Monday, 30 January 2017

Overstreet's Fan #7: Indy Jam Cover

Overstreet's Fan #7: Indy Jam Variant (December 1995)
Heritage Auction ends 24 February 2017

Cover layouts and inks by Gerhard, pencils by Dave Sim (Cerebus) featuring:
Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library)
Marc Hempel (Tug & Buster), Reed Waller (Omaha The Cat Dancer)
Peter Bagge (Buddy Bradley), Jim Woodring (Frank)
Paul Pope (THB), Drew Hayes (Poison Elves)
Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man), Bernie Mireault (The Jam)
Jana Christy (Very Vicky), Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese)
Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise)

Jeff Seiler's Generosity 1/30/17

Jeff Seiler has generously offered to send two of the four CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER 6's that he (very generously!) ordered from us to two former CAN Portfolio purchasers (I believe that's Jeff's criteria: it has to be someone who has supported an earlier Kickstarter) who -- for whatever reason -- couldn't afford to get one this time around.  Actually, what he wanted to do was to "donate" them but we're really not set up for that, Jeff, I'm afraid.

If you're in that category, please put your name and e-mail address in the Comments section so that Jeff can contact you and make arrangements to send one of them to you.  First come, first served, I would guess, unless Jeff says otherwise.

And, thank you, Jeff, the moneygrams for me and Sandeep arrived.  Even though Jeff had won the auction for the BLACK ANGEL and PARTIAL BLACK ANGEL copies at $103 U.S. he sent a moneygram for $100 US for EACH of us (in line with his commitment to bid up to $200 for the comic books).

A-V's financial situation being back to the usual state of precariousness (after briefly improving just after Christmas), I'll be returning my moneygram to you as a "credit" on your last proofreading bill along with a check for the balance owing.

Many, many thanks, Jeff!

And now: "The Name of the Game is Diamondback":

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 1: The Name Of The Game Is Diamondback

The Name of the Game is Diamondback:
“I was a quarter inch off the page trying to ink very interestingly and meticulously,” says Dave.

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he’d been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. This example's taken from Swords volume 1. Also check out the full 'Swords Of Cerebus' Introductions Index.

This story, which was laid out by Marshall Rogers from Dave's script, is the first of Swords' exclusive bonus tales, which would go on to feature Cerebus work by Barry Windsor-Smith, Gene Day, Joe Rubinstein and Gerhard.

Diamondback Card Set
(Sold Separately!)

Next week: Demonhorn... and some lousy poetry.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: "Form & Void"

Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
Form & Void did not offer me much to care about in the ideas department. I have zero interest in literary classics. There are very few I have read that I gave two shits about. I think prose fiction is a dead story-telling medium. Unless you are going to give me a readable formalist like Mark Z. Danielewski, whose stories can only be understood in the context of the formal nature of a book, I would rather have a comic-book or a television show. So, imagine my disinterest in learning about an author of literature who Dave Sim doesn't even care about.

Sim despises Hemingway as an author and as a person. He proclaims at the end of the volume that he is happy to be done with having the Hemingways in his life. I felt the same way about Form and Void as a book. Happy to not have to read any more of the lengthy interpretive notes.

Had I not read the notes I would not have gotten any of the metaphor out of the lion hunt that Sim puts into it. In that sense I consider Sim's notes an essential part of the story. The volume requires the same endurance from the readers that Sim put into thoroughly researching a subject he disliked. It is possible that the whole volume was a purposeful exercise in enduring both disinterest and disdain.

As little as I care for the story in Form & Void there is a lot of interesting stuff to remark upon in the art... [Read the full review here...]

Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day

(Belated) Happy 46th Birthday, Sandeep Atwal!

D'oh! It was Sandeep's birthday on 24 January! 
Go read Sandeep's "I Knew Dave Sim..." article and visit his Malcolm X blog!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Collecting 'Following Cerebus'

Today’s entry is certainly a little different. The first is a handwritten fax from Dave to me that is dated October 2, 2008, with a copy sent to Craig Miller (former publisher of “Following Cerebus”), which addresses my fax to Dave regarding the lengthy delay in Craig putting out the 12th issue “Following Cerebus”. In my fax to Dave, I told him that I would be willing to help him get the articles laid out and printed:

Hi Jeff--
Craig has pretty much sole custody/sole responsibility for Jennifer... My best guess is that it’s pretty much futile (for that reason) to discuss FC until Jennifer starts kindergarten (which I think is another year or two away)... Until then, Craig isn’t going to have time for anything else besides rearing (not raising) Jennifer.

You could suggest doing the Collected FC #1-11 -- that is, doing all the work on it with a team of volunteers but that decision is up to Craig and John. FC is their magazine and has been from the beginning.

Putting the magazine together is the fun part so I doubt Craig would be interested, after doing all of the heavy lifting on #12, to let someone else put the last three pieces in the jigsaw puzzle.


CC: Craig Miller


The second is a handwritten fax from Dave to Craig, with a copy sent to me, dated October 10, 2008:

Hi Craig--
The way the direct market is set up the only sales you are going to get is on "fresh meat", i.e., what you’ve solicited in this month’s PREVIEWS. There is virtually no back issue market anymore. Over a decade or so, once you have something on the STAR system, you can get on the retailers’ short list of perennial sellers they constantly reorder, but to get on that list you have to be reliable, which FC hasn’t been. Issues 1 to 10 or issues 1 to 11 as an omnibus collection might get on that list, as I say, over the course of a decade or so.

The only permissions you would need to get is for material you paid for: Joe Bob Briggs, period. It’s the Internet Age, Craig, and FC is a fanzine. No one is going to cause a stink and if they do you cut them a cheque when they come whining.

It isn’t complicated at all and I’m sure the Yahoo volunteers would be glad to provide assistance to make it happen.


CC: Jeff Seiler -- you can post this if you want.

Weekly Update #167: Introducing The Cerebus Stamp... Briefly...

Dave shows of a sample of a Cerebus stamp from Canada Post... but not for very long.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 31

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Meeting F. Stop

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.

We've looked at Dave Sim's notebook #29 six times already (see Dave Sim's Notebooks: The Overview entry for the listing of them), but we've never the cover for it. Notebook #29 covers Cerebus #240 through #250 and had 150 pages scanned out of the 300 pages in the notebook, with 134 blank pages and 11 missing pages.

And if you were guessing the cover would be a blue Hilroy, you would be correct:

Notebook #29 front cover
Page one of the notebook has a small partial sketch of Cerebus crossed out and the text 'BOOK TWO' with an arrow beside it saying 'footlight light italic' and underneath that 'FALL AND THE RIVER' with an arrow beside that text saying 'footlight light'. Page two then has the quotes from Groucho Marx that appear on page 168 of Going Home (aka page 2 of Cerebus #240).

Then on page three, the full page outlines appear:

Notebook #29, page 3
The backgrounds are just pencils and the figures are inked. Overall it looks pretty close to the completed page. The finished page's middle panel puts F. Stop more in the activity of the dock as opposed to standing outside of it. The bottom row of panels also incorporates another panel of F. Stop instead of the two shown on the notebook.

Going Home page 169 (Cerebus #240, page 3)
There are some other minor changes - items moved, added, or subtracted in the background of the second panel and F. Stop's haircut change and his different tie.

MINDS update, question

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello all,

A quick update on Minds:

I've completed about 240 pages of the work for the book, and all that remains are the pages sourced from negative "copydot" scans and print copies, which I'll be tackling after the layout stage.

Unfortunately,  I have an incomplete set of facts (actual facts, which I prefer to alternative ones) regarding previous printings. Cerebus collector extraordinaire +Nate+, who maintains a list of printings of the different books, accounts for four printings of Minds in total.

First printing: (limited signed and numbered) June 1996
Second printing: June 1996
Third printing: June 1998
Fourth printing: August 2001

However, the copydot scans that are all that remains of the original negative, were scanned by Lebonfon and have file dates of 10/23/2008, suggesting to me that there was a Lebonfon printing of this book sometime after this date.

SO! Do any Cerebus fans out there have a copy of a (labeled on the inside) FIFTH printing of Minds? If so, does it say Lebonfon on the interior?

Thanks bigly!

Edit: Solved!

Edit the Second: Cerebus Volume One, the SUPER SPECIAL REMIXED REMASTERED WITH ENHANCED BASS version is at Diamond now and available to order from your local comic store! And man o man o man, does it look good. Months of work plus impeccable printing by Friesens of Manitoba plus really anal-retentive proofreading and 6,500 page afterward= the best book of this project yet. Let me know what you think once you've picked up a copy!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 3

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29
A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world
Part 3
Sharpness & The Selection Of A Sweet Scanner


This is the third installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

If you haven't done so yet, please go back and read the first and second installment.

Really. Please do. 


When we left off last week, we were discussing how you NEVER EVER NEED TO HALF-TONE LINE ART, and how not half-toning allows you to work in a much finer resolution space. 

As I mentioned last week, all of the Cerebus Restoration projects have been delivered to the printers as 1-bit (line art) 2400 ppi originals. (In a later installment I'll get into why I arrived at that resolution, and all of the benefits we'd had as a result. But for now, let's just take this fact for granted.)

But just because we're delivering 2400 ppi bitmaps doesn't mean we're scanning at that resolution. This wouldn't be practical or even desirable, for a few different reasons.

Instead we've been scanning at different resolutions (and different formats) depending on the source material, and then upscaling and finally sharpening to arrive at the delivered size. I'll spell all of the how-to of this out in the next installment. 

For the most part, there are three sources for materials in the project so far—print materials, photo negatives used to produce the printing plates in the initial run of the book, and original artwork. The print materials and the photo negatives are both at size (or close to the size) of the printed books they will be used to generate, so after much testing, these have been scanned at 1200 pixels per inch. The original art, however, is much larger, and so for the most part these can safely be scanned at 600 pixels per inch and retain all of their detail in the final result.

(How much larger? For most of the run of the book, the active image area of any given printed Cerebus page was around 6" x 9", whereas the corresponding area of the original art was around 10" x 15". For most books the original art was reduced to 60 percent of the original size, with the exception of the latter half of Church & State I through Jaka's Story, which was reduced to 56 percent instead, presumably to try to address any future problems with binding etc in collected editions of the books.)

And why try to skimp on resolution at the scanning stage? There are a few answers to this, but the biggest issue is sheer time. Every time you double your scanned resolution, you're quadrupling the actual time it takes for the scanner to scan the image. (It's not precisely quadruple, as there's a certain amount of setup, warm-up, etc that remains the same no matter how fast the scanner operates).

We're already dealing with a six thousand page problem. Quadrupling your scan time for no good reason isn't ideal.

As to why, exactly, you can safely upscale so much for line art applications when it remains such a general no-no for color reproduction — the very short version is, the color scan contains much more information per pixel than the resulting line art pixel, and that information enables the upscale and attendant bitmap conversion to be very precise to the source document despite the resolution change. More (I seem to be saying this a lot?) in a future installment.


Okay, you've drawn your masterpiece, you've read way too much information about resolution and line art, and now you're impatient to get on with it. Now how do you get all your inky dinky little lines into this here computer box?

Shooting line art used to be a complex process, involving a huge stat camera loaded with orthochromatic film, and an expert operator with a good eye and a ton of experience. 

No, uh, not quite that large.

Now, the same goals can be accomplished with a good flatbed scanner and... well, still a lot of skills involved. Hopefully most which can be acquired by reading this series...

Because it was used to both enlarge and shrink artwork, and because every other stage of printing would contribute to the inevitable fill-in of line work, a good stat camera was prized for the resolving power of its lenses. The sharper an optical system is, the more detail is captured from the source, and the less that capture needs to be manipulated to retain that detail. This is still true when we're talking about digital sources.

With that in mind, what follows is a run-down of many of the commercially-available flatbed scanners out there, and what the problems and advantages of each are.

Picking Your Scanner Box Thingie

The Cerebus Original Art Dragnet project has really given me some interesting insight into the wide variety of scanner types and qualities out there. Although the art changed drastically over the years of the book, many of the elements and particular areas of concern from a production standpoint remained the same, meaning that I've had the opportunity to see the same types of screen tones scanned on a huge variety of devices. 

If you really, really want to know the optics of flatbed scanners, what's actually happening under the hood and how to really measure the bogus stats that are spewed out by the manufacturers of these products, then visit the fantastic ScanDig and read some of their film scanner reviews. I am indebted to their site and the information they so casually drop in their reviews. And yes, they're selling their own services and there's undoubtedly some self-interest involved in their critical scanner reviews, but they have an incredible bank of knowledge, a professional's eye and a true enthusiast's passion. Good reading. 

The Bad News First

There are very few large-format flatbed scanners available, and none that I know of in a middle-range price. And the most affordable ones are, ahem, total crap.

Yes, this means I might insult your scanner. Please prepare yourself.

Mustek ScanExpress A3 2400, or 1200, or any other Mustek

It's hard for me to imagine how a company like Mustek continues to exist in an age where people can read and publish public reviews. They make a demonstrably inferior product that doesn't function as promised, with incredibly buggy drivers, and offer no support or returns. How, you might ask, do they stay in business? Because the prospect of paying $339 for a "large format" flatbed is too tempting for poor cartoonists who just want to scan their damn pages.

Don't do it. Please. Don't do it.

The Mustek uses a special (i.e. super cheap!) kind of scanning sensor that's only capable of seeing with an extremely narrow depth of field. How narrow? If you're scanning a watercolor painting, any slight buckling or indentations in the paper from moisture will be OUT OF FOCUS. Literally the texture of the paper will be out of focus. If you don't load down the top of the scanner with books, the edges or any microscopic lifting at all will result in completely out of focus scans.

Making things worse, the scanner plate is not actually the advertised 11" x 17". Making things even worse, it features a special raised lip that causes any artwork larger than this "almost A3" size to lift off the surface, and thus, to be, you guessed it, completely out of focus.

Add to this motor jitter that causes random lines of the scan to be misaligned with the previous ones, and you have a completely useless paperweight.

UNLESS you only scan almost-11 x 17 artwork that's always completely flat, that has no mechanical tones, you keep some bricks around in your studio to hold the lid down, and you can stomach the idea that this thing will die every few months and need to be replaced, if not returned immediately because they don't power up. Then, hey, do ahead!

From this view, the pages is looking good! Alright, got a good scan. Let's check closer in.

Looking pretty good! Pretty sharp, with no visible artifacts that would indicate any unwanted software sharpening being applied. Maybe this thing really will work out.

Oh, hey, what's happening at the top of this scan??


As you might imagine, having a scan that is overall a little blurry might be okay, given that this is going to end up as line art. Having a scan that is PROGRESSIVELY BLURRIER is next to useless.

.... and that's my time for this week! Next week: scanners continued. Dah dah daaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at

Monday, 23 January 2017

My LCS: Cave Comics

57 Church Hill Rd. Newtown CT. 06470 USA

The photo I sent you of a sketch of Cerebus as Batman was taken at Cave Comics in Newtown, CT. This is a store that has been around since 1989 and even just built a new building next to the old one, which is a good sign. I have purchased most of my Cerebus, Glamourpuss, and also back issues of Epic comics there. Judenhass too.

The owner loves Batman, and Cave Comics has a nice collections of sketches from different artists offering their vision of the Caped Crusader. There is a Bernie Wrightson one, a Michael Kaluta one, a John Byrne one, a Walt Simonson one, and of course Dave's! It LOOKS like Dave was working with a pastel or chalk pencil rather than the usual sort.

Here is a link to Cave's website. The photos it has of the interior are of the new building. The wall of sketches had not been fully set up at the time they put the pictures on the website; you can see the wall behind the cash register looks empty in those photos, but now, that is where the Cerebus Batman hangs, staring you down as you stand at the cash register. 

Does your Local Comics Store support Cerebus? Want to see it featured on AMOC?
Send your photos and anecdotes to: momentofcerebus [at] gmail [dot] com

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 1: Cerebus #4

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords Of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he’d been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. This example's taken from Swords volume 1. Also check out the full 'Swords Of Cerebus' Introductions Index.

I particularly like this intro for Dave's remarks about one day doing a story "with Cerebus, Elrod and Lord Julius locked in a closet" which would "write itself". I dare say he was just joking about this idea at first, but the thought evidently stuck in his mind. June 1983's Cerebus #51 trapped the three characters (together with Duke Leonardi and the Priest Roach) in a cramped ship's hull rather than a closet, but the core idea remains the same. Just as Dave hints here, their dialogue and constant bickering in one unchanging location proved more than enough to carry the story unaided. The result was one of the funniest issues in the book's whole run, and we can see the seeds sown for it here.

A panel from Cerebus #4:
"It was the most popular issue I had done to that point," says Dave.
"Everyone I talked to suddenly developed a Foghorn Leghorn voice and spewed my own writing at me."

Next week: Marshall Rogers and Diamondback. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017


Two bridging sequences down, three to go.

Here is a finished page from the sequence that ties issue 1 to issue 2.
As I mentioned over at Dave's Patreon site, where all of the progress is being posted as it happens, this page was particularly difficult because I had to re-create one of Dave's more teeny-tiny-line intensive drawings from Glamourpuss at a 50-60% reduction in size, and, figure out how to get it to merge with the figure in front of it with some kind of photo-negative'ish effect. Not sure if I pulled off the merge effect as well as it could be done, but I do think I managed to preserve most of Dave's details, even with the size reduction. I jokingly told Dave a while back that my goal is to give Sean a headache when he preps these for reproduction. Not sure if I have gone that deep into the page yet but I am on my way!

Also of note, because it will have an effect on the time I can spend with the pages, I was given a third class for the semester at the last minute (Yay $ and CV lines). It is a T-Th class, which were days I had set aside for SDOAR, so that is going to slow down the finishing rate a bit. Hopefully not dramatically.

Carson Grubaugh's Cerebus Re-Read: "Going Home"

Cerebus Vol 13: Going Home
by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Carson's Re-Read Blog, August 2016)
...This book also has the most god-awfully ugly art in the whole series. Immediately after reading the book, and determining that I hated Gerhard's contribution to the volume, I started seeing people over on A Moment Of Cerebus comment that it is their favorite Gerhard volume. "Great," I thought, "now I am really going to have to defend myself. So, bear with me as I explain my averse reaction to Gerhard's art in Going Home.

Gerhard is THE best draftsman of architecture in comics; François Schuiten being the only artist I can think of that can give him a run for his money. There is no doubt that when it comes to drawing buildings and putting linear perspective to use Gerhard is gangster-status.

Unfortunately this does not translate to an ability to draw nature. Buildings look good when you draw them bound by solid outlines that do not vary in weight. Buildings are, by definition, artificial. When you draw nature, this same approach of containing the object in a single outline and then "coloring" it in with perfectly straight hatching lines, does not work so well. Everything looks flat, like a bunch of cut-out/sticker/appliqué graphic-icons of corn, flowers, trees, etc. The images are detailed as ever, yes, but they feel fake, collaged. There is just no depth... [Read the full review here...]

Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Cerebus Vol 15: Latter Days
Cerebus Vol 16: The Last Day

Friday, 20 January 2017

Krazy Instructions

Today's entry is a reply from Dave after I sent him an article about Great Britain granting Shariat courts jurisdiction over Muslims in Great Britain, followed by a London Times editorial saying that "jurisdiction" was going a bit far but that the Shariat courts nevertheless exercise great pressure in the lives of Muslim citizens of Great Britain, such as pressuring Muslim women in one case to withdraw their complaint about not receiving an equal share as their brothers in their inheritance.

In the same letter to Dave, I mentioned that Edward Howard was doing a blog about the most important American comic strips in history. I mentioned that Howard had blogged about Krazy Kat and asked Dave where it was in Cerebus that he had done an homage to Krazy Kat. 

His handwritten reply by fax came on September 23, 2008:

--First, we have to figure out if there's a uniformity to Shariat law -- I'd be willing to guess there's a wide variety (Persian, Indonesian, Saudi, Shiite, Sunni, etc.)

--The Koran is very specific on inheritance but perplexing in its specificity (i.e., parents inherit from deceased children in priority over the deceased’s children -- from what I understand, this has been "glossed" in Islam in the same way that the Talmud "glosses" the Torah. If it's a crazy instruction then the entrenched priesthood finds a circuitous crazy argument to get around the specificity and the question is never revisited -- i.e., Shariat law specifies that children inherit from parents in direct contravention of what the Koran specifically says.

--My own view is that crazy instructions (in Christianity "Sell all that thou hast and give the money to the poor", if you would follow the Synoptic Jesus -- in Judaism "Stone to death someone caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath") are YHWH-inspired tests to prove men are evil allowed by God for that reason and that God is winning his point: You can't make men do something wrong over the long term just by telling them it's a direct instruction from God.


[Dave also noted that his Krazy Kat homage was page 122 of Going Home.]

And then Dave included a photocopy of pages 45 and 46 of (presumably) his copy of the Koran, noting: Hi Jeff -- The relevant texts from Sura IV "Women". Dave He bracketed verses 12, 13, 14, and 15.

With regard to your children, God commandeth you to give the male the portion of two females; and if they be females more than two, then they shall have two-thirds of that which their father hath left: but if she be an only daughter, she shall have the half; and the father and mother of the deceased shall each of them have a sixth part of what he hath left, if he have a child; but if he have no child, and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have the third: and if he have brethren, his mother shall have the sixth, after paying the bequests he shall have bequeathed, and his debts. As to your fathers, or your children, ye know not which of them is the most advantageous to you. This is the law of God. Verily, God is knowing, wise!

Half of what your wives leave shall be yours, if they have no issue; but if ye have issue, then a fourth of what they leave shall be yours, after paying the bequests they shall bequeath, and debts.

And your wives shall have a fourth part of what ye leave, if ye have no issue; but if ye have issue, then they shall have an eighth part of what ye leave, after paying the bequests ye shall bequeath, and debts.

If a man or a woman make a distant relation their heir, and he or she have a brother of a sister, each of these two shall have a sixth; but if there are more than this, then shall they be sharers in a third, after payment of the bequests he shall have bequeathed, and debts, [and it finishes in verse 16:]

Without loss to any one. This is the ordinance of God, and God is knowing, gracious!

Tending The Flock (of Words)

Some time back, Dave asked me to give periodic updates about how I go about making my decisions on "iffy" points of proofreading. Usually, the proofing decisions are pretty straightforward--misspellings, P’s that look like D’s, Y’s that look like V’s, the occasional L and I that look like a U, etc. But, every now and then, I get a real gem that takes some actual investigation (research) and lets me, Dictionary Lad, delve deeply into the realm of Webster, et. al. (I utilize the Oxford English Dictionary, Abridged, nowadays, since that is what Dave said that he uses.)

My current project is the proofing of Church & State II (or, as I like to call it, “hurch tate”--seriously, look at the cover!). After proofing about two-thirds of it, I have found two beautiful little gems, which I am now going to share with you AMOCers by transcribing my handwritten notes (which will ultimately go to Sean, in San Diego, and to Dave). Thus:

Page 718, panel 2, balloon 3, lines 3, 4, 5:
Okay, from what I can tell (not being a doctor), these three words don’t belong together. From what I can tell, there is such a thing as UREMIC SYNDROME, which can lead to kidney (or, renal) failure. But, UREMIC FAILURE is not, technically, a medical term. Also, uremic syndrome would most likely not be ACUTE but would, instead, be chronic. Technically, kidney (or, renal) failure could be acute but more likely would be the result of a chronic condition. If you choose to replace these words (and are able to), I would go with just ACUTE KIDNEY FAILURE.

Table of contents, Chapter 31, second word:
The American astronauts (and the collected scientists involved) named the landing spot for the first assault on the moon Tranquility Base (one L). So, I think you should have left it at one L, not two. Still, I can see how it would be difficult to change the lettering on page 1,201. And, I see how you cheated the issue by naming the chapter “BASE TRANQUILLITY” (two L’s), thereby being able to retain the good, ol’ OED spelling.

I think this (and ACUTE UREMIC FAILURE) deserves an entry on AMOC. About my process; as you requested, Dave.

Weekly Update #166: Tales From The Wedding Present Redux

This week, Dave checks out a bunch of comics, including Tales From The Wedding Present!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Cerebus In Hell? -- Week 30

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Sketching the Countess

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.

Covering Cerebus issues #52 to 59, Dave Sim's notebook #6 (previously titled #3 due to the Albatross named notebooks) had 158 pages scanned of which we've seen twelve pages already in five different entries. We've never seen the front cover because there wasn't one. It must've been that well used.

This week we'll take a look at three pages that fall near the end of the notebook and contain sketches of the Countess Michelle:

We really don't see the Countess lounging around like this:

Notebook 6, page 140
Notebook 6, page 141
Notebook 6, page 143
I like the sketch of the Countess taking a nap, looks like it was sketched from a live model.

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 2

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A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world
Part 2 
Inking & Screening & Resolution, Oh My!


This is the second installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.


Last week we started this series by throwing out some caveats, stating some goals, and peeping at my work space and equipment. This week we'll be laying down the basic knowledge you need on order to know the behind some of the things we'll be discussing and doing. f you're impatient to actually, you know, get to it, then sit on your hands for a week and skip this installment!

The past one and a half centuries have seen tremendous changes in the ways images are created, and the ways those same images are reproduced. Since the late 1800s, almost all technical innovation in printing has involved improving the reproduction of what are (misleadingly) called continuous tone images: that is, images that, when viewed in the right circumstances, appear to have smooth gradations of tone and value. If you're viewing a postcard with a reproduced photograph, or looking at a color diagram in a text book, in most viewing distances, these images appear to be smoothly changing values of color. But in reality these images are made up of tiny cells, distributed in an array, that through some miraculous flaw in human vision, work together to create those gradated illusions.

Above: a scanned detail of a Dave Sim commission. Below — an extreme closeup of the resulting print. Notice the array of dots that create the image.

But there are limits to this illusion. Certain people (myself included) have close vision that's significantly sharper than the mean, and are able to see individual printing dots when they're anything other than the finest pitches. More significantly, the sharpness of human vision increases with a corresponding increase in contrast, meaning that extremely high contrast images (say, black on white) represent much sharper visual acuity than a field of color. Additionally, we see another corresponding increase when we're presented with edges. Lastly, fine information that is near or beyond the fine-ness of the screen itself, or oriented in direction in a way that is not perfectly aligned with the screen, can cause all kinds of unintentional visual oddities. 

This is why you will never see a professional publication that has a large chunk of text that is screened and intended to be read. And this is why you should NEVER, NEVER SCREEN LINE ART.

I'm going to belabor this point (who, me?) because it seems to have been forgotten or ignored as screening methods have improved, or as expertise (and money!) have drained from the print fields. Unless you're reproducing in color and intending to show the artist's process as the intent of the print (a la IDW's Artist Series, the Cerebus Archive portfolio series, etc), LINE ART SHOULD NOT BE SCREENED FOR REPRODUCTION.

Above: scans of page 225 of the aborted February 2013 printing of High Society, which, as you can see, was half-toned, as it was supplied to the printer as 8-bit grayscale files. Below is an image from the restored files, produced from the exact same scans as the above images, but treated much differently in the prepress stage. Notice that the dots in the Cerebus image above are strange, gradually changing shapes, moire that is a result of the original halftone screen that makes up his fur passing through a second screening process at the printer.

Imagine, if you will, the simplest of print methods, something along the lines of a stamp. A chunk of potato in which you've carved out an object in relief, maybe your name, carving back the potato from the sections of the images that you wish to remain uninked, and then pressing it against a flat surface slightly moist with ink, and then finally transferring that ink with light pressure onto another surface.

Your resulting print, any unevenness in the ink aside, is a binary. Either a particular area of the paper is inked, or it is not. On, or off, no in-between. And, really, how would you represent in between? You examine your print some more, consider that you really would like to have a “gray” area of, say, 30 percent to augment your totally black and totally white portions of your image. So you cut some parallel hatching lines into a previously fully inked area of your potato, and you print again.

This is line art in microcosm, line art at the beginning, just beyond scraping lines in the sand with a stick, just beyond taking an old torch and dipping it in bison blood and dragging it along the surface of your cave. Primal, black marks on white, any “gray” an illusion created by finer marks of black on white.

Okay, let's skip ahead at least a millennium, where we arrive at the present day.

No longer satisfied with the speed of your potato print, you're now interested in taking your paper line drawings and reproduce them with all the bells of modern technology. A terrifyingly fast, abominably loud web press, running off a thousand copies of your masterpiece in an hour. Between you and that copy are a good dozen technicians and a veritable space-shuttle level of switches and knobs and little blinky lights. How do you ensure your drawing survives the process? How can you signal to these strange, unknowably distant beings what it is you want out of your print?

(And please don't tell me that your desktop laser printer, or the, ahem, helpful staff at your local copy center, are any more knowable or accessible :) )

You need to know how to prepare your files. You need to know what to ask for. And you need to know about resolution.


In order to actually, you know, get to the part of this series where we actually DO something, I'm going to need you to take for granted a few facts. Rest assured I'll come back to them in future installments, and rest assured, I'll be happy to argue with you about them in the comments.

When you're preparing color or grayscale images for print, that is, images intended to be reproduced as (not actually) continuous-tone images, the limit of your effective resolution is the screen that these images will pass through. The fineness of a screen is measured in LPI — lines per inch. A printer printing on an extremely coarse surface — a cardboard box, newsprint, some kind of screenprinting application etc — will use a really coarse screen, sometimes as coarse as 40 LPI. Printing on a sheetfed offset press on coated paper, or on a very good one-off digital press on coated paper, the LPI might be as high as 300 LPI.

A good rule of thumb for supplying files that WILL be half-toned is, the maximum effective resolution is twice the line screen resolution. So, if your printer will be screening your final image at 200 LPI, 400 pixels per inch is the highest effective resolution you can supply. Anything above that is pointless, as it's lost in the screen. (This is not the case if you're suppling some elements separately, a in a PDF, where you can have images with different resolutions and color spaces coexisting in the same document. More on this later!)

Conversely, when you're printing WITHOUT a screen — whether that's in black, or using a spot color — your only resolution limit is your vision, and the resolution of the output device, whether that's a laser printer or a plate setter at the printer.

Without further ado, here are the resolutions you should be aiming for for suppling files to your printer —

Color or Grayscale--

as low as 100 PPI in some extreme circumstances, as high as 600 PPI on coated stock with good printing should be dependent on the destination LPI. Remember, it's easier to downscale than upscale! I always scan any color art that's going to leave me permanently (go to a client, etc) at-size at 600 ppi, as a safety.

Line art/bitmap--
1200 ppi for laser printers and other digital printers (600 PPI might be acceptable on rough paper if there are no very fine lines or repeating tones present)
1200 or 2400 for web or sheetfed offset with fine lines and tones.

But, fortunately, since we're dealing with line art, just because you're SUPPLYING line art files at that resolution, doesn't mean you need to scan at that resolution!

… and that's all we have time for next week. Next week — we finally (for real!) get to it!Thoughts? Questions? Quibbles? Hit me up in the comments!

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at