Thursday, 17 April 2014

Weekly Update #27: George & Sean

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...
Cerebus #36 (March 1982)
Art by Dave Sim
Okay, here I am!

Thanks for ChrisW and Anonymous for posting their comments last week.

The situation, unfortunately, is a lot less flexible than that.  I really can't afford to come up with ideas -- I have plenty of my own -- of what might work.  You have to calculate how much time it would take to analyze what collection of Cerebus' Greatest Hits might work.  Then what would be the best page length, cover price, etc. etc.  Then you have to see what you have in terms of digital files and whether the package is doable in that sense.  Then you have to solicit for it.  If you sell, say, 2,000 copies, that's great!  If you sell, say, 412 copies, that's not so great.  Then you have a printing bill for 2,000 copies, revenue from 412 copies and you have to store 1,600 copies that are probably never going to sell.

Not good.

And the point of doing such a package would be to drive sales on the trade paperbacks.  The retailers are not going to be impressed if they're selling a comic book or small trade that instantly raises the question:  Wow! This is really good!  How do I start reading it?

Uh, well, you can't.  CEREBUS which is the beginning and HIGH SOCIETY which is the preferred starting point are both out of print.

No, I'm afraid there's no way around getting CEREBUS and/or HIGH SOCIETY back into print. Until that happens, CEREBUS is DOA from a retail standpoint.

Progress on that front:

George sent Sean the raw digital files and George's finished digital files for "The Night Before", #36 (part of HIGH SOCIETY) and Sean is working on them.  George called and left a message saying he was sending me print-outs of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY.  Which sounded good until I thought about it and went, "No, we're past that point.  We've already determined that, one way or the other, what are called proofs in 2014 are really just one-off copies.  The ability to do an accurate one-off copy isn't in doubt.  What is in doubt is the ability to match that one-off copy to the finished printing."  So I sent George a fax saying to hang onto them unless or until we see a need for them.

So it seems to me we're in the situation of still determining what is going to be in the sample signature.  "The Night Before" is a good bet, because it was really a mess from front to back in the unbound copy that Lebonfon did.  BUT!  "The Night Before" was shot from the original artwork in the Cerebus Archive, which means it's apt to be a different matter from most of HIGH SOCIETY which was either scanned from printed copies (after the negatives went up in smoke) or from the negatives (before they went up in smoke).  So, yes, we want SOME pages from "The Night Before" but not ALL pages from "The Night Before".  I'm thinking 4 pages from "The Night Before" (I'm going to check my unbound copy and see which are the worst 4):  George's best version, Sean's best version and Lebonfon's best version (I'm pretty sure they had scanned those negatives before the fire).

And then I have to look at the other "worst cases" in the unbound HIGH SOCIETY volume and see what other suggestions I have.  Again, as far as I can see, it needs to be 4 pages from each version: George's, Sean's and Lebonfon's.  That will bring us up to 24 pages leaving 8 pages -- so two more pages of -- something -- from each version: George's, Sean's and Lebonfon's.

In that situation, I think the best idea would be to do 8 pages that have been arrived at by a different method and to have that kept track of.  This was Dean's suggestion and George's suggestion both:  if we keep track of HOW each page was produced, if we see a particularly good example, then that will tell us what tweaking is needed.

Comic Art Metaphysics being what it is, no sooner had I told George to hang onto his most recent printouts of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY than Sean phoned and said that the proofs that HE had printed out and which were on the way to me had looked good at first, but looking at them again, he had discovered that the REALLY fine lines were breaking up.

He works at a printing place so he said he has consulted with the other pre-press guys there to find out: a) why they think the fine lines are breaking up and b) what it's going to take to get the fine lines back.

So, still a very slow motion process, but if Sean can figure out why he's losing the really fine lines and we can get that nailed down as a flawless way to produce digital files, then we can start making faster forward progress.

Or we're coming closer to discovering that we're not there yet in terms of the technology:  that the fine lines that George is picking up with his grey-scaling are just naturally going to get lost if you convert to bitmap.

I'm going to make a request that comments attached to these Weekly Updates stick to the reproduction issues we're dealing with.  I appreciate that everyone has ideas as to how to make CEREBUS a success in 2014 but, as I said, that's not really where we are.  I welcome any feedback in that way at PO Box 1674 Stn. C, Kitchener, Ontario Canada, N2G 4R2.

But the primary motivation here is to, hopefully, attract the attention of people who work in the printing trade and are HUGE comic book/comic strip fans and have experience in how to pick up fine lines, grey-scaling, bit-mapping, etc.

Next Friday:  I'm going to take a break from CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY to discuss CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE as a means of fund-raising to, first of all, get Lebonfon paid for a percentage of their work so far and then start determining what we're going to do in the Restoration and Preservation end of things.  This will centre on the thing that I am 100% positive about when it comes to digital printing:  the one-off full-size photocopy 600 dpi RGB on glossy card stock as the best way to preserve the look of the original artwork.

The BEST reproduction possible, no excuses.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

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.


George Peter Gatsis said...


Last year, I had spent a pretty penny to get ACTUAL film and paper output done, of some key pages in bitmap and greyscale... and the greyscale held up...

But this was done AFTER the unbound copies and BEFORE my trip to KINKOs to figure out why we were getting proofs back that were VERY off on expectation of quality.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey Dave,

Just wanted to clarify a few things--

First off, I don't work at a printer-- I'm a freelance illustrator and designer. I have however shuffled many a project from paper to print, for myself and for clients, and most importantly, I have friends who know much more than me that I can pick for information :)

In this case, it was my friend B.H. who's an awesome cartoonist and prepress man in Seattle, and Lou Copeland, whom you know.

The very brief version-- I'm prepping some sample files and generating 1200 dpi laser copies that I'm comparing to the trades (which is still the standard of comparison as far as I'm concerned).

The good news is, working from the raw files, the moire is non-existent, and the pages look great. My quick-and-dirty adjusted pages look identical to the trades to my eye, with the exception of a few lines per page--the teeniest tiniest lines. Cerebus's cuffs, a few hair lines on Jaka.

So I popped the files open again, backed up a step and "worked" the exposure a bit until I could get them to not break up "in file", meaning, that they were still continuous in the file itself. And upon printing that, I find that the lines are visibly thicker than those same lines in the phone books.

Anyway, I'm taking the long way around here... I went through the files for the last project I prepped with really really fine line work and realized I was supplying higher-res bitmap files than "normal". (Effectively, around 2000 dpi). I did a bit of reading, and wrote my friend B.H., who told me that most plating systems these days most platesetters (the machine that strikes printing plates from raster files) can function at much higher resolutions than 1200 dpi. The printer that BH works for does lots of commercial jobs at 2400 dpi, and sometimes prints at 4000 dpi when printing on credit cards, circuit boards, or other non-porous surfaces.

The way that BH explained it to me, anything over 2400 is useless on paper as the porous nature of the material and ink just creates fill-in that obscures any other information.

Now, conventional wisdom on this is that 1200 dpi is more than fine enough for line art. And, indeed, printing from 1200 dpi bitmaps generates an optically smooth result on paper-- you can pull out your loupe and the edge of a curve has no visible stair-stepping at all. But I think it's possible that the finest of the fine lines, those razor-sharp little flecks that look like little cuts on the paper, that those would benefit from coming through a finer res.


Sean R said...


B.H. agreed with me, although he said it's unusual for people to supply line art at that res, it does happen, especially on commercial jobs. He said that the real worry when supplying high-res files is making sure the printer's workflow doesn't down-sample them automatically, or that some functionary doesn't do so for some other reason.

Supplying higher-res bitmaps (2400 dpi) to the printer wouldn't necessarily mean re-scanning anything, fortunately-- the grayscale files can be upsampled upon the bit-map conversion, and the ambiguity of the gray boundary pixels makes the bitmap continuous. (Sorry if this seems vague. I promise that sentence means something to someone!)

Anyway, these minutiae are just that-- minutiae. These are the teeniest of the teeny lines that we're talking here. The GOOD news is that all else looks fantastic.

One last point about this-- wanted to reiterate that none of this information I'm talking about would be present if printing from grayscale files--it would all be lost in the half-tone process.

Anyway, I'm going to do some more talking with Lou, including taking a look at a Judenhass page he sent me whilst I was typing this comment. A quick google search confirms some people at least are now calling for 2400 dpi as a new fine line art standard, so I'm feeling a little validated here and a little less crazy.

And I'll talk to Dean McCoy and find out if their platesetter can handle that res.



Sean Michael Robinson said...

Well, I feel like an idiot.

Lou Copeland solved it. I've been printing to a new/unfamiliar printer, and the ink density was set way too high, so I was "blowing out" the light areas compensating for the line expansion caused by the printer. Got the density better now, and am now seeing the limitations of a $250 printer as proofing system a little clearer ^_^.

Dave, wanted to mention that Judenhass was printed from 1200 dpi bitmaps. Plenty of teeny tiny lines there.

That being said, if Lebonfon's platesetter system can handle 2400 dpi, I'm still inclined to deliver files to them that way, both because a. it's possible it might still make a slight difference in the sharpness of the very smallest lines, and b. because you'll have some more future-proofing built into the files. If you wanted to make large-format editions at some point in the future, those files would get you there without additional fiddling.

Anyway, score one for your public tech negotiations, Dave. Lou caught my stupid mistake in no time flat.

George Peter Gatsis said...


This project is a restoration... There is work done on practically every page of the 1000 plus pages...

If you start from the raw files... you negate the the work done in dirt clean up, line reconstruction and closing, screens added, graphics inserted/re-inserted, patterns and screens cleaned up, lines thickened, etc…

Just an fyi…


Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey George,

I agree with you, in every instance possible it would be better to work from your pages to do the bitmap conversion, as long as there's no moire present in your files. In the case of the Cerebus page you sent me a while ago, there's no moire in the finished file you sent, so it's just a matter of conversion and it's looking snazzy. But in the 10 H.S. pages I've played with so far, all have severe moire in the finished files that isn't present in the raw scans, thus necessitating going back to the scans.

Even going back to the raw scans, though, printouts of your files were still useful, as it enabled me to easily see where improvements to the phone books had been made (for instance, fixing the exposure to keep the first "J" in Cerebus's first "Jaka" from breaking up.)

(Yes, people who aren't George or Dave or Lou, these are the kinds of details we're talking about here. And yes, catching them makes a big difference in the finished product.)

George Peter Gatsis said...


Are you just gunho on going bitmap on the project?

The pages I sent you on issue 36 do not print out with any moire on a 600 and 1200 dpi print outs...

I remind you, the moire issue we had last year was due to poor proofs sent to us... which where at 300dpi... So there was no way to see what was working or not. But since then, (after my trip to Kinkos) Lebonfon did finally supply accurate proofs and all the pages were fixed.

On your test:
What exactly are the printer's settings?
What percentage did you scale up the raw files?
Did you adjust the rotation to level out the page properly?

AND, if it makes your life easier...

Here is the ORIGINAL list of the 111 problem pages... for which all have been fixed in the files you now have and will be receiving:



George Peter Gatsis said...

Hmmmm.... me thinks I would put comma's on the list and not have it scroll down the page so long...

Opps, sorry about that readers.

George Peter Gatsis said...


I am assuming since you bit mapped... The files are small...

Can u email me the files to have a look over?

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey George,

Thanks for the list! That's really helpful.

The moire I'm seeing in the first few "Night Before" pages is present when I'm printing straight from your PDF files, without any adjustment on my end. Like I said before, I don't have the other files yet, so I have no idea whether moire is present in the other files as well.

I'm printing with a consumer-level laser printer by Brother that will accept 1200 dpi input. (However, the actual visible output is dodgy in the fine areas. As per Lou Copeland's suggestion, I've lowered the ink density to match the density one of his Judenhass files to the printed Judenhass, which was also printed by Lebonfon).

As to what has caused the moire in the files, I would speculate that it was caused by more than one instance of scaling or rotation. This chapter is probably worse than the others because the resolution/page size is different than the destination size, and thus the size conversion aspect is a little more complicated. (The chapter in question was scanned or photographed from the original art at 300 dpi). I did the math and realized that if I scaled up by 2.4 (i.e. multiplied the pixel count by 2.4) before doing any contrast adjustment, then bam, the file's ready to be adjusted, with no moire.

After the scaling, I checked the keel of the page and in one out of the five cases, rotated the page before contrast adjustment.

Having not seen the other files for the books, I have no idea whether there's moire present in the files, or whether it was generated through some error in the proofing/printing process. But at least on those pages I have now, the fastest way forward seemed to be to return to the raw scans.

I'll send you a few raw images so you can take a look.



Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey George,

I just ran another test-- I converted two pages of yours that are exhibiting moire to bitmap before printing-- and voila, almost all the moire went away.

This suggests that what's happening is more complicated--because you've kept the files greyscale, even though you've contrast-adjusted the tone areas, the remaining gray/ambiguous pixels are either getting "screened" or not getting "screened" depending on the printer output. This particular printer, because it has fairly coarse grayscaling, is causing those gray pixels to be screened by the output. I'm guessing that's what was happening with the Lebonfon proofs as well.

I'll try a few more side by side comparisons here.

George Peter Gatsis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Peter Gatsis said...

Sean wrote: "I did the math and realized that if I scaled up by 2.4 (i.e. multiplied the pixel count by 2.4) before doing any contrast adjustment, then bam, the file's ready to be adjusted, with no moire. After the scaling, I checked the keel of the page and in one out of the five cases, rotated the page before contrast adjustment."

Did that too... my scale was 2.41 or 241%... I took the files to 2 different printing houses here in Toronto... I go no moire...

just a heads up... When you do get the files, you will quickly discover that the raw files are all over the place... Unlike Judenhass... the source material for v1 and v2 came in from multiple resolutions and multiple scanning sources.

What I remember what came in was:
1) from the actual comic books... started at 1200 dpi or more...
2) from film... started at 600 dpi... I don't remember it being scanned higher than that...
3) from artboards... started at 600, 300, 500... and some other dpi's... I've lost count...
4) from the wild... started at 600 and 1200 dpi in mulitple pieces...
5) from auction houses... all over the place... I was driven dpi'd nuts! :)

there is a warp affect that was corrected on scans, due to the source material was never pressed flat against the scanner glass or the actual film was warped over time... this happened mostly from point #4 above.

Don't send me the raw files... send me the files you made adjustments to.

Got an email from Dean that he is going ahead with the test... But I had mentioned to him at the beginning of the week that during the long process of collecting all the raw files along with my final files... that I have made more adjustments ( since Lebonfon hasn't done anything since January ) and the files I am sending you are the most up to date files from my end... and the best files to do the test from.

I am very excited about this test Lebonfon is going to do... reminds me of the 10 years I spent working on the press side of the business... plating up a 6 color heidelberg press, cutting ruby, exposing film vertically and horizontally, going to digital plates for the first time... doing lino film and paper outputs... doing oversized scantext film negatives, chrome and fuji proofing... running multiple line screens on a since piece of film... making the first digitally printed comic books off of a canon, with card stock interior sheets... I digress or progress? And now this test... Just an fyi... I am loving this process all over again.


George Peter Gatsis said...

Sean wrote: "But at least on those pages I have now, the fastest way forward seemed to be to return to the raw scans."

This restoration is not about being fast.
Every page has been adjusted on either one or a combination of :

1) panel by panel...
2) character by character...
3) graphic by graphic....
4) re-screened Cerebus tone
5) inserted new graphics
6) added Cerebus tone at different scales on different pages
7) adjusted Cerebus tone to remove most or all grey pixels, while the area around is left untouched
8) cloned out Cerebus tone to clean it up, due to dirty screen
9) cloned out Cerebus tone to clean it up, due broken/scratched screen
10) cloned out Cerebus tone to clean it up, due incomplete screen
11) leveled out Cerebus tone to remove heavy ink coverage
12) closed up graphic lines
13) cleaned up tape marks
14) cleaned up scratches
15) in the white areas, made thinner black lines thicker to stand up to printing
16) in the black areas, made thinner white lines and "holes" thicker to stand up to ink swelling during printing
17) left very fine lines alone, while adjusting the thicker lines around to remove shadow affects
18) kept lots of the very very fine and broken lines in the greyscale, so that when it goes to press, the ink swell will create a thicker "visual" impression of the line
19) added new banners
20) some areas cannot even be leveled out... you have to take a DODGE/BURN brush at different sizes over the area to clean it up

Just off the top of my head right now...


George Peter Gatsis said...

Sean wrote: "I just ran another test-- I converted two pages of yours that are exhibiting moire to bitmap before printing-- and voila, almost all the moire went away."

Cool... I am digging it... send me the two files and the files you have done from scratch.

Isn't this a holiday for you? I have an excuse producing a movie who's deadline doesn't change... LOL... What's yours? ( other than Cerebus that is )

George Peter Gatsis said...

Sean wrote: "I'm guessing that's what was happening with the Lebonfon proofs as well."

Not sure about that....

What we did establish is that before my KINKOS trip... Lebonfon has been providing us proofs at 300dpi... which were clearly not accurate.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey George,

I don't know enough (virtually nothing) about consumer-grade laser printer output and how/why it decides to screen an area or not... but those gray pixels inside the tone are definitely what's causing the variation in moire level from printer to printer. The output stage is either "catching" those areas or not, which is why the moire went away on my system here after I converted to bitmap.

So, some good, good news.

No holidays for the self-employed. :) I've spent the week waiting for a large illustration job (30+ hours) to come in. Kept expecting it and nothing... until last night I finally got the email. So now I'm contemplating whether or not to tackle it this weekend or wait till Monday... :)

Will do a few tests of the target pages for the sample plate. Depending on how they look I might just be submitting your files bitmap-converted... and thanks for the comprehensive list of changes. Much appreciated. Was flagging some of these things myself with phonebook in hand. What broke up? What disappeared?

George Peter Gatsis said...

Sean wrote: "I might just be submitting your files bitmap-converted..."

THAT would be great... Save yourself time in doing the restoration work all over again and improving where it needs to be... Best of both worlds.

Just got an email from Dean... Seems he doesn't want the updated files I am sending you for the test... Which would end up making it a lopsided test... Since you are working off of the updated files and Dean is working off of my pre-January files.


Sean Michael Robinson said...

Yeah, if what we're testing here is the different approaches-- grayscale/half-tone screened versus bitmap/continuous screen-- then it makes sense to use your most up to date files.

Did he tell you why? Do you think Dave knows?

George Peter Gatsis said...


How soon before you email your samples?

Sean Michael Robinson said...


Gimme 30 min. Everything so far has been playing w/ different approaches. I'll send something in 20-30 min. :)


George Peter Gatsis said...

Sean wrote: "Did he tell you why? Do you think Dave knows?"

Here is Dean's reply to my emails:

GEORGE (Date: 16-04-2014 11:43): I have the updated files ready for you... and I am sending a copy of them with RAW files to Sean this week.

DEAN: (8:59 AM (4 hours ago)): "Hi George, We're going to proceed with a test using files we have along with files Sean is completing. I have what I need now to get this done and I'll keep you posted on the progress. Thanks, Dean McCoy"

GEORGE (Date: 18-04-2014 09:26):Dean, I have to send you the new files for the testing... What pages are you testing.

DEAN (12:59 PM (18 minutes ago): "Hi George, I think we have what we need for the purposes of this test. If I need anything more I'll certainly let you know. Thanks, Dean McCoy"

Dave is hard to communicate, since it's one way by phone and I try to keep my phone calls to an extreme minimum... and since Dave expressed he wants it all out into the public here on AMOC... here is where it all is spread out.

Maybe you can express my concern to Dean, better than my emails to Dean...


George Peter Gatsis said...


Update regarding Dean:

George Peter Gatsis

1:43 PM (0 minutes ago)
to Dean

The plan is flawed.

It's a lopsided test...

Sean is working off of the most updated files...
Why can't you just accept the updated files?


On Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 1:40 PM, Dean McCoy wrote:

For the purposes of this test, we've got a plan we're proceeding with.

It's the first step in resolving the issues.

Once we have the results, we can analyze.
Dean McCoy

Anonymous said...


-Wes Smith

George Peter Gatsis said...

The Digital files have just been FEDEX'd to Sean...

The 3D Printed Cerebus has just been FEDEX'd to Dave...

Dave will most likely get his delivery on Monday...

Sean will most likely get his delivery on Tuesday...

I will most likely go rest on the 8th day... :)

Sean Michael Robinson said...


I produced a sample 8 pages using George's files, bit-map converted, with a few minor adjustments along the way.

I have not yet sent these to Dean at Lebonfon, as Dave is planning to speak to Dean regarding the details of the sample signature. Dave is concerned about being able to tell the identical pages apart from each other without a visual "tell" that would otherwise bias the viewer. He's also inquiring about the nature/makeup of the various versions that will be printed in the sample signature.

For instance-- using George's original files, or using George's updated files? Or both?

For everyone who's made it this far-- these issues are such a concern not just because of the tremendous expense of the printing for these books, but also for the future of the remaining 5,000 pages. There's a real concern that any work that goes into any future projects can be "future-proofed" as best as possible, so that, if possible, the work that goes into preparing all the future Cerebus books can be one-time work that won't have to be re-done by future fans/printers/publishers.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Received a Fedex package from George today with a jump drive containing all of the files for both books. Did a few test printings from bitmap-reduced versions of randomly selected pages-- looking good. Still waiting to hear whether Dave and Lebonfon have communicated and worked out the details of the test signature.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey everyone (including Dave!)

The three of us (George, Dean from Lebonfon, and myself) have been emailing back and forth regarding the makeup of the test signature.

Dean's original plan had been to print a signature that included 4 different versions of the first 8 pages of “The Night Before”-- George's first version, from which proofs were initially generated, George's second version, from which the second round of proofs and the full printing happened, my version working from George's files, and Lebonfon's version, which would be sourced from the scans they did of the original film.

George wanted to make sure that his files were represented as best as possible, using his most recent files. Dean agreed in an email to me that swapping George's first set of files for his most recent files would be a good compromise way forward.

So, here's the proposal on the table-- that the test signature be made up of

the first 8 pages of “The Night Before”, represented by--
a. George's second version of the files, used in the initial printing
b. George's updated files, which he supplied to me two weeks ago
c. my files, which were prepared by taking George's updated files, and converting these to bit-map with minor adjustments along the way (more on this later)
d. Lebonfon's files, which are sourced from their scans of the film/negative material

This seems to me to be a very comprehensive way forward, and it should give an excellent view of the different approaches possible. This also will give insight into the advantages or disadvantages of going back to the original artwork versus working from the film material, as Lebonfon's signature will be sourced from different files than the other signatures. (George's files were worked from scans of the original artwork for the chapter, which can in some circumstances have some downsides, including in some cases, tone shrinkage, or reduced contrast of the ink on paper as the original paper yellows or fades, making some presumably watery thin lines a little hard to keep from breaking up without thickening noticably).

I also wanted to say that there has been a great deal of good will and patience on everyone's part this week. All of the parties involved in this have made it abundantly clear that the important thing is to find the ideal way forward, so that the books can be as best represented in print as possible, and so that there aren't similar road blocks to future projects.

So, your thoughts Dave? Others?

Dean said...

As Sean indicated, we're ready to get going. :)

Dean (Lebonfon Printing)

Eddie said...

This sounds like a good way to progress. As a fan, I'd like to thank George and Sean and Dean and everyone involved for the hard work, as well as the updates and exchanges, even though the technical stuff is out of my league (kind of reminds me of the Notes From The President where Dave would discuss making a comic book). Looking forward to seeing what the results of the printed signature are, and what everyone makes of them.

ChrisW said...

It's Dave's finite source of money paying for all this, so I'm worried about telling him what to do since I don't have any skin in the game, but I have to wonder if he (and we, the audience who already likes the book) aren't approaching it from the wrong direction.

Dave makes a good argument against my "Origins of Aardvark-Vanaheim" phone book, so even if I think that's the best way to go, what about retrenching to a "Swords of Aardvark-Vanaheim" concept? If Dave were a large corporation, it would make sense to collect the best Conan parodies and sell the collections in that market, the best Marx Brothers skits and sell them to that market, the Torah commentary for that market, etc.

Basically, I would suggest looking at what would sell the most, keeping Dave, "Cerebus" and Aardvark-Vanaheim viable in the long-term, and reprint the original series from there. A collection of Cockroach issues would be one of the last things I'd want to see, but for the sake of argument, superhero parody has more of a chance to succeed now than it ever has, even to people who only know Wolverine, Captain America and Spidey in the black costume from the movies.

It's not my money at stake, and I don't envy Dave having to make any of these decisions, but I at least want to present the idea that he might be better off with a smaller book, that would be cheaper to print, and sell enough that Dave can continue to buy food, and bring his other works back into print.

I'd also suggest that he drop the in-depth examination of how to print each page. That direction is a serpent devouring its own tail (or an aardvark devouring its own tale.) If "Cerebus" the epic is going to survive in its own right, I think Dave needs to take more of a Stan Lee role in his creation/company's future. Cerebus chopping up the Hsiffies is more important than capturing all of Gerhard's tiny lines. Gerhard (and Cerebus) will benefit more in the long-term from a quick-and-dirty 'good enough for government work' approach, because the individual issues will still be around, the original collections will still exist, and the basic quality of the material will further the audience's interest in preserving the originals. Hell, a 100-page collection of Ger's best one- or two-page spreads would be worth looking at.

As I say, it's not my money, nor is it my decision. I only present this as speculation that, as much as I love my 500-page comic books, it might not be the best way to help "Cerebus" survive. A 100-page "Lord Julius" collection is basically the most-commercial idea I've ever heard of besides bacon-flavored underwear. And the Lord Julius pages already exist.

ChrisW said...

And yes, this would impact sales of the first two collections, but I'd rather Dave continue to live selling his Groucho parody (or superhero parody, or Torah commentary, etc.) than kill himself trying to reprint "Cerebus" and "High Society" with the expectation of reprinting the rest of the series.