Thursday, 8 March 2018

Rerun: Hunters & Gatherers

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.

So you've might have heard about the storm that hit the northeast of the United States late last week? Yeah, that dang storm knocked out the power in my entire town. I just got power back late on Monday. On top of that, it is my department's annual review time, so work is super busy. And on top of that, the Boston Bruins just last night had home game #4 of 6 in 12 days (I can't really complain about being to go to every single Bruins home game). So yeah, I've been a bit. . .sidetracked from Cerebus. 

Then I heard Dave mention reruns. Reruns you say? How about the first ever look at Dave Sim's notebooks that he used while writing and drawing Cerebus? From way back in June of 2016, here is the first ever Dave Sim's Notebooks column. I promise to be back next week with a new installment. Any ideas on what you'd like to see, just leave them in the comments.

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Albatross One
"I began using notebooks to plot Cerebus beginning with issue 20. I called the notebook my 'albatross'
since it was always with me, a constant reminder of work I had to do." ~ Dave Sim

A few years ago (10? 8? I can't remember for sure) I scanned all of Dave's notebooks in for the Cerebus Archive. My original intent was just to preserve Dave's notebooks, files, etc digitally for future generations.

There are 36 notebooks in total, which cover from issue #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints sometimes had prelim sketches, convention speeches were sometimes written out. A total of 3,281 pages were scanned -- plus covers, front & back, inside and out, so that brings the total to 3,425 scans. Oh, and there were 8 loose pages - so 3,433.  113 GB total of data.

At the time, the idea came up of putting it online as a resource. However, after scanning them all in, the project lost steam, as I couldn't easily get those files down to a reasonable size to put online -- I scanned them in at 600 dpi 24 bit color png files. Also the database work for such a program was beyond me.

I never really got the time to look at the notebooks in depth when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back as soon as possible -- having them in my possession made me nervous that something bad would happen to them. So this new weekly (?) column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some interesting pages which detail his thought process in creating the monthly Cerebus comic.

Notebook 4, page 86 (issues 59 to 69)

Some background for this page - Early in Church & State I Bishop Powers and Weisshaupt are jousting for supremacy in Iest, with the poor selection of Eastern Pontiffs, whom are being constantly being assassinated, Weisshaupt has control of the city-state. In the issue immediately preceding this one, Powers has a revelation and thinks he can nominate a new candidate for Pontiff. One of whom, even if he couldn't control, would be someone who would diminish Weisshaupt's hold on Iest.

Dave has a mock up of the first page - a full page spread - from issue #64. The actual page stayed pretty close to this sketch, but it didn't have the building facade with windows above it, just the archway. Though it did have a more detailed foreground, with Dave adding the walkway up to the arch.

The text beside it is the text that is on that first page, but some of it has been left off the actual page - Bishop Powers doesn't mention the Lion of Serrea - as this power struggle is to remain between the two foes. Nor does Powers state "I gather that you have objections." Instead he says "Why wouldn't I be?"

I think Dave changed it because it shows that Powers is leading Weisshaupt right into his trap to swing power in his direction. Powers calculated that Weisshaupt doesn't want Cerebus as Pontiff of the Eastern Church, and then Weisshaupt proves him right by coming over to see Powers in person to voice his dislike of the nomination. Powers thinks Weisshaupt would love to prove him wrong, so he gives him the opportunity to do that. Rather than state "I gather that you have objections" to which would show Power's hand to Weisshaupt, he leads him on.

So after Weisshaupt lists the reasons why Cerebus shouldn't be Pontiff, Powers moves his other chess piece. All of which happens on subsequent pages in the issue, but the start of the dialogue is shown on this notebook page - along with a preliminary sketch of page two.

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