Monday, 22 May 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 5: Cerebus #19

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 third of his five introductions in Swords volume 5.

"I wanted to show that Lord Julius (like Elrod) always lands on his feet
and that (unlike Elrod) it is as a result of his own political timing
and manipulation of resources at hand," says Dave.

Next week: Neal Adams inspires Dave to walk the extra mile.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Diamond Preview Picks: May 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.

War Of The Independents #4
by Don Simpson & Others
Red Anvil Inc, $3.99
In stores: 26 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY171763

The publisher says:
Joined by a team of The Tick, Gumby & Pokey, Bone, Flaming Carrot, Felix the Cat, Milk & Cheese, Rat Bastard, Reid Fleming, Usagi Yojimbo, Mr. Spook, Zippy the Pinhead, Toxie, Protoplasman and Too Much Coffee Man, our hero Cerebus looks for his helmet, only to find it in the hands of Public Enemy!

Travis says:
Oh. My. Goodness.  I did not expect to ever see this series again.  A must have for Cerebus fans, as the little grey guy plays a key role in the series, as well as any fan of indie comics from the '80s, '90s, and '00s.  For some reason, I didn't get issue 2, so I have to find that, but the third issue was out about 5 or 6 years ago.  Talk about a long wait!

Groo: Play Of The Gods #1
by Sergio Aragones & Mark Evanier
Dark Horse Comics, $3.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170050

The publisher says:
Shakespeare wrote, "The play's the thing." Or was that Nathan Lane? Either way, the play matters, whether you be man or god... or even Groo. In this, the first installment in the newest Groo miniseries (which is continued from the last Groo miniseries), the stupidest hero in the comic book shop finds himself in a new village... a village where you pray to the proper god or you pray for your life. And even the other gods know that they are all players. It's from the award-winning team of Sergio Aragon├ęs and Mark Evanier, with lettering by Stan Sakai, coloring by Tom Luth, and a running commentary by the gods above.

Travis says:
One of the series in the running to match or surpass Cerebus in number of issues, Groo is also a funny barbarian parody (and the characters met on the cover of an Amazing Heroes Annual -- I think).  More Groo is always good.

Hard Boiled (HC)
by Frank Miller & Jeof Darrow
Dark Horse Comics, $19.99
In stores: 13 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170012

The publisher says:
Carl Seltz is a suburban insurance investigator, a loving husband, and a devoted father. Nixon is a berserk, homicidal tax collector racking up mind-boggling body counts in a diseased urban slaughterhouse. Unit Four is the ultimate robot killing machine-and the last hope of the future's enslaved mechanical servants. And they're all the same psychotic entity.

Travis says:
One of the early things Frank Miller did after leaving the Marvel and DC treadmills.  This is a newly recolored version and people suggest to me that I should get it.

Mr X: The Modern Age
by Dean Motter
Dark Horse Comics, $29.99
In stores: 20 September 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170040

The publisher says:
In the retrofuturistic metropolis of Radiant City, its mysterious creator, Mister X, must protect the city and its residents from the architecture of the city itself, which poses a danger to all those within it! Collecting every Mister X comic published by Dark Horse Comics, this trade includes Condemned, Excavations, and Razed, along with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes material! All of Dark Horse's Mister X material collected in an affordable paperback!

Travis says:
Originally from Canada's own Vortex Comics, Mister X was revived in recent years at Dark Horse, and this is a collection of the stuff they have published of the character.

TMNT Usagi Yojimbo
by Stan Sakai
IDW, $7.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170382

The publisher says:
The TMNT are teleported to a world of talking animals-the world of Usagi Yojimbo! When the samarai rabbit embarks on a quest to save Japan and the deadly Jei blocks his path, a Turtle team-up may be the only chance for survival!

Travis says:
Two other long running indie cartoon animals here, with Usagi Yojimbo meeting up with the more recent versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Should be fun, and there's also a HC version with extras offered.

Mage: The Hero Denied #0
by Matt Wagner
Image Comics, $1.99
In stores: 12 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170639

The publisher says:
Matt Wagner returns with the third and final volume of his epic fantasy trilogy. This long-awaited conclusion follows the adventures of the reluctant everyman hero Kevin Matchstick, who, after encountering a shaggy and beguiling wizard, discovers he is the reincarnation of the legendary Pendragon and able to wield the power of the mystical weapon, Excalibur. The story picks up several years after the fateful climax of The Hero Defined and finds Kevin beginning to once again doubt the virtue of his actions and the course of his destiny.  This introductory, half-sized issue #0 continues Mage's tradition of an "Interlude" short-adventure, bridging the gap between this series and the previous storyline.

Travis says:
Matt Wagner's roman a superhero clef is finally beginning its final phase with The Hero Denied, and The Hero Discovered reprints (I believe) the Comico series.  Presumably the middle series (Defined) will be published soon, and you can see the Dave Sim and Gerhard stand-ins then.

Street Angel Gang
by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg
Image Comics, $19.99
In stores: 26 July 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170648

The publisher says:
What if Kal El had been found by the Warriors instead of the Kents? The deadliest girl alive accidentally joins a super violent street gang. Are the Bleeders the family Jesse never had, or is Jesse the child they never wanted? What? Free snacks at the gang tryout party! Also, SCANDAL-one of the Bleeders is a spy!

Travis says:
I believe Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca were influenced at least a certain degree by Dave Sim (some of the lettering in the SLG run had a Cerebus feel to it, to me).  This is the second new book of the character, whose adventures are damn fine funnybooks.

Kirby 100
edited by John Morrow & Jon B. Cooke
TwoMorrows Publishing, $34.95
In stores: 16 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY171932

The publisher says:
The party starts here! TwoMorrows and the Jack Kirby Collector magazine celebrate Jack Kirby's 100th birthday in style with the release of KIRBY100, a full-color visual holiday for the King of comics! It features an all-star line-up of 100 comics pros who critique key images from Kirby's 50-year career, admiring his page layouts, dramatics, and storytelling skills, and lovingly reminiscing about their favorite characters and stories. Featured are Bruce Timm, Alex Ross, Walter Simonson, John Byrne, Alan Davis, Joe Sinnott, Steve Rude, Adam Hughes, Wendy Pini, John Romita Sr., Dave Gibbons, P. Craig Russell, and dozens more of the top names in comics. Their essays serve to honor Jack's place in comics history, and prove (as if there's any doubt) that Kirby is King!

Travis says:
A big book celebrating the centennial of the King.  Cool.

Bernie Wrightson:
Art & Design For Gang Of Seven Animation Studio
by Bernie Wrightson
Hermes Press, $60.00
In stores: 23 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY172114

The publisher says:
Bernie Wrightson, comic book artist and illustrator extraordinaire has worked creating comic books, illustration, and conceptual design for film. Wrightson's extensive design work for the Gang of Seven Animation Studio, while known, has never been documented until now with the creation of this new in-depth monograph that utilizes the archives of the studio. Marvel at concept drawings, model sheets, and hundreds of designs for projects including Biker Mice From Mars, The Juice, and Freak Show. All of the artwork in this book has been scanned directly from the original artwork so fans can savior Wrighton's genius up close and personal. Also included in this monograph is an introductory essay, an in-depth interview, and photographs taken during his tenure as an associate partner of the studio.

Travis says:
A Bernie Wrightson art book! Should be pretty to look at!

Sh*t My President Says
by Shannon Wheeler
IDW, $14.99
In stores: 16 August 2017
Diamond Order Code: MAY170525

The publisher says:
Some people are saying, I don't know, you tell me, but a lot of people are saying this is the greatest book of the year. This guy, Shannon Wheeler, he draws these cartoons for the New Yorker, MAD, the Onion-he's very, very, good, okay? Now he's illustrated the most incredible tweets. Wow! You won't believe what he does with these tweets. I mean, these tweets changed the world, folks. It's true! It's very true. EVERYONE is going to want this book - even the haters and losers (Sad!).

Travis says:
Too Much Coffee Man's Shannon Wheeler goes for low hanging fruit with this book of illustrated tweets of the US president.

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

Friday, 19 May 2017

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Don't Piss Off Tarim

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.

Time for a little something different. Loose pages. While Dave sent me many notebooks with many pages, there were a couple loose pages. Not the loose pages that were still with their notebook, these pages weren't with their notebook any more. There were eight loose pages, and seven appear to be torn from a sketchbook while the eighth appears to be a piece of typing paper.  When I scanned them in, I put them in a sleeve with an arbitrarily given number so we knew which scans went with which pages.

This loose page shows Cerebus pissing himself and the thinking to himself about how he shouldn't piss off Tarim.

Loose page #2
I looked in Minds, and the closest to the Cerebus wetting himself I could find was a young Cerebus listening to the preacher on page 103 (Cerebus # 191 page 17). However, that Cerebus isn't standing, but sitting down.  He also didn't immediately start in on the monologue shown. On page 114 Cerebus does start praying to Tarim with a similar theme, but not this dialogue.

These first seven loose pages all appear to be from Minds, with page number six being a full page sketch of a preliminary layout for page 150 of Minds (Cerebus #194, page 4):

Loose page #6
Once again, similar to the final page, but there are multiple differences.  The dialogue doesn't match up - for either Dave's character or Cirin and Cerebus and Cirin's poses are different:

Minds, page 150

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Happy 61st Birthday Dave Sim!

Spider-Man vs Dave Sim!

Cerebus In Hell? -- Batvark #1

Order from your Local Comics Shop now!

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, part 16

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 

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

Part 16
Working with "Bad" Negatives, A


This is the sixteenth 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 previous installment, we wrote a Photoshop Action for adjusting and sharpening our scans of production negatives. That previous installment made the assumption that the photography on those pages was fairly uniform, and mostly of a high quality.

Well, that won't always be the case. But with careful attention at the early adjustment stages, we can wring an extraordinary amount of detail from even poorly photographed or developed negatives, representing a significant improvement over any previous printings from those photo elements.

Because these are really case-by-case kinds of problems, I'll present specific examples and elaborate on how the issues were dealt with.

Bad negatives, part one— Cerebus Issue 26

Issue 26 of Cerebus represented several changes in the book. It was Dave's first attempt at a sustained continuous story that would rise, evolve, and then resolve itself at a predetermined point. It was the first issue printed by the new printer that would end up having a sustained relationship with the book, Preney Print and Litho. And, perhaps owing to their newness on the job, it represents an early low point in the photography of the book.

These photo negatives were shot with stat cameras that were fitted with high-contrast film and shot with high-contrast filters, in order to produce an image, and eventually, a printing plate, that was binary—either an inked surface, or an uninked surface. Occasionally, though, through either a poorly adjusted contrast filter, or even a poor quality of film, the negatives either don't have the contrast required, or have that contrast point placed too dark on the spectrum of what information the camera is picking up. When this happened, incidental unerased pencil, smeared pencil schmutz, or even just staining on the art board was brought up into the visible range of the exposure, and consequently clogs the image with unintended "information."  

As you can see in the above detail, this problem also affects the China white-produced white-on-black effects, which are hit and miss anyway even in the best of circumstances. 

It's no surprise that this problem affected the majority of the issue, though which pages were most adversely effected is mostly due to the randomness of where there happened to be pencil schmutz to bring up. The below pages was particularly affected.

But in many cases like this, extreme digital adjustment allows us to separate the intended information from the unintended. 

Hit Ctrl-L to bring up the Levels command, and move the Gamma control (the Mid arrow) to the left, changing the overall exposure of the page. Unlike adjusting a normal negative, where we might bring this arrow over only far enough to get the desired exposure of the page. this time we'll move the arrow until the schmutz disappears, or almost so. Check out the example above.

Now instead of running our negative Action, we're going to do the following manually—

a. resize to the desired size (you can even play back just this line of your previous Action)
b. make a copy of the layer, as normal, and name it "Sharpened" (or play back this line of your previous Action)
c. make a Threshold adjustment layer ( (or play back this line of your previous Action)

Now we'll sharpen and adjust manually, in an attempt to keep all the good information while eliminating the bad.

Zoom in on an area where the schmutz is particularly bad, ideally also an area that has fine information of another type nearby. Now bring up the Unsharp Mask dialogue. We're going to look for the right Threshold where our sharpening will only affect the desired areas and not the schmutz, so temporarily bring up your Amount to 500 percent. (The Radius should be at or just above 1 px, as normal).

After this, bring up the Levels command again and this time move the White point to the left, knocking out the lightest end of the image. Then try sharpening again, and knocking out the white again. Depending on if there are any other oddities for the page or for your scan, or any other "weak" information you might want to selectively sharpen, this could be all you need, or you might need some spot adjustment in some areas. You can also try individually adjusting just a selection of the page in very extreme cases. In this case, that wasn't necessary!

The result, prior to cleanup—

...continued next week!

Click here to download the scan used for this week's example. Please note—this scan is not to the specifications noted in previous installments, as it was scanned prior to my coming on to the project.

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

On Sale 22 Years Ago: Cerebus #194

Cerebus #194 (May 1995)
Cover art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Issue contents included:
The Page 45 'Now or Never' Manifesto
Misunderstanding Comics essay by Dave Sim
A Cerebus Preview: Hilly Rose by B.C. Boyer
The Spirits Of Independence: Columbus Report
The 'Cerebus the Prime Minister' resin statue by Bruno Aprea
...and 20 pages of Cerebus!

Diamond Order Code: OCT140536

Monday, 15 May 2017

Swords Of Cerebus Vol 5: Cerebus #18

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 second of his five introductions in Swords volume 5.

"It was a scam that decidedly required Earth-pig level audacity," says Dave.

Next week: Why 300 issues might not be enough.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Incredible Art Of Gerhard!

The 'Going Home' Barge (2017)
for Menachem Luchins of Escape Pod Comics
(Click image to enlarge)

Chewbacca (2017)

Portrait Commission (2017)

Pencils by Joel Gomez

Monkshood (2017)
 (Click image to enlarge)

Believe (2016)
(Click image to enlarge)

Gerhard's 2017 Convention & Signing Itinerary:

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

Saturday, 13 May 2017

"Sandeep, We Hardly Knew Ye"

In a fax earlier this week, Sandeep Atwal notified me that he will be "winding up" his participation at Aardvark-Vanaheim having accepted another position of employment.

As he indicated in his fax, everything is pretty much under control right now [see next post] and it seemed as if the time was right.  It will mean a further delay in both the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER SEVEN and CEREBUS POSTAGE STAMP NO.1 Kickstarters as we figure out new logistics, but hopefully we'll have an announcement about that in the not-too-distant future.

Sandeep -- who prefers to be called Sandy -- has submitted the first few pages of his CEREBUS IN HELL?  LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY AARDVARKS parody which are very, very funny (and I say that as someone completely unfamiliar with the source material) and will, hopefully, continue to do CEREBUS IN HELL? strips and covers as inspiration and spare time allow.

I know you all join with me in wishing him well in ALL of his future endeavours.

PLATEAU 13 May 17

Dave Sim with three finished pages from "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond." (2015)

After three-and-a-half months of adhering strictly to a program of getting ready for working close-to- exclusively on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, I'm very, very relieved to say that I think I'm finally here.  This "Plateau" posting is going to be the first of my very infrequent AMOC participations which I'll be reserving for these (I'm assuming equally infrequent) "Plateau moments".

Right now, here's what's "in place":

1) Although it's not certain EXACTLY how many monthly CEREBUS IN HELL? one-shots we have "in the can" it is "well into 2018" and possibly 2019.  Just waiting to see how far the reprinted online strips extend.  (see point 3)

2) Marquis Printing has given us a schedule of delivery times to them.  BATVARK #1, as an example, if we have it to them by the end of June, they're guaranteeing delivery to Diamond by the beginning of August.

I've just asked Matt D at Diamond in a phone message if Diamond can guarantee street dates based on that.

Ideally, what I want is to be able to say "There will be a new CEREBUS IN HELL? one-shot in stores the last Wednesday of every month."

As I explained to Matt, a large part of my remaining audience is men in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are very far from the "New Comics Day" habit.

If I tell them the new issue will be in the stores the last Wednesday of every month, a certain percentage of them will, dutifully, go and check.  If the book ISN'T in the store or -- even worse -- if the book came in a week before that and the store owner has sold the only two copies he ordered... well, that guy's not likely to keep going back to check.

I'm hoping Diamond has a mechanism in place or can institute a mechanism which will allow them to hold the books and make sure they get in the "last Wednesday" shipment.  As far as I can see, the problem with this is, I think, that no one else is in this situation.  Everyone else gets their books done when they can and shipped when they can, so the whole marketplace is set up around that.  I am hoping that we can work something out to guarantee "last Wednesday" street dates.

3) One of my few non-SDOAR occupations will remain producing new CEREBUS IN HELL? strips in mock-up form (I'm averaging seven a week in marathon Thursday/Friday caffeine powered all nighters) and faxing them (via Sean) to Benjamin Hobbs once a week.  At the rate of seven a week I'll be able to maintain the monthly schedule and even get a little bit ahead on it.

4) In order to compensate Benjamin (who has been digitizing CIH? on a strictly volunteer basis), Margaret Liss will be auctioning my CIH? mock-ups with Certificates of Authenticity (and CEREBUS ARCHIVE FIRST RELEASE gold seals) on eBay starting soon.  All of the money raised will go to Benjamin.

5)  I have completed my NOTES and the promotional video for the CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER SEVEN Kickstarter which is now in DELAY mode [see "Sandeep, We Hardly Knew Ye" above] as is the CEREBUS POSTAGE STAMP No.1 Kickstarter.  The idea, when we get them up and running, is to alternate more affordable Kickstarters (the POSTAGE STAMP PACKAGE with 4 postcards and 10 stamps will be priced at $30 Canadian while an individual stamp/individual postcard combo will be priced at $10 Canadian) with pricier Kickstarters  (CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER SEVEN we're "ballparking" at $90 U.S. or the equivalent in Canadian funds depending on where we "base" it). Based on the last survey results these Kickstarters will be launched somewhere between every three and every four months (it was just about an exact split in the vote between "three months" and "four months").

6)  It looks as if we're an horserace as to whether MINDS or HIGH SOCIETY needs to be reprinted next.  Fortunately, HIGH SOCIETY has been fully restored so the only problem will be paying for the printing.  MINDS is very close to being done and Sean is promising his "back matter" "soon".    

7) Carson Grubaugh has completed all 26 pages of his and my STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND bridging material and is now starting work on YOU DON'T KNOW JACK! TWO-FISTED COMIC-STORE MANAGER our Jack Van Dyke (one-shot? mini-series?) Prequel which will be used to promote SDOAR.  See my Patreon site for further details.  This will either be co-published with IDW or published by Aardvark-Vanaheim exclusively.

8) There will be an SDOAR Kickstarter which will feature CEREBUS ARCHIVE-style ARTISTS' EDITIONS prints of the first 50 pages of SDOAR.  See my Patreon site for further details.

From the beginning of February until now (and for the foreseeable future), I've even more severely curtailed my in-person and social contacts.  I am getting more work done.  I always know what the next thing is that I have to do so as soon as I get something done and I just start in on that.  The fact that Carson notified me that he had the bridging material done just as I was coming to the end of the three-month-long process of getting everything set in motion that needed to be in motion, I'm taking as a good sign that I'm on the right track with this.  I was able to dive right it on YOU DON'T KNOW JACK! TWO-FISTED COMIC-STORE MANAGER as soon as I heard from him and get my whole part pretty much wrapped up in two weeks of non-stop work.

I'm sorry that I can't spend the time here at AMOC that I used to.  I'm really determined to get THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND done while I'm still in my sixties and another one of those digits will be turning over later this week.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by donating at

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (2008 to 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.

Dave Sim: Thoughts On D&Q

In 2004 the Comics Journal #260 ran a particularly mean-spirited article by Michael Dean about the longer-term prospects of Toronto-based indie-comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly ("Can Drawn & Quarterly Expand Without Expiring?"), citing the example of the 2003 D&Q book "Waiting For Food: More Restaurant Placemat Drawing Vol 3" by Robert Crumb, "one of its biggest gambles and subsequently biggest flops". In the letter below, Dave Sim offers D&Q cartoonist Chester Brown his thoughts on Chris Oliveros' publishing company.

4 September 04

Dear Chet:

I don't know if you were more than usually forthcoming on the subject of your relationship with Drawn & Quarterly when I was down there on Wednesday because of the recent exchange of unpleasantries between Michael Dean and Chris Oliveros in the Comics Journal...

(I hadn’t seen it yet -- yes, the Official Dave Sim Lynching takes place in 263, the issue after this one, so they might be on schedule for October)

...but it certainly does seem to bode ill. My own view is that what purported to be an exchange of viewpoints was mostly a ruthless exertion of peer pressure (on Dean's part) disproportionate to how big FBI actually is and a great deal is going to hinge on how Chris reacts to it. It seems obvious to me that Gary [Groth, Fantagraphics publisher] now sees Drawn & Quarterly as a threat in the same way that he saw Denis Kitchen as a threat. When he calls Fantagraphics "Publisher of the World’s Greatest Cartoonists", he tends to mean "exclusively" and is not a happy camper when Bob Crumb does a major project with Kitchen Sink or Chris Ware does a project with D&Q. I'm not sure how much the magazine is still listened to in these "conflict of interest" areas, but the arrogant tone was pretty astonishing even for someone used to being astonished by the Journal's arrogant tone.

Relative to your situation and Seth's, I would be concerned that Chris takes this to heart and decides that he has to imitate Fantagraphics' exponential expansion now that they think of themselves as a mainstream book publisher -- it's entirely true that you have to have a large seasonal output to stay in that particular game: the distributors' summer, fall, winter and spring catalogues. To me, the net effect of that is that individual attention goes by the wayside as the shark-like forward momentum takes hold: the key thing is to fill up the schedule -- “with whom” becomes secondary -- the people creating under contract are just urged to be productive at all costs. If you help plug the hole in the fall catalogue, you are expected to do the same thing next fall. This was one of the reasons that I gave you our dialogue on disk. If that’s the way Chris chooses to go, you’re going to need material on a regular basis to remain a high-profile Drawn & Quarterly player. The only other option for Chris, as far as I can see, is just to find what the Fantagraphics artists have in inventory that they’d be willing to have published, which is really more what D&Q looks like right now, to me: Fantagraphics Light.

If, on the other hand, Chris chooses to “stay the course” and be a small prestige publishing house, I suspect that things will begin to roll his way the bigger Fantagraphics gets. I suspect that things are already rolling his way, albeit slower and less noticeably than he wants them to (that’s just the way things are in that end of the market: the creators and audience are mostly graduated slackers, but when they turn on you, they turn on you. A large, mainstream, arrogant Fantagraphics is going to rub that whole group the wrong way and make Drawn & Quarterly No. 1, at least in terms of perception). I am suspicious of all of the efforts being made in the mainstream world at mainstream prices. Those Book Expos are not inexpensive. San Diego {Comic Con} is not inexpensive. I’m sure Peggy Burns [D&Q publicist] is not inexpensive. It’s certainly true that you and Seth are being discussed in real-world circles these days and I’m sure Peggy Burns is responsible for that in a lot of ways if not that she’s entirely responsible for that. I guess my question is: how important is that to you? It doesn’t seem to me that you have much interest in the mainstream world in the sense of being able to walk straight into a Toronto Film Fest screening or to get invited to glittery parties. But -- depending on what Peggy Burns is getting paid in salary, in the sense that you’re paying a large part of her salary -- that’s the area of reality your money is going to.

It seems to me that the only reason for a small publisher to go to these obscenely-expensive Expos is to drive up the price he’s eventually going to sell his company for, or to find a larger partner to merge with, neither of which strike me as being what Chris has been “about” all along. He’s got his distributor partnership (which I assume he found in the Expo environment somewhere), so now there doesn’t seem to be much point, apart from demonstrating to the distributor that you are out there aggressively pushing your authors. I thought it was really cheesy of Michael Dean to suggest that the reason D&Q wasn’t represented at Book Expo America was because of financial hardship.

Unfortunately, that one might stick in the way of perception and that would be a financial nutcracker to have to keep showing up at Expos that don’t do much good just to keep people from thinking that you can’t afford to go. Obviously Fantagraphics has bought into that perception as reality. As long as Gilbert and Jaime are getting paid, more power to them. But if that’s where Gilbert and Jaime’s money is going, instead of to Gilbert and Jaime, pardon me if I don’t stand up and applaud.

I don’t really have any suggestions apart from what I told you when I was down there visiting. You don’t really have enough information to know how your team is doing, the D&Q team that you’ve thrown your lot in with completely. I wouldn’t put myself in that situation, personally, which is a big reason I have no real world presence. I’m not part of any network. I’m just Dave. Cerebus is just Cerebus. If a mainstream book distributor called me up tomorrow and wanted 4,000 copies of each trade, I’d laugh in their faces. {Mainstream book distributors insist on very favorable returns policies. Very favorable to them.} That’s just way-too overextended in any one direction if I don’t have the company’s spreadsheet sitting in front of me (and even if I do).

Every Monday we find out how many books Diamond wants. Sometimes it’s $800 worth of books and sometimes its $6,000 worth of books. But I know that Diamond is going to pay for them and I know that Diamond is only going to order what [it thinks it] can sell based on the pace they’ve been selling at. I have no idea how Diamond is actually doing, but what I do know is that [it has] a solid track record of paying [its] bills. That’s all I really have to be concerned about.

I thought that was how Chris was running Drawn & Quarterly. In which case, as a Drawn & Quarterly artist, all you had to worry about was whether Chris paid on time. It was just one step removed from the self-reliance of self-publishing. What concerns me about the mainstream book-distribution trade is that these people make their money from moving books around, not from the books selling. So, they’re always pushing for more volume—pushing stores to take more books than they can sell and pushing publishers to publish more books than they can pay for—which (reading between the lines) is what I’m getting from Gary Groth, via the Journal, via Michael Dean’s reply. But the question remains the same: is Gary getting paid by his distributor? Are his contributors getting paid? My SPACE article/review in the Journal came out in May and I just got paid for it. 83 bucks. That doesn’t sound like someone bouncing happily along on a cash-flow cushion. I’m not sure how much Michael Dean’s answer was a “misery loves company” gig. “We have to pump out all of these titles to keep our distributor happy, so, Chris, you should too.”

I mean, if you really trust Chris to the extent that you seem to, and you think that that grant next year is really the thing that’s going to take care of all of his problems, and he can’t get the grant until all of his artists are paid off, there is an easy solution: [take] shares in the company in lieu of cash and sign an affidavit saying that this clears the slate. But the question then becomes, do you have that kind of trust and confidence in Chris that means you’ll take x number of shares in D&Q with the firm conviction that he will turn things around and the shares will ultimately be worth more than the cash value you traded for them? Conversely, you could just take a percentage of the money -- say 25 cents on the dollar and agree that you’ve been compensated equitably as long as Chris agrees to keep D&Q the small-scale operation that you signed onto. Essentially you would be forgiving a percentage of his debt in order to give him breathing room, but not to give him breathing room just so he can cut Bob Crumb or Chris Ware a cheque out of the money that you’ve forgiven him.

Much as I hate to say it, (and much as I hated to say it when we started discussing the whole thing with the degree of frankness you were willing to bring to it) I think you have to have a greater working knowledge of what it is that Chris thinks that he’s doing and some input on his decision-making. Obviously the Hernandez Bros. can’t take issue with Gary printing his {Bernard} Krigstein volumes, even though they might be a colossal mistake and money that would be going to Gilbert and Jaime is instead going to the printer of the volumes. The operation is just too big. But you and Seth and Joe are the ones who got Chris to where he is today and it was your money -- money that you were owed -- that went into the ill-fated Crumb book. If Chris had alternative sources of money to draw on, drew on them and paid you guys, then no, you wouldn’t have any cause for complaint. It would still be Chris’ solo play. But, since that doesn’t seem to be the case (there’s an understatement), I think you justifiably have a voice in the future of the company.

It’s a little uncomfortable offering these suggestions, but you did express interest in my opinion. Coming up on your phone call/discussion with Chris, these are the best suggestions I can make. I also have no problem if you want to fax this to Seth. Or Seth and Joe. Or Chris. Three more people hating my guts is no big whoop to me, Chet, you know that. It’s always been more important to me that actual issues be discussed than that I have a billion friends who can’t wait to buy me a beer.

To repeat, one of the reasons that I gave you the "Getting Riel" on disk was that I thought that if Chris was looking to seriously expand, it would help to have a Chester book (of some kind) on the schedule at any given moment, however large the schedule turns out to be, thus increasing the chances of whatever amount of money going through D&Q at any point, some of it would be coming to you. Likewise offering the jam story we did for reprinting. Likewise offering to do a dialogue on Ed the Happy Clown. If Chris is thinking of a large ambitious schedule, these are the kinds of things that can help flesh it out and keep you as a significant player at D&Q instead of just someone Chris can take for granted. Because you have the level of confidence you do in Chris and this might be the direction Chris is going, I thought I would make sure you knew that I consider this your material to do with as you choose.

But, to give you an example of how I view the situation, I wouldn’t offer Chris the Cerebus covers to do as a colour volume. Even though there is a market for it and Milo George (Fantagraphics no less) suggested that he thought it would be a great book. I don’t trust Chris to that extent as a publisher, even though I really want Drawn & Quarterly to be a success. The fact that it took me over a month and several phone calls to give the guy a free back cover ad -- well, that just didn’t sound like an on-the-ball publisher to me.

I also get resentful on your behalf that Crumb cost Chris all of this money (however indirectly) and you generated all this money (and attention!) and there still doesn’t seem to be any great outpouring of anything in your direction.


From "Dave Sim's Collected Letters 2004", a Cerebus Archive Kickstarter reward.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Weekly Update #182: A Professor Calls (& Still Even More Colin Upton!)

This week featuring:

Thursday, 11 May 2017

La Danseuse Marvellieux

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 #17 only twice previously. First in March of 2015 in Bang Bang SMASH and then in April 2015 in Mrs Thatcher. The notebook covers part of Jaka's Story, Cerebus #127 - 135 and of the 80 pages in the notebook, 72 of them were scanned. So far we've never seen the cover.

Notebook #17, front cover
Yet another Hilroy. Red cover this time.

Starting with page 20 there are 6 pages of outline and some thumbnails for issue  #129. Page 23 had very rough thumbnails for pages #14 through 19. The pages show the where Jaka's full page figure would be placed along with the panels for the page.

Notebook #17, page 23
There is a second page 15 thumbnail has with a box in the second to last panel and a 'wahooooo' in the last panel. That matches page 15 of Cerebus #129, or page 327 of Jaka's Story. On the final two panels of that page we see the outside of the Pud's tavern and then we hear the 'whooooo' of the elder bar patron.

Below the thumbnails there is some dialogue from Oscar in French Lower Feldan: "Bon Soir! Bon Soir! Bon Soir a la danseuse marvellieux au point d'ignorer sa eclatant." Perhaps I'm misreading what Dave wrote, as google translate gives me this in English: "Good Evening! Good Evening! Good evening has the marvelous dancer to the point of ignoring her dazzling." I don't see that dialogue in any of the issues around 129, nor in 129.

Below that Lower Feldan is the script for pages nineteen and twenty. Which actually matches up pretty closely with the finished page. Though there are one or two bits that weren't used.