Monday, 31 July 2017

On Sale 8 Years Ago: Cerebus Archive #3

Cerebus Archive #3 (August 2009)
Original cover art by Dave Sim

Sunday, 30 July 2017

That Russ Heath Girl #3

That Russ Heath Girl! #3
(Glamourpuss #18, March 2011)
Russ Heath contributed three covers to Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #11-13 (2010)
as well as four 'That Russ Heath Girl' pin-ups in Glamourpuss #16-19 (2010/11).

Hero Initiative is the only federally chartered, non-profit charitable organization
dedicated to helping comic book creators in medical or financial need. 
One of the creators they've helped is Russ Heath.

Aardvark Comics #1-- Not Even A Snowball's Chance, the Last Wednesday of Every Month!

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

Saturday, 29 July 2017

A Gen X Cerebus Fan Speaks! Dave Sim Interrupts!

 A (very occasional) word from Dave Sim now that he's working full-time on

Dear Mr. Sim,

I'm writing to offer a helpful and friendly correction to a mistake which I found on the first page in the third issue of CEREBUS IN HELL?. You assert, using Cerebus as your mouthpiece, that the youngest fan of your CEREBUS series must currently be in their forties.

The sentiment was Cerebus' alone. Cerebus is many things but a mouthpiece he is not.

Seeing as how I greatly enjoy CEREBUS and am, as of the writing of this letter, not three months past 28, I thought you might like to know of your egregious oversight, so that this sort of thing might not occur more than once.

My desire to know of my egregious oversights is, as all CEREBUS fans know, insatiable.

How did I come to love the earth-pig born, you may be wondering, now that you're, I assume, fully recovered from the shame of knowing you nearly alienated an entire post-Clinton fan (at the least singular) base?

I confess to liking the sound of "post-Clinton", though I think it unlikely. Go on.

Well, it's a strange tale and not one that would make a good story, I expect. I happened upon your series on Wikipedia, while reading about the Puma Blues and the distribution fracas that happened a few years before I was born. A link to High Society led me to a link to the series proper; led me to my local comic store, which led me to buying copies of the second and third phone books and a protracted quest for the first, which only recently came to a close.

Personally, I find any story where I earn some revenue, absolutely riveting.

While I was working towards finding the first volume of CEREBUS (being a natural perfectionist, I believe that not starting at the beginning is a mortal sin) I discovered your CEREBUS IN HELL? series and took it as something of a sign from Tarim and a random coincidence that could be retroactively construed as a useful signpost.

Luckily for you, the outcome was the purchase of more CEREBUS literaria and an obsession with the earth-pig which borders on the Chapmanesque.

So far as I'm concerned, as long as you keep investing in these random coincidences/useful signposts to my benefit, you are more than welcome to the minting of any Latin term that takes your fancy.

(Worry not, defenceless Canadian, this American considers violence spiritually sickening and, if we're being frank, the exact inverse of sexuality. I realize you may disagree, being an ascetic; then again, I suppose you've probably given up both, and so the issue is probably mute).

(The issue, unless speaking telepathically or, like ourselves, parenthetically, does, indeed, appear to be "mute").

Suffice to say, I love CEREBUS despite the fact that, as of now, I am only just past his first meeting with Jaka. "How can you this be?" you ask. "Are you sure you're not just another fickle American, flitting from one empty obsession to another, believing yourself a man of wealthful taste, when you're nothing more than a hedonistic little devil?"

To be quite clear, I would be delighted if every American citizen would buy three of the phone books, CEREBUS IN HELL? and then only read the latter and up to the first meeting with Jaka in the former. From what I understand, there are several generations of feminists who, in retrospect, wish they had done exactly that.

Well, I guess the best response to your (wholly imaginary) quiry is to say that I fell in love with the audacity of your opus and its inimitable flavor of sumptuous acerbity before I consumed the opus itself. You might say the wafting scent of the implaceable feast that is CEREBUS won me over to the feast itself.

Had I said that, I think I would have run quiry and implaceable past Jeff Seiler first. 

Or you might say that an unbalanced "fan" is writing to tell you how much he loves your life's work, despite not having read most of it. Not having met you I would never wish to be accused of the thought-crime of assuming anything about anyone. If you've been at all triggered by this letter, please write to me and say so, so that I may commit ritual seppuku with the sharpened olive branch of tolerance and diversity.

Not to worry, I'm of the "pre-trigger" generation (and "non-trigger" gender).

I guess if there's a point to this letter, it's to let you know that, even in these dark days of Twitter, Trump and text-messaging, your work touched another human's life before it was even properly experienced.

Maybe you'll more properly experience your thirties.

Hell, I've even taken Cerebus off the printed page and introduced him to my material world. Looking for a bit of motivation with my own creativity one day, I clipped out a Cerebus from the back of the second issue of CEREBUS IN HELL? and created a speech bubble for him reading "Where's Cerebus' masterpiece?" Hanging it at eye level on my bedroom door, it is now the last thing I see before I leave in the morning.

What Cerebus means to say (I'm sure) is "Where is the REST of Cerebus' masterpiece?" We're both VERY fond of our American-dollar revenues.

Well, there you have it, I hope I've brightened your Northern Day a bit and I hope you won't mind me saying that I think you deserve to be mentioned alongside Watterson, Kelly and Eisner. Having read your most recent excursion with Cerebus as I'm starting to read your very first issues from 1977 strikes me as poetic somehow and I felt compelled to mention this, though now I'm not quite sure why. I suppose that's poetry though: a lot of "Who knows?" (May I just say, as an aside, that I think "Years later, he died" might be one of the funniest openings ever).

Reading CEREBUS IN HELL? before reading Cerebus strikes me as very Shakespearean. [Dante and Virgil enter stage right] DANTE: Years later, he died.]

Thinking back to what I'm told the world was like 40 years ago, I wonder what you think's changed the most between CEREBUS #1 and CEREBUS IN HELL? or, more interestingly, what hasn't changed at all.

a) Computers and b) the urge on the part of most people to live inside their televisions. Two sides of the same coin.

If you started writing CEREBUS in 2017, what do you suppose you'd do differently, if anything? If you find the time to write back in between repositioning Dore's illustrations around Cerebus, I'd greatly enjoy hearing your thoughts on this matter. Would you have anything to say about Trump? ISIL? Gamergate? The Kardashians? Marvel Films? Image Comics? The role of mortality in social media's urging us towards documenting the material world in painstaking detail?

I'd probably do everything pretty much the same, except I'd start with "Years later he died" and throw in a few CEREBUS IN HELL? foreshadowing strips anytime the narrative started to get too tendentious.

Anyhow, I look forward to finishing CEREBUS by next March, at a rate of one issue per day. If the world is still habitable, I shall write to you and let you know if you still stand with the greats.

I'm breathless with anticipation.


Peter F. S.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Dave Sim: Dead Bob

17 April 06

Dear Bob:

By the time you read this you will probably be dead, so I will keep it short. Craig Miller just sent me the posting from The Beat saying you had surgery yesterday for a stomach virus you contracted in New Orleans. That sounds about right. What in the hell were you thinking, cowboy, going into that cesspool (literally)? Oh, well, it was your call and you made it. I hope you had fun while it lasted because it sure doesn’t sound as if you’re having much fun now.

Craig tells me that you intended (or intend, let’s stay optimistic here) to write something for Following Cerebus about the issue 104 crossover. I hope you do because that means I can dig up all of my Bob Burden stuff to run as illustrations. Do you remember the big picture you drew on the inside cover and front page of that Oscar Wilde book you sent me? No, I didn’t expect that you would, but you did. I had forgotten about it myself until I popped it open while putting the Cerebus Archive together. It’s a beaut.

If this reaches you before you die, and you have something written already for FC or if you have anything done on the Cerebus/Carrot crossover sequel (the one where they go to Hollywood) please tell someone where they are so we can run whatever you had done in the special Dead Bob issue. Otherwise I’ll have to find a manual typewriter somewhere and fake something. Also if you can think of any Dead Bobs we can include besides yourself, Kennedy and Hope, please scrawl their names on the nearest nurse and have Roxanne forward her to the address below. Much obliged.

Keep your eye on the donut.

Your morbid amigo.

Bob Burden is the writer/artist of Flaming Carrot Comics which The Comics Journal described as "steeped in a broth of surrealism, hardboiled adventure stories, knowing innuendo and superhero comics turned inside-out." Aardvark Vanaheim published Flaming Carrot Comics #1-5 between May 1984 and January 1985, with #6-17 published by Renegade Press and #18-31 by Dark Horse Comics before ending its original run in 1994. In 1987 Cerebus and the Flaming Carrot teamed-up in Cerebus #104.

Weekly Update #193: Dave Gets a New Furnace!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Tavern at the Wall of T'si

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 #24 six times already, most recently with Notes for Dave's Chat with Neil in May of 2016. It covers Cerebus #192 through 211 and had 138 pages scanned in. All those times we've seen pages from it, we've never seen the front cover:

Notebook  #24, front cover

While it is another purple Hilroy - sans unicorn this time - it is smaller than most of the other notebooks. This one is 22.9 x 15.2 cm (9" x 6"). The other notebooks are 27.9 x 21.6 cm (11" x 8.5").

On page 46 Dave sketched out a layout for 'Guys No. 5'. Which as we know, isn't the cover for Guys #5, aka Cerebus #205.

Notebook #24, page 46
Dave had also marked it up as Cerebus #206, which turned out to be Guys No 6. It does look like it could be some interior pages, but  I couldn't find it.

Aardvark Comics #1- Hell is Delicious, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

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

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 23

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 23
Laying It All Out There


This is the twenty-third (where has my life gone?!) 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 finished (or nearly finished) discussing the actual restoration and adjustment of line art for print. But as of yet, we haven't discussed layout, layout programs, or delivering files and communicating your desires to your printer of choice. 

Hopefully, you've now completely named and organized your file, completely adjusted and cleaned them up, and are now ready to move on to layout.

As I try to do as a general principal as often as is possible, we're going to automate this step, by making a Photoshop script that will do the (annoyingly slow) few steps that need to be taken care of before our finished files can be dropped into our layout program.

Go your Actions panel, and click on the New Action button.

Here are the steps you need to go through—

1. Flatten Image (important in case there's something odd about how you left your layers that will prevent then ext step)

2. Image -> Mode -> Bitmap 

This brings up a dialogue box that prompts you to select a resolution. Select 2400 ppi (or whatever your file resolution is.) For "Method", choose 50% Threshold.

And with that, our mercifully short script is complete.

Now we're going to run it.

Go to File -> Scripts -> Image Processor to bring up one of Photoshop's most helpful features.

This is a handy tool for background processing using actions you've written. Use the first dialogue box to select the folder you want to process, in this case, your (carefully labeled :) ) folder of all of your PSD files that you've adjusted and cleaned up.

The second folder prompts you for a destination for the generated files. Once again, err on the side of clarity. Name the folder something like NameOfBook_Bitmaps and nest it inside the main folder you've previously made for the book.

For File Type, check Save As TIFF, and check the LZW Compression (it's a lossly compression algorithm)

And lastly, select the Action you want to run.

And then hit "Go" and come back in a while!

You can check the process of the automation by browsing your newly-created folder and watching it populate with the finished images. They should be very small, as the 1-bit bitmaps occupy much less space than their layered, color or grayscale relatives--somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-6 MB apiece. 


Now we're going to create a layout for our book and place these images and add any other text, page numbers or any other elements we need to.

I'd heartily recommend Indesign, like most Adobe programs, a deep but sometimes quirky program, capable of a wide variety of layout tasks. (And if you're already paying for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, it's already included.)

Here's the "New Document" prompt for the current version of Indesign.

The sizes referred to in the first dialogue boxes are the trim size of your document: that is, the actual final finished size of your pages. The Cerebus volumes are 75."(inches) x 10", so that's the size I've selected here.

Below that is the second critical piece of info—the page count. Consult your printer for limitations of this number. For most printers and binding methods, this number needs to be a multiple of at least 8, possibly as high as 32, depending on the paper selected and the size of rolls that paper is available in.

Next, click the "FACING PAGES" box on. That'll help you envision the actual final look of the book as you work on the layout.

IMPORTANT—This layout document is only for the inside of your book. Your cover needs to be laid out to the specifications of your printer, who will want a different spine size depending on the bulk of the paper, binding method etc. Making your cover as part of your interior layout can cause much confusion down the road when communicating with your printer, so beware! 

The next important number is your "Margins" settings. This will create a little red box in your document (only visible to you, and not part of your finished file!) that will help you guide your image placement. If you were already working with a specific margin size in your artwork, enter those numbers here for easy image placement.

Lastly, we have settings for Bleed. This is the amount of space that the layout program will extend images outside of your document, should you have any full-bleed ("to the edge of the paper") images in your book. This is yet another number that should come from your printer, as different facilities and different printing processes have different tolerances for variation—but go ahead and set it to a very safe 0.5" for now. It's easy to adjust later if needed (Some printers can tolerate bleeds as small as .125")

Okay, now, let's take a look at our empty house.

Here are the first three pages of our layout. The magenta interior box are the previously-discussed margins, and the red outer box is the distance that our bleed extends.

Before we drop in our images, we need to set up any elements that might be common to every page. In this case, all I'm going to need are page numbers, something fortunately very easy to do in Indesign.

First, we need to edit our Master page. Indesign allows you to make multiple "Master" pages, which serve as templates that carry over certain common elements from page to page. In this case, we need only one master page type. Fortunately, Indesign defaults to having a single master ("Master A") applied across every page, so all we have to do is edit it.

Go to Window -> Pages to bring up the Pages window.

Double-click the little page icons next to the A-Master. This should bring up the A-Master page. Anything that you add to this page will now be present by default in every A-Master-associated page (which, currently, is every page in your document).

First, I'm going to add some handy-dandy guides to mark the middle of my page both horizontally and vertically.

You make these guides (again, unprintable guides) by grabbing the ruler at the top or side of the page and pulling towards your document. I've used some basic division to place them at the center of my page. Whatever placement might be helpful for you, go ahead and do—there's a lot of personal preference on these things.

Now I'm going to make the page numbers. First I'll select the text tool (T) and draw a text box big enough to accommodate the longest number in your book.

Go to Type -> Insert Special Character -> Markers -> Current Page Number. Now is the time to decide what font, what size, centered, whatever formatting decisions you make, because although you can change this from the master page at any time, any time you override it on an individual page (which we will do in the course of the layout), it will remain the older type with whatever changes you made. So decide now!

After you've got this set, you need to copy it over to the facing page as well. Click the text box, hold Alt (makes a copy) and shift (keeps the newly-created item straight along whatever axis you move it) and drag it to the right to the facing page.

Now the letter should be on both pages, like so—

Next week: More layout, and it's just as exciting as it seems!

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

Monday, 24 July 2017

Eddie Khanna's Newspaper Clippings #1

 Chicago Tribune
(24 April 1992)
 Argus Leader, Sioux Falls
(2 May 1982)
 The Muncie Evening Press
(5 January 1984)
Quad City Times
(12 July 1982)

(Click all images to enlarge!)
Many thanks to Eddie Khanna for providing these newspaper clippings.
Eddie is currently helping Dave Sim research 'The Strange Death of Alex Raymond'
and you can read his regular updates on Dave's Patreon site for as little as $1 per month.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

That Russ Heath Girl #2

That Russ Heath Girl! #2
(Glamourpuss #17, January 2011)
Russ Heath contributed three covers to Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #11-13 (2010)
as well as four 'That Russ Heath Girl' pin-ups in Glamourpuss #16-19 (2010/11).

Hero Initiative is the only federally chartered, non-profit charitable organization
dedicated to helping comic book creators in medical or financial need. 
One of the creators they've helped is Russ Heath.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dave Sim: On Onan & Masturbation

This Aardvark, This Shepherd
Cerebus #266 (May 2001)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 

A (very occasional) word from Dave Sim now that he's working full-time on

Thanks for your phone message, Jeff [Relaying Jeet Heer's comment on last week's article].

You can tell Jeet (and also tell him I'm sorry I haven't seen any of his work in the NATIONAL POST lately: I always disagree with him but he's always an interesting read) as far as I know these are the relevant Biblical passages re: masturbation:
Leviticus (Third Book of Moshe) 15:16 And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him then he shall wash all his flesh in water and be unclean until the Even. 17 And every garment and every skin whereon is the seed of copulation shall be washed with water and be unclean until the Even 18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation they shall both bath in water and be unclean until the Even.
I don't put too much stock in this because it's the YHWH and -- unlike every other monotheist -- I think the YHWH is God's adversary. At the same time, I infer that the YHWH thinks his/her/its self to be God so a big part of what the Torah and the Gospels consist, in my view, is the YHWH's idea of Godly laws. Of which I think God is a) relatively indulgent, as He seems to me relatively indulgent of flaws in all of His creations and b) reliant on men to amend them where those laws are "screwy" (i.e. stoning someone to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath).

[The Onan narrative you cite, I infer, is a good example of that. Genesis 38:9 "And Onan KNEW that the seed should not be his" when his father tells him to raise up seed unto his brother by impregnating his brother's widow. It is -- or will be -- part of the Mosaic law:
Deuteronomy (Fifth Book of Moshe) 25:5 If brethren dwell together and one of them die and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her and take her to him to wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her.
The YHWH's concept, I infer, was to "short-cut" the elder being/younger being enactment (the YHWH's inference is that the YHWH is the elder being and God is the younger being; God's -- which I assume is the accurate one: Him being omniscient and all -- is that God is the elder being and YHWH is the younger being) by having the younger being impregnate the elder being's wife. Which is, of course, incestuous adulterous procreation. Morally and ethically choosing not to follow the instruction costs Onan his life but I assume he will have a suitable reward with God for standing against incestuous adulterous procreation. KNOWING what was right and doing that.]

Getting back to Lv. 15:16 the compelled inference, I think, is that semen is theologically unclean and needs to be washed out of garments. But it's not a huge deal. "Unclean until the Even" as opposed to "unclean seven days" (let's say). But that's just MY inference, which is what I infer Scripture is all about, Charlie Brown: you're supposed to make up your own mind what Scripture says, what it's telling you to do and the extent to which you conform to it. On Judgement Day you find out how you did.

The Synoptic Jesus weighed in during the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:27-28 You heard that it was said Not you shall commit adultery. I however am saying to you that everyone the ___ looking at woman toward the to desire her already he committed adultery with her in the heart of him.
[Comic Art Metaphysics in action: I just spent the better part of a month painstakingly examining the "If however the eye of you the right stumbles you" in my RIP KIRBY Commentaries vis-a-vis William Seabrook's invocation of it in NO HIDING PLACE. MATTHEW 5 JUST WON'T LET ME GO!!]

I infer that Mt. 5:27-28 applies to the metaphysics of "innermost motivation" and (in our present day: less so in 1st century Palestine) pornography.

That is, I don't think masturbation is the sin, the sin is what you're imagining while you're masturbating, in descending order of illegality (pedophilia, incest, sexual assault, rape) and immorality (adultery, fornication). Our thoughts only SEEM secret. I infer that what the Synoptic Jesus is saying is that the thought IS the deed: on any metaphysical level above our own, what we're thinking and what we're doing have a shared level of self-evident culpability. No difference.

If you just masturbate for the physical experience of it and you aren't, mentally, committing an act of adultery or fornication (or, I would infer, more problematically actually looking at a naked woman who isn't your wife: either in person or on the Internet) then I don't think it's a sin. It's "unclean until the Even".

This being 2017, I can't imagine that anyone agrees with me (maybe orthodox Jews and Muslims), so that's why I don't really participate in these kinds of discussions. As I said before, I'm way, way, way over here and you're all way, way, way over there.

Popular Posts: The All Time Top Ten!

The 'Popular Posts' box (top-right of your AMOC screen) is an automated Blogger widget which lists the most visited AMOC posts on a rolling one month basis. But have you ever wondered what the most visited AMOC posts of all-time are? No? I'm going to tell you anyway...

No. 1
Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work!!
16,208 Views, 15 Jul 2012

No. 2
On Neil Gaiman
10,666 Views, 27 May 2012

No. 3
The End?
6,405 Views, 4 Sep 2012

No. 4
Red Sophia
4,866 Views, 22 Jul 2012

No. 5
Dave Sim Checks Into Grand River Hospital
4,643 Views, 17 Mar 2015

No. 6
Neil Gaiman: 300 Good Reasons To Resent Dave Sim
3,207 View, 29 Sep 2012

No. 7
Weekly Update #97: The Great Cerebus Back-Issues Give-Away
2,890 View, 28 Aug 2015

No. 8
Dave Sim Recovering After Surgery
2,821 Views, 18 Mar 2015

No. 9
Mind Game III & IV
2,245 Views, 28 May 2012

No. 10
The Fantagraphics Offer
2,105 View, 16 Sep 2012

However, my own personal favourite all-time AMOC post is without question Sandeep Atwal's "I Knew Dave Sim..." from June 2012 - a great insight into what "evil" Dave Sim is really like. What's your own favourite AMOC post? Do you even have one? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Drunk Attic

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.

Another notebook that we haven't seen in two years: Dave Sim's notebook #22. Last seen in July of 2015's A Creator Named Dave, this notebook had 71 page scanned and had material for Cerebus #186 through 201. Since we've not seen the cover for this notebook yet, here we go:

Notebook #22, front cover
Another Hilroy? Purple? This isn't the same cover from last week is it? No, it isn't.

One of the pages from this notebook that jumped out at me was page 65:

Notebook #22, page 65
Some word balloons are all that is on the page. I thought they looked vaguely familiar and found the ones on the left of the page on page 8 of Cerebus #201 and the ones on the right on page 9:

Cerebus #201, page 8 and 9 word balloons
The one in the notebook is pretty close to the one on the finished pages, but there are a few differences.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 22

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 22
Cleaning Up Line-up From Print Sources


This is the twenty-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.

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


In the last installment I suggested that there's a way to uniformly reduce the thickness of every single aspect of a line art scan after it's been cleaned, regardless of origin. This is the technique I used as a final step for the majority of pages in the new Cerebus Volume One to remove dot gain present from previous printings, and that I've used in the most recent issues of Cerebus in Hell? to ensure that the already-teeny-tiny-lined wood engravings survived being reduced in size so much. 

So, you wanna uniformly reduced the size of your artwork to reduce (or anticipate) dot gain? How do you do it?

Let's go back to the first page of Cerebus ever, restored from a print copy in a previous installment.

This is how the page appears after the cleanup.

 Although it looks excellent, and noticeably better than previous printings of the phonebooks, the entirety of the image has expanded from the negative because of the dot gain in the previous printing. If we allow this to go unchanged, it's very likely that details appearing here will fill in even more upon printing again.

Which leaves us with the question—how much expansion was there in the original printing? Well, we can make a pretty good estimate by looking at the Cerebus figure.

Although Dave (later, Gerhard) occasionally used a darker screentone when Cerebus was in the dark/under an object/ inside an enclosed space/and a lighter tone when he was drunk or sick, for the most part they used a straight 30 percent tone for his fur "color". So, keeping in mind any other suggestions on the page that the tone might have been different, I can use this tone to calibrate the amount of gain reduction I'm going to do.

Okay, let's get to the actual technique.

First, we're going to make a flattened version of our page, flattened and Threshold-converted! So turn on your Threshold Adjustment layer, and make every layer that you want to be visible in the final image visible.

Then hold Alt-Ctrl-Shift and hit E. This makes a copy of all of your work as a new flattened layer on top everything else. Lastly, drag this newly-created layer beneath the Threshold-Adjustment layer, for easy comparison afterwards.

(Normally we wouldn't Threshold-convert line art until we're totally done with it, but this is the most efficient way to accomplish what we want. Making it a new layer is an additional safeguard in case you want to return to your pre-adjusted work in the future!)

Now it's time for the magic trick. Go to Filter-> Blur-> Gaussian Blur, and use a blur with a radius of just under one pixel. (.9 px should work perfectly).

If you have the Threshold Layer turned on, you probably won't notice much of a difference except for the finest details shrinking or disappearing a bit. Now bring up the Levels control (Ctrl-L).

Now grab the Mid-control (the gray middle arrow) and bring it to the left. The further to the left you move the arrow, the more you'll shrink your content. Don't worry if smaller elements continue to disappear, just bring the tone (or whatever area you're using to calibrate the shrinkage) to go to the size you want. (At the end of this series, I'll upload a "tool kit" of Photoshop scripts that includes a tool to analyze tone density, so if you've already downloaded that, future person, use that :)  )

Lastly, we have to restore the details that we lost. If you've read and understood this series thus far, you probably know by now what the answer is—Unsharp Mask.

Bring the Threshold all the way down—we want this to affect the entirety of the image. The radius, as usual, should be just a little higher than 1 px, and the amount just under 200 percent. If you make the amount too high, you'll make the entire image unnaturally spiky—so watch this.

And if you've done all of this, assuming you're working in the required resolution space (2400 ppi), you should have a perfectly-reduced version of your line art!

(Tangential parenthetical—notice how the dots are the most round and smooth in appearance in the middle, Gaussian-blur applied example? Well, as you might guess, some very clever use of Gaussian Blur and sharpening can do wonders for damaged or digitally mangled tone. But there's no real formula, only adjustments that can be made on a case-by-case basis, and I've already dragged this series on far longer than its usefulness to most readers...)

As I mentioned above, the monthly schedule of Cerebus in Hell? has enabled me to take it to another level, which is a good thing, seeing how much the Dore images are shrunk on any given page, and seeing how dense with dark tones they are, and thus more prone to visual dot gain.

The problem is exacerbated on the Bible plates, where I'm working from scans of materials one generation removed from the original printings. So they need special treatment to ensure they don't close up upon printing.

And voila! The technique works great.

A "Solomon" panel from Batvark, before, then after:

One last thought. It took me less than an hour to type this installment up and put together all of these examples, but all-told hundreds of hours of work on the overall Cerebus restoration project before I figured this technique out and perfected its application. Of all the things I've figured out in the course of this project, this and a sophisticated use of sharpening are the two things that I think are most significant to future line art projects, and the least understood by other people. So, if you have any need for these techniques, read this installment, play with these techniques, until you understand them inside and out. And as always, if you have a better way to accomplish the same ends, let me know in the comments!

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