Friday, 30 June 2017

"Comic Books Are The Best Medium Of Communication. Period."

Read 'Minds'
Words & Pictures Museum
June 20 - August 18, 1996

15 September 04

Dear Scott [Berwanger]:

It seems more and more obvious to me as we go along that "acceptance" is a largely-mythological concept—acceptance in the sense that comic-book people use it: that some day we might be like movies and television. I think both of those are dying in very interesting ways, dying out of a state of universal “acceptance” because of the fragmenting of society. With the growth of indy television and indy movies, more people are getting work, but the universal recognition factor is languishing. Most people who are thought of as stars (or, rather, Stars) are from the time period before the wholesale fragmentation began to take place. I think movies and television are becoming a lot more like comic books—environments where you find the thing you like and there you go, that’s your thing. Virtually everyone has an audience of whatever size and if you do it right an audience of a couple of hundred devotees and a few thousand marginally-interested people can provide you with a decent livelihood if you do right by them: be accessible, interested in discussing your own work, and supportive of the efforts directed towards you.

Translations I avoid because I’m unilingual. I don’t know what’s being communicated or how well if someone else is translating me. I tend to see translation as a different kind of creativity. You take something in one language and translate not just the words, but the underlying concept into another language and culture. Cerebus, I don’t think, is amenable to that. There are too many nuanced ideas I’m trying to get across, and it seems to me that nuance is the first thing to go when you’re changing a specific example of creativity into another example of creativity. Besides, I have enough problems with people trying to change me into a feminist in English without having to worry about how someone is attempting to do that in another language I don’t speak.

There are a bunch of us who have been trying to figure out how to accomplish a cross-fertilization between comics and other fields. I suspect virtually all, if not all, attempts could be summed up as you have summed up your own effort with comics and oil painting: “I’d have to say that it was a very marginal kind of success. Maybe not even that. By and large, the reception was only attended by family and friends, even though an ad was run in the local paper and 600 invitations were mailed to gallery patrons.” I mean, that is a success. Think of all the artists who would kill to be able to have that last half of the second sentence be true in their own cases. The number who will never have an exhibit anywhere. And I think that’s one of the “opposing poles” qualities that will keep comics and fine art at a remove from each other. You were looking to have an effect on people, to affect their thinking and their perceptions. Most gallery artists are just interested in moving the product and having a great party where they’re the centre of attention. Most gallery art is part of a network of interlocking “portrayers”: the agent, the gallery owner, the reviewer, the patron, the peer, all of whom are considered to be key players in successful gallery art. Communication, I think, went out the window a long time ago in that context.

My own experiment consisted of displaying the entirety of Minds at Kevin Eastman’s short-lived Words & Pictures Museum. What if you put a whole story up on the walls, so people could read an entire graphic novel? Answer: they don’t. You don’t read pictures on the wall, you socialize in front of the pictures with a nice glass of wine. The pictures are secondary conversation pieces. Looking on the bright side, it gave me a lot greater appreciation for the level of attention that a graphic novel gets. When you’re reading a book, the book is the entire focus of your attention. It’s something you do in isolation. You just don’t get that level of attention in a gallery setting.

We have vivid and active imaginations, so I’m sure these won’t be our last experiments with cross-pollination, but all of mine to date have pointed in the same direction: comic books are the best medium of communication. Period.

Take care,


PS: Jules Feiffer is a cartoonist best known for his strip Feiffer that appeared for years in the Village Voice. A lot of people think his work is dated at this point, but I don’t think so. It’s very squishy middle-of-the-road liberal stuff, but a lot of it is very insightful and very funny. He was way ahead of everyone else (including Woody Allen) in seeing the humour in psychiatry. Woody Allen got a lot of his stage persona from Feiffer's Bernard Morgendeiler character.

From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004: Vol 3", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

One Fondue Set Please

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.

Dave Sim's notebook #16, used for Cerebus #122 - 125, has been showcased here four times in the past. The most recent time we saw some of the 67 pages scanned for this notebook was in November of 2016 in Soul and Substance.

Somehow the cover has never been shown here in one of those four entries. And I bet you'll be really surprised to find out that it is a Hilroy notebook:

Notebook #16, front cover
The next picture is the final page scanned in the notebook, page 68:

Notebook #16, page 68
First, if you're wondering, the page not scanned was page 7. Typically I didn't scan pages if it was blank. When would I'd scan a 'blank' page? When what was on the other side showed through to the blank side.

But I digress.

As you can see, page 68 shows the "Note From the President" for Cerebus #124. Or does it? I just looked at Cerebus #124 and this isn't the NFTP for that issue. Though I think I've seen this before, I just can't place it. Perhaps someone in the comments can tell us where it actually saw print, or perhaps if I just dreamt I had read it in Cerebus. . .

Cerebus in Hell-- the Torment Never Stops, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: JUN171076

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello everyone!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is off for the week, as I try to scrape a bunch of persistent Cerebus-related tasks off the ol' work plate...

...the biggest and most burdensome of which was accomplished last week! On Friday, I finished the prepress work on the first nine Cerebus In Hell? one-shots, and approved printer proofs of the first four. The last five I'm letting marinate for a few weeks in the hopes I can look at them fresh again and catch any additional errors or other issues before they actually go off to the printer.

And if nine months of lead time isn't enough, cartoonist, art instructor and all-around awesome guy Benjamin Hobbs has been laboring away lettering and digitally compositing Dave's new strips, which Dave continues to produce at an astounding rate. 

So, if sales continue at their present rate, and barring any major disasters, we can look forward to at least a year of more Cerebus in Hell?

But, hey, order those books, kids. Have you talked to your retailer yet?

More Stuff

Most of the other things have been catching up on are a bit mundane to write about here, but there is one thing I just started into that I thought might be interesting to some folks out there. After finishing most of the restoration work on Jaka's Story, I've finally gotten around to making more jokey sequel title cards working on the OCR for the text pages of the book, to be passed on to proofreader Jeff Seiler for editing.

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, and if you're working from typeset source material, it's usually your best chance at (relatively) painlessly transfering printed text to digital text that can be edited, re-typeset and laid out in a standard layout program. Depending on the book, and the sources of materials and amount of text, we've tried differing approaches in this restoration. For instance, I've let the High Society text mostly stay as it was when it was printed, without retypesetting, as the initial typesetting looked pretty good and there were only a few errors to correct. Going Home was left as-is, as it looked fantastic and needed very minor corrections. But Reads was OCRed and the layout completed from scratch, owing to some of the oddities in the original layout and typsetting. Jaka's Story has similar issues, in that the original text doesn't look particularly good, even when sourced from the original artwork, owing to it being reduced on a photocopier and pasted on to the art board. 

So I'm going through the entire book and scanning the printed edition using Vuescan, my trust scanner software, to make a mult-page PDF, each scan adding another page to the file. I have Vuescan also set to simultaneously be performing OCR on each scan and dumping the result into a text file. When I'm done with the scanning I'll compare Adobe Acrobat's OCR results to the Vuescan results and see which will yield the best results, and then send them both along to Jeff Seiler, along with instructions on how to proceed.

And here's what the Vuescan OCR has made of the above text block:

‘=~r,;~i;;%‘   ND THEN, QITE
f.__*‘;-i’ f‘*_<‘:.\.‘ suddenly (and very
"" U“  *" calm1y),shehaddrawn
"7 _  herself up to her full
 If} “Fl threefooteightandone
  -‘ff quarter inches of
  “ *“ ' height!-lerhands,flny
and delicate like the wings of a small bird,
rose from her sides; and. inrlslng, seemed
to call forth the clamorous throng of her
mind's eye; all silent wlth anticipation;
some few smiling and nodding their
She began to tum in place.
As you can probably tell, it's not too keen on the majuscules. We'll see if the Acrobat OCR does any better!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions for future posts after I'm finally done with PTPTPA? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: June 2017

Tim here, filling in for a poorly Travis Pelkie, with a selection of picks from the latest Diamond Previews catalog for the discerning Cerebus reader (or basically all the comics I would buy if I had an unlimited budget). I realise Travis would have done a much better job, so lets all wish him a speedy recovery for next time! Visit Travis at Atomic Junk Shop for a wider (and probably much better) selection of reading recommendations. To see your comics featured here or at the Atomic Junk Shop feel free to send an email to Travis at: atomicjunkshoptravis [at] outlook [dot] com. 

Batvark #1
by Dave Sim & Sandeep Atwal
Ardvark-Vanaheim, $4.00
In stores: 30 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171076

The publisher says:
Two-part "Secret Origin of Batvark"; "Batvark's Credo" and finally an answer to "Is Batvark a Homophobe?" Plus reprints of the earliest Cerebus in Hell? online strips (6/24/16 to 6/30/16): first appearance of Fredric Nietzsche; King Solomon writes his lawyer; Literalistic Limbo; first appearance of Jingles, the world's greatest collector of CGC-graded Dog Comics; Avengers movies remade with an all-Kardashian sister cast; Life With Archie Civil War; and more! 

Border Worlds
by Don Simpson
Dover Books, $29.95
In stores: 16 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171635

The publisher says:
With her life in chaos and nothing left to lose, Jenny Woodlore joins her brother's ramshackle trucking business on Chrysalis, a huge floating platform on the edge of the galaxy, only to find herself in the middle of a cosmic conflict that could alter the very fabric of the universe. A dark and visionary adventure, Don Simpson's epic Border Worlds is now available in a single, hardcover volume, gathering the back-up features first published by the Kitchen Sink Press in issues #6 to #10 of Megaton Man as well as its own self-titled series and the one-shot Border Worlds: Marooned. Simpson has also added an all-new chapter that finally brings his acclaimed work to a long-anticipated conclusion. Afterword by legendary comics artist, editor, and publisher Stephen R. Bissette. 

Stephen R. Bissette says in his afterword:
...Border Worlds was launched as a back-up series in Megaton Man 6-10 (October 1985-June 1986), and they were odd companions, to say the least: Megaton Man was a spry, flamboyant, playful, upbeat parody of the dominant comic book genre (superheroes), where as Border Worlds was aloof, adult, dark and often despairing in tenor, tone, and narrative, a definite change of pace. It was also where Simpson wanted to go with his work at the time. "I decided to test the waters with Border Worlds as a back-up feature," Simpson says, "especially when Marvel's lawyers sent us a threatening letter over the alleged unfair use of their trade marks (as if anyone would confuse a two-dollar comic with a sixty cent comic in those days!). Anyway, I found my bank of Megaton Man ideas depleted around the time Kitchen Sink Press decided to end Megaton Man with issue ten and continue Border Worlds as a moody black-and-white series"...

Howard The Duck
by Steve Gerber & many others
Marvel, $34.99
In stores: 20 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171066

The publisher says:
Howard the Duck's classic adventures conclude in this riotous volume! First, Howie and Bev face the geriatric menace of the Grey Panther, and do that voodoo that they do so well! But will a Christmas miracle show Howard it's a wonderful life - or quite the opposite?! He'll win a fortune - and lose a fortune! There will be animal antics with the Gopher and...Spider-Ham?! And Howard will join She-Hulk as they wrap their heads around the Cosmic Squish Principle! Plus: Two Spider-Man team-ups for the price of one! But what the heck are the Elf with a Gun and the Circus of Crime doing here? Waaaugh! Collecting HOWARD THE DUCK MAGAZINE #8-9, MARVEL TEAM-UP (1972) #96, HOWARD THE DUCK (1976) #32-33 and SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #14-17 - plus material from BIZARRE ADVENTURES #34, MARVEL TALES (1964) #237 and SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #5.

Tim says:
This collection features the infamous Spider-Man Team-Up where Howard The Duck creator, Steve Gerber, "kidnapped" his creation, leaving Marvel with a clone of Howard and a hollow trade mark. The fascinating full story is explained here...

The Visitor: How & Why He Stayed
by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Paul Grist
Dark Horse, $19.99
In stores: 4 October 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN170030

The publisher says:
In 1944 Hellboy was conjured in a ceremony meant to give Hitler the ultimate occult weapon. Fortunately, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm was there to witness and to guide Hellboy to become the world's greatest paranormal detective. But Bruttenholm wasn't the only witness to Hellboy's arrival. This collection reveals the aliens who monitored Hellboy's arrival, and why the assassin they sent to Earth stayed his hand. Collects The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1-#5 and the The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed short story from Hellboy Winter Special 2017.

Paul Grist said:
...I really don't think people realise how much Dave Sim actually changed the way things are done in comics. Cerebus was the first comic (as far as I know) that collected single issues into trade paperbacks as a way of keeping the issues in print. A lot of other people producing their own comics are only there because Dave Sim showed that self publishing was not a vanity option, but a practical viable way for a creator to get their work out to their readers. Okay, so there's been an awful lot of rubbish produced in the name of self publishing over the last 20 years, that's not Dave's fault - but there's a lot of good stuff out there that wouldn't be there is Cerebus hadn't shown it was possible. I first saw Jim Valentino's work in the back of Cerebus. Without Cerebus there probably wouldn't be Bone. Or Strangers in Paradise. It's probably not stretching the point to say there wouldn't even be an Image...

Bernie Wrightson Artifact Edition
by Bernie Wrightson
IDW, $125.00
In stores: 18 October 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN170552

The publisher says:
Bernie Wrightson began his career in the late 1960s, just barely out of his teens, and within a decade rose to prominence as the preeminent horror artist of his generation. This loving tribute to comics' Master of the Macabre will showcase Wrightson's ground breaking work in the DC Comics Mystery books and his legendary artistic turn on Swamp Thing. Additionally, we have assemble a number of rarely seen and completely (until now) unseen treasures.

Sketch Magazine #47
featuring Colleen Doran
Blue Line Art, $6.95
In stores: 30 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN172325

The publisher says:
This issue of Sketch takes a look at comics creator Colleen Doran... from working on creator-owned projects like A Distant Soil, to working for mainstream publishers. Sketch continues to teach with numerous "how-to" instructionals from tried-and-true industry talents, and is packed with penciling, computer coloring, and marketing tips to help you become an artistic rising star. Great information, inspiration, and fun!

Colleen Doran said:
Cerebus was the most important book of the self publishing movement, and Dave Sim is the single most important person in the history of the creator rights movement. Everybody else who contributed is much appreciated, but no one was a more outspoken - or original - advocate.

by Mathilde Ramadier & Anais Depommier
NBM, $27.97
In stores: 30 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171803

The publisher says:
For some he was the philosopher of existentialism. For others the constant provocateur, the politically engaged author, the uncertain militant, the repenting bourgeois, the life companion of Simone de Beauvoir. From his first readings in the Luxembourg Garden to his refusal of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Jean Paul Sartre was all of this at the same time. 

by Lars Fiske
Fantagraphics, $19.99
In stores: 6 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: JUN171681

The publisher says:
George Grosz (1893-1959) was a German fine artist, cartoonist, and teacher who drew from pop culture, was active in the Dada and New Objectivist movements in post WWI Berlin. Lars Fiske's graphic biography channels the exuberance and fascination with line that typified Grosz's work and is a far cry from the plodding pedantry of the graphic hagiographies that earnestly clutter library shelves; it's a work of art in its own right. 

 More Diamond Previews picks at Atomic Junk Shop's regular Flippin' Through Previews column.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6: A Night On The Town

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 is the last of Dave's three intros in Swords volume 6, and hence the last episode of this little series too. Read all the introductions here...

“I felt like I had just discovered a gold mine in the back of my linen closet,” says Dave.
Read 'A Night On The Town' here...

But wait. There IS more... Next: The Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6 Supplement!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Gerhard: Sketching At Conventions

The length of time a sketch takes all depends on how many people come up to the table and want something signed and how often I stop drawing because I tend to talk with my hands. Shelley can field questions, guide people through the display portfolio and handle transactions but then I tend to just sit there with my head down, sketching and nodding. I like to interact with people... at least look up and smile... get the odd handshake in there... stop for a picture now and then.

The smaller, simpler sketches can take 15 to 30 minutes and the larger, more involved ones can take one or two hours or more. How much of that is actual drawing time, I have no idea. Time has no meaning at a convention.

Saturday is always the longest day and usually the busiest. I had a good breakfast before the show but between 9:30am and 7:00pm I think I had 2 bites of a sandwich and a few chips and nuts that Shelley fed to me while I was sketching. I've always disliked eating at the show table in front of everyone: 'Come to the show and watch the starving artists eat!' Plus, you don't want to get mayonnaise on the drawing.

Shelley keeps a list of everyone that has requested a commission. At the Heroes show I had six people come up to the table and get on the list before the show even officially opened. I spent the rest of the weekend trying to catch up. I don't like to take work with me back to the hotel room because after a full day at the con, I'm pretty much spent and tend to fall asleep shortly after eating. On Saturday night, I had to do 3 pieces for people that were going to pick them up Sunday morning and I managed one extra sketch done as well before I passed out. Although when I took the cap off of the thick black marker to fill in the solid blacks, the marker leapt from my hand and did a little dance on the drawing I was doing in a guy's sketchbook. (You can see a few squiggly lines in the top left of the image above.) That's when you know it's time for bed.

I had to stop Saturday and Sunday for about an hour and half each day to attend panels, although I took my drawing stuff with me and did manage to get a bit done while there.

One of the first people to come up and leave a sketchbook before the show opened said that he would be there all weekend, and so, was the last person to get his back at five minutes before the show closed.

I don't get to see any of the show except for walking in out for smoke breaks (yes, I still smoke) and I try to pop by the tables of folks I've met at other shows and say, 'Hi'. More often than not, I either can't find their table, or they are swamped with sketches and autographs, or they're not there.

There were 23 commission requests at this last show, by far the most of any show to date, and I had to take two of them home to complete. I now have 20 commissions, of all different sizes, to complete before I can go sailing.

This Heroes Convention was an amazing show and I was very privileged to be part of their 35th anniversary.   The show was ALL about comics and art. No wrestlers. No TV and movie guests. Booth after booth of people selling comics of all sorts and row after row after row of comics artists sketching, drawing, painting and cramming a bit of food into their mouths when they get a chance.

Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

Keep up to date with Gerhard's latest news at Gerz Blog!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Dave Sim: Warhol, Hal Foster & The Right Of First Refusal

26 February 06

Dear Robert:

Thanks for your letter of 15 February.

I always have to temper my criticism of Warhol with the fact that he did, indeed, make a mark and that he had to swim upstream a fair distance to do so. He certainly ultimately got marketplace revenge on everyone who said that paintings of Campbell’s soup cans couldn’t under any circumstances be considered art (if nothing else) and it IS almost fifty years later which is quite a span to still have credibility. Same with bringing High and Low and Pop and Fine Art within hailing distance of each other with some interesting net effects. It did a disservice to comic books by marginalizing them as “camp” -- a catch-all category for homosexuals to put things they thought to be beneath them. But it meant that we were still there (with our pasted-on clown nose) when irony became unfashionable in the post-9/11 and comic books proved to be one of the few non-ironic environments left: A whole subculture of people who believed (and believe!) in the intrinsic nobility of guys in leotards wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes and behaving like vigilantes. You can’t get much more UN-ironic than that.

I didn’t know that Roy Lichtenstein had served under Irv Novick and I agree that would have made an interesting interview. It might worth tracking down family members and guys he worked with to see if he ever mentioned anything. It must’ve come up on a semi-regular basis from the 1960s on, you would guess.

I had no idea that Brian Kane was doing a book on Bob Peak. I was very hard on Brian, I’m afraid, at a SPACE party at the Laughing Ogre a couple (a few?) years back, going through the Foster book page by page and critiquing his choice of illustrations using a number of pieces when he didn’t have either the original or a good copy to shoot from -- the whole point of the book for me was to see Foster’s actual pen and brush strokes on slick paper and any page where he had a 5th generation copy or a bad stat instead of an original or a proof was just like an ice pick in my brain and, of course, there was too much family stuff in there for my taste. I read the book again when I was asked to deliver the acceptance speech for Foster's Shuster Hall of Fame Award last year and I realized that it was actually a very good book. It wasn’t my kind of book but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t any good. And Foster was enough of a family man (or a good husband, anyway) that Brian’s book would probably be a lot closer to how he saw himself than anything that I could have put together. So all I can do is to hope that Bob Peak is represented only by originals and clear proof copies and that I’ll get to find out the names of his children and see what his Christmas cards looked like and maybe some vacation snaps with his wife. I’ll buy it on the same basis as the Foster book. If there are only ten clear images with world-class reproduction, that will tell me how much each of them cost. I think the Foster book proved to be about five dollars a page for me. And I agree about your assessment of Arn Saba’s interview of Foster being superior. I’ve really got to dig up my copy [The Comics Journal #102, September 1985] and reread it now that you’ve mentioned it.

As regards your question of "right of first refusal" I don’t think that was really the issue that Gary addressed as directly as he did. Basically what he was saying is “Look, if the creators as a general rule don’t feel obligated to live up to their side of the bargain, there’s not much purpose in fine-tuning the bargain or inventing a new form of bargain. The problem isn’t the nature of the bargain, the problem is the unwillingness to observe the terms of the bargain.” Which I have to say was pretty astute and miles beyond my own thinking. “What are we trying not to tell ourselves here?” The answer was, as far as I can see, “Creators are generally dishonest and dishonourable people” for a number of understandable reasons. The urge to be published, period, when you aren’t being published outweighs everything else. The average creator will literally sign anything just to get his book green-lighted. Once the book is out there, the creator finds out that he could get more. He could be published by a larger publisher, he could get better terms and he goes from abjectly grateful to bitterly resentful. He thinks of himself as having been fooled into agreeing to too little. His incompetent publisher is standing in the way of his success. A little vanity goes a long way with most creators, too. No matter what his book is selling he always believes it would sell more if it was advertised more or if there was more promotion and he becomes a sucker for people who promise that. There’s no such thing as impunity, though, and I think we’ve ended up in the situation we’re in because of those collective creator decisions. Having that many creators act that extensively in bad faith over that many years brought about what it brought about -- the smaller publishers like Gary Reed folded their tents and now all the creators have is Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image none of which are known for taking a chance on unproven or marginalised talent. What Gary showed me was that the question isn’t “How can we keep the Big Four from exploiting creators?” so much as “We have no choice but to start over at square one and see if the creators behave better this time.” So far it doesn’t look very good. Using your own example, if non-famous Frank Miller becomes famous Frank Miller, he’s going to do whatever he damn well pleases and Dark Horse is going to have to just bite down on the fact that if Frank chooses to screw them there’s nothing they can do about it without looking like the heartless exploitative corporation. Where there is no way for the company to keep from being treated disadvantageously they get forced into a corner where they have to treat every project and every relationship as temporary so as to keep from getting caught with their pants down as Gary Reed was just for playing fair and square. It’s a real problem because too many of the ‘givens’ are working at cross-purposes. Creator vanity and desperation are built in to the equation. “If it’s in the best interests of my own creativity and longevity to cripple you, I’ll just have to cripple you. Sorry.” As Larry Marder once said to me “The comic-book field is filled with charming, ruthless people.” Which is really true and also built in. It can take five years to finish a decent graphic novel and the creator is going to be charming and ruthless about doing the best for himself and this book it took him five years to finish and the publishers are going to be charming and ruthless because so few projects are “in play” at any given time. A viable finished graphic novel is like bleeding meat in the water in an environment largely made up of various breeds of shark.

I’m waiting to see what else Al sends me once he has a website exclusively dedicated to Creator’s rights issues, but right now the Gary Reed model seems like the most accurate one. If the creators aren’t going to demonstrate a fundamental loyalty over fixed periods of time and a “playing fair” approach with the guys who took a chance on them -- in a general behavioural sense -- then they will have gotten what they deserved, however unhappy that makes them.

Thanks again for writing.



From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2006", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Weekly Update #188: The Pork Knight Secret

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Aardvark Comics #1-- Eternal Torment, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: JUL171242.

ICYMI: Sim On Trump

(from an AMOC Comment, 21 June 2017)
...I think President Trump BELIEVES everything that he says. I think that's what got him the presidency. I think what everyone overlooks is that he lost once through the whole election cycle. In my experience -- as a political junkie of 50 years standing -- that's unheard of. HOW did he do that? Sheer impenetrable BELIEF in self, I think.

And that, I think, stems from his experience on THE APPRENTICE franchise. Reality TV is all staged. It's performance art. He spent more than a decade (no, really, THINK about that) watching himself on TV and doing different takes of anything that he didn't see as being HIM. What got the ratings, what didn't. This is what DJT looks like when he says this. This is what DJT looks like when he says that. And he learned concision. You've got 21.6 seconds to communicate this before you say "You're fired!" HOW do you say that in 21.6 seconds? (that's why he took to Twitter: "this is the only way to DO this job. This is like TV but more finely-tuned")

The Democrats are going to have to find someone who has that same skill set for 2020. What Democrat has the decade-plus experience of creating themselves on a Reality TV franchise? And is interested in the job? Pretty short list, I would guess...

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Blasphemous Lies

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 only looked at Dave Sim's notebook #28 once before in June of 2015. The notebook was labeled as Cerebus #227, but covers more of Rick's Story, and as I looked at it, I saw some of one of my favorite Cerebus issues: Cerebus #244.

Pages #23 and 24 are just text, some crossed out and more written in. They would become a couple pages in the chapter called Singularity in F. Stop's novel Pleasure's Simple Life.

Notebook #28 page 23

Notebook #28 page 24
The pages are from the middle of Cerebus #244, pages 12 and 13 - or Going Home pages 258 and 259.

Pleasure's Simple Life pages 55 & 56

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 20

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A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 20
StillWorking With Multi-generation Sources


This is the twentieth 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.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!


Last week, we left off on our script with splitting off copies of our original upscaled scan. Now we're going to apply separate treatments to each of those layers in the hopes of making a script that can prepare our scan for a wide variety of needs (and with the scans themselves having a lot of variation to them). If you have nothing but time you might not script any of this, just use these different techniques on a case by case basis.

First, select the "noise reduction" layer. As you saw last week, this scan is fairly noisy, owing to its origins as some ink on newsprint. Generally, anything you can do to reduce this noise manually also has a negative effect on the areas of detail. But there are some exceptions that'll effect things minimally, in most situations.

We're going to use the filter Surface Blur. Go to Filter-> Noise -> Surface Blur to bring up the dialogue.

Surface Blur is a really powerful tool, but has a pretty simple interface. It spreads a blurriness over the image at the Radius you set, affecting or not affecting varying amounts of contrast, depending on the Threshold. The larger the Radius, the wider the spread of the effect. The lower the Threshold, the more areas it effects.

Play around with the control until you get something that reduces your noise without impacting your details (or not very much, anyway. There's a reason we're working with two layers here). You might find that it helps you to temporarily turn on your Threshold Adjustment layer while you do this, so you can see what the effect will actually be when your file is a bitmap.

Next, still on the same layer. we'll take another counter-intuitive step and use Unsharp Mask on the layer. Treat it normally, just as you would have with previous applications, but be sure to very carefully set the Threshold of the effect so that it's not undoing any of the work you did with the Surface Blur tool!
Now run Surface Blur again. (And unless you live in the future, where computers are much faster, you're probably now getting why I recommended you script all of this. These processor-intensive plugins really eat into your time!)

And here's the result.

As to whether it's really worth it, that depends on how detailed the artwork is you're trying to replicate, and how much of a time crunch you have. I used this because I could-- I just threw it in the script, and when this layer (or a section of this layer) was useful, I used it. And certainly someone looking to do a bunch of work in a hurry while still keeping most detail could do a lot worse than this. But my opinion as to how useful it was definitely changed over time...

Anyway, our second layer is our "Sharpened" layer. We're going to treat it exactly the same as we have other materials in the past, so go ahead and reread the relevant sections from previous installments if you're unsure. The only real caveat is that the very noisy blacks can mean that your sharpening brings out a lot more undesired artifacts than normal, causing that noise to be captured in a way that it wouldn't otherwise.

Okay, now that I'm done sharpening (lightly) my "sharpened" layer, I'm going to select the "cleanup" layer and then turn off the script. The script is done! Now all that's left is our cleanup.

Just like when we discussed cleanup of original artwork, there are a ton of ways to address the basic problems—

1. Strengthening up the solid black areas while 2. Keeping as much detail as possible.

When I'm faced with a page I'm restoring from newsprint, the first thing I do is hold the actual print copy I'm restoring from and scan my eyes across the page, looking for any special areas of interest. Any really tiny fine lines? Any color noise/paper noise that my eye might accidentally read as detail now that I'm looking at it in black and white on a screen? Any splatter or teeny tiny tone or other things that need to be addressed in a special way?

First thing first, I'll use the lasso tool (L) to grab any of these specialty areas, and copy and paste them onto their own layer for safe keeping.

Then I'll start the standard, "Do this on every page" kinds of things. Make a Marquee (M) selection of the entirety of the "outside the panel" section of the page, and fill this with white (G for Paint Bucket tool). Do the same (except filling with black) for any large, Marquee-appropriate black areas. And then, before anything else happens, do some careful analysis of my "noise reduction" layer versus my "sharpened" layer, clicking them on and off, zooming in on various areas and seeing how they compare to each other. 

Then we're going to do something very simple—we're going to take the eraser tool (or make a layer mask and use the same procedure) and erase through the "sharpened" layer to reveal the "noise reduction" layer underneath, to whatever degree that's useful to us, essentially keeping the best of the sharpened layer and getting rid of the worst.

After you've done this, bring up the Burn and Dodge tools and use those to eliminate any remaining amounts of noise you'd like to. (See previous installments for more details on settings, etc).

...and the rest will have to wait for next week!

To download the scan we've been working with, go here and click on "Load Full Resolution File"

Next week: Cleaning up the mess!

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

Monday, 19 June 2017

YDKJ! Update: Ctherpes ridden Assathoth


Been plugging away at issue #1 of You Don't Know Jack: Two-Fisted Comic Store Manager for the last couple of months and am a couple small drawings away from being done.

I just finished up the most difficult image required so far for either book and figured that was a good reason to report in.

We needed a drawing of Cthulu for a gag. This was problematic for me. I have always disliked images of Lovecraftian horrors. Lovecraft is one of the rare prose writers I do like, exactly because his work relies so heavily on the formal nature of prose. He is so good at conveying impossible horrors that shatter perception so it strikes me as a betrayal of the work to inscribe an image of said impossible horrors. "A big nasty octopus thing? Ooooo, soooo scary."

Anyway, we needed a Cthulu, so I drew a big, nasty, octopus thing...

...and tried to toe a fine line between being able to still see the thing and having everything be a bit too cluttered and low in contrast to fully perceive. Besides, I know Sean Robinson will do magic with the pre-press and preserve an insane level of resolution in all of that clutter.

Even with all of the purposeful cluttering I felt the image still looked far too standard. I wanted more confusion. The phrase "fearsome geometries" popped into my head (is that a Lovecraft phrase?) so I set out to add a kaleidoscope effect to the whole thing.

Using Photoshop I messed about with some photos and created the following pattern.

That was placed over top of the drawing on a separate layer, the white areas used to select the drawing below, and the resulting selection flipped horizontally along a vertical axis. That got me where I wanted to be.

Somewhere under all of that chaos there are the strict symmetries of the kaleidoscope, but hell if I can see them, which satisfied my need to try to capture the true horror at the center of the Lovecraftian mythos as I see it, the re-consumption of order by chaos.

A very sick part of me has the urge to re-draw the whole thing as it looks with the digital shenanigans applied to it, but there are better things to do.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 6: Cerebus #23-25

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 is the second of Swords volume 6’s three introductions, so make the most of it – we’re nearly at the finish line. Also check out the full 'Swords Of Cerebus' Introductions Index.

The news Dave refers to near the end of this intro is the murder of John Lennon, who was shot dead on December 8, 1980. For more on Dave’s Rochester trip, see his intro to The Morning After.

“I had decided to make Chris X. Claremont this enormous negative force
who wants to destroy everything around him,” says Dave.

Next week: Spunky, the Charming Giant