Monday 30 September 2013

Swords Of Cerebus

Inside cover illustration to Swords Of Cerebus Vol 1-6 (1981-1984)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Cerebus World Tour Book 1995)
Swords Of Cerebus was the original vehicle used to reprint Cerebus back in the days when there was scarcely enough material to fill a 'phone book', but more than could be comfortably kept in print in the form of individual issues... Additionally, there are the Swords 'back-up' stories. More bet-hedging, here. A sneaky way to get regular Cerebus fans to buy a five-dollar reprint collection of material they already owned. Strange to think, in this day and age of the overpriced hardcover, but there was a time in the direct market when five dollars was a lot of money to spend on less than a hundred pages of material.

Sunday 29 September 2013

Happy 62nd Birthday, Deni Loubert!

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus. Deni and Dave Sim were married between 1978 and 1983. After their divorce, Deni moved to Los Angeles to start her own comics publishing company, Renegade Press, which closed its doors in 1989. She was inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2010.

Art Auction: X-Files - The Lone Gunmen #2

X-Files: The Lone Gunmen #2 (IDW, 2013)
Art by Dave Sim
Heritage Art Auction
Internet Bidding Ends: 6 October 2013
Having never seen the X-Files, I have a limited mental picture range. NEVER heard of "The Lone Gunmen" although I thought that's a pretty darned clever name.  Chris Ryall gave me a heads up that they were doing something with "The Lone Gunmen" in X-FILES and he'd be happy to see a cover from me on that subject.  Well, if you type "The Lone Gunmen" into Google Image what you get is a few hundred copies of the official graphic and the logo.  Which is a very nice graphic and a very nice logo.  So I faxed Chris asking him, "Are you doing anything with this? because it seems tailor made for a photorealistic cover."  And, no, they weren't.  So I downloaded one of each and then just did some fine-tuning to turn it into a comic-book cover.  One of the things that I did was to put the guys in the same order in the images that they are on the logo.  Things like that really bug me.  Like calling your comic book ABC and then the graphic is of ACB.  I also put the short guy lower than the other two.  Which seemed like another no-brainer (although I might not have thought so back when I was short).  Absolutely no problems.  It was my favourite density of photo with hard shadows and most of the detail burned out to white so I didn't have to adjust mentally for it.

Happy 87th Birthday, Russ Heath!

Glamourpuss #11 (2010)
Art by Russ Heath
Russ Heath (born 29 September 1926) was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009 and is perhaps best known for his artwork for DC Comics war stories over several decades (and the fact that his 1962 drawings of fighter jets in DC Comics' All American Men of War #89 were "appropriated" by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein in the oil paintings Blam and Brattata!) and for his work with Harvey Kurtzman on Playboy's Little Annie Fanny. More recently, Russ Heath contributed three covers to Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #11-13 (2010) as well as four 'That Russ Heath Girl' pin-ups in Glamourpuss #16-19 (2011). Happy Birthday Russ!

Saturday 28 September 2013

'Cerebus' & 'High Society' Collections Stalled

Cerebus #13 (December 1979/January 1980)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Kickstarter Update #165, 27 September 2013)
...CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY are still stalled. George [Gatsis] got the proofs in from Lebonfon and still couldn't really TELL anything. So he's going to do his own set of proofs at Kinko's. I hadn't thought of that. Could that work? WE do the proofs and then send them to Lebonfon, flagging any problem areas? Yeah, it's a concept. I hadn't really considered it, but when George suggested it, I thought, Yeah, that might work. And I've got all the "first signatures" of HIGH SOCIETY signed and numbered - #1 to #1100 - so that part is ready to go.

There's really an amazing amount of work that’s gone into both books - cleaning up edges, making the white lettering crisp and clear, picking up the linework.

And it means that pretty much everything needs to be restored in the same way: all 6,000 pages and I keep trying to find a way around that. The LATEST idea that I had was when Menachem Luchins got me the RED NAILS Artists Edition. It's a Very Sharp Book. And it might be just really good photos of the artwork. Not scans, but top of the line HD photos. So PART of me is thinking: why not do that for right now until the technology figures out a way to scan tone without getting a moire pattern? And THEN I thought:  well, why not just use HD photos for the trades themselves? What would that look like?  I mean you would need a camera stand and lots of adjustment, lighting, etc. But ultimately it’s going to be mostly "point and shoot". Because the alternative right now is scanning at 1200 or 2400 dpi. Which is looking like a good 10 minutes per scan. That’s a LOT of time on 1200 pages of material. And that's just the scanning. There's a lot of "tweaking" that needs to be done.

So right now we aren’t really doing anything because you can’t just charge into doing 1200 pages and then go, after 300 pages. Oh, wait. No, this isn’t how to do it. We have to do it another way. And it has to do with reproduction. Until you see it reproduced you have no idea if it will work. Photos might look GREAT. But do they REPRODUCE great? Someone said they’d be happy to buy oversized books.  Not Artists Editions, but bigger than the trades.

Unfortunately that's something that needs to be avoided. I can't get into a situation where I'm keeping 32 books in print - 16 volumes in two different formats. You can't do one book in a different format and then stop so there’s only that one book that looks like that. You really owe it to the consumer and to the material to keep it consistent. Again, you have to be sure of what you’re doing BEFORE you do it. Which is very tough. It’s already costing me an extra $4K on HIGH SOCIETY.

So, then I started thinking about doing weird things. Like, I know that a full-sized photocopy on glossy stock is the best reproduction you are GUARANTEED to get. Every pen line, all the nuances in the ink.  So, I thought, "What about a 20th Anniversary boxed set of issue 186?"  The photocopies on 80 pound glossy stock in a box. Then you can - at least theoretically - just do the one issue. THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL AND SHOCKING COMIC BOOK EVER PUBLISHED. You know of another candidate? And if it sells okay and people like it, then you just pick issues. I’m pretty sure I’ve still got all of the Prince Mick, Prince Keef issues. 85, 86 and 87. How big a box is that? How much does it cost to ship? How many could Diamond sell or does it make more sense to just do 25 signed and numbered and auction them on eBay?

Believe me, I spend a lot of time thinking of this stuff, but I’m also barely doing a page every three days.  Doing a mock up is going to take time that I just don’t have, so it’s starting to look as if there’s just going to be a stretch here - if you can call 3 or 5 or 7 years a stretch - where CEREBUS just becomes (with apologies to Matt Feazell) NOT AVAILABLE COMICS until I can devote some time to it in my mid-60s.  2016 or 2018 or 2020.  CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY sell the best, so - once we’ve got all the glitches fixed we’ve been working on for the last six months - keep THOSE in print.

I had NO idea that converting CEREBUS to digital was going to be such a headache.

And part of me thinks, Either a solution already exists and we just don’t know what it is because there’s so little demand for it - right now, me and Eddie [Campbell] and Colleen [Doran] it sounds like - that Silicon Valley is not trying to Hunt That Suckah Down or make sure everyone in the world knows about it. "Oh, Dude! Heck. That's a keystroke! You should have said something ten years ago!" Or it soon will be. I've been telling everyone if I spend the bucks on converting all 1,200 pages of CHURCH & STATE, you can COUNT on the fact that the minute I'm done THAT's when they’ll invent the keystroke solution.

Friday 27 September 2013

The Return Of Elrod

Cerebus #6 (June/July 1978)
Art by Dave Sim

(From Swords Of Cerebus Vol 2, 1981)
This story [Cerebus #7] was another small step forward. Having managed to sustain two (count 'em two) plots in No. 6, I was ready for some experimenting... this time the development of a mistaken identity segment, timing it so that the overlapping action follows plausibly. It wasn't a new idea, but it is a lot more difficult to do on paper than it is to watch develop in a movie or on a television sitcom. This was still primarily an intimidating time period, as far as stretching my abilities. My tendency was towards this kind of trade-off in the writing stage - if I'm going to do a mistaken identity scene, which required thought for accurate pacing, I better put Elrod in this issue, since his dialogue and pacing were easy for me to work with...

Thursday 26 September 2013

Drunk Again

Cerebus #5 (August 1978)
Art by Dave Sim

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Bran Mak Mufin

Cerebus #4 (June/July 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 2, 1981)
This story only has one joke, Cerebus' fur smells bad when it gets wet. Why, you might rightly ask, is this the only joke in the whole issue (barring the phonetic Pigtish pun names)? 


By the time I was finished drawing issue No 4, I was very happy with what was happening with Cerebus. Issue No 4 had humour, panache, charisma, style, wit, grace, charm, radiance, subtlety, balance, depth, richness. Contrast this attitude (my view of No 4 while I was trying to think up something to do in issue No 5) with the one in paragraph five of my introduction to Cerebus No 4 (in the last volume of SWORDS -- being my view of issue No 4 when it was drawn but not yet printed). You see why I'm crazy? Same story, but one minute it's garbage and the next it's a masterpiece. This was very pronounced between issues No 4 and 5. I was starting to get a grasp of the kind of material I thought Cerebus fans were looking for (there even WERE a few Cerebus fans by the time the fourth issue came out), but I was trying to get an idea of how to do a little less and still get away with it, so this issue was to be a lesson to myself; Dave Sim's First Annual Symposium on How to Fudge Twenty-two Pages and Get Away With It...

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Uncertainty, Disasters & Royal Screw-Ups

Cerebus #3 (April/May 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 1, 1981)
When people ask if I ever thought Cerebus would ever be this big, it is a far more difficult question to answer than it appears on the surface. Yes and no. Yes, I had a feeling that there was a need for a new kind of humour in comic books. A feeling that everyone was just a bit weary of the Will Elder style of comic book humour adorned with signs, visual puns and heavy-handed parody. There was nothing wrong with this kind of work, but comic fans had had nothing else for almost thirty years. Mad Magazine and Little Annie Fanny are still limping along on the remnants of it. We couldn't fail.

On the other hand, there are the days that Deni and I spent verging on hysteria sinking into depression and contemplating suicide. I can remember sitting at Toronto Conventions with stacks of issue number one watching people racing past without a sideways glance or (gnngsh) dropping their packages on top of those stacks of number ones while they looked through some dealer's stock of Marvel Two-In-One.

The point is: don't kid yourself. It is an easy matter to say "with issue 6 the circulation went up and then doubled with issue 16." To live through the uncertainty and the disasters, the royal screw-ups and the shaftings... not to mention the occasional good thing (sometimes they were very occasional)... is a day-to-day proposition.

Monday 23 September 2013

Frank Thorne's Red Sonja

Cerebus #2 (February/March 1978)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 1, 1981)
"We'll put out three issues and if it doesn't go so good, we can always back out and I'll have three sample issues of a comic book when I look for work." By the time the third issue came out, we had pretty much committed ourselves to the task of putting out a bi-monthly comic. I had decided when I finished issue #2 that I would do a Red Sonja parody in #3... Of course I ran into problems at the time. I was trying to do Frank Thorne's Sonja, inked like Barry Smith does, only more hair and aw nuts it doesn't look like anything.

Sunday 22 September 2013

That Difficult Second Issue

Cerebus #1 (December 1977)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Swords Of Cerebus #2, 1981)
So there was one problem with Cerebus' first issue not being a total disater. I now had to draw the second one. On the preview page (which was scrapped with issue 7) of the first issue, I had drawn Cerebus wearing fur and standing on a snowy slope while a number of indistinct shapes move menacingly towards him (as menacingly as indistinct shapes can move, anyway). I like the way Barry Smith drew snow in Frost Giant's Daughter and (as I haven't mentioned yet) the name of the game at this time was "Look as much like Barry Smith as possible". Short of developing a mid-Atlantic accent (half New York, half London) I was doing my level best, and ripping off the two-page splash to Frost Giant's looked like a good bet to get the second issue off to a roaring start. So sue me...

Art Auction: Dr. Who Prisoners Of Time #7

Dr Who - Prisoners Of Time #7 (IDW, July 2013)
Art by Dave Sim
Heritage Art Auctions:
Bidding End 29 September, 2013
Another very pretty actress and a bit of a challenge because of her Nordic features (particularly the lips) and being at the "no make-up needed" age. Put me in mind of Lisa Rittinger, Bob ("Boobah") Rittinger's younger sister at that age, as well, because of the "enduring into borderline adulthood baby fat" look (which is stunning in person but almost impossible to ink from a tracing without actually making her look fat -- particularly in this case with the bulky flight jacket she has on). The Dr. Who photo was selected exclusively because of the front end of the motorcycle in the foreground. An Al Williamson dream come true.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Gerhard Dreams

Cerebus Dreams (Following Cerebus #11, 2007)
Art by Gerhard (with Dave Sim) 
The limited-edition signed print 'Gerhard Dreams' is on sale now!
Click image to enlarge

(from World Without Cerebus)
The piece is based on an M.C. Escher perspective trick and I incorporated a couple of other Escher elements. And, of course, the Little Nemo falling out of bed element. I had laid this out in its entirety --- fully pencilled --- before I turned it over to Dave, who then pencilled and inked the Cerebus figures on the original. He also inked a few of the elements on the chess board. Dave added the pork-pie hat, wings and stinger to the pig standing on the earth, which of course was my "Earth Pig" Rebus Puzzle. Other than a couple of elements from the storyline such as the checkered bird and the albatross statue rising phoenix-like from the flames, the rest of the images (apart from just trying to be creepy, dreamy) were based on dream symbols (described in Dream Moods) as follows:

Snake: Signifies hidden fears and worries that are threatening you. Maybe alerting you to something in your waking life that you are not aware of or has not yet surfaced. May also refer to a person around you who is callous, ruthless, and can't be trusted. A sly or cunning person in your waking life. It may also represent something or someone who has slipped out of your hands.

Spider: Indicates that you are feeling like an outsider in some situations or perhaps you want to keep your distance and stay away from an alluring and tempting situation. A spider refers to a powerful force protecting you against your self destructive behaviour. Spiders are also a symbol of creativity due to the intricate webs they spin. They may also indicate a feeling of being entangled or trapped in a sticky or clingy relationship. It represents some ensnaring and controlling force. You feel that someone or some situation is sucking the life right out of you. To see a spider climbing up the wall denotes that your desires will be soon be realized. Perhaps you are feeling trapped by some relationship.

Wasps: Signifies evil, anger and negative feelings.

Lock: Signifies your inability to get what you want. You are being kept out of some activity or situation. Perhaps an aspect of yourself is locked up inside and needs to be expressed.

Skull: Symbolizes danger, evil or death or alternatively, a skull represents the intellect or secrets of the mind. You are keeping certain things hidden.

Hands: If you dream that your hands are detached or see disembodied hands then it indicates that you are not getting your point of view across. You are not being understood. Feelings of loneliness.

Moon: Represents some hidden, mysterious aspect of yourself. Also, the moon signifies your changing moods. A full moon signifies completion and wholeness. "Hung the Moon" - if you refer to someone as having "hung the moon," you think they are extremely wonderful or amazing or good.

Noose: Represents your lack of independence. You feel restricted and restrained from being able to express yourself.

Knife: There may be something in your life that you need to cut out and get rid of. Perhaps you need to cut ties or sever some relationship. (Note that the knife is cutting the rope that is “hanging the moon.”)

Fire (or Burning): May suggest you need to take time off and relax. Perhaps you are feeling burned out. Can signify purification, transformation or enlightenment. May suggest that something old is passing and something new is entering your life.

Palm Trees: Represents tranquillity, high aspirations also paradise and leisure. Perhaps you need to take time for a vacation and relaxation.

Church (or Chapel): May mean that you are questioning your life path and where it is leading. You are reevaluating what you want to do.

Bridge: Signifies an important decision or critical junction in your life. Represents a transitional period.

Castle: Signifies reward, honour, recognition. Alternatively, indicates your desire to escape from life's daily problems.

Chess: Indicates that you need to carefully think through the situation before making a decision. May also comment on how you have met your match.

Waterfall: Symbolic of letting go. You are releasing all of those pent up emotions and negative feelings. Also suggests that you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. You are experiencing difficulty coping with your feelings.

Cactus: Suggests that you are feeling invaded, that your space is being crowded into and that you are feeling suffocated. You need to defend yourself in some way. Also implies that you have found yourself in a sticky situation.

Message in a Bottle: Help!

Angels: Symbolizes goodness, protection and consolation or it signifies an unusual disturbance in your soul.

Hourglass: Denotes that time is running out for you or represents a situation that is being turned upside down.

Diamonds: Signifies wholeness of the self. You may be finding clarity in matters that have been clouding you.

Feather: May represent confusion, hastiness and loss of dignity.

Leaf: To see leaves in your dream signifies happiness and improvement in various aspects of your life. The leaves may also be a metaphor to "leave" you alone.

Key: Symbolizes opportunities, access, control, secrets, freedom, knowledge or responsibilities. You may be locking away your own inner feelings and emotions, or you are unlocking the answer to some problem.

Tongue: Represents the things you say and express. You may have either said too much or you may need to express yourself more.

Unlit Candle: Denotes feelings of rejection or disappointment. You are not utilizing your fullest potential.

Elf: Refers to some imbalance or disharmony in your life. Suggests that you need to be more carefree, worry free and lighthearted.

Climbing: Climbing up something signifies that you are trying to overcome, or you have overcome, a great struggle. It also suggests that your goals are within reach.

Curtains: Open curtains indicate that you are ready to reveal something about yourself.

Window: If the window of the house is dark it indicates a loss to your perception or vitality. To see a tinted window in your dream represents your need for privacy. You are keeping some aspects of yourself hidden. To see a shut window signifies desertion and abandonment.

Camel: Denotes that you need to be more conservative, that you are carrying too many responsibilities, burdens and problems on your shoulders as in the phrase "the straw that broke the camel's back." You tend to hold on and cling to your emotions instead of expressing and releasing them. Learn to forgive and forget. Alternatively, the camel represents your stamina.

Friday 20 September 2013

Cuts & Bruises

Cerebus #282 (September 2002)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Aardvark Comment, Cerebus #298, January 2004)
...Cerebus has been a big part of my intellectual and aesthetic life for most of my adulthood. I can't pretend to have always understood what you're on about: I'd say I only "got" maybe a third of Reads the first time through and only after a couple of re-readings within the context of Mothers & Daughters and the storyline preceding it did it really kick me in the head. Like everybody else, I thought Melmoth was a dreadful bore, surely just a giant prank on your part, until a similar re-read. (Now, if I only I could have a similar epiphany with Chasing YHWH...)

Part of what I look forward to with you monthly "visits" is the certain knowledge that on some level, you are going to fuck with me. You fuck with me in ways that are much bigger than a "what happens next?" kind of a thing. You fuck with me in ways that family cannot, that, that friends will not, that even other artists dare not. If you were fucking with me just to fuck with me, well, no great shakes there. Been there done that. In your case, the cuts and bruises I've sustained on this 20-some-odd year journey have fed in part to what I have decided - and what I have decided NOT - to be.

I wanted you to know that I'm going to miss hearing from you every month. What am I, a glutton for punishment or what? Maybe I can talk one of my friends into coming over and jabbing me in the eye on the third Wednesday of every month... no that wouldn't work. I'll give him a cast iron skillet, a syringe, a scalpel, the complete works of John Milton, and a blowtorch and tell him to surprise me...

Thursday 19 September 2013

Something Fell

Cerebus #58 (January 1984)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Following Cerebus #1, July 2004)
"Something fell." The phrase reverberates through the Cerebus storyline. When it first appeared in issue 58, it seemed to be part of just another quirky Cerebus moment. Its second occurrence in issue 101 appeared merely to reflect back on the first time. But by the third appearance, in issue 184, it had established itself as its own ongoing mystery. Before the series ended, the phrase would appear eight times, often at dramatic moments in the storyline. But despite its repetition, and the importance of the events surrounding its occurrence, the meaning of the phrase itself remained oblique. What fell? And from where to where did the "what" fall?

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The iPetition - Terry Phelps

(iPetition signatory no. 278, 13 March 2011)
Dave Sim is not a misogynist, he's just made an in-depth and fascinatingly idiosyncratic stand on the issue of the dark side of feminism. Let us remember that feminism is a political movement. It is not "women", and it is not a vulnerable victim to be protected from "brutish men". As a man who came of age during the birth of 70's feminism, Sim's courageous and heartfelt position is a unique testament to the social effects of a widespread and oft-irrational social movement that sought to disenfranchise talented young men like himself. Those who criticise Sim ought to do a self-check. You can go to one "women's studies' lecture and call yourself a feminist. Cheap entry. What Sim has done - whether you subscribe to every detail in Sim's worldview or not - is to compose a highly detailed and thought-through philosophical response to an overwhelmingly more powerful political movement than his lone voice. Regarding such a unique viewpoint, one is hardly going to agree with every aspect. But this effort will rank as one of the first sustained, complex responses in the postfeminist world to the unacknowledged evils of the feminist socio-political machine. I can't pretend to understand or agree with Sim's religious views. But I'm sure his social commentary will inform generations to come. 

Show your support for Dave Sim by signing the iPetition.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Auction: Dr Who Prisoners Of Time #6

Dr Who: Prisoners Of Time #6 (IDW, 2013)
Art by Dave Sim 
Heritage Art Auction:
Bidding Ends: Sunday, 22 September 2013
This one was a natural because of the Neal Adams gestures of the hand stretched into the foreground (I considered, briefly, enlarging the hand and forearm about 20% on the photocopier and then grafting them onto the rest of the photo to really "Neal it up" and opted  to give the whole photo more room instead). More...

Monday 16 September 2013

Crisis On Infinite Pixels

Cerebus #207 (June 1996)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard


Computer printing "severely challenged" by the task of reproducing Cerebus' tone

I thought I'd provide A MOMENT OF CEREBUS with some explanatory visual material of what the impasse has been about to this point since I know everyone has been waiting patiently for the 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF HIGH SOCIETY and fully restored CEREBUS 16th printing.
Figure 1:
This is using the photocopy function on my printer: my printer which probably cost $60. I took a first printing of the HIGH SOCIETY trade paperback from the Cerebus Archive and -- not adjusting the DENSITY function in any way, just shooting a photocopy of page 207 and enlarging it 268% -- this is what the photocopier came up with.

[I picked page 207 to use as the example because it holds the record for the most ever paid for a Cerebus interior page -- roughly $2700 -- and it was scanned from the original before I gave the original to Heritage Auctions. It seems to me to be worth pointing out what "state of the art" is in printing my "high end" pieces of original artwork. To compare reproduction on this panel, go to and look at Lot#92285 in Auction #7073, Friday February 22, 2013 ]

Then I took that photocopy and, clipping out the Cerebus head, I then enlarged that already enlarged head 400% (the maximum size my printer/photocopier will enlarge to). The large image is what it came up with. Please note this is a regular "nothing-special" copy of the first printing of HIGH SOCIETY just pulled at random from the 7 copies contained in the Cerebus Archive. If you have a copy of the first printing -- or, in fact, ANY copy of HIGH SOCIETY printed by Preney Print & Litho (which, at the moment, is ALL copies of HIGH SOCIETY) -- this is what page 207 would look like as well if you enlarged this panel from your own copy.
Figure 2:
The inset head on Figure 2 is a photocopy from my same $60 photocopier/printer of the same page, page 207, enlarged the same amount, 268%, from Lebonfon's PROOF of the current HIGH SOCIETY printing.

Now, compare the detail here to the detail on Figure 1. Notice that the dots on Cerebus in Figure 1 are still dots. They've gone fuzzy but then you would expect them to go fuzzy. They're being massively enlarged hundreds of times. But they are still round, black circles. On Figure 2, the best ACCURATE description of them would be "patterned interspaced largely analogous shapes aligned in rows". they are all roughly the same size and they are each confined, roughly, within a comparably-sized area. This is the challenge posed by Cerebus' dot tone screens for today's all-computerized printing
Figure 3:
This is a photocopy from my same $60 photocopier/printer of the same page, page 207, only this is from the "unbound printed copy" which I was sent by Lebonfon after I approved the proof. And I have approved page 207 as seen in Figure 2. Even though there is a disparity between the quality of image between Figure 1 and Figure 2 I always factor in that things that are glaringly apparent to me as a publisher and -- more importantly -- as an artist, are going to either be invisible to or unimportant to the average consumer. However:

Figure 3 is an example of Lebonfon's first attempt at the actual printing. This is what the printed page would have looked like if we had gone straight from the proof stage to printing without having another approval stage (which George wisely insisted on). Or if I had approved this as being an accurate finished representation of Figure 2 based on what I had seen at the PROOF stage, which I just couldn't, in good conscience, do.

Compare the already degraded "dots" on Figure 2 with those on Figure 3. To the extent that you could describe them in Figure 2 as, say, "roughly dot-like" or "dot-ish" in Figure 3 you can't even ACCURATELY describe them as you could those in Figure 2 as "regularly patterned shapes aligned in rows". They are now "irregularly patterned shapes completely dissimilar from one another protruding in each other's directions".

So this is the primary problem: the process of reproducing mechanical tones -- tones applied as "Letratone" adhesive film at the time -- is incredibly difficult with our current technology. It WAS difficult back when Preney was printing the books as well but for different reasons: what Preney was producing was a photographic negative -- basically a super-sharp clear photograph of the art page on a very expensive 100% accurate camera with very bright lights. It was an exacting photographic task to get the image right. But the advantage was: a round dot is a round dot is a round dot. The high-end camera reproduces exactly what it sees in super-sharp definition. No matter how much you enlarge it, it's still a round dot.

That's not true of anything reproduced on computer. The very term "dpi" points to the source or the problem. Dots per inch. You can impress yourself with the fact that you have scanned something at 2400 dpi -- and many do impress themselves with this: HI REZ! HI DEFINITION! -- but a round dot is no longer a round dot. It is actually a grid, a series of squares -- pixels -- that are either white or black. Depending on its size -- how much smaller than an inch it is, what fraction of an inch wide it is (and the dots on Cerebus are all very small fractions of an inch in width) -- that's how many pixels will be required to reproduce each round dot. Common sense tells you that you can't accurately reproduce a circle if you are breaking it down into little black squares. A circle is smooth and round. Squares are right-angled and sharp. That's what you're looking at in Figure 2 and Figure 3. The computer perceives it as: "This area here is 1/500ths of an inch wide. It is black. So it is made up of 8 black pixels. Four of them go here. Two of them stick out to the left. One of them is up on the top. One of them sticks out to the right." And where the 8 black pixels go varies depending on where the dot lands on its 2400 little squares per inch. "On this one, one of them sticks out to the left. Where four of them were on that other dot, here there are only three. Where the fourth one was black there, here it is white. Where one of them stuck out to the right on that other dot, here two of them stick out to the right."
Figure 4:
Illustrates a little more clearly what is going on on Figure 3: This is a 400% enlargement of the same "dots per line" 30% tone that was used on Cerebus, LT17, and what happens when you scan that tone at 1200 dpi. This is what those irregular jagged shapes in Figure 3 actually are: it's called a moire pattern. Because each dot has been "added to" by the dot overlaying it -- some on the top, some on the left side, some on the right side, some on the bottom -- they form new shapes and the new shapes form a pattern which makes it look as if Cerebus is plaid instead of a flat grey. These are all over HIGH SOCIETY. George Gatsis maintains that he's fixed all of these, and certainly that was the case with the PROOF stage (Figure 2). They were still visible to me, but most of them I could live with on the assumption that I have a more practiced eye than most people would have when they looked at the printed book -- assuming that the moire patterns stayed roughly as coarse as they were in Figure 2. Instead, they worsened dramatically on 111 pages out of the 1,000 pages that make up CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY. George faulted Lebonfon's quality control and Lebonfon faulted George's digital files.

Basically, I had learned to live with degradation of quality. It's built in. It's the best result you can get with a grid laid overtop of every aspect of the artwork. George had persuaded me that the printing could be much better, while admitting that the problem existed.

[It's worth pointing out that this change from non-computerized to exclusively computerized technology was one of several things that killed Preney Print & Litho: they were unable to make the leap to the next generation of computer printing because, even by 2004 when they were doing the last printing of HIGH SOCIETY, virtually NO printing was being done from photographic negatives or from hand-drawn artwork. CEREBUS was the last. Everything else was digital. The customer supplied the raw material on disk, it was inputted into a computer and made ready for printing and then printed digitally on a computerized press. One of their employees had taken Preney's computerized press system and done a few "work-arounds" -- that was his job as their computer technician, to make their computer system work, so that it was able to print the jobs -- but had, however, unbeknownst to Preney, thus voided the warranty. Which is a pretty common "whoopee cushion" in digital printing I've found out. Your computerized press doesn't actually work so you have to fix it so it does work. But if you fix it, the company that made it says you've altered the equipment so now your warranty is no longer valid if anything major goes wrong -- which it always does. So you end up with a $75,000 inert paperweight and are in need of a new generation $50,000 version of that same press]

Originally, when I started working with them back in 2007, Lebonfon was still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates out of them as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon phased it out. Which was a sensible commercial decision to make, given the hard realities of computer printing having brought any other kind of printing to an abrupt end. Including the technology which could faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns.

It was no longer possible to print on an actual press that was equipped to take that original photographic negative and to make from it a metal printing plate and to use the metal printing plate to produce printed copies. Unless computerized printing evolves further, Cerebus will never again be made up of round dots. Just irregular jagged shapes.

I finally volunteered to pay close to $4,000 to have the worst examples fixed at the printing stage. Not the same as I would have to pay for the entire printing job -- which totals more than $10,000 on each book, $20,000 in total -- but a substantial amount. Patrick Jodoin, my sales rep at Lebonfon, assures me that Lebonfon is capable of printing the books and fixing the 111 substandard pages but always with the qualifier that they can only do that if the digital files don't have the moires on them.

After a months-long delay, I've just seen (September 9th) a set of proofs for 110 of the 111 corrected pages and -- more importantly -- revised first signatures for HIGH SOCIETY (the book is made up of 32-page "signatures", 16 in the case of HIGH SOCIETY) which I have signed and numbered. The quality on the proofs is about the same, in some cases better, in some cases worse, but the signatures are definitely better.

As I say, I do have written assurances from Patrick Jodoin that Lebonfon is capable of printing the books. George and I are now waiting to see a second set of unbound copies of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY to check if the finished printing is closer to the proofs and that the moire patterns are within a "liveable" level of coarseness (i.e. apparent to me but not to the casual reader).

I'm hopeful this is the last update I need to provide on this on-going situation. It's definitely the last one before either a) the books are printed or b) I finish issue #3 of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND (God willing sometime around Halloween).

We'll see when we get there.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

Sunday 15 September 2013

A Letter To 'The New Yorker'

"Lifelong New Yorker Bernard Krigstein, waiting for the subway.
The latest in my series of portraits of 'legends of comic books'."
Bernie Krigstein (2012) by Drew Friedman

Dear Sirs,

Owing to an unfortunate, for a general interest magazine, choice of anecdote, Art Spiegelman may have (I am sure, inadvertently) left some of your readership with the entirely mistaken impression that Bernard Krigstein's characterisation of Mr. Will Eisner as "the enemy" (Bullbuster, 22 July 2002) represents anything other than a singular, largely, inexplicable and wholly indefensible - albeit fascinating - prejudice on the part of the late Mr. Krigstein.

I feel safe in saying that Mr. Eisner is universally recognised as the single greatest pioneer in the "language" of comic-book storytelling, the innovator of many of those techniques and "breakdowns" which (as Mr. Spiegelman rightly asserts) Bernard Krigstein used to such good effect in his own work - work which occupies a place of undisputed high rank in the pantheon of "comic-book greats", (albeit on a plateau which is widely agreed to be somewhat below that of Will Eisner). I think it worth noting that, years after Mr. Krigstein had abandoned the field, it was Will Eisner who first coined the term - and made the first tentative explorations within the confines of - the "graphic novel" and is, even today, recognised as one of the greatest practitioners (as is, one hasten to add, Mr Spiegelman, himself).

It would be of interest to many of us with a life-long absorption in the comic-book field to read - preferably in some "industry" publication where those space restrictions implied by a general interest publication would not be a problem - Mr. Spiegelman's speculations on what he would see as the reasons underlying Bernard Krigstein's extraordinary perception of Will Eisner as "the enemy".

Dave Sim
Kitchener, Ontario

(from 'Letter To The New Yorker', Cerebus #282, September 2002)

Saturday 14 September 2013

Cerebus: In My Life - Scott Tipton

Scott Tipton is a New York Times best-selling author and comic-book historian with a wide variety of both graphic novel and prose works to his credit. Scott’s works include The Star Trek Vault, Build Your Own Enterprise, Comic Books 101, Klingons: Blood Will Tell, Illyria: Haunted, Astro Boy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Khan: Ruling in Hell, The New Crusaders, Star Trek/Doctor Who: Assimilation Squared, and Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time.
Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time (IDW, 2013)
Art by Dave Sim

It was the summer after his first year at college. My brother came back home and handed me what looked like a phone book.

"Just read it. It’s great."

It was Dave Sim's High Society. And it was great.

At the time I first read it, I had only been a Marvel and DC kid, so Cerebus was a revelation. Long, complex stories that stretched out over years. Beautiful, expressive artwork that seemed to effortlessly mix cartooning and draftsmanship. And it was funny. Incredibly funny. And yet the book could turn on a dime and become some of the most tense, compelling comics I’d ever read.

As I made my way through High Society and both volumes of Church & State, it struck me what an amazing thing it was Sim was doing here, the kind of long-term storytelling that simply hadn’t been done before (and, I’d argue, hasn't really been done since).

Looking at my own comic-book work from the last few years on projects like Angel, Spike, Star Trek and Doctor Who, I can see Sim's influence here and there, whenever I have a character try to express skepticism through a sidelong glance, whenever I really get to sink my teeth into dialect, whenever I make use of repeated panels to telegraph a point or punctuate a gag with a weighty pause, whenever I ask the letterer to give me a small word in a huge balloon to accentuate its quietness. Simisms, I guess you’d call them. I hadn’t really realized how much I owed him when it came to my own work.

Which is why I’ve been so delighted this year to have Dave Sim creating beautiful variant covers for my 12-issue Doctor Who anniversary miniseries, Prisoners of Time. A comic book of mine, with a Dave Sim cover? Never even imagined it possible.

If I could tell that kid reading the High Society phone book for the first time, he'd never believe it.
Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time (IDW, 2013)
Art by Dave Sim

Friday 13 September 2013

Skimming The Surface

Cerebus #135 (June 1990)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Following Cerebus #2, December 2004)
...The difference between literature and entertainment is ambition, the interest in examining ideas and the human condition, in addition to making people go boo-hoo-hoo, ha-ha, and wheee! So that became the primary reason for doing the annotations: it was a reaction to the conclusion that I came to just prior to Going Home: I don't think any of the readers understand how much I'm putting into this besides boo-hoo, ha-ha and whee!

I mean as an example, I was really pleased with the Mrs. Thatcher sequence in Jaka's Story turned out, because I thought I presented the two viewpoints pretty effectively: law and order (Mrs Thatcher) verses "do what ever you want and to hell with the consequences" (Jaka). But after the book had been on the market for eight years or so, it was pretty obvious that everyone reading it was just skimming the surface. Boo, Mrs Thatcher, you're mean. Yay, Jaka, you're pretty and fun! You go, girl. It seemed to call for annotations at the very least...

Thursday 12 September 2013

Carla Speed McNeil: Self-Publishing

by Carla Speed McNeil
(from The Comics Journal #280, July 2007)
...To give full credit to Dave Sim, I would not be doing this, I would not be doing this the same way and I certainly would not have gotten started when I did this, if it weren't for him on his little soapbox back in the day when it was a lot easier to make money self-publishing than it is now. But just the same, a lot of what he had to say made sense because I've been hearing it all my life - get up, do the work, the money will follow. If the money is not following, figure out what you can do to make it come your way. It's not always easy, and if it doesn't work past a certain place, then you have to do something else. My family is all small-business one way or another. They're all either independent professionals or they're just running their own small company. The only trepidations they had about my going into this was that there was no one else in the family doing anything like it - not even graphic design. So there was no one to advise me about this specific industry. But they could tell me everything I needed to know about scheduling C tax forms and how much of my studio could legally be considered a tax write-off. For me, self-publishing is not an artistic movement: It's a business model, and if it doesn't work, you do something else.

Carla Speed McNeil self-published eight collected volumes of the Eisner Award-winning Finder comic-book series before moving to Dark Horse Publishing for the release of Finder Vol 9 and the Finder Library omnibus editions.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Cerebus #200

Cerebus #200 (November 1995)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Following Cerebus #2, December 2004)
...The Cerebus story ends in issue 200 in the sense that he won't let go of Jaka and won't see who and what Jaka is, so whatever progress he is able to make through the rest of his life is severely limited compared to his potential. There is the rising action from 111 to 200 which is fitful but largely along a straight line, a vector and largely vertical. From there it's all ricochet. He's going to live a long time, so he has to end up somewhere, but the somewhere is really irrelevant after issue 200. Through his choices, he forfeits his chance to be a major catalyst in the history of his time and his world and becomes, instead, just a minor functionary. Get him to write down the dream that he had and hide it in the fireplace so that someone useful and with  a functioning brain and a sense of proportion can find it umpty-ump number of years later. Reminds me of the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here line: "Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead-role in a cage?" To me, yes, that's exactly what Cerebus did, which is why he ended up the way he did.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Thinking Of Gene

Gene Day (13 August 1951 – 23 September 1982)
Art by Dave Sim, colours by Keiren Smith

(from Swords Of Cerebus Vol 3, 1981)
People tend to be amazed that I manage to produce a twenty page comic book once a month. In some cases, "amazed" doesn't half describe their reaction. It is Gene Day who is responsible for that ability in me. The fact that he was the only artist I knew personally who had made the jump from amateur to semi-professional to professional imprinted his path on my own ambitions. If he were to add up every dollar he has been cheated out of, over the course of his many years in the business (I don't think he'd mind me saying this) he'd be extremely wealthy today. I learned that sense of risk from Gene. There are people out there who'll take you for every penny, and there is, unfortunately, no way for the beginning artist to avoid them. It is part and parcel of freelancing to new and unproven companies. Having seen all that Gene went through, just by virtue of the size of his output and the number of companies he worked for, I was prepared when something happened. Don't take it personally. Do something else and sell it.

I think of Gene whenever someone comes up to me at a convention, or writes a letter, asking how to get into the business. How to stop doing art for free and start doing it for money. I see him hunched over a drawing board (it's hard to picture Gene any other way) leaning back from time to time, assessing. Always assessing. Sizing up the market. Comparing editors. Praising a magazine's cover design. Trying to figure a new means of distribution, another place to submit material. The man is a walking encyclopedia of Techniques for the Ambitious Artist...

Howard Eugene Day (1951-1982) was the Canadian comic book artist best known for Marvel Comics' Master of Kung Fu and Star Wars series. Dave Sim credits Gene as his earliest and most influential mentor, and the inspiration for his own self-publishing efforts. From 1985 to 1986, Deni Loubert's Renegade Press published four issues of Gene Day's Black Zeppelin, an anthology series primarily featuring stories and painted covers Day completed before his death of a coronary on 23 September 1982 at the age of 31. From 2002-2006, Dave Sim and Gerhard created The Day Prize, an annual award given to a comic creator chosen by them from the exhibitors at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) held in Columbus, Ohio. In February 2009, the Shuster Awards received permission from Gene Day's widow, Gale, and brothers to name the annual Gene Day Award For Self-Publishing in his memory. Gene was inducted into the Shuster Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday 9 September 2013

Definition Of Character

Exchange Magazine For Business (1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Taken from Thanks Margaret!)

Sunday 8 September 2013

Eight Days Of Dave - Day 8: The Dave Sim Fund

Hi Tim - I think what I'm going to do is just blather -- since this is our first time doing "after the issue" -- and leave it up to you if you want to run the whole thing all at once or dribble it out.  Issue 2 of The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond took about two and a half months. I hope I get faster but I'm not counting on it.


Well, you know, I'm always open to donations. As you can see from my After Dead Dave plans, I really do see everything as belonging to the most devoted Dave Sim / Gerhard / CEREBUS fans. The way I structure things mentally is to spend as little as possible. I pay myself about $1,000 a month. I pay all my bills and the company's bills. Apart from that I don't really spend money. I consider it insulation from having to sell or relocate all the material that I think the fans deserve, when the time comes, to see in its natural habitat (as it were). "Cash in limbo". If I don't need it to pay bills, it's there to buy some more time way up ahead. Five more days that the house doesn't need to be sold and all the files and correspondence relocated.

I've had people send me envelopes of cash. Seriously. I got $270 from a guy in Australia. That's $270 I didn't have to take out of "cash on hand". I declare every penny. You can write a cheque to Aardvark-Vanaheim if you want to sustain the company or to Dave Sim if you want to sustain me.

I mean, we're all -- however many of us there are and there's no way of knowing -- in this together. Whatever you contribute now, you may never live long enough to see the house because you may not outlive me. But for x number of people, it's OUR thing. If A Cerebus fan gets to see the house someday because of what THIS Cerebus fan donated...

I don't know why we are that way, but that seems to be the way that we are.

To me it's not much different from buying my self-published work. It goes directly to me and makes it possible for me to keep going and to preserve the whole works for...well, I don't know. For whoever.  In the same way that if there had been an Alex Raymond House, five generations of Alex Raymond fans would have had to preserve it before I got to see it. And if you're an Alex Raymond fan, that would be reason enough.

Okay, I've been awake since 1 am and it's now 6:45 pm so I'm running out of caffeine power.

Next time I'll try to make it over to the Kickstarter site for an update.

But, really, I have to get serious about this: six days a week, twelve hours a day for at LEAST the next three years.

Hope a bunch of you are inclined to stick around through the much bigger breaks in communication.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Eight Days Of Dave - Day 7: Zootanapuss Artists Edition

Hi Tim - I think what I'm going to do is just blather -- since this is our first time doing "after the issue" -- and leave it up to you if you want to run the whole thing all at once or dribble it out. Issue 2 of The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond took about two and a half months. I hope I get faster but I'm not counting on it.

Idyl (Dragon's Dream, 1975)
by Jeff Jones


The ZOOTANAPUSS ARTISTS EDITION is really me trying to come up with something I could do an Artists Edition OF. First of all, the linework. You really need something that you're going to see more in it if it's really big and the ZOOTANAPUSS pages [Glamourpuss #22-26] seemed to fit the bill. One of my all-time favourite things is my over-sized Jeff Jones IDYL collection. So, that's what I was picturing. It would be my own homage to IDYL and over-sized.

Not much more I can add to that.

Doing stuff with IDW is a lot like having your work in the Heritage Auction catalogue.  It's very intimidating. "The HELL you're doing a Frank Frazetta EC Artists Edition -- do MINE first!" And Scott Dunbier is finding more stuff all the time and is being offered more stuff because it's the Top of the Pyramid. So, it's the same as the CEREBUS COVERS books. Scott will get to you when he gets to you. There are dozens if not hundreds of projects that would take precedence. That's Dave the dispassionate comic-art fan. I get to be the guy that did the 6,000-page graphic novel. What of the 6,000 pages would have a place in the line-up?  I really don't know. How many pages is it? I mean, they're not doing BONE, they're doing "The Great Cow Race" which is...150 pages? What IS "The Great Cow Race" in CEREBUS? According to ME, or according to MOST people? The lineup has got to be getting longer every day, so ZOOTANAPUSS was really, What would I like to see of mine that size? And it's the IDYL analogy. I'll take a place 75 or 100 people back and say, "Well, okay, I'll get my ZOOTANAPUSS oversized collection when I'm in my 60s or 70s." I can't even look at what else they're doing. "Under my coffee table" books already take up as much of the space under my coffee table as I can afford. They'll send me whatever I want.  Well,  don't tell me what you're doing and I won't be tempted because I'm out of space. The Wally Wood book needs it's own room practically. Scott was proofing the MAD book when he was up here, so I inherited IDW's MAD proofs. I got Scott and Ted to sign it. Weighs about 20 pounds. Where am I going to PUT this?

I'm saving all my space for SECRET AGENT X-9 by Williamson and RIP KIRBY by Prentice for as long as IDW keep doing them.

Friday 6 September 2013

Eight Days Of Dave - Day 6: Dr. Who Prisoners Of Time #12

Hi Tim - I think what I'm going to do is just blather -- since this is our first time doing "after the issue" -- and leave it up to you if you want to run the whole thing all at once or dribble it out.  Issue 2 of The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond took about two and a half months.  I hope I get faster but I'm not counting on it.


Chris just faxed, How about all eleven Doctors on the last cover? And then quickly added "I'm picturing Jack Kirby floating heads."  I'm not even thinking about it, but in retrospect I realize that he's trying to let me off the hook a bit. I mean, I'm going to get paid the same for eleven Doctors that I got for one Doctor. To me, I was just finding it hard to believe that I made it from DOCTOR #11 back to #5 and filled in #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10 without getting bounced off the book -- that we were actually PAST my #11 "we'll need this mid-century" cover. It really wasn't until I was sitting down and going "Wait -- ELEVEN DOCTORS WHO?!" And knowing that I couldn't just drop back and punt. I made it this far. I'm poking fun at myself, but there's a lot of pressure in that situation.  This is a venerable franchise. This is the 50th anniversary. I was 7 when it started. Millions and millions of fans who know what these guys look like and what these guys don't look like. So, I'm thinking, okay, the Tardis with a halo of Jack Kirby heads.  How do you break up the field into 11 quadrants. Um. 12 minus 1. Okay, what goes in the minus-1 slot?  Beats heck out of me. So I start going through the photo reference on disk and I'm trying to go "Okay, #1 needs to be looking to the right and down if possible." So I'm filling in the blanks and then I go, wait, where does the LOGO go? Okay, start over. Put the logo in first in pencil. Now divide by 12, subtract one.

And that was when I hit the publicity still of...four of them?  I guess it was a BBC special where they brought them all back or brought a number of them back. And they're in a row. And suddenly I'm seeing the Neal Adams cover. An 80-page Giant (yes?). The class photo thing that he updated from the BIG ALL AMERICAN comic book. Even Alex Ross ended up having to do it a number of times. I can't remember what the book was, but it was a gorgeous cover, with the spotlight effect.

See, and you can't do that if you're trying to do a cover a day. The top row, the actual four or five actors together, that's fine. But now I have to find seven other figures that look just as natural standing next to each other. And I have to re-size the photos. How big would he be? I don't know, how big does he look? 62% reduction. Let's try 58%. Oops. Too small. Is it? Or am I just placing him too low? No, too small. Let's try 59%. Okay, 60%. Alternate 59% and 60%. 60% it is.

I had to do all the costumes first. The costumes had to look as if they were lit the same way, as if they were standing next to each other. A lot of sitting back and looking.  Do they LOOK as if they're next to each other? If they don't why don't they? Put in a shadow, take out a shadow. Finally, had all of the Doctors clothes done and it really seemed to work. They all looked as if they were hanging out with each other. All that was left was the faces which were barely visible because I'd been erasing around them and the edge of them. It was a very weird effect: 11 DOCTORS WHO without the faces.

At that point John Scrudder left a phone message about something (else) that had gone wrong with Kickstarter.  And he starts off, "So, it looks like Margaret Thatcher is dead."

So that's how I found out that Margaret Thatcher had died. Sitting there staring at a cover of No Face DOCTORS WHO.

Make of that what you will.

Or don't.