Friday, 20 June 2014

Weekly Update #36: What Would You Do With $10,000?

Cerebus #47 (February 1983)
Art by Dave Sim
Executive Summary
  1. Sean finds a way to scan at 1200 dpi and output at 2400 dpi with 2400 dpi results.  Cuts scanning time and cost of Kickstarter funds by an estimated 25%.
  2. Reason I'm giving Sean benefit of the doubt: "Tested it on my Charles Dana Gibson book".
  3. Firm "carved in stone" (God willing, of course) July 25 ship date on the CEREBUS trade.
  4. Retailer wants to know what I would do with $10,000 US if he decides to throw it into the "kitty".
  5. Kickstarter Blowback or When Retailers Clash FYI lest we're getting complacent here.
  6. Michael R suggest wanting to find plastic sleeves for the CEREBUS ARCHIVE prints.  Local Art Store: a display portfolio with interior ring binder that you can plastic sheet protectors to. It would probably hold CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE through FIVE.  Or you could get them bound into books.

Hello everyone!

Lots to report this week.

1. What's really interesting about this development is that Sean had previously "given up on it because of the erratic results". And "I already knew it had something to do with sharpening.  Basically to do this trick the scan edges have to be soft. That's how it works -- all that softness and ambiguity upscales well and then you use sharpening and threshold/contrast adjustment to turn it into line art afterwards. Well, what I didn't realize was this -- Epson scanning software applies some kind of low-level sharpening no matter what settings you use.  They don't tell you they're doing this, they just do.

"It's as simple as that. I used a different program to drive the scanner and the problem went away."

I had hinted that my gut told me a while back that there was probably already a way of doing this that existed but there just wasn't enough call for it for it to be readily identified.  Since MOST people are scanning to upload to the Internet, the trend is in the other direction: LOW resolution to speed everything up and "As long as it looks good on TV, it's ALL good." I even suggested to Sean that there probably wasn't one in a hundred people at Epson who even knew about this -- or could come up with a good reason to have it if you told them about it.

2. Charles Dana Gibson is a very influential illustrator -- he certainly influenced Alex Raymond and worked in a combination of pen and brush and the pen that he used was Very Fine Pen.  So, if -- like Sean and me -- you're a fan of that, you know which books you have that have good repro and which books you have that are "enh" or "so-so".  If he tested it on HIS Charles Dana Gibson book (and I'm willing to bet on Very Specific Flawless Repro Pages).  We are cooking with gas.  Likewise when he said that one of his students brought him a book of -- and I didn't bring Sean's fax but meant to -- and Sean looked at it and got, you know, severely depressed because it was so badly reproduced.  And the student was Seriously Jazzed about owning the book.  What do you say?

3.  But, back at our good news, we also have a firm schedule from Lebonfon for the CEREBUS trade. The files are due July 10th, Proofs go out to me and Sean and George July 11th with approval July 15 and shipping slated for July 25, well ahead of Diamond's August 7 request to have the books in their warehouse.  In answer to Michael R (from whom I just got a letter), No, this is not the Legacy Edition of the CEREBUS trade.  What it will be is the Best Version of the CEREBUS trade to date.  We really need to see it printed to go any further and to answer a couple of fundamental questions (foremost among them being "Can Lebonfon deliver the goods?"  The answer until we see the books at the end of July, is that it's their game to lose.  Sean will be making the call based on the four signatures that he will be Polishing to a High Finish between now and July 10.  George will also be offering his assessment -- AFTER the fact -- as will I.  The post-game show.  But the game -- which is Lebonfon's to lose -- will take place and be over July 25.

If the verdict is, no this isn't good enough for a Legacy Edition on the four signatures, then that will be it for Lebonfon.  Then Sean will pick the printer that we're going to to do the NEXT edition of the CEREBUS trade which could be a year from now, two years from now -- it depends on how long it takes this print run to sell.  The book has been Off The Market for over two years. Fortunately for me, it is the One Thing Dave Sim has done that most retailers want to have.  That and HIGH SOCIETY. The books should go pretty quickly. And in the meantime, Sean will be working on the Legacy Edition half of the time and HIGH SOCIETY the other half of the time.

4.  This leads to another question I got from a retailer:
"Money can make things happen faster, sometimes, and I'd like to do more than support AV's electricity bill" (he's one of my Patreon Patrons and -- believe me -- when you live in Ontario where the government has mortgaged our energy future to the Samsung corporation, paying the electricity bill is no small thing)  :)  "Skipping Paypal fees and such, can I mail you a check for ten thousand American dollars?  If that would be helpful, could you drop me a short note explaining what it would be used for? I know you have help re-mastering CEREBUS so maybe this would be to buy a bigger scanner, or turn an unpaid volunteer into a paid employee, or purchase back-up hard drives, or run off test prints.  It's fine if you choose to divert some of this to SDOAR, though I'm a tad more interested in helping 'fix' CEREBUS. But it's your call."

Second of all, I wouldn't do that. I'm trying to keep a firewall between CEREBUS and SDOAR. For the simple reason that you're really talking about two audiences that overlap (with, arguably, Eddie Khanna as the Most Insane Advocate of both -- AND THANK YOU, EDDIE!). I THINK -- I HOPE -- that with CEREBUS ARCHIVE signed and numbered Kickstarter, unsigned through Diamond and sales on the CEREBUS trade when it's back online, I won't have turned my dead aardvark into a trust fund baby, but hopefully we can move the ball downfield and stay current with the bills that are -- well, hey, YOU live in 2014 same as I do: it's nuts.

We have to get all the way through the fulfillment portion and see how long the money lasted and how far down the field we got the ball.  I'm asking Sean to bill A-V weekly so I can "pull the plug" if I can see we're about to hit the wall and say, "Okay, this is further than I thought we were going to get the ball downfield" (and it already IS, unquestionably), "Now let's measure the distance to the next Kickstarter." Is it a few weeks? A couple of months? We won't know 'til we get there.  It occurred to me the other day that the quote from Funkmaster John doesn't include Ontario sales tax of 13%. That's a big chunk of change to Oops I Forgot. But, Oops I Forgot.

So, if CEREBUS is your preference, what I would do is lateral to Sean: Sean? How would you budget $10,000 US?  My preference would be that we keep going the same direction on twin tracks: CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY -- pointing towards the Legacy Edition on both. You pitch the roadmap here and if our retailer friend likes what he sees, as far as I'm concerned, the money could go direct to you.  No point in my having to declare it as revenue since you're doing this as "outside labour" not as an employee.  You might want to look into forming your own business if you haven't already got one.  Cerebus Restorations or something like that.  It would be nice if George could get a consulting fee.  Sean is my starting quarterback now, but that just means instead of him responding to George's work, George is going to respond to Sean's work.  Without George I wouldn't be getting 600 dpi proofs which Lebonfon has agreed to (which was VERY VERY nice of them). The Legacy Edition could be two or three printings away or it could be in our laps. If it's the former, we could be starting to scale the Sheer Rock Face that is CHURCH & STATE I towards the end of the year, or we might not even be starting a base camp until 2018.  But, definitely, $10,000 budgeted by Sean and with lots of back and forth, we can't help but be further down the field.  He said, in the middle of his severely mixed metaphor.

5. Three retailers, each of whom bought the five-copy package of CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE excerpted from their e-mail exchanges
Retailer #1:  I want to tell you how much I loathe Kickstarter. I have found that KS seriously sucks the sales life right out of almost every project.  By the time retailers receive KS project, the most dedicated and excited fans have already taken part in supporting the project, leaving little to no business for me as a retailer. I feel burned by KS and have unsold books to show for it.

Retailer #2: I have spoken to countless retailers with the same experience and feeling toward Kickstarter as you -- and you're not wrong...your attitude is fully appreciated and understood... Shipping is FREE for retailers, for no other reason than Dave "gets it" far better than most comic creators/Kickstarters.

Retailer #3: I took a chance knowing Dave would never short change the retailer...Dave is loyal to all comic stores even if they don't support him, but I think more do support his work than he knows and I hope we can get a few more on board before this event is over.

Retailer #1: You are right that Dave Sim has always had the backs of retailers. I really don't have any illusions that I'll make my money back from this project but when bright and passionate people approach me in good faith to help make things better for an artist and visionary who has been through most of the history of the direct market, then I have to vote with my heart and hope something good will come of it.  I hate KS. I hate Amazon even more.  But I love the comics market and the people who helped built it so there you have it.

Retailer #3: [my business partner] and I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments about KS and Amazon. Side note: week ago Tuesday a man walked into the store and asked if we had DOCTOR WHO/STAR TREK hardcover.  We did and when we put it in his hands, he rudely exclaimed he could buy it cheaper on Amazon. (about $6 or $7 maybe). Handed the book back to us, he said he had questions about what was happening in X-MEN.  [my business partner] politely suggested he ask Amazon.
[BIG LAUGH of Dave's day.  I know [business partner] very well and can picture him doing so.  A wit as dry as dust.]

Unlike me [my business partner] has a gentle approach and the man did not take offense. (sigh) I do not think it is a problem that is never going to go away.
A couple of thoughts I'd like to add:

a) I hope that retailers will only participate in the 5-copy dead on Kickstarter if they're pretty confident they can sell the five.  Retailer #2 was the only one who originally expressed an interest and I was the one who suggested he beat the bushes to see if anyone else was interested -- and gave him the phone number of Retailer #3 and Retailer #3 contacted #1.  Honestly, I just wanted to avoid the "Hey! Nobody told ME about this."

I've already been thinking about doing a "Lonely Cerebus Outpost" print for CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO.  Basically a sign saying "Lonely CEREBUS Outpost #___:  population: 2:"  So if you're a store where it's really only you and "Crazy Lew" who would walk across the street to throw rocks at CEREBUS and Dave Sim, you could get a print of Cerebus WAAAAAY out in the boonies and a sign with your two names on it.  Or if it's just the store owner, I could letter his name and then the name of the only other CEREBUS fan crossed out saying "moved away".

b)  Retailer #2 was pushing for a 35% "U" discount as he can get from Diamond, so when I was talking to Tim Lenaghan at Diamond, I said, basically, "If I give Diamond 60% off, can I get the retailers the 'U' discount".  And Tim said (and I quote) "If you're giving us 60% off, we can give the retailers the [I forget the letter) discount: 45%."

For a minute I thought, "BACKPEDAL -- tell him you're only giving Diamond 50% off."  And then I said, Naw, Merry Christmas for the retailers.  I know they haven't been getting normal sized discounts on Artists Editions, so if all they can sell is 2 (one to themselves and one to Crazy Lew), let them do it at 45% off.

c)  The CEREBUS ARCHIVE package has been put together in such a way that -- of the unsigned edition -- we will keep them in print in perpetuity.  You want 2 NUMBER TWOS AND 1 NUMBER FOUR and 1 NUMBER FIVE?  You got 'em.  At 45%.

The Real DAVE HATERS out there -- and there are a LOT of them, will find something DAVE SIM EVIL in that, but, well. There's nothing I can do about that.

6.  As I say, local art supply store for a display portfolio with ring binder inset.

It's almost three o'clock and I GOTTA GO!

Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond' 
by donating at or via Paypal.

Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (2008 to 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.


David Birdsong said...

I work for Amazon and that was pretty darn funny.

Anonymous said...

"You are right that Dave Sim has always had the backs of retailers." Heh. I remember the response of the retailers to the first printing of High Society ... But there's no doubting Dave's support of the comics industry, going to far as to refuse to sell Cerebus outside the normal comics sales-chain.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pdq