Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Dave Sim's Notebooks: Jaka's Story (II)

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.

Last week we saw how Dave had an overarching idea for the story, in this instance JAKA'S STORY, and then he began to fleshed it out. As shown with page 17 of notebook 10, he listed all the issue numbers in the phonebook, and then broke them up into individual books of the phonebook. Bits of dialogue were seen along with a sketch of the characters. This week I've pulled out a couple pages that show more of this fleshing out of the story - but this time we are down to the individual issue and page.

JAKA' STORY via text passages and (typically) a single picture shows us both Jaka as a young girl living in Palnu with her Nurse and then via the usual comic panels shows us Jaka in present times. For Jaka as a young girl, Dave would write and write passages looking for the exact wording he wanted. Here is one such example that didn't make the cut. A description of Jaka's breakfast time and Nurse's porridge, with a thumbnail for the page that never was comes from page 66 of notebook #10:

Notebook 10, page 66

An example of Dave fleshing out the issue more on a page by page case is from page 72 of the same notebook:

Notebook 10, page 72

A list of the individual page numbers and a quick synopsis of their contents. It doesn't quite match up page for page on to the finished phonebook, as some pages were compressed into one page - the notebook listings for page 5 and 7 were compressed into page 14 of the phonebook (page 4 of the issue). But some of the dialogue is already there - page 3 from the notebook is the dialogue on page 3 of the issue.

Next time I'll be looking at Lord Julius in Church & State, as each idea was requested separately - but like peanut butter and chocolate, they are pretty good together. 

Margaret Liss is The Cerebus Fan Girl and maintains the Cerebus Wiki.


Anonymous said...

I've gotta say thanks, Margaret. So: "Thanks, Margaret!"

This is the kind of stuff that I mentioned a few posts ago as being more worthy of preservation than the Off-White House. Only a subset of Cerebus readers will be interested in these behind-the-scenes pages, but we'll want to be able to access it. And it's the content that matters, not the artefact.

Do you have scans of all Dave's notebooks? Do you have his permission to post them online? I understand file size was a problem, but surely by now a Photoshop script could reduce them to a downloadable size.

I doubt that there would be enough of an audience to justify a print-run, but what about a paid download? That might give Dave a few bucks toward keeping Cerebus in print.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, mon

Sean Michael Robinson said...

These are great Margaret. Thanks for teasing out the differences between this and the finished book -- very interesting.

Let me know if you'd like a Photoshop "action" (script) to convert all of the pages to a good blog-readable size, if you and Dave ever want to make them available that way. I can whip something up from a sample and send it to you.

Unknown said...

I would be very interested in a copy of any notebook material as well, and a paid option works for me. Please let me know if anything is in the works!

Mike Niederer

DuncanB said...

Yes yes yes I would absolutely be up for buying a copy of the complete notebooks if they were available - stick em all up at cerebusdownloads! I'm finding them absolutely fascinating... I'm just embarking on a full re-read since buying the whole series in digi format over there, these would be the ideal accompaniment as I work my way through.

Margaret said...

don't want to say anything until official word comes down, but there sounds like there is a plan for release. Don't know ETA yet, have to get with Dave to iron out the details. These files are huge, took up at least 20 DVDs, now I have it on an external SSD (and a HHD, I'm paranoid about back-ups).

@Damian - Yes, I have hi-res scans (600 dpi at least) of all of Dave's notebooks. They start at issue 20 and go up to #300. The files are too huge to put on line, but a script to convert them to useful size would be excellent.

@Sean - I don't use photoshop, but I do have gimp. Just googled script-fu. I'll have to try it out this weekend. I'd love for lo-res versions of the files to be on the internet, open for a wiki-like environment where all can add tags to the images, discuss their content, etc.

@Mike & @DuncanB - As I said, something is in the works. Need to get a letter off to Dave this weekend (I've made him another back up as well, a SSD, should last a bit longer than the DVDs I had sent him originally. . .think I sent him a HHD also, but it has been a while). Thanks for your interest!

Thanks everyone for the comments :)

DuncanB said...

I'm also really enjoying your annotations of the notebooks as well Margaret - great to get some words from someone so well informed, and with a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of the series and how the early drafts in the notebooks compare. Can you write up some annotations for all 3,433 pages before they're released please? Might be a bit of a big ask... :)

Unknown said...

Hey everyone...

What Margaret was saying about waiting for the official word...

I've pitched to Dave to package up the notebooks and he's game.

I am preparing an example right now to send off to Margaret for her thoughts and to Dave too...

Stay TOONED... More awesome Cerebus web-ready stuff coming.