Friday, 30 May 2014

Weekly Update #33: Square One

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 his search for a workable solution to this problem, which is delaying the reprinting of the Cerebus and High Society collections (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
Cerebus #112/113 (July/August 1988)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

This week I'm going to be replying to Sean Robinson's post from last Friday with my reasons that I'd like him to do a close assessment of an unbound copy of the CEREBUS trade which (God willing) Lebonfon has already sent him.

Hi Sean!

Thanks for your posting last week.  As is usually the case with me, it requires actually getting back to or close to "Square One" -- in this case potentially having all or most of the money, thanks to the AMAZING generosity of the Kickstarter pledge partners --  for me to start thinking coherently about where, exactly, Square One is.

In this case, that seemed to me to be:  okay, how good or bad is the CEREBUS volume (volume one) as it stands right now? And it seemed to me that you were potentially a very good judge of that because you're such a big fan of my work (and thank you for that!) and you have quite a bit of experience in reproduction in 2014 both in your "day job" and with babysitting your own comics projects -- with LOTS of tiny little lines -- for 100% accurate reproduction.

In short, you should have been sent an unbound copy of CEREBUS some time ago.

Lebonfon, based on my own assessment of a year ago, makes the point that there are far fewer pages that need to be corrected on the CEREBUS volume than on the HIGH SOCIETY volume.

So, one of the things that I'd like to hear from you is:  do you think that's the case?  Looking at the book as a fan of the cartooning on CEREBUS, as a fellow artist and someone already familiar with the book: as a fan of CEREBUS itself.

I'm recommending a head-to-head comparison, going page by page with your own copy of the CEREBUS trade or with CEREBUS back issues or both.
Cerebus Vol 1, Page 205
Before & After
There's a lot of heavy lifting that George Gatsis has already done.  I was just checking again the tops of pages 205-206 (originally in issue 9, the sword fight between Cerebus and K'Cor) which had been in need of restoration since...issue 9 came out if I'm not mistaken. The line work is still missing on most of the backgrounds (it would be GREAT if those pages ever came onto the market!) but George has carefully cloned CEREBUS lettering and replaced pretty much every word. That isn't something that just happens on its own.
Cerebus Vol 1, Page 206
Before & After
You've remarked yourself on the amount of clean-up that George has done, including replacing the banners on all of the splash pages and sharpening the corners.

So, obviously, we want to retain all of that.

(and it also needs to be said that George and I have both "written off" the entire issue #12 that I did in duo-shade. It's as good -- which is to say terrible -- as it's ever going to be. I have thought of completely redrawing it, but I don't draw that way now and haven't for over 30 years, so it would be a matter of making something really bad into something even worse or as bad in a different way).  

But there ARE other questions:

For example, we are coming down to crunch time on culpability:  where there are flaws are they, in your view, George's fault or Lebonfon's fault primarily? i.e. how bad is the printing job itself? You've already said that you think, from your experience with pre-press, that Lebonfon should have contacted me when they saw the digital files and alerted to me as to what the printing was apt to look like. Which was very helpful to the guy (me) who has to make these judgement calls about culpability without expertise in digital pre-press.

Or is the job that bad at all? This is where I need another set of eyes that aren't those of the guy that drew them and which are as familiar (if not more familiar) with the original artwork than with the reproduced form of the work. Which stands to reason.  I spent the better part of a day or two looking at the original artwork while creating it while I probably spent less time with the printed copy than the average reader!

The printing on the CEREBUS trade will soon be paid for.  Which means whatever you think is USABLE of the PRINTED signatures -- which is what you will be looking at in the unbound printed copy, is something we won't have to pay for on the second round. I'd prefer that you not refer back to my own list of "parfait" signatures, but do your own assessment, as I say, head-to-head.

I mean, even being as brutal as you can be about what's there on the printed page, if even ONE signature is viable and (another question) if you think Lebonfon is viable as a printer, then that's one signature that we won't have to pay for on the next around (assuming that we ARE sticking with Lebonfon: which hasn't been established).

Be as specific as you can be.  It'll make for a LONG post, I know, but that way I can do screen captures and then go through my own unbound copy (and George can go through his) checking what it is that you're talking about.  And then we can offer our own agree/disagree assessments on each item.

What I'm trying to avoid is just forging ahead and incurring another $10,000 printing bill -- or most of another $10,000 printing bill (if we stick with Lebonfon).

I go on the basis of "what sticks with me" reading people's comments.  One of the things that has stuck with me from your recent comments was the results of scanning pages from the printed books at 2400 dpi -- that the line work was breaking up at 600 dpi and 1200 dpi but that at 2400 dpi they looked like enlargements from the books themselves.  Which sounded good to me  :).

Which leads me to ask: are we over-thinking this?  In terms of simplicity and guaranteed results are we better just scanning the printed books at 2400 dpi and -- anywhere that there's a visible flaw in the printed page -- then retreating to negatives or the original artwork (where possible)?

As you've also said, Who is going to notice the kind of flaws that we're talking about besides you, me, George and maybe a handful of other people?  And that's definitely part of the call I'm asking you to make.

But -- let me put it this way -- as a VERY fine-line pen and ink artist, you're aware of the experience of looking at someone else's reproduced work for inspiration.  And, I'm sure, you're also aware that that tends to be a "where the rubber hits the road moment" when you start looking closely and realize that you can use THIS reproduction in THIS book to see what's actually going on.  Whereas THAT reproduction in THAT book just isn't clear enough to do that kind of assessment or derive that kind of assessment. "I thought I could use this when I saw it in the bookstore but that was just wishful thinking."  I had that experience back when I used to go to The Beguiling in Toronto.  A big book on Comic Art with a beautiful reproduction of a 1956 RIP KIRBY strip shot from the original artwork and reproduced quite large.  Do I pay $79 for a coffee table book with ONE IMAGE that I actually want? I decided no and I've regretted it ever since.

Or with images on the Internet.  They LOOK clear on Google Image, but as soon as you print them out or try to enlarge them on the screen, they go fuzzy in a hurry.

So, I'd definitely like to know if this unbound printing of CEREBUS falls into a THIS book or THAT book category.  Or if ALL of it does or MOST of it does or WHICH SIGNATURES do.

Thanks for your work on the bookplate.  Good call on the size of dot on Cerebus.  You really ARE a Cerebus fan.  It'll be interesting to see yours and George's work on a single sheet of Avery labels.

To all of you:  hope to hear from some of you tomorrow as the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE Kickstarter comes to an end.  I'll be (God willing) in the "COMMENTS" section from 4:30 to 8 pm.  I'll be answering COMMENTS from #37 and up if you want to "get a jump" on everyone. John will also be tuning in to answer any questions you have about your pledge items and George will be there for a special announcement at 6 pm!


George Peter Gatsis said...

to TIM:

Dave asked me to prepare a before and after of 205 and 206...

If you can post these links within DAVE's post... that would be nice.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed how pricing of the Latter Volumes of Cerebus (15-16) is being leveraged on due to their being out of print? Last Day avgs. $60 American, where Latter Days is running upwards of $120.

It's irritating to see. That money's not going to the creators, it's going to speculators.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey Dave,

Will do. I'll go through them as soon as I receive the printed copy. Will get the portfolio files to you soon.



Jeff Seiler said...

Square One comprises two of my absolute favorite issues of Cerebus. Nearly wordless, yet telling a poignant, compelling story that serves as a great bridge to the next storyline.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick reply to address the comment of "Why didn't the press stop initially and pull the reprinting".
In hindsight, perhaps this was the call to be made, however when we're running with approved files supplied by a customer, our objective is to manipulate the press to perform to the maximum limits of the files used to make the plates. If the files show the sky to be red, there's no way the press can make it blue, and if there's images, however slight they may be, in areas that should have them, they're going to print.
We have files supplied to us from all types of publishers, large and small, and what's acceptable for one may not be for another, but once we receive approved files, we use them to make plates and print according to those files.
That being said, we are where we are now and are willing to press test any new files, at our cost, to ensure they're properly formatted to acheive desired results.

Dean (Lebonfon)