Friday, 6 June 2014

Weekly Update #34: We're On A Roll

Cerebus Vol 1
Back In Stores Soon!

Hi Sean (and everybody!)

Tim faxed me your Thursday post on Wednesday so I've had a couple of days to see what "sticks to my ribs".

This is much, much better news than I was even HOPING for.  How much better news?  I called my Diamond rep, Matt Demory to say "We aren't there yet, but we're much closer than I would ever have suspected we would be even a week ago."

Thanks, Sean, for the terminology recap.  I know the Luddite-inclined among us (not pointing fingers in any mirrors) are getting that "trigonometry feeling" a little too often for leisure-time reading.

Good news that you have kudos for Lebonfon's RIP and pre-press operator.  That takes "dump Lebonfon is Job One" off the table as far as I'm concerned.

I agree, in principle, that leaving in details that would otherwise be "contrast adjusted" constitutes an oddity (which I don't KNOW is a bad thing) and possibly a distraction (which could be a bad thing if we had a focus group to test it and most agreed it was, indeed, a distraction).

And I thought of the Woman Thing spatter pages right off when you said that.  I was really happy with those even though technically they're jarring next to the "non-original-art sourced" spatter pages.  But, that's part of what I took care of (in my own mind) with CEREBUS ARCHIVE THE ARTISTS EDITIONS.  God willing, those pages will be in CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER SEVENTEEN, so I don't have to concern myself.  You want that level of detail?  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER SEVENTEEN is what you want to get.

The "flatness of the black" as you describe it, is what I was referring to when I said the overall impression of the book is "GREY"--not greyscale, half-tones, but bad ink coverage.  This is something we would definitely like to see fixed.  That might be a "royal we" or a "minority we" or "majority we" absent a focus group.  But, definitely a "heads up" to Lebonfon. Josee? Dean? This is something we -- all of us -- will be watching for.

Which brings us to "where now?"

I appreciate David Birdsong's observation in the comments...

(thank you David for Mended Fences' "hillbilly Jesus music" direct from Nashville which I got today.  Big laugh of the day:  "It's hillbilly Jesus music, but it's really GOOD hillbilly Jesus music".  It is indeed.  Toe-tappin' gospel Elvis and Jerry Lee and Johnny could have nailed at Sun Records. If the Off-White House has been bugged for my suspect Muslim sympathies somebiddy is done scratchin' his haid 'long about now at my Cranked Up To 11 iTunes hillbilly Jesus music whilst I was fixin' t'answer the mail) (y'all) (Quite a change from m'usual daid silence)

...and I certainly WANTED everything done on this book this time around, but I think that has to be balanced against the WASTE of just pulping the whole thing and starting from scratch -- as tempting as it is to spend all of your Kickstarter money as if I was a government bureau trying to drain my budget for fiscal year end.  And that I think there's going to be a natural split in the audience with a lot of people taking David's view: "I just can't see buying this if it's got residual flaws" and a lot of people eager to see what it is that we've been talking about.  The answer seems to me: "hang fire. The legacy edition will probably be the NEXT printing."  Which might be, relatively speaking, just around the corner. And if you're really curious, you pays yer money and you get to decide fer your own self: oddity or distraction?  And is that a BAD thing (whichever one it is).  

And MOST people, I daresay, not really caring one way or the other.  We have, at best, a FEW retailers reading these Updates.  I think I'm safe in saying Unless we print half the pages upside down or pages 250-276 are from a porno comic (I wish I hadn't just said that), they're not REALLY interested:

CEREBUS is back in print? Fat city. What took so [effing] long?

That was one of the things that I presented to Matt at Diamond:  does Diamond want me to SOLICIT for the CEREBUS trade?  i.e. do a full page ad in PREVIEWS "FINALLY IT'S HERE!" kind of thing?  I mean, if anything is worth springing for an ad -- or a two-page spread (I was picturing the cover with inset images along the bottom half of high points of the restoration), that I could picture saying "Kids? Here's where Daddy's going to use up some Kickstarter bucks. 'Kay?" that would be it.

But, the first thing I asked him was "When's the next ad deadline for PREVIEWS?"  And he checks and goes "Today."  I laughed.  Well, okay, when's the NEXT one? And it's July 10 for items in the stores in November (I think).  Well, okay.  Obvious question:  do you want to wait until November?  

So, right now he's talking to people and I'm going to give him a call next Wednesday.  With pretty close to Zero Retailer Participation here, we're going to do it Diamond's way and ask "how high?" on the way up (as my Dad used to say).

But "where now?" as far as WE'RE concerned HERE:

Is...Sean? I think it makes sense to do the four signatures you suggest -- 1-32; 97-128; 129-160; 289-320 -- the best way YOU know how, billing Aardvark-Vanaheim for Your Best Shot.  And then -- fair's fair -- give them to George first to critique, as you got the chance to critique George's work.  And then when George has critiqued and tweaked -- or just left them alone -- those four signatures, we swap those files out with Lebonfon and be ready to print when I have a roadmap from Diamond --  "Here's what we want. Here's how many we'll take" -- and if it's A!S!A!P! then we have to be ready for that.  Or something in between -- not all the way to November, but with enough time to let the retailers know and get orders in an authorized back channel way that gives Diamond a ballpark figure and then they decide how many they want besides that.  And that's how many we print.

As someone pointed out, HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL is (theoretically) in stores in August and I couldn't fault Diamond for wanting A!S!A!P! to be as close to that as possible.

And, of course, then I complicated things by mentioning the "signed bookplates with Diamond logo as a Diamond exclusive on all CEREBUS trades ordered between -- Black Friday? Yes? and mid-December? Yes?"

Long silence on Matt's end. "EVERY book?"

Uh, well, yeah.  Without CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY, Diamond is sitting on A. Lot. Of. Dead. CEREBUS. Inventory.  Anything that moves some Christmas books that only requires me signing my name A. Bunch. Of. Times.  Uhh. You know:  Signatures R Us!

And then I had to complicate things even more by asking "or do you want the unsigned CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE in PREVIEWS in November for Christmas sales instead? Or 'as well'?"  

And if Dean or Josee is reading this:  can you send Sean an unbound copy of HIGH SOCIETY?

I think we're on a roll here.

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Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (2008 to 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.


Unknown said...

Glad things are looking brighter this time around. Looking forward to seeing the results.

Jon Marvin

David Birdsong said...

I have a visual of Dave Sim wearing a cowboy hat with his boots up on his desk for some reason.

Raw Fish / Strokkster said...

New reader here, really glad it’s going to get back into print.

Been getting a lot of recommendations for this series and didn't want to read it digitally.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey Dave,

I was happy to ready your message on Friday. I'm optimistic going forward that we can make significant headway in a short amount of time.

Besides the timetable, I need to clarify a few things with you--

Should I be approaching this as a basic replacement of the severe problem pages, with only quick/minor adjustments to the other pages in the signature, or should I go ahead and prep every page of the signature how I would prep them? In most cases I could do the latter and still preserve George's work, for instance, flying in the cloned letters/balloons from his restored balloons even if the rest of the page ended up being sourced from elsewhere. I think on the early ones my strategy would probably be to just tweak his work anyway, but if I find that other materials/better options would be available from a different scanned source, would you like me to do that as well? So, basically, should I treat this as a repair, or, when it's warranted, start from new scans?

About the scans—I got a look at a single page of the Lebonfon scans, and it's not pretty. The “copydot” method they've been referring to is an older method of transfering archival film that essentially directly creates a 1-bit bitmap of the material. In this case, the scans were 1200 ppi, which might sound good until you factor in the direct-to-bitmap method means that the exposure can't be adjusted afterwards. The page they sent me had lots of line breakup, even more than the 600 dpi grayscale negative scan I also have access to.

Short version--I don't think the Lebonfon scans of the negative will be viable, or useful for much. I'd still rather have full access to them, but I'm not hopeful they'll be helpful.

It is, imho, criminally inadequate as a tranfer of fine line art. (One of my pen and ink students brought in a new edition of that great Guptill book Rendering in Pen and Ink, and I was wincing every time I was flipping through his edition. I have no doubt it was transferred from film with a similar procedure).

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Anyway, as you'll see in the emails, I asked Lebonfon for a quote (for my own edification) of what they would charge to scan negatives, or book pages, at 2400 grayscale. For these early pages, which, if I understand correctly, the negatives have been destroyed, we could also scan from the best available print sources. I could do that here as well, but I'd need you to look through your individual issue file copies and Swords printings and first edition phone books to determine what looks the crispest, and has the least amount of dotgain/ink fill-in. (My 1994 Cerebus printing is certainly not the best source.) Depending on what Lebonfon quotes, it might make more sense (and be more time- and resource efficient) to have you mail the materials to me and scan them here.

Anyway, I'm just trying to assess what's available, where it is, and what we'll be doing with it.

Anyway, the last thing to resolve before moving forward is the business end. If I do scanning on this end, I'll have my associate Dr. Mara do the work, and if there's anything else that it makes sense for her to do instead, I'll have her do that as well. But a lot of this is probably stuff I'll need to do myself, in terms of making judgments about the available materials and making the adjustments. I'd prefer to keep track of my hours and bill that way, if that's fine with you. And just like with my illustration or design clients, I wouldn't bill you for any research time required, i.e. when I'm making sure I understand a concept or have some other kind of structural roadblock, consulting a book on pre-press or something, that's on my time.

I don't anticipate this being very complex, however. I think the actual difficult part is the stage we're almost through now-- assessing the actual available materials and making the map forward.

(I don't know if you can tell, but I really enjoy these kind of problems. They feel like some combination of algebra and art, making all the pieces fit together while obeying a set of limitations....)