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.


Jimmy Gownley said...

I love this feature. Thanks so much, Margaret!

Travis Pelkie said...

I see the Crumb family was a later addition.

I hope Dave can enlighten us as to why he worked out the page so fully in his notebook. To "see" the page before all the tone and hatching? (and is a lot/all of that hatching Ger's work?)

Margaret said...

You're welcome Jimmy, thank you for the kind words.

Jeff Seiler said...

It looks like Dave "refined" F. Stop's features a bit, from the notebook to the finished page. The notebook one looks a bit like a young (ish) FDR.

Unknown said...

Travis - I tended to go more detailed if I was starting a new storyline or if I hit a spot in the then-current storyline that I wanted to have clearer in my mind. There are times when you have to do a page wrong in order to do a page correctly and the notebook is a good place to do that: to get the wrong way out of your system.

Here, I think I liked the harsh shadowed lighting on the third panel and I liked the (mostly) full illumination when he turns and looks but I didn't want that to be the transition. It looks like a mistake. As if I got the lighting wrong. By having the face fully illuminated in the (added) fourth panel, it emphasizes that the illumination has a metaphysical as well as a contextual aspect to it. Jaka's presence appears to literally illuminate him.

There is contextual "cover": the shadow on his face in panel three could be the result of some passing object that has almost departed the scene, but the effect is metaphysical: his darkness lifts because Jaka is nearby.

Jeff - It was almost impossible to get a good likeness of Scott Fitzgerald. He just looks too different in all of the photographs of him to get a range on what he looked like. Virtually all of the photographs are taken by amateurs with very bad cameras. That's especially true of him in his downward-spiral years which was what I was documenting. There was a "golden boy" look about him but that tends to erode in different ways that are difficult to capture. Inwardly, he was still the "golden boy" -- I don't think he ever lost the idea of himself as a "golden boy" -- and that's even more difficult to capture.

Travis Pelkie said...

Cool, thanks for the insight, Dave!

I see FDR in that notebook image, Jeff.

Margaret said...

It still blows my mind that Dave reads my little articles and provides more insight into his notebook pages. Thank you Dave! And I'm on the hunt for cool Bruins stuff to send you :)

Unknown said...

Oh, well. I'm glad you and Travis and Jeff and Jimmy are interested.

Looking at anything having to do with CEREBUS -- particularly the notebook page matched with the finished page -- I can usually see what I was doing, the thinking behind it.

The wonder of it this many years later -- my personal reaction, now -- is that I stayed optimistic that it would amount to anything. You know, "I'll THOROUGHLY research every aspect of F. Scott Fitzgerald and just ABSOLUTELY BLOW THEM AWAY!" Oh, okay. No one gave a @#$%. Well, THIS time I'll THOROUGHLY research Ernest Hemingway and...

etc. etc. etc. Talk about the victory of hope over experience.

Now, I look at it and go "Wow, that's really good: the way you actually see his face light up because of the way I inked it: the Princess of Palnu is this really big deal for him and he has no idea that it's just going to be another 'turns to ashes in his mouth' sad, pathetic episode." Probably the last time in his life that he would be optimistic about something. It's F. Scott Fitzgerald post-THE CRACK UP. 1936, I think? Having to live like that for another four years.

So, I have this little gleam of admiration for what I can see myself doing coupled with "Geez, Dave. Give it up for Lent." I mean, faint hope: 100 years after I'm dead, blah blah blah. Seriously, how likely is that? But, if that's what you're down to, that's what you're down to.

That's definitely what Fitzgerald was down to by 1936. THE GREAT GATSBY is the only book of his in The Pantheon today (the Feminist Theocracy loves the "pining for Zelda" light on the dock blah blah blah ending: it is a GREAT last page), but that's one more book of his than anyone could sensibly think would be there when he died. The Dead Jazz Age drunk guy. Ho-hum.

Thanks! No rush on the Bruins stuff, I'm sure he isn't expecting anything.

Jeff Seiler said...

Dave? Your daring and dash in taking on subjects that few (if any) others have even thought of approaching, much less researching (deeply, relentlessly), makes you one of the most likely research subjects of the latter 21st century. And, one of the easiest, given your open book policy.

Also, you made (in Cerebus), and (in SDOAR), will make a heckuva great comic book.

But, there's the comic book and, then, there's the research.

Folks? He wrote it (nearly) all down. And, you can look it up.

Me? I've moved on to the research stuff. I would love to read your research notes on the papacy history. More research reveals, Dave! Now!

(Whick! Whick!! Whick!!!)

Oh, wait. Isn't that what the popes used to do?

Mea culpa.

Travis Pelkie said...

I was just on Yahoo and found it odd that Zelda Fitzgerald is trending. Apparently there is an Amazon tv series starring Christina Ricci as Zelda.

What does it all mean?!

Jeff Seiler said...
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Travis Pelkie said...

My guess is that you've had a thing for her since Wednesday. If you understand my semi-oblique reference to one of her early roles.

Damn, I didn't even realize she's younger than I am.

Jeff Seiler said...
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Travis Pelkie said...

Addams Family was 1991. She was born in 1980. You do the math ;)

Jeff Seiler said...
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Travis Pelkie said...

I merely implied, you inferred, sir!

Jeff Seiler said...
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Jeff Seiler said...

Okay, I have realized that Travis (who usually behaves himself), has joined ranks with Damian in trying (and...sigh...succeeding) in pushing my buttons.

Travis? You're better than that.

Damian? I expect nothing less than that, more's the pity.

Travis Pelkie said...

I'm sorry, Jeff, I wasn't really trying to push your buttons.

OK, a little bit.

I honestly didn't realize she's about 6 months younger than I am.

But I wasn't really trying to imply what I...kinda did imply. My apologies. I was not trying to accuse you of anything. Just kidding around a bit, and I probably went a bit too far. Mea culpa!

To quote Billy Quizboy from the wonderful show The Venture Bros., "all celebrities have giant heads. Have you ever seen Christina Ricci? Her head's huge!"

Since she's playing Zelda, that's probably the closest she'll get to playing Betty Boop, whom she resembles, particularly in her, as beardy Alan Moore put it in a Splash Brannigan story, "fetus-like proportions"!


I probably didn't make anything any better, did I, Jeff?

But I do apologize.

Unknown said...

I forget who played Wednesday on the 1960s ADDAMS FAMILY.

That's the only ADDAMS FAMILY I know.

Jeff Seiler said...

You know, Travis (and I appreciate your apology), I have been fascinated by the size of actors and actresses for a long time. I think it's because the DPs use camera angle tricks to "change" their sizes in the finished product, whether it's a movie or a tv show. And, I also think that casting agents go looking for people of certain sizes (the ultimate in typecasting). It is actually quite rare to find a truly tall male actor. Vince Vaughn comes to mind because he is, in my experience, a rare exception in that he always actually does look tall on film. I've seen several actors who were tall be filmed in a manner that hid their height. Conversely, many small actors are filmed in such a way as to make them look tall. (Cough...Tom Cruise.)

Anyway, just thinking out loud...

Barry Deutsch said...

Wednesday Addams was played by Lisa Loring in the 1960s TV show. Loring has led a very difficult life since then, unfortunately.

Speaking of Wednesday Addams, I can't resist posting to a picture of me in my new t-shirt.

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, not tuurrible.

Speaking of big heads...