Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Yoohwhoo and the Little Yoohwhoos

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.

In last week's overview of all the notebook entries at AMoC, I asked for what you'd like to see. David B mentioned Dave's notes for the biblical commentary. One would think there would be tons of writing for Cerebus' biblical commentary which we saw starting with Cerebus #280 when Konigsberg arrived with the Books of Moshe. So much tiny type. Just going on and on and on.

 Notebook #36 is the one notebook that covers Cerebus #280 through 287 which are the issues that Cerebus torah commentary is in. Looking through that notebook, I think there was more writing in the notebooks for Reads then there was for all that tiny type in Latter Days.

For issue #280 there are some sketches of Konigsberg and some quotes. Then there is a blank page for issue #281 (all it has is the issue # box), and then on page 49 we see the first page with some of Cerebus' torah commentary for issue #282:

Notebook #36, page 49
Similar to other writing entries in the notebooks, Dave writes the text right below it and marks it up. Yoohwhoo!

There is another blank page for issue #283, and then for all of the remaining issues in Cerebus' reading of the Torah, all we get are either empty pages or the writing is for Konigsberg's diary. I know Dave has mentioned starting to read the bible for Rick's Story. In fact, looking at the notes for Latter Days at the back of that phonebook, starting on page 491, Dave talks about getting his first copy of the 1611 King James Bible for Rick's Story. I also remember something about Dave mentioning notebooks that he used for biblical commentary. It would seem that he must've kept those separate from the Cerebus notebooks.

Paper To Pixel to Paper Again, Addendum B: Working in Color, Part One

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

Addendum B:
Working in Color, Part 1

This is the second addendum to Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art for print.

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


Oh, hey, another addendum!

Oh, hey, a really really long addendum!

While writing this series, several times I've had requests for information about working in color. And while the majority of the Cerebus restoration work has been working solely with line art, over the past few years I've learned the ropes of color reproduction and have plenty to say on the subject.

However, it's a complicated topic and a really thorough look at it would take more space and time than I have here. What I'm going to do instead is give some general principles that will hopefully help you get your work to reproduce a little better.

This post ended up being so long, I've split it into four parts, which will run over the next four weeks. So keep any eye out for the next one next Wednesday!

Signal Path for Graphics

For about a year and a half, more than a fifteen years ago now, I attended a small Central Florida community college, taking courses in audio engineering. It was there that I first encountered the principle of signal path. That is, when you're attempting to understand a system for the first time, one of your first tasks should be to understand the path—the routing through which your signal will (or can) travel to before it reaches its destination.

In the case of working for print in color, with a traditional color offset printer, the signal path is fairly straightforward—

Input Device (e.g. scanner, camera, or even tablet, if you're working digitally)
Graphics Software/touchup (Photoshop, Gimp, MS Paint, etc)
Layout Software (Indesign, Quark, etc)
Printer's Layout and Imposition Software 
Printer's Raster Image Processor

Each of those steps has their own quirks and pitfalls and opportunities to degrade your image, but, just like in the audio world, for the end product to be stellar, the front of the chain has to be right. 

How Does Your Color Work Get in This Here Little Box? I.e. Picking an Input Device

If you're working with relatively durable (and flat!) transparent media, then a really good flatbed scanner is hard to beat as an input device. 

When is a scanner not necessarily the best choice? One, if your artwork has too much relief, i.e. physical depth. Two, if your artwork features media, such as charcoal or wheat grass or something, that won't stay on the paper if pressed to a glass. Third, if your artwork uses materials that are reliant on reflection for their visual characteristics. Examples: paint/glitter pens, glass, metallic pens, gold leaf, etc. 

As for selecting a scanner: your first stop should be this post by me, from this very series!

Adding to that post—when you're going to be scanning color work, it's even more critical that you spend upwards a bit on the scanner side. Color consistency (different than accuracy, as you'll see below!) comes from better optical elements, better electronics, more critical factory tolerances.

As to what's the best choice: I've still yet to see a flatbed better than the Epson 10000XL or its  identical twin, the Epson 11000XL. (Neither of these is still manufactured, having been superceded by the 12000XL. I can't verify that the 12000XL is identical to the other two, but the older models are still available in great number on the ol' Ebay. If you're feeling brave and can afford to wait, you can probably pick one up for less than $600, which is what I did a few years back! Just make sure you ask the seller to lock the scanner motor before they ship—it's attached to the power cable port.)

The First Steps: Calibrating Your Scanner

[The following is from a post I wrote here in October of 2016. By quoting extensively from myself, I'm hoping to be able to pack a lot more information into this single post!]

I've written here, exhaustively, about scanning, about sharpening, about turning physical artwork into ones and zeros and then back into physical artwork again. But I've written very little about color. So with that in mind, and seeing how many of the people who chime in here are artists themselves, I thought I'd write about color a bit, in the least sexy way possible, as is my way.

TLDR: If you scan color artwork, you should be color calibrating your scanner.
Those of you who have been following along with the restoration work from the very beginning, now more than two years ago, might remember that, after taking some time off for a world busking tour, I'd been working as an illustrator and writer. When I first started talking to Dave about the print problems he was having, I had been living in San Diego less than a year, and most of my income was coming from freelance work I was doing, both locally and remotely. I had a long multi-month job with a startup tech company, making paintings and designs for a graphics-intensive app. Graphics for another training app for a different startup. Posters for shows—mostly music and theater, both in San Diego and for shows in my previous homes of Seattle and Orlando. Memorial portraits. Gift portraits. Odd jobs, truly odd, like producing artwork to be used in films, sometimes even in stages, so that an actor could "draw" my work on camera. 

Anyway, although most of this work was produced for color in mind, the majority of it had an extra layer of digital assembly or color adjustment, using the digital as a way of working quicker despite my reliance on traditional media. After all, if you're producing work primarily for print or screen, it doesn't really matter if your "original" is in fact an assembly of half a dozen different pieces of paper and not one seamless whole.

But the past few months, I've been painting a lot more, and working in a more disciplined fashion, attempting to make the finished product solely on the art board or watercolor block versus relying on layering and adjustment to finish it off. And because of that, I've become a lot more picky about color.

This is a good example of digital assembly. I made the line art drawing and inking on one side of a thin piece of art board, then flipped it over and colored on the reverse using Higgins dyes, painting on my lightboard so I could see the lines through the paper. So this illustration doesn't really exist in the real world, only a strange two-sided original.

The scanner I'm currently working with is the finest flatbed scanner I've ever seen—the oversized Epson 10000XL, optically sharp and, with no lip and a removable lid, specially designed for being able to scan oversized artwork. It's the same scanner that both Sandeep and Gerhard are using for scanning Cerebus originals, and it's giving us great results for line art.

But as my painting's progressed I've been getting more irritated by the amount of time it takes to adjust my colors after the scan. And on a complex painting with lots of transparent overlays, it seemed like I would never quite get there.

So what's to be done about it?

Fortunately, there's a very easy solution—color profiling and calibration.

Imagine, if you will, the difference between accuracy and consistency. In this case, my scanner has relatively consistent scanning of color, at least over a period of a few months. It's just consistently off.  Light reds and mid-tone yellows always seemed way too intense, blues subdued and muted, But because it's consistently off, if there was a way to recalibrate it...

No surprise, such a thing exists. Equally no surprise, it was developed for the needs of photographers, who happen to outnumber cartoonists by, oh, quite a bit. 

What we're looking for is called an IT8 target. You scan this target in your professional scanning software (i,e, either Vuescan or Silverfast) and reference the file supplied with the target, and voila! all color adjustment woes are gone, at least for a few months. (The standard recommendation seems to be to re-calibrate every few months, unless you're doing extremely critical color work or are working on an ailing scanner. Fortunately, using the same target is just fine, as long as you haven't been storing it in the sun!) 

Being the frugal person that I am, I purchased my IT 8.7 target from German color obsessive Wolf Faust, who manufactures them himself and ships him out of his home in Germany. All told I paid $20 for a single target, less than 10 percent what I would have spent purchasing one from another source. The package arrived a few days later. Fifteen minutes of following instructions later, and I was done!

It's an amazingly simple concept. The package contains the target, a specially-prepared print on photo paper, representing a full range of values and tones. It also includes a data file that acts as calibration, listing the expected values. Once the calibration scan has been made, Vuescan (or Silverfast) can reference the supplied file and make adjustments to the actual results to correct for the result that had been anticipated. In other words, changing consistency to accuracy.

This is the illustration that finally motivated me to get the color calibration sorted out. I started the whole painting with various intensities of yellow, resulting in "hot" foliage and "cool" foliage for the different types of plants. The over-intensity in yellow of the original scans were making the hot foliage appear to be way too hot, sunburnt, while the cool foliage looked sickly, nothing at all like the original artwork. The above is a raw scan with only a levels adjustment. 

The new norm has been — power on the scanner, open up Vuescan, make sure my settings are still loaded, and scan that sucker. 90 percent of the time the raw scan now only needs a levels adjustment to make me happy.

This too can be yours, for $20 US and a little bit of patience!

Step One-

Step Two-

Step Three-

Step Four-
Make sure you are consistent your color spaces! Vuescan and Photoshop should be operating in the exact same color space for best results. I'd recommend AdobeRGB. 

But What Resolution Should I Scan My Color Artwork At?

That depends on your destination print size, and the size of your original artwork, and the fineness (or coarseness) of the color half-toning that the printer will use. The smoother the paper, the finer the half-tone screening can be, and thus the more fine detail can carry through the screen. (More on this below...)

The "received wisdom" on this topic is that there's no benefit to higher resolutions, but I can tell you from long experience and many hours arguing with printers that, depending on the source material, printed on coated paper with the tightest screens, there can be a difference, visible to the naked eye, between color printing supplied at 300 or 400 ppi and 600 ppi. 

The principles from the first few articles of this series still apply. The higher contrast and more finely-detailed the image is, the more important it is to supply a high-res color file. The lower res your image, the clunkier the edges can be on your resulting image.

So—eventual destination has a lot to do with how much difference that extra res will make. But the safest thing to do is scan at a res that will enable you to deliver your at-size file at a max of 600 ppi. For most images, however, and to most eyes, there will be very little difference between images printed from 400 ppi and 600 ppi files.

A photograph of some clouds in a blue sky? Unlikely to be any difference. A very sharp color reproduction of someone's line art drawing, i.e. lots of tiny high-contrast lines? Here's where the extra resolution can really matter.

(That being said, whenever artwork I've painted or drawn will be leaving my hands, I make an at-size 600 ppi scan, to add to my digital archive. Hard drive space is cheap, and you never know when you might be able to use the scan).

Okay. What Now?

So, working down our "signal path" chain...

We're now "in the box", our scanner color-calibrated, our artwork safely scanned and on-hand, ready for any manipulation we'd like.

But being "in the box" presents us with a new set of challenges, mainly, making sure that our monitors are giving us accurate color information while we work.

Next: Real-World Examples!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Tribute Art

Hi, Everybody!
So your pal and mine, Sean Robinson, sent a big ol' batch of links to, And I'm gonna be running them as I want.

Like today!

Now everybody say, "Thanks Sean!" and enjoy:
In a rich man's world by Alrealea from over at Deviant Art
Thanks again Sean!

Next time: What's tomorrow, Wednesday? Margaret posts on Wednesdays. So something from Margaret...

Monday, 29 January 2018

Pencils to Pixels: The Process of Comic Art. Modesto Junior College Gallery art exhibition.

Hi, Everybody!

Your buddy and mine, Carson Grubaugh sent in the following:

Here is video preview of a show we just mounted for the gallery at the school where I teach. Lots of Dave Sim work on view for our students!

Thanks Carson!

Next time: Something Cerebus or Cerebus related, I'm sure...

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Reading Cerebus #6

Hey look kids! It's "READING CEREBUS" time!
Kevin Kimmes:
Welcome back to “Reading Cerebus”, a new (some-what) weekly column here at A Moment of Cerebus. The goal of this column is to bring a fresh perspective to the 300-issue saga of Cerebus as I read through the series for the first time and give my insights into the longest running independent comic book series of all time. Think of this as part book club, part lit-crit, and part pop culture musing. Oh, and they told me Dave Sim himself may be reading this, so I hope I don’t screw this up. Let’s continue.

Issue 6 - The Secret

What is "The Secret"? I'll never tell, it's a secret...
"This is the story of a girl 
Who cried a river and drowned the whole world
And while she looked so sad in photographs

I absolutely love her, when she smiles"

- Some band from the early 2000's

This week our tale opens with a dying man, a secret, and two boobs who want to know that secret (and I'm not talking about Jaka...yet.) As opposed to previous issues, this one drops us right in to the thick of things with no summary from Dave regarding what Cerebus has been up to since last we saw him. Instead, we meet E'lass and Turg The Unduly-Tall who are on the trail of the curly-haired dying man, only to discover that someone has gotten to him first. That someone, is Cerebus.

Upon seeing Cerebus and his small stature, E'lass sends Turg to find out what the curly-haired man told Cerebus, but, "Careful, though! He looks kind of fragile..." While E'lass mentally starts putting a supply list together, Turg get's his head handed to him by Cerebus. Since raw muscle didn't work, it's time to move on to a more nefarious plan: Drugging Cerebus.

E'lass orders ales for the three of them, dropping three pills into Cerebus' mug. The pills, we learn from E'lass' internal monologue, should make Cerebus a bit more suggestible.

Enter Jaka

Fully under the control of the pills, E'lass turns Cerebus' attention to the girl dancing in the bar, Jaka, and explains:

"Jaka is said to be the most beautiful woman east of the Sofim. Her hair is like white silk...her movements are cat-like..."
There are other panels in this issue, I think...Maybe.

This is all Cerebus needs to hear. He is entranced. He is, dare I say, in love? Well, if not, it is safe to say that he at minimum is fully focused on Jaka, so much so that when E'lass tries to regain his attention, he receives a tail to the gut for his troubles.

We soon get our first interaction between Cerebus and Jaka in which Cerebus makes it clear that he is quite enamored with her, offering to kill a yak for her supper. Finding this cute, Jaka kisses the Earth-Pig Born, who floats away with her, fully under her spell.

Trouble in Paradise

Things soon take a turn for the worse for E'lass and Turg as The Brothers of the Black Sun enter the tavern, apparently having tracked the two. Realizing time is short, E'lass makes another attempt of prying Cerebus away from Jaka, resulting in a full blown bar brawl instead.

Cerebus could care less about the fight, until he inquires about Jaka's whereabouts from one of the participants, who calls her a whore and get's his ass thoroughly handed to him for his transgressions. 
People who're hit with chairs REALLY should have the good manners to fall down...
Never mess with an Earth-Pig born in love...

Meanwhile, a very battered E'lass has located Jaka and has threatened to make sure she never dances again if she doesn't get the information he is after from Cerebus.

Apricot Brandy

As Jaka attempts to get the information out of Cerebus, Cerebus has other things on his mind.

"Cerebus loves the little freckle on your elbow."
"I'd love to lick apricot brandy out of your navel..."
"If Cerebus had a navel would you lick apricot brandy out of it?" (The answer here should always be "NO" as we all know what a stink a wet Cerebus can be.)

Finding out that E'lass threatened to kill Jaka, Cerebus makes a direct trip to him and Turg, putting E'lass' head through that wall and warning in no uncertain terms, "And that's only a sample of what you'll get if you threaten Jaka again!"

Having found out about the gold in the Temple of the Sun from E'lass, and combining this with the information that he received from the dying man, Cerebus is now convinced that he knows the exact location of the treasure. He hatches a plan to make both him and Jaka rich beyond their wildest dreams, that is if she agrees to join him, which she does.
It's called foreshadowing kids...

All Good Things Come To An End

As Cerebus goes off for supplies, the pills wear off leaving him confused as to why he is looking at cloth when he has money for ale. Meanwhile, E'lass and Turg decide to find Jaka and deliver on their earlier promise, only to run afoul of The Brothers of the Black Sun.

When Cerebus and Jaka finally reunite, Cerebus has no recollection of who she is or what has previously transpired. Heartbroken, Jaka gives Cerebus a bottle of apricot brandy and tells him, "Some day...some day sweet Cerebus, you will remember why...and you will return. And Jaka will wait for that day, beloved. Even if it takes the rest of her life!"

And that, good reader, sounds a lot like foreshadowing!

Join me back here next week as we look at Issue 7: “Black Sun Rising”.

Currently Listening To: "Must've Been High" by The Supersuckers

Kevin Kimmes is a lifelong comic book reader, sometime comic book artist, and recent Cerebus convert. He can be found slinging comics at the center of the Multiverse, aka House of Heroes in Oshkosh, WI.
issue 7

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Cerebus VS SDOAR VS YDKJ Comission


Cerebus original-art super-collector, and saintly patron of all kinds of great Gerhard work, including the World Without Cerebus series, Brian Coppola, reached out to me recently to commission a very interesting piece.

Brian's initial idea was:

"What I am thinking is a meta-perspective. It seems from what
I can see that there is a lot of activity around a comics
shop venue in which SDOAR figures as a comic book; one of
my favorite set of pages in the entire Cerebus story is
just at the end of Minds, issue 200, where Dave and Ger
are drawing at their boards, and that really truly
incredible sense of the story progressing in one
dimension and being captured by the artists.
It's really the most damned clever thing I think I have
ever seen depicted.

Think about 2 pp where these pages are being drawn and
the decision to not end Cerebus with #200, and some
connection to the sale/storage of the comic in a shop,
and/or the creation or imagining of SDOAR... I'm pretty
keen on seeing your interpretation of the Cerebus character,
and Dave, and Ger, even if in passing."

"Okay, have Jack reading those two pages and uhh, we will see...," was about all I knew I was going to do prior to cutting and pasting the images together in Photoshop for a mock-up. The way the overarching themes from all three projects fell into a seamless narrative with all kinds of symbolic resonances was wild. It all suggested itself as I went. The" CARunch" lining up right over the only place I could put the SDOAR logo literally sent a chill down my spine.

22" x 17" ink on Bristol board over blue-line print.

The real technical killer was recreating the look of the Letratone dot-pattern on Cerebus and the splatter effect on the cover by hand. Yowza!

Much thanks to Brian for the patronage and the absolutely killer inspiration. Hope you all enjoy.

More here:

Friday, 26 January 2018

Love and Aardvarks, World's Finite Cerebus: Order Now!

(W) Dave Sim, Sandeep Atwal (A) Dave Sim, Gustave Dore (CA) Sandeep Atwal
Can Batvark, Homophobe, be coerced into have a boy sidekick like on the cover? Spoiler Warning: No. Features Super-Cerebus, Batvark and...Vark-Mite? (or whatever the kid's name is); Trick or Treat; Psychosomatic (1863); Cerebus' Self-Help Book; Cyclothymia (1923); Product Placement; Maxwell and Mortimer's Covers Band; "The Cerebus Foundation" and more!
In Shops: Mar 28, 2018
SRP: $4.00
Order now from your local comic book store!
(W) Dave Sim, Sandeep Atwal (A) Dave Sim, Gustave Dore (CA) Lee Thacker
Jingles' 10 CGC-graded copies of Love & Rockets No. 21; if only Cerebus had married Maggie and Hopey; Jerusalem Crickets and The Crazy Catholics Hallelujah Chorus; An Ox's Nard;  Cerebus develops "Cerebus Go"; God vs. Tarim; Philosophers on Jesus' teachings; "Aardvark Amuck"; Epic-length "Satan the Closeted Gilbert & Sullivan Fan";  Infernal Realms Police Training; John Lennon in Hell?;  Drinking in Hell;  Infernal Intercontinental Wrestling Title.
In Shops: Apr 25, 2018
SRP: $4.00

Order now from your local comic book store!

Next month??!

The Truth Is Out There... par avion. (Dave's Weekly Update #219)

Hi, Everybody!

(I hope I'm not "telling tales out of school," but apparently Dave Fisher is in New Zealand returning the One Ring to the fires of Mount Doom. He told me he has to hike an hour, one way, to post the weekly update, in the scorching summer heat. So from all of us, Thank You Mr. Fisher! Hopefully he'll be back into the frigid cold next week. Anyway,)

Heeeeeere's Dave:

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Dave Sim's Notebooks: The Post Listing

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.

Here is an overview of the notebook posts done so far. If there is something from the notebooks that you'd like to see, mention it in the comments.