Sunday 31 December 2017

Reading Cerebus #4

Hey look kids! It's "READING CEREBUS" time!
Kevin Kimmes:

Welcome back to “Reading Cerebus”, a new weekly column here at A Moment of Cerebus. The goal of this column is to bring a fresh perspective to the 300-issue saga of Cerebus as I read through the series for the first time and give my insights into the longest running independent comic book series of all time. Think of this as part book club, part lit-crit, and part pop culture musing. Oh, and they told me Dave Sim himself may be reading this, so I hope I don’t screw this up. Let’s continue.

Issue #4: “Death’s Dark Tread”
Issue #4: "Death's Dark Tread" 

Since last we left our Earth-Pig Born:

“Using Henrot’s gold, Cerebus bribes his way onto a merchant vessel on the Sofim river. A week later, he is within the Sepran Empire’s boundaries, posing as a trader in textiles! At Serrea, the informal capital of the loosely-knit and militant empire, the Earth-Pig sees his chance for a much-needed vacation! He loses himself amid the bustling crowds and, with the last of his Borealan gold, sets about the serious business of drinking, eating and gambling…”
Image courtesy of Cerebus Downloads, Apricot Brandy courtesy of Henrot's gold...
Thanks, Dave!

In what is a rather simple plot, Cerebus discovers a shiny gem only to suddenly become the object of Death’s attention. See, Death want’s the gem to add to his collection (he has a dozen, but clearly is in search of a baker’s dozen) and will use anything in his power to get it. And by anything, I mean Lovecraftian beasts from the dawn of creation, and a Foghorn Leghorn talking parody of Michael Moorcock’s Elric! What, you say, what? Well good reader, you are in for a treat.

Death’s first attempt at retrieving the gem is to sick a Lovecraftian horror (a Crawler) on Cerebus. This thing is straight up nightmare fodder: all tentacles, mouths and eyeballs! Death explains that the Crawler is, “A creature from the dawn of time, a creature of sorcery…” It is also no match for Cerebus, as he makes quick work of the beast.

Another Pulp Icon: H. P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips (H. P.) Lovecraft is the second major pulp author that Dave borrows from in Cerebus. Lovecraft, best known for his Cthulhu Mythos, was a contemporary of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan and Red Sonja (see last week’s column for the twisty tale of Sonja’s genesis). Drawing heavily on gothic horror, Lovecraft created his own version of both terrestrial and cosmic horror, taking influence from author’s such as Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and Arthur Machen.

Two things stand out in the exchange between Cerebus and the Crawler that play into the over-arching themes of Lovecraft: Death’s description of the creature and the idea of “sanity”.

As mentioned above, Death refers to the crawler as “A creature from the dawn of time, a creature of sorcery…”, making it wholly possible that this is a Lovecraftian hell-beast of some sort. In much of Lovecraft’s work, cultists and those versed in the black arts attempt to awaken the slumbering “Elder Gods” of the universe. With this description, it is not hard to suppose that what we see here is some sort of lesser deity.

Additionally, upon initially besting the beast, Cerebus quips, “And to think that Cerebus came south to seek sanity…!” Sanity is another reoccurring theme in Lovecraft’s work, with many a protagonist losing their minds at the exposure to these creatures from beyond time and space. Not Cerebus though, his mental fortitude is about to be tested in new and wholly tortuous ways by Death’s next trap: Elrod The Albino!

A Third Pulp Icon: Michael Moorcock

Borrowing from the pulp/horror/sword and sorcery pantheon of authors is now clearly a running theme in these early stories as the introduction of Elrod further proves. Based on the albino swordsman, Elric of Melnibone, who first appeared in the 1961 novella, "The Dreaming City", Elrod gets a tweak from another famous pantheon: Loony Tunes, specifically the cartoons featuring Foghorn Leghorn!

To paraphrase Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues”: “Well, I might look like Johnny Winter, but I feel just like a’ Foghorn Leghorn, I say boy, I say!”
Image, I say image courtesy of Cerebus Downloads. Dotcom, that is...
Yes, Elrod has all of the vocal mannerisms of that loveable rooster, including a penchant to never shut up. This, quickly becomes an issue as Elrod bounces from referring to Cerebus as a kid in a “bunny suit”, to mistaking Cerebus’ lack of interest for insult, resulting in a challenge to sword fight (where have we seen this before *wink, wink*).

Elrod’s black sword, Seersucker (a joke five-thousand years in the making and a parody of Elric’s sword, Stormbringer) proves no match for Cerebus as it shatters on impact with Cerebus’ own steel. As Cerebus notes, the black color was a byproduct of an abundant rust buildup, thus making the sword as frail as it’s wielder.

Losing the fight, Elrod continues to follow Cerebus, all the while letting his big mouth run. It’s not long before this again leads to conflict, this time with the city garrison, resulting in both Cerebus and Elrod being thrown in prison, after Elrod’s might in battle is again proven to be, I say be, a bunch of hot air.

Chained to the wall with “Chatty Cathy”, Cerebus turns his full attention to trying to break his bonds despite the protestation of Elrod. Eventually snapping both manacles, Cerebus leaves his fast-talking companion to rot in the dungeon and goes in search of someone capable of removing what remains of his bonds.

But, there is one nagging thing that must be done first: Get rid of that cursed bad luck gem!

Cerebus opts to chuck it down a well (good riddance to bad rubbish), as it has brought him nothing but problems since he found it. In the end, no one wins with Cerebus none-the-richer, and Death still baker’s dozenless on the gem front.
This image is courtesy DC Comics. J/K, it's another Cerebus Downloads one.
Join me back here next week as we look at Issue 5 as Cerebus faces the terror of “Bran Mak Mufin”.

Currently Listening To: Garcia Live Volume 9: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders August 11th, 1974 Keystone Berkeley

Kevin Kimmes is a lifelong comic book reader, sometime comic book artist, and recent Cerebus convert. He can be found slinging comics at the center of the Multiverse, aka House of Heroes in Oshkosh, WI.

Happy New Year!

Hi, Everybody!

And: Happy New Year from ALL your friends at A Moment of Cerebus!
Remember to party responsibly...

See ya in the new year!

Next time: ...the New Year, I just said that. Are you people even paying attention?

Saturday 30 December 2017

From out of the fog: Dave Sim Gerhard interview in Ark

Hi, Everybody!

Today I have for you a link!

If you follow the link, you'll find a pdf of the last issue of Ark.

Why do you care about the last issue of Ark?

Because you're a compassionate and caring human, in touch with a deep seated love for your fellow man?

Yeah, I didn't buy that either...

You care because there's an interview with Dave and Gerhard.

(Part 2, page 30.)

A tip of the little gray metal helmet to our own Tim W. for the heads up.

Next time: I dunno, I got an email here wondering if anybody wants to meet Hot Russian Singles...

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Boom. Big Boom. Big Bang.

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.

Dave Sim's notebook #12 last appeared in AMoC back in March of 2016 (before the great renumbering when it was still #8) in Not The  Trial. Notebook #8 covers issues #96 through 102. It originally had 140 pages, but only 114 were scanned, there were 15 blanks pages and the rest were missing.

On pages 4 and 5 there appears at first glance to be a poem. But reading it, it sounds like a monologue about Tarim and Terim, about the void and the light. Something that would fit right in at the end of Church & State II when Cerebus is listening to the Judge.

Notebook #12, page 4
Notebook #12, page 5
But that isn't the Judge speaking. Unless it was the character that was to become the Judge.


fresh from the fax machine of Dave Sim:


Owing to an oversight at Diamond, WATCHVARK #1 didn't get the special "pick date" it was supposed to get when it came in, so instead of arriving in stores January 31st, it will be arriving in stores January 3rd, a week after VARK KNIGHT RETURNS #1.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, CEREBUS IN HELL? one-shot fans!!

Cerebus Anniversary-- Forty Years of a Cantankerous Aardvark Part the Fourth

Sean Michael Robinson:


I wanted to use this week's post to bring some attention to a so-far-unheralded milestone in the world of comics. This month is the fortieth anniversary of Cerebus #1, first published (according to the cover date, anyway!) in December of 1977.

So as of yet, no one's thrown Cerebus a party. No one's baked him a cake. But to celebrate in a smaller, less icing-involved way, over the next few weeks we'll take a look at a few excepts from the essay I wrote for the newly-restored 17th printing of Cerebus Volume One, released January 2017. If you enjoy the excerpt, or really, even if you don't, I'd recommend picking up a copy of the printing, which is remarkably better than any of the preceding printings. (Easily identified by the increased cover price, and the giant REMASTERED EDITION banner on the top!)

This is the last excerpt! 


These shifts both coincided with and were related to the closing of long-time Cerebus printer Preney Print and Litho in 2006. Cerebus printings after that date were completed by Lebonfon, a Québecois printer capable of doing both CTP and NTP work—they oversaw the digitization of the Cerebus Volume One negatives that same year, after which the negatives were discarded.

Except they weren’t really the original negatives. Careful examination and comparison of all available sources of artwork reveal that only seven of the initial twenty-five issues had retained their original negatives past the first monthly printing of the book. All others had presumably been discarded at an earlier date, for unknown reasons, and replaced with dupe negatives shot from print copies of the book.

Even the pages scanned directly from the original negative were highly problematic. Whomever had overseen the scanning had scanned the negatives directly as 1-bit bitmap images (so-called “copydot” scans), making any additional manipulation—changes in exposure,  or rotation or resizing—difficult without creating moiré in the dot-tone pattern. Additionally, the exposure was spiked while scanning, which burned off most fine-line information and lighter brush-strokes, and made the pages overall much lighter in value than they were initially drawn. In short, taken on their own, the 2006 scans were less than ideal.

Although Computer-to-Plate technology has the potential to produce better-looking books than previous eras, things are different in practice. Because while CTP is more economical overall, in general margins in printing (and publishing!) continue to shrink, and so expertise continues to leave the field. Printing highly detailed line art from negatives shot on a stat camera is a complicated process that took a century to refine, and camera operators were skilled technicians. That kind of expertise is rare in an era where everyone has a scanner on their desk. Which is to say, if we’re at a high water mark for the quality of printing in the world, you would  never know it from looking at the average quality line art reproduction in books being produced today.

But for all the downsides and opportunities for missteps, digital prepress creates opportunities for manipulation and preservation that would never have existed in a prior era. All of those myriad possibilities, and a virtual army of source materials, have been mustered to prepare this book.

In the fall of 2013 I had the opportunity to prepare 120 pages of this volume for print using the best materials available to me at the time. Approximately a year and a half later, having restored more than 1,000 pages of the subsequent volumes of Cerebus, I brought those new skills to bear on the current volume, restoring the book in its entirety from the very best materials available, on a page-by-page basis, using different techniques depending on the type of material.

Top: a Woman-Thing panel from the fifth printing of Cerebus Volume One. Bottom-- restored from the original art board.

The materials used to restore the book can be broken down into three basic categories. The majority of the pages of the book were restored directly from print copies of the original monthly issues, mostly from the “Dave Sim file copies,” twenty copies of each comic that were saved by Sim after the publication of each issue. These were scanned in color at extremely high resolution, digitally sharpened to retain detail in both densely hatched areas and in areas of tiny detail, and then painstakingly cleaned to prevent noise and breakup in the black areas of the page. After all of the blacks were reinforced, they were carefully processed to uniformly shrink the inked areas of the page, in an attempt to reverse the dot gain from the previous printings and prevent further generational loss/ink expansion upon printing. 

Dot gain is the general tendency for ink to spread on paper. This is present to some degree whether you’re making potato prints, or running the latest Heidelberg sheetfed offset press. Every aspect of printing has some bearing on the amount of dot gain—from the substrate (i.e. paper) to the ink formulation. On a web press it’s not even particularly uniform—different parts of the form, and even sometimes across each impression, have varying amounts of dot gain. But it’s mostly consistent per page, and when it’s not, it’s usually visible in the corresponding richness (or lack of richness) of the black.

The visual effect of this spread isn’t linear—i.e, areas of very dense and dark cross-hatching or tone fill in quicker, because the ink is welling in from all sides, and so to all appearances, the darker the area of line art, and the finer it is, the more visible spread there is. But if you were to measure the actual physical spread of the ink, rather than the visual appearance of it, the effect is largely linear. So, if you had a method of uniformy shrinking content, and you had a definitive metric on each page to use to gauge your exposure, one could theoretically reverse dot-gain of a previous printing when working with multi-generational materials, and bring the appearance of a page closer to its pre-print state...

 On the left-- issue two, from the fifth printing. On the right-- issue two, restored from the a print copy of the original issue. Click to embiggen.

And so that’s what I did, calibrating the exposure of each page to the dot-tone present on most pages. This was only possible due to the very fine resolution space the files were produced in. I finished each page, restored and made the most pristine copy/capture of every detail in the original printing, cleaned up all noise in the newsprint, and then applied a threshold command to eliminate any gray. I then applied a very low radius gaussian blur to the entire image, and brought up the levels command, lowered the mids/exposure until the tone I was using to calibrate reached the desired density, then after the levels adjustment, sharpened the entire thing at the same radius that the blur was at initially. The result? All areas of black uniformly shrunk, all detail preserved. In a case where there was variation in visible gain across the page, and that gain happened to line up with the tiers/panels of the page, I adjusted the tiers separately to the same end.

The end result is the reversal of any dot gain in the original printing that didn’t completely fill in an area of darkness. The result is as good, or in many cases better than, the original printings, despite now being one more generation removed. 

(There are other ways to open up line work, but I’ve been reluctant to use any of these “spot-applied” methods, as it changes the overall tonal balance of the page. As a pen and ink illustrator, I’m sensitized to tone in black and white work, how those tones and textures interact with each other. If you “open up” one area of dense crosshatching from, say, 70 percent to 40 percent, but leaving surrounding tones alone, what have you done to the balance of that area of the page? If you “open up” the clogged tone of a figure but leave the remainder of the page filled-in, how have you affected the balance? Therefore, I’ve restricted myself in this work to linear processes that act evenly across an entire selection. It’s not enough that every line drawn remains, but that they remain the same size in relation to the surrounding lines and tones as well.)

The second source was the aforementioned digital scans of the “original” negative made in 2006. Despite the flaws mentioned before, these were a valuable source for the seven issues that had retained their original negatives, as the dot tone was pristine, with none of the variation in tone you see from dot tone printed on pulpy newsprint. It also had information in the dark areas that had filled in in the initial printings.

With the “de-dot-gaining” technique I discussed above, it was possible to reexpose the scans using the tone as reference, bringing the page closer to what it looked like prior to scanning. Then, after completely restoring the cooresponding newsprint version of the page, I could “de-dot-gain” it to the same exposure, and place the two together via Auto-Align Layers function in Photoshop. Lastly, I figured out which one had the most information I want to keep, and erased or otherwise eliminated the rest.

Labor-intensive? Oh yes. Worth the effort? I think so.

The last source of artwork?

Snow. Restored from scans of the original art board.

Of the 538 pages of art in the book, 97 pages are now sourced from direct scans of the original art boards. Most of the artwork was sold in the back of the monthly book itself, or at various conventions, but a few pages were retained by Sim over the years. Dozens more were graciously scanned by their owners, both current and former, and submitted to us via email. (Thank you, owners!) And many were scanned by auction houses, sometimes to advertise current auctions, and occasionally upon request. (Thank you, Comic Link and Comic Connect!)

When it comes to detail and pen and ink textures, the original artwork is in a class by itself. Unfortunately, the mechanical tones used to create Cerebus’ fur and a variety of background and textural effects, have shrunken over time, to a fraction of their former size. Thus every page sourced from original art has had to be restored by digitally copying portions of the missing tone and flying it in to the missing areas. But the labor involved is more than offset by the improvement in image quality. All of these things taken together mean one thing — this is the single best version of this material under one cover, and as more original artwork continues to come to light, future printings will only improve.

And that’s where the book is as of this writing. But a lot can happen between printings. Do you have some originals? A pile of Cerebus artwork gathering dust in a closet in Kitchener? Send us a message! We’d love to have some scans. 

If you’re a new reader, coming to this book fresh, then  congratulations! You have quite the road ahead of you. 

If you’re a long-time fan, replacing an ailing copy for this newly-restored one, I hope you’ve kept your older printing around long enough to do some side-by-side comparisons.

In this essay I’ve touched on many of the things that make Cerebus so unique, as an artistic achievement, as a publishing achievement.  Also unique—Sim’s long-time commitment to the value of the public domain, and the great lengths he’s gone to ensure that when he’s dead, his creations will belong to all readers and creators, to do with as they will; a commitment to give back in same spirit that Young Dave Sim received and reworked the ideas of others. And with your continued patronage and support, we can ensure that Cerebus doesn’t just survive, but thrives, with reproduction not possible at the time these pages were drawn.

Your patronage of this endeavor continues to make these efforts possible.

Sean Michael Robinson
        San Diego, CA
December 2016

Tuesday 26 December 2017

For Auction: World Without Cerebus: Dropped Mop

Hi, Everybody,

Awhile back I set up an alert from Heritage Auctions for any Dave Sim related stuff. Here's the latest:

Gerhard World Without Cerebus: Dropped Mop Signed Limited Edition Lithograph Print #8/150 (c. 2008). The World Without Cerebus series was inspired by Brian Coppola, a long-time fan of Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark. The idea was to bring the brilliant work by background artist Gerhard into the foreground by removing all of the distracting characters. These are just scenes from the comic. This print, titled "Dropped Mop", is a high-quality full color print measuring 19" x 15", with an image area of 15" x 10". It is numbered and signed below the image area. In Excellent condition. 
More info here.

Auction ends the 31st. Good luck!

Monday 25 December 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: December 2017

Travis Pelkie returns with his regular monthly selection for Cerebus fans of comics and books featured in the latest Diamond Previews catalog. Travis is co-founder of the Atomic Junk Shop, a site about comics and other fun pop culture. To see your comics featured here or at the Atomic Junk Shop feel free to send an email to Travis at: atomicjunkshoptravis [at] outlook [dot] com.

If you read this blog and you don't buy this, you're a dirty Hsiffie...

AMAZING CEREBUS #1 DEC170967 (W) Dave Sim, Sandeep Atwal (A) Dave Sim, Gustave Dore (CA) Sandeep Atwal
"Cerebus' Guide to Chicks"; Pineapple Guys; Ironic Punishment Division; "Bull-Fighter" the super-hero; Also reprints online strips from October 2016: Triplicate Girl; Job Motivation in Hell; Getting High in Hell; King Solomon's New Poem: "My Colostomy Bag Is Almost Full"; Pixilated (1848); Schizophrenia; Monomania (1823); Projection (1557); Jack Kirby's Demon vs Matt Wagner's Demon; the (Minimum) Wages of Sin; Cerebus vs. The Amazing Hulk and Superman and Pigeon-Man; Cerebus: Hard-Boiled Detective In Hell; A Little Repentance; Groot? or Suicide? and more!

Travis sez: It's that weird looking little gray guy.  You know the one.  Nice cover.

EC ARCHIVES EXTRA HC  DEC170107 (W) Al Feldstein, Nick Meglin (A) Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Jack Kamen, Wally Wood, Bill Elder, Basil Wolverton (A/CA) Al Feldstein
Daring stories of cub reporters and grizzled newshounds, across the country and around the world! Collecting the complete run of Extra! from the crack artistic talents of Johnny Craig, John Severin, Reed Crandall, and Marie Severin. Featuring a foreword by John Arcudi.

Travis sez: Dark Horse continues the EC Archives with this collection of the full run of Extra!, one of the post-Code books they tried before folding it all up (except for MAD).  Can't go wrong with Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, and the Severin siblings!

ELFQUEST FINAL QUEST #24 DEC170122 (W) Wendy Pini, Richard Pini (A/CA) Wendy Pini

What words can possibly do justice to this, the grand finale to the greatest ElfQuest series of them all? Forty years in the planning and making, heroes' journeys that were begun in the Original Quest will find their resolutions here. Fateful events set in motion last issue continue to have unstoppable consequences, as dire battles are fought on both the physical and the spiritual realms. Now decisions must be made that will affect everyone-elves and humans alike-on the World of Two Moons far into the future. Can the Great Wheel of time and history, broken so many thousands of years ago, ever be made whole again? A finale forty years in the making!

Travis sez: Elfquest is ending, "a finale forty years in the making", as the solicit says (and nearly that many different publishers, the wag in me says!).  Congrats to the Pinis for finishing the saga out the way they want.

DEADMAN #4 DEC170274 (W) Neal Adams (A/CA) Neal Adams
From behind the scenes rises "He Who Is Always There," Ra's al Ghul, the very worst option before or after the death of Boston Brand. No path, no future will remain uncorrupted as long as Ra's al Ghul remains alive. Deadman would be better off if he halted his quest before death is the best of two options.

Travis sez: Neal Adams back at a Deadman series.  Let's hope it's anywhere near as wacky as Batman Odyssey was!

BATMAN BY NEAL ADAMS TP BOOK 1 DEC170387 (W) Bob Haney, Frank Robbins, Dennis O'Neil
(A) Dick Giordano (A/CA) Neal Adams
Neal Adams' epic tales of the Dark Knight are presented in a newly recut collection of stories from WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #175-176 and THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #79-85. These stories include Batman's team-up adventures with Deadman, The Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Teen Titans!

Travis sez: Speaking of Neal Adams, there's a new version of the collected edition of his Batman stories offered here.

MAD MAGAZINE #550 DEC170372 (W) Usual Gang of Idiots (A) Usual Gang of Idiots
Better than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates-it's the  February issue of MAD. It may not be romantic, but it's sure to get some laughs!

Travis sez: It doesn't mention it in the solicits, but apparently 550 is the last issue of MAD being produced in NYC by the Usual Gang of Idiots, so let's tip our hats to them for a fine run.  (MAD is going to be produced in Cali like the rest of DC's stuff from here on out, with a different editorial team.)

It's been three years since the events of The Dark Knight Returns, and everything is fine. At least on the surface. Together with his army of Bat-soldiers, including Carrie Kelley-formerly Robin, and now the new Catgirl-the Dark Knight wages a new war on a diseased world that's become completely lost. Now DC presents the epic three-issue miniseries in black and white for the first time!  

Travis sez: Well, they wanted a sequel, Frank Miller gave 'em a sequel.  This is a black and white edition of Dark Knight Strikes Again (AKA DKR2), which is a book I dig plenty but I thought worked in part because of Lynn Varley's neon computer colors.  YMMV.

HAWK AND DOVE THE SILVER AGE TP DEC170394 (W) Steve Skeates, Gil Kane, Neal Adams (A) Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Neal Adams (CA) Michael Cho
The original run of one of DC's most thought-provoking concepts is collected in its entirety. The Hawk and the Dove were gifted with super-powers by a mysterious voice that sets them on their quest for justice...but their approaches to this mission could not be more different. In the course of these late 1960s stories, the duo battles inner-city crime and corruption as they struggle to get along. Collects SHOWCASE #75, THE HAWK AND THE DOVE #1-6 and TEEN TITANS #21.

Travis sez: The original run of the war vs peace characters, with writing and art by Steve Skeates, Steve Ditko, Steve Kane, and Steve Adams.  No, sorry, that's Gil Kane and Neal Adams. 

RICK VEITCH THE ONE #1 DEC170547 (W) Rick Veitch (A/CA) Rick Veitch 
The classic revisionist superhero saga that predates Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns! 
Rick Veitch's ground-breaking series has been called the last word on superheroes. It is a world-spanning, continent-crushing, over-the-top adventure story that brings the United States and Russia to the brink of annihilation... from both nuclear warheads and crazed superheroes-run-amok! Completely remastered with new scans and updated color, all overseen by Veitch himself, The One presents a shocking worldview that almost predicted today's political climate!

Travis sez: IDW has remastered the Epic series from the Veitchmonster, who oversaw the new coloring on this book.  I've only read the first issue of the original, I believe, and it's been awhile, so I can't comment further, but c'mon, it's Rick Veitch, of course it's good!

BEEF #1 OF 5 DEC170593 (W) Richard Starkings, Tyler Shainline (A/CA) Shaky Kane, John Roshell
The creator of ELEPHANTMEN and the creator of The A-Men join forces with TYLER SHAINLINE (Liberty Justice) to bring you the story of Meat Men! Chuck is a mild-mannered meat factory worker who is a little in love with a strawberry picker named Mary Lynn. But everything changes when Mary Lynn falls victim to the Vodino Brothers....

Travis sez: Richard Starkings of Elephantmen is co-writing (with Tyler Shainline) a bizarre sounding story drawn by the very cool Shaky Kane.  5 issues from Image.

X-MEN GRAND DESIGN TP DEC170935 (W) Ed Piskor (A/CA) Ed Piskor
Over six tumultuous decades, the X-Men have carved a singular place in comic book lore and popular culture. From their riotous birth in the '60s, to their legendary reboot in the '70s, to their attitude adjustment in the '90s, to their battle against extinction in the '00s, the X-Men have remained unquestionably relevant to generations of readers, the ultimate underdogs in an increasingly complicated world. Now, New York Times-best-selling author Ed Piskor (Hip-Hop Family Tree, Wizzywig) takes you on a pulse-pounding tour of X-Men history unlike anything you've ever experienced before, an intricate labor of love that stitches together hundreds of classic and obscure stories into one seamless X-Men masterpiece! This volume also includes 1963's X-MEN #1, masterfully recolored by Ed. Presented in the same dynamic, oversized format of the best-selling Hip Hop Family Tree! Collecting X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #1-2.

Travis sez: Ed Piskor, who namechecked Cerebus in one of the Images of Youth comics he's been doing for Image Plus magazine, is doing a retelling of the X-Men saga.  Looks cool but dang, that's pricey!

MASTER OF KUNG FU EPIC COLLECTION WEAPON OF THE SOUL TP DEC170956 (W) Jim Starlin, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Steve Englehart, Roger Stern (A) Paul Gulacy, Ron Wilson, Al Milgrom, Ross Andru, Keith Pollard, Alan Weiss, Walter Simonson, John Buscema, Ed Hannigan, Aubrey Bradford, P. Craig Russell, Frank McLaughlin, Jeff Aclin (A/CA) Jim Starlin
One of the most groundbreaking Marvel comics of all time! The series that captured the kung fu craze starts here! Born to be the world's most fearsome fighter, Shang-Chi's life takes an unexpected turn when he discovers the truth about his father, the villainous Fu Manchu. So begins the epic story of the Master of Kung Fu! In his quest to end the reign of his malevolent patriarch, Shang-Chi pits his deadly hands and unstoppable spirit against incredible foes like Midnight, Tiger-Claw...and even the Amazing Spider-Man! He's joined by Sir Denis Nayland Smith and "Black" Jack Tarr of the British secret service, who will stop at nothing to end the devil doctor's reign. Collecting SPECIAL MARVEL EDITION #15-16, MASTER OF KUNG FU (1974) #17-28, GIANT-SIZE MASTER OF KUNG FU #1-4, GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN #2 and material from IRON MAN ANNUAL #4.

Travis sez:  This doesn't get close to the Gene Day stuff yet, but it at least indicates that someday there will be collections more affordable than the big HC Omnibus versions that came out recently.  Maybe.

ELEANOR & THE EGRET TP VOL 1 DEC171041 (W) John Layman (A/CA) Sam Kieth
The most daring art thief in Paris has struck again, and the police have assigned their best detective to the case. His only clue? A single white feather left at the scene. Could this feather belong to the thief? To the thief's accomplice, an oversized talking egret? Or will his investigation lead him to somewhere even stranger? (Answer: all of the above.)
Presenting a peculiar and unforgettable tale of birds and banditry, paintings and pets, larceny, love and...lamprey-wielding assassins? From the legendary creator of THE MAXX and co-creator of SANDMAN, Sam Kieth, and the considerably less-legendary creator of CHEW, John Layman!
"Gorgeous artwork by Sam Kieth and Ronda Pattison and a script by John Layman that subtly lays the groundwork for a magical world make ELEANOR & THE EGRET...a fascinating debut! 10 out of 10." - Robert Reed of

Travis sez: A bizarre tale of an art thief and her talking egret accomplice.  By the mastermind of Chew (and Cerebus superfan) John Layman and the mastermind of the Maxx, Sam Kieth.  Sounds fun.

REBEL ANGELS TP DEC171086 (W) James Turner (A/CA) James Turner
Welcome to Hell! As the Infernal Regime prepares to slay Thermidor and purge Baal, the Arch-traitor, Lightbringer Nolous gives disgraced Infernal Knight Balthazar the chance to reclaim his place as Hell's foremost warrior by leading the attack, but his agenda is far more sinister...and things are not what they seem. Now in softcover, previously offered as a digital comic through Comixology, this is an epic drama set in Hell from the creator of Rex Libris.

Travis sez: James Turner of Rex Libris has a book set in Hell (who smells a Cerebus in Hell? crossover opportunity?  No, sorry, that's just my feet).  This was supposed to come out ages ago, so hopefully it actually does this time!

CHARLTONS NIGHTSHADE TP DEC171344 (A) Jim Aparo (A/CA) Steve Ditko
This edition collects the first appearance and origin stories of Nightshade as published by Charlton Comics with art by Steve Ditko and Jim Aparo. Included are full-length stories from Captain Atom #82, 85, and 86 as well as the back-up stories from issues #87-89.

Travis sez: More old Ditko stuff (and Jim Aparo, too).  This was also supposed to come out ages ago, but didn't, so I hope this comes out for real this time.

DAVE SHERIDAN LIFE DEC171586 (W) Dave Sheridan (A/CA) Dave Sheridan
Dave Sheridan collects the best of the legendary underground cartoonist's tripped-out comic strip hilarity. It includes Sheridan's solo comics, many reprinted for the very first time, and his collaborations with Fred Schrier and Gilbert Shelton (who writes the foreword), along with his record covers, beer labels, and advertisements for more...cough, products. The book includes a biography and reminiscences from fellow artists, friends, and family members.

Travis sez: For the underground comix fan, a collection of Dave Sheridan comics.

BLAZING COMBAT HC DEC171596 (W) Archie Goodwin (A) Various
Written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by such luminaries as Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, John Severin, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Russ Heath, Reed Crandall, and Gene Colan, Blazing Combat was originally published by independent comics publisher James Warren in 1965 and '66. Following in the tradition of Harvey Kurtzman's Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, Goodwin's stories reflected the human realities and personal costs of war rather than exploiting the clichés of the traditional men's adventure genre. They were among the best comics stories about war ever published.
Blazing Combat ended after its fourth issue when military post exchanges refused to sell the title due to their perception that it was an anti-war comic. Their hostility was fueled by the depiction of the then-current Vietnam War, especially a story entitled "Landscape," which follows the thoughts of a simple Vietnamese peasant rice-farmer who pays the ultimate price simply for living where he does - and which was considered anti-war agitprop by the more hawkish members of the business community.
Writer Archie Goodwin and the original publisher James Warren discuss the death of Blazing Combat and market censorship as well as the creative gestation of the series in exclusive interviews.

Travis sez: Here's a new printing of a Fantagraphics collection of the Archie Goodwin war anthology from Warren.  Cool beans!

MEANWHILE #9 DEC171795 (W) Gary Spencer Millidge, David Hine (A) Gary Spencer Millidge, Mark Stafford, Sarah Gordon
Gary Spencer Millidge, David Hines, Mark Stafford,  Sarah Gordon, Martin Simpson The Needleman, Part Two. The sense-shattering conclusion of Martin Simpson's tour-de-force. Doig and Swift give us a lovely story of finding your way in North. Gary Spencer Millidge's Strangehaven builds toward the finale. Decisions made by Sarah Gordon's The Collector may not be for the best - for him, for the town, for the world! Mark Stafford and David Hine present the penultimate episode of The Bad Bad Place. Danger lurks everywhere for Ginny Skinner's Gail Key's Psychic Lost Item Helpline.

Travis sez: Gary Spencer Millidge's Strangehaven builds toward the finale, which should be all you need to hear.  I need to catch up with this anthology!

An All-Star Editors Issue! A Pro2Pro roundtable of past and present editors reveal... "How I Beat the Dreaded Deadline Doom"! Plus: retrospectives of Archie Goodwin and Mark Gruenwald, a vintage interview with fan-turned-pro E. Nelson Bridwell, a career-spanning interview with Diana Schutz, Allan Asherman revisits DC's '70s editorial department, Marvel Assistant Editors' Month, and a history of the most famous editor in comic books, Perry White! Featuring an unpublished alternate cover of 1981's Captain America #259 by Mike Zeck!

Comic Book Creator is double the fun with two main features - Michael Allred (iZombie) and Bob Burden (Mystery Men) -who share a surf-crazy jam cover featuring their respective creations, Madman and Flaming Carrot hanging ten! Keeping with wacky comic-book characters and their creators, Reid Fleming, the World's Toughest Mailman cartoonist David Boswell tells us what's happening up there comics-wise in the Great White North. Plus we feature part two of our interview with the late, great Archie Comics artist Stan Goldberg, and the conclusion of Batton Lash's career-spanning interview which discusses his Supernatural Law series. 

Showcasing Gil Kane, one of the Silver Age's greatest artists-with gleaming Golden Age roots in the Simon & Kirby shop! Incisive and free-wheeling Kane interview conducted in the 1990s by Daniel Herman for his 2001 book Gil Kane: The Art of the Comics-plus Gil's incisive article from the Spring 1974 issue of the Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction, and other surprise features centered around the artistic co-creator of the Silver Age Green Lantern and The Atom! And beginning the autobiography of Golden/Silver Age Flash/GL scripter John Broome!

Jack Kirby Collector #61's theme is Jack Kirby: Writer! Whether creating stories while drawing, or pecking away at a typewriter, Kirby gave his work a unique voice which fans either love or hate. Don't miss this examination of the quirks of Kirby's conceptualizing and wordsmithing, from the operatic Fourth World to melodramatic romance work, and beyond! There's a feature-length Kirby interview, Mark Evanier, and our other regular columnists, galleries of pencil art including New GodsDestroyer Duck2001, and more! Unseen Kirby cover painting! 

Travis sez: TwoMorrows offers their usual batch of awesome.  Back Issue 103 focuses on editors, including a career spanning interview with Diana Schutz!  Alter Ego 149 spotlights Gil Kane, while Comic Book Creator 8 features Mike Allred AND Bob Burden (and David Boswell of Reid Fleming fame AND the second part of a Batton Lash interview, so don't pass that one up!), and Jack Kirby Collector 61's theme is Kirby the writer. 

COMICS REVUE PRESENTS FEB 2018 DEC172093 (W) Various (A) Various (CA) Romero
America's longest-running magazine of classic comics now has twice as many pages of strips as the earlier version, on better paper, includes 8 pages of full-color comic strips, and features Tarzan by Russ Manning, Rick O'Shay by Stan Lynde, Flash Gordon by Harry Harrison, Gasoline Alley by Dick Moores, Alley Oop by V.T. Hamlin, Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff, and Casey Ruggles by Warren Tufts! Plus more classic stories in black & white, including Lee Falk's The Phantom and Krazy Katby George Herriman!

Travis sez: the latest issue of classic comic strip reprints.

NEON VISIONS COMICS OF HOWARD CHAYKIN SC DEC172058 (W) Brannon Costello (A/CA) Howard Chaykin
In the 1980s, Howard Chaykin broke new ground in American comic books with a series of formally innovative, iconoclastic works that turned the traditional action-adventure tales of mainstream comics into a platform for personal expression, political engagement, and aesthetic experimentation. His original creations American Flagg!Time², and the notorious Black Kiss, along with his reshaping of familiar titles like The Shadow and Blackhawk, generated acclaim and often controversy as they challenged expectations of the visual design and subject matter permissible in popular comics. In Neon Visions, Brannon Costello offers the first book-length critical evaluation of Chaykin's work and confronts the blind spots in comics scholarship that consign this seminal artist to the margins.

Travis sez: A book length look at the fascinating creator Howard Chaykin.  I like him because he once said at a con that I had alright hair.  Cool!

Travis sez: There are a bunch of reoffered comics from Dover Publications, including the Puma Blues collection (with a foreword by Dave), Border Worlds by Don Simpson, Wandering Star by Teri S Wood, and several books by Sam Glanzman, among other things.  [Just check under Dover here:]

More Diamond Previews picks at Atomic Junk Shop's regular Flippin' Through Previews column.