Friday 31 October 2014

Weekly Update #55: "Life Is A Process Not An Event"

  1. Massive emergency renovation underway to the rear of the Off-White House.  Top priority. Damn The Torpedos, Full Speed Ahead
  2. Solid sales on the remastered CEREBUS Volume One through PREVIEWS:  475 copies ordered.  This bodes well for the remastered HIGH SOCIETY volume.
  3. Full Speed Ahead for me, transporting and scanning the artwork, as soon as the actual Kickstarter funds arrive.  Sean and John to follow.
  4. CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE the unsigned edition is most of the way to completion.  Funkmaster John and Funkmistress Shotgun have really outdone themselves "getting 'er done" in the midst of restructuring Graphic Edge Print Solutions.

1.  As I'm writing this, the rear wooden deck on the Off-White House is being carefully removed, plank by plank, in order to provide greater access for Tom H to that pesky left rear corner which turned out to be in more dire condition than originally thought.  Basically there are two layers of bricks that are supposed to be flush with each other and are now about six inches apart.  The house is pulling one way and the left rear corner is pulling another way and both are sinking.

This has caused a "knock-on" effect in our planning:  it doesn't really make sense to remove the deck, fix the foundation corner and then reattach the deck only to remove the deck again to start the dredging of the basement sometime in the next year or so.  Basically, what we've decided is "Full Speed Ahead": removing the deck, fixing the corner, removing the rear steps going down to the basement, removing and replacing the world's creepiest door (as Scott N has christened it) with a Top Security steel door and then working in four-foot increments into the basement.  (Yes, this can be done during the winter: Tom H is our brick-laying expert and he does brick-laying year round).  The idea (something of a theme for this week, as you can see from the Executive Summary) is that we move Full Speed Ahead while the Kickstarter money is there, with A-V getting billed currently and frequently.  When the money starts sinking to a dangerous level, the word is STOP.  Hopefully we can hook up to the next Kickstarter and the drop-off in pledge partners -- but the increase in $ because of the bonus prints (that many of you picked up on as the source of the $34K to $42K jump) -- will provide a sufficient base.

Scott and Tom both understand what we're doing here:  building a world-class research facility with climate control, secure storage and preservation.  The way to do that is not QUICKLY but THOROUGHLY.  Four feet at a time. For however long it takes.

Tom has a number of photos of the foundation restoration -- just to give you an idea, Scott originally had the job scoped as requiring six bags of cement and we are now up to, I believe, eighteen before Tom has even tackled the back corner -- and will be making a report here as soon as he gets his long-AWOL computer back up and running (which he has scheduled for tonight).  He has fifteen years of experience laying brick and was trained by the Old School Germans here in town, so anything you want to know about his decision-making, he'll be more than happy to fill you in.

2.  As Matt Demory, my Diamond Brand Manager said, It's hard to compare the CEREBUS trade to other items Diamond is selling because the book has been on the market for so long.  The long and the short of it, though, is that 475 copies represents a good chunk of the copies that Diamond ordered to help make the printing of the book -- and restoration -- possible.  As I'm fond of saying, Life is a process not an event.  What happens from now -- how many RE-ORDERS there are of the CEREBUS Volume One trade -- is going to be a factor.  But Matt and I are both cautiously optimistic that we're going to get back up to the numbers we were selling prior to the remastering.

Also a factor will be what kind of orders we get on the remastered HIGH SOCIETY 30th ANNIVERSARY SIGNED AND NUMBERED GOLD LOGO edition.  It's been so long since Diamond solicited the retailers with it that we really did need to cancel the orders and give the retailers another crack at it.  We've also decided that the number of signed and numbered copies will be based on how many copies are ordered through PREVIEWS.  On the one hand, it means the CEREBUS Loyalist stores have the opportunity to get a low print-run signed and numbered edition (the scuttled printing was signed and numbered out of 1100 and it seems unlikely that we would hit that mark on a straight "how many copies ordered" basis) while also putting the decision-making into the individual retailer's hands as to how deeply invested in CEREBUS they want to get.  This will be the only chance to get a signed and numbered HIGH SOCIETY, after all.

So, this is another "Full Speed Ahead" in terms of getting HIGH SOCIETY into the January PREVIEWS with an ad modelled on the CEREBUS one (Great job, again, Sean!).  Basically the trajectory will meet in the first quarter of 2015:  we'll have solid re-order numbers on the CEREBUS Volume One trade and initial orders on HIGH SOCIETY sufficient to give us an accurate idea of how many Diamond can sensibly order.  I've also said that it's up to Diamond if they want more signed and numbered copies than the initial order.  HOW many is one of those "when we get there" questions, I think.

3.  Still waiting on the arrival of the actual Kickstarter funds, but we are ready to go with the scanner when the money gets here -- as you all saw with Sean's "George Washington Post" earlier this week.  Once I have it and the computer needed to support it, it will be "Full Speed Ahead' transporting the CHURCH & STATE I original art to the Off-White House from the off-site storage, scanning and then returning the pages.  This is the "least fluid" situation right now because I'm still the cheapest source of labour for Aardvark-Vanaheim at around $5 an hour.  The only thing that needs to be decided is "how many pages can I do at a time?" both transporting and scanning.  I need to get out ahead of Funkmaster John who will be scanning the negatives.  I don't want to pay $6 or $7 a scan if we have the original art and Sean doesn't need the negative...

(that's apt to happen with the tone shrinkage problem.  As Sean receives the scans of the artwork, he's going to need to do an assessment of whether it makes more sense to restore the damaged tone or to just use the negative or a combination of the two -- "Photoshopping" in the tone but using the original art for the fine line details.)

(And then he has to notify John as to which negatives to scan and which negatives to just retain and preserve once he's cut them off of the flats that they're on.  The further out ahead of John I can get, the more time Sean will have to do an assessment.  So, I'M Full Speed Ahead, with John and Sean really to follow suit once I'm FAR ENOUGH out ahead.)

And, as with the house, I'm making sure John and Sean know that A-V needs to be billed as close to immediately and currently as possible because the Kickstarter money is going to be "squirting out" in a number of directions at once.  It's my job to watch the level drop and go STOP when it's time to say stop.  Cash Flow really has become Cash Rip Tides.  And my job is playing Cash Rip Tides Chicken with the A-V bank account.

Gird up thy loins, guys!

4.  We are starting to get really good at turning the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONES around.  As Funkmaster John said, compared to keeping track of everyone's number and making sure all the right numbers get into the right numbered folio, doing an unsigned unnumbered edition is child's play.

So, good news for anyone who wasn't able to get the signed and numbered edition: it's pretty much a lock (God willing) that all of the Diamond warehouses will have their unsigned editions in the next couple of weeks.  If, as a retailer, you ordered one (and thank you!) that means you will be seeing your copies before the end of November and in time for Christmas!

And, thanks to Diamond's generosity in upping their order on this first one (and Thank YOU, Diamond!), reorders should be immediately available from those same warehouses.

Okay, I think that's about it.

I did want to mention that the ONLY complete sets of CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO BONUS PRINT FIRST RELEASEs -- all 21 -- will be sent to:

1. Tim W. who has, obviously, been instrumental in "Off-White House Communications" and this experiment in "open governance" of an intellectual property, while maintaining an "arm's length" relationship with Aardvark-Vanaheim itself.  This is a news site, not Dave Sim's blog and I think we can all agree that Tim has done yeoman's service in maintaining this even with a full-time job.

2.  Troy T and Tim F, our $10,000 benefactors on the first Kickstarter in 2012 and CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE, respectively.  Just our way of saying that exceptional generosity does not go unrewarded or forgotten around here.  No "But what have you done for us LATELY?" at Aardvark-Vanaheim.

3. Rich Johnston of BLEEDING COOL.  Although people don't seem to "register" the unbelievable and unwavering level of sheer courage that Rich Johnston exhibits in being the ONLY (I repeat: ONLY) comics journalist to a) mention me b) mention my work c) mentioned them both favourably, this, again, is one of those things that doesn't go unnoticed by me in the toxic political climate which continues to dominate the comics field and the direct market.

See you all next week, God willing!

Thursday 30 October 2014

Jaka's Story Logo

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Since I'm writing this on Wednesday night at the same time I'm trying to cook dinner and do the laundry, this will be a relatively short one this week. But still fill of notebooky goodness. 

Jaka's Story is when I started reading Cerebus, with issue #114 actually, Jaka's Story #1.  So when I was going through Dave's 9th notebook, which he used for issues #102 to 111, and saw the prelim sketches for the Jaka's Story logo, it grabbed my eye:

Notebook #9 page 42
Beginning in Cerebus #113? Not so much. 

The next page in the notebook, page 43, has some more sketches for the logo:

Notebook #9 page 43
It also has a mock up for an advertisement for Jaka's Story with Jaka, Cerebus, Rick and even Cirin on the cover - though Cirin's bit in the story would be given to Mrs Snatcher Thatcher. It also looks like Dave got a bit of the bar in the right hand side of the mock up.

The logo he ended up with:

Wednesday 29 October 2014


Sean Michael Robinson:


Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the amazing Kickstarter campaign. It's because of your generosity and interest that we're able to move this project forward.

And so, forward it goes! 

Ever since I've come on board, Dave and I have been discussing on and off how to accomplish the bulk of the scanning to be done. It's a big problem -- a 4,000 pages of original artwork kind of problem, putting aside the photo negatives for a minute. Which, Dave suggested, makes it really a matter of speed. What is the fastest acceptable way to generate the raw material?

I spent a lot of time on this research. Digital cameras or medium-format cameras with digital backs? Not enough resolution, or too expensive. Upscaling? Feasible, with the right scans. Auto Document Feeds? Not with precious artwork, on illustration board, with tone.

But even when I resigned myself to the old standby, the flatbed scanner, the speed concern helped us narrow the field, basically to two possibilities. Seeing as one of those possibilities cost about three times as much as the other, it made sense to get some sample scans from the cheaper of the two.

The Plustek OpticBook 300 is an A3 sized CCD scanner. With a 10 second scan time at 600 ppi, it's ideal in speed, if nothing else. Now to get an image sample...

I called up a Plustek sales rep, who was very helpful in sending me a sample scan. And what, you might ask, can approximate fine line art material on aging art board? 

How about a dollar bill?

Here's the sample scan. 

So, the Washington scan is a very good stress-test for a line art scanner, because not only is there a ton of very fine line information, it's "hiding" within the color information, making potential problems like color aberration or misalignment of color channels more apparent than if you were straight scanning black line art on pure white board.

So, let's see how it handles under manipulation.

First off, we're going to upscale our information, doubling the size of the image (and doubling the potential size of our bitmap output). You can see from the close-up below that this 600 ppi scan hasn't really grabbed all of the line art information that was present-- not surprising when you think of the lengths the U.S. Treasury goes to keep their bills from being counterfeit. So by upscaling, we're hoping to wring a little bit more information from the scan.

I go to Image -> Image Size, and double the resolution. Select "Preserve Details" as your method. This is a new addition to Photoshop CC, and it's a huge improvement over the previous enlargement algorithym, "Bicubic Smoother," which tended to soften edges as you upscaled. 

Here's a close-up of a segment, before and after.

Now we're going to flip through the color channels to find the cleanest channel. The red channel has some noise in it (visible above), what looks to be paper damage, and the blue channel has a lot more paper noise overall. So green channel it is.

So I toss the other channels and convert the mode to grayscale, and then duplicate the layer, so that I can flip back and forth between the adjusted version and un-adjusted version, as need be.

Next I make a levels adjustment to "knock out" the remaining gray of the paper as much as possible, while also raising the black point to the position where the blacks actually appear on the histogram.

The result is still very, very soft. If this was a series of images, I'd take some time now to develop the best possible sharpening routine for the material, and write this whole thing into an executable script, that I can run any time I want to. But since this is just for you and me, I'll do this the "brute force" way. I use Unsharp Mask, at 500 percent, with the radius set to a very fine 1.2 pixels, since the information I'm trying to retain is very fine detail information.

That's still not enough, so I level-adjust one more time, getting rid of the white "sharpening halos" by bringing the white point down a bit, and then run Unsharp Mask one more time, with the same settings, at about 200 percent. And here's the result!

Conclusion? For our purposes, this scanner will work great.

It's worth mentioning that I used the dollar bill as a target both because it's ubiquitous (the gentleman I spoke to would be likely to have one in his pocket), but also because of its difficulty. This is several degrees harder task than scanning hand-drawn black lines on white art board. That being said, if I was looking for a scanner specifically for the purpose of scanning extremely fine information, like the bill, or, say, Victorian-era copperplate engraving or mezzotint printing on coated stock, I'd be tempted to go with a scanner with more optical sharpness to start with. But, once again, for our purposes, the Plustek should be perfect.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Monday 27 October 2014

Auction: Cerebus Art Dragnet

'Cerebus Art Dragnet' Certificate
by Dave Sim 
Certificate original artwork 11"x14" (inches) india ink on 140 lb. cold press Strathmore water colour paper created as an award for individuals assisting in obtaining high resolution scans of CEREBUS original artwork for the on-going restoration/digitization of the 6,000-page graphic novel. Includes digital print-out of the DRAGNET image Sim worked from, signed by Sim.

The art can be personalized to the winning bidder and includes a 20-MINUTE PHONE CALL WITH DAVE SIM (on Dave Sim's nickel). 

ALL proceeds will go towards the on-going restoration / digitization (50%) and the development / promotion of glamourpuss art auctions to help finance the completion of Dave Sim's THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Dave Sim: "Go Royals!"

(by email, 25 October 2014)
I just received a package from Dave today, in which were some scans of some work he is doing (not s'posed to say what). In the cover letter, he opened with this homage to my life-long favorite baseball team:
Hi, Jeff -- Having foresworn professional sports as a harmful addiction -- my only exposure now being when something appears on the front page of the NATIONAL POST, *NO* reading of or glancing at the sports section -- I had no idea what was happening in the playoffs until there was a small photo of a Royals pitcher and "Royals sweep Orioles to advance to World Series" the other day. And, yes, my first reaction was, "Well, Jeff is a happy camper right now" (coupled with "This is probably not the happiest day of Steve Geppi's life, as a minority owner of the Orioles").
Probably about 100% sure that's the only time I will ever be thought of in the same moment with Steve Geppi, ever, by anyone...

And, Dave closed with:
"Yours, as well, beyond issue #300... and Go Royals!"
You may post that, Tim, if you're so inclined.

Kickstarted! Cerebus Archive Number Two!

(from the Kickstarter Q&A, 25 October 2014)
...Thanks to everyone for participating here and to everyone for pushing this into an unimaginable stratosphere. "You've Made A Grown Man Cry." Thank you very much! Good night.

Adam Bingham -- Adrian Duma -- Al Roney -- Alan Stephen -- Alister Blake -- Andreas Kraft -- andrew bartel -- Andrew Boscardin -- Andrew Holt -- Andrew Lariviere -- Andrew Lohmann -- Andrew Wilson -- anne jones -- Anthony Edwards -- Anthony Houge Dunlop -- Anwar Ganama -- Aram Compeau -- Ari Koivuniemi -- B -- Barry Deutsch -- Beanbag Amerika -- Bechara Helal -- Ben Le Foe -- Bill Kraut -- Bill Ritter -- B'jamin da Bass -- Bob Bretall -- Brian Eckfeld -- Brian J. McCall -- Brian John Mitchell -- Car5n -- Carl Hommel -- Carlos Portela Orjales -- CerbisFR -- Cerdic Grimbly -- Charles Armstrong -- Charles Nilsen -- Charles Rowles -- Chris Allingham -- Chris McClelland -- Christopher Barnes -- Christopher Hass -- Christopher Winter -- Colin M. Strickland -- Con -- Cory Foster -- Craig Gunderstorm -- Curt Rissmiller -- Dagon James -- Damin J. Toell -- Dan Schmidt -- Daniel Callahan -- Daniel Elvén -- Daniel Theodore -- Daniel W. Cisek -- Daryl Davis -- Das -- David Birdsong -- David Blumer -- david dalcourt -- David Gray -- David Lamontagne -- David Marsh -- david rankin -- Dean Edney -- Dean Reeves -- Delwyn Klassen -- dkopperman -- Docmac -- Don Alsafi -- Don Smith -- Donald Campbell -- Doug Bissell -- Drew Woodworth – Dustin Cissell -- Dylan Pattenaude -- E G -- Ed Boyle -- Eddie -- Eric Berry -- Eric Fennessey -- Erik van Oosten -- Florian Schiffmann -- FMJ -- Frankie -- futurepastimes -- Gabriel McCann -- Garnet Fraser -- George Peter Gatsis -- Giorgio Soldi -- Glen -- Gordon Burnett -- Greg Kessler -- Greg Rosa -- Iain Ross -- Jacqui Mercado -- Jake A. Capps -- James Gifford -- James Moore -- Jan Elvsén -- Jarret Cooper -- Jason Dougherty -- Jason Lempka -- Jason Novak -- Jason Penney -- Jason Sacks -- Jason Trimmer -- JCork -- Jeff Constable -- Jeff Seiler -- Jeffrey Flam -- Jeramy B Lamanno -- Jesse Lee Herndon -- Jim Martin -- Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr -- Joel DiGiacomo -- John Boreczky -- John Carmine -- John Christian -- John Dalzell -- John M. Scrudder -- John Mosher -- John Osmon -- John Simms -- John Tinkess -- John Waclawski -- John Young -- Jon Hill -- Jonas -- Jonathan Rutledge -- Jonathan Thornton -- Jonathan White -- jonbly -- Josh Devore -- Joshua Leto -- Julian Orr -- Kai Ylijoki -- Keeley Geary -- Kendall Swafford -- Kent Kowalski -- Kevin Kairys -- KevinR -- Kimmo Puhakka -- Kirk Spencer -- L Jamal Walton -- Larry Wooten -- Lee Thacker -- Leonard Wong -- Linda Stevens -- Linkmachinego -- Logan Murray -- Lou Valenti -- Luc de Chancenotte -- Luiz Fernando Zuleta -- Lunaro -- Marc Laming -- Marc Lynch -- margaret liss -- marioeverardo -- Marios Poulimenos -- Mark Byzewski -- Mark Newman -- Martin Waterman -- Marty Trengove -- Mathieu Doublet -- Matt Daniel -- Matt Dow -- Matthew Barber -- Matthew Cettei -- Matthew Price -- Menachem Luchins -- Micah Goldstein -- michael j mcintyre -- michael r romano -- Michael Ragiel -- Miguel Corti -- Miguel Ruiz -- Mike Hunt -- Mike Kitchen -- Mike Lee -- Mike Losso -- Mike Ortiz -- Mint City Comics -- Mitch Okun -- Morten Juul -- Morten S. Eriksen -- Murray Roach -- NaTeNaTeTooToo -- Nathan Cubitt -- Nathaniel Oberstein -- Nick Hines -- Nick Pendleton -- Nigel Fletcher -- Nolan -- Norman Jaffe -- Olav Beemer -- Paul McKenzie -- Paul Powers -- Paul Ripley -- Paul Sloboda -- Peter Stein -- Rafer Roberts -- Rajesh Shah -- Randy Wood -- Ranjit Ranawaya -- Richard -- Richard Meehan -- Richard Palfreyman -- Rob Barnes -- Robert H Lambert -- Roberto Accinelli -- Robin Farley -- Russel Dalenberg -- Samuel Fiddian -- Scott Lazerus -- Scott Yoshinaga -- Sean Canning -- Shaun -- Shaun Pryszlak -- Sordel -- Stephan Loshing -- Stephen -- stephen benson -- Steve Cuffe -- steve harold -- Stuart martin -- Taylor Ramsey -- Ted Adams -- The Amazombie -- Thom Heileson -- Thomas Prudhomme -- Thuy Nguyen -- Tim Burdick -- Tim Hall -- Tim McEwen -- Tim Meakins -- Tim W -- Tom Bither -- Tom Palmer Jr -- Travis Pelkie -- Trevor Towers -- Troy Thompson -- Truls Arnegaard -- Umar Stone -- Utter Fool -- Vitas Povilaitis -- Vnend -- WarsawWolf -- Wayne Welgush -- Will Collier -- William Arnold

Source: Kicktrak
(Click image to enlarge)

Other People's Cerebus: Gabriel Rodriguez

(Locke & Key, Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland)

Saturday 25 October 2014

Kickstarter: Dave Sim's Live Q&A!

(from Kickstarter Update #10, 24 October 2014)
...Just like he did for the final 4 hours of the original CEREBUS High Society Kickstarter, and again for CANO, Dave Sim will be online during the final four hours of funding for CANT. Those times are: 4:00 pm EDT until 8:00 pm EDT (16:00 EDT to 20:00 EDT) on Saturday, October 25. The easiest way to check is to watch the project countdown timer and compare that to your actual time.

Now, when I use the term 'online' together with Dave Sim, we all know that the WI-FI and internet connectivity thingy just might not work properly for him. So we've got a 'Plan B' (more like 'Plan Turn of the Century' LOL). If Dave cannot get his computer to talk to the internet, he and I will be faxing back and forth. I'll fax your questions a bunch at a time to Dave, he'll fax his answers back to me, I'll key them in (unless I can get that OCR thingy working better on my scanner...) and we'll communicate relay style. "Please be patient" and sorry for the delay while we relay this faxed question back and forth with be the phrase of the hour.

It would be most helpful if you can start posting your questions 24 hours or more in advance of the 4 hour countdown window, so that Dave and I can get a head start on the answers!

Looking forward to hosting and lots of question.

Friday 24 October 2014

Weekly Update #54: WOW! Again!

Repairing the Off-White House foundations

  1. Behind the scenes of the $33K threshold Tuesday to Thursday
  2. CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO Bonus Prints to feature gold stamp embossed seals reading "Cerebus Archive First Release" and will be signed AND numbered by hand by me.
  3. We're putting this one in the "WIN" column for CEREBUS fans around the world!
  4. Work continues on the rebuilding of the Off-White House foundation

1. I'm definitely keeping with my "open governance" program for Aardvark-Vanaheim. Which isn't to say that there aren't fax conversations that I'm having in private "behind the scenes".  A good example this week with Funkmaster John 21 October at 9:40 pm just after he had announced the final threshold would be $33K:
$33K final threshold -- we're getting there, but still $3.5K off. If we hit the target at the very last minute or with only hours to spare, it doesn't give the patrons enough time to react, for those who want to max out the bonus prints to 10.  What if we set a "48-hour clock" on Thursday evening, meaning, if we achieve the "soft" target of $30K by 8:00 pm Thursday, then we simply say, "We're close enough and we need to give you some time to adjust your pledge -- you still have two days."  It's one of those "Catch-22" deals, isn't it?  What do you think?
Ha. It's my call, isn't it?  Mulled it over doing some mindless work at the drawing board, then went upstairs and faxed John (typing into the space below his above question:
My gut instinct tells me this is no time for "no child left behind".  This is like the playoffs.  You (that is, the Pledge Partners) have to WANT it.  The sooner they get it up to $33K, the more choosing time they get.  They have to be thinking, "We may never get up this high again and we'll never get First Release opportunities on THESE Bonus Prints again".  I suspect if you take away that pressure, you take away the sense of accomplishment and a lot of the fun.  
But, BOY, sitting there at the typewriter re-reading and re-reading that.  Is that cold? Is that TOO cold? These people have donated $30K already.  IF you crack, WHEN do you crack? You can't "read" the crowd reaction -- they're scattered all over the world.  We're all looking at the same situation board. That gave me an idea of a model of what was going on and how to frame it:
I'll address it as soon as we go live at 4 pm just as if I was announcing a hockey game: "Wow! It's going to be close!  Are you guys going to hit the $33K?  And if you do, are you leaving yourself enough time to decide and order any First Release Bonus Prints you're interested in/can afford?"
No response from Funkmaster, but I didn't expect any.  That's what "the buck stops here" means.  No one can countermand your decision.  Was the tone wrong?  I'm not really just announcing a game. I have control over the rules.  If you sound as if you don't and you do and the crowd starts tipping the other way...

12:30 pm update yesterday with "$31,660 pledged" at the top of John's fax and "(We're getting there...") right after it.

What is this like?  I decided it was like the 1993 World Series for me.  Sitting on the end barstool at Peter's Place, going, All we need is a base hit...or a walk.  Keep the inning going.  JUST DON'T FLY OUT, JOE!  Yesterday was a busy day and I got to the page late and just got absorbed by it, partly because I was still asking myself, "IF you crack, WHEN do you crack?"  What's the mood going to be like by 4 pm on Saturday?

Was within shouting distance of getting the page done, came upstairs to print out the Joe Kubert lettering for spray-gluing and there's a fax from Funkmaster, which summed it up nicely -- like Mitch Williams' hanging fastball that was suddenly headed for the fence in left field:
$33,642 pledged (FUH-GED-A-BOW-DIT!!!!)
WOW! again!  

2.  That wasn't ALL I was thinking about.

I also went to the "Marking Products" place I went to on Weber Street for the glamourpuss GOLD ACCESS labels I put on the Limited Fashion Industry Edition of glamourpuss No.1 (John's going to post a scan of one -- which turned out to be the one that I sent to Colleen Doran at her Newport News address and which came back as undeliverable) (I just noticed now that I spelled her name wrong).  (Which -- it not getting to her, I mean -- judging by the general female reaction to glamourpuss was probably for the best  :)

It's called an "embosser"  and I'm getting it changed to "Cerebus Archive First Release" so all of the First Release Bonus Prints (which are going to be pretty rare, even relative to CEREBUS ARCHIVE itself) will have a gold foil seal with those words on it.  And I'll be signing and hand-numbering those.  Which should make them REALLY difficult to counterfeit. 

3.  I hate to keep using the same analogy, but I do see this as a Fan Victory just around the size of, you know, Frank Miller's 300.  Not that analogy, rather: the way that STAR TREK fans brought STAR TREK back to life and got a movie made after however many years when STAR TREK had DOA stamped all over it in any conventional sense.  Well, you know, that's CEREBUS In Spades.

So, we're all really optimistic -- me, especially, more optimistic than I've been in years.  The possibility seemed completely remote that we would chalk up the same numbers as last time.  If you had asked me to handicap the odds on IMPROVING on those numbers.  Uh, I probably would have said, "Look, let's talk SENSIBLY if we're going to talk about this." 

4.  Work proceeds apace on the rebuilding of the Off-White House foundation as can be seen by these two photos (when Funkmaster gets them posted  :) taken yesterday.  The one above is Scott and Brodie with shovels pretending they dug these giant moats on two sides of the house by hand.  No, that was a full day's excavation.  I sketched in for Scott the long-term plans of the Off-White House after I'm dead being accessible to the fans who made it possible, so he's definitely stoked.  I promised to keep eating my Wheaties so I don't kick off TOO soon (Scott's got a lot of construction work to do in the meantime, but we are definitely talking about WHAT is possible and WHEN).

Second photo is what the foundation stones looked like after Tom H spent a couple of hours blasting them with a high pressure water hose to get 130 years of gunk off them.  This is how they built them back in the 1880s -- more than a foot wide.  And anything heavy enough to do the job.  Tom found a chunk of what looked to be an old marble washbasin that was probably taken out of a demolition site nearby.

Okay.  Miles to go before I sleep -- out to Waterloo to pick up the mail and groceries -- and I hope to get some writing and drawing in before we go live at 4 pm tomorrow.



Thursday 23 October 2014

Kickstarter: Bonus Prints #19-21

Every Friday, beginning with the launch of CANT, we'll be unveiling four additional Bonus Prints that you can add to your Portfolio Package... Each successive goal will be established depending on how quickly (or how slowly) it takes to reach the next goal. We'll update the schedule below each time a new threshold has been achieved:
PLEDGE AMOUNT: ADD $9 ($8 + $1 to cover additional shipping costs) to your portfolio pledge for EACH Bonus Print UP TO the maximum number of Bonus Prints allowed (see above table). 
Now that we're down to the final week of the campaign, we recommend that you pledge for all of the bonus prints that you want, up to the maximum (currently 7). This will help move the pledge total closer to the next target of $33k! When we reach that, 10 bonus prints will be allowed. At the end of the funding period, I'll ask the necessary questions in the survey, so that you can let me know exactly which ones you selected for yourself.

BP #19 - Cerebus Lightning
BP #20 - Roach Dark Night
BP #21 - Spider Ham 

Cerebus Archive Number Two Bonus Prints:
1-4 | 5-8 | 9-12 | 13-18

Dave Sim: WOW!

(from Kickstarter Update #5, 21 October 2014)

Wednesday 22 October 2014

The Trial

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

Last week we covered issue 94, "So", when Cerebus interrogates Astoria in her cell. Today we'll look at Dave's notebook #8 which covers issues 96 to 102. The trial starts in issue #98 and on pages six and seven - or pages 942 & 943 if you are following along in the phonebook - there is a double page spread of Cerebus and Bishop Powers meeting in the throne room:

Compare that to page 51 from notebook #8:

Notebook #8 page 51

Looks pretty much the same doesn't it? Well, other than missing Gerhard's awesome backgrounds. Even the text along the pages, the placement of the word balloons. There was only two changes that I  could see and both dealt with the text. In the notebook Powers says "The harlot sorceress now before you has. . .", but on the finish page he just says "This vile harlot is. . ." before being interrupted by Cerebus. Then further down Cerebus says "Apologize and then shut up until Most Holy tells you to speak." On the finished page however Cerebus only says "Most Holy wants an apology, Powers."

Instead of Cerebus' telling Powers to shut up until told to speak, Cerebus rubs his power in Powers' face by going on with what he wants for an apology. Much funnier.

Page 52 is a small sketch of Astoria and the guard. Then on page 53 we see the layouts and dialogue for the next couple of pages in issue #98: pages eight and nine. I broke page 53 into the two halves, mostly so you could make it bigger and see Dave's pencils under the inks:

Notebook #8 page 53, left side
Other then Astoria facing the right instead of the left as she does on the finished page, the above is the same as page eight. Well, yes, other then it also missing Gerhard's backgrounds. The other half of page 53 of the notebook has a couple differences from the finished page:
Notebook #8 page 53, right side
Cerebus text in panel 5 in the notebook is "Perhaps you can tell us what course we should follow", but in the actual issue it is "Most Holy would like to know how this trial should begin." Also, you'll notice that in panel 3, Posey is standing straight up, but on the finished page he is slightly tilted over. . . .cowering in fear as he is known to do.  This trend of Posey not cowering in fear in the final four panels in the notebook continues, but in the finished page he bends over so far he falls over.

We can also see a repeat of text from the previous page: "the pond scum that I am." Uttered by Bishop Powers as part of his "apology" to Cerebus. It was also written on the other side of page 53 of the notebook, but here appears more like it does in the final page. 

Dave Sim: Off-White House Bulletin

Work on reconstructing the foundation of the Off-White House began at 0900 hours today!

Started with a "gag photo" of me behind the wheel of the excavator. "Why am I paying Scott all this money? This is actually pretty easy."  Photo by Tom H (a neighbour) (photo will be posted by Funkmaster John at the Kickstarter site as the clock is ticking down on CANT CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO) (end of plug)

It was supposed to be pretty easy: a lot of Big League Scooping of dirt and then down to business.  But the excavator would stop every few minutes and I'd get up from the drawing board to go and see what was going on.  "There's a lot of crap down here," said Scott.  And indeed there was.  Roots, branches, Big stones.  Bricks.  Most of it having to be worked around with a shovel (Scott's right-hand-man, Adam) (and then Scott his own self) (and then Tom H -- an underemployed union guy)

The foundation of the house, which was built in 1882, is fitted stones and, as we were worried about, a lot of those stones are, sort of, moving around.  Which you prefer the stones in the foundation of your house not to do.

And then there was water.  A LOT of water.  So that most of the dirt that was being excavated at the midpoint of the north side of the house was, like, MUD.  "Uh, that's right under where my 'kitchenette' sink is. You think it could be coming from there?"  I volunteered to go inside and put the water on full blast (while changing my shoes to have a 'look-see').  PLEASE, let it not be some broken pipe.

Well, it wasn't.  No sudden Three Stooges gush of water.

Turns out it was a buried water tank from -- no idea how far back in time.  It was framed with wood, though.

That was PART of what was really slowing things down.  The excavator was basically taking the tank apart a bit at a time.

The tank also proved to be the problem with the back left corner of the house -- WHY the foundation was just rotting there but was reasonably solid elsewhere:  it was basically serving as its own water table, holding rain water in stasis.  You have rainwater for a 100 years or so sloshing against fitted stones...

"Well, the water's gone now," said Adam.  He added that you could practically hear it seeping down.

So, the bottom line is increased labour charges for having to a) babysit the back left corner of the Off-White House to an unexpected degree b) put concrete in between and around all of those fitted stones flying in loose formation c) basically build the foundation from scratch (as Scott found with his own place next door, if you dig down to the foundation...there is none.  It's just sitting on sand.  They didn't call this place Sand Hills Creek for nothing).

Anyway, Scott took a couple of shots of me down in the trench taking a hands-on look at part of the Off-White House I'll (hopefully) never see again.

When they rebuilt the REAL White House during the Truman Administration, I figured they should have gotten at least one picture of the President down in the trench with a shovel.

I'm wearing my United States CGA Coast Guard Academy t-shirt sent to me by a CEREBUS fan when he was attending the CGA.  He later wrote and asked that his name be deleted from the Blog & Mail -- which I did.

But, the t-shirt?  No, the t-shirt you'll have to pry out of my cold, dead fingers.

Thanks to all you CEREBUS fans who have made the rebuild possible!

Semantic Processing and Scattershot Impressions

Mara Sedlins:

Greetings! Dr. Mara here. For the last four months I've been assisting Sean with the restoration project, first with scanning and organization, and increasingly with the image restoration itself, cleaning up noise, fixing shrunk tone, etc. 

My background is in mathematics and psychology (the doctorate is in social and cognitive psychology), and I have a special appreciation for detail-oriented projects that makes the type of work I'm doing on Cerebus especially fun for me. (Like Sean, I've had dreams about the cleanup work - but I don't consider them nightmares!)

I worked as a teaching assistant during most of graduate school, so given an audience, I can't resist giving a quick cognitive psych lesson (which I will then relate to my experience working on High Society):

When you encounter verbal information (e.g., dialogue on a page of High Society), there are three different types of cognitive processing that can happen:

1) You can notice the visual appearance of the words, e.g. whether the letters are capitalized or lower case, the style of font (in psych lingo, this is called "structural processing").

2) You can notice the way the words sound ("phonemic processing").

3) You can understand the meaning of the words, how they relate to each other, and how they relate to previously encountered information (e.g., the plot of High Society; this is called "semantic processing").

The third type is considered a deeper level of processing than the first two and leads to better retention in long-term memory (Craik & Lockhart, 1972.) For instance, if you're trying to memorize something, focusing on the meaning of the words will lead to better long-term memory than merely repeating them over and over again. This is why mnemonic devices work!

This "levels of processing" model of memory was first developed (in Ontario, as it happens) with words as the information to be remembered. However, the same principle can be considered with pictorial information. When viewing an image, you can focus on its physical appearance (color, texture, shape, etc.) or its meaning (a character's identity, facial expression, the action taking place).

Intriguingly, visual memory is actually better when people are attuned to the physical details of images, as opposed to their semantic meaning -- the opposite of what occurs with verbal memory (Intraub & Nicklos, 1985)

In light of the ways humans process and remember information, the restoration work for High Society has been a very odd way to encounter this work for the first time. My normal experience of a novel (graphic or otherwise) is of course to focus on the semantic information: the characters, plot developments, etc. However, doing cleanup work has required an intense focus on the surface-level details, often to the exclusion of deeper information processing.

The upshot: although I've scrutinized hundreds of pages of High Society, I have basically no idea what's going on with the story!

Ok, that's not entirely true. Some scatter-shot impressions: there's an election; the election is for prime minister; Cerebus is running for prime minister; lots of maps; bribery, some shady characters; a politically savvy but illiterate soldier; threats of invasion; a sparkly woman who may or may not be imaginary but seems hilarious; lots of formal wear; love triangles: Astoria vs. Jaka?, Cerebus vs. the Moon Roach; the Moon Roach is cold; something about a goat.

Given the levels-of-processing effect on visual memory, I suspect that what I (mis?)remember and (mis?)understand of the plot so far is weighted toward the visual elements of the pages I've seen, as opposed to the text.

This week I'm excited to actually read the story as I help Sean proofread our cleaned-up version. In working on this project, I've been continually impressed by the devotion and generosity it's inspired in Dave's fans, so as a newcomer to the Cerebus oeuvre I know I'm in for a treat! :)

Monday 20 October 2014

InkTober: Alex Robinson

Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. I created InkTober in 2009 as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year. Anyone can do InkTober, just pick up a pen and start drawing ~ Jake Parker


Alex Robinson has written and illustrated several graphic novels, including Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Box Office Poison and Tricked, all published by Top Shelf Productions. He and his work have won several industry awards, including the prestigious Eisner Award and prize for best debut in Angouleme, France. He lives in New York City with his wife and their pets, and hopes to have another book out soon.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Comic Book Lettering

Cerebus Vol 12: Rick Story 
(Collects #220-231, 1997-1998)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Bleeding Cool, 27 December 2013)
As far as awards for lettering are concerned, I do think there’s some suspicion about work created with fonts in a studio, and that can never really be dispelled. I think it’s a testament to the quality of our fonts when letterers who have bought them — and use them well — are nominated for awards for Best Lettering. All too often, letterers — and colourists — are nominated for an award when they have worked on a title that has collected all the other available awards, for best series, best writing, best art and so forth, so sometimes you win by association I think. What does bother me is that great creators like Dave Sim and Chris Ware are awarded the Eisners and Harveys for Best Lettering — their work is so much more than the lettering, but perhaps it’s the only part of the work that judges can identify as significant, so it’s kind of like a consolation prize.

I’m also of the opinion that the best lettering is really the lettering that is so much a part of the artwork that you don’t really notice it; kinda like not noticing that the sound editing on a film is really good… we only really notice sound editing, foley work or music in a film when it’s really bad — or absent perhaps — not when it feels like it’s a part of the whole experience. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Richard Starkings is the co-founder of Comicraft, Purveyors of Unique Design and Fine Lettering since 1992. The award-winning Comicraft studio is best known for pioneering the use of the computer in the art of comic book lettering.

Glamourpuss Art Auction: Alex Raymond & Linda Evangelista

Glamourpuss #6 Pages 18-19 (July 2009)
Tracing-Paper Art by Dave Sim

Pencil drawings on tracing paper by Dave Sim for two-page spread of Glamourpuss No. 6 (July 2009) pages 18-19. Two tracing paper drawings with reference material. 

  1. Page 18 features Lyndsay, rated No. 1 in the parody Top Ten of Blonde MENSA Supermodels. She looks a lot like Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista. Pencil drawing measures 11.5 x 14-inches on 14 x 17-inch tracing paper. Drawing is folded in half w/ crease.
  2. Page 19 is the tracing paper that interests me most -- a "staged publicity photo" of Alex Raymond "from 1949 for national syndication encouraging people to listen to baseball games while they work." This portrait (page 19) measures 10 x 7.5-inches on 11.75 x 9-inch tracing paper. It has a single crease line that does not touch drawing.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Warren Ellis: Black & White Comics

(from Orbital Operations Newsletter, September 2014)
...But, often, in the last week, I've just been laying there unable to do much of anything but think, and not even able to do that well because I was just wanting food that wasn't going to shred my throat or make me cough a lung up into someone's lap. fucked up enough that it took me most of the week to read a long interview with Marina Abramovic which had several unusually pleasing moments in it, including the point where she states quite plainly that the artist is the servant of their society, which I enjoyed immensely, and anyway the actual point of this was that in the middle of this fugue I seriously found myself wondering about doing a black-and-white comics series, a long and largely structureless one, just for the sheer hell of it. Even digitally. I mean, you'd never get an artist for it, because what I laid there imagining was basically all my worst tendencies (from a commercial perspective) as a writer rolled into one endless shapeless thing.

Or, put another way; Dave Sim was what, forty-eight years old when he completed his massive shapeless nonsense distillation of all his fascinations and neuroses and philosophies? I'm forty-six and laying there in a medicated trance thinking about starting mine.

And, yes, when I invoke Dave Sim, there's a shitload of extra baggage there that I am well aware of. All respect to Sim the technical maestro -- and CEREBUS should be something you study if you have an inch of interest in the medium, there was a point where his level of control on the page was supernatural -- but Sim the creative intellect is one of those awful object lessons about staying in comics full-time for too long. I know all about that. That said: consider the notion of a six-thousand-page container for pretty much everything that guy was interested in for twenty-seven years. It may be a monument to insanity, but it is, regardless, a fucking monument. You can't take it away from him that he did that thing.

And it'd have to be black-and-white. Black-and-white is part of the grammar of large rambling graphic novels, in my head - FROM HELL, CEREBUS, THE LAST KINGDOM, add your own here. Also, it's the grammar of literary graphic novels -- MAUS, PERSEPOLIS, etc etc. So I could fool myself, as all pulp writers who finally give up on plot and just drop their bowels in public do, that I am being all literary and clever. Black-and-white always had the mad things in. Now that I reflect on it, I think most of my fondest memories of comics come from b/w books: 2000AD, WARRIOR, LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, ESCAPE, the undergrounds, the independents, the early Anglophone graphic novels...

Crazy. You all better hope that I heal up soon.

Warren Ellis is the author of many critically acclaimed comics, including Transmetropolitan and The Authority.

Cerebus Archive: Itoya Art Profolio

Also available at
Dave's Weekly Update #53: A Pound Of Cure mentioned me about contacting AMOC to post my photos and any other information I can provide to fellow Cerebus fans who might be interested in what I had done with my Cerebus Archive #1 and future Cerebus Archives. Whew! I am willing to answer any questions that anybody might come up with.

The Art Profolio is from Itoya. Itoya of America, Ltd is located Rancho Dominquez, CA 90220. Their website is I paid $40.05 for the profolio and for 250 photo corners. Everything for me is still a work in progress, but I love having the prints to be showcased. I did add "Cerebus Archive: Earliest pages in the Cerebus Archive" to the spine insert. I still want to add something to the cover making it look somewhat more professional booklike.

Enclosed are some photos. I mailed Dave actual real life photos and emailed John photos.

I know it's not that much information, but it's a start. Any questions regarding my unique portfolio, you can email me at pignardvark [at] rcn [dot] com or I can answer in the comments to this post.