Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Pattern Recognition

 Mara Sedlins:

This week I’ve been busy preparing finders’ prizes for all of the Cerebus Art Dragnet contributors we have so far. The current tally is 113 original art scans from 32 contributors (excluding a few who declined a prize). Thanks again for helping us gather these scattered pages!

The other main dish on my plate is the C & S I Trauma Pages, those original art scans flagged for special attention. So far this has meant focusing on the more complex types of tone that have shrunk or torn.

Above are a couple examples of what I mean by complex tone (I think of the first one as the “wiggly tone”). Do you recognize which character the second tone was used for?

Replacing Cerebus’ tone has become pretty routine - it usually works to copy and paste a patch of repeating dots from a nearby area, line it up with the neighboring dots, and then erase anything that extends past the repaired section. But with the textures above, there isn’t a simple repeating pattern that we can identify and leverage in the same way. Instead, we use one of several techniques depending on the size and shape of the missing area. My favorite is “drawing” in the texture with Photoshop’s stamp tool, being careful to blend the new shapes with the existing tone in a consistent way. A crucial last step is printing out the restored page, squinting, and looking for telltale lines that reveal where the fix was. If I did a good job, the tone is seamless. If not, it looks like this:
(Note: this is an intentionally poor job, for illustrative purposes!)

It’s harder to achieve a perfect fix with the second type of tone shown above, because the pattern is less random. If we could identify the boundaries of the repeated spiraling pattern (assuming there is one), we could use the same technique as with the Cerebus tone. But neither Sean nor I have been able to do this by visual inspection.

I did some research into computer algorithms for detecting repeating patterns in an image, to see if there’s a way to automate the process. It seems like a simple problem - but based on the number of academic papers I found and the variety of different approaches used, it looks like it's still a nontrivial issue in computer vision research. In terms of actually implementing a pattern recognition technique, I’m not sure where I’d even begin (I suspect I’d need to learn Python and read this book, and/or delve into open source code - probably not the best use of my time for actually getting the restoration work done, especially since the tone in question only appears a handful of times.) If this is anyone’s area of expertise and you have a solution, though, let us know!

Since my last update I started reading C & S I, from the beginning, for fun (imagine!). As with High Society, even after cleaning over a hundred pages, my sense of the plot is going to be pretty fractured before I sit down and read the book as a fan - restoration is just a totally different way of perceiving the pages.

I did get a sense of the overall structure as I flipped through each page doing a quick catalog of “icicle” text bubbles, following up on Jeff’s comment on my last post. Can you guess who speaks with that tone the most often?

(drumroll .........)

Okay, maybe it’s not a surprise since he’s the titular character, but Cerebus comes in first with 28 chilly statements. His icy tone is directed equally often at Jaka and Weisshaupt (six times each). The second coldest character is Bishop Powers, with 11 wintery phrases, spoken mostly to Weisshaupt. I’m beginning to see which conflicts are going to drive the plot ...
Meanwhile I'd love to see more finders' prizes go out soon, so keep the original art coming in!


Anonymous said...

Giant Stone Thrunk.

I'd like to hear your guess as to what the plot is from only having done restoration work.

- Reginald P.

Unknown said...

So, no no-prize for Jeff.


JLH said...

The first time I've noticed anyone using the "icy speech bubble" was issue 23. It's possible it was used prior, but Dave uses it a few times in that particular issue.

Cerebus Art Hunt said...


No, sorry, no prize! However, it may have been more accurate to use the proportion of "icicle" bubbles out of the total number of speech bubbles for each character. I also didn't account for the number of words spoken or the degree of coldness of each statement - so my result isn't necessarily definitive ...


Giant Stone Thrunk is correct!

And here are my very rough impressions of the plot of C & S I so far (based on doing restoration work, paging through for icicle text bubbles, and reading the beginning):

I know at the start of the book Cerebus is working on his "memoirs" about what it was like to be the former prime minister of Iest, consisting mostly of hilariously frank pragmatic advice. He makes friends with a wealthy and rather mysterious (to me) Countess. Through some series of machinations and backroom dealings (I'm assuming), he ends up becoming Pope.

The two major axes of power that form the crux of Iest's religio-political system seem to be Bishop Powers (pun intended) and President Weisshaupt (which means "dude with white hair" - I checked).

There's a kind of revoltingly submissive "archbishop" that shuttles back and forth between Pope Cerebus and Bishop Powers. Cerebus is probably trying to get more money out of being Pope. Powers is probably on some misguided ideological mission and hopes to use Pope Cerebus's unlikely sway with the general populace (despite - or perhaps because of? his casually killing an infant) to push his ideas forward.

Meanwhile, the Pope gets into all kinds of trouble with the ladies. Sophia returns, in her ever-present metal bikini. I think they get married? There are some bedroom scenes that don't look very fun (for the participants - I can't really speak for readers, yet). But then Jaka shows up in Iest. Cerebus finds out and has her summoned. They are each upset with the other and exchange heartfelt-yet-bitter words, never quite reconciling.

At the end Weisshaupt dies. It seems that Cerebus lectures him to death. I'm not sure yet what the implications are of Thrunk's sudden appearance.

Oh yeah, and there's an awesome-looking trippy dream sequence that I suspect will end up being my favorite part :)


Anonymous said...


Your impressions are basically spot on.

- Reginald P.