Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Going Home Comes Home

Sean Michael Robinson:


This is turning out to be another busy week over in San Diego, as I jump from one task to another. Last week I finished prepping the Cerebus In Hell? raw materials, and today it's a Previews ad for CAN5, and then on to Cerebus In Hell? #1 and finishing my essay for Cerebus Volume One in order to put that volume to bed. Then I can start into the adjustments and actions stage of Jaka's Story... 

But first, a reminder! Yesterday afternoon I received my copies of Going Home from Marquis. I both dread and anticipate this moment every time it happens, the moment when I knife open the box of books and see the finished result for the first time. Has something gone horribly wrong? Is an otherwise perfect book marred by some strange production flaw? Worse, is it MY FAULT? Or are the digital elves to blame??! Rising panic...

And thankfully, the anticipation was the worst part. Going Home looks great, the best book so far, in fact, by a long shot.

Due to the exacting restoration and prepress processes, and due to the phenomenal web-offset printing by Marquis, there is a shocking amount of detail present on every page that was never present in printed form before. I've written about Going Home before as a design-heavy book, and while I maintain that stance, flipping through it now the impression that I get is all of the incredibly nuanced facial expressions, rendered in the tiniest pen lines I've seen in print, the smallest Hunts 102 crow-quill lines, tapered to infinity, then shrunk perfectly to the smaller format of the book. It's really something. Same with all of the densest areas of hatching and tone, areas that previously filled to black, now open and filled instead with that detail. And the rich textural variation is also rendered now with the same detail, and the same weights, that it was originally drawn.

More than anything, looking over the book makes me eager to get to Jaka's Story. As soon as the other items are cleared from the docket!

Here are a few side-by-side comparisons, with the usual caveats that this is more dramatic and clearer in print (hence usually presenting closeups in these updates)

The early half of the book, Sudden Moves, features a lot of this technique, Dave scratching into the inked surface of the art board with a craft knife. It's a nice texture all by itself, featured on some of the cobwebs here, on Jaka's hair in dramatically lit scenes, and a few other places as well. White on black in general is more susceptible to fill-in, as most white on black techniques, excepting actual scratch board on an inked clay surface, present a little less contrast than really black ink on white. Less contrast generally means less definition, which means more line breakup in photography. Additionally, fine white lines are more susceptible to dot gain, as the ink is welling in on all sides.  

I always though this was a striking sequence full of boldly composed images. But until examining scans of the original artwork, I never noticed the presents of the "voids" on each page, some more subtle than others. This one in particular almost disappears in the original printings, because the light density of the star area is made up mainly of small white dots, very susceptible to dot gain. 

And that's it for me this week! I'm looking forward to hearing your comments on the book once the orders start coming in. Just ask your local comics retailer for STAR10981 to get your fully-restored Going Home!


Carson Grubaugh said...

Wow. Dramatic difference! The work you do on these is astonishing, Sean. This might change my entire opinion of the volume.

Michael Grabowski said...

I only intended to re-buy the High Society remaster, and possibly a couple other early volumes that have brown pages. Sean, your work to restore Dave n' Ger's work as displayed here has convinced me, book-by-book, to keep up with the new editions.

I'm reminded of Dave's attempt on to convince folks that any potential Fantagraphics-published Cerebus series begin with Going Home, claiming that its characterization of Fitzgerald gave it NYTimes/NYRoB appeal. Is it not too late to attempt that kind of marketing strategy with this new edition?

Unknown said...

Is there an essay in this one as well?

Sean R said...

Carson--I don't doubt it! I'd love to read an essay about your aesthetic reaction to the two volumes side by side. It's quite the difference.

Mike--thanks man!

Hey Cory-- yes! It's called "Finding Scott," it's 34 pages long, and Dave wrote it in 2000 or so :)

It seemed like anything I could contribute would be a little redundant at that point, so we left it off. But still chugging away on the also pretty large V1 essay.

Unknown said...

Carson! Hey -- just mailed your cheque for the Norfolk photo shoot. Afraid I had another (short this time) bout with sleeping non-stop from last Saturday until Wednesday. During my Excessive Somnambulence, I had a dream where I was doing Gil Kane poses and someone was taking pictures of me for SDOAR to post to AMOC. I think I might do that with a couple of the finished pages: show the page without the text and show the photo I was working from. They're all still on the camcorder HD still photos camera. Mainly because I didn't know how to delete them!

Carson has promised to post a lot of photos of the photo shoot of "J" -- the comic store manager who plays a comic store manager (good casting!). I'm just hoping she still has the same outfit from the page Carson already has mostly done. He's going to shoot WAY TOO MANY images so I have a lot of flexibility in developing the bridging material. The only DO NOT BREAK rule is even-number of pages because the facing pages have to be the facing pages throughout the finished book. 2 pages? 4 pages? 6 pages?

That's the unanswered question.

SeanR did MAJOR work on GOING HOME. Just the reverse type being that much sharper makes it a lot easier to read. Most of the time, you have to just live with what you get -- dot gain and blacks encroaching on the white areas. Not now. It's all there.

Michael - I don't think so. CEREBUS is still considered "vanity press" by the world of Real Publishing. I don't think a dent has been made in that -- and probably won't be in my lifetime. It's a "good news/bad news" thing. No one's going to interrupt us for the rest of my life while we get everything ready for when I'm dead (and there's a whole Mount Everest of Comics to get ready). And then -- a hundred years or so after I'm dead -- maybe someone influential will go, "Uh, I don't really think you can call this 'vanity press'".

Don't hold your breath, though! :) There would have to be something "in it" for them. And there isn't.

I DO appreciate YOU giving TROC (The Rest of Cerebus) the benefit of the doubt. It's not unique, but it is exceptional. (giving it the benefit of the doubt, I mean).

Jeff Seiler said...

Just curious, Dave: As you know, my alter ego is Dictionary Lad. So, when I saw you use the word somnambulance in the above post, it rang a tiny bell. I looked it up, to be sure, and, yes, somnambulance is defined as excessive motor activity during sleep, such as sleepwalking. Sleepwalking is the most common variety of somnambulance, but it can be any motor activity. Which begs the question: Are you drawing during your periods of excessive sleep? If so, where are you hiding those little gems?

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Michael: I thought and think that Dave was wrong about the "New York Review of Books appeal" of the later volumes. He seemed to think that the mere fact that they contained appearances by and riffs on the work of figures from the literary cannon somehow qualified them as serious works of literature -- another strange valuation, like his "by-the-pound" valuation of Cerebus ("6,000 pages!"). I think the Cerebus volumes more likely to qualify would be "High Society" (funny, and about politics for adult appeal) or "Jaka's Story" (funnier, an emotional dilemma more relatable for most people).

I don't think "real publishers" consider Cerebus to be "vanity press". They consider it to be small-time. Cerebus readers are a small subset of the small subset of readers who buy comics. Dave is a charity case these days, not making enough from Cerebus sales to support himself. As Dave admits, there's nothing "in it" for a publisher.

-- Damian