Saturday, 5 July 2014

Cerebus Restoration Bulletin: Stapled Packets of Paper

On Thursday morning, right before the July 4th weekend Fedex cutoff, we received the package of Dave's file copies of Cerebus 1-25. When I had talked to Peter Dixon the night before, he had said to me, "So, you guys want the best graded editions, right?" Sudden heart palpatations. No, uh, no, I told him. Why don't you just, I dunno, flip through them and see if you can find the ones that are the worst cosmetically, but still look great on the inside. Does that work?

So that's what we got.

Mara and I were both excited and a little nervous opening up the package. It didn't help that Peter had wrapped the debut issue separately from the rest, sandwiched between several heavy layers of cardboard, and marked ominously, "inside issue #1."

We left that one alone for a while and attended to the rest.

And lo and behold, almost every issue was significantly a better source than the Swords reprints and the negative scans we had been testing before. We immediately faxed Dave the good news and Mara started into the scanning.

I shot this photo as Mara opened the first page of issue #1. I think it's pretty clear even from this photo what a significant improvement this is over any existing material. Seeing this in person made it pretty clear to me that Preney must have not had access to the original negatives for the first issue, possibly for the first few issues, and must have shot his own negs from the books, which, when combined with the slight bit of underexposure in the original, led to the clogged and clouded look that's been in every Cerebus #1 reprint since. It was really breathtaking to see the scans, to watch each new page as Mara flipped through the book.

"So, uh, you sure you want me to do this?"

In the background you can see one of our "action flowcharts" for the different sources of pages, as well as some test printed Cerebus tone that we use to calibrate our soft proofs of the pages.

But... but... she's gonna give it a SPINE bend!

Dr. Mara Lives Dangerously. (Real Life Dr. Mara quote from Thursday-- "Can we get some archival gloves? And a micrometer?")

Besides the revelation of seeing all of this extra information in the early issues, the most interesting thing for me about this whole experience was the palpable connection to the past. It wasn't just the metaphorical connection to the moments when these issues were first created and printed-- it was a quite literal connection as well. One issue actually had a post-it note still inside the pages, loopy script with the cryptic message, "Issue #13 Colour #3."

And that's part of the promise of print, part of why books and physical art and reproduction still matter. Because Mara and I can take these stapled packets of paper into our hands and not just be transferred into the world of the story, but into the world that they came from.

We took most of Friday off to watch some explosions on the beach, but now it's back at it for me. I hope to have most of the pages completed by Monday, when Mara and I will hopefully be dropping them into the template and moving on to the next stage.

We'll keep you updated.


Stephen Benson said...

Very impressed by that snap from the raw #1. A big step up from anything I've seen before, and that's pre-processing.

Sean R said...

Hey Steven,

Yeah, it was incredibly exciting to see. Like, "so THAT's what that's supposed to look like!" level of surprise. Very gratified that Dave and Peter made it happen in time.

Chris Judge said...

What scanner do you all use in your workflow? I've been looking for the best possible option that's also at least vaguely affordable.

David Birdsong said...


(That's all I got.)

Sean R said...

Hey Chris--

Right now we're using the EPSON Perfection V550. Really enjoying it so far, and very affordable, but if you're using it for line art, beware that it applies sharpening at the scanning stage no matter what you do. We're scanning with the great program Vuescan to get around this, and generally benefiting from Vuescan's adaptability and batch scanning settings.

When these replacement signatures are done, I'm going to get some drum scans done at a local photography place for some detail comparison. And when I do, I'll post them here!

Sean R said...


A. "Wow, that panel looks great!"

B. "Wow, she's totally giving that book a spine bend. Don't these people have any respect?"

C. "Wow, I too am in need of a micrometer."

Please choose one.

David Birdsong said...

Ha, well I did just compare that bit of panel you shared with my 1994 6th printing of CEREBUS and WOW, there is a lot more detail than I have ever seen before. If the whole book is going to be this good then count me in after all.

David Birdsong said...

And WOW again as I just compared it to the remastered CEREBUS offered on Cerebus Downloads Dot Com. This is getting exciting.