Friday, 24 January 2014

Weekly Update #15: 'Cerebus' & 'High Society' Reprinting

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
30th Anniversary Signed & Numbered Edition
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

As of Saturday the 18th, my fax machine stopped receiving faxes so I've had to reconfigure how I do these Weekly Updates on the progress of the CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY reprintings.

Which is, maybe, all for the best because posting directly here, gives us all more flexibility in including participation of all of the "stakeholders".  What I'm picturing is Tim running these updates every week and then everyone involved having a chance to post their comments after the post.  I'll come in here to the coffee shop every Friday and download the comments for the previous week and then look at them and comment on them the following Friday.  So, I'll always be a week behind all of YOU in knowing what's going on.

In the list of "stakeholders", I'd include, first, all of the CEREBUS readers, fans and collectors who are waiting for the books to arrive in stores.  Second, the store owners who are waiting for the books for customers that (in many cases, I'm sure) they only HOPE are still interested in buying them. In both cases, I sincerely apologize for the unbelievably lengthy process of getting the books as fully restored as possible and back into print.  For those of you who just want to, you know, VENT at this point, please feel free (within the reasonable limits that Tim has established in keeping this a venue for calm, rational discussion) (and for which I think we all owe Tim a great debt of thanks).

Third? A three-way tie: George Peter Gatsis who has given so unstintingly of volunteer time he can ill afford in getting the books restored to the best of his ability and continues to shepherd those restorations every step of the way.  I hope he will post any comments he has on continuing events in this lengthy process.

Diamond Comic Distributors which has gone far above and beyond the call of duty in keeping the purchase order for 1100 signed and numbered gold logo HIGH SOCIETY's "live" many months after it would have, in the normal course of events, have long ago been voided.   Their support across the board has been remarkable and gratifying is very, very much appreciated.  ANYONE at Diamond who has anything to contribute to the discussion is more than welcome to do so.

And Imprimerie Lebonfon who continue to work with me and George AND Diamond to see that the books get printed.  We're -- tout ensemble -- always glad to hear from notre amis de Val d'Or. Bien sur, n'est ce pas? 

The latest news comes in the form of a phone message from Patrick Jodoin at Imprimerie Lebonfon (Bonjour, Patrick!) notifying me that the General Manager of Lebonfon is sending me a letter notifying me of what they will be charging Aardvark-Vanaheim for correcting the signatures that contained unacceptable reproduction the last time we had gotten to this stage: unbound printed copies sent to George and myself for approval.

I confess, this surprised me a little, because I thought -- over the course of the last few months --  George had made a very persuasive case that the problem with the printing originated with inadequate proofs -- scanned at 300 dpi instead of 600 dpi.

However, in these situations -- "first time through this particular mill" -- in this case, the "mill" being the printing fully restored books,  I always like to err on the side of flexibility.  I can certainly understand Imprimerie Lebonfon being loathe to just write off the ENTIRE first attempt to produce viable unbound, printed copies.  But, at the same time I don't want to set a precedent that every time an unsatisfactory printing job is produced Aardvark-Vanaheim ends up having to pay for the parts that are unsatisfactory.

I have to anticipate "where this is going" and I can't rule out the possibility that the next set of unbound printed copies will have residual -- or new -- flaws.  Hopefully, far fewer.  And, hopefully,  we are far closer to having approval by George and myself in the not far distant future.

But CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY are, in all ways, just the beginning. The next book that needs to be restored -- more tweaking than full restoration according to George's preliminary notes to me when I sent him Lebonfon's last printing -- is READS, and then CHURCH & STATE I and then CHURCH & STATE II.  A massive undertaking and one that I'm not looking forward to as a one-man operation if Aardvark-Vanaheim has to absorb all or even most costs involved in correcting unacceptable printing.

So, I'm hoping that Imprimerie Lebonfon can take the same longer view and that we -- in company with Diamond -- can work out some way to recover Lebonfon's COSTS in producing the parts of the books that George and myself have deemed unacceptable, with Aardvark-Vanaheim paying PART of those COSTS and Diamond perhaps agreeing to take a larger quantity of books than they would otherwise be inclined to take and to pay for that additional quantity over a series, of say, quarterly payments, the quantity matching, in terms of dollar amount, a third of the additional costs incurred by the need for corrections.  And that Lebonfon would accept comparable instalment payments for their out-of-pocket COSTS which, I'm sure, we ALL -- tout ensemble (encore une fois) -- understand that they want to recover.

I realize it's unusual to negotiate these sorts of things in a public forum, but there is a downside to "the buck stops here":  the longer this goes on, the more people are going to be inclined to "blame Dave Sim". Which I understand.  Which is why I try to do EVERYTHING with complete openness and transparency.  I don't mind taking responsibility...or blame..."the buck DOES stop here"...but I also like people who are GENUINELY interested (as opposed to "gawking at the traffic accident" interested) to GENUINELY know what's going on at all times where that becomes necessary.  And I really think that has been necessary since the date when Diamond Comic Distributors' Purchase Order for the GOLD LOGO SIGNED AND NUMBERED HIGH SOCIETY would have, without internal intervention -- (and thank you again to Tim and Matt and all concerned) -- been voided, last August.

Thus, these weekly updates.

Progress this week on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, issue No.4, page 11, page 12 and 13 completed, additions begun to page 14.

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.


David Birdsong said...

I am grateful for the weekly updates. Waiting for my order to arrive for so long is not the most pleasant thing in the world, but knowing that the book will arrive at some point is better than wondering if it will ever come. I would rather the time went into making it as good as it can be. All of those interested in owning it can have the definitive edition and there is no need for Dave and George to spend any more time on upgrading it.

Speaking of my order I want to give another shout-out to Westfield Comics in Middleton, Wisconsin. I ordered the book from them when it was first offered and when I contacted them and let them know what I knew about the delays they were more than happy to hold my order until the book is ready and they are planning to make the future "remastered" volumes available. it's a shame I can't get the same service from my local comics shop, but these folks are just wonderful and I can get any comic I'm interested in including back issues and usually at a discount.

Eddie said...

I don't know anything about all of this, so apologies if these are really basic and dumb questions, but does anyone know if shooting pictures of the original art and then printing those is a viable solution for moire problems, or do you still end up having to deal with 'computer translation' problems ("You're, Ah say, you're speaking in circles son, and all I'm seeing are squares")? Or is it a matter of also hoping that the technology catches up to the point where it's possible to scan it all in at a high enough resolution and print it without losing the quality as well? Or will that never be possible with the current printing processes?

It's almost like this needs to be flagged as one of the biggest Open Problems of the early 21st Century.

Ray Cornwall said...

Hey, Dave.

It's certainly possible to "blame Dave Sim", the printing company, the volunteers, the Republicans, the Democrats, the Arachnocapitalfeminists, whatever, for the delay. But let's face it- the real enemies here are time and technology. This isn't something that's a people problem- it's a project, a massive undertaking, that is taking longer than anyone thought because of the state of the original negatives and the move towards digital printing. Blaming anyone for this is silly.

Here's my question.

Right now, I can't imagine Cerebus, the 300-issue graphic novel, is much of a revenue generator. Not all of the books are available from Amazon, who's probably the biggest graphic novel seller out there. (I'm not counting used copies, which wouldn't make Dave any money.) While the first book and High Society are available from Cerebus Downloads, the rest of the story is out of print digitally, so only 16% of your big graphic novel is available for ethical purchase.

Ethical, you say? Whatever do I mean?

I mean that Cerebus has been bootlegged digitally for a very long time. According to the Pirate Bay tracker, there's at least 25 people either downloading or sharing the entire run right now, as we speak (14 seeds, 11 downloaders).

I own a copy of these scans. I also own every issue of Cerebus (either originals or Bi-Weekly reprints) and every phone book, and I participated in the Kickstarter, and I bought the Cerebus digital phone book. And I bought every issue of Glamourpuss. And I'll buy Strange Death, too. So while I own the scans, I at least know I paid up when the opportunity was available.

You don't get a dime on those scans. While you didn't do the scanning, you and Gerhard did the hard part- writing, drawing, lettering, etc. Why not get paid for it?

I've read all the scans- when I did my recent Cerebus re-read, rather than pulling everything out, I loaded everything onto my iPad for convenience. The scans are REALLY good. And the letters page, backmatter, and covers are all there. They're not perfect, and not as good as your hi-res scans, but they're certainly high enough quality for a top-of-the-line iPad. Can't you sell them, through Cerebus Downloads, or maybe even Comixology? Heck, you could add a page of notes, not as much as you put into High Society, but a page or so nonetheless, put out a few issues a week, and get some revenue out of your work. And whatever print product that's available would still be available, and a revenue stream to pay for the continual restoration of the overall Cerebus work would be there.

I might be nuts- this might be a bad idea. I'm not a lawyer, nor do I work for Comixology or Diamond or whatever. But at worst, I wanted to pitch the idea to you. I'd be happy to send you a USB drive of the scans if you don't have them.

Either way, thanks for everything you've done, and good luck with The Strange Death of Alex Raymond and the High Society reprinting project. (I have a pre-order from DCBS- they're still holding onto that order. I think you'd be surprised how many retailers still are rooting for you, even now.)


Jeff Seiler said...

Hi, Dave! It's nice of you to do this; sorry about the fax machine (I remember looking at it when I was there a couple of years ago and thinking it was ancient then. . .). Just wanted you to know that, since I'm more of a Luddite than you, I've read all of these announcements/updates without understanding very much of it but with interest.

My take on it is this: I'm with you, as I've written so many times, all the way beyond #300, wherever that may take us. I patiently await the releases with absolute, 100% confidence that you will deliver as perfectly as possible and that, when it is delivered, it will be above and beyond anyone's and everyone's expectations. I mean, isn't that what you always do? Definitely, in my repeated experiences.

Looking forward to your comments on all these comments. Aardvark Comment Lives!!!

Daniel Callahan said...

Hey, Dave.

I plan to order both CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY as soon as they are available online. The same goes for CEREBUS: THE COVERS and THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.

(Why online? I'm partially disabled.)

Thanks for the updates, and thanks for all of your work.

Anonymous said...

I think Ray has a great idea there and something like this should definitely be done. This website would be a great spot to advertise it as well.

You could even use the bootleg scans as they are. I would gladly get those and pay Dave for them (not all at once, but incrementally).

I would buy something like a digital version of the bi-weekly series, with all the issue-by-issue material (notes from the president, photographs, and letters columns) and with extras like commentaries, including the bi-weekly commentaries/Swords of Cerebus commentaries.

Put out one of those a month, collecting a few issues at a time, and I'd definitely buy something like that online. And sell the online versions that the bootleggers scanned as "bootleg versions".

- Reginald P.

Michael Grabowski said...

I'm sure Dave is as excited about the prospect of selling counterfeit scans of the rest of Cerebus as he was about the counterfeit printing of the first issue.

Cerebus TV said...

Dave told me early on he didn't begrudge people getting the bootleg scans, downloaded or on CD/DVD - and he made an official announcement about it.

Some folk had even bought them packaged at flea market venues and sent us copies to the http://Cerebus.TV postal address to show us just what was readily available.

Nevertheless, nothing stops anyone who got them - or has been distributing them - from sending him a donation for that.