Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #1

In the final issue of his self-published Glamourpuss, Dave Sim included an essay reflecting on the end of the series, and the possible end of his professional involvement with comics. The reaction online was widespread, and soon turned to a discussion of the future of Sim's earlier work, Cerebus. On a comments thread at TCJ.com, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson expressed his potential interest in republishing some of Sim's Cerebus material. Sim, arguably the most iconic self-publisher in comics history, responded to that 'open offer' in a lengthy article at TCJ.com, and indicated his willingness to negotiate with Kim on a possible publishing deal for Cerebus, albeit in the public forum of the comments section at the TCJ.com website. Got all that? Now read on...

GARY GROTH -- FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS:
(from a comment posted at TCJ.com, 18 September 2012)
I left Dave a message telling him that I'd be willing to publish his [Strange Death Of Alex] Raymond book (assuming we could agree on terms, of course, admittedly a huge assumption). I did this mostly out of respect for his skill at and commitment to comics; and, to be honest, in order to help him out. The litany of failed strategies to make dough that he enumerated in that blog post was despairing, as was his inability to profitably continue publishing Glamourpuss himself. Basically, I was offering to jump into the breach if he'd find it helpful. Pragmatically, it's a single book and a pretty simple prospect.

Cerebus, on the other hand — ay yi yi. I suspect that Kim and Dave could negotiate the contract for that series of books (publicly!) until one of them drops dead, which would probably be a hell of a lot sooner than if they'd never started negotiating in the first place. Good luck to them.

My offer to publish Glamourpuss as a single volume stands, though.

KIM THOMPSON -- FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS:
(from a comment posted at TCJ.com, 19 September 2012)
I’m just back from SPX, and will spend at least the rest of the week catching up. To be continued. I would like to quickly say that my talk about "contextualizing" CEREBUS would absolutely not be critical/analytical but simply in terms of offering potential readers who are not already fans of the material a way in. Plot summaries or lead-ins on the flaps or back cover, character guides once the books get moving, perhaps even a discreet explanatory supplement about some of the parodied material that has now faded into obscurity for everyone and was always a total mystery for people outside the comics bubble. There are ways of making the material presentable for new readers that in no way compromise it or overlay it with untoward interpretation… just make it less, shall we say, opaque.

I personally think that classic strip reprints on balance have a little too much historical and critical contextualization going on these days, it’s become exhausting… but you can just skip those pages. Anyway, that’s not at all what I’m talking about here.

Dunno why everyone is theorizing out these endless schedules of a book a year or whatever. I don’t see any reason not to do two or three a year. (Slowdowns on classic strip reprints occur mainly because of the amount of difficulty and labor involved in finding and processing the material, not an issue in CEREBUS’s case. And we stopped doing DENNIS THE MENACE because it didn’t sell, simply enough.)

...And I don’t think CEREBUS can or should be aimed at THE NEW YORK TIMES any more than PRISON PIT should be, but so far as I know THE NEW YORK TIMES has been quite catholic in terms of responding to, say, Grant Morrison or Frank Miller’s work, or Gary Panter’s or Robert Crumb’s, just as much as they do this semi-mythical “TIMES-worthy” group.

There are 6000 pages of CEREBUS. I’d say an ideal mass market book length would be 240-300 pages, so we’re talking 20-odd books. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t work through those in a decade, or about one third the time Dave took to do them in the first place.

Don't miss all the action, as it happens, at TCJ.com.

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