Sunday, 16 February 2014

Weekly Update #18: 'Cerebus' & 'High Society' Reprinting

Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
Cerebus Vol 1 & Cerebus Vol 2: High Society
Cover art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
DAVE SIM:
Hello everyone.  Okay, easy to answer the latest posts:

Barry Deutsch:  Thanks! I will do a screen capture of the info and give you a call. I really don't have time to do glamourpuss as a web comic. It's interesting watching myself because I don't know how slow I'm going to be on a given page until I'm working on it but I'm very aware that my theory on glamourpuss -- tracing Raymond, Drake, Williamson et al and then inking them and then doing my own fashion stuff and "merging" the two into a distinct photorealism style:  doesn't work. They are apples and oranges.  So all I did was to "just get good at apples" and it's time to do oranges for a month.  I'm definitely learning how to do THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND now. But it's definitely 12 hours a day 6 days a week which leaves no time for anything else except this once every two weeks "Everything Else" 20-hour marathon. There are Very Good Signs. I'm working through the foot square tub of research materials and it's a lot more organized than I thought it was. I'm not doing the initial cull, I'm doing the final cull. While I'm having dinner and flossing my teeth (TMI! YES!)

Sean, George and Lebonfon:  I know doing it this way is irritating and everyone is getting short-tempered. Unfortunately I can't just forge ahead and authorize tens of thousands of dollars in printing so everyone's blood pressure drops by a few points. George says "Been There, Done That" and Sean says, "No you haven't". It's important for me that people -- particularly Diamond, the stores and the customers -- know that this is the Current Situation. If anyone has a suggestion as to HOW I would arbitrate between George and Lebonfon and Sean and George, I'm wide open for suggestions. Failing that, all I can do is just keep saying, week after week, Well, here we are again.

Sean, the questions I wanted to ask you are:
1)  Well, first, thanks for any help you're willing to give. George is quite adamant on "Been There. Done That. Period."  You're saying that that's not true. Obviously I can't arbitrate that.  I mean, I can, but that involves flipping a coin which is not how I want to move forward after this many months.

2) Do you have original CEREBUS or HIGH SOCIETY issues and can you do your own scans from them?  I mean, there's a certain squeamishness that can be there: "I don't want to tell Dave that I don't want to bend the cover back on my #22". No need to be squeamish. If you can give me a mailing address I can send you Preney printed pages of some form that you can (ahem WILL) bend, fold, spindle and mutilate as necessary. We don't really need an actual signature, just 32 pages that are from the storylines being printed. How much of a problem is this for you? As you can see, everything around here is "When you can manage it" because anything else would be churlish on my part.

3) The "Manga Something" process you mentioned that you said Colleen is using. How does it do what it does? My concern is always the parts of the screen that have penwork under them -- the flare lines on either side of Cerebus' eyes, the texture lines showing the brow, the forelock. How do you replace that tone and still get the line detail? I also went to the Aria Press site but I'm not good with finding information on websites but my impression was that the A DISTANT SOIL volume(s?) haven't been printed yet.  She was definitely fundraising for the printing but that might be Volume 2 or Volume 3 or whatever she's up to. I was thinking if I could see her restored material, I have pretty much all the A DISTANT SOIL individual issues, so it would be easy to compare. I'm thinking the same with Eddie Campbell's PANTS book. I have all of the material from back in the pre-computer age for comparison. Eddie Khanna is always ordering me something from Amazon for THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND and I'm sure he'd be glad to add them in if they're out there and available.

4) And, yes, I think we definitely want examples published here so Diamond, the stores and the fans can see what's going on. But we will have to go the same route as George did. You e-mail digital files to Lebonfon for Sean's Signature, Lebonfon runs them out at 600 dpi and sends them to me as proofs and I look at them and say, (as Gerhard used to say, quoting Opus: "RUN THAT BABY!"  :)  Then I look at George's Signature and Sean's Signature and see what -- if any -- difference there is.

Okay. Now for George (nice stuff from the movie by the way). NO chance of my coming to Toronto. I owed Vince at Metropolis Comics in NYC a favour -- for supplying us with scans for original artwork -- and he asked me to sign about a hundred books that Pete Dixon at Paradise Comics would witness as "Signature Series". Ordinarily it would be a good excuse to go to TO and one of two stores in North America who have signed the petition. No can do, so Peter ended up having to drive all the way up here. I definitely want Vince at Metropolis to be thinking good thoughts about Dave Sim. Turned out that one of the #1's he wanted signed was a) a counterfeit and b) cost him a lot of money. So much for good thoughts about Dave Sim.

George, when you have time, I think the next step for you is identifying WHICH signature you want Lebonfon to rerun. It might be a toss-up or it could be that there's a specific 32-page stretch in one book or the other. It seems to me that "The Night Before" chapter was the biggest pain but that might be because it was right at the end there OR because there's so much white space anything "off" with the tone really shows up. Do you have a gut instinct on which it would be? Or, as soon as I say "pick one" do you get an automatic pick in your head?

To Lebonfon:  If you could mail me a work order for a 32-page signature is it possible to just identify it as that?  i.e. send it as soon as possible. AND how few copies can you print of that signature and still have enough to say, yes, this is how the press run is going to go? Do you have to run 3,000 and risk having George say "No, not good enough" or can you run 1,000 (and still have George say, "No, not good enough") and maybe save Aardvark-Vanaheim a few dollars. Obviously we're all hoping that this signature will be fine and that will make it more possible to just go ahead, tell Sean "Thanks but everything seems to be okay" and then just get the books done.

I definitely think the next step is George's Signature, whichever one that turns out to be. George can just let you know directly.

Just to complicate things, while I thought I had a virtually "mail-free" mail answering day, Thursday THUD 131 pages of screen captures arrived from Rob Imes -- the Alan Moore is a Misogynist AND a Racist saga up to the end of last week. Tim had already sent me a link. And I went "I'm not going anywhere near this". And had my sense of God tingling. "Uh, actually you are." "No, I'm not. Uh. Uh. No way." As I say THUD. It's very nice of God, I always think, to never say "I told you so." I think I made the right choice because even when I went to pick up the mail in Waterloo there was virtually nothing there. "Uh. Actually you are."

So that's what I've been doing since about 1 am until I came in here to do this Update.

I've learned a lesson from Alan (sadly from him having to go through it) -- a lot of the comments Rob sent me were "Alan should have had someone vet this." I infer: someone who knows how things sound on the Internet. Which non-Internet users like Alan and me just don't know anything about. It's a pretty fine-tuned thing for people who LIVE on here. So when I have it done, I'm going to fax it to Tim (if his is one of the fax numbers that I can get OUT to right now) and get him to e-mail it to Rob and I've told them explicitly in the cover letter; take ANYTHING OUT that needs to come out. Just write [CRINGEWORTHY TWO PAGES DELETED] or [CRINGEWORTHY FIVE LINES DELETED]. I have too much respect for Rob to just "round file" the whole mass which he suggested as a possibility or to just cherry pick what I talk about.

So I have to get back to that now.

Sincere apologies to everyone. Again, I am wide open for suggestions but right now all I'm getting is varying degrees of "Tell everyone else to eff themselves and do what I want you to do. Today." :)

No can do. Hope the next step in Sean's Signature and George's Signature constitutes sufficient movement on my part because that's all I can legitimately see myself doing right now.

See you next Friday.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.

17 comments:

Eddie said...

I've ordered Vol 1 and 2 of A Distant Soil from Colleen's web-site (they've been both restored). If anyone has left over money after donating to help out Dave, she has a donation button on her web site as well.

The LCS didn't have a copy of the Alec Omnibus. I'll check out a few other places before either ordering it on-line or sending my copy.

Eddie Khanna

Travis Pelkie said...

Long time listener, first time caller (hee hee).

Y'know, Chris Staros at Top Shelf is a pretty cool dude. He'd probably send a copy cheap, or maybe even comp Dave a copy of the Alec collection (or even have some words of wisdom about how to do the whole digital conversion thing).

Heck, with Top Shelf's sale last fall, I got the HC of The Years Have Pants for 8 bucks plus shipping (and I got a LOT of other stuff, so the shipping was negligible). I suspect there are copies to spare.

Chris's email is on the contact page from the Top Shelf link in this post.

I love this site, btw, Tim, and it's now a near daily go to in order to see what's going on with Dave, creator of my favorite comics series ever.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey Dave,

I'd be happy to assist in prepping a signature. However, re-scanning anything would be a last resort for me, as you already have scans (and restorations) that probably will work as-is with the tweaks I suggested.

Here's what I'd suggest to go forward--

1. Pick a signature. Make sure it has lots of tone (both dot tone and possibly the textured "mind games/fog" tone.)

2. Ask George to send me

a. his finished files for those pages
b. the original scans for those pages

And I'll work them up with the process I outlined before. This will enable me the most flexibility, and will be the most efficient time-wise, as I can take any restored areas from his work and just fly in problem areas/panels from either the original scans, or, as last resort, my scans.

He can send me the files via ftp, if he has a site, or yousendit, or Google Drive. Or, I suppose, a data dvd, if he prefers.

As for the retoning with Manga Studio, it really would be a last resort, as it is a kind of defacement of the page.

So, if I had color scans of original artwork, like George has of those pages, I would attempt to "lift" the dot-tone by digitally selecting only those areas of color, as you know the tone discoloring over time in a different way than the linework beneath. But I'm not too hopeful of that being a workable method. What it would basically involve to remove the tone is "drawing out" the dots, which is of course, easy when there's no hatching and significantly harder when you're guessing at what the hatching looks like underneath. It would once again be easier if working from the color scans of the originals as my eye could see the hatching beneath as distinct from the tone. And the actual dropping in tone part is much easier.

But! As I said, this really is a last resort as it's a kind of redrawing in the way, and I don't think it's necessary. While we're discussing books, check out the Harvey Kurtzman EC book--the Joe Kubert collaborations in the back have tons of detailed hatching and fine dot tone, no moire. All produced from 1200 dpi bitmap scans.

Hopefully looking forward to helping.

Best,

Sean Michael Robinson
seanmichaelrobinson at gmail dot com.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Also, as far as the proofing process goes, generating your own "proofs" is a very necessary and helpful step when trying to stomp out moire and other anomalies. I realize that they're not the same as contract proofs, but that doesn't make them less useful.

It's incredibly expensive for a printer to start their presses, which is why most printers won't supply unbound signatures in the way you're suggesting is necessary. Iris prints or even laser printer printouts are pretty standard as a pre-press proof and a reasonable representation of what you can expect from the press.

George Peter Gatsis said...

To Tim:
I finally clued in, that IF I HAVE MY GMAIL account active, while at AMOC... I can post directly with having to email you to post my notes... ( in the words of Homer : DOH!!! )

To Dave:
Go with the any signature that has "The Night Before" ... that was where the last of the problems occurred. Hopefully the Printer's "accurate" proofs are accurate, and we can finally move on.

To SMR:
I am not frustrated or upset or irritated by you or anyone else... so please take everything I say with a smile...

So... I'll repeat myself once more... I have read and understood everything you posted and I have done what you are suggesting in your posting and previous posts. What is it that YOU don't understand? You continue to say the same thing over and over... and I have responded that I HAVE done what you are suggesting.

The problem is and was... We never got accurate proofs from the Printer for a loooooong time. Most of the time was spent on waiting and MORE waiting and realizing that we HAD to wait some more, because the Printer shipped their proofs to places other than where it was supposed to go. And when we did get the proofs, they were clearly not accurate. And we had no movement until I had to take time from my film to go to Kinkos and figure out what was going on... THEN force the issue back into the Printer's hands... wait some more... AND finally we got what the Printer considers their "accurate" proofs...

( yeah, one would think, why didn't you get the "accurate" proofs in the first place? Dave Sim and I are wondering the same thing. )

To get the ball rolling —and to express to everyone that I am not a weak minded, close circuited, sub-human of an alien armada offspring... like you had suggested in one of your previous posts... :)

I have sent you ( via Google Drive ) ... some sample ZOOM'd files and a source file of one of the concerned pages... from the "Price Valiant" issue... all I could find right away in my email... not sure if it is the final worked up file... but you'll get the idea of what's going on...

Since I have backed up Cerebus as a whole... AND it's on my list of things to do, to restore it to my active drives and do a re-rendering for the IDW Audio/Video... ( yes, it's all cross referencing each other between the Audio/Video and the Restoration files ) I'll update you when the archiving happens.

GPG



Eddie said...

Thanks for pointing me in that direction. I'll check it out. Thanks for calling!

Sean Michael Robinson said...

George,

Thanks for sending me the sample page. Very much appreciate the cooperation here.

George and Dave,

The scan looks great--there's no need for any re-scanning, at least on this page. I'll confirm this with some test printing after I've adjusted this, later in the week, when I have some free time.

Opening up the file and taking a look, I had one major surprise, and two major confirmations--

The moire is coming from, no surprise, the two things I was suggesting (harping on) (repeating ad nauseam) before. I can see that you've contrast-adjusted the Cerebus figures with tone even while the rest of the page remains non-contrast adjusted (more on this at the bottom). Even though you've done this, there are still gray pixels in the contrast-adjusted tone areas, which will still cause the printer half-toning, which will still cause moire.

Maybe more significantly, the pdf setup page you sent has a larger, un-scaled file embedded in the document and scaled in the document by its placement. This would be fine for color or gray scale files that didn't contain present screen, but this is going to cause problems with the existing tone, no matter that you've contrast-adjusted. Depending on how their pre-press process handles this reduction, this will cause your contrast-adjusted areas of tone to be "resampled" at print size and once again subject to screening.

These are the two major things I've repeated over and over again, and yes, they're exactly what's present in the file.

So those parts weren't surprises. It was actually very heartening to see, because it means that, possibly with a few exceptions, the files will most likely print beautifully once the last (brief) bit of contrast adjustment and threshold conversion to 1-bit bitmap has been completed. That means that it'll take just a few minutes per page to get things rolling.

But! Here's the thing that I was surprised at. When I opened up the file I hadn't anticipated how much "gray" you'd left, specifically, Dave's incompletely erased pencil markings and watery black brush strokes. Dave, is it your intention here to have a more "warts and all" approach to these pages ala the IDW Artist's series, where every little nick and piece of white out and imperfection are on the page? I would not so humbly suggest that this approach a. works significantly better in color, and b. interferes with the reading experience/encourages the viewing of the page as an object instead of the reading of a page, and c. it means that, unless you take specific precautions, everything has to be half-toned screened on the page.

For anyone wanting to play at home here, please take out your copy of Following Cerebus #8, the "Mind Games" issue.

Roberta Gregory has a story on page 12. If you take a look at the art, you'll notice that everything is black. There's a sharpness to every area and line, (despite some minor drop-out in some areas and visible stair-stepping in the thin, angled lines, which represents a lower resolution scan than I would be happy with)

So that page was most likely printed from 1-bit bitmap , 300 dpi scans. (Possibly 600 dpi). The Cerebus panels on page 7 is printed through the same technique, probably with a higher resolution. Notice how you can read the lettering perfectly despite how small it is. (There is however, a little bit of moire, but it's what I would consider an acceptable level).

Now take a look at the jam comic printed on page 20.

Sean Michael Robinson said...

This is a representation of the technique currently in used in the 1 page of Cerebus I received. Look at the fourth panel, Seth's Mr. Monopoly man strolling and pontificating. The contour lines are clearly signicantly grayer than the rest, probably produced with a pocket brush pen, or very watery ink. Look at any of the areas of detailed hatching. Can you see the breakup of the lines, and the softness of the edges? This is what happens when you print line work with a screen process. This would be necessary if you were attempting to print from pencil drawings, but completely unnecessary if you have “camera-ready” inked artwork.

To conclude-- the page that George sent me will print beautifully, if it's subject to the treatments that I suggested. However, the treatments I suggest will cause the pencil strokes to disappear or break up, and will “fill in” the brush strokes, both in ways that I personally would find desirable, and in ways that are very controllable. (So if, for instance, Dave said “please make sure that the pencil mark on Silverspoon's nose on page 301 makes the cut, that would be possible by select contrast-adjusting different areas separately). But personally, as far as I'm concerned, these are abberations and probably not part of the intentions of 25-year old Dave.

Now, if you both want to go ahead with the “line art as grayscale” approach, then you'll have to take a slightly different and complicated procedure to avoid moire in the toned areas, specifically cutting those areas and placing them on their own 1-bit bitmap layer, and leaving the printer instructions to only half-tone the grayscale layer. Yeah, it's complicated, but it would solve your problem.

I'll send everyone some files, and a test print, if I get an address from George, later this week. In the meanwhile, if Tim wanted to make this a post, I could send him some zoomed-in files illustrating what I'm talking about. Or just to him!

Sean Michael Robinson said...

That last bit wasn't clear. I meant I'd be happy to just send files to George.

George Peter Gatsis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Peter Gatsis said...

I deleted the previous post due to spelling... so here it is again, it spelted wordz donez right. :) GPG

- - - -

To SMR:

The Google Drive connection with me goes 2 ways... you can upload into it.

and...

You said: "However, the treatments I suggest will cause the pencil strokes to disappear or break up, and will “fill in” the brush strokes, both in ways that I personally would find desirable, and in ways that are very controllable."

Keeping all the detail of the artwork is one of the key reasons this restoration happened. Film or original art... when compared to the printed books, the detail of the artwork in the printed comics lost a lot of detail in a BIG WAY.

It's not IDW artist edition... and it's not straight black and white with lost detail... But all the pages that Cerebus is on... has his screen leveled out to black and white and everything around has grey tones.

I don't think the file I sent you is final... It could be one of the tests. My email is riddled with them... it's been a while and sorting it out is a headache... So when I un-archive the Cerebus project... I'll upload new files.

and...

You said: "Now, if you both want to go ahead with the “line art as grayscale” approach, then you'll have to take a slightly different and complicated procedure to avoid moire in the toned areas, specifically cutting those areas and placing them on their own 1-bit bitmap layer, and leaving the printer instructions to only half-tone the grayscale layer. Yeah, it's complicated, but it would solve your problem."

No need for layering. The entire page can be greyscale and the Cerebus screened area leveled out to black and white. Technically there won't be enough... if any... grey dots to actually image a dot screen... I did this testing already to film negative and paper lino... at screens of 175, 150, 133, 120 and 100...

But it was not financially possible to run film/lino paper proofs... but technically, I knew what to expect from the pages... THE QUESTION WAS WHY we were not getting accurate proofs from the Printer was baffling until I went to Kinkos and did different resolution tests on over 100 pages and realized the Printer was not doing printouts at the right resolution... AND THEY CONFIRMED this to us... and we were told that they don't have any printer doing higher than 300 dpi... forwhich as it got proven, the 300 dpi proofs were causing the inaccuracy.

After several exchanges back and forth over a month/month-and-a-half ---IF I REMEMBER RIGHT--- and Dave suggestion the Printer go to Kinkos to do their proofs... the Printer then told us, not only do they have accurate higher resolution printers... THEY ACTUALLY HAVE THREE OF THEM!

We finally got their "accurate" proofs... pages got tweeked... now we wait and see what comes next from them...

Sean Michael Robinson said...

George,

Thanks for the response.

It sounds like the line art/gray scale thing is a basic philosophical difference between us then. I don't personally see variations in wateriness of black ink, or un-erased pencil strokes, as detail at all, in pen and ink artwork that is--I see it as noise. If Dave could have drawn with perfectly black ink all the time, and had an assistant to erase his pencils completely, I'm sure he would have done it at the time. (There's even a few paragraphs of the original Cerebus Self-Pub guide that discuss getting black enough ink to not mess up reproduction)...

Anyway, Dave will weigh in on this soon enough himself. As far as I'm concerned, however, the real loss of detail is what happens when you have to screen artwork in the first place. The sharpness you get from all the individual elements on a continuous plate (i.e. no screening) are just so sharp and defined compared to anything that has to pass through a screen...

As I mentioned, you can retain some of what you're discussing as detail in a 1-bit file, specifically the pencil, you just have to be careful and selective of it. I'll go ahead and do a version of the page and send a printed copy to you and Dave to take a look. Should take just a few minutes for the adjustments, and hopefully can get to a printer in the next few days.

As for the tone being contrast-adjusted enough to avoid screening, good to hear you've tested it out with different screen densities. But the scaled file still looks like a potential pitfall to me, i.e. that you have the larger file placed within/scaled within the smaller page document. It gives you less control at the print stage as to what the dot tone process will perceive as screenable area if/when it resamples the image/ sends the image to the screen process and makes the plate. But I'm sure whomever is working prepress at Lebonfon could identify whether this is actually a problem.

I can't pretend to even imagine why your proof situation was the way that it was.

Looking forward to hearing from Dave. Will tweak the page and send it on to you.

best,

Sean

Sean Michael Robinson said...

George,

One last thing. Looking at the file now, I can't tell if there actually IS any scaling of the image as placed in the document. (I don't have Acrobat, so I had to strip it from the pdf) I have a strange fractional resolution (1227.202) which was making me think the image was being scaled in the document. So yeah, if it's not scaled there, my apologies, and obviously, it renders that point moot.

George Peter Gatsis said...

SMR,

You are correct sir.

1200 in... 1200 out.

After you do the tweeking... and I will assume you will maintain the same rez... then just upload to the google drive.

I can flip back and forth on screen and see what you have done.

And... the file I sent you sounds like it's one of the many testing files, given the pencil marks you noticed.

GPG

Sean Michael Robinson said...

Hey George,

Just a draft of the file.

I went through and selected each panel individually, in photoshop, using legacy contrast and tweaking the brightness to thin or thicken the lines/the exposure. On one panel I snagged an individual portion of a face and did that before the rest of the panel, as the detail was being lost if I just adjusted the whole panel at the same time.

On at least one other panel I did some sharpening prior to the contrast adjust, as the area was a little too blurry to just straight dive in to the contrast adjustment.

Let me know if there's any detail on your version of the page that you're missing here and I could do another version to try and retain that information. I pulled out my Cerebus Bi-Weekly copy that has this page in it, and this version is significantly better to my eye, mainly because you've flown in the non-photocopied banner for the top. (The photocopied panels bugged me sometimes, specifically the way the tone would fill in)

Also, if the resolution looks weird to you, let me know. If we have more file back and forth, I'll have to find a better way to extract from pdf...
)

George Peter Gatsis said...

to SMR:

You said: "Anyway, Dave will weigh in on this soon enough himself."

Dave has been kept aware and provided proofs of before and afters, since the beginning. I don't "fly" on my own in this restoration production. :)

GPG

Barry Deutsch said...

Dave -

Just to correct a misimpression:

You don't have to do your stuff as a webcomic to raise money on Patreon. All you have to do is exactly what you're doing anyhow - "I'm working on this graphic novel. I'm not guaranteeing when I'm going to complete it. If current plans work out, it will eventually be published by IDW, first in monthly issues and then in a collected form. If you'd like to support my work on this project with an automatic monthly donation, thanks."

It's basically the same thing as the donate to Dave Sim paypal campaign you've already got, except that it enables people to make automatic monthly donations if they want to, rather than having to donate again and again and again.

(And it's not either-or - you can have both the paypal campaign and the Patreon campaign simultaneously)

(You CAN make Patreon more complex than that by offering rewards and stretch goals, the way people do on Kickstarter. But you don't HAVE to).

Anyway, I don't mean to be pushing you towards doing this. I just wanted you to be aware it's an option if you ever want to make use of it.