Saturday 31 October 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.

This week, a letter from Dave Sim to me, dated 15 July 2004, in response to my letter of 3 July 2004:

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for your letter of July 3. Glad to hear that you liked the Yahoo Newsgroup a little better on second reading. I have certainly heard that they get into some interesting discussions and I’ve heard that the intelligence level is quite a bit higher than the Internet average, both very gratifying to as both (largely tangential) object and non-participant.

Selling energy savings door-to-door in Texas heat (make that Heat) should certainly test your stamina and determination. That’s exactly the sort of thing I meant in one of recent letters to you about REAL jobs and the urge I have to get one from time-to-time. Believing as I do that everything comes from God, I would put this one in the “prove yourself” category. If you can maintain a good disposition and optimism through that, then you will definitely have proved something and will be ready for the next round--whatever that might be.

Yes, I did enjoy my vacation in Italy, as I mentioned in my letter which you haven’t gotten yet. Very funny, you wondering how a Canadian and an ex-pat Brit would celebrate the Fourth of July and then catching yourself at it. Actually, I did think quite a bit about the Fourth of July, it being a Sunday. There was the possibility of bypassing my usual Sabbath procedure of complete isolation, reading scripture aloud and fasting (hey, God, I’m on VACATION here--my first vacation since 2000) in favour of just another day off in the Portorecanati sun. It occurred to me that either one would constitute an Independence Day--Independence from God or Independence from the beach and the Beaches. Chose the latter. Got through seventeen chapters of Leviticus, all of John’s Gospels, and sura IV “Women” (which is a long one). As Billy rather drily remarked when I staggered downstairs, “I expect you’re a bit peckish.”

“Yeah, I could eat something.”

Second-longest fast of the year this time of the year, early July, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fortunately, Francesca had made a lasagna earlier, which went down nicely.

Spoke to Keith on the phone yesterday and it looks as if we’re all on the same page. He was very complimentary about you by the way, how polite and reasonable you were. I expect those might not be common traits in your average Cerebus fan, from the way he said it. We’ll be sending out some books from the warehouse that he can use to hand-sell Bi-Weekly #17 for his Conan subscribers and Cerebus 264 for the SandFans. We have some other things on the go and, last week, Diamond ordered over 400 copies of the Cerebus trade, so it seems as if something is up, however temporarily. We’ll also send him some Self-Publishing Guides.

To be honest, I don’t know if the local Conservative won. By the time I got back [from Italy] it was old news. I plan on going down to Karen Redman’s constituency office in a few days to see if there are cardboard boxes stacked up all over the place. I suspect not. Ontario has given itself a bad case of whiplash scrambling back to the Marxist-Feminist side of the fence in the last few days of the campaign. Kitchener is so Liberal, we have a metaphorical slipped disc from the same process. I had trouble believing that the Conservatives were actually going to win it--Marxist-Feminists just don’t change their hearts that fast. Harper actually did really well, compared to my mental image of Canada, and now the question is: how far from accurate is my mental image of Canada? I suspect it isn’t and a minority government with the Stalin NDP should make that pretty obvious in short order. But the level of denial in Marxist-Feminists is prodigious. After all, these people believe abortion is a virtue, the Kyoto Accord is based on actual science, men and women are interchangeable and gay marriage constitutes a giant leap forward for human freedom. Not to mention the sixteen Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast. Voting for self-evidently corrupt politicians is a snap, compared to the big items on the menu. Martin has already delayed recalling Parliament until October. Calls a snap election because we have all these big emergencies he needs a mandate for and now that he’s elected he pushes recalling Parliament back a month. Makes sense to me, Clarabelle, what about you? MOOOOOOO.

Thanks again, as always, for writing.



Friday 30 October 2015

Weekly Update #106: Cerebus Mega-Recap

Dave discusses his visit to the MRI clinic in Chicago, recaps the Great Cerebus Giveaway in Leamington, previews the Cerebus Covers Collection from IDW, teases us with some CGC copies of Cerebus and shows us an actual real copy of the remastered Church & State I!


Thursday 29 October 2015

Boys! Dinner!

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.

We've looked at Dave Sim's notebook #6 a couple times already - "Touch Not The Priestess", "Fat Elvis Period", and "Flick", ". It covers issues #80 through 86 and only 118 pages were scanned.

On page 51 of the notebook we see Dave's thumbnails for page 8 and 9 of Cerebus #84 - or if you're following along in the phonebooks, it is page 662 & 663 of Church & State II.

Notebook #6, page 51
The two thumbnails are pretty close to the finished pages. However, the text below those two thumbnails doesn't the text of the finish pages. The notebooks have Michelle saying "Aren't you. . .umm. . .going to. . .uh. . .Say grace? Or Something?" On the finish page she says "I gave you a knife, fork, spoon and a plate for a . . .reason."

Church & State II, page 662 & 663
The other little thumbnail on the notebook page is for page 674 of Church & State II, or page 20 of issue 84. The text that you can barely see - as it appears to be in pencil is Michelle's dialogue from that page "Tarim. Will you look at that. It's snowing in the middle of summer." Then below the thumbnail is the text "Next: Missing it for the world", which is the title for issue #85.

Going along with issue #84, here is the dialogue for pages #12 to 17 (phonebook pages 666 to 671).

Notebook #6, page 56
Along with the dialogue, it has descriptions of what is to be taking place in that panel. Most of it is close to the finished pages, there are some changes though - and what is different from the finished page isn't crossed off here in the notebook.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Framing the Frames

Mara Sedlins:


Since I last wrote here, the restoration work on Church & State II has shifted from negative scans to original artwork. And although the original scans ultimately lead to better quality results, right now I’m immersed in some tone-heavy, labor intensive pages that make me miss the momentum of working on the faster, easier negatives. Also, I’m no longer working on the pages in order - so the cleanup work no longer aligns with reading the book for fun :( But! I carry on.

To revisit the goal of staying sane, I’d like to reflect a bit on frames and framing. When I first see what I can tell will be a challenging page, I take a moment to prioritize. And what almost always comes first is the frame. Dave’s use (or disuse, or “misuse”) of frames can get really interesting - but generally, most pages have a white border between the image and the edge of the page that needs to be pristine. Next comes the ever-present Letratape bordering. After that, I begin to tackle the rest of any number of issues that might be present. But when I begin work on each page it’s nice to know where I'm going to start.

Here are a few pages from the beginning of C & S II, minus everything but the frames:

The way I see it, the frame is what anchors the rest of the page. It’s a basic visual grammar that makes sense of what it contains, that makes the page legible. Here (for most pages), we know the intention is for the frames to be clean and uniform. Since Cerebus was created before the advent of digital techniques, Dave and Gerhard had to painstakingly maintain this uniformity by hand (and we aim to complete their efforts where time has damaged the effect). Maybe this heightened consciousness of the frame was what allowed them to experiment so successfully with breaking it.

A detail, pre/post-cleanup

Here’s one of the subtler examples of an unconventional frame (note the crosshatched shadows nestled between panels):

(I'm sure there are many more examples, but those are the ones in front of me at the moment.)

When I was glancing through the Cerebus In My Life posts a few weeks ago, this statement by Kevin Harrison stuck in my mind:

“Sim taught me that focus, attention to detail, and consistency meant that you could create a world that could contain everything. Every genre, every concept, every character, every reflection, belief, strife, and joy...sort of just like our own world, except Cerebus has more Lord Julius in it.”

I also appreciated Steve Harold’s comment on my last post - he observed that “One of the best things about Cerebus was that Dave was very determined to get the book out on time and always have an issue on the comics rack every month.”

Each type of behavioral consistency creates its own stable framework, building trust with readers so that the artist can take creative risks - an inspiring example of what can be accomplished with the right balance of discipline and daring.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Chair Throwing With Bobby Knight

'Bobby Knight' illustration for The Bloomington Hearld Times
Art by Dave Sim (1992)

In February 1985 legendary Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight gets mad at the referees and throws a chair on the court before getting ejected in a game against Purdue.

Monday 26 October 2015

Sunday 25 October 2015

Tribute Art Round Up #12

Inktober 2015 Illustration

Art by Chuck Forsman (2015)
"So I did this cerebus commission and thought it would be a good thing to try my homemade screentone for the first time. Think it came out okay. I have no idea how the adhesive will age but I think it is doing its job visually. Thanks to Mr. Bissette for the quick screentone tips."

Cerebus & His Watchmen (2015)

Art by Zidders Roofurry (2015)

Art by Tattoo Mike (1998)
"I did this years ago for a comic book convention competition...some image thing won...of course..."
(Click image to enlarge) 

Saturday 24 October 2015

Cerebus Archive Number Four: "Let's Roll!"

A Portfolio Of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints From Church & State II
Raising Funds For The Restoration and Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel
Kickstarter Ends: Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hi! Dave Sim, here.

To you, the last few hundred CEREBUS fans, Welcome Back!

AND welcome to any new CEREBUS fans joining us for the first time…or RE-joining us.

(Is there such a thing as a NEW CEREBUS fan? No idea! But joining our Kickstarter team for the first time is Eric B. who's going to be helping us to develop a more in-depth "read" of our stats: so next time I'll be able to say "Welcome back XXX number of CEREBUS fans" and "welcome to the X number of new CEREBUS fans who joined us last time"…)

(…AND "So long to the XX number of CEREBUS fans who have left": always better to face Reality head-on, eh?)

It's an interesting fact attached to CEREBUS ARCHIVE on Kickstarter that each successive portfolio becomes the RAREST Aardvark-Vanaheim publication as soon as it's released:
This is the reason that I set a target of $800 -- the equivalent of ten portfolios -- on each Kickstarter campaign:
a) we have no idea where "the bottom" is. 250? 200? 175?
b) the "Last CEREBUS Fans standing" should be rewarded for their endurance! All the way down to the last ten if it comes to that! 
I'm pretty confident that the longest English-language graphic novel can't just be "wished away" by those who -- for whatever reason -- want me or CEREBUS or both of us to just GO AWAY! 

But that doesn't mean there isn't some "tough sledding" ahead. It's been "tough sledding" since CEREBUS came to an end 11 years ago…and I'm pretty sure the rest of MY life is going to be "tough sledding".

MOST of my time is taken up assuring that everything attached to CEREBUS -- except me, that is -- is RESTORED and PRESERVED IN PERPETUITY and that is definitely starting to happen, with your generous assistance. SOA! SAVE OUR AARDVARK!

Will YOU be one of the Last Cerebus Fans when we finally "bottom out"?

And what will be the ABSOLUTE RAREST CEREBUS ARCHIVE portfolio you own when we get to that point?

God only knows! Literally!

Let's roll! 


1.  A Signed & Numbered Portfolio of the 10 earliest pages from Church & State II ($79+p&p)

2.  Ten New Bonus Prints ($9 each)

3.  eBook: Dave Sim's Collected Letters Volume 3 ($15)

4.  Cerebus Digital Macro Print Download ($5)

5.  Bookplates (Signed & Personalised $40 for 8 / $60 for 16, Unsigned $20 for 16)

6.  Cerebus Artist Edition Postcard No. 1 (Signed & Personalised $20, Signed $15, Unsigned $10)

7.  Thirty-Minute Birthday Phone Call With Dave Sim ($99)

8.  Tour Of The Off-White House or Follow-Me-To-Work Days ($900)

Friday 23 October 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #2 (2007)
Art by Dave Sim
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.

A letter from Dave Sim to me, dated 7 July, 2004, in response to last week's posted letter:
7 July 04

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for your letter of June 28. I answer to your question, it takes a prodigious amount of whiskey drinking (Jack Daniel’s actually), smoking and multiple forms of substance abuse to produce the deep, low voice that I have today. And that’s just my normal speaking voice, remember. I still like to amuse myself by pitching it a few octaves lower on those rare occasions (ordering pizza, fending off a telemarketer) when I find myself speaking to a female on the phone. Unbecoming as hell, but I am gratified that I can still vibrate them somewhere between their belly button and Christmas. Of course, it’s no great trick in a day and age when most men have been trained by their mothers to pitch their voices somewhere between MIckey Mouse and Michael Jackson.

Interesting your observation on free computers. I wasn't aware that BIll Gates was donating computers to libraries and you’re probably right that he's trying for some sort of absolution, which in no way undermines that fact that it’s a nice and a generous thing to do. Obviously not my area of expertise, but I do remember someone telling me that he [Gates] was, basically, the infidel who broke ranks with the computer pioneers’ virtually universal resolve to keep computers on a “power to the people” basis. I suppose it was inevitable that someone would do it. All those fat, lucrative concepts just lying there moaning, “Patent me. PATENT ME!”

Thanks as well for your observations on light rail, which I will be forwarding to Mayor Carl Zehr with a cover note.

I was interested in your observation that I do like “stirring things up” vis-a-vis my letter to Mr. Jeffrey at Hillsdale [College] over their 50-50 male and female enrollment. This is a perception of myself which has dogged me all my life but which in no way reflects my self-perception. I’m interested in ideas and particularly interested in how people defend what I consider to be singularly bad ideas, one of which, to me, is definitely the belief that there is a natural numerical parity between the genders. I mean, for the record, I don’t really anticipate any kind of a response, for the exact reason that numerical parity between the genders is our present age’s self-chosen intellectual blind spot. If Mr. Jeffrey reads my letter and “Tangent”, I’m certain that his eyes will glaze over briefly and he will throw both of them in the garbage, recognizing that there is no way to address the questions I raise in the early twenty-first century without a) having to support his arguments with self-evident twaddle or b) going “on the record” with a view that in today’s academic world would see him cleaning out his desk by day’s end if it were to come to light in any way, shape, or form. At this point, I simply “read into the record” -- completely for the sake of posterity -- my own accurate viewpoints and take it as a give that the Marxist-Feminist dictatorship -- so long as it is able to retain its present enslavement of our society’s intellectual life -- will simply pretend that I and my views don’t exist. This is particularly true in the academic world. I don’t consider that as “stirring things up”, but more as a way of indicating (to my satisfaction, if no one else’s) how unshakable things are at the moment. In the extremely unlikely event of my receiving a reply, I would be happy to share it with you. However, given Mr. Jeffrey’s untenable position, I would suspect that the only reply would be a vague generality committed to paper (“...thank you for your most idiosyncratic and bizarre essay”) or a surreptitious phone call: both of which would be options only insofar as neither presents a too-great likelihood of seeing him brought up before his local branch of the Marxist-Feminist Star Chamber. However, given that there’s nothing “in it” for him, don’t hold your breath, Jeff.

Yes, I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly how much Nancy Reagan was responsible for the Ronald Reagan we know and love, remember and revere. For her part, she finally got her chance to be Jackie Kennedy, which she had more than earned (however you want to take that), the Pivotal Figure Widow. There are too many female mysteries attached to the story (as is the case, to me, with any stories which involve women in key positions) to achieve any neat encapsulation. She was fond of saying that Mr. Reagan had “gone to a place where she could no longer reach him”, which gave me chills in the same way that Yoko Ono’s last word on John Lennon in the documentary Imagine (“He was a old soldier. And he fought with me.”) gave me chills. I mean, really read what the words say. Or, don’t, I suppose.

That neatly segues into your "Billary" Clinton anecdote. It is significant to me that the only point from "Billary's" My Life that was mentioned in every review I read was about his sleeping on the couch for several months after the Monica Lewinsky thing. I mean, leaving aside the complete unlikelihood that the President of the United States wouldn’t be able to find better sleeping accommodations than that in a multi-bedroomed Georgian Revival mansion, there is the POINT of the anecdote which must’ve been concocted jointly by “Billary”: that is, that the President of the United States had been deposed by his wife for a period of months. Rather in a direct line of succession for Jackie Kennedy’s decision to have John, Jr., sleep alone in his father’s bed in the White House after the assassination. It’s a peculiar female way of looking at things, to be sure, but it is always worth looking a the thing itself rather than its peculiarity when contemplating the fundamentally bizarre collective mentality of the unfairer sex: the one in the bed is the heir to all the powers which devolved upon the previous occupant. Le coup d’etat en le chambre de coucher.

As to my recently completed vacation, it was most enjoyable, particularly given that Portorecanati (which was founded in 184 BC) and the entire Marche region was in the grip of a heat wave (34C and higher) at the same time that Southern Ontario has been struggling to achieve temperatures in the mid 20s for most of the summer. Billy [Beach]'s house is literally steps from the beach and he was most generous with his time, shepherding me around to the Cathedral at Loreto: the Sanctuario dello Santa Casa (it is certainly an irreplaceable experience to actually enter the simple Nazarean cottage where the Annunciation took place and where the Synoptic Jesus passed his childhood--or even to allow for the possibility that one has done so), the Civic Museum in Recanati with Lorenzo Lotto’s Annunciation picture. Macerata (a really nice selection of pictures in their Civic museum, including a phenomenal recreation of the Picture Gallery of Palazzo Buonaccorsi: Garzi’s Venere della fucina di Vulcano, Del Po’s Il Dio Tevere, and several other huge works, beautifully restored and displayed), Gradara (including the room where--purportedly--the murder of Paolo and Francesca as documented Dante in the V canto of The Inferno took place), the Ducal Palace at Urbino.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most was talking freely and openly with Billy about the Bible and indulging in a certain amount of Bible study with him. I have a number of other letters to answer, so two anecdotes will have to suffice. I recently borrowed David Johnson’s copy of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of Greek Scriptures which, being a Jehovah’s Witness volume, Bill had a copy of as well. In explaining my enthusiasm for fasting, I mentioned at dinner one night that much of my motivation came from the Synoptic Jesus’ assertion--when he had been able to cast out a devil that his disciples had been unable to cast out--that “this kind can only be expelled through prayer and fasting.” Well, sometime the next day, Billy looked up the passage (Mark 9:29) because my quoting of the King James translation struck a wrong note with him. Sure enough, Mark 9:29 doesn’t mention fasting. The word-for-word translation is: “This / the / kind / in / nothing / is able / to come out / if / not / in / prayer”. I’m always delighted to be proved wrong and I spent a lot of the following day mulling over the obvious questions this presented. First, of course, was Why add fasting if it wasn’t already in there? And it seemed to me that the obvious answer was that the actual answer made it sound as if the disciples didn’t pray. It was already established that they didn’t fast--the scribes and Pharisees had asked Jesus why his followers didn’t fast when John’s did--but it was taken as a given that they prayed. These served to reinforce a viewpoint I’ve been led to just in copying out the first eight chapters of Matthew--that the disciples were very far from our perception of them. I can get into that another time.

Then there was another occasion when Billy wanted to revisit Luke 17:35, the “two women grinding together” passage which I rather notoriously attached to lesbianism. It had completely slipped my mind, so I was more than amenable to taking a look. The translation in the margin certainly favoured the conventional view: “There will be two [women] grinding at the same mill; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned,” but then I pointed out to Billy that the actual word-for-word Greek translation says nothing about a mill. “will / be / two [women] / grinding / upon / the / very / the / one / will be taken along / the / but / different [woman] / will be let go off”. As gently and with as good humour as I could, I pointed out that all the text appeared to be saying was that the women would be “really grinding”, which rather favoured my own interpretation than it did his.

Okay. Gotta run.

Thanks again for your letters and your support.



P.S.: Sorry for the confusion on the Guys Party Pack and Conan tie-in. The former was in the vein of the "college town" potential. I was just in Now & Then Books yesterday and Dave Kostas, the owner, was mentioning that he has had a lot of success passing around a copy of Guys in his other job of bartending. People who work in the service industry really take to it. Unfortunately, this requires a real hands-on approach, which is a little too labour intensive for the average store owner and is usually outside the bounds of polite conversation ("Say, do you drink like a fish? Have I got the comic book for you!"). Conan has been revived by Dark Horse in a new monthly title that selling really, really well. It's at issue six right now and Dark Horse is on its third printing of issue one, so it’s definitely got the makings of a major hit. Any sign of a Conan revival is good news for Cerebus, particularly the first volume. I'd almost recommend something as simple as photocopying the front cover of the Cerebus trade and putting it in every Conan subscriber's subscription file. In the long term, I'd like to develop a promotion just around the first volume, just tailored to the Conan fans, but in the short term, it would be interesting to see what kind of reaction a bare-bones approach could achieve. I'd even guarantee to two-day UPS Cerebus trades to Keith's in immediate response if they wanted to try that approach. "The next batch is coming in on [Thursday if it's Monday, Monday if it's Thursday]", and then make the call for however many copies they need. It's probably jumping the gun and the Conan revival will take a year or two to actually take hold, but I thought I'd make the suggestion.

Weekly Update #105: Dave Sim, Time Lord

Dave Sim reporting from Kitchener.... or is it Chicago.... or is it Leamington? Is he back? Was it yesterday or was it tomorrow? Where is he now? The question isn't where, but when? Well, actually, the question is both where and when. Watch the video, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Spore & Konigsberg

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.

For the third week in a row, a notebook that we haven't seen yet. Dave Sim's notebook #32 was simply labeled 'Spore & Konigsberg' and had 36 pages scanned out of 80 pages, with 44 blank pages.

Most of the notebook is Dave writing Konigsberg's diary entries. Here on page 11 we see what appears to be a checklist of sorts. It looks like Cerebus' calendar was originally going to be six 66 day seasons, but turned into four 91 day seasons.

Notebook 32, page 11
The upper right hand corner has an list of things that I can't link together - Mussolini and Hitler are an easy connection, but Ulysses S. Grant and Boris Pasternak, the writer of Doctor Zhivago?

After some more Konigsberg diary entries, here is some dialogue from Latter Days, starting on page 421(or issue #287, page 1) between Cerebus and the narrator:

Notebook 32, page 25
The dialogue pretty much follows the finished page. Though the finished page has the transcript between Cerebus and the narrator interspersed between the word balloons.

Church & State II-- Original Art Bonanza, Part the First

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello all,

Yesterday I received the first 1/4th of original art scans from Sandeep Atwal, who's going scan crazy over in Kitchener at the moment. This would normally be a cause of celebration, but it's even more so now, seeing how fantastic these scans look. 

For a few different reasons, we've moved over to scanning with an Epson 11000XL, which gives a great image, extremely sharp optically and with a color fidelity unprecedented for flatbed scanning. Really a fine machine, and the scans show it.

The other reason to get excited is (and I'm sure none of you need me to tell you this) the artwork for C + S II is incredible. The best pen and ink illustration this side of the nineteenth century. 

Of course, this has not always been reflected in the printed books.

Anyway, I thought I'd take you on a brief tour of some of the pages I've received so far, noting areas that are most interesting to me, as a cartoonist.

First off, the texture in these pages! Just incredible. A snow storm. A quiet industrial-age wooden kitchen. A garden. Terrifying stone heads. "Cosmic shit." The moon. All distinct, all instantly recognizable, each affecting the scenes throughout, sometimes taking precedence, other times falling into the background.

above-- the background figuratively (and literally!) supports the characters.

These pages are so well-drawn, and have such a careful balance of values, that it's possible to take virtually any panel and isolate it, and the composition holds up individually. A wide variety of sizes, and they hold up, look equally great. Truly, truly great, to the point where it's difficult for me to write about them without resorting to gushing. This is the book where, visually, everything hits the next level.

This panel is definitely an interesting combination of elements, from the fingerprints (never commit a major felony, Gerhard!), the white-out, to the tone etching on the bottom. continuing the soft-edge line of the fingerprints. Also of importance to myself and literally only one other person-- since the tone extends into the black, there's no tone shrinkage to fix! Yes!

By the Church & State II era, the photography is much improved over the previous books, which makes it less likely for, say, whole sections of drawing to be missing (exceptions for teeny tiny lines like, for instance, the cloud hatching above). So the detail that's often striking in the originals (or in the new C + S I book) is generally to be found in the darker areas, areas that have filled in or plugged up in previous printings. Check out the wall in the background, which could often turn into an indistinct black mass in print. Look at the cross-hatching used under (on top of?) the tone to build up mass and roundness to the features. And, hey, check out that very Mick Jagger-like stone face directly above "Mick" here... hmm....

Also of note? Dave and Gerhard loved their photocopier. That is, if love is a function of how often you use an object in the production of your monthly comic book. Here's a particularly inventive use, which I think indicates the kind of "collage" mindset that it might encourage.

Last image here before I go. This page has lost its tone at some point, leaving a rare example of "naked Cerebus" from this era of the book. Interesting to see the hatching lines, normally obscured by the tone, and to see how expressive Dave's line work could be. Love the rough line of the mouth, and the "missing" portions of the drawing, which, as you can see from this color reproduction, were drawn in with non-reproduction blue, where they could continue to be an aid to Gerhard as he laid out the tone.

Want to see more posts like this? Let me know in the comments!

Monday 19 October 2015

Cover Art: Cerebus #187

The original art for Mars by Gerhard

The black and white illustration of Cerebus and Cirin
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

The assembled coloured cover art to Cerebus #187
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

The final printed version of Cerebus #187 (October 1994)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

I can't be 100% certain of anything about this cover without holding it in my hands or without some really good high resolution photos but here is what I think is the most probable scenario:

-Dave pencilled and inked the figures on a piece of Bainbridge 172 illustration board.
-then, on the same board, I pencilled and inked the throne and chunk of granite and carpet but NOT the background stars.
-this is piece #1

-I copied piece #1 onto a sheet of high quality copy paper using A-V's high quality photocopier.
-I adhered that copy with a high quality spray adhesive onto another piece of 172 board.
-I coloured the characters and throne, etc. with W&N watercolour dyes
-I blacked in the background and added stars
-this is piece #2 and is the one you have

-I painted mars on a separate piece of 172 board
-this is piece #3 and is the other one you have."

Watch for IDW's Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury
On sale soon!