Monday 31 August 2015

1995 Spirits Of Independence

Jam image created for the 1995 Spirits of Independence tour. Shi penciled and inked by Billy Tucci; Megaton Man penciled and inked by Don Simpson; Cerebus the Aardvark penciled and inked by Dave Sim; hotrod penciled and inked by Gerhard; laid out by Dave Sim. 

(via ComicArtFans)

Sunday 30 August 2015

Dave Sim: The Final Word

(from Hero Illustrated #9, March 1994)

Well I had to laugh, didn't I?

Having read Marvel's solicitation for Spider-Man Whatchamacallit number mumbiety mumble in which "Spider-Man Reveals His True Identity To The World For Real Would We Lie To You?" and having just found out that it was a guy in a Spider-Man costume and that retailers are (once more) up in arms over another mainstream dirty trick... the mental image of Wayne and Garth with opened palms on either side of their mouth leaps to mind. I mean, come on. What if Mort Weisinger were alive in the 1990s? Can you picture the solicitations?

"Gee, Bubba -- says here Superman gets turned into a giant turtle an' it's fer real."

"Get outta Dodge."

"Naw -- sez right here. We better order another case an a half. When he's still a giant turtle twenny years from now, they'll be worth a fortune."

Every month I read the solicitations in Advance Comics and Previews. Every month I think to myself, "Self," I think, "this month, the retailers and the fans are finally going to get the joke." I read about another epic storyline that is going to change the shape of whomever for years to come. I read about another death, another marriage, another epic confrontation with Destructo, or Megadevoid, or Hellsstayne, or Evilkill and I think, "No one is this gullible. No one could possibly think that any amount of metal effort went into coming up with this rhetorical tripe." Every month I'm proven wrong.

It's a joke. You know, like, Marvel Comics paid Rob Liefeld $10,000 for a list of fifty nouns that they could turn into characters. Right now, someone (many someones) are reading this and thinking to themselves, "Wow. Ten grand. I wonder what those nouns were?"

It's a joke.

I talked to a retailer somewhere in my travels in the last year. Nice guy. Like most retailers, he confronts a handful of questions day after day. You could do a David Letterman Top Ten list: "Top Ten Stupid Questions Retailers Have To Answer On A Daily Basis": If Batman and Wolverine had a fight, who would win?" (Fill in any two characters for this last one -- or even creators, from what I understand of the state of Bubbadom: The Hulk and Rob Liefeld. Stimpy and Matt Groening); "Can you tell me how much this comic is going to be worth?" Store owners and people who work in stores take over where Mom and Dad left off; they are absolute and irrefutable authorities in the life of the young Comic Book Bubba. I used to tell store owners to tell them "$1,000 in 45 years." Since Comic Book Bubba has the attention span of a fruit fly, this guarantees a sure sale at a very low risk.

Oops. For all you Comic Book Bubbas reading this, that was a joke as well. I don't tell store owners that.

Anyway, this retailer noticed that the third most popular question was "Can you tell me what's going on in X-Men?" This question recurred so frequently that this retailer (being a cagey sort of fellow) thought there might be a genuine market for a publication called What's Going On In X-Men. An up-to-the-minute synopsis, guide to the characters, plot line flow chart, the whole nine yards (A lot of Comic Book Bubbas are eagerly scanning the ensuing paragraphs to see if there's an address and ordering information. Please, just wait for the punchline). He got out all of the X-Men back issues, right back to #94. He got a pad of paper and he sat down after hours and started making notes.

Now the punchline. He couldn't do it.

Get it? It didn't make any sense. None. Oh, the Claremont issues did (after a fashion), but once Chris was booted off the book, ANY pretense of coherence went out of the window. No one can tell you what's going on in X-Men. Not Chris Claremont. Not Bob Harras. Not Tom DeFalco.

It's a JOKE.

The X-Men consists of different groups of different characters who clench their teeth, wear various kinds of amour and shoot various kinds of energy  out of various appendages. They fight each other. Why? No one knows. Who wins? No one knows. Where do they come from? No one knows. Not the writer, not the editor, not the publisher.

It's not just The X-Men; it's not just Marvel Comics; it's not just superheroes. Did you read Children's Crusade? I tried to. I read the first one by Neil. Wonderful. My back teeth ached to read the next one. I wondered what happened next. Then I got the next two parts. I read the first few pages of the second one 3 or 4 times and then I started smiling. They got me. Ha Ha! It's a joke. I get it. I'll just wait for Neil's end bit now. But they did it. They really got me with the "Continued in the next 3 Annuals" gag.

Get it?

Or the new universe's last year. That was a side-splitter. "Our universe is going to be coherent, everything will be there for a reason. Twenty years from now, we'll still be publishing the same six titles, they'll still be written, pencilled and inked by the same creative teams, everything will be coordinated and woven into a seamless and exhilerating comic book experience." Guys would be telling me this at trade shows and conventions. I'd start smiling and snickering to myself. Okay, what's the punchline?

Then they'd all look offended. "No, no. It's true, 20 years from now, all these titles will be at issue #120 and..." I'd crack up. I really would. And they'd walk away. I'd think, "Hey, you haven't finished the joke."

Sure enough, a catalogue would come in six months later. Guess what? The writer quit after issue one! That's beautiful! What timing! What a build-up! I get it, I get it!

Hey, you wanna join in the fun? Tell you what; the next time you get your hands on one of the catalogues, read it out loud. Seriously. Use your best Jerry Seinfeld delivery. Just go through the Spider-Man listings. In between each listing look up and say "and then do you know what happened to the poor slob? Do you? Well the very next morning..." and then read the next listing. After that one say, "Now, a morning like this is going to take a lot out of a guy, as I'm sure you'll agree. So he heads down to the deli for a nice roast beef sandwich (no mayo, I mean, c'mon, the guy has to haul his own body weight around on gummy stuff that shoots out of his wrists), and what do you suppose happens to him? Go on, guess. No? Well..."

Some day, I hope some of you get the joke. Some day, you'll be reading the catalogues and you'll, you know, start to smile a little bit. Trust me. Then you'll be on the floor, you won't be able to stop. Tears will be streaming from your eyes.

Company controlled comics. Get it?

Saturday 29 August 2015

Gerhard At Wizard World Chicago

(via email, 27 August 2015)
I got a Cerebus sketch from Gerhard at Wizard World Chicago last week. I figure it's something your readers would like to see. 

...and Gerhard has more photos from Wizard World Chicago posted on his blog right here.

Friday 28 August 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. And now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I will be posting full paragraphs or pages of interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.

From a letter dated 13 November, 2004, from Dave to me, a PS in response to something. I don't remember what I wrote and can’t find it right now, not that it matters much:
See, this is where I start running into problems. David C. has written me, I believe, two or three letters at the most, all of which I have answered. He is certainly not turning to me with "every spiritual dilemma" and I tell him the same thing I tell everyone else if they come to me for an answer: submit yourself to the will of God, acknowledge God's sovereignty, pray and fast and pay the stated alms [Jeff: the zakat]. I wouldn't know what to advise beyond that. As I wrote to Billy [Beach], I think it highly unlikely that anyone would be a follower, or a "follower", of mine, per se. I am just too much at variance with my society for it to be possible that someone would believe what I was saying within a year of first publication. Later? Maybe. But, as I say, I've been out here on my own for a long time, so I think I know the difference. There are people who credit me with helping them through what I've written. That, I assume, is not unheard of. Norman Mailer gave me an enormous amount of help through his writing but I'd hardly describe myself as one of Mailer's followers or even "followers". There are a number of people who are very enthusiastic about what I have to say and credit me with breaking them out of the feminist mindset. Only God knows what is actually inside of those people. I answer my mail as honestly as I can. I answer David C's letters and your letters and Billy's letters. I'm interested in ideas and exchanges of viewpoint and I don't trust anyone any further [sic] than I can throw them -- except for God.

No, I don't believe I'm a prophet of God. [Jeff: An answer to what I believe was a facetiously-asked question written by me. Remember, this was early on in our relationship.]

Five times a day, I acknowledge my belief that Muhammad was God's Last Messenger and Seal of Prophets. I'm just someone who thinks it makes more sense to believe that 2 out of every 100 people are just going to get a passing grade on Judgment Day. I just happen to live in a time and a society where most people believe that either a) there isn't going to be a Judgment Day, or b) if there is a Judgment Day it’ll be enough that you flossed after every meal to allow you to "make the cut". I’m "reading into the record" because I assume that, at some point in the distant future, society will begin to take Judgment Day as seriously as I do and that it will be useful to have a record of what someone who took Judgment Day seriously had to say. If that resonates with anyone in the next twenty or thirty years or however long it takes for the "penny to drop" well, hey, bonus. But, to say that I don’t anticipate that to be the case seriously understates my viewpoint. I do figure that a lot of people are going to claim to agree with me, but I assume that will mostly be a tactical means of trying to distract me and get the subjects under discussion off track. That’s one of the reasons behind Collected Letters 2004: "This is what I’m saying. This is 580 pages of what I am saying. You can disagree with it if you want or you can change it if you want by paraphrasing it or misrepresenting it, but this is what I'm actually saying."

Thanks, Jeff.

Weekly Update #97: The Great Cerebus Back-Issues Give Away!

The warehouse where the back issues of Cerebus have been stored is closing. So, if you are willing to drive to Leamington, Ontario, you can hang out with Dave and get pretty much as many copies of as many issues of Cerebus as you want, for free. More details in future updates.

The giveaway of Cerebus back-issues has been scheduled for October 23rd, 24th, and 25th in Leamington, Ontario. Dave has reserved a block of rooms for Cerebus fans at the Comfort Inn in Leamington. To register for one of the rooms in the block, call the Comfort Inn at 519 326 9071 and cite the name of the event: CEREBUS 2015. Book now!


Wednesday 26 August 2015

Notebook #10 Bits

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.

The third of three "quickies" as when this gets posted I'll hopefully be all unpacked, and only a couple days away from getting FiOS installed. Have I mentioned how much I hate packaging? Because it sucks.

This week - some pages from Dave's notebook #10, which said it covers issues 112 / 113, but it also covers some of Jaka's Story. Like page #74, which shows us Jaka in bed perhaps writing something, with a lump beside her, whom I assume is Rick.

Notebook #10, page 74
It also has the name "Pat Withers" down at the bottom - whom would later transform into Pud Withers. I do like the quotes that Dave has jotted on the page:

"people are genuinely disappointed if you one is are both an artist and normal"

"No one wants to know where you came from. They just want to be where you are."

"I find it disappointing that most temptation is ordinary in the extreme."

The next page that piqued my interest was page 78. All it had on it was an outline of the different phonebooks from issue #1 to issue #200.

Notebook #10, page 78
While Jaka's Story did end with issue #136, Mothers & Daughters didn't start until issue #150 as we all know now. And along with missing Melmoth, Dave had only broken Mothers & Daughters into two books instead of the four we know now.

Neil Gaiman: Why I Won't Sign Dave Sim's Petition

Earlier today, Neil Gaiman announced that he was supporting Dave Sim's Patreon fundraiser, saying that "the world of comics is a big one", but "I won't sign his pledge", a reference to Dave Sim's online petition which asks people to confirm that they do not believe Dave Sim to be a misogynist. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask Neil (via Twitter) to make clear his reasons for not signing Dave's petition. Neil's response was as follows:
To give some context to Neil Gaiman's objections to Dave Sim's perceived misogyny, the following is an extract from a letter to Erik Larsen (then Image publisher) from Dave Sim posted on Al Nickerson's Creator's Bill Of Rights Website on 27 July 2005. The letter comments on the dispute between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane over the ownership and royalties due from Medieval Spawn and Angela, characters created by Neil Gaiman in Spawn #9 in March 1993, written by Gaiman and illustrated by McFarlane. The dispute was finally settled in 2012 with Neil Gaiman being award the full ownership rights to Angela. The Hollywood Reporter has a handy summary of the case if you're interested.

...I conceded your point on Medieval Spawn. Even though a court of law said Neil had a case, I don't think it serves the comic-book field's best interests to see that as a precedent -- or, perhaps, more accurately -- that it proves that those things need to be established by the publishing creator. "I don't go in for that. If you want to take back Medieval Spawn, go ahead, but I don't see variations as innovations and I can't concede ownership of something that’s just a modification of my own intellectual property". I think it was a very badly-reasoned verdict in the Neil vs. Todd trial that would make very bad case law -- all you have to do is reverse it to see that: what if Neil had created Medieval Spawn and sold it to Vertigo? Would anyone in their right mind think he was entitled to do so? -- and just between you me and the lamppost I think it had more to do with the all-female jury at the trial. It wouldn't matter what Todd and Neil were disagreeing about, an all-female jury was going to find Todd in the wrong and Neil in the right just because Todd is Todd and Neil is Neil. Had the judge asked them, I'm sure the all-female jury would have been happy to give Neil the rights to Spawn, Todd's house and cars, Madonna's uniform from A League of Their Own and the Mark McGwire baseball and anything else Neil expressed an interest in.

Angela, I would maintain was a different matter entirely and I would think that all of these "well after the point of creation" items could be better handled on an issue-by-issue basis. It would seem to me that Neil was entitled to a royalty on each appearance of Angela and on the action figure and if that seemed unreasonable to Todd -- and, as I've said, I can certainly see Todd thinking that $100,000 should be you some consideration -- then the easy answer, it seems to me, is to write Angela out of the book and discontinue the action figure. And I quite agree with you on who was driving the Spawn bus. As far as I know the sales on Spawn 9 were probably higher than on Sandman to a factor of ten. Just as the sales of Spawn 10 were higher than on Cerebus to a factor of 100...

Neil Gaiman: "I'm Supporting Dave Sim on Patreon"

Further Reading:

Cerebus ... the Human?

Mara Sedlins:

Well: the work on C & S I is finished, I’m back from the “hinterlands” of Minnesota (or more accurately, the “suburban-lands” where I grew up), and soon I’ll be turning my attention to restoration work for C & S II. It’s a nice juncture to reach - when you’ve finished one project but haven’t quite dived into the next one yet. There’s a bit of room to breathe. To reflect, to reassess. With each book, we’re finding new strategies to make the restoration work even better, the workflow more efficient and predictable (e.g., the coincidence of my trip to MN with the last stages of book layout for C & S I was unintentional - we plan to have more lead time on the deadline for future books).

While Sean is working on the initial page adjustments for C & S II, I’m preparing the next batch of finder’s prizes for our latest contributions to the art hunt. So if we missed you in the last round, look forward to a thank-you certificate in the mail soon!

When I was in Minnesota I had a chance to finish reading C & S I, so I thought I’d use this blog post to share my reflections on the latter part of the book. When I was about halfway through, I wrote a bit about psychological principles of persuasion and the ways I saw them being applied (or not) by various characters in their struggle for power over public belief. But after having finished the book, I no longer find this the most compelling way to think about what’s going on in Church & State. Sure, there are some great examples of persuasion and psychological manipulation. Bran Mak Mufin flatters Cerebus like crazy and leads him down a line of thought that ends in the conquest of the Red Marches. Meanwhile Lord Julius convinces Bishop Powers to enthusiastically “force” the Presidency on him through your classic reverse psychology (or “reactance,” in academic-speak). And the power of conformity continues to be portrayed hyperbolically (but, disturbingly, not far from realistically) in the way the crowd eats up Cerebus the Pope’s every word (at least, until a new pope strides onto the scene).

But what really drew me in as I read the second part of the book were the moments when Cerebus the Aardvark starts to show signs of vulnerability. Of emotional depth. When he begins to look more human than aardvark.

Maybe it’s not surprising that my favorite pages are those depicting the internal psychological states of a character. I don’t think it’s just my background in psych, though - these are the types of moments that touch on universal human experience. Feeling crappy and alone. Waiting to find out if someone you care about cares back. Waking up from a freaky dream. These are the kinds of private moments that I think visual art is uniquely suited for communicating. As I make my way through Cerebus, I’m finding that often the most impactful pages are those that are pure image, with no dialogue or text at all.

Given that observation, it’s probably not a coincidence that I felt more drawn into the book as I read through the second half. After all, this is when Dave extends his powers of visual communication with the addition of Gerhard to his artistic team. In the excellent essay that Sean wrote for the new edition of C & S I, he offers some great insights about how the visual elements of Cerebus evolve over the course of this volume. I won’t say more here - you can enjoy reading the essay yourselves - but it definitely gave me a more nuanced perspective on this and other aspects of the book.

In his introduction to C & S I, Dave warns readers that the book has a cliffhanger ending. And he’s right - after finishing the book, I’m left with a lot of questions and loose ends. I’m particularly intrigued by the mysterious or “supernatural” elements. Does Cerebus really have the power to declare the end of the world? Will we learn more about why four separate characters all have Cerebus’ handwriting? Was that one coin really “struck by Tarim,” or is Cerebus imagining things? What truth did Weisshaupt realize on his deathbed? Where are the two other aardvarks? Who or what is that glowing ball of light? It’s been fun for me (and for at least some of you) to share my imaginations of what’s going on with the plot based solely on my incidental, mostly zoomed-in perceptions doing restoration work. But this time I can’t promise I won’t read ahead in order to find out what happens next!

Monday 24 August 2015


Madvark: Tribute to Mike Allred's Madman (2010)
by Dave Sim

Sunday 23 August 2015

A Ditkomania Pin-Up!

(Ditkomania #67, August 2008)
By Dave Sim

Saturday 22 August 2015

Why I Haven't Signed Dave Sim's Petition

(originally posted on AMOC: Please Consider Signing The Petition, 19 August 2015)
I haven't signed the ["I don't believe Dave Sim is a misogynist"] petition (and don't plan to) despite being a huge fan and longtime supporter of Dave and Cerebus. That longtime and passionate support has at times taken the form of a public defense of the work, nowhere more often than on the late, lamented Comics Journal message boards. It's puzzling to me why Dave is determined to remain disconnected from the internet, yet insistent (for over a decade) that he has no supporters in public opinion. The conversations are still out there in the Wayback Machine for anyone to see, and I didn't defend Dave and Cerebus as often as some, but I did my fair share.

I'm not easily offended, but it's hard not to take umbrage at Dave's seemingly perpetual moan of Poor Me, No One Will Stand Up for Cerebus. Excuse me? I've been with you since 1984, not only buying nearly anything you commit to paper, hanging original art in the walls of my home for friends and family to see, and wading into public debate - using my real name and location - as opportunity allows. Does that not count?

If his petition had read: "I defend Dave Sim's (or anyone's) right to critique feminism as a political / social / economic philosophy", I would have signed it years ago, as soon as it was put up! I'll say it right now for posterity, in all caps, on the public internet for all the world to see:

 - signed, Greg Griffin, Los Angeles, California, August 2015.

Maybe some of the signers above have the benefit of spending enough time with Dave in person such that they can say they KNOW FOR A FACT he's not a misogynist. If you have, that's great (and I envy you). But I've only met him in person twice, way back when he used to do tours and signings, way before his views on feminism and religion were part of the story, and our interaction was entirely cursory. All I have to go on is his published work, which strays outside of a purely intellectual inquiry into feminism far enough, and often enough, to make the misogyny question stick to the wall.

I'm DEFINITELY NOT saying I think that Dave IS a misogynist, and I accept him at his word that his sole interest is in questioning the societal changes wrought by feminism. But I don't KNOW that he isn't. I'm missing two pieces of data: what is a misogynist (what constitutes a negative, discriminatory or objectifying view of women in general, and to what degree does one need to consistently hold it in order for the label to stick)? and how does Dave fit that definition in both his public and private, interior and exterior life? If anything, I'm impressed that he convinced the 670-odd fans to sign.

Most of the messages above are messages of support and love for Dave and Cerebus, and to that let me unreservedly add my name. But to publicly avow that someone you don't know and maybe have never even met does / does not hold a particular thinking pattern - bit silly, isn't it?

And who cares anyway? Is Dave the first author of some renown to face public criticism and censure? Have people stopped talking about or reading Celine, or Salman Rushdie, or Samuel Clemens?

By way of aside - my interest in Cerebus really picked up during "Church and State" and soared with the entire second half - well, up until "Chasing YHWH" anyway. I am not your typical "oh please, give us more Roach and Elrod" fan - the best stuff (IMO) was the material that cut against the grain.

I find the entire concept of a Public Loyalty Oath absurd and beneath Dave's stature as the pre-eminient cartoonist of his generation. Second to none. Cerebus will survive as literature based on its merit - same as every other book that's ever been written. Not because 670-odd people put their name on a petition to help make Dave, our beloved paragon of rational Male thought, "feel better".

Dave Sim Needs YOUR Help!

(from Cerebus Facebook Group, 21 August 2015)
So... who is interested in working with Dave Sim on a special project that will take up the next two years? It doesn't pay, will be a lot of work, people will probably call you a misogynist and chances are at the end, nobody will care. Interested? Email -- sandeep.s.atwal [at] gmail [dot] com -- or message me for more details!!! 

Friday 21 August 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. And now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I will be posting full paragraphs or pages of interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.

From a letter dated 13 November, 2004, from Dave to me:
The VeriChip article was interesting in a vague and distant sort of way. I think I’d be the last one to actually undergo it, because of my rock-solid conviction that all health concerns are the hand of God. I don’t know of any good medical stories. [Ed: He does now!]

Gene Day had a check-up and was given a clean bill of health the week before he died of a heart attack at the age of 31. I tend not to read any medical stories because of my belief that good health is a matter of taking as good care of yourself as you can and accepting that only God knows when your "best before" date is. There's a part of the Koran which describes the ambivalence about going to war -- those poor fellows who would be alive today if they hadn't gone to war. This is sharply corrected by the observation that, if they had chosen to stay home, they would've walked to where they are lying right now because it was God's will that that was where they were going to die. Sounds like fatalism or predestination, but that's my view of life. When your number is up, your number is up.

Thanks for writing.
Best, Dave.

Weekly Update #96: The Left-Handed Writer

Dave provides an update on his injured wrist.
Physiotherapy doesn't seem to have done anything and the MRI is next.
Wish him luck.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Dave's Sketches of People

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.

The second of three "quickies" as when this gets posted I'll be unpacking. I hope it is better than packing, because packing sucks. But I digress.

This week - some pages from Dave's notebook #5, which covers issues #70 to 79, so this notebook spans approximately late 1984 to middle of 1985. These pages are some of the sketches of friends and random people.

The first page, page 37, has been rotated 90 degrees as you can see by the spine of the notebook along the top of the page. I'm guessing they're tourists. The text? "You clumsy great oaf. If you've dropped my good lines in this pig-sty".

Notebook #5, page 37
My mom had that same haircut in the early 1990s. Luckily she never dressed like that.

The next sketch is of Miss Judith Bradford. She graces page 62 along with a thumbnail sketch of the cover of issue #76.

Notebook #5, page 62
Elaine is the center of page 66 where Dave signs it with his Bill Sienkiewicz signature:

Notebook #5, page 66

Restoration Bulletin: Help Ordering Church & State I?

Sean Michael Robinson:

Greetings everyone!

It's come to our attention that some of you have been having difficulty ordering Church & State I from your local comics retailer. 

It seems that the problem has to do with how the book is simultaneously a new listing (for the restored version) and an old, backordered listing (as the book's ISBN number hasn't changed).

Don't despair! You should still be able to receive the restored and revamped Church & State I, alias "the slickest Cerebus volume ever to exist" from your local Diamond retailer. Simply contact said retailer with the following information--

Church & State I Restored edition
STAR00271 (or AUG150927)
Order MAY need to be placed as a "back order" due to the way it's been listed in the system

If you're still getting a "no" from your local retailer, there's still another option. Long-time Cerebus fan Menachem Luchins runs the fantastic Cerebus-friendly comic store Escape Pod Comics, located in Huntington Village, NY. He has placed a very large Church & State I order and will happily take on-line orders for the book. To order your copy of C & S I online, contact Escape Pod Comics at EscapePodComics at gmail dot com. Menachem will give you the details from there.

And while you're at it, you could also purchase either of the other two restored volumes, or a copy of CANO or CANT portfolios.

Thank you very much to those who brought this to our attention, and for your patience!

Church & State I: A Pox On Dotville

Sean Michael Robinson:

Howdy everyone!

This will be a brief one, as I'm still recovering from last week's marathon work session to finish the newly restored Church & State I. Rest assured, plans are proceeding for Church & State II as I write this, and we should have a schedule for that book firmed up by a week from now. I'll be using the next few weeks of posts to demonstrate the work we did on the book and give you an idea of how things turned out.

In the meanwhile, this would be a great time to pay a visit to your local comic store and place an order for Church & State I! 

I thought this week I'd give you all a peek into how I dealt with one of the most challenging and aggravating problems facing C&S I. Issues 66, 67, and 70-73 all seem to have been photographed with a poorly calibrated stat camera, causing all manner of grit and pencil schmutz to be picked up in the photography along with the ink itself. In the pages where we had access to the original art, this wasn't a problem at all, but the majority of these pages were sourced from the negatives. 

The top tier of page 429, as it appears in my tenth printing of Church & State. Notice the "grimy" looking tone, which in closeup looks like areas with swollen, bulging dots. 

This is a problem where I probably should have just accepted this is how it is. This is how the pages were photographed, and short of retoning all the pages there was nothing to do about it, so how about I just relax and accept it?

Fortunately for my neurotic nature, I didn't have to accept it the way it was-- there was a solution available to me.

Here's a screenshot of a scan of the original negative. As you can see, although there's no dot gain unlike the printed example above, the problem is still there.

So I open up the Levels command and take a look.

By moving the midpoint very far to the left, and moving the black point up just a bit, we've now driven a visible wedge between the noise (non-desireable elements) and the signal (the actual ink on paper.) This is enough to then use sharpening that targets only the signal, and then use further levels adjustments to "knock out" the remainder of the noise.

Of course, it also leaves the rest of the page overexposed, too light. Look at how far away those halftone dots are from each other! Surely there would be a way to return the page to its original value?

There was indeed ... but I'm afraid that'll have to wait for another day.

Perfect? No, but it's a big improvement, and short of scans of the original art being sent to us, it's the best way forward I've found yet for these problem pages.

Of course, now that I've mostly solved it, this is a problem that disappears for a good decade or so of the book. Flipping forward, I think it affects a good 60 page chunk of Minds, and then that might be it for the remainder of the series. I'd like to think there was a purpose to it anyway, though, even if it only affects a hundred or two hundred pages or so total, even if only to indulge my need for constant improvement.

Next week-- more Mara! Less me!! Less tech talk!!!

Monday 17 August 2015

Sand Hills Creek

Cerebus Vol 14: Form & Void
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(Cerebus Yahoo Group, May 2004)
I think Cerebus missed the point in a lot of ways about the nature of Sand Hills Creek (local mythology holds that Kitchener was once called Sand Hills, which Rych Mills, a local historian has pretty definitely disproved). The place I pictured was closer to the size of Gananoque than any incarnation of Kitchener I remember, but there are similarities: one being that people who leave tend to come back no matter how much they didn't like the place and couldn't wait to get out. That's always the side I knew. Someone would move away from Kitchener and then I'd see them back at Peter's Place a year later. The side I never thought of (always being on this side of it) was that there was never a big Hey, Welcome Home. Just a "I thought you moved to Vancouver?". So, what I'm saying is I think Cerebus was expecting more than he would've gotten even if he had come home before his father died. His father wouldn't have welcomed him back and neither would anyone else. There are Sand Hills people who stay and Sand Hills people who go. Cerebus went. It put him "out of tune" with Sand Hills Creek.

(via Cerebus Wiki)

Sunday 16 August 2015

Covering Cerebus

The fanzine Cerebus The Newsletter was originally published by Fred Patten and then by Aardvark-Vanaheim from January 1981 to October 1985 and ran for 13 issues. After asking Fred Patten and Dave Sim if I could use the name of the previous fanzine, Jeff Tundis and I started anew in 2009 with issue #14. I published issues #14 through 21, which was released in November 2011. Below is an article that I wrote for the Cerebus The Newsletter - albeit the article below has additional information and pictures. If you would like to purchase back issues, some of them are still in print and can be found at the Friends of Cerebus website.

It was a cover that drew me into the series. The lush green forest surrounding this little girl all alone on a horse in a playground, it was beautiful. Sure I had heard a couple good reviews of it, but I was still a bit intimidated by not only the voluminous history of the book, but by not knowing where to jump on and start reading. The cover also told me that it was the first in a new chapter of the book. Perfect, a starting point. I picked it up and started reading.

That was issue #114 of Cerebus. With 300 issues, the covers have been as varied as pictures of “real life” landscapes to a black background with white letters to painted pictures of the series characters.

Up until issue 39 every cover had Cerebus on it.  That issue had the character that appeared on the second greatest amount of issues: Cockroach. However, in the count of cover appearances it wasn’t close between the two. Being the title character, Cerebus owned it: 164 covers compared to the Cockroach’s 18 covers. Except during Jaka’s Story wherein Jaka was on ten covers while Cerebus was only one two.

There were a total of 39 different individuals on the covers, including the one and only cover appearance of one of the two artists: Gerhard, whose picture appeared on the cover of issue #165.

Click on the above graph for a larger version
Gerhard started working on the series with issue #65, which coincidently was the first issue where the cover was text only: “Anything Done For The First Time Unleashes A Demon”.  When asked, Gerhard stated that the text only cover was Dave’s idea, as Dave didn’t want any hint of what was inside. Also Gerhard thought that since he “had been struggling so much with trying to do a good job, that there just wasn’t any time left to do a full colour cover.”  The only other cover that was only text was issue #110: “Marvel and Decease”.  Issue 65 was white text on a black background while #110 was almost a direct opposite: blue text on a white background.

Before Gerhard started there were no covers that were purely landscapes and there was one cover that was mainly a landscape, issue #61’s silhouetted Regency Hotel, which actually mostly black with white text and a small portion of it was the Regency and up along the top silhouetted in black we can see Cerebus and Weisshaupt struggling against the wind. However, with Gerhard on board there were 25 “landscape only” covers from the sunset in Iest cover of issue #141 to Oscar's room of issue #121 to the Tavern at the Wall of T’si’s bartender house and its window reflection of issue #217.

Those don’t include the 34 issues of Going Home which had the picture covers.  In fact, the two phone books that comprise Going Home: Going Home and Form & Void, were the only two phonebooks to not have any characters, including Cerebus, on the front cover.

Not only were the cover pictures themselves varied, the cover composition changed over time. For example, issue #114 was the first cover to have the over-arching storyline title on it. Every issue after it contained the storyline’s title on it with the exception of four issues of Rick’s Story.  During Rick’s Story the storyline title was incorporated into a tavern sign until issue 228 when the picture on the cover was put into the tavern sign and the storyline title moves out of the tavern sign and onto the cover.

Issue 228 coincidently was the issue wherein Rick put the binding spell on Cerebus so he couldn’t leave the tavern. With each subsequent issue, as Cerebus first talks with Dave and then finally leaves the tavern with Jaka, the storyline title became larger and larger so that by issue #231 the only visible part of it was the R from Rick’s Story. 

From the first issue to issue 86 there was a banner along the top of the cover that stated “Aardvark-Vanaheim Presents” with the Cerebus logo right below it. Issue 87 through issue 99, with the exception of issue 89, the banner stated “Aardvark-Vanaheim”. With issue 100, the banner was removed from the cover all together. 

The Cerebus logo used over the years has also changed, from issue # 1 to issue 49:

Issues #51 – 100:

And the logo used on the Cerebus phonebook and on issue 101, both released in August 1987. The logo continued on as the logo for the series until its completion with issue #300:

Over the twenty six years of publication, the Cerebus covers have changed in a multitude of ways. From the content of what was on them, how it was present to the logos that graced them, Dave Sim and Gerhard have created in the 299 covers of Cerebus works of art that, in my opinion, should have a book all their own. 

Margaret notes: Since I wrote this back in 2009, IDW Publishing will be publishing a book of Cerebus covers that we've seen Dave working on via his weekly updates. I'm pretty excited to see this book - not just for all the amazing covers, but the commentary and other extras from Dave.