Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Fantagraphics Offer: Update #6

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 for the highlights from yesterday's postings...

KIM THOMPSON:
...we do need to go back and unpack this line from you early on....

"I’d have to see deep inside your financial statements. What’s your track record for paying royalties? Are you late? Are you getting later? Who do you pay and how often?"

I have no idea what "see deep inside your financial statements" means. There are certainly no "financial statements" we have ever or ever plan to share with cartoonists or licensors, or pretty much anyone other than the IRS and our bank, so that’s a little mystifying. That’s just not the way it works.

Our "track record for paying royalties" is I expect the same as pretty much every other alternative publisher who’s not actively circling the drain, which is that we pay our cartoonists and creditors more or less on time at least to the point where everyone is satisfied. Generally you can tell publishers with a bad track record by the fact that cartoonists (a) stop working for them, (b) sue them, and (c) bitch about them in public or through the grapevine. As someone active in the field for 35 years, Dave, you saw plenty of examples of this (and subsequent collapses) over the 1980s and 1990s; you should know the warning signs. But there is no magic formula, or set of documents that you can reasonably request or ask to be given, that allows you total security on this front. So if any prelude to striking a deal with a publisher includes any sort of "deep" look into their financial infrastructure that somehow would reassure you of their stability, there is no publisher in the world who’s gonna agree to that.

I understand a cartoonist’s trepidation at the idea of entrusting his work to a publisher who might (a) collapse or (b) quit paying him (a.k.a. any publisher) - the latter being usually a prelude to the former - but when you sign on with a publisher that’s a leap of faith you have to take, buttressed by what you can tell about the publisher from information that’s out there already. Feel free to contact any of our cartoonists one by one if you want, but again, the fact that they keep giving us their books (or, if not that, working with us in one capacity or another, be it re-releasing older work or designing books for us, etc.) is kind of Exhibit A. Read the full post here...

ED BRUBAKER:
Funny, I just picked up a Swords of Cerebus off the shelf for 5 bucks, original cover price, at the comic store today. I was looking at Form and Void and trying to see if I’d be willing to start with Cerebus there, and when I put it back on the shelf, noticed one copy of Swords vol 2, which I immediately grabbed... I have ingrained memories of years of reading and rereading those issues and Dave’s notes before each chapter. I think all the way through Church and State, Cerebus is just so much fun, even when its serious. There’s great things in Jaka’s story and Melmoth, and after that, but those first 130 or so issues are my favorites. Even the letters pages were fun. Read the full post here...

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