Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Barvark #1 In Stores Now, and Behind the Scenes of A Year of Hell?

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello all!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is on hold this week so I can note a few note-able events in Cerebusland, going on as I type this...

First off, at long last, Batvark #1 (of 1!) is in stores and on sale now!

Caution: Sausage Making Discussion Ahead
For those of you out of the loop, Aardvark/Vanaheim has been following up this past year's Cerebus in Hell? mini-series with a series of one-shots, each featuring a parody cover and interior gags related to that parody, as well as reprinting, in sequential order, the entirety of the Cerebus in Hell? online strip, written by Dave Sim and Sandeep Atwal. Batvark is just the first of these one-shots, each of which will be available at your favorite local comic store on the last Wednesday of every month.

So, the last Wednesday of September, you can expect to see Aardvark Comics #1...

...followed by Strange Cerebus #1 the last Wednesday of October...

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

...and on into the foreseeable future, for as long as sales hold steady.

My job on these first few one-shots was limited mostly to prepping the visuals, taking Sandeep Atwal's lettering files and image mockups and turning them into finished, print-ready files. Cartoonist Benjamin Hobbs joined me a few issues in, at first doing the digital prepress for the strips he had lettered during the initial online strip, and later pitching Dave covers for future one-shots.

Now that Sandeep has left Aardvark/Vanaheim, the work flow has changed considerably. Each week Dave mocks up a minimum of seven new strips, using the Mighty Power of his Photocopier/Fax machine all-in-one enlarge and reduce functions to, ah, enlarge and/or reduce the necessary figures and backgrounds, and then adding mockup lettering and hand-drawn or cut balloons. He then faxes these mockups to me, and I forward them to Benjamin, who puts together the finished (or almost-finished) files from the faxes, adding the lettering later, which arrives at his house via jump drive (relayed by Dave Fisher. Thanks Dave!) From Benjamin's files, I put together the layout of the issue, Benjamin and I write the rear incidental text for the issue (previously written by Sandeep and Dave) and check everything over before sending it to the printer.

A Year of Hell?

This new arrangement means a lot less redundant work, as the strip goes straight from photocopier mockup to lettered and adjusted. Other changes—Benjamin has pitched a bunch of covers/concepts for new one-shots, one for me as well, and both of us have written some new strips as well. Most selfishly, though, my favorite part of the new workflow is getting to read the new Cerebus in Hell? strips a year or so in advance of their publication.

We'd settled into a good rhythm with this work until, two weeks ago, something surprising happened. A certain American-via-West Africa folk instrument appeared in not one, but five, strips that week.

But—what was Sim saying by this sudden surely significant appearance? Was it relevant to the underlying current of the strip, as it slowly slips from gag-a-day comic to second-in-a-lifetime 26-year continuity epic? Was it a commentary on the characters, on their borrowed and transformed nature? An obscure metaphor?

A week later, the mockups for the new strips were in. The instrument was gone, nowhere to be found.

Sure, my job is basically to paste the pretty pictures together, but I wasn't about to let my income interfere with my need to score political points. What, exactly, was Sim saying by the appearance, and the just-as-sudden absence, of this instrument?

From Sean to Dave, via fax. Note I start with an ingratiating tone, so as to catch him unawares when I hit the actual critical issue:

Great strips this week—excepting the lack of banjo. Is this a banjo ban? Do I need to start a banjo ban boycott?

From Dave to Sean, via fax: 
I will leave it for greater minds than my own to determine if I'm a flat-out banjophobe or merely exhibiting latent banjoism of banjoism tendencies characteristic of my age, race and identity politics. Clearly I "present" as banjoist but that may be a culturalist idiosyncracy (Canada never having benefited from the richness of a nativist banjocentric traditiona comparable to that of the U.S.)
 If you want to "call me out" on this I'll let the above stand as my ONLY official response.
Unless #SimBanjophobe starts trending on Twitter in which case I shall endeavour to re-engage on a more abject and craven level a day or so hence.
You heard the man, banjophiles. We know what he is: the words are from his own mouth this time. Go forth and shame.

In Other, Real-er News

I was happy to see this comment yesterday from long-time Cerebus reader Michael Grabowski, who had this to say about the newly restored Cerebus Volume One, which came out this January 2017, and is in a comic store near you right now:
Seems like a good spot to comment that I finally picked up the newest printing of volume 1, and sweet heaven I am in love with how good this looks and reads compared to my ancient 2nd printing. Beautiful work making Dave's original text shine so, Sean! This edition should go a long way to getting old & newer comics readers to get into Cerebus, and from volume 1 after all.
Thanks so much for the kind words and the support, Michael. It's very gratifying to hear people have been enjoying their copies. It was so satisfying to finally get that volume in print in a way that it deserves. I've been saying for several years now that I think a big chunk of the negative reputation of the first book rests on the reproduction: it's nice to finally have a printing that makes my point. Take them out side by side if you really want to blow some minds. 

And Also...

...the Art Dragnet continues its glacially-paced work! We got a new page this week, and the story of that page is quite the doozy, so it'll have to wait until after Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is done. But in the meanwhile...do you own a Cerebus page? Does a friend have a Cerebus page? Does an enemy with an inadequately-secure house have a Cerebus page? Well, how about sending us a scan? Contact me at Cerebusarthunt at gmail dot com for more details...

next week: Paper to Pixel to Paper Again gets really close to the finish line...


Michael Grabowski said...

To elaborate a little, the cleaned-up black art and lettering on clean white stable, sturdy paper just plain makes it so much more enjoyable to read these early issues. All my late-80s copies of the phonebooks (and Swords volumes before them) are just so browned-out now--and they have always seemed that way though surely they once looked better--that they are difficult to enjoy reading anymore. Aside from my own careless bookshelf display of the old editions, Dave's insistence on cheap newsprint for the trades may be one subtle cause that has held the books back from better, deeper evaluation from a wider crowd since the series end.

Tony Dunlop said...

Overheard at a coffee shop one day:

"Q: What's the difference between a trampoline and a banjo?

A: You take off your shoes to jump on a trampoline."

Good thing I don't work for Google; that would get me fired fer sher.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Happy to report that my LCS, which I have not been in to for well over ten years, had 5 copies of Batvark on the shelves!

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Dave has usually been admirably forthcoming about the facts and figures of Cerebus (the exception that comes to mind is when he stopped printing the ever-decreasing circulation numbers in the monthly comic). I think this is very helpful for newer cartoonists and self-publishers; such data is often viewed as a trade secret like the Colonel's Secret Recipe ("chicken, grease, salt"). I am curious to know the sales figures for the various incarnations of CiH -- and especially whether a new "first issue" every month outsells the mini-series.

-- Damian

Sean R said...

I believe Dave mentioned in a previous video that Batvark did indeed do a little better than the previous two issues, with more than 4,000 copies ordered (don't have the exact # in front of me, but one or two hundred more than 4000). According to this estimated Diamond sales chart, the latest available, that would mean if it had been sold in July, it would have beaten out Grimm Fairytales Swimsuit Special 2017 (whew!) but slightly bested by Adventure Time issue 66.


Sean R said...

Woah. According to this one, Cerebus in Hell? issue 2 was narrowly beat out by, uh, WILL EISNER SPIRIT CORPSE MAKERS. Which, uh, yay?


Culpa Direct said...

"Barvark"??? I guess if you're in hell, you might as well check out the bar.