Saturday, 22 October 2016

Cerebus Cover Art Treasury -- The First Reviews Are In!

Cerebus Cover Art Treasury
by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(IDW, 2016)
Buy at or

(from a review/preview posted by Dan Greenfield, 17 October 2016)
This is one of the most fascinating comics art books I've seen in a long time. Rather than being an Artist's Edition, this volume from IDW is a collection of original cover art and notes by Dave Sim and Gerhard. It's brilliant stuff, whether you're a hardcover Cerebus devotee or not... [Read the full review/preview here...]

(from a review by Ian Jane, 18 October 2016)
One of the most influential independent comic books of its day, Cerebus The Aardvark, by Dave Sim and Gerard, ran from December 1977 until March 2004 for three hundred issues spanning six thousand pages. It is, in retrospect, an absolutely massive project and a fascinating look at how comics evolve. The story started as a parody of Barry Windsor-Smith's classic run on Conan The Barbarian for Marvel Comics but soon turned into something more, taking on politics, religion and all manner of social issues. The single issue format was soon passed over in favor of massive storylines (starting with the classic High Society run) and all of it done under Sim's own Aardvark-Vanaheim, Inc. brand. Not only was the series a massive artistic achievement but it also played a huge part in the creator's rights movement that would eventually lead to publisher's like Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics, among quite a few others, becoming increasingly big players in the comic book industry.

This three hundred and fifty four page book, as you could probably have guessed, reproduces each and every cover art image from all three hundred issues of the series. It's fascinating to look through it, to see how that simple image from the first issue, clearly poking fun at Conan, changed over time. The second issue was swiped from a Jim Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. cover, the third another Windsor-Smith swipe and the fourth clearly influenced by a John Buscema Sub-Mariner cover. Frank Thorne pitched in for issue seven, and issue twenty-two borrowed heavily from a Marshall Rogers Detective Comics cover piece. Soon enough he switches over to water-colored cover pieces, which obviously have a very different look than the penciled and inked earlier covers.

As the series evolves and becomes more serious, so too does the cover art. The parodies of superhero and sword and sorcery books become replaced by more elaborate and dramatic pages, sometimes laying the art out sideways on the cover – something that was pretty unusual to see during this era of comic book history. The artwork becomes much more polished, occasionally the series uses black and white covers in place of the traditional color pieces, and the political leanings of the storylines start working their way to the front as it inevitably became a selling point for the series. Sim also experiments with using photographs on the cover in place of illustrations a few times (and for almost the entire Going Home run later in the series), and really just doing a lot of interesting, creative and unique things with character design and layout. If you hung out in comic books stores, especially during the eighties, Cerebus always stood out. Even if you didn't read it, you saw a lot of these covers and odds are pretty good they've stuck with you. The fact that they are so very different from the vast majority of what was coming out from other publishers at the time is a huge part of why they resonate with some of us the way they do... [Read the full review here...]

Friday, 21 October 2016

Weekly Update #153: Cerebus In Hell? -- Coming Soon!!!

Cerebus In Hell? #0 is on its way to Diamond Distributors
and will be hitting a comic book store near you soon!

Cerebus In Hell? - Week 17

CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at
CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at

CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 shipping soon!
(Diamond Order Code: JUL161105)
Read CEREBUS IN HELL? daily at

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Captain Cockroach and Bunky

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 only looked at Albatross One, aka notebook one, once before. This past August we looked at page one in Albatross One, page one.

Since it is now Tuesday morning as I write this, and I won't have the proper time to sit down and write more this week, we get a quick look at Albatross One again. This time some sketches of Captain Cockroach:

This page also features Captain Cockroach's sidekick, Bunky.
Albatross One, page 37
Page 47 appears to have a quote from President Weisshaupt and shows us how Captain Cockroach is seven feet tall.
Albatross One, page 47

Albatross One, page 49

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Cerebus Volume One--that COVER!

Sean Michael Robinson:

Talk about iconic images.

The Cerebus Volume One cover certainly qualifies. I'd imagine for a significant chunk of readers it's their first interaction with the series, their first exposure to the material at all. And it's interesting too, in the way it serves to both contextualize and, well, distract from the interiors of the first volume of the series.

Although Dave had been discussing the Cerebus the Barbarian book in the back of the monthly book for several months, we don't get a peek at the cover (and release date!) until well after High Society was released into the world. The first look at the cover comes in an ad in the back of issue #97 (April 1987 listed publication date). It's not the finished image, though, just a thumbnail sketch from Dave in technical pen and (or marker? hard to tell from the reproduction). Here it is, along with the Church & State I thumbnail also included—

It's interesting to see that the composition is already there. The bay, the arc of land behind him creating a strong contrast with the sky and an interesting negative shape for the middle ground. The foreground stones and tree and the strongly indicated lighting. It's a great image even small, and it certainly captures something (or points to a hidden aspect of) the early book. Namely, this figure both simultaneously funny and menacing, in this case, glowering out at the viewer, fully-armed. It's reminiscent of the early segment of issue 5, where a sleeping Cerebus is awakened by the Pigts.

This is heightened in the finished image by the one thing missing here—the fire, still-smoking.

Four issues later, in the back of Issue #101 (August 1987), we get our first look at a Gerhard version of the image.

At first I thought this was a Gerhard sketch worked up over a photocopy of the Sim drawing of the figure, but after inverting it and placing it over the finished image, I think it's most likely a photocopy reduction of the finished image, either with all of the detail blown out, or of the image in process, after it's received all of the blacks but prior to the finished hatching. Either seems likely.

Here's the image inverted.

And then, a month later, the finished image finally appears in the rear of the book, in issue 102 (September 1987)— "The Sudden Return of the Melodramatic Narrator."

This is significant for a few reasons. Those of you who have read my Reads essay already might remember that this issue has narrative significance that, as far as I know, hasn't really been touched on anywhere else, and provides a bridging link between the early issues, Church & State, and Mothers & Daughters

It also happens to have this image, which is strikingly similar to the back-cover portion of the Cerebus Volume One cover.

Which brings us to the actual cover.

For the fully-restored Cerebus Volume One, Dave and Sandeep removed the original artwork from storage, de-framed it, and scanned it on the Epson 10000XL in overlapping sessions. I then stitched these scans together using Photoshop's fantastic "Photo Merge" tool, checked to confirm that the work was solid, and flattened to the final image. 

There was a shocking amount of detail there that's never seen print before.

I'd always wondered about the right edge of the cover, the whiting out effect that occurs as the image moves towards the bleed edge. I'd always assumed, I suppose, that it was an intentional effect, some kind of atmosphere blowing over the water, a mild fog or something like that. Seems now that it was overexposure while shooting the artwork. 

Here's the right edge of the image, scanned from by eighth printing of Cerebus Volume One, and then the same section from the original artwork.

The same is true for the entire image, many of the fine line details burned off in photography, with the strong blacks left to carry the image.

So how would this happen?

I've mentioned before that during several periods of the book, it would routine for the camera operators to play with the exposure of the images in an attempt to anticipate gain on-press. This was done by the Fairway Press camera ops, and the Preney camera operators. Sometimes this was done with masks, masking off certain areas with smaller tone and exposing those longer or shorter than other segments of the page to lighten certain areas, mostly areas using tone with fine LPI (the first few issues of Church + State I use this, with only the Cerebus figures with fine LPI masked off). Other times this was done universally, across the page, which oftentimes had the effect of blowing out detail and fine-lines (the three "Jaka returns!" issues of C + S I are fine examples of this). 

That seems to be what happened here. An overzealous camera operator saw the Cerebus dot tone and, anticipating gain, overexposed the entire image and blew out the detail. And away it remained, until now.

You can see that the nomally 30 percent Cerebus dot tone has been overexposed to a 15 percent (or so) tone.

Next week— some balance! I present some excerpts from a printing textbook from the 1970s to give you an idea of what a difficult job it was to be a camera operator. It's, uh, more exciting than it sounds from my synopsis :)

(Bonus! A related excerpt from the current draft of Cerebus Volume One essay:


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.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

OFF-WHITE HOUSE BULLETIN 1055 hrs 18 OCT 16-- Cerebus in Hell? #0 has shipped!

Cerebus in Hell? #0 has shipped!

That is, it's left Marquis Printing as of yesterday. It still has to go through Diamond. But it's ON ITS WAY.

On Sale 37 Years Ago: Cerebus #12

Cerebus #12 (October 1979)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday, 17 October 2016

Gerhard's Smile Of The Absent Cat

(from Gerz Blog, 17 October 2016)
My first eight pages of Grant Morrison's Smile of the Absent Cat will be in issue 283 of Heavy Metal Magazine. Available at the beginning of November or for pre-order here.

In Shops: 26 October 2016
Diamond Order Code: AUG161692

Tribute Art Round-Up #13

Cerebus (2016)
Art by Sonny Liew
"Cerebus the Aardvark for @escapepodcomics expressing himself Old Master Q style."

Cerebus the Aardvark! (2016)
Art by Troy Little
"My oh so clever work-around of not having any coloured markers handy."

Cerebus (2016)
Art by Jamie Jones
"Cerebus sketch from @boston_comic_con this was my favorite sketch of the show."

Cerebus (2016)
Art by Rich Tommaso

The Countess (2016)
Art by Carla Speed McNeil

Conan vs Cerebus (1980)
Art by George Perez & John Beatty

Sunday, 16 October 2016

SDOAR Update

Carson Grubaugh:

A couple of updates on SDOAR.

I finally got a printer/scanner that can handle the process outlined in my last post. That, plus having settled into my classes for the semester, allowed me to finally ink what will be page 1. Here it is scanned in grey-scale, before any adjustments.

A detail.

I didn't like how I used white-out to make the snow last time. It was hard to go back and draw over any pieces of snow with poor size, shape or placement of. I realized it would be easier to just plop the snow in using Photoshop

So, after some contrast adjustment I did the snow. Anything that bugs me or Dave on this version is now really easy to fix.

After seeing what Sean does with the the Archive restoration I feel pretty ashamed of my own adjustment skills. Hopefully he will be contributing his mastery to SODAR whenever it goes to print!

With the first four pages now done we run into a pretty big problem. The shop I photographed, Local Heroes (I was happy to see a big stack of Glamourpuss on the far-right, second row from the top, in the first image that pops up on their site!), and the shop-manager who modeled for me, Jack VanDyke, are in Norfolk, VA, where I spent the last school-year as a visiting professor of painting for Old Dominion University. When my contract ended in July I moved back home to Modesto, California. You can see the problem.
Jack said she could get someone to take the pictures I need so I prepared the following layouts for her to use as reference. The idea was to provide a structure to guide the shoot. I had the idea that the 'story' could be crafted almost entirely out of poses already in Dave's pages. This adds another layer of plagiarism and metaphysical life-imitating-art-imitating-
life-etc., which are central to SDOAR. It also seemed prudent to have a plot device that got rid of any need for Jack and Local Heroes in future volumes. Given how powerful the synchronicities seem to get around Dave I also wanted to make sure that we gave Jack, and honestly, myself, a backdoor out of any potential consequences of messing about with the Margaret Mitchell Glamour.

When I added notes and instructions the whole thing became its own weird mini-comic.

These layouts also provide a sneak-peek at some of Dave's art in SDOAR. Hope he doesn't mind. Eeek! I don't know how much of this Dave will use, or if he is going to mock up entirely different pages using the photos I take, but I felt like I had to have a narrative structure to work within for the photo-shoot to be successful, especially without me there.

A month or more went by after I sent these to Jack and I had not heard anything back. When I did speak with her I got the impression that the amount of photos needed was overwhelming her so I proposed to Dave the idea of flying me back out to Norfolk for a weekend to get the rest of the pictures. Dave, being the generous man that he was totally willing to pay for the flight, which is booked for November 2nd - 6th. When I get home from that I will update you all on how the trip went, share plenty of photos from the shoot and then get right to work on the pages. How fast I work from there will depend on what my teaching assignments look like for the Spring 2017 semester.