Thursday, 27 April 2017

Rick in a Can

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 looked at Dave Sim's notebook #15, four times already.  The last time was in June of 2016 in Daughter of Palnu: Lessons. The notebook covers issues #118 to 122, the early issues of Jaka's Story. It has 108 pages, 98 of which I scanned, and 4 pages blank pages not scanned (pages 94, 95/96 and 97). But we still haven't seen the cover.

Surprise. Surprise. It is a Hilroy notebook.

Notebook #15, front cover
The difference between this Hilroy notebook and the other ones is this cover has a different texture then the others. While the other ones were flat this one appears to be embossed.

Since this entry has to be a quick one - the Bruins have game 6 at home today - a couple pages of sketches from the notebook. We'll start with the back of the page first, on which are three head sketches. Jaka, "Rick in a Can" and "Wee Donny Drrredd".

Notebook #15, page 68
Though behind those sketches, you can see some other sketches. Looks like Jaka a bit.

Notebook #15, page 67
It is Jaka. A sketch of one of her dancing costumes. The top looks like the same top from the cover to Cerebus #124, but the pants are a bit more see-through.

Cerebus #124, front cover

Though it is revealed that Jaka had forgotten the back of her costume, so perhaps it is the same outfit as above - but without the back and the leggings.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Meet Gerhard Tomorrow At Escape Pod Comics!

I know I should have reached out much sooner, but with all the madness about approach FCBD it slipped my mind. We’ll be hosting Gerhard this Thursday, from 6-closing (and possible running a long time after as well!) Margaret Liss is going to be there, as well as Carla Speed McNeill. More details here...  ~  Menachem Luchins

Where: Escape Pod Comics, 302 Main St, Huntington, New York 11743
When: 18:00-20:00 EDT, Thursday 27 April 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, Part 14

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Part 7 | Part 8 Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13

A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 14
Production Negative Adjustment


This is the fourteenth installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!


In the last installment of this column, we discussed working with production negatives, the film elements that were generated in order to create printing plates in previous, pre-digital printing processes. 

As I mentioned in that column, there's a huge range of possible qualities to these production negatives. The best of these photographic negatives can look almost indistinguishable from making fresh scans of original art. The worst have filled-in or burned off elements that can't be recovered, or had gross manipulations during the photography, or chemical spills or camera errors or other problems. But for this installment, we'll only address how to work with the best of these elements.

Okay, as of our previous installment, we've cut the negatives off of the vacuum-frame flats and cleaned them, and scanned them at 1200 ppi. Now let's take a look.

This is a page from High Society, scanned prior to my coming on board with the work.

I can tell just looking at the dot-tone on the Cerebus figures that this is an uncalibrated scan, i.e. the density of the image is too dark, and unrepresentative of the original artwork. This is not surprising, as most scanning software is not really calibrated to scan information-rich, dark and dense images. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this, that involves looking at the density of the Cerebus dot tone (which, unless it was adjusted during photography, was usually some density of 30 percent).

Let's zoom in on the bottom area of the page, where we have both Cerebus figures (i.e. dot-tone) and the denser cross-hatching at the bottom of the page.

Now I'm going to hit Ctrl-L to bring up the Levels command. Once it's open, I grab the Mid Point arrow (i.e. the Gamma/exposure control) and move it to the left until the Cerebus tone has opened up and starts looking like a 30 percent tone again.

And here's our result. 

Well, would ya look at that? In addition to thinning out everything uniformly, our correction is bringing out detail that was hidden/filled in in the initial image. Most of this detail is wanted—the white detail in the dense areas of cross-hatching, for instance. But some of it will need to be cleaned, as it's unintentional "detail" brought out by our adjustment.

For instance?

Mysterious shapes around the contours of Cerebus' ears. (Not actually so mysterious if you view the image in reverse, how it actually appears on the negative. Some kindly person at the printer (possibly the "stripper") has removed the visible Exacto-blade cut lines from the edges of Cerebus's tone with an exacto knife of their own, scraping the emulsion off of the clear plastic carrier film. 

In this same category, you can now see the bottom of the image was once held in place on the flats with tape that actually overlapped the image. This will also need to be adjusted.

But all of this is for another stage, so let's put it off for a bit and take a look at a negative from later in the book instead.

Here's a page from later in Church & State II. Notice that the tone is similarly dense to the earlier example, and needs a similar type of Gamma adjustment. Some of the stripping has also been removed in this example, leaving the "chop" on the top of the page visible and parts of the bottom of the page exposed.

This time we're going to make our Gamma adjustment, then make a new Photoshop "Action" for upscaling and sharpening our negatives.

I'm going to zoom in and concentrate on the first panel (the medium shot of Cerebus) for calibrating the page, as the other figures that have finer tonelook like they've been manipulated photographically to adjust the darkness of the tone (and thus to make it less prone to fill-in on press. (How I know this?  I'll go into it on a later installment)

Anyway, here's the medium-density tone figure.

I bring that Gamma control way, waaay down, and I end up bringing up the black point just a wee bit as well (as you can see by the histogram, there's nothing on the far end of it, so I'm not clipping anything by bringing it up.

Anything else exciting we brought up with that adjustment?

Nothing too exciting, besides lots more detail, especially in the dense areas of hatching and white-on-black areas. Also some unintentional information, such as the edges of Roxanne Starr's lettering bubbles, pasted onto the artwork late in the process.

Next week: We sharpen some negatives! Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Stephen Bissette: Feeding The DC Machine

Brighter Than You Think: Ten Short Works By Alan Moore
with essays by Marc Sobel

(from Brighter Than You Think, Ten Short Works By Alan Moore, Uncivilised Books, 2016)
...Taboo was a horror anthology series edited and published by Stephen Bissette. Like Moore's short story [Come On Down], its origin also dates back to 1985 when Moore, Bissette and John Totlebon were still working together on Swamp Thing for DC Comics. While the three creators were enjoying great success with DC, the winds in the industry were shifting and more and more creators were embracing the underground comix model of self-publishing. At the time, no one had achieved more success in the self-publishing arena than the Canadian cartoonist, Dave Sim, the visionary creator and publisher of Cerebus The Aardvark, a series that he had produced entirely on his own since 1977. Inspired by his own experience, Sim was a passionate and outspoken advocate for creator independence and, according to Bissette, in 1985 he, "began extending invitations to a small pool of creators he felt were ready (and needed) to make the plunge into the deep, wide waters of self-publishing. This was part of a creative community re-education process Dave was committed to..." In particular, Sim believed that the Swamp Thing creative team was wasting their talents "renovating, restructuring and making (DC's) defunct corporate property worth something... Dave wanted us to be self-publishers, not feeding the DC machine".

But Sim was not simply encouraging creators with no publishing experience to blindly cast out on their own; he was also committed to helping them do so by building upon his own success. As a result, in 1985, he created a new corporate entity, Aardvark One International, in order to publish work from these creators. In addition to Moore, Bissette and Totlebon, many other creators working for the mainstream publishers, including Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz, were also contacted by Sim.

Bissette and Totlebon were intrigued by Sim's offer. In particular, the two artists were excited about publishing a new kind of horror anthology which would fill a creative void they perceived existed in the industry at the time. Despite the presence of some new alternative horror series in the 1980s like Twisted Tales and Gore Shriek, Bissette felt that "horror comics were in a funk. John and I were finding no fertile ground for our own efforts in these 'new' anthologies, despite our attempts, and found it frustrating that the genuinely innovative horror comic stories were appearing sporadically in non-genre anthologies like RAW or self-published tiles like Chester Brown's Yummy Fur. There was no focal point for these creators and sensibilities to come together; no publisher willing to take the risks necessary to do a genuinely adult horror comic for the 1990s; no title with a point of view or understanding of the genre willing to explore, rather than exploit, its often dangerous potential." In short, Bissette felt that the "evolution of horror comics required something more radical and unfettered" and that he and Totlebon "were audacious enough to think it could be done and that (they) might be the ones to do it". Although Sim was reluctant at first to support an anthology, he eventually agreed and early in 1986, Bissette and Totlebon began contacting potential contributors.

However, just months before Taboo's first issue was scheduled to be printed, a protracted dispute between Sim and Diamond Comics, the largest comic book distributor in the United States, reached its tipping point, resulting in the dissolution of Aardvark One. With so many creators having already contributed to the series, the sudden loss of its publisher at the last second forced Bissette and his wife to scramble to form their own publishing business. Thus, SpiderBaby Grafix was born, hastily created to publish Taboo much the same way Moore had founded Mad Love to publish AARGH!...

Monday, 24 April 2017

Swords Of Cerebus: Magiking & Cerebus #13

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 4 (1982)
Art by Dave Sim 

Published between 1981 and 1984, Dave's six Swords of Cerebus volumes were his first attempt to collect the book in a more permanent form. He gave each story included in these volumes a prose introduction, explaining where the book stood when he'd been working on that particular issue and how he was thinking of its prospects at the time. This is the first of the two composite introductions Dave included in Swords volume 4. There was no guest strip in this volume, but it does have this delightful little Alex Toth sketch printed on the inside of its front cover:
"[Necros] led me to develop almost a completely different style in order to capture
 the kind of broad gestures and body movements of a real nutbar," says Dave.

Next week: The giant penis issue.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: April 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. 

Shang-Chi: Master Of Kung Fu Vol 4
by Doug Moench & Gene Day
Marvel, $125
In stores: 4 October 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR171135

The publisher says:
These iconic Marvel masterpieces have never been reprinted before, so don't miss your chance to experience the Master of Kung Fu! Collecting MASTER OF KUNG FU (1974) #102-125, MASTER OF KUNG FU: BLEEDING BLACK and material from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS (1988) #1-8.

Travis says:
The fourth volume of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu has the Gene Day run collected here (along with including him with the writers in the credits as well, that's cool).  Finally, you can see what the world lost with the death of Gene Day, and marvel (ahem) at the untimely loss of his talent.  And see that continuous background page that got colored all wacky even though Archie Goodwin said it read fine!

Dave Sim said:
(from Howard Eugene Day, Mentor, Cerebus #270, 2001)
...Meanwhile, on Master of Kung Fu, as the sudden sales spurt continued to attract editorial attentions, Gene ran afoul of many of Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter's Rules of Good Comic-Book Storytelling. "No continuous backgrounds" was a big one (that is, no pages where a single background ran across two or three panels: a cornerstone of Steranko's storytelling.) Loyalty isn't the only attribute of a Scot. There's also stubbornness. Gene was part of a hit -- or, at least, a book whose sales were going up, a book that was being talked about. He must have known that that success could only be attributed to his storytelling since that was the only thing that had changed (he could never say that, or course -- not even to himself -- his natural modesty, his self-effacing Eastern Ontario nature would forbid it). But, there was another way to make his point. He did a sequence that ran across four or five pages.
One. Continuous. Background.
That, of course, led to The Phone Calls: Knock off the continuous backgrounds, said Shooter. Get them coloured properly, replied Gene (Shooter had told the colourists to use different colours on the backgrounds in different panels, so a continuous wall changed from mauve to red to yellow. Unbeknownst to Gene, the colourist was Shooter's long-term girlfriend) (oops, as they say) It was an unhappy situation. Shooter called the shots. He was Editor-in-Chief. It was his job to call the shots. Gene was a freelancer. It was his job to do as he was told...

Spiderman: Webspinners
by various
Marvel, $39.99
In stores: 28 June 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR17116

The publisher says:
A host of comic-book talents spin yarns across the web of Spidey history! Dive deep inside the goldfish bowl for a look at the early motivations of Mysterio! Solve the decades-old mystery of why the Silver Surfer abandoned his plan to attack mankind! Head back to Midtown High's senior prom with ladies' man Peter Parker - but who invited the Sandman? Chameleon spirals out of control, Vulture plots the perfect crime and a black-suited Spider-Man joins Silver Sable on a mission of international intrigue! And there are no positives to a trip to the Negative Zone - particularly when Cletus Kasady is along for the ride and Blastaar the Living Bomb-Burst is the welcoming party! Plus: Two rarely seen black-and-white tales! Collecting WEBSPINNERS: TALES OF SPIDER-MAN #1-18 and material from SHADOWS & LIGHT (1998) #2-3.

Travis says:
Another Marvel book?  I know, right?  But this one features art by friend of the blog Michael Zulli, as the short-lived Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man (a la the Legends of the Dark Knight comic that DC did for Batman, with not-necessarily in-continuity tales featured) is collected in toto, along with a couple of good black and white stories, including one with fantastic Jill Thompson art (aping Ditko, and doing a not-too-shabby job of it, as I recall).

Captain Canuck Compendium
by Richard Comely & George Freeman
Chapterhouse, $34.95
In stores: 28 June 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR171504

The publisher says:
In celebration of Canada's 150th-anniversary, Captain Canuck is back in Chapterhouse Comics' hardcover Compendium line. This 366 page compendium features all of the issues from the 1975-81 series, including issue #15 in full-color. Never-seen before art and extras by Richard Comely, George Freeman, and Claude St. Aubin make this a collector's item a must have for fans of the Captain, new and old! Forward by Captain Canuck creator Richard Comely! 

Travis says:
It's a hardcover compilation of the original Captain Canuck comics, in which the Dave Sim's Beavers appeared. If you love Canadiania (that should be a word, dang it!), go for this. I also recommend other Chapterhouse comics, as they're pretty good from what I've seen.

Chew Smorgasbord Vol 3
by John Layman & Rob Guillory
Image, $100.00
In stores: 28 June 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR170766

The publisher says:
Presenting the third and final CHEW Smorgasbord, a massive, deluxe hardcover featuring the final 20 issues of the New York Times bestselling, Harvey and multiple Eisner Award-winning series about cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals, and clairvoyants. Enemies are confronted, mysteries are solved, and the body count rises so very, very high. Collects CHEW #41-60 in addition to the blockbuster one-shots featuring everybody's favorite homicidal rooster, WARRIOR CHICKEN POYO, DEMON CHICKEN POYO, and the dual crossover event, CHEW/REVIVAL and REVIVAL/CHEW. 

Travis says:
Chew, the fantastic series about a cop who can solve crimes by "reading" evidence that he eats, wrapped up its 60 issue run recently, and this is the third of 3 big collections of the story (the first 2 are also offered again).  Artist Rob Guillory is wonderfully cartoony, and writer John Layman does a great job with an odd premise.  John Layman is also a huge Dave Sim/Cerebus fan.  It's going to hurt my wallet, but I think I'm going for these!

John Layman said:
(from John Layman Takes A Bite Out Of Chew, MTV, 2010)
...When I was growing up, in the 80's, everyone wanted to do their Cerebus and not many people pulled it off. This is the closest thing to my Cerebus, which is a finite series, that if I'm not known for anything else ever, that's fine...

The Divided States Of Hysteria #1
by Howard Chaykin
Image, $3.99
In stores: 7 June 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR170684

The publisher says:
An America sundered. An America enraged. An America terrified. An America shattered by greed and racism, violence and fear, nihilism and tragedy... and that's when everything really goes to hell. 

Travis says:
Howard Chaykin returns with what will undoubtedly be a divisive comic with The Divided States of Hysteria 1 from Image. Chaykin's never one to do the politically correct thing, and this surely will be no different.

Dave Sim said:
(from the Cerebus Yahoo Group Q&A, August 2004)
...If Howard ever needed me for anything, he remains on a short list of people I would drop everything to help in any way that I could -- un-work related, I would assume. He’d be my first choice of someone to have dinner with in just about any comic-book context I could think of. And a big reason for that is that I would never have to wonder where I stood with Howard Chaykin. He would never say anything behind someone’s back that he wouldn’t say to that same person’s face. As was the case at the Aardvarks Over San Diego party. He had something to say and he said it. It cleared the air so that I didn’t hesitate for one second before approaching him the next time I saw him. Those are the sort of people I have always admired and whose company I have most enjoyed...

Savage Dragon #225
by Erik Larsen
Image, $9.99
In stores: 21 June 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR170688

The publisher says:
"THE MERGING OF MULTIPLE EARTHS," Conclusion. Giant-sized 25th anniversary special! Savage Dragon is restored to his former glory as he bulks up to take on Darklord in a final battle! Mr. Glum's devious plot to merge the multi-verse comes to its cataclysmic conclusion! Savage Dragon and Malcolm Dragon join forces to save Angel Murphy and the very earth itself! 

Travis says:
Savage Dragon gets closer to Cerebus territory with issue 225, the 25th anniversary issue (add in the debut mini and you're at 228, of course), which averages about 9 issues a year, putting Erik Larsen on track to match Dave and Ger in about 2025.  Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the original Dragon dies this issue. Just sayin'.

Spawn #275
by Todd McFarlane & Szymon Kudranski
Image, $2.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR170699

The publisher says:

Travis says:
Todd McFarlane is closer with his numbering, but he's done less of the art and writing than Larsen or Dave and Ger, so even if he hits 300 in the next couple years, it's not quite the achievement of Cerebus. Still, kudos to Todd for *ahem* having the balls to keep doing what he does. 

Todd MacFarlane said:
(from Comic Book Resources, 7 June 2013)
...I've got to at least get to #301 so I can break Dave Sim's independent record! He's got the record for the longest running independent comic book with Cerebus the Aardvark. I've gotta beat him by at least one. It's just a little competition amongst fellow Canadians...

Reed Crandall: Illustrator Of The Comics
by Roger Hill
Twomorrows Publishing, $49.95
In stores: 26 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR172092

The publisher says:
From the 1940s to the '70s, Reed Crandall brought a unique and masterful style to American comic art. Using an illustrator's approach on everything he touched, Crandall gained a reputation as the "artist's artist" through his skillful interpretations of Golden Age super-heroes Doll Man, The Ray, and Blackhawk (his signature character); horror and sci-fi for the legendary EC Comics line; Warren Publishing's Creepy, Eerie, and Blazing Combat; the THUNDER Agents and Edgar Rice Burroughs characters; and even Flash Gordon for King Features. Comic art historian Roger Hill has compiled a complete and extensive history of Crandall's life and career, from his early years and major successes, through his tragic decline and passing in 1982. This hardcover includes never-before-seen photos, a wealth of rare and unpublished artwork, and over eighty thousand words of insight into one of the true illustrators of the comics.

Travis says:
I learned a bit about Reed Crandall I didn't know just from the solicit text, so the book is bound to be quite good.  He worked for Warren and EC, as well as doing Flash Gordon, it seems.  TwoMorrows is very good, so this is undoubtedly going to be a good one.

Comics Revue: June 2017
edited by Rick Norwood
Manuscript Press: $19.95
In stores: 28 June 2017
Diamond Order Code: APR172361

The publisher says:
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 stories in black & white.

Travis says:
Here's Comics Revue again, publisher of good comic strips!

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

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Gerhard's Indiana "Gerebus" Sketches

Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

Keep up to date with Gerhard's latest news at Gerz Blog!

SDOAR: Duh-Duhh-Duh-Duh-DONE

My contribution to SDOAR Vol.1 is now complete. I think.

After finishing the last page I gave Dave a call to talk about what we need to do next. Some topics we covered.

An open question is whether Karl Stevens is going to do the final two pages of the post issue #4 bridging sequences. I sure hope so. It makes a hell of a lot more sense for the story, and given what I have been seeing from him on social media I really want to see what he does with the pages. Also, next week ends my spring semester, summer semester is always more hectic, I need to make another move (in-town this time), etc., so the timing of being-done-now would be really nice.

The plan is to take advantage of the week off between semesters to drive from Modesto down to San Diego to physically bring the pages to Sean Robinson. The art should be scanned and ready to do stuff with in two weeks time.

Dave has tasked Sean and I with figuring out what would make a good Artist's Edition for a Kickstarter campaign. Supposedly this will be done with IDW involved.

After a lot of confusing back-and-forth of faxes, which left me worried that there will never be an actual SDOAR BOOK, Dave and I had a second conversation that as very fruitful and left me feeling much better about being a good representative of his agenda, as well as a negotiator for the agenda of pretty much all of the rest of us who really just want to read the damn book. The hope is that during the trip to San Diego Sean and I will also be able to met with Ted Adams to start firming up a long term release strategy that is acceptable to all parties involved.

Anyway, how about some art!

Here is the middle of three pages that are pretty much all the same image with Sim Sizzle (I dub it thus) going through various contortions depending on Jack's internal states.
The Sim Sizzle really caught my eye when I first read SDOAR so I was very happy try my hand at it. 

Tracing Dave's Raymond tracing, copies of copies of copies, and seeing it shrunk down makes me realize that I have been going WAY too small and placing my lines far too close together to recreate the glowing half-tone look of Raymond's hatching. Whoops. Dave said to go small; draw into the page!

More talking to Dave and some thinking on my part requires modifications to the above information.

SDOAR is going to be a series of, we don't know how many, Artist's Editions BEFORE it is a book. This is Dave's desire. Sean and I will work with IDW to figure out exactly how the material is going to be spread out over the editions.

This means Karl's pages are unnecessary for a while to come so we can just move forward. After looking at what I think makes a good Vol. 1 book as a whole I actually think those two pages would be better served as the first two pages of Vol. 2 anyway. So I can happily say that EVERYTHING about Vol 1. (as I think it is best constituted) is DONE!

We talked about turning You Don't Know...Jack? into a mini-series rather than web-strips. This would let us get some books on the market while the Editions come out and serve as a weird promotional device for SDOAR. I have tons of ideas for the book ready to send to Dave. Jack, bless her heart, is totally on board.

The next step is to scan the art and meet with IDW to firm up the details of the various releases.

Oh, and from here on out I am not going to re-draw images that can just be Photoshopped. Point proven. Trial of fire passed. Finishing things as quickly as possible is now the primary goal. Hoity-toity art pride be damned.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Weekly Update #179: Steve Peters & Colin Upton

This week featuring:

Dave Sim vs The Internet

(from a fax to Sean Michael Robinson, 20 April 2017)
Sincere apologies to all... I discovered, when my computer was temporarily disabled, that not having Internet access -- that is, not participating on AMOC on a daily basis -- improved my quality of life dramatically. Not having e-mail or Internet access, and never having had email or Internet access, I'm just not "built for" the Internet 'tone' of discussion. If there's something you think I need to know or something you want to tell me or if you have a question for me that you really, really, really need an answer to or some proposal you want to make, I am ALWAYS (repeat) ALWAYS able to be reached at 519-576-0610. There is roughly three minutes of recording space for each message and if you have a complicated message, you are welcome to leave as many messages as necessary to exhaust what you have to explain/want me to react to.

If you're better on paper, I am ALWAYS (repeat) ALWAYS able to be reached at Box 1674 Stn. C. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2.

I'm the only one who reads the mail. If you don't want your letter read on the Weekly Update or referred to, just write that at the top of your letter.

I am also ALWAYS (repeat) ALWAYS available by fax on the same basis. makes it possible for anyone to send an e-mail in the form of a fax. This is how I communicate with Sean Robinson and this is how this message is being relayed to him. Sean can explain the ins and outs of it better than I can. So, Sean, if you can do that here, please?: Fax number is 519-576-0955.

Right now, none of my STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND research involves Wikipedia fact-checking. That was what started my experiment with posting to AMOC: check what I needed to check and then post something to AMOC if I had the time. And if the 'tone' wasn't completely offensive (a rare occurrence), that evolved into "ignore the "tone" because it is just the way people "sound" on the Internet. It is always going to be there so just ignore it, type for an hour and forget about it." Just try to do good PR.

If, or rather, hopefully, WHEN my SDOAR research goes back in the direction of fact-checking, I'll try going back to Plan A, probably just scrolling through to wherever Margaret's last Notebook entry is and see if I can find something interesting to say about it.

I realize that you all have grown up with the Internet and its "tone" is second -- if not first -- nature to you at this point. I really gave it it an honest try for an extended period but, for me, at age 60, it really is a "quality of life" issue. Again, sincere apologies to all!

Dave Sim can be contacted by:
  -  Post:  Box 1674, Stn. C. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
  -  Phone:  519-576-0610
  -  Fax:  519-576-0955

To send a free fax to Dave use: 
To receive faxes from Dave use a paid service, eg:

Cerebus & The Frozen Dead!

Hello, I am Johnny Harley (proud petition signer 973). A little over a year ago I had spoke on the phone to Dave Sim about using Cerebus as a narrator type guest spot in my 17 year running indie series FROZEN DEAD (more details can be found at Random Insanity Productions). He had asked me to just re-write some CEREBUS IN HELL comics so that Cerebus could stay in his personal Hell, and so Dave could be a part of this, he also asked that I get a hold of A Moment Of Cerebus, in order to give you the work for the archives.

Just as a quick bit of background info... I recently ended a time travel story line I started putting in motion back in 2105. You see, when I started FROZEN DEAD, freelance for the University Of Texas newspaper Daily Texan back in 1999,  back then there really weren't as many parody filled comics. Now that there seem to be countless shows, films, and comics doing this, I have decided to end the parody element from my series. To do this though I really wanted a way to explain how bad my story line effected ALL of fiction, and as I told Daniel Howard Fogel, on a whim I just really thought the best narration would come from Cerebus. Dan put me in touch with Sandeep Atwal, who pointed me to the AMOC blog, and how to contact Dave Sim himself. Now, I know that Dave has said ANYONE can use Cerebus, but to actually have him call me back at my home? Well, that was just awesome. 

So here are the re-written comics as the have ran so far, as this is the current story...

Visit Random Insanity Productions for more Frozen Dead!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Thunder the Wonder Pony

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.

The last time we looked at Dave Sim's notebook #14, which covers Cerebus #113 through 117, was back in March of 2016 in Reprinting Cerebus Every Two Weeks. We also looked at two other times, in A Gold Coin? and in Jaka and Missy. While we've seen pages from it three times, we've not yet seen the cover. Would you be surprised if I told you it was a Hilroy notebook?

Notebook #14 front cover
Yeah, I wasn't surprised either. A well used notebook by the looks of the cover.

On page 36 of the notebook, there is some text that is used on page 26 of the Jaka's Story phonebook (or page 16 of Cerebus #114 if you're following along in the single issues):

Notebook #14, page 36
The above page shows us Dave's re-write for Jaka's Story page 26 text on Thunder. Dave does this in many of his notebooks - writing and rewriting and sometimes re-writing several more times until he gets it just the way he wants it. Here is the finished text for you to compare it to:

Text from Jaka's Story page 26
And just because I like it, a sketch of Jaka that I found by itself on page 16:

Notebook #14, page 16

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Calling All Cerebus Collectors!

Sean Michael Robinson:


Paper to Pixel to Paper Again is on hold this week, as I'm swamped with Cerebus in Hell? related work, namely, preparing the first four one-shots, working with the printer scheduling Cerebus in Hell? #4's delivery date and final details, and writing and fielding long bag-related faxes from Dave.


So, sometime after the first one-shots appear, Aardvark-Vanaheim will be soliciting a trade to collect the mini-series of Cerebus in Hell? all under one cover. And that trade will include a signed Cerebus in Hell? Christmas card (as the plan currently stands), included in a bag that tightly hugs the trade and keeps the card in place.

Cerebus in Hell? TPB Christmas Card Mockup

Well, it turns out that matching a trade paperback to a snugly-fitting preexisting bag is a tougher chore than you might think.

How snug can you make it to ensure the contents don't shift? How loose can you make it for easy packing, and to ensure that books that are trimmed just a bit large can still fit? And where's the mid-point between these two positions?

Marquis, our Cerebus in Hell? printer, kindly made up some dummies for the project, i.e. blank versions of the book with correct paper and binding, trimmed to a size that I guessed would be perfect for the supposed dimensions of the bag, and sent them along to Dave.

Too tight a fit. 

So, now they're off to Alfonso Espinosa, who will (hopefully!) use his hydraulic cutter to shave slices of the book off until he arrives at the perfect size.

Last week I sent a fax to Dave suggesting that, for the sanity of all involved, we try a completely different path instead. Why not a heat-sealed bag, standard in the book packing world?

Hello Dave,


Not to beat a dead bag, but--

My suggestion on the heat-seal bag is this--Marquis (or their bindery) will most likely have access to a broad range of heat-seal products and size, so it's possible (I can ask them now if you'd like) that they could do it at any trim size at all. Because the heat-seal bags are also heat-shrink bags, so the fit isn't an issue. They just put it in whatever" one-size up is, with card, and stick it in the heat shrink whatever-it-is, and then it's done.

That's my understanding of it, anyway. I've never used or seen the industrial versions of this, only the hand-held, one-at-a-time versions. 
Once I hear back from you (a quick "NO!!! Is great :) ) I win forward your fax to Sandeep and Alfonso.

Dave's lengthy response (excepted below) came back within the hour.
Hi Sean!

The problem with heat-seal in any form is “collector psychopathology”. If you're selling a book in a plastic bag with an autographed Christmas card the most psychotic collectors (which is who you are selling to, your primary market) will use the fact that they can't have the whole thing in pristine mint as an excuse not to buy it. It's in pristine mint if all three elements, the book, the bag, and the card, can be retained in perfect condition. If the bag is heat-sealed you have to “de-mint” it (in fact, actively destroy it yourself) in order to access the book. And if you leave the book and card in the heat-sealed plastic (psychotic collectors know from experience) the bag will shrink over time, de-minting the book and the card.

That's a later issue: what do you use to seal the bag? Unless it's resealable—and designated as such, resealable in such a way that the sticker or whatever it is can be unsealed and resealed as many times as you want without losing its own pristine mint quality then you have the same problem: a psychotic collector won't buy something that can't be unsealed and resealed repeatedly without damaging the seal. And they're going to err, mentally, on the side of “it doesn't look as if it can be resealed” (i.e. because of bad experiences with permanent seals that they HOPED were resealable and proved not to be: if they see a seal on a package they anticipate an unhappy experience and use it as an excuse not to buy whatever it is).

Alfonso has the Golden Age bag marked as resealable but I'm not seeing it (I'm not a psychotic collector myself but I do understand their psychology).

This is why I'm starting on this in April and trying to go one step at a time. I'm guessing that every step of the way I'm going to have to explain psychotic collectors and why we nave to do things my way. If the Christmas card fits snugly into the bottom of the bag WHERE THE PSYCHOTIC COLLECTOR SAW IT WHEN HE BOUGHT IT and can be put there smoothly and easily and the bag resealed into the same state it was when the psychotic collector unsealed it, then the psychotic collector will have had a happy experience with our package and the next time that he sees a CIH? collection with an autographed card in it, he will know that it's possible to keep it in pristine mint condition and will purchase it with confidence.

If that doesn't happen: if we force him to destroy or damage his pristine mint package in any way, he will have an unhappy experience with our package and probably won't purchase any future book-and-card combo if he sees them in a shop. OR will at least have a persuasive argument for himself not to do so.

And fit's not just collectors, this holds true for speculators as well. They will be more apt to buy 3 if they know it's going to stay in pristine mint condition which they will know won't be the case if the plastic bag is heat-sealed OR sealed in such a way that it can't stay in pristine mint condition.

You might want to post this to AMOC and see if we can't get verification from psychotic collectors that that's the case...


So! Collector types! Speculators! I know you're out there, and we need your opinion!

If you saw a lovely Cerebus in Hell? trade paperback with an enclosed signed Christmas card, would your interest in such an item be affected by the type of bag it's packed in? By the way that bag is sealed? What type of bag would be ideal, or does it matter to you at all?

Thanks in advance for your input!

Edit: I thought this was some interesting insight into the thought processes that are involved in creating a worthwhile package on all levels. Is this thing aesthetically interesting? Is it functional? Does it cause unintentional rage and/or regret in its target market? I think the Cerebus Archive Portfolios are excellent examples of the higher end of this calculus, making a package that serves as many purposes as possible while remaining a worthwhile object.