As most of you already know, our printer lost the negatives for the entire A Distant Soil graphic novel series, throwing the project into limbo. If you have no negatives, you can’t print, and you can’t make digital editions of your books. NO, for the thousandth time, NO! You can’t just go to some pirate website and take those awful low res scans and do computer magic with them and print from them. No.

We’re in the home stretch of the first volume of the A Distant Soil graphic novel restoration. Here is a look a the quality of work Allan Harvey is doing on this book.

This page was scanned directly from the original art. As I mentioned before, I hired someone for this job who screwed the pooch very badly. He not only had no idea how to do it properly, but absconded with the art and I had to beg him to get it back. That took almost two years. He was certain that scanning the art at 600 dpi bitmap was the way to go (originally, he wanted to go even lower, at only 300 dpi, and being the kind of guy he was, he was sure he knew everything, or could fake it until he did,) but this is the result you get when you do that.

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A classic illustration of how bad scanning can destroy a job. It’s hard to believe that blob was shot from the original art.

And here is the restoration.

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The proper way to scan this art is at 1200 DPI GREYSCALE, and then go through a process of digital cleanup. Because this art is more than 20 years old, has many tiny, almost invisible debris artifacts, and hand applied tone sheets, you can’t treat it like crisp, new black and white art with no tones, which was what this guy was trying to do. Every flaw shows up in the scan. You can even see where correction fluid was used under the tone sheets.

I now archive all my original black and white art as greyscale, and then do cleanup and conversion to a bitmap file, even if the art has no tones.

This archiving debacle was about a decade ago, when it was especially difficult to find people with real expertise at digital archiving. I had NO LUCK hiring out at all. It’s still tricky finding the right people. Everyone with a scanner thinks they know what they are doing, and almost none of them do.

A few of the later issues of A Distant Soil were scanned improperly, as well as the entire last volume of the series. Looking at it now, I can see how substandard it is, with thickening of lines, and muddying of tones. A long conversation with Jose Villarubia put me on the right track. But I’d already lost six years while the book sat in limbo trying to get it restored, and knew it would be a long time before I developed the chops to do it myself.

Fortunately, Allan Harvey, a long time A Distant Soil fan, and professional photo/graphics technician was right here all along and had the chops. Boy, am I glad I asked him to come on board. He single-handedly brought this series back from the dead.

Allan had to go in to every single original page of art, make meticulous selections and remove all of the debris and tones digitally. In some cases, the images were so degraded, I provided Allan with photostats of earlier versions of the drawings that had been made before the work was completed. He cut and pasted to replace damaged areas. Then he added digital tones.

The pages look better than new. Allan has, in key places, been able to swap out some tones with cool stuff we didn’t have access to when the book was created. When the book is finished, it will also have new lettering in my style, courtesy of a custom font by Comicraft.

All back issues will soon be available on Comixology, including all the back issues that were not originally published by Image Comics. The new graphic novel edition will be available in June. Ask for it NOW at your local comic shop!

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