Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
|Cerebus Vol 1 & Cerebus Vol 2: High Society|
Cover art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(by fax, 31 January 2014)
- "bootleg the bootleggers". I'M in!
- $500 in donations. Thank you, thank you. THANK YOU!
- "All Photography" reproduction is theoretical right now.
- Bills for CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY pretty much the price of a really nice brand new car.
- Changes are "inaccurate printing corrections" not "author's changes".
- Imprimerie Lebonfon offers to drop the price on the "brand new car" by 5%.
- Will my going to Val d'Or and supervising the printing personally a) take too long b) cost too much c) not really make a difference?
- What would YOU do in MY situation?
- It looks as if I need to "retrench" in advertising and Kickstarter and put THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND on hold to keep revenue coming in to pay the bills.
- Metaphysically, I'm going through the same thing Alex Raymond went through that I'm actually documenting right now In STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND No.4.
Thanks to all for their COMMENTS on last week's posting!
Basically, I have NO problem with "bootlegging the bootleggers" -- ripping their ripped files on all 16 trades and posting them to cerebusdownloads.com. I just don't know how to do it myself and I don't know if George has time to do it right now or in the foreseeable future. What I usually do with George is to change the password on the Paypal account at cerebusdownloads.com temporarily and let him add files and Paypal buttons. He lets me know when he's done and I change the password again so I'm the only one who has it. All I have to do is intentionally forget all the other passwords and remember the new one!
If someone wants to volunteer to do it in their spare time, you could contact George at tbdeinc [at] gmail [dot] com and ask him about if that's okay. I'm a complete Luddite so I never know when I'm suggesting something that will turn technically adept children grey-headed. Or George might want to do it himself, I really don't like to arbitrate these things because I know absolutely nothing about it.
Total donations and downloads for the last couple of months have been around $500. Many, many, MANY thanks to the donors and downloaders! Every penny counts right now -- even more than usual - since even in my wildest imagination I didn't think we'd be this close to two years with CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY being out of print. And $500 is a LOT of pennies! And now I have to start planning in case the books don't get printed for another few months. More on that in a minute.
Eddie? The photography option is really just for original pages. I THINK it would work, but the extended process of proof/printing approvals -- of scans of original pages and restored digital files and panels -- stretching out over months (as it has) needs to be solved first. The next book would be READS if continuing to print the trades seems viable and -- from George's preliminary notes -- the art isn't really NEARLY as much of a problem there. CHURCH & STATE volume one would be the next time I'd have to look seriously at what straight photography can and can't do. But thanks for reminding me. I can at least make a start by having a conversation with the camera store guy who digitally tweaked all of the transparencies (where that was the only or best version available -- #77 was like that) for the IDW CEREBUS COVERS books.
(I've been trying to keep these Updates to a reasonable "Internet generation" length but this is all turning into a giant Gordian Knot, so apologies to the TL;DR generation from Mr. TL himself! :)...)
It looks as if this long process is going to get even longer. Let me explain. I got a 'pro forma invoice'...
-- (basically Latin for 'a matter of form', USUALLY 'a mere formality' -- there are, however, 15 different dictionary definitions for 'form' one of which is a 'basis for discussion': maybe pro forma is less... abrupt... en francais than it is in English, n'est ce pas?) --
...from Lebonfon for both CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY indicating that they are adding roughly 40% to the CEREBUS bill and 60% to the HIGH SOCIETY bill -- for reprinting 8 signatures (32 page sections) from CEREBUS and 15 signatures (32 page sections) on HIGH SOCIETY.
To put that in perspective, Diamond would have to order roughly 350 EXTRA copies of the CEREBUS trade and 500 EXTRA copies of HIGH SOCIETY -- that is ON TOP of what they have already ordered (500 CEREBUS and 1100 HIGH SOCIETY -- which I considered very generous on their part last summer when they THOUGHT they would be getting their books by the end or July at the latest) just to cover the costs of reprinting signatures that weren't -- in my view and in George's view -- printed properly in the first place.
The invoice charges are marked by Lebonfon as being for 'Author's changes'.
I don't consider these 'Author's changes'. If I was saying 'Stop the presses, I want to redraw Cerebus in roughly 85 panels and rewrite his dialogue' Yes, those I would consider 'Author's changes'.
George agreed to restore CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY on condition that he and I got proofs to correct and then unbound printed copies to verify that the printing looked like the proofs we had approved.
Lebonfon agreed to this. So, it seems to me self-evident that if George's restoration work IS reflected in the proofs and ISN'T reflected in the printing -- which is the case -- then it isn‘t a matter of "Author's changes“, its a matter of "printing inconsistent with the proof stage version". Not an author's problem but a printing problem.
Had Lebonfon said -- when George indicated to them that he would require proofs AND unbound printed copies before approval -- 'Sorry, we only do one set of proofs and we don't guarantee that your printing will look like your proofs. You have to just take whatever we give you,' then George might have decided not to do the restoration in the first place.
Who could blame him?
Or, I might have said to George, "Well, we won't be able to fix everything the first time. This may take two or three printings to get everything fixed." And then George could decide if he could live with that. POSSIBLY he might have said, "In that case, don't describe this printing as FULLY RESTORED or even PARTLY FIESTORED. Don't tell anyone what I'm doing, until the book IS fully restored." Then, we could have announced it that way: as a work-in-progress and I could have saved the 'Gold Logo' signed and numbered treatment for a fully restored book, possibly years from now.
MID-WEEK UPDATE: Having read the discussion last week, the General Manager at Imprimerie Lebonfon has relayed word through Patrick that he is willing to drop the 40% increase to 35% and the 60% increase to 55%.
This is very far from what I was picturing when I posted last week's Update -- which sketched the outlines of a "first time through the mill" "sharing of the pain" between the stakeholders: I would pay 33% of the additional costs, Lebonfon would pay 33% of the additional costs and Diamond would agree to order 33% more books (that is, roughly another 117 copies of CEREBUS instead of another 350 copies and roughly 160 copies of HIGH SOCIETY instead of 500 copies). Lebonfon taking on 5% leaves me and Diamond to split 95% of additional costs.
SECOND MID-WEEK UPDATE: I have spoken to Matt Demory at Diamond about getting ACTUAL orders for the CEREBUS trade. But that's another REALLY complicated issue. Of the 500 copies I have outstanding orders for, the Purchase Orders date back at least to November of 2012. At the time I asked Diamond not to issue any more purchase orders because they would just get voided when the 30 days ran out. In November of 2012, I thought I was asking tor a "breather" of a few months.
And -- under present circumstances -- I can't really legitimately ask Diamond to issue a P.O. NOW for CEREBUS because, at the moment, the situation is still the same. I still have NO idea when it's going to printed. That depends on what the next printing looks like and how long it takes to get an acceptable printing. We've been in a holding pattern pretty much since last July.
This IS becoming a problem for Diamond because without CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY, orders on the later trades are ﬂat-lining. As Matt said, a store that doesn't have volume 1 doesn't have much chance of selling volume 7. Which is leaving Diamond with a lot of "non-performing" inventory that "performs" less well with every week that goes by. So at the exact point that CEREBUS is not exactly the Diamond Poster Child for Skyrocketing Trade Sales, I'm being forced -- because of Lebonfon's additional charges - to ask Diamond to boost their orders from what even basic number-crunching would tell them is sensible.
Further complicating things. Lebonfon suggested that me or George or both of us should go up there tor press approval. Frankly, I don't understand that. That's why you do proofs so that you don't have to BE THERE as the books are being printed. The printer sends you a set of proofs that you approve and then the printer has a set of proofs that match the set you approved so at that point the printer takes printed sheets off the press and compares them to the proots to make sure they look the same. if they don't look the same then you adjust your ink levels and coverage until they do. If -- as happened this summer -- they send George and me the unbound copies and they DON'T match the proofs, then it's pretty easy to settle the question. Here's the proofs. Here's the printing. They don't match.
At one point I was asking Tim Lenaghan if I could get Marty Grosser to referee. Marty (one of the great unsung heroes of the direct market) has the unbelievable Iron Man streak of getting every PREVIEWS catalogue out on time and pretty much word-perfect for, like, decades (he missed, like once, but only because of the big ice storm in La Belle Provincel). He also deals with dozens and dozens of advertisers who have tens of thousands of dollars tied up in making sure that their ad looks the way it's supposed to and is reproduced properly. "Here, Marty, George and I will leave it up to you: are these accurate proofs and do you think this is acceptable printing?" It's still an option, but we opted for another approach in the interim:
George spent the entire summer ﬁnding a way to do more accurate proofs and he did find a way and Lebonfon is using it. 600 dpi instead of 300 dpi. You're also talking about George and/or me taking an extended period of time off of work and paying transportation and hotel bills if we go to Val d'Or to approve the printing as it's coming of the press.
This MIGHT be viable -- in my case rather than George's, George is in the middle of producing a movie which is not a "lots of spare time" gig to say the least -- if there was some guarantee that the printing would be better. If I'm just going to sit in Patrick's office and they're going to hand me printing that looks the same as it did last time and stick to their "the problem is the digital files" position OR they stretch the printing over the course of a week or two so that I finally have to leave... then what? How long do I have to spend in Val d'Or to supervise the printing of two 500-page books, one signature at a time?
I'd be interested in Patrick or Josee giving me an idea of how long it will take to print the two books and how long I would have to be there to supervise the printing of 30 or so different 32-page signatures. And then I can look at whether that's feasible in both best case -- everything goes smoothly and takes a day or two -- and worst case - I don't even want to speculate -- scenarios.
So, turning to YOU the participating stakeholders in this situation, the decision is definitely mine, but you're the only ones who have accepted my invitation to sit down at the table here, so, Does this seem acceptable to you? If the decision was yours, would you accept a 5% decrease in the quoted prices that effectively adds roughly 40% to what is the price of a brand new car (if you combine both bills)?
Let me add that I'm not rich and neither is Aardvark-Vanaheim. It's no easy task to keep the cash price of a brand new car intact -- anybody out there tried to do this? Show of hands? -- for eight months in a bank account waiting to pay for two jobs that never seems to move forward.
I don't mind working in Extreme Poverty Mode -- I did it from 2007 to 2011 when I was repurchasing Gerhard's shares. But at least there, there was an end in sight: December 31, 2011. Here. it's like being in some weird story by Kafka or a self-publishing version of WAITING FOR GODOT.
(Also -- a brief tangent in addressing the stakeholders -- I had hoped to have some comic retailer feedback in addition to reactions from "end-user" customers. But I do realize that a) most store owners don't have time to "cruise the Internet" and when they do, What Dave Sim is Doing Right Now is hardly going to be at or near the top of their destinations list. So: Would it be possible for the fans / readers / collectors who ARE participating and who have reserved copies of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY to ask their retailers for input? We don't have to identify the retailers or their stores here if they'd prefer that we don't (and please ask them if it's okay before doing so yourself) -- all that matters is that they be stakeholders: people waiting for CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY. So, basically here's a question for your retailer AND for you:
"Should Dave Sim just go ahead and authorize printing the books and live with what he is going to get and what you are going to get and what your customers are going to get? And just accept that there are going to be flaws in both of these printings of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY and just hope there aren't too many of them and that they aren't too noticeable?"OR"Should Dave Sim keep going with the approvals process on the understanding that each time George or he find a flaw in the unbound printed copies, we get that signature reprinted? (and -- gut instinct ancillary question -- if 15 of 16 signatures had to be reprinted this time on HIGH SOCIETY and 8 of 17 signatures needed to be reprinted this time on CEREBUS, how many signatures do you GUESS will be needed to be reprinted next time?) And how long do you think it will take to produce a flawless version the way we are going? Too long? Just long enough?"ORlet me guess: "I don't really care. Just send me books when they're printed. Flawless or flawed: SURPRISE me and my customers!"
In the middle case -- keep going no matter how much it costs -- I really need to plan for that ﬁnancially which will involve (and already does involve) stopping work on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND temporarily -- HOW temporarily I don't know -- and doing design, writing and drawing on a local advertising job that I HOPE can be "franchised" and provide a regular stream of revenue while I'm waiting for CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY to take up some of the slack, soliciting more donations you, as stakeholders, can either look at as financing my work on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND or helping to pay for continuing the approvals process expenses on CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY. Since it's both, really. Even if you or your retailer has no reaction, it would be nice to get a "Wow, I have no reaction to that" rather than just, you know, silence.
In terms of "where to now?" in ﬁnancing with my two biggest selling books out of commission (and returning to the direction of the original comments posted here):
It would be nice if all 16 volumes could be made available on short notice at cerebusdownloads.com but I'm not really counting on that -- even if it happened tomorrow -- providing a lot of revenue. The overlap between CEREBUS fans and CEREBUS fans who are "digitally-minded" seems pretty close to minuscule. "Margaret Liss and seven other CEREBUS fans" with the seven other fans rotating in and out of participation from project to project seems to be the "max" for any CEREBUS thing on the intemet. E-bay auctions, CEREBUS TV donations, the Blog & Mail, cerebusdownloads.com (the donations side does a lot better than the downloads side), Comixology, Diamond Digital, etc.
The only exception was the 2012 Kickstarter campaign but that seems to have been the -- one-time? -- exception to the rule. I have another Kickstarter campaign planned and I'm ready to "pull the trigger" on short notice if the financial situation continues to tighten around my neck. The decision of "go" or "no go" will be made in the next couple of weeks. It might be too soon after the last one, less than two years. I'd be doing this one with John F instead of John S because I think you need a full-time person doing order fulfilment. Financing CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY -- which keep getting postponed and postponed and postponed -- with a Kickstarter campaign where it takes months to get your pledge items... well, personally, I just can't do it. I have to KNOW everything is going to ship close to immediately after the pledge period closes. If I can't KNOW that, I don't want to do it. Reliable R Us here at Aardvark-Vanaheim. Unreliable and I don't sleep so good.
Any wonder that I said that -- in a LOT of ways -- I've found work-made-for-hire a lot easier than sell-publishing? :)
As I said to Eddie on the phone in one of our marathon discussions of the research tor THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND, this is really a perfect example of the Comic Art Metaphysics that I'm attempting to discuss and (even more difficult) depict in STRANGE DEATH. As the Metaphysical Gordian Knot of CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY continues to tighten around my neck I am... of course, I am!... working on the issue of STRANGE DEATH which is most concerned with the drastic reproduction issues associated with Alex Raymond's "Nightingale Brush Strokes" on RIP KIRBY. Was Alex Raymond a good custodian of his own work (he owned RIP KIRBY which was unusual for cartoonists at the time)? Well, no, not really. And, yes he was. He did the best work he knew how to do and accepted that only a percentage of it was going to show up on the newspaper page. But he also accepted that only a percentage was going to show up on the syndicate proofs. His lines were that fine that the syndicate engraver was presented with damned if you do, damned if you don't options: thicken up the lines and get all of them or reproduce most of them with 100% accuracy but lose the finest lines. In that case, it was irresponsible of Raymond (in my view) to give away as many originals as he did since the original was the only accurate version of each strip. He really needed to either do full-size negatives of each one -- at his own expense -- and keep those for a future time when they could be used to produce ACCURATE book versions of the strip OR hang onto all of the original art.
But, to be fair, he had no idea that there would ever come a time when an ACCURATE book version would be viable. I didn't have an idea myself until I came up with the phone-book sized trade a good five years in.
It's easy to find fault but, then, I'm in roughly the same situation. I didn't keep the originals, but I did keep the negatives which were 100% accurate or VERY close to it -- until the computer revolution when negatives were no longer used and everything needed to be digitized. I was pretty far-sighted about a lot of things but I'd have to have been Nostradamus to say "Ut! Better not use LT 24 for Cerebus's dot tone because someday all of that LT 24 is going to have to be converted into digital "O" and "1" form on a dot matrix and that's going to create MAJOR moire headaches!"
But, there you go. Me and Alex Raymond: "The best laid plans of mice and men..."
See you next Friday.
Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond'
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by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.
Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 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.