 48
The dialogue ends on page 49 of the notebook, and only takes up half the page:

Notebook #19 page 49
We get a tidbit about Sir Gerrick and confirmation that he was her son - "Sir Gerrick her son has no such capabilities and so she has chosen the lie that he is adopted." Dave also states that "the not real" Cirin "will die alone, unmourned and unloved." Sounds familiar, eh?

Hat tip to Eddie K for the request.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Armchair Psychologizing: An Aardvark's Hierarchy of Needs

Mara Sedlins:

It's been a slow week for me due to the attack of cold #3 (or so) of the season (get your flu shots, everyone!). But as Sean mentioned, I've been working on the layout for the Cerebus Art Dragnet certificate. I've also kept the search going for more original art pages, following up on a few leads through And I've had time to reflect further on the story content of High Society.

I figure that given my educational background, an attempt at psychological analysis might prove most interesting to readers. However, I feel the need to start with a disclaimer that my expertise is *not* in clinical psychology (i.e., I can't "psychoanalyze" people - or characters). I can really only speak as an expert to topics relating to the (very specific) area of psychology that I did primary research in (namely, the cognitive process of grouping others into discrete social categories, e.g. based on "race," as opposed to falling along a continuum; the way that that process relates to stereotyping and prejudice; it's okay if you're just skimming this; and the methodological challenges of collecting and analyzing behavioral data that reflect the above). Anything else is really armchair philosophizing (er, psychologizing), as it would be for any other layperson.

That being said, psychological lingo and concepts probably come to my mind more easily than someone who didn't formally study psychology. So, settling into our armchairs, let's speculate about an Aardvark's Hierarchy of Needs.

Some of you who took Psych 101 may be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a theory of human motivation originally developed in 1943 by humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow. He posited that human behavior can be explained by the drive to satisfy a series of needs, with priority given to the most basic physiological needs (e.g., hunger, safety), followed by social and self-esteem needs, and culminating in the need for self-actualization and transcendence.

Maslow referred to the most basic needs as "deficiency needs," because the longer you go without meeting one of them, the stronger that need will become (e.g., the longer you go without food, the hungrier you get). These lower-level needs must be at least reasonably met before someone can aspire to the higher order needs. Also, basic needs tend to be associated with instant gratification, whereas the fulfillment of needs higher in the pyramid leads to longer-lasting happiness.

Maslow believed that everyone has the potential to reach self-actualization and transcendence, but often life events and setbacks can knock people back down the pyramid to focus on more basic needs.

Maslow's theory has long been a standby in psychology textbooks. However, he has been criticized, primarily for his methodology (he used "biographical analysis" of people that he considered to be self-actualized, not the most rigorous or unbiased approach). In addition, his sample was severely limited - consisting for the most part of highly educated white males. Therefore, it's unclear to what degree his theory generalizes to women, people from a lower socioeconomic status, people with different cultural backgrounds, or ..... aardvarks.

I would say that this failure to explore the application of his motivational theory to aardvarks is probably the greatest flaw in Maslow's legacy. But let's work to remedy that, shall we?

Above, I present for your consideration a theory of aardvarkian motivation, modeled after Maslow's theory but including key adaptations to elucidate the finer distinctions between human and aardvark psychology. It was clear to me that the first change that would be necessary was to convert the hierarchical levels to greyscale (because, of course, aardvarks think in black and white).

In my brief biographical analysis of the aardvarkian subject, I've noted that his early pursuits were primarily motivated by physiological concerns: food, shelter, drink. In this aspect, at least, his motivational structure is not terribly different from that of humans. However, physical aggression seems to be another basic need of the aardvard- perhaps especially so when higher order needs have recently been thwarted.

It is as yet unclear to me whether the aardvarkian subject demonstrates a need for love and belonging. If so, it certainly seems to be further up the hierarchy than it is for humans. There were moments during the subject's interactions with Jaka (notably, a human) when his language contradicted the nonverbal behavior that could be observed. As a scientist, should one prioritize the words or the actions of an aardvark in formulating a theory of motivation?

The definition of an aardvark's highest possible motivational need also remains a bit of a mystery. There have been vague allusions to a "prophecy," the specific content of which is yet unknown (at least to the present observer). Since a good scientific theory must be validated by direct empirical observation, I will simply state that my present research on this important topic remains exploratory and further analysis is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

Well, science is a collaborative enterprise - so I'll click "Publish" (oh, if only academic publishing were that easy ...) and await the comments of those who've collected more data than I have.