Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Can't Be Negative About an Epic Original

Sean Michael Robinson:

Two weeks ago I drove up to Anaheim California with my wife Rachel, on a mission to pick up a certain precious package from Bob Chapman, of Graphitti Designs.

Those of you who remember the Cerebus Archive discussions happening on the Yahoo discussion board, more than a decade ago now, will remember that Bob Chapman had possession of the negatives for the majority of the Cerebus material originally printed in Epic Illustrated in the mid-eighties. (You can read summaries of the Cerebus Archive discussions at Margaret Liss' Cerebus Fangirl site) The work is pretty unusual in the Cerebus canon for a variety of reasons-- firstly, the majority of it was in painted color, and the work started as a try-out of sorts for Gerhard, who would eventually take over backgrounds and toning for the monthly book as well.

Through a confederate at the Marvel offices, Bob rescued the negatives from a fate of dumpster fodder of possibly recycling, along with other work of cartoonists he admired. And now they're at a secure location in San Diego, where they will be scanned before anything else happens to them.

Scanning these color negatives will be a pretty cumbersome process, when we have the resources to make it happen, as they're actually color separations-- four "pages" per page, one for each color plate that would have been used to print the original magazine. There's no way to reconstitute the images now, save scanning each "plate" individually, high-resolution on a scanner with a back-lit transparency unit, lining them up in Photoshop, and using existing original art and printed copies to adjust them back to life. Unfortunately, I don't have a large enough back-lit scanner to do this myself, so this will have to be outsourced to a local outfit, as we'll need scans before irreplaceable materials like these can be shipped anywhere.

The current tentative plan, per Dave, is to finance the scanning and reconstruction by possibly selling some at-size reproductions of some of the Epic color pages still in the Cerebus Archive, during the next CAN campaign.

In the meanwhile, they're in a safe, dry, cool place, awaiting restoration.

Of course, even better than scanning aging color separations would be getting access to the original art itself.

And Bob was able to help us with a piece of that as well.

Visiting Bob's office was an incredible experience all in itself. Not only did we end up talking about extremely print-geeky print/reproduction issues for more than an hour, we were surrounded by Bob's truly incredible art collection. I could spend several days there nerding out over the massive amounts of comic art, including a sizeable collection of 60's era Wally Wood work. ("Sally Forth" and "Cannon", mostly).

But the most exciting, at least for our purposes?

A page from "His First Fifth," here labeled in blue pencil at the top, "CEREBUS THE GUTTERSNIPE." 

The page itself is in great shape, a little bit of yellow notwithstanding (it's exaggerated in this scan). And of course, as I'm learning to expect, there's a dramatic difference in detail and color from the original to the Epic Illustrated printings. 

All this is to say, we're extremely grateful to the collectors who continue to take the time to contribute to the art hunt. Thanks to all of you generous folks.

Church and State I mini update- the cleanup is halfway done, with 348 pages completed. On-target for completion in late June/early July.


Anthony Kuchar said...

It would be super to be able to get a small book filled with all of the Epic color stories.

Anonymous said...

I agree.
It would be worthy of it's own Kickstarter campaign.

Tony Dunlop said...

Hell yeah, sign me up. I sold my old Epic Illustrateds to make rent years ago.