Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Melmoth Thumbnails Part 1

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 nineteenth Cerebus notebook covers Cerebus #141 through 149 and we last saw pages from it in March's A Deal For A Single Gold Coin.

On page 35 of the notebook are thumbnails for pages three though five of Cerebus #144, or pages 111 through 113 if you're following along in the Melmoth phonebook.

Notebook #19, page 35
So you can see how Dave laid it out in pencil and then went over the pencil with pen.

Melmoth, pages 111 - 113
The thumbnails look pretty close to the finish pages, without Gerhard's backgrounds. On the second page (page 4) the Cerebus in panel four of the  thumbnail is a tighter shot then the one used on the finished page and on the third page (page 5) the first panel has Great Andrena holding scrolls, but the final page does not.  It makes me wonder why the first two pages were finished with pencil while the third page is still rough pencils.

Next week we'll see page 36 of the notebook, part of which you can see through page 35. More thumbnails!


Barry Deutsch said...

It's subjective, but to my eyes the change in Astoria's pose on page 112 is notable. In the thumbnail, despite being chained, Astoria looks pretty strong and powerful; her back is straight, and she's looking straight on at Cerebus/the reader. It isn't until the close-ups (panels 5 and 6) that we can see how exhausted Astoria is.

Dave decided to change that for the final page, drawing her a bit from the side, a post that makes her look weak and exhausted from the start.

Another big change (as you mentioned, Margaret) is panel 4. In the thumbnail, this is a tight close-up on Cerebus' face, which takes up virtually all of the panel - the "camera" has "zoomed in" on Cerebus since panel 1. In the finished page, the "camera" zooms way out, so we get a full-body shot of Cerebus, and he only takes up about half the panel.

To my eye, the emotional impression given by the zoom-out is that Cerebus is mentally pulling back from the vision of Astoria; he is feeling repulsed by what he sees, or perhaps by guilt over his rape of Astoria.

Overall, I think the changes Dave made the page stronger.

Barry Deutsch said...

I have a question for Margaret, or any other Cerebus readers/experts who happen to see this: Is there a specific example of Cerebus, or of a Cerebus book, being banned or challenged in a bookstore or library? That is, where a library or bookstore has a copy of a Cerebus book on the shelves, and someone formally challenged that and tried to make the library/bookstore remove Cerebus from their collection?

I'm asking because someone asked me about banned books that have affected my life, and I'm not sure if Cerebus has technically been banned or challenged in that sense.

Erick said...

I saw some of your work online. Very good. I think it was linked from a politico article

Anonymous said...

Barry--While I wouldn't say, outright, that I've seen "Cerebus" banned, I did try many times to donate issues or volumes of "Cerebus" to high school and public libraries, only to be turned down. I also attempted to donate "Judenhass" to high school and public libraries, only to be turned down (except on one occasion).

The latter occasion was the library in Manitowoc, WI. I donated a copy of "Judenhass" to the library and a couple of weeks later found it on the "free comic books" shelf.

Librarians, who are mostly females, always or nearly always read the free submissions and research the authors. So, little surprise.

I bought it back.

--Jeff Seiler

Barry Deutsch said...

Erick, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed my stuff.

Jeff, that's interesting; thanks.