Friday, 13 June 2014

Weekly Update #35: The Clock Is Ticking

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
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...

Howdy, everyone!

This is responding to Sean's fax of 8 June which seems to have run as a "Comment" on last week's Weekly Update (if you want to get the background on it)

Hi Sean!

Thanks for getting fax capability!

In answer to your question, this is where we start going in several directions at once.

PRIMARILY, however (given that we're all "on the same page" i.e. that this printing is not going to be the LEGACY EDITION of the CEREBUS trade):

1) Start with the replacement of the severe problem pages and get those done.  

Our target right now is to have the 16th printing of the CEREBUS trade in Diamond's system by August 1st.

The reason for this is that Diamond wants to list the CEREBUS trade in PREVIEWS for items in stores in October and they will be starting work on that PREVIEWS the first week in August.  Having been "burned" on HIGH SOCIETY when it looked as if we were going to have books last year...and then ended up being nowhere close...they don't want to PUBLICLY say they have the CEREBUS trade until it's actually in the warehouse. Which is completely reasonable.

So this is going to involve you co-ordinating with Dean directly.

When does Lebonfon need to have your finished digital files in order to guarantee (God willing, of course) that what they have printed so far of the CEREBUS trade, with replacement signatures, is bound and shipped and in Diamond's Plattsburgh warehouse by the end of next month?

The answer to that question -- and I'd build in a week or so leeway for yourself -- tells you how much time you have to work on the CEREBUS trade.  Which is why I say do the severe problem pages first and then move onto secondary problem pages, tertiary problem pages, etc. with the time available.

I say "this is where we start going several directions at once" because I think it makes sense for you to keep going on the CEREBUS trade once you have met the Lebonfon deadline (whenever that is) and

2) Then start working on the LEGACY EDITION.  

That is, we want CEREBUS to be DONE, if possible, in calendar year 2014.  Otherwise we're just going to end up with each of the trade paperbacks PARTLY done and partly NOT DONE.  

3) But we also need to be moving ahead on HIGH SOCIETY (hopefully you've gotten the unbound copy by now).

So, in terms of your billing for this, we also end up spending Kickstarter money in several directions: problem pages prep for CEREBUS,  LEGACY EDITION prep for CEREBUS, problem pages prep for HIGH SOCIETY, LEGACY EDITION prep for HIGH SOCIETY, printing bill for CEREBUS...and I imagine that will take care of ALL -- and maybe a little more than ALL -- of the Kickstarter money on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE.  Which we still have to figure out how much is going to be there after all of the expenses are paid and we aren't going to know that until all of the expenses have been paid which is probably not going to be until August at the earliest.

And THAT -- when all of that is done -- will just bring us to the foot of the Sheer Rock Face that is CHURCH & STATE I, and beyond that CHURCH & STATE II.

That's why I say the Restoration and Preservation challenge is pretty close to an insurmountable task.
We can't look too far down the road or we'll all just give up.

I'm definitely willing to give Lebonfon the benefit of the doubt as a printer, but -- in terms of your question about getting them to quote on the scanning -- I don't have a lot of confidence that they even understand what it is that we're talking about, since they keep bringing up "copydot" as if that answers all questions.  What I think we need to do -- YOU need to do -- is to provide them what you consider as close to "foolproof" digital files as possible.  That is, if you got these digital files as a pre-press guy, the printing would be pretty close to a "no brainer".  And that's going to work better if you are supervising Dr. Mara -- and welcome to the team, Dr. Mara! -- in person and doing what you need to be doing from there.

[In terms of the severely limited budget we have, I would definitely prefer that you invoice Aardvark-Vanaheim for the expenses of the "CEREBUS severe problem pages prep".  And then the LEGACY prep, then HIGH SOCIETY problem pages prep.  Somewhere along there, I might have to say, Okay, stop.  If it looks like the money is evaporating too quickly (given that it will evaporate).]

[Also if you can let me know if you think the next stage is going to be exponentially more expensive than the one before it (when you know that).]

This way -- with you handling ALL of the final prep in digital form -- when you have the printed copy of the CEREBUS trade, you can look at it and be able to instruct Lebonfon in what they need to do differently -- NEXT TIME.  i.e. better solid blacks or whatever the problem is.  Or you might just have to say, "Dave, you really need a better printer. They don't know what they're doing."  And if that's what you have to say, that's what you have to say -- and that's what I'll have to do.

Right NOW, I would say:

3) fax me a list of what individual ISSUES you need for the "severe problem pages" stage 

and I'll see about getting those to you either as SWORDS, individual issues or early printings of the CEREBUS trade and I'll FedEx you what I have on Monday.

The fallback position, I think -- if you can't find a good reproduction on a "severe problem page" in anything you have or anything I send you -- is to rent some ftp space and ask all of the fans who are still with us on this (when I snap my fingers, you'll wake up and you'll feel absolutely wonderful! And all you'll want to do is to help Sean! SNAP!) if they could scan X page or Y pages at 2400 dpi and post them.

You could even show them here at AMOC with enlargement scans "Here's where the problem is. I don't know if it's on ALL printed versions of this page but it's on all the ones that I have access to.  HELP!"  Then everyone can check their back issues, their SWORDS and their trades to see if they have a better version of it.

Okay, that's as far as I've gotten on this.

The clock is ticking.

I'll be watching for your fax.  

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by donating at or via Paypal.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (2008 to 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.


Dave Kopperman said...

I must have missed something - what are the Legacy Editions?

Anonymous said...

Final printing...hence legacy, at least that's how I understand it

Margaret said...

::wakes up:: I have a sudden urge to get out my original issues and an eye loupe. . .

Glad to see progress being made. And Sean, whatever help you need, just ask.

CerebusTV said...

The ftp site is available for free for submissions from fans for the scans.

Anonymous said...

Super glad to hear there's forward momentum.

I don't suppose "legacy" might imply... hardcover?

-Wes Smith

Dave Kopperman said...

I'm doubtful it's either the final printing (seems a bit odd to spend three years raising funds for a full digital restoration only to do one last printing of the work), or hardcover editions, which Dave is quite practical in dismissing as a quixotic goal, as there's not enough of a market for it.

My money is on paperbacks with better archival paper, hopefully with improved (i.e., not perfect bound) binding. And I mean that quite literally: my MONEY is on those, because I would buy those in a heartbeat.

Michael said...

Seems like a hardcover kickstarter campaign would be the put up or shut up test. Once the artwork is at an acceptable level determine the cost add an appropriate buffer and then do a campaign.

I, like most of us posting here ,all ready have the individual issues, the swords reprints, along with the Phone books.

The only versions of Cerebus reprints i will be buying at this point is a hardcover version, on nicer paper with nice solid blacks.

Dave, give me a chance to throw my money at you.


Jason Penney said...

Not the final printing, but the version all subsequent printings will be based on. The "done messing with this, this is as close to perfect as you're going to get" version.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Thanks for your offer for help, Margaret! Will definitely be in touch.

Yes, Jason is right--legacy, as in, done, complete, for the record!

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Sent this to Dave this morning, and he requested I post it here. Here goes!

Hey Dave,

Quick summary of day 1--

Just 1 ½ hours of on-the-clock time put in.

Spent the time reaching out to Dean to get the schedule together, and assessing the available assets. Ran some tests on the problem pages, did some evaluative scanning, did some scanning speed tests. Wrote to a few collectors who have early issue pages in their private collections. Converted several of George's prepped pages, compared pages converted straight from source material.

The take-aways--

1. After the first few issues, this is way more of a scanning job and way less of a restoration job.

2. Other than individual aberrant pages and the fairly terrible camera work on issues 1,2,3, some of 4, 5, I think there will rarely be a need to go to the original artwork. In other words, as we're proceeding past Cerebus V1, the only reason to source things from original artwork will be if there's something objectionable about the original printing. This will save an IMMENSE amount of time. This means that, essentially, scanning the best available sources (negatives, followed by print when neg not available) at 2400 and then converting this and dropping it directly into a template seems like in most cases give us the desired result.

Realizing this has been the primary reason I'm still casting around for the most economical scanning solutions. If we can bring down the cost on this portion of it, we'll be in great shape overall; as it's looking now, I'll essentially be just overseeing the project, looking at the source material, training Dr. Mara, and doing whatever non-straightforward adjustment is called for. (Squaring up panel borders, correcting the Cerebus dot density when it was off in the original printing, identifying when we should retreat to original artwork). Dr. Mara would be manning the scanning array (if or when the scanning happens here), converting files, dropping them into the template, adjusting page orientation w/ rotation (when required), page numbers, etc.

I promise I'll send a lot less paper your way once we're off and running. I just want to be sure we're both on the same track with all of this.

Lastly, the unbound copy of High Society arrived. It's a mess, partly because more of it was sourced from original artwork. Anyway, I can take the time to do a thorough evaluation if you'd like, but given the priorities here, and given the availability of HS DVD, I am strongly inclined to pulp it and start over. The greater detail/finer lines in the original art would also mean that it would benefit more from the high-res treatment.