Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Cerebus Volume One: the Original Artwork: part 2 of 3

Sean Michael Robinson:

Holiday greetings to you all!

Last week I wrote about the newly restored Cerebus Volume One, which is currently at the printer, focusing on the sixty five pages or so of the book that have been newly sourced from scans of the original artwork. (And here's a separate post about the book, discussing the remainder of the pages, which were restored from the original monthly issues and scans of the original negative that remained through several decades of printing) 

Here's a closer look at some more of those original art pages new to this printing.

A large portion of the new pages came from Cerebus super-fan James Guarnotta, whose collection will improve future printings of High Society just as much as it is improving the new Volume One. James had several pages from issues 23 and 25, which, as I mentioned last week, suffered from poorer reproduction than the issues immediately preceding them, partially because they were shot and printed by a new printer, and partially because Dave was experimenting with new pen and ink techniques that didn't always reproduce as well as, say, big bold brushwork did. Which makes me wonder how much visual style has been driven by the available reproduction techniques. If it doesn't come across as well in print, why keep doing it?

Luckily for us, the effect comes across just fine now, with good sharp scans retaining the small detail and sheet-fed offset printing keeping fill-in and gain to a minimum, so any page sourced from original artwork can now benefit from the changes.

You can see that some of the China white used to create the rain is not quite high-contrast enough to reproduce as white without a little assistance. These lines were selectively contrast adjusted to ensure they reproduce well in the new edition.

(I always loved the little irritated Cerebus riding next to Claremont. Irritated by the rain? By the castle they're traveling to? By the ignominy of traveling by box?)

James also owns a page later from this same issue, a page very reminiscent of the soon-to-come High Society: specifically, the middle of the book, dominated by dramatic use of black, dark syrupy shadows, and judicious use of a single mid-tone, essentially pairing the entire world down to three or four values.

It also happens to be a hilarious page.

Above, you can see where the waxiness of the blue line pencil has caused the paper to resist the ink of the border. This was an occasional issue during the High Society restoration, especially when it happened on the letter forms themselves, causing them to break up where the letter guides overlapped the actual letters.  

There are earlier issues that also used splatter, and those are similarly improved by returning to the original artwork, especially all pages we've come across for issue 13, which has always suffered in print. It appears to have been shot from photocopies or low-quality stats of the original artwork, as even the original run of the issue has a rough quality to the tone that's atypical of first-generation reproduction. Here a passed-out Cerebus is brought to the lair of Necross the Mad.

The color reproduction here makes it a little easier to see how the texture of the hill was built up in layers of mostly brush and splatter. Above you can see how the contour of the priest was indicated in pencil before being discarded at the inking stage. Even this early in the book, Dave was very adept at using dramatic blacks to ramp up the drama of an image.

Here's another page, this time the actual restored image created from an original art scan and contrasted with a scan of the eighth printing of Cerebus Volume one, to give you an idea of what a difference this can make in print.

click to enbiggen...

And one last one before I go... talk about experimentation! Here's the splash page from issue fifteen, which, had I never seen the original artwork, I wouldn't have guessed featured pencil shading across several sections of the image. This appears to have been a one-page experiment, as I haven't seen it on any other pages. Check out the new Cerebus Volume One when it arrives in your local comic store this January to see how it reproduces this time!

And lastly, a merry Christmas from Lord Julius, his razor strop, and a little slime guy bath toy!


Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Some of this stuff is "stuff that's just really cool to see, because I want to see as closely as possible what the creator intended". But I'm looking at the Energy Globes scene there, and it assumes a whole new sense of drama and menace that's absent from the original printing. Thank you, Sean R. (and of course Dave, for drawin' it in the first place).

-- Damian

Tim P said...

Unrelated but has anyone managed to get Cerebus Going Home remastered in the UK yet?

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Tim P!
Yes. I sourced my copy of Going Home from Page 45. If sold out, don't give up, they restock regularly. Delivered via bullet-proof packaging!

Unknown said...

Page 5 of issue 25 panel 1 - That's funny. What I've done is to mask off the area and spatter it with black and then STARTED to render individual raindrops -- and got EIGHT of them done in the upper right -- and went, "That isn't going to show up." And just quit. Which I pretty much had to do. There was no way to "patch" spatter. If I masked everything off and tried to spatter over the raindrops, I'd be adding spatter TO spatter, so the raindrops would still show as being lighter. Nowadays you could just "fly in" the texture and cover the raindrops but not back then.

Unknown said...

Sean & Damian - It's along the same lines as Neal Adams' "The really fine lines I did for myself." If you think the effect is cool on high quality digital scans, you should see the original artwork.

I tried not to do it very often, because -- unlike with pure black and white -- you're seriously dealing in percentages. The theory being that "half of REALLY COOL" is likely to be a really cool or, at least, "really cool".

One of the things I'd like to see if we can do is to see how many of our ART DRAGNET patrons are willing to keep us posted on the "art residency" of the pages. We don't really have the resources now, but way, way, way up ahead whomever the Legion of Substitute Sean Robinsons of the late 21st century prove to be are going to want to get together, if possible, with these spatter pages in particular and discuss reproduction densities while looking AT the original AND at a scan.

If you're looking at a scan, no matter how good the scan is, you're looking at a scan.

Unknown said...

James G., CEREBUS super-art-fan (and THANK YOU, James!) being a good example. Assuming the most optimistic scenario: that he chooses to hold onto the pages lifelong, that's still going to leave us with the situation of What now? after he passes. Assuming that whomever inherits the pages doesn't really care about them apart from how much money they're worth (being, safe assumption I think, non-CEREBUS fans: most people ARE non-CEREBUS fans), it would be nice if some sort of documentation could be attached asking whomever purchases them to keep the ART DRAGNET updated on their "residency" so the future Sean Robinsons can, at some point, take a look at them.

Particular thanks for the issue 13 page 7. Not having seen the original since the late 1970s, I'm really IMPRESSED with the balance I got between the inking and the spatter on the pathway leading to the tower. It'll be very nice to have more of this showing with the new REMASTERED printing.

Unknown said...

Sean II - I was experimenting with black CRAYON, actually. Trying to figure out how Neal Adams got his grey effects on some of his Warren work. I tried putting it in where you wouldn't notice if it showed up or didn't. Most of it didn't, so I abandoned it.

The point that I was missed was the crayon was only part of the equation. If I had been using the classic comic- art board -- Strathmore -- the "tooth", the slightly rougher surface, would have picked up the black crayon the way that I wanted it to. Or if I had used the rougher surface version of the illustration board I was using, that would have worked too. The thing was, I liked the merciless hard surface of the bristol board/illustration board for the way everything sat on the surface. That left only the choice of using a "toothier" surface for specialty effects, not as a general rule. Too much trouble.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

One point just occurred to me: Dave, you said that your wrist is capable of signing your name, correct? If there was a little slip of paper with an original page saying something like "This is Page 17 of issue 22 of Cerebus. Please keep this page's Owner's Registration up to date at [website address]. (Signed,) Dave Sim" -- well, the fact of the signature might be enough to persuade even an uninterested civilian to keep the slip with the page. And once set up, the cost of the website would be small.

-- Damian

Unknown said...

Hi Damian! That's a GREAT idea. As long as someone doesn't think, "Well, I have to sell the page, but I'll keep the signed slip of paper so I'll have something." Definitely worth a try! THANKS!

Scott Yoshinaga said...

Hi Sean!
I've been following all of your work since you've started remastering Cerebus and I'm always amazed at what you're able to pull out of a scanned page. Could you point me to one of your posts that shows how you do your line art scans or describe basic settings and steps you use? I'm trying to learn other ways of scanning line art in and cleaning it up.