Saturday 22 February 2014

Weekly Update #19: '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 1 & Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
Cover art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Checking in.

Working on page 22, the last page of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND No.4.  Still have to do the Notes section in the back, production notes for Chris Ryall and colouring notes for Jay Fotos.  But...very close.  Which brings up a key point -- I started the issue December 14 and I'm close to finishing it February 21.  Which would lead your average person to say, "Okay, so it takes you two months to do an issue."  Well, no.  Even if I was done today it would be two months and one week.  "Well, whatever."  Well, no NOT whatever :).  Over 18 issues, if I say I'm going to get them done in two months and it takes two months and a week, that adds FOUR MONTHS to the length of time it takes to do them.  If that isn't factored in, the result would likely be 16 issues coming out on a monthly schedule and -- just as you were waiting for the Big Payoff -- suddenly you'd have to wait FOUR MONTHS for No.17.

Just sayin'.

This -- the Weekly Updates -- I think, is proving to be a successful experiment in Complete Transparency in running a business. Since I'm not a Computer Person or an Internet Person, I'm always thinking "What genuine use could you have for the Internet?"

It seems to me this is it, potentially.  Everyone gets to read my "mail" before I do, so we all know what it is that I'm talking about when I come in to the coffee shop to weigh in.

Big plus (to me):  genuinely interested readers and fans know exactly what's going on so anytime anyone wants to disparage Dave Sim as "crazy" and "evil" and wonder aloud what I'm doing right now, they can tell them. "Just go to A MOMENT OF CEREBUS and read the Weekly Updates. That will tell you all you want to know."  

I think George and Sean are making REAL progress in their discussions. Too technical for me in its particulars, but where it does intersect with my own areas of expertise:

1)  I'm very aware of the differences between, say, IDW's Artists Editions and 100% accurate reproduction of the INTENT of the artwork.  i.e. Wally Wood didn't intend for you to see where he pasted up a correction or whited out and patch of brush work. Scott Dunbier makes interesting choices some places, opting to "go dark" a lot of times to pick up more of the paste-up/white out Reality of the original artwork.

Sandeep, by contrast, definitely did the bitmap conversion on glamourpuss.

My personal preference is for the latter.

[and for glossy paper -- I think the best reproduction so far -- apart from glamourpuss :) -- is the Barry Windsor-Smith RED NAILS book which is on glossy paper. IDW prefers trying to match to the texture of the paper to the Strathmore art paper most guys used. But, that's apples and oranges to me. Guys didn't draw on glossy paper because it wouldn't take pencil very well, erase well, or hold up to man-handling. If the pencils just magically appeared on the page and could be inked without any further erasing, slick paper would be more precise. They were using fibrous art paper because it worked with pencil AND eraser AND ink and (often) tone. I did a revised Inside Front Cover for #3 on Strathmore paper and pasted it up on my usual 172 Illustration Board.  I think I know why those guys liked the 3-ply Strathmore with kid finish so much :)]

This will be an interesting situation when each issue of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND is (God willing) finally published as a black-and-white version and a colour version.  My inclination would be to do the glamourpuss bitmap conversion method and cover up white-outs and paste-ups and things in the black-and-white version.  But I'm doing it through IDW -- which has definitely showed a preference for the paste-up/white out Reality method.  It should be something that Ted Adams, Chris Ryall and Scott Dunbier are happy with and fits in with their way of viewing comic art. It's THEIR money that's making it possible.

There are many things that George has picked up in his restorations (MANY things) --

[as an example, a trail of smoke from a candle being lit in #7 -- it was done in white paint and the white paint wasn't thick enough to make a definite trail. I never really got the hang of how to mix white paint so it was thick enough to be picked up by the camera but not so thick that you have to roll in between your fingers and stick it down by hand (just kidding).]

-- that I don't know if they would survive the conversion to bitmap.  That's where I can't adjudicate the discussion.  I would definitely opt for losing the pencil lines where they are being picked up where that doesn't compromise any linework that has been missing to now.  I agree with Sean, it takes the reader out of the story -- particularly the guidelines for the lettering -- and the CEREBUS trades are, first and foremost, "popular editions". They're meant to be read. And where you err, you have to err on the side of "literary/visual" anywhere where you would be interfering with the READING experience. As long as you don't lose tiny lines that the "visual/literary" reader is entitled to. ALL THE WAY into the page and balancing between those two things -- I'd tend to leave it up to the guy doing the heavy lifting.

Photocopied panels, I'm in complete agreement. Kim Preney finally had to explain to me that photocopies only LOOK accurate and clean. They're actually formed by the toner powder adhering magnetically to the charged area. So the "thin line" is actually closer to a pattern formed by iron filings on a piece of paper over a magnet. When you shoot that with a camera, you're going to be shooting that "flare" of iron filings that aren't readily visible... and get a fuzzy image. Where that happens -- like Weisshaupt taking a drink early in CHURCH & STATE -- I'd suggest scanning the first panel which is the original and then matching the placement where the photocopies are)

Way, way, way off in the future -- if anyone is still interested in CEREBUS -- someone is going to face the choice of scanning Gerhard's original artwork for the bags of gold backgrounds (which are still in The Cerebus Archive) in CHURCH & STATE and digitally substitute them for the bags of gold photocopies on the original artwork, matching area to area.

How DEDICATED are you to restoration of INTENT?  I sure wouldn't want to do it.

Watery ink, I'm still dealing with on a daily basis. I'm doing the thinnest lines I've ever done on the STRANGE DEATH pages and there does come a point where -- through evaporation -- the pen nib just won't do fine enough lines because the ink is too thick. This is particularly true when the pen nib is brand new (my solution to not being able to Master the Gillott 290 pen nib -- a brand new Hunt 102 is the same fineness of line but it requires changing nibs VERY frequently) and I'm trying to copy, say, Ray Burns lettering on a RIP KIRBY panel that is maybe 1/20th the size that HE lettered it at. So, I dilute the ink -- actually using distilled water which keeps mineral impurities out of the mix -- but then have to wonder:  is IDW going to be able to pick this up? First of all on the black and white and second of all on the colour version? Which is a persuasive argument for their Reality Original method. You'll pick up a light brown letter that's supposed to be black that you're apt to lose when you're making everything Either Black or White.

Following on from the "heavy lifting" on CEREBUS restoration: Possible solution:  George provides Sean with his finished digital files and Sean goes through them looking for instances where reproduction choices are, in his view, interfering with the reading experience.  Then, the discussion could move over here with Sean saying:  "Okay, here's what can be done.  If I adjust the reproduction to lose the pencil lines on this page, THESE lines are going to fade.  THIS is the tipping point.  Here's "-1" "-2" "0" "+1" "+2".  What say you, CEREBUS fans?"

Or CEREBUS fan -- since there will probably only be one person still reading at that point. :)

But, that to me would be the hidden benefit to running a Completely Transparent Business:  the person who has the level of interest to stick with the discussion right to the end, IT GETS TO BE THEIR CALL!  COOLNESS!

I'm sort of kidding I sort of think.

Travis P.:  Thanks for your comments.  I don't want to make too much of a point of it, but I infer that anyone who hasn't signed the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim Is a Misogynist" petition thinks I'm a misogynist and -- to me, compelled inference --  doesn't want the immaculate purity of their Feminist reality trodden upon by me. Particularly including requests for things like assistance, advice or comped books. It's all guesswork which is why I asked Margaret to start the petition. When Rob Walton signed and Chester Brown didn't, at that point I knew that there was NO WAY I could ever guess who thought I was a misogynist and who didn't.  Same reason I wouldn't contact Colleen Doran or Eddie Campbell.  You don't want to make a mistake in those cases. Or, I don't, anyway.

Speaking of which, the Petition has 20 EXTRA NAMES since, like two weeks ago.  WHAAAAT??!!

The best jump we ever had in the last  six years was when Oliver's significant other Carma Chan decided she was, single-handedly, going to get the 2,000 signatures. Which I knew she wouldn't. But I think she got something like 12 in the space of a month or so. Which was INCREDIBLE!

Not sure what's going on.

Okay, still waiting for a response from Lebonfon both here -- Monsieur Auberge pere ou fils (turns out that the General Manager is the son of the President: very reassuring that Lebonfon is a family operation: so it's not as if internal communication is going to be a problem) or Patrick or Josee -- and also a quote as to what they are going to charge to do a test signature of George and Sean's (at the moment theoretical) final fixes.

They're probably just mulling over what George and Sean are talking about.

Also looking forward to seeing THE YEARS HAVE PANTS and the first two volumes of the A DISTANT SOIL restorations when Eddie Khanna sends them to me.

See you all next week!

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.


Keith said...

I think it's a mistake to assume that anyone who hasn't signed the petition necessarily thinks Dave is a misogynist. Other than the people he has DIRECTLY requested to sign it, I would imagine most people are simply unaware that the petition even exists. With all due respect, AMOC and the petition occupy a small and untravelled little corner of the internet. Since Dave maintains almost zero web-presence (other than this and a handful of similar fan sites), he has basically ceased to exist for our significantly net-centric society. In this age, anyone who doesn't maintain a Facebook page/Twitter/blog/personal website with more or less constant updates becomes functionally invisible.

MIchael said...

Or conversely, knowing about the petition and actively choosing not to go sign, it doesn't correlate with thinking Dave is a misogynist.


Anonymous said...

It's fundamentally difficult for something as esoteric and divisive as Cerebus/Dave's work in general to 'hack it' on the interwebs. I used to go to a few Transformers message boards, and something THAT artistically innocuous (meaning a pre-packaged franchise designed to appeal to a set of demographics and NOT stir up controversy by attempting anything too thought provoking) has caused major fights, rifts, alliances, cliques, etc., which created NEW web sites for certain fans and splinter factions, and so on (sort of like how there are twenty or thirty different types of Baptist churches littering flyover country). If Dave did have a dedicated web presence, I can't imagine that it would be immune to that, especially given the sheer number of people with an axe to grind vis a vis sexism/misogyny. On your right, sad and pathetic Men's Rights Activists- on your left, shrill and relentless Shia-feminists. Stuck in the middle, people who just appreciate the artform of comics and don't mind reading things they may or may not agree with provided the arguments made are well put or at least interesting reading material. Then you've got people that are feminist but aren't unreasonable or who are anti-feminist movement but pro- women or people who just like funny animal comics (a significant portion of which are horrifying furries), and the odd Hemmingway/Wilde/Fitzgerald fans... so on.

Cerebus/Dave's work is rather far removed from something like Batman or Spider-Man or Dragon Ball Z or Penny Arcade. Heck, the online presence of Mirage Studios wasn't that amazing either (before selling out- I haven't kept up since then, but I'm sure Viacom will/has take/n full advantage of social media). I can't really think of too many comics that ended a decade ago that have sites as dedicated as AMOC or Cerebus Fangirl to keep them relevant to the internet. It's also really cool of Dave to actually communicate/coordinate with these fan sites.

Getting to the point: The petition isn't a bad idea per se, and perhaps the limited attention it receives is probably a blessing in disguise- mostly because you're not as likely to have a group of people who decide to spam it with self-righteous sarcasm (people signing it so they can leave nasty comments, for example). However, it's really, REALLY not an accurate measure of Dave's cultural cache for the reasons mentioned in Mike and Kevin's comments.

As ever, thanks to Dave for keeping us informed on the progress, and thanks to George and Sean for not just being fans, but for actually doing something to keep Cerebus alive.

-Wesley Smith

Unknown said...

Listen, if it means that much to you, I'll sign the thing--but when I tried, I could barely make head or tail of the sign-in process, and it seemed to want access to a lot of information that they'd do God knows what with.
I'm disinclined toward participating in disavowals of Thoughtcrime, anyway. Regardless of which axe-grinders are demanding my acquiescence, it's demeaningly obsequious, and usually demonstrates (particularly with the bimbocracy, as I prefer to call it) that you can prevailed upon in ever-increments in the future. I was a Quaker in the days of the Civil Rights movement, and after nearly fifty years of meeting expectations to rend my garments in an orgy of socialist self-criticism over this or that unconscious, subconscious bigotry, I'm plumb tuckered out!

Margaret said...

whoever is having issues signing the petition, please send me an email at cerebusfangirl at cerebusfangirl dot com and we'll see if we can rectify it. the ipetition site changes every so often that it is hard for me to keep up with it - but together we can probably solve it.

Also, friendly reminder to everyone who wants to sign it - please ensure your first and last names show up once you sign it. If only a first name or "handle" shows up, I will delete it - if there is an email associated with it, I'll attempt to email you to let you know what I am doing and why. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think Keith is right, and the reason the petition hasn't got more signatures is that most people simply aren't aware of it, and don't much care if they are. Dave's assumption that anyone who hasn't signed thinks he is a misogynist is unwarranted.

I haven't signed the petition because I think that Dave is as misogynist, so to sign would be intellectually dishonest. But even so, it is not thus inevitable that I would feel soiled by Dave's mere presence. I associate with lots of people whose opinions I don't share. Dave paints his reclusive lifestyle as a favour to feminist society, but it looks more like he's just making himself feel better.

And Wesley, I echo your thanks to George and Sean for their work on Cerebus.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, btu

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Dave and George,

I'd be happy to assist in the bitmap conversion if you'd like, as soon as I have the files from George. I'm confident that every detail you're mentioning could be transferred with that technique with no problem. The things that tend to go away are, no surprises, pencil and smudgies and things under ink.

As I mentioned before Dave, and as I did on the page George sent me, you can individually select and adjust separate areas. In the case of the page George sent me, there was a very thin series of lines on Silverspoon's face on one particular panel that disappeared/broke up when I adjusted the panel as a whole. So I just selected that element separately, contrast adjusted just that selection, then did the remainder of the panel. This is fortunately a very quick thing to do if you already have great files, and you know what you're looking for. I think the page I adjusted took somewhere around 5-10 minutes tops.

I've only seen the one page so far, a page from the Silverspoon pages, and the only things on that page that were included in George's version of the page that would potentially go away without consciously trying to keep them were pencil marks on some of the figures, pencil guides for lettering, pencil guides for areas of black, and on the fire on the page, some hatching that was visible beneath thinner black ink. (What it looked like to me was you did the fire with some hatching, and then said, this isn't working, and used a brush more boldly on top of it afterwards. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about as "noise" versus "detail.")

So! Seeing as you like this particular method Dave, my proposal is this--that you or George identify areas/pages of concern where detail is present in the new scans but not in the original printings, and that either George or myself go through and do the bitmap conversion, taking special care with those areas/panels/pages to make sure the new detail is retained/doesn't break up.

As I mentioned before, it's actually very nice to work digitally for pre-press because of the varying exposure you can do. It would be a real pain to try to shoot a photographic negative that has this amount of potential variation of exposure, as you and Gerhard found out on a monthly basis, such as the Sanctuary double page spread, which has fill-in in some places and broken-up lines in others. Being able to adjust exposure per area is a really nice feature of digital.

Other thoughts?

Interesting to hear your thoughts on paper, Dave. Glossy always looks a little strange to me just because of the shininess of the ink and the reflective surface. I prefer a more matte stock myself.

I'm a freelance illustrator and teacher at the moment, so my schedule varies pretty widely from week to week and even month to month, but I should be able to carve out some time for this soon if/when you're ready to move forward. Although this is something many people are capable of doing, not a unique skill to me or anything.

Do you need any more demonstrations of the effects of these techniques? I sent a digital version of the adjusted page to George, but I could also post some examples of close-ups on my website if anyone's curious to see.

Eddie said...

I'd like to see them Sean. Maybe it could even be run on AMOC?

Travis Pelkie said...

Oh, man, who showed Dave how to use emoticons? :( Something about that's just not right ;)

Even though I've "encountered" famous comics people on the internet before, I'm still a little giddy when a famous (or "famous" or "Famous" or Famous -- see, I've read Dave's writing!) person name checks me. Drooling fanboy here.

Since I hadn't chimed in about the Cerebus and High Society new editions, I'll just say briefly that since I have most of the issues in some form, it would be preferable to have these new editions be the best possible, as I probably will only be buying the one version/copy, and it'd be nice if it was the best possible version, which if I understand at all, the tag team of George and Sean should be able to pull off.

Then again, was the Cerebus/High Society Dave (writer or artist) the best possible Dave as writer or artist? ;)

As to the comments directed to me, I did just want to throw it out there about Eddie maybe contacting Staros about the Alec book. One benefit of email is that you can take a couple minutes, type up a quick note, and send it off, and if that person ignores you, you didn't spend too much time on it. (also a drawback of email ;) )

Staros ranked Cerebus pretty high in his Staros Report '96, which WAS post-186, so I figured/hoped (naively?) that any possible negative views towards you would be mitigated by the notion of assisting in "remastering" one of the key achievements in the comics medium. So call me Pollyanna.

I've known about the petition for a while, but never even looked at it until this week. With all the things most people have going on in their lives, signing the "I don't think that Cerebus guy hates women" petition is probably low on the list of even those of us who are fans.

But if it's working for you, I know I won't be changing your mind.

So the petition has 20 new names in the same time period that Tim posted the CGC fumetti...coincidence?

Well, yeah, by definition. But is there causation? Maybe. I know it reminded me of how damn FUNNY Dave can be, and that's usually a good way to endear yourself to people. "Spoonful of sugar" and all that. Only the dullest of wits would think that Dave actually sits at home with a Cerebus puppet and regularly talks to it and fights with it.

I mean, really, Dave's told us for a while that he stopped "strangling the earth pig puppet" years ago now...

I didn't do more than skim parts of the "Double Helix Prism" post, but I can confirm, as a big Vonnegut nerd, that he did tell of eulogizing Asimov by telling a Humanist crowd (the American Humanist Association, maybe?) that "Isaac is in Heaven now".

Now I just have to hope that this Captcha actually works on the first try. I seem to have to prove I'm not a robot several times before it'll post my comments for me.

Travis Pelkie said...

Ah, the captcha did work! Maybe complaining about it proves you're not a robot ;)

Forgot one other thing: as the new Previews does not feature the High Society DVD from IDW, does that mean that has been pushed back?