Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Reads: A Study In Detail

Sean Michael Robinson:

Victor had always regarded illustrators as something between an unnecessary evil and a terminal malignancy in the world of reads publishing. There was a perverse streak within every one of them (Victor was certain of this) which compelled them to render everything within their engravings except that which was described in the text.

Greetings AMOCers! Long time no see.

Lots of restoration progress to report since the last brief update waaay back in November...

First off, contributors to Cerebus Archive Number Four will be happy to hear that my work on that project is complete and sent off to John, assuming the next round of proofs arrive with everything looking a-okay. It's safe to say it's already the slickest-looking package we've put together as of yet, and the bonus prints especially have been a joy to have laying around the studio as I work.

As for the restoration work, I'm making incremental progress on three books simultaneously now, zipping back and forth between them every few days so that no one of them is finished before the others. Why this strategy? There's still stock at Diamond of two of the three books in progress, and so there's no hurry to complete the work on any of them in particular. My guess is that all three will be completed and sent to Dave somewhere within the next ten weeks. (But I've been wrong before!)

As to when we'll print them? Could be six months from now, could be six years from now-- it's entirely dependent on sales of the series.

For those of you who haven't picked up your copy of Church & State I yet, what can I say? In addition to feeding your eyes with some gorgeously printed, painstakingly restored line art, you'll be helping us move one more square closer to the Big Dance for the next few books. (And yes, Adam, commenting from this week-- the paper stock is upgraded significantly, insuring the printing has minimal dot gain and rich blacks, and basically doubling the girth of the book and more than doubling its weight...)

Last bit of news-- despite what you might see on the banner above, I'm alone on this project for now.

Sad news for me but good news for Mara-- she's ramping up her research work and won't be available for any more restoration work in the foreseeable future. This is the other reason the restoration work has slowed a bit--although I've put in more hours to compensate, one person obviously doesn't work as fast as two.

The upside to this-- once we've passed the hurdles of the current books, it's much smoother from here on out, as the artwork is newer, the tone is more intact and the condition of the pages overall improved, and Dave and Gerhard used less tone overall in their work.

So! The past few months have been alternating between work on Cerebus Volume One, Church & State II, and Reads. Since we haven't seen any yet, how about we take a look at some Reads originals?

Those of you with good to middling memories will recall that Reads begins with a long text sequence tracing the progress of one Victor Davis, writer, through the "reads" industry. The sequence is a sort of Latter Half David Copperfield Meets Comics Publishing, that rather ingeniously equates the comics industry of the 1990s with the era of the serialized novel. (This transposition is an extremely clever and telling conceptual trick, one that my friend and I would borrow two decades later).

Anyway, the text sequence is accompanied by charming one-off illustrations on the facing pages. Here's a look at one of my favorites.

Below is a raw scan of the negative.

And above is the cleaned-up scan directly from the original art. Quite a difference in the values represented-- the original has a light, airy touch, despite the pooling black in the figure, whereas the negative scan seems clogged and murky in comparison. Notice also the marbling on the stone, broken up in the initial photography. 

And here's another comparison for you. The top is the negative--below that is the cleaned-up original.

Hopefully that gives you all just a bit into the types of improvements we've been able to make by going back to the original artwork, even on a much later book like Reads. The artwork is fantastic, to a page, and it continues to be our goal to get every inch of it off the art board and on to paper for you in the most readable form possible.

But my time is short, and I'd imagine you're a bit sick of my blathering at this point. How about some Reads Original Art in Extreme Closeup to send us out?

Your wish is my command.

(some of the following images have had their color channels adjusted to bring out non-repro pencil detail that would otherwise be invisible on-screen)


Jeff Seiler said...




iestyn said...

Just looking at the fin on the back of the statue - in the negative those thick lines sticking out from the shape seem to have come from nowhere.

I was about to score a look at Church & State 1, thinking about buying it, but when I went back to the shop yesterday, they'd already sold their copy.

So that's one down in Brighton UK.

Now I have to wait though...

Tony Dunlop said...

So any word on which pages will be in the next Kickstarter? If it's too text-heavy I may give this one a pass..

Bill Ritter said...

Tony makes a good point, especially with Reads. Agreeing there is still artistry on the text pages, it's not really quite the same page to own. I'm also curious the pages...will this be 10 pages mostly from the same single issue. Which, if this is the case, I fear would diminish not only the interest but the commentary.

We'll know when we know...

Sean R said...

Hey Tony! Hey Bill!

Jaka's Story is up next. I don't know which pages are in the archive-- sorry! I do know that none of the Reads text pages are-- they were typeset and shot to film at the printer, and none of the paste-up pages are extant.

Travis Pelkie said...

I'm curious: since Reads has a large portion of text pages, will the restoration be easier/take less time? For one thing, it's about half the size of the books that have been done so far, and beyond that, I presume (I may be wrong) that the text pages will be fairly easy to restore. Add to that the art pages being later than what's been done so far, tone and all shouldn't be as tough to restore, from what you're saying.

In other words, why aren't you done with Reads yet? ;)

No, no, just kidding! Carry on with the great work you've been doing, Sean! And good luck to Mara in her next venture!

Sean R said...

Hey Travis,

Yes, it's been much, much faster! The text pages especially (though there are always some quirks, it seems. Half a dozen or so of the text pages were second-generation, so they were "trimmed down" by means of level adjustments to make the letter forms the same size as the first-generation text pages. A few words were chopped off at the bottom of a few text pages as well... trimming or adding a bit to the design elements that weren't precisely lining up with the text... very minor things, all in all)

There are only 5 pages left on the book as of now. Three of those pages I only have second-generation negs for, shot from some kind of print or photocopy. I'm waiting to see if I can find better sources for those three pages. And one double page spread that has a huge chunk of tone with a huge rip in the middle of it, leaving a big gap between tone chunks. This is a case where the blunt-force method of repairing it would take forever, so I'm sitting on it for now to see if a clever solution presents itself :)

Other than those five pages, the layout, the essay, and any revisions, Reads is done!

Jeff Seiler said...

And I have just nine-and-a-half pages to go on the proofreading of Reads, which I hope to have done tonight, February 4th. Then, it's FedEx them off to Dave (after I photocopy them--got to remember to do that, Jeff) and Bob's your uncle.

Then, it's on to Jaka's Story. After I take a little sanity break--proofreading will make your head spin after a while. "Dar...pretty flowers!..."