Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Fantastic Five?

The Comics Distributor Ad (1979)
Art by Dave Sim

Monday, 21 August 2017

On Sale 30 Years Ago: Cerebus #101

Cerebus #101 (August 1987)
Art by Gerhard

(from Cerebus Cover Art Treasury, IDW, 2016)
"Ave Avid" - Dave and David without the 'd's. The deathly silence that met me being the first Indie creator to get to issue 100 was the first time I realised I was pretty universally hated. 'Don't get 'avid' about 'ave's' because I don't think you're going to be getting many.' Beautiful miniature painting by Gerhard.

Diamond Order Code: OCT140536

Strange Cerebus #1-- Coffee, Crullers, and Cruelty, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Pressed Aardvarks #1: 1980 to 1983

I love researching bizarre stores from America's past, so a few years ago I treated myself to a subscription to newspapers.com. This gives me access to a huge searchable database of old American newspapers – the oldest dating back to the 1700s. On a whim the other night, I plugged the word "Cerebus" into the site’s excellent search engine, selected the years 1978-2017, and started rootling through everything that came up.

Many of the stories I found simply reported that Dave was about to attend a convention in that particular paper's home city, and then ran through all the basic facts about Cerebus for its baffled readers. Others turned out to have nothing to do with our Cerebus at all, but instead referred to some company or other which, in all probability, had simply mis-spelt the word "Cerberus" on its original charter and never got round to correcting it.

Among all this detritus, though, I did find some real gems. Some contributed just a single tiny extra detail to my Cerebus knowledge, while others opened up a whole new world. You'll find examples of both extremes here, in what I hope will be the first of a new AMOC series.


Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester NY), November 5, 1980
The earliest genuine Cerebus reference produced by my search was this announcement of the Rochester convention Dave went on to recall so vividly in his Swords of Cerebus introductions for issues 23-25 and The Morning After. He’s one of three convention guests who get a mention in the story, the other two being Mark Gruenwald and Keith Pollard. Dave’s book, we’re told, is called Fantastic Cerebus the Aardvark, which reminds me of Scorz repeatedly calling him “Famous the aardvark” in May 1981’s Cerebus 26. It was also Scorz, you’ll recall, who encouraged Cerebus to “talk at Lord Julius sewage, sewage, sewage” and to “drive it right through his brain”.


The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 9, 1981
Steven Rosen, one of this paper’s reporters, met an exhibitor called Ro-z (Jeff) Mendelson selling underground comics at a convention in Cincinnati Towers, and decided to interview him. Mendelson’s pictured in his shop, Columbus Monkey’s Retreat Space Age Variety Store, where he’s shown with a copy of Cerebus 23 on a display rack behind him. You’ll see it there sandwiched between Captain Canuck and The Cartoon History of the Universe.

Rosen canters through a few of the titles Mendelson had on display at the convention – Commie From Mars, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Mr Natural, that sort of thing – and then adds: “Mendelson can give an eloquent defence of such comics’ reason for existence. ‘They gave a freedom to express without being censored,’ he says. ‘You could be as weird as you want, as political. They represented every aspect that people didn’t want controlled.’

“Sex was certainly one of those aspects, especially in the works of the underground’s most famous cartoonist, R. Crumb. His titles are reliable sellers. But, Mendelson explained, some of the other stuff is just ‘off the wall’ humor.

“For instance, there’s Cerebus, about an aardvark who participates in sword-wielding and sorcery. And there is a series Honkytonk Sue the Queen of Country Swing. In her latest adventure, Sue gets The Beatles to reunite and convert to country and western. ‘It’s for people who want to read something totally off-the-wall,’ Mendelson said. ‘They don’t have to judge or think about it’.”


Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls SD), May 2, 1982
The paper gives no indication what the local angle is here, but takes its copy from a wire service called Gannett. We get a brief run-down of what Cerebus is, and then a quote each from Dave himself and Diana Schutz. Both of them say the kind of thing we’ve all read about the book a million times before, but that’s not to say their comments wouldn’t have been useful to newcomers, of course.

For me, the story’s most interesting nugget comes in its penultimate paragraph, which tells us “the New York State Jaycees [have] adopted Cerebus as a mascot”. This organisation turns out to be the state’s Junior Chamber of Commerce, whose motto reads: “Service to humanity is the best work of life”. Hard to imagine anyone more opposed to that philosophy than our little grey friend, isn’t it?


Quad-City Times (Davenport IA), July 12, 1982
Notable mainly for its photographs, this is another human interest piece. The subjects are Steven Lackey and his two sons Christopher and Patrick, who were on their way to a Chicago convention’s costume competition. “Patrick in a hot and hairy get-up, complete with long snout and tail, is Cerebus the Aardvark, a figure gaining quite a cult following,” the story explains.

“[Steven’s] wife Diana, made the boys’ costumes, with Lackey’s technical help. For the aardvark ensemble, they followed a basic Halloween costume pattern and added the tail, head and snout. ‘We got the material from a fabric shop. It’s the kind of stuff they use for carpeting in vans’, Lackey says. Dave Sim, the creator of ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’, will attend the convention and the Lackeys are anxiously awaiting his reaction to Patrick’s costume.”

Dave ran the Q-CT’s photograph of Patrick in costume on the letters page of Cerebus 41, together with one of Rose Hille at the same convention.


The Orlando Sentinel, November 12, 1982
It’s not the paper’s editorial content that interests us here, but an advertisement for a store called Apogee Books. Among its promise to supply “Dungeons & Dragons, Star Fleet Battles, SF and Fantasy Books”, it adds a box saying “We have Elfquest and Cerebus”. These are the only comics mentioned in the ad, and Apogee clearly thought that drawing attention to them would help to bring in extra customers. 


The Courier-Journal (Lexington KY), January 21, 1983
This rather enigmatic small ad also caught my eye. I thought I’d better redact the full phone number but, if you ask me, Patrick would have been a fool to risk calling it anyway.


Lansing State Journal, August 9, 1983 & Muncie Evening Press, August 19, 1983
Smaller newspapers have never been able to resist the temptation to profile a young comics geek in their town. Here the subject is Douglas Wolk, who went on to become one of today’s most respected comics critics.

“Comic books are a medium that has been ignored too long by people,” young Douglas tells the LSJ’s Yolanda Alvarado. “They are just grand entertainment. The story-telling techniques can frequently not be used anywhere else.” Later in the piece, he names Elfquest, Cerebus and 2000 AD as his favourite books, and says his ambition is to become a comedic actor as skilled as the sitcom star Bea Arthur.

In more recent years, Wolk has published a couple of books (including 2007’s Reading Comics) and written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Believer and many other titles. It was his 2005 Believer piece on Cerebus which coined the best advice on navigating the book’s peaks and troughs I’ve ever seen: “At the very least, Cerebus is worth reading for the same reason a grand, half-ruined cathedral of a religion not your own is worth spending time in: it's a cathedral,” he wrote. “Take what you can from it.”


Muncie Evening Press of August 19, 1983
I thought I’d found another youthful adventure by one of today’s top comics journalists in the Muncie Evening Press of August 19, 1983, but no such luck. The comics article there is by-lined to 18-year-old Whitney Spurgeon. Describing a trip to the Indianpolis store Comic Emporium, he singles out Elfquest and Cerebus as the two most interesting books there. “Businessmen would particularly enjoy this book, since Cerebus is the ultimate capitalist,” Whitney writes. “Although he shows compassion, greed is the overwhelming force of his life.”

Whitney’s surname immediately made me think of The Comic Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, so I contacted him asking if he could shed any light. “Did you go by Whitney in those days?” I asked. “Or maybe this is a relative who shared your interest in comics?” Tom replied: “It's my older brother Whit, who still accompanies me to conventions and takes photos for the site. He also attended the London signing and afterparty for which Dave did the UK tour t-shirts.” That’ll be the 1993 Aardvarks Over UK tour pictured on the Page 45 website.

Unlike Wolk, Whitney did actually go on to become an actor, with credits including a role on ABC’s sitcom Cougar Town. What we have here, then, are two August 1983 articles featuring families from the pantheon of modern comics journalism, covering one teenage critic who hoped to become a sitcom actor and another who would actually achieve that ambition. If that’s not an example of Dave’s comic book metaphysics in action, I don’t know what is!


The Guardian (London, UK), December 14, 1983
Britain held a general election in June 1983, and this story comes from The Guardian’s coverage of its aftermath. Its final paragraph reads: “A further 21 candidates have been reported for failing to return their expenses within the statutory 35 days. They include two of the Prime Minister’s opponents at Finchley, three candidates of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, and a Cerebus the Aardvark candidate from Oxford West.”

I should explain at this point that there’s a long tradition in British elections of fringe candidates standing in one seat or another simply to raise publicity for their single-issue cause or have a bit of a laugh. This often results in the enjoyable spectacle of a solemn Cabinet minister trying to behave with due gravitas on the stage at their local count while a rival candidate gurns away behind them in fancy dress. Have a look at the photographs here and you’ll see what I mean.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find any pictures of Oxford West’s 1983 count, but I can tell you that the Cerebus candidate there was a final-year student called Peter Doubleday, and that he scored 86 votes against 23,778 for Chris Patten, the winning Conservative candidate. He was saved from finishing dead last only by Ms R. Pinder of the Peace, Health, Freedom of Information Telecommunications Party, who attracted just 26 supporters.

You can read Mr Doubleday’s own account of his boozy, cantankerous campaign here – and jolly entertaining it is too. Much of what he says has a distinctly Cerebite ring about it, not least his occasional habit of referring to himself in the third person.

“Finally, I [find] myself at the count, having not been able to vote for myself because I wasn’t even registered, where I learn that I am left with four hours of mind-boggling tedium because no alcohol is allowed within fifty yards of the building,” he writes.

After the result was announced, each candidate gave a short speech from the stage, with Doubleday’s turn coming just after the Rights of the Unemployed candidate. “Cerebus thanked all who had aided his pathetic, feeble campaign and acknowledged the last speaker, since (as a Finalist) he was due to join the unemployed in four weeks,” Doubleday says. “Finally, he noted that, if the two main opposition parties had sacrificed their candidates, he would have cleaned up the anti- Thatcher vote as the only credible alternative.”

That last bit strikes me as a very Cerebus thing to say: “You may have vastly more supporters than me, but you’re still the one who should quit”.

I’ve also managed to unearth a sample of Doubleday’s campaign literature, which you’ll find below, plus a Google Groups message board where someone called Iain Bowen outs himself as the party’s treasurer and electoral strategy manager. Scroll a bit further down that same thread, and we come to Aston University’s Jon Ward declaring: “Vote for Cerebus or Cerebus will carve you into Albino nuggets!”. Cutlets, Jon: it’s “Albino cutlets”.

Last word goes to Doubleday himself, and is again taken from his own account of the campaign. “What did I get out of it?” he asks. “Well, it kept me sane during Finals and things in general. I got to be hailed as ‘Cerebus’ by people I’d never even seen before. I don’t know. Just count it as the nearest to the pointlessly aesthetic that I’ll ever manage.”

For more of Paul Slade’s writing – including a history of Reg Smythe’s Andy Capp strip and a look back at some notable comic book lawsuits – visit PlanetSlade.com.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Apologies To Bill Sienkiewicz

Cerebus #39 (June 1982)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Note From The President, Cerebus #74, May 1985)
Sincerest apologies to Bill Sienkiewicz whom I forgot to mention anywhere in Cerebus Jam #1...

My admiration for this man's work prompted me to render the cover of #39 in the Neal Adams style he was doing to perfection at that time in Moon Knight. I used a reverse Neal Adams signature parody on that cover.

The irony of doing a parody of Neal's signature as a tribute to Bill Sienkiewicz escaped me at the time. This issue I stole Bill's own very distinctive signature for the cover as a tribute, not to his ability to do a faithful and spontaneous variation on a seminal influence (it makes sense, I think, read it again) but rather for his own role as a seminal influence for a new generation of comics professionals (and aspiring professionals). As probably the single greatest influence on my thinking at this juncture of our storyline (page fourteen of this issue is page 1,500, by the way) such a tribute was long overdue. A brilliant, brilliant individual and my closet friend in the field (after Gerhard)...

Cerebus #74 (May 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Diamond Order Code: OCT140536

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Refuge of the Shallow

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 haven't seen much of Dave Sim's notebook #14, which covers Cerebus #113 through 117. We've only seen it four other times, most recently this past April in Thunder the Wonder Pony.

While Oscar doesn't show up until Cerebus #120, Dave drew some sketches of him in this notebook.

Notebook #14, page 55
A few sketches of a long haired Oscar along with a couple different haircuts.

Notebook #14, page 56
On the next page we get a more completed sketch of Oscar, along with some quotes. The quote " The public is wonderfully tolerant, it forgives everything except of course genius" is an Oscar Wilde quote from his book The Artist as Critic.

The name Lillie Langtree I think is a reference to Lillie Langtry, a close friend of Oscar Wilde. Looks like Dave was doing some research for the Oscar character that would show up in a couple issues.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Strange Cerebus #1- Roasting S'mores in the Hellfire, the Last Wednesday of Every Month

Order at your Local Comics Shop now! Diamond Order Code: AUG171057

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again Part 26

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

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

Part 26
Selecting a Printer, and Other Indelicacies


This is the twenty-sixth (I didn't know I could even count this high!) 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!

Last week, we left off having exported our perfect PDF, tested all of our embedded images to make sure they remained perfect upon export. And now... it's time to work with our printer!

But first, a word about printers... Like any other business, printers vary pretty wildly in quality and cost, and it's really difficult to suss out a bad one from a great one without actually going through a job, or really several jobs, with them. Technical specs mean very little. First impressions of their staff or level of competence mean nothing. Even going through the entire process a few times with a printer only tells you that they did a good job those times. Things change. New managers are brought in, technical staff move on or are let go. Things go wrong. And really, you can't tell you have a great printer until something disastrous has gone wrong, and they then make it right.

Anyway, the best way to actually find a printer is to contact someone at a company putting out publications that you like the look of. Even the paper of. After a fairly disastrous experience with the California printer who printed the High Society restored volume, I made contact with the extremely helpful Mike Baehr, who at the time was the print buyer for Fantagraphics. He very kindly put me in touch with a half-dozen printers they were currently working with or at least taking quotes from, and gave me some basic critical technical information on printers that I had been lacking up until that point, having to do with some of the differences between paper stocks, sheet-fed offset versus web offset, etc.

Going Home signatures spew off the line at Marquis of Quebec, Canada.

For the next book we printed, which happened to be Church & State I, we went with one of the printers they had recommended, Tien Wah Press, partly because of the quote and the samples they sent, and partially because I had a handful of beautiful books on my bookshelf that I knew they had printed. I was especially enamored of the look and feel of the plate-like "woodfree" (i.e. bamboo) paper they printed on.

So am I recommending you go with TWP? Nope—I'm recommending you start by finding some recent publications you really like the look and feel of, and spend a few minutes writing to the publisher and inquiring about some of the technical details, or even checking to see if the name of the printer and type of paper appear in the indicia of the book itself. For instance—the fantastic-looking, fully-restored 17th printing of Cerebus Volume One was printed by North American printer Friesens, on their sheetfed offset presses, on 60lb Rolland Enviro Satin. Every issue of Cerebus in Hell? so far, and the fantastic Going Home restored volume, have been printed by Canadian printer Marquis, on the same paper, using their web offset presses. Marquis is located insanely close to Diamond's main warehouse, which means shipping fees of close to zero, as someone's just driving a car across a bridge to deliver the books: this and their quick scheduling and all-around professional excellence keep us coming back, unless the print run or length of the book makes Friesens' usually more expensive services cost-competitive.

Both printers have done extremely good work for us, and both are also patient with my level of pain-in-the-ass technical concern that other clients would most likely never notice. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT. You need to BE a pain in the ass, detail-oriented client from the get-go, if you care about how your book looks. It is better to be a pain from the beginning then to develop into one over time, after you've already committed time to the relationship. 

Speaking of being a pain in the ass—

Working With Your Printer

STEP ONE- Get some quotes from your printers of choice!

Send each printer you're interested in some basic info about you and your company/imprint/whatever you are, along with a "Request for quotation." In fact, stick that first part into the header of your email along with the name of the publication. "Request for Quotation-- Sillystring Tindersticks #1".

In the body of the email, spell out the following:
TYPE OF CASING OR BINDING (hardback? Smythsewn binding? "perfect" bound? rusty staples??)
AMOUNT OF COLORS (a black and white book is Mono, or 1C. "full color" is 4C or just "full color". If you're printing with a spot color/Pantone color/etc, note this)
PAPER TYPE (if you know already)
SHIPPING (where the books will be shipped)

Lastly, ask for a quote for a single-signature "wet proof". More on this in a moment.

If you've never worked with the printer before, you should also request a copy of their paper catalog. This is a small book that has paper and print samples from the printer on all of the stocks that they routinely stock at their facility. This doesn't mean that it's the ONLY paper they can get access to, though, so if you have a favorite paper, don't be afraid to ask your new printers if they can get it. (This has geographic limits though. Asian papers will work with Asian-sourced paper. North American printers work with North American papers. Best to find examples of both you'll be happy with.)

Some paper sample books, and a peek inside...

If you ask nicely, they might also send you another very useful item—a dummy, or blank version of the book you're quoting. If you're unsure what some of the binding methods might look like or how the paper might feel in a certain casing, this is a good thing to ask for. But once you've worked with a printer for a while and know what their stock materials look like, there's not much of a point in getting them in the future.

STEP TWO- Look at all of your quotes and make a preliminary decision

Until you receive quotes and get an estimated turnaround time, you'll have no idea which printer makes the most sense to go with from a practical standpoint. Need your books earlier than, say, three months from now? Go with a North American printer, as the Asian printers will all ship them via steamer ship and add minimum of six weeks to your schedule. There are a dozen other issues along these lines that will crop up in the course of figuring this out.

STEP THREE- Time to wrangle your "wet proof".

Next week: More filthy printing terms? What's wrong with these print people? Does the innuendo ever stop?

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

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Aardvark Distillers Inc. of Canada

Iron Man
Art by Dave Sim
(Marvel Fanfare #25, March 1986)

Sunday, 13 August 2017

A Glamourpuss Fan Writes & (Again) Dave Sim Interrupts

 A (very occasional) word from Dave Sim now that he's working full-time on

Dear Mr. S(l)im,

I must apologize for my tardiness in writing to you. When glamourpuss was coming out, I was writing regularly; afterwards around the New Year; last year, it was the Chinese New Year; this year, well, I could say the solstice but it's a little late for that. Unless there's some Canadian holiday I don't know about around this time, I'll just call it my Solstice greeting.

Actually, you were writing six days before Canada's 150th Birthday. 500,000 people were supposed to descend on the nation's capital and 25,000 actually did. Couldn't have put it better myself.

The last time I wrote, I had no idea of your mystery wrist ailment, otherwise I wouldn't have sent you that tiny notebook from Florence. If you couldn't do anything with it, I hope you were able to find it a good home. Maybe your friend Sand(w)eep could us it.

Oddly enough, it's still sitting comfortably on my office desk about two feet away from where I am right now. If I'm not mistaken, it's been there pretty much since it arrived. Thanks again!

Given your vastly superior health system…

Vastly superior to what? Havana? Sorry, go ahead.

…I'm sure you've investigated all sorts of remedies.

Mm. No. My view of the Canadian Health Care System is that it's mostly "three million hypochondriacs can't be wrong" (U.S. equivalent: "thirty million hypochondriacs can't be wrong"). That is, 10% of any human population is going to be made up of hypochondriacs who spend their lives getting overmedicated by Big Pharma and mutilated by surgeons. I tried physiotherapy for a while and I tried getting an MRI (in the U.S.) and I tried a cortisone shot. That's as "hypochondriac" as I go, I'm afraid. I wear a wrist-brace to keep the wrist stable. I have to occasionally draw word balloons when mocking up CEREBUS IN HELL? strips. Last week in particular because it's the SIN CITY parody so it's mostly white backgrounds so all the word balloons needed to be drawn. Out of a week's worth of strips, there were one or two word balloons that had a wobble to them, but most of them were passable. Which is the reverse of the situation, say, eight months ago. I infer from that that keeping the wrist stable is what's needed.

It does sound like something to be cured by acupuncture, but maybe you've tried that to no effect.

They HAD acupuncture at the physiotherapy place I went to, but no one suggested it for me. I think they could tell by looking at me that I wasn't an "acupuncture-friendly" sort of individual.

Maybe your wrist is like an ant, meaning that ants seem to have a certain built-in energy limit like a battery; once the battery runs out they're done. Maybe the battery in your wrist just ran out.

Maybe. Or maybe the wrist just needs to be stabilized in a wrist brace until whatever-it-is sorts itself out.

More plausibly though, there's some curse attached to Alex Raymond and, by investigating his death, you dug in too far, like in a horror novel (or Tales from the Crypt) and some ghost socked it to you where you hurt the most.

It doesn't hurt -- it's just "glitchy". I can do x number of lines using my fingers and thumb as I always did and then it's as if the wrist wants to draw instead and it overrides the fingers and thumb. Which makes me go, "What is up with my wrist?" and causes me to lose all line control. The only drawing I did in the last two-and-a-half years was a sketch of the back steps Mark S. is going to be building on the Off-White House. Fewer glitches, but still glitches.

It also doesn't hurt me not to draw. You mean "emotionally" right? No, I did a lot more drawing than most guys. I have no complaints.

There is a persuasive argument that I've "dug in too far" with the Alex Raymond research and that's what the wrist is "about".

It did stop publication of your researches…

Delayed it, actually. Possibly until after my own death. And forced me to be WAY more exact in what I have to say. I think I have a much clearer idea of WHY Alex Raymond died. And a much clearer idea of how to explain it without boring the pants off of everyone. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of my RIP KIRBY Commentaries now exist that will probably be cut down to a few dozen captions over a dozen or so pages of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. If you want to read the actual research/speculations, here they are. If you just want to read SDOAR here IT is.

Very suspicious, very Lovecraftian. Maybe you could have an Elder Sign tattooed on your wrist.

On the contrary, being on the monotheistic side of Reality probably saved my life. I'm hardly about to "switch teams" at this point!

I've quite enjoyed your Cerebus in Hell? quintology, although I was immensely disappointed that you had no guest appearances by any of the glamourpuss cast. Maybe you'll have them appear in your forthcoming Batvark series.

Actually, there's only one issue of Batvark. "Aardvark-Vanaheim! Your #1 publisher! All we publish are #1's".

Maybe you can have a Cosplay Lass backup story in one of those books, or Zootanapuss or, even better, have Bunny X show up. I think Bunny X would be a great villain for the Batvark, on the level of Mr. Mind and his Monster Society of Evil against Captain Marvel. You just need to attach a little radio around his neck, or better maybe some antennae on top of his ears.

Her neck and her ears, don't you mean? I appreciate your remembering the League of Extraordinary Hosebags. I had to pause for a minute to remember who Bunny X was.

Like the Big Two, don't you need to have the glamourpuss cast show up, in one panel even, in order to reset the copyright clock?

I think the names and descriptions of the LEHB are a sufficient defence against anyone misappropriating them for any purpose even in our morally-degraded society. Anyone willing to sink that low is more than welcome to his -- or her -- ill-gotten gains as far as I'm concerned.

Much the same could be said with Wolverroach -- another fantastic villain for the Batvark. Also you are missing out on special lines and increased prices in the Overstreet Price Guide: "First appearance of Cosplay Lass in a CEREBUS comic", "First Modern Age Appearance of Wolverroach" (as opposed to Bronze or Copper) or even "Bunny X revealed as Cirinist god(dess) of Cerebus-Earth", "Red Sonja revealed as Feline Woman" in Batvarkverse…now that I'm thinking about it, Aardvark-Vanaheim needs to jump on the EVENT bandwagon, where glamourpuss and her crew fight Batvark and his Justice League (What would be a good name for the Batvark League? JLA -- Just Lager and Ale?).

The Aardvarkian League of Justice. Which was mentioned for the first time in the CEREBUS IN HELL? promo strip for Chuck Rozanski's Mile High Comics. And, yes, I did have to look that up.

Oh, boy! The ideas are flowin' -- you need to Photoshop a Deadroach into your upcoming comics. Or maybe Harley Roach (in drag? Or his daughter?), although the latter may be hard to Photoshop. Sand(w)eep maybe should develop something for that.

An immunity, maybe?

[Legal notice: All of these ideas contained herein have no copyright and are free to use by Mr. S(l)im and Aardvark-Vanaheim and related associates without any compensation, material or otherwise. The author of this letter makes no claim etc. etc. I tried to be legalese there!]

[Your secret is safe with me, Tom!]

Anyway, I should let you get back to your computer or what-not, and your Canadian saneland as opposed to the Realityshow-Twitter-verse the USA has fallen into. (Thanks, Anti-Monitor!). I hope your ailment is healed. You must really must feel cursed.

Blessed. Everyone in North America is blessed. We're the "furthest folks from the door" here in "Hell's antechamber".

Here in Nebraska, the world kind of leaves us alone and passes us by, although if there's a nuclear war, we're the state that'll be struck first, given the military base here (Stratcom, which is, like numero uno on the target list). Thanks to our "isolation" though, there are no decent back-issues of comics that show up in the sole (decent) store here in town, unless one, of course, is into Dells or Westerns which I am not, although a Howdy Doody #1 would be nice. All of the old Marvels or ECs or Fawcetts (non-Western ones) must have just been flown over on their way to California. Old decent DCs are just hard to come by, period, anywhere. My alternative theory is that those comics did make it here, but were all burned during the Wertham-frenzy of the 1950s. THAT's the kind of state Nebraska is. Sigh.

Please find enclosed clippings I thought you'd find interesting, perhaps inspiring. Best wishes, and best of luck and success for the rest of the year!

Tom K.
Founder and President of The Cosplay Lass/Bunny X/Zootanapuss Fan Clubs
(Registered Trademark Patent Pending)

[Tom sent tear-sheets from the April 2017 OTAKU USA magazine
with a review by Che Gilson of "TODAY'S CERBERUS" a new manga comic.
Tom writes at the top "Clever concept appropriation? Lawsuit!" ]

"Chaki Mikado was bitten by a three-headed dog as a child and that incident has shadowed his whole life."

Dave: a) it should be a radioactive three-headed dog and b) why didn't I think of that? D'OH!

"Even as a teenager years later he just can't seem to enjoy anything and doesn't take much interest in life or friendship. Then one day, twist: his father mails him a package from Greece and out pops Kuro, a cute girl who looks like a cheap knock-off of Hatsune Miku, right down to the headphones (though the headphones have a clever explanation). Kuro informs him she is his guard dog and will stick within a two-meter radius of the hapless Mikado protecting him from harm!"

Dave: Judging by the size of Kuro's "headphones" a two-meter radius seems optimistic to me.

"Turns out that the dog who bit Mikado was Cerberus, guardian of the underworld (who else would it be?)…"

Dave: Ms. or Mr. Gilson has a point. There are a limited number of three-headed-dog "usual suspects".

" …and it took part of his soul. Kuro wants to make it up to him, but she's not alone. Extra twist: it turns out the mythical three-headed dog is the combined form of three girls, Kuro, Roze and Shirogane! They share the same body and can be changed by 'pushing a button,' aka pulling their tails."

Tom: Cerebus was an hermaphrodite -- two vs. three girls -- coincidence or theft?

Dave: I couldn't say. But that "pushing a button aka pulling their tails" bit suggests that Ato samurai has his or her finger on a public pulse I could only dream about in 1977. Or 2017 for that matter.

"TODAY'S CERBERUS is a harem manga with a clever twist. Cleverer than most, anyway."

Tom: Wasn't CEREBUS a harem comic?

Dave: My age 21- to age 40-self certainly wished that it was.

"Kuro instantly moves in with Mikado [because of course] and whacky supernatural hijinks ensue [because of course] . Each of the three girls who make up Cerberus -- Roze, Kuro and Shirogane -- is different. Kuro is effervescent and eager to please, Roze is quiet, loyal, and possibly deeply in love, and tough tsundere Shirogane doesn't get what the other two see in Mikado. (There really isn't much to see, honestly. Mikado is the average luckless manga boy generic enough to have come from a character generator.)"


"But, back to Cerberus, remember those headphones? Well the three Cerberuses use them to talk to each other while one of them is in 'control'".

Dave: Oh, wait. Kuro actually DOES have headphones! Your honour, I withdraw those suggestive quotation marks I used earlier.

"In a cute touch there are even scenes of Roze and Shirogane talking to each other inside Cerberus's soul, which looks a little like a Victorian parlour. Due to Kuro's dog-like attributes, Mikado starts to treat her like one, tossing her bones in the hope she'll run after them, calling her 'mine' and patting her on the head. This combination comes off as creepy and possessive, implying Kuro is more pet than person. The heavy fan service reinforces the sexism."

Tom: We need more fan service in A-V books.

Dave: Heavy fan service that gets you a "13+" rating in Japan will get you a five-to-ten-year stretch in North America, I reckon.

"Yet somehow, even while falling into the worst pits of harem manga, the story has a certain charm. The art is appealing even if the character designs are boring! and the humour decent, with some amusing sitcom-style double entendres. TODAY'S CERBERUS isn't going to blow your mind but it's a cute book with cute characters."[underlining by Tom]

Tom: Exactly like CHURCH & STATE!

Dave: But with more "pushing the button/pulling their tails" and treating girls like dogs! The kind of manga girls like!!

[Tom also sent comments on Brittany Vincent's review (RECOMMENDED.) of MY GIRLFRIEND IS A T-REX. But, discretion being the better part of valour, we'll leave that one for Bissette to deal with if he so chooses.]

[And belated -- and on-going -- thanks to Tom K and the taxpayers of the United States of America for providing Canada with ALL of its military security. We couldn't come anywhere close to defending this "Retarded Northern Giant" since World War II without your nearly unimaginable generosity!)

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Amazing Comics That Should Never Be Made Into Movies

LOOPER ~ Endless Entertainment:
(from Amazing Comics That Should Never Be Made Into Movies by Brian Steele, April 2017)
These days, you can't toss a tub of popcorn at a movie screen without hitting some superhero saving the world. Comic book movies are in, and Hollywood is desperate to keep the gravy train rolling. If you're a minor Marvel character with an easy to digest backstory, chances are you're going to be getting your own franchise soon enough.

But, while capes and tights might make up most of your local megaplex's showings, there's still a whole world of comic book stories that Hollywood wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

Whether because they're too complicated, too niche, or just plain too weird, comic books have never been better, but that doesn't mean they're all destined for Hollywood glory. Here are just a few great titles that you should read immediately, because you're never going to see them on the silver screen...

...Cerebus is about a talking aardvark, and if Howard the Duck taught us anything, it's that movies starring anthropomorphic animals can be a hard sell for adults. Written and drawn by Dave Sim, this title has been going strong since the 1970s, with no end in sight. Over the years the titular Cerebus has been a barbarian, a prime minister, and a Pope, exploring our political and social mores through the eyes of an aardvark.

With over 300 issues, divided into 16 drastically different storylines, the plots reach from swords and sorcery all the way to the last days of Oscar Wilde. It is as bizarre as it is massive. To do this story justice would be a herculean task that few outside of the obsessive Dave Sim would be up for. This is an idiosyncratic masterwork, full of its author's frustrating foibles and illuminating ideas. For anyone else to try their hand at it would be to obscure what makes this series worthwhile.

Alan Moore once said, "Cerebus, as if I need to say so, is still to comic books what Hydrogen is to the Periodic Table." And take it from the master, comics is where it belongs...

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Total Control

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 last looked at Dave Sim's notebook #9 in Sketches of Familiar Faces in February of 2017. It covers issues Cerebus #80 through 86 and had 118 out of 200 pages scanned. While we've seen This notebook seven times, we've never seen the cover for it.

Notebook #9, front cover
Shocker. Yet another Hilroy. Red this time though, and no unicorn on it.

Looking through the pages, I saw a block of text on page 126. It looks like it was meant to be a Note From The President, but it isn't posted to my site and I don't remember it right off hand.  I'd dig through some issues, but I don't have the time. . .

Notebook #9, page 126

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

All One-shots, All the Time: Strange Cerebus #1

(W) Dave Sim, Sandeep Atwal (CA) Sandeep Atwal (A/CA) Dave Sim, Gustave Dore
First (and last?) appearances of Varkternity (Vark-Finite?) and Galactamungus (who mentions Platinum Surfer-Boy); the CIH? house drummer; reprints online strips from July-August 2016: Super-Cerebus Revenge Squad; The Whore of Babylon gets a tattoo; MILESTONE! the first time Dante suspected Cerebus and Super-Cerebus were one and the same! LeonTrotzky; Plato vs. Aristotle; Obama voters; MILESTONE! Super-Suberec, the Anti-Super-Cerebus and Cerebus go to Starbucks; hardcore Madonna fans; Wildcat: Total Golden-Age Dick the memoir; Francis' Sacred Church of NFL Football; West Side Story, and more!
In Shops: Oct 25, 2017
SRP: $4.00

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again Part 25

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

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

Part 25
PDF and Preflight


This is the twenty-fifth (collect 'em all!) 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!


Last week, we exported our layout document as a PDF. Now we're going to open it and make sure nothing else needs to be done before sending it off to our printer.

But first! If you've been following along with this series since the beginning, you might remember I talked about the 4K Dell monitor I've had for the past two years and how much it's impacted my work flow. Here's a prime example. In order to maximize my chances of catching any additional issues before the PDF is sent to print, I'm going to change the orientation of my 4K monitor to the orientation of the page itself.

In Windows 10, this is as simple as typing Display into the search options and selecting "Change Display Settings". Select the monitor that has rotational abilities, click Orientation drop-down menu, and then select Portrait. 

Some people might prefer to keep their monitor in this orientation all of the time, but I find the downsides outweigh the upsides, and I end up only using this orientation for this last bit of analysis before shipping the files off.

Here's what the screen looks like.

If you're used to seeing these files in Photoshop or Indesign, you'll probably notice how much detail you can perceive in Indesign that you couldn't in the other programs at this zoom level. This is because of the superior rendering/drawing algorithms used by Acrobat as opposed to the other programs. (I would guess that, as processing power continues to increase, the other programs might catch up, but we'll see. Yet another reason I keep the screen oriented horizontally while working in Photoshop--I can work zoomed in on one-third of a page at a time and get around the poorer scaling algorithm).

ANYway. Figure out how much you can zoom in and still comfortably take in the whole page (260 percent on my monitor). And then go to View-> Page Display-> Single Page View. In this view, you can scroll page by page with only your arrow keys—Down arrow to advance a page, Up arrow to retreat a page. 

Now take in your book, one page at a time, making notes of any additional cleanup or changes that need to be made. DON'T MAKE these changes now, just note them. If you try to change them WHILE you're "editing" everything, and you're a really detail-oriented person, you run the risk of putting yourself in an editorial feedback loop where every change you make begets new changes immediately. Just. Make. Notes. On paper. Of what's wrong, what needs to be done. with some kind of shorthand, ideally.

Mine usually looks something like the following—

pg 24 - CU B p1 [clean up the blacks in the first panel]
p 28 - BU p1 b3 [lettering is broken up in the first panel, third balloon]
p 38 - TONE p4 [something wrong with the tone in panel 4]

Don't hunt for things to be wrong, just identify improvements and make a list.

After you're done with the whole thing, we're going to make the changes you indicated, in your original layered Photoshop documents. And here's the sweet part—we'll automate the correction process.

So! Open up the Photoshop document that needs the first correction, then make it. THEN start recording a new Action on your Action panel. Name it something like "NameOfBook_bitmap_replacement". Then flatten your file, convert to bitmap (just as we did two installements ago), and then save it in your bitmap folder. Lastly, close your Photoshop document without saving it.

If your Action has been set up and recorded correctly, you should be able to use this Action on every new correction you make. Open up the layered document to be corrected, Save the changes. Then run your Action and the new bitmap will magically appear in the correct folder.

Once all of your changes are made, open up your Indesign layout file again. It'll ask you about files that have been updated. Click Re-link and magically all should be updated! You can export your newly-corrected PDF in its entirety.

Okay! Assuming all is now perfect in every way (cause this happens, right?), we're going to run one more test to make sure our files made it okay into our document.

We'll be using Acrobat's robust Preflight features, for something admittedly pretty shallow. I want to identify a few potential problems that might cause problems in our printing, especially if we happened to use mechanical tone in the artwork—

-Did we accidentally place any of our line art files as grayscale or color files instead of 1-bit images? (important because most printers set their raster image processors to deal with grayscale or color images differently than 1-bit bitmaps.)

-Did we accidentally scale any of our 1-bit bitmap images within Indesign? (less important if you're not using mechanical tone, but will cause severe moire if you are!)

-Did we accidentally downsample any of our line art images while exporting to PDF?

All of this can be accomplished fairly easily from the same menu. Click the arrow on the right border of the Acrobat screen to bring up the tools, go to the Search bar, and type in Preflight. Now click on the Preflight menu.

As I said, Acrobat has an extremely robust preflight capability, That's not what we need though! 

I used to write tools for Acrobat for my particular purposes, but they kept changing the Creative Cloud version of the program around without warning, making my carefully-crafted tools disappear or become obsolete. So now I just use one of the available settings.

Click on the magnifying glass (the middle of the three icons at the top of the window). Then click on the Image arrow to drop down the options. Far down on the list you'll see a preset called "Resolution of Bitmap Images is greater than 1000 ppi" (which should apply to ALL of your embedded bitmaps :)  )

So, no surprise, when you run it, you should get an error for every page, along with the resolution of every embedded bitmap, and a summary at the top. At a glance, this is all of the information that I need. How many pages? How many images? Any messed-up resolutions? An image accidentally scaled in Indesign would have a resolution other than the one you saved it as, as Indesign doesn't actually resample your image, only "scales" it in the sense of instructing the PDF container to display it at a different size. So an accidentally-scaled image would list a different resolution beside that particular image, making it easy to identify the error.

Last check—run "Resolution of color and grayscale images is greater than 300 ppi". If your document is supposed to only have 1-bit images, this will flag any images that were placed accidentally as grayscale or color images instead.

Did you pass your tests? Then it's time to deliver your PDF to your printer!

Next week: Working with printers, and more Alpha Flight jokes?

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