Sean Michael Robinson:
You might have noticed from Dave's update last Friday that restoration work has started in on Church & State I.
This is a big one for me. Because of the sheer size (592 pages in the current incarnation, likely a few more for the next edition), you'd think this would be an intimidating project. But the reality is, as we start into the book, all I'm feeling is relief.
There's a lot of reasons for this, but the primary one is that this is the first book since the Cerebus Restoration project began where the scanned materials have any amount of uniformity at all. With the exception of however many "in the wild" pages the art dragnet catches (16 pages for C+S 1, and counting; please keep them coming!), there will be two sources of scans for this book:
--original art scanned by Dave, on the Opticbook A300
--negatives scanned by Funkmaster John, on his negative scanner.
Which means that, aside from the tone shrinkage, all of the pages sourced from the Cerebus Archive original art can now be much closer to a normal production job. For my part of things, this meant taking an hour or two on Friday to familiarize myself with the scans, with the quirks of the exposure and optics of that particular scanner, and then writing a script I could execute on a per-page basis.
And as far as tone shrinkage goes, looking over the pages Dave has scanned so far, I've been feeling a lot of relief, mainly for Mara's sake. There's very minimal tone shrinkage overall, especially compared to some of the "in the wild" pages we've worked with, many of which have very significant damage to the tone. Most of the shrinkage can be dealt with very easily using the techniques we've already developed. (Anyone have any guess what leads to the additional shrinkage? Is it sun exposure? Humidity? AIR exposure? Any chemists want to weigh in??)
Which isn't to say there won't still be some quirks in the process. Some of the letratapes have suffered more than the tone, and will need to be digitally re-worked or straightened, and others have aged to the point where they need to be "spiked" a bit contrast-wise in order to reproduce correctly.
But the biggest takeaway from seeing all of this wonderful original art?
All those tiny little lines!
Yes, so far, the pages sourced from original artwork look significantly better than they've ever appeared in print. What seems to have been lost in translation? All of the now-recognizable issues-- gained-up tone, thickened line work, a loss of detail in the densely cross-hatched areas, and tons of fine-line information.
Here's the top tier from page 147 of Church & State I, a page that resonates throughout the rest of the series. The first two images are sourced from the scans Dave just sent.
And above is a scan from my copy of C&S I.
With the normal caveat that distinctions like these with line art are harder to see on screen than in print-- do you see what's missing there? I've picked this as an example not because it's a dramatic example, but rather because it's a typical example. This is the level of information, so far, missing on an average Church and State panel with fine crosshatching, the amount of information that will be appearing in print for the first time sometime this year.
(An aside-- anyone notice the "cleanup" that's happened in the above example? I've found several other examples so far of the production staff at Preney making adjustments to the artwork in C+S I, mainly, thickening and/or redrawing the very thin panel borders throughout issue 52. I'd say it was a good choice in the above example, and a technological limitation in the border redrawing example, the borders being drawn with a lighter ink than the rest of the page.)
Anyway, this is why I'm excited, why every time I get a new batch of original art scans it feels like Christmas. It's going to be a beautiful book.
By the way, past and future Cerebus Art Dragnet contributors-- the second round of proofs for the Dragnet Certificate is on its way to Dave as of this week! After they're approved, we'll be able to start the printing process and coordinate all of the mailing back and forth it'll take to get these signed by everyone and to your door. Please accept my apologies for the delay, and once again, my deep gratitude and thanks to everyone who's contributed to the art hunt so far! Every page we get access to makes a huge difference to the final books.
Thanks also to everyone who suggested bonus print ideas. Keep them coming!