Sean Michael Robinson:
Last week I finished off the interiors to Going Home, working my way through the last batch of originals and finding a few more pickup pages that I had missed the first time through. As this will be the first book printed from more than 90 percent original artwork, as opposed to negatives or print copies, it's a unique opportunity to peek inside the process and get a bit more insight into how the work was put together.
Sandeep and Gerhard both supplied me with a bunch of extras this time around while they were scanning, everything from production sketches to extra art boards that were used as a single step of the process. For instance, there's a sequence early in the book that was pieced together almost entirely from photocopies, leaving Dave and Gerhard's original work preserved on separate boards . Here's a page from the sequence, featuring only Dave's work. Notice there's indication of location for the panel borders of the page (which in the final artwork would be "reverse" white, borders by implication). There's also a rough indication of the perspective of the scene as well as some very light and loose rocks. Notice also the grass surrounding the figures, finished in expressive, tapered Hunts 102 lines.
It's interesting not just for what it says about these particular pages, but the insight it gives us into the two artist's collaborative work process. There are only a handful of pages that I've seen that let us see what the art looked like when it left Dave's drawing board.
Meanwhile, Gerhard's work for the four page sequence was executed on two separate pieces of board. All of these images were then photocopied at-size and collaged together to create the finished pages. In addition to the white border tape, careful examination of the photocopied final pages show some additional pen and ink work was added after pasting up the elements, to accent certain borders or to help the figures blend in to their surroundings—mainly added hatching lines or darkening existing textured areas for additional contrast.
Much later in the book, as the boat drifts along the river, there was the opportunity for a lot more photocopy trickiness, especially when things become a bit more visually static to facilitate the long dialogues. If your "camera" is stationary on the foreground figures while the shore rolls by, why not create those effects with the aid of a photocopier?
The above image is also an interesting example of something Gerhard used throughout the latter half of the book—the intentional creation of moire patterns to suggest unusual light effects, made with imperfect overlapping of different angles or pitches of tone. It's a technique not unknown in manga, but as far as I know, unique to Cerebus in North America. It's also suggestive of the painterly way that Eddie Campbell used tone in his Alec comics (Eddie Campbell, I would argue, being a significant visual influence throughout the first two books of Going Home.)
Probably the most interesting "extra" for me, though, is the original board for issue 246, page five, otherwise known as Going Home page 291. Although the finished page features only Gerhard's artwork, the below scan is of the page as it left Dave's drawing board. Notice the sketches for the visual effect intended for the top of the page, and some hand-written explication. "The mental picture I have is of the sun burning off the morning fog." (I've lowered the exposure here to make the text easier to read)
In the finished version of the page, the position of the sun and the word balloons are reversed, which is presumably why this draft still exists and wasn't just erased when Gerhard worked on top of it.
It's an interesting change. On one hand, it arguably makes the page function better in the book—being a recto page, the balloons now lead the reader off the page to the next page turn. But as a page, you could argue it functions better in the original intended layout, the light effect snaking across the top row to the sun and then following through to the balloons, a pleasing arc carrying all the way through the page.
Either way, it's a beautiful page, the imagery jarring and incongruous with the vulgar jot of text.
More next week!