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.


Jeff Seiler said...

Well-phrased, Mara! I have always admired the daring-do of Dave and Ger. Hell, just hiring Ger (and then making him a 40% partner) was the ultimate act of daring-do on Dave's part.

Dave Sim said...

Actually, it's been a lifetime career of having to do the unprecedented. Largely because there was no precedent for what I was -- and am -- doing. "Derring-do" is exaggerating it (although I appreciate the compliment). When I think of "derring-do" I think of PHYSICAL jeopardy.

Usually the greatest "danger" was financial which proved to be the case with Gerhard, in a "conventional business sense". My accountant thought I was crazy to give Gerhard 40% of the company and Gerhard leaving seemed to validate that. But ONLY in a "conventional business sense".

It meant that STRUCTURALLY he needed to be compensated for his participation no matter what he and I thought of each other, personally, by 2006. It was "bad business" on my part but "the right thing to do".

Met yesterday with the lawyer who will be putting together my Will setting the foundation for The Cerebus Trust or Cerebus Foundation. Since the intellectual property will be going into the public domain the IP lawyer will be dealing with something unprecedented as well. The lawyer, Tyler H., envisions adopting a "For the benefit of all humanity" as the raison d'etre for the Foundation. Like an "upside down class action suit". You're in whether you want to be or not.

Okay, that took thirty minutes to write left-handed. Which is why I don't post here very often.

PLEASE support Kickstarter, Patreon and We are in the middle of the "crunch time" that never ends, getting things ready for when I'm dead. It's ALL unprecedented and incredibly expensive.