Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
Thanks to Barry Deutsch for the suggestion and to Tim, our gracious host, for implementation it is now possible to pledge monthly amounts to "Dave Sim" at Patreon.com. Every little bit helps, so thanks in advance to everyone who chooses to participate. Working 12 hours a day six days a week, you are at least guaranteed that the money will not be going on riotous living!
I've been reminded of the Dave Sim Societal Pariah Lunch that took place in Toronto with all of the contributors to LOW SOCIETY who had signed the petition -- me and Rob Walton and Sean Menard and Devon Wong (Rina Rozas couldn't make it because of illness). Devon was very interesting on the subject of vinyl records. He's taken to sitting his friends down, putting a vinyl record on his turntable, putting the needle on the record, putting ACTUAL HEADPHONES on them -- NOT ear buds -- and saying "HERE. LISTEN to this." And they're perfectly astonished at the amazing sound quality. Which is the reverse of what we all went through back in the 80's when everyone was buying their first CDs and going gaga over the UNBELIEVABLE SOUND QUALITY. The only vocal dissenter I remember back then was Bob Dylan. He thought digital sound was awful and preferred analogue.
At the same time, Paul McCartney and George Martin spent untold hours remastering all of The Beatles songs digitally. Presumably, thinking that what they were doing was making the songs better. I'm moved to wonder how many artists on the spectrum between Dylan and McCartney/Martin agreed with Dylan but didn't say anything because CDs were such a goldmine. No more "singles" -- you want the "single" you have to buy the whole "album". You had to re-purchase all of your favourite artists entire catalogue at the cost of roughly three vinyl records per CD.
I don't have a dog in that fight. Music is music to me. Moon June spoon. Tinkle tinkle plink. But, obviously for the HUGE number of people for whom music is the closest thing they have in their lives to a religion, you're not likely to have a calm discussion. Segue into:
|Alec: The Years Have Pants (Top Shelf, 2009)|
by Eddie Campbell
Thanks for Eddie Khanna for the copy of Eddie Campbell's THE YEARS HAVE PANTS -- he even sprang for the hardcover! What a guy! -- I was interested to see it because I had earlier printings to compare it to, in particular THE COMPLETE ALEC (the joint Acme/Eclipse reprinting of the material from 1990).
It's a valuable thing to look at because of artistic choices that Eddie was making at a particular time with the Alec material. He used a lot of tone, and very fine tone and a number of different shades of tone that verged over into the "extremely dicey area" when it comes to darkness and density. Ger and I would only occasionally use anything above a 40% tone but Eddie did use what appears to be 50% if not higher and a very fine screen. LT25? LT26? Then he also used tone scraps for special effects (when you cut the tone you ended up with little odd-sized bits on near-empty sheets), often layering them: sticking them on top of each other.
So looking through THE YEARS HAVE PANTS, I can see a lot of the decision-making that has gone on with restoration. Did Eddie do it himself? I seem to remember reading or hearing something saying that he did. It's a LOT of work if he did. Or a LOT of work for someone else if he didn't.
|Page 118, The Complete Alec (1990)|
Most of it is either neutral or an improvement. If you've got a copy, comparing page 120 of TYHP and page 118 of TCA, in panel 1, the tone looks more 10% now than 20%. Which makes the gaseous stream part of the illustration (cut into and whited out on the tone) less visible, but drops the tone back and brings the ink lines forward. So, it's a trade-off: which is the more important information? How accurate is it? Well, inaccurate compared to the 1990 TCA but possible more accurate depending on what's on the original artwork: 10% tone or 20% tone? Or, more accurate, because Eddie looked at it and said "I think it'll work better as a 10% than a 20%" and changed it digitally. Those are three different "answers", though.
Staying with the same page, in panel 2, Eddie has added a TINY little scrap of tone to the crease between Danny's cheek and his mouth. In the 1990 version this has definitely caused a moire but in TYHP the moire is gone. Which I can't believe is an accident, but would rather be a case of taking advantage of the computer ability to cut out that tone and replace it with a tiny equivalent fulfilling Eddie's original intention: he wanted a sharp tiny little darker shadow in that spot. But he didn't want a strobe on it. So he took the strobe out.
In panel 3 on that page, there is a LOT more definition in the tone on Danny's sleeve, which is a very dark tone but not as fine as some Eddie was using. So I'd call that an improvement. You can see the demarcation between the tone and the artwork much, much more clearly and the tone itself is clearer.
Panel 4 is another instance of 10% or 20%? 10% in the TYHP edition and 20% back in 1990.
Panel 6 -- and there's a bunch of them in TYHP -- definitely qualifies as "most improved". It's a very dark tone over the drawing and in the 1990 version a lot of the drawing detail has disappeared as a result. It's also noticeable in the 1990 version that Eddie "patched" a small strip of tone over the bulldog. This happened a lot in toning. The carrier film was so thin that it was easy to have it tear -- particularly when you were peeling up the excess -- and we ALL have those occasions when we just stick the torn piece back where it belongs even though it doesn't align perfectly with the tiny dots around it. In the 1990 version, this "patch" went almost completely black so it looks as if the bulldog has a stick balanced on his head. That's all cleaned up in TYHP.
(which suggests that there's a lunatic extreme possible here: anywhere that tone is being restored and there's an obvious "patch" where that happened, you should be able to just clone the surrounding tone and fill in the area in question. But a lot of times that's going to require the artist doing it himself or herself because they're the ones who know the difference between an accidental tear-and-patch and an artistic choice. In my case, it's not going to happen because I'm not a computer technician. Maybe in the long-term, depending on what I choose to do with keeping the material in print, I could flag it for someone else. But doing that with thousands of pages is a debilitating prospect.) As someone noted, GOING HOME is THE tone-heavy Cerebus book but I can't picture it as a good use of Gerhard's current illustration time/life to go through all of the pages and restoring/asserting his original intention(s) on each page. His original intention being to get the page done and get the hell out of the studio as close to 5 pm as possible :)
Eddie also whited out something overtop of the dog's owner's head and that tended to cause tonal problems: whiteout doesn't add a LOT of "height" off the page but definitely enough to show up under really fine tone. There's also a certain amount of discolouration that results with tone on top of white-out. But that was also fixed in panel 6.
|Page 104, The Complete Alec (1990)|
I'm not sure what was done with page 104 (TCA) page 107 (TYHP) the last panel where Alec is asleep. It seems to have been digitally manipulated to eliminate the moires of the overlapping scraps but it's almost become it's own special effect as a result of everything being carefully cut out and reassembled...and intentionally lightened?...perhaps to emphasize the "falling asleep" quality?
|Page 103, The Complete Alec (1990)|
|Page 80, The Complete Alec (1990)|
One of my favourite Eddie Campbell panels is the "Penny age 17 who Alec sees as Athena". There are two small tone scraps on the figure that were moired in the 1990 version and are still moired. So, was that an artistic choice? Presumably. I can't say that it diminished my appreciation -- after all, it was on there when it became one of my favourite panels.
|Page 31, The Complete Alec (1990)|
There are also artistic changes that have been made like the sky over Charles De Gaulle airport on page 31 (TCA) page 37 (TYHP). It APPEARS on the "original" that there's an accidental tear in the tone over the tail section of the jet that -- to my eyes -- was a happy accident. I like the effect, like metal glinting. But it's been replaced by cloud effects over the whole area. I don't revisit my work but that's a personal choice.
Long-winded way of saying, I would guess that -- had Paul McCartney and George Martin sat down and played the remastered White Album for Bob Dylan and explained everything they had improved on it, I doubt he would have been convinced. But, then he didn't work on the White Album originally, so it really doesn't matter what he would have thought of it. As someone who has no interest in the medium in question, I'd still, I think, find such a discussion interesting. But more from the standpoint of "this computer business has brought us all to a funny turn and I don't think we're going to have any hard answers anytime soon."
Dave Fisher has stuff stored out back of the house, including a lot of photographic development equipment which he doesn't know whether to keep or throw out. With Kodak out of the photographic paper business, there's no such thing as cheap photographic paper, a mainstay of traditional photography. He'd prefer to develop his own pictures but in the Digital Age, that's just another casualty. Can a "boutique industry" spring up around photographic paper making it possible again? Yeah, probably. Where is the Kodak paper formula among the crushed-beyond-recognition-shards-and-fragments left by the Digital Deathstar? Can photographers get it and make paper for themselves? Or will they just get blown to shards and fragments themselves by whatever is left of the legal Kodak?
I'm on the inside front cover of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND #5 with page one composed and ready to be drawn.
Weirdly, there were about 20 new names, as I said, on the petition right after I posted my comments on the Alan Moore business. Boom. That dropped off to nothing. Which, I have to say, is pretty amazing in that Digital Deathstar "Feel Our Power" sense. I mean, 20 names is completely unheard of in a two week period. 20 names is a three month to six month period. And then, as if everyone was collectively Smacked Upside They Digital Heads. Zip. Not a single name in the last three weeks. In fact it even dropped from 533 names to 532. Damian Lloyd's comment about my "ridiculous Comic Art Metaphysics theories" made me go, "Ohhhhhh, right. I forget how capable they are of doing that stuff. Crazy Dave Sim." I was NOT crazy for about three days and then the Collective Darth Vader reasserted control.
No problem. It would probably be more helpful if you could, you know, refute the Fifteen Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast but, you know? In your...collective...situation I'd probably do the same thing. "Crazy Dave Sim" being much easier than "Here's why these things aren't impossible and are really the Only Sensible Way to run a society."
Another $100 donated at cerebusdownloads.com in the last couple of weeks, so thanks to everyone for pitching in on that.
See you next Friday.
Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.