Monday, 1 July 2013

Restoring Black & White Comics: Colleen Doran & Eddie Campbell

A recent post by Dave Sim here on A Moment Of Cerebus describing the difficulties he faces restoring Cerebus Vol 2: High Society seems to have touched a nerve with other comic-book writer/artists faced with the same prospect of reprinting their own artwork from the 1980s and 1990s.

(from the A Distant Soil blog, 19 June 2013)
...I’m sort of appalled at how badly many classic BW comics are reproduced, particularly those which use original hand applied tones. Much of the manga I’ve seen looks pretty awful, especially some of the classic manga I bought more than five years ago. Many publishers just didn’t have access to good scans of higher then 400 dpi. You really need 1200 dpi for this sort of work. In the 1990′s, my printer could not do more than 400, and we opted for photo-reproduction instead. This was the better option for BW printing at the time, but both Sim and I, and a number of other creators, later found ourselves without those negatives. Which was bummerific. This cost me about $20,000 in production work. The restoration, alas, will cost significantly more than that. I hope you’ll take a look at my art sales HERE, and check out this most excellent book sale HERE.

Tone sheets are a unique holdover from the photographic printing process. Art looks better shot from a negative. It’s very tricky to get the pages to look good scanned on computer. But thanks to Allan, the book looks better than it ever could have before. The technology simply wasn’t up to the task 17 years ago. Where flaws showed up in my original tones, I went in and cleaned the pages digitally (or Allan did,) and then I, pixel by pixel, picked out the flaws. This was not funny. 

Anyway, as you can see, getting good quality books to you isn’t just a matter of scanning something and throwing it online, like your random digital pirate. It takes hundreds and hundreds of hours of meticulous labor. The restoration on Volume I of A Distant Soil took four people over 500 hours of work, and that’s just since November. It’ll be out next month! Watch for it!

(from The Comics Reporter, 26 June 2013)
...The ability of cartoonists and interested archivists to restore material to publishable form is often assumed, and can be way more difficult than initially realized due to all sorts of reasons including the state of the original art, the ability to get to copies of older art from which newer copies can be derived, and publishing effects that modern publishing techniques are ill-equipped to facilitate. All of these things can result in books that may be impossible to execute to one hundred percent satisfaction, or that merely price themselves beyond the resources of those seeking a new edition.

This isn't a a new thing. For instance, newspaper strip reprints have always had a lot of these problems, or similar ones. There aren't always copies available of every strip that people want to see reprinted, and features that ran in the post-War era were sometimes truncated and have material literally cut out of them on the right side or on the bottom to fit into shrinking places on the comics pages from which copies were clipped and saved. It's frequently a testament to the skill of people that help make these strips available, and the same goes for comic book work like Doran's, that we get a lot of the comics made available to us.

(from a comment posted on A Moment Of Cerebus, 26 June 2013)
Hey Dave,
The horrors just came back to me. I went through this with the big Alec book (as you can imagine). On one panel I replaced a wide background screen of tone dot by dot. I zoomed in big on the computer screen and replaced a small area. Once I had a square 16 by 16 i copied and pasted and moved the copy sideways to cover the next 16 by 16, and then I had a big 32 by 32. etc. It was the only way I could think of to do it, and that one panel took a couple of days. I figured it was at least an interesting experiment. In the end I had it down to just four or five places in the whole book that had a moire pattern. When printed, a new one appeared that had been fine in all the proofing. But I was happy with the average in the end.
Best to you, old friend!
Eddie Campbell

1 comment:

Eddie said...

Self-publishers of the 90's unite against the Forces of Moiredor!