Sunday, 30 March 2014

Weekly Update #24: Supplement

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 #49 (April 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
Hi Damian!  I just wanted to pick up on your observation "if we personally might be better off with voluntary non-participation" in media saturation.

The best analogy I can come up with: back when I was a serious alcoholic -- I haven't had a drink in eleven years -- I'd be out binging on a Friday night and there would come this point where I would go, "Am I drunk?  I don't feel drunk."  And it was usually the last thing I remembered.  Which is the interesting thing about alcohol.  At the exact moment when you should be aware that you are "over the edge" you're too far over the edge to be aware that you're over the edge.  And you proceed to go further over the edge.  That's always the sense that I get from social media or pretty much any conventional form of entertainment. If you immerse yourself in it, you aren't going to be aware of your immersion.  You've eroded your ability to perceive the construct accurately by being Inside the construct.

I was just answering a letter today from David Branstetter who was apologizing for sending me a letter he started over a year ago, December 2012.  He's got a wife and daughter and he's working to get into the business and he does like his entertainment.  And I told him, really don't worry about it.  Answering the mail is about as "social media" as I want to get.  Four or five letters to answer.  And they Stay!  If I don't "get" something, I reread the letter until I do.  And then I organize what I have to say about it and say that.  And THAT stays.  It's in the correspondence archive. But most people aren't like that.  When I think of all the things people... subject themselves to.  I understand the concept of Netflix.  But, man, the idea of having it in the house?  The number of things that I think during the day that I could check with Google.  I'd never get any work done!  I don't know how anyone does get work done.  Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, porn, hockey highlights, classic cartoons, music videos.

I did go out for dinner two weeks ago with Dave F and Carrie K, one of the few couples who have both signed the petition.  Because of my fasting schedule it took us from November to get a date that worked for all three of us.  I owed Carrie for a dinner she made the three of us back in 2010 and Dave for his 50th birthday.  Once every 50 years, I'll spring for dinner.  And I kept thinking, Wow, this is interesting, but I'm only going to remember little bits and pieces of it.  I wish we had ordered takeout and stayed home and they sent me a letter with all this in it.  It's just a different form of immersion.  My socializing is on paper so that's what I get used to and what I'm comfortable with.  And it's my entertainment.  I don't listen to music or watch movies or surf the net.  So getting the mail once every two weeks, it's a very big deal.  Other people's ideas.  What they're thinking about.  What they want to tell me.  But I'm very low maintenance when it comes to socializing and entertainment.  A full day of that and I'm ready for 13 days of work.

It's not really that I don't have friends. I have a LOT of friends.  At least 500 have signed the petition.  I know most of those names.  But I can't stay in touch with 500 people on a daily basis.  It seems to me unrealistic to even try.  That doesn't mean (to me) that I choose not to have friends.  But I can certainly see people seeing it that way.

"Is it a case of throwing good money after bad? Does Dave have enough orders for the collections to cover all these expenses?"  In a word, no.  But, really, that's because of the structure of business in the 21st century, everyone is ordering to meet very short term demand.  That's the idea behind Diamond's Star System. They order enough books to cover a specific length of time and they shortened the window so you have to get the books to them in 7 days (if possible).  So they can wait until they're just about out.  It's called "Just In Time" delivery.  They don't have the books so they don't get orders for them. We have no idea if the books will sell or at what rate when they do come back into print.  My own view is that if you can't know how they're going to do, you have to bring them back into print to find out.

Diamond ordered 1100 of the signed and numbered HIGH SOCIETY which was a really good order.  They had orders for 800 I think after relisting it and promising delivery last summer.  And my Diamond Rep Tim asked how many orders I would like -- a reward I think for being a reliable vendor. I'm Diamond's vendor #4. Fourth account they got back in the early 80s. And I said, Oh, well -- how about 900? And he laughed and said, I'm already authorized to go to 1100.  So I could probably have said 1300 and he could have gotten approval.

It really seems to me that this is -- pardon my Comic Art Metaphysics (hope I didn't get any on you) -- like the ending on CEREBUS 186.  I'm "in check" and possibly in "checkmate".  I can't move. I can't do anything.  It's why I decided, I might as well do this publicly because there's no real way to explain it in a traditional press release sense.  No, the only thing that made sense was "week after week".  Weekly Update. Here we are.  I'm still "in check".  Anyone see a square I can move to? Shuffling of feet. Murmuring. "Open offer: anybody sees some completely obvious 'solve this thing in five minutes' solution I'm not seeing, let me know."

I was just suggesting that I think people, generally, are upset.

In a sense, it's like people are used to one hour or 90-minute narratives.  CSI: AARDVARK-VANAHEIM.  What's Dave going to do? Well, we'll find out after the last commercial break.  The Updates are even sinking on Tim's Hit Parade. Where is the resolution in this?  You tell me and we'll both know.

 Stores that can't get CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY -- they aren't raging up and down and throwing things, but they are, I think, saying "Am I EVER going to get those two HIGH SOCIETYs I ordered last year?"  And the buck stops here.  If you don't have HIGH SOCIETY it has to be Dave Sim's fault.  

I'm pretty relaxed because I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel no matter what point we got to/ have gotten to.  When Tim faxed me -- one of the last faxes I got -- "So, it's all smooth sailing now, right?"  Uh.  Gosh, that would be terrific. I would be the happiest guy in the room.  But I'm really not seeing it.

See you next Friday!

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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.


Dave Kopperman said...

I wonder if a solution is to print on a much nicer archival paper? It would certainly drive up the cost of printing, which is obviously a big, big problem already before the books have even started to print, but I think it would also drive up reader interest. Hell, I know it would drive up reader interest... I personally couldn't justify buying a new printing of 'High Society' if it was simply 'remastered' but printed in paperback on the same newsprint as the previous editions. But if it were on nice, clean stock, all signatures tightly bound? I'd be all over that, occasional moire effect or no, and I think new readers would be more tempted to give it a try.

I'll put it this way: the thing that I was least impressed by all those years ago was the printing quality of the phone books. They fell apart, page numbers occasionally obscured the art, the ink definitely clotted up in a lot of areas and made the hatching blotchy and the fine lines fade. Especially when compared with the advances in print quality that Marvel and DC had introduced in the early 80's, the printing on Cerebus was always something that you just put up with to be able to enjoy the contents. I mean, it was a 20 page b&w on newsprint of such poor quality that new issues arrived pre-yellowed, and yet there was still a large group of fans who were willing to pay more per issue than most other full color, well-printed monthlies on the stands.

Of the options that have been discussed, my least favorite so far is the idea of no official reprints save forr short photocopy runs. Cerebus is one of the lasting achievements of the comics medium, and even if it will never have the wide appeal or acceptance as something like 'Maus', it will only make things that much worse for posterity if the only versions around are Xeroxed like a fanzine.

adampasz said...

The paper quality of the trades is a massive problem. I don't bother buying new phone books now because I know in 2 years they will look all yellow and awful. I would happily pay more for better quality.