1. Crisis on Infinite Dave Sim File Copies averted
2. File Copies prove to be the best restoration raw material available
3. Long term concerns:
a) drop-off in sales on CEREBUS ARCHIVE which is financing the restoration
b) can the pool of CEREBUS fans be expanded through outreach?
4. The Off-White House will entertain its first researcher 29 September to 10 October
Happy 4th of July and 7th of Ramadan everyone!
Bit of a crisis this week.
I had left a phone message with Pete Dixon of PARADISE COMICS last month when Sean was gearing up for his restoration work asking Peter to send a few issues from the Dave Sim File Copies...
TMI ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HATE CGC "SLABBING" TMI TMI TMI TMI SKIP ALL OF THE ITALICIZED PARAGRAPHS THAT FOLLOW IF YOU HAVE NO INTEREST:
-- the 20 copies of each issue that were bagged and boarded and put away on publication (I got the idea from hearing that Bill Gaines had put away 20 copies -- turns out to have been 10 -- of the original EC comics) that Sean had said he didn't have very good resolution on in his sources, while I sent him the best copies I had in the Off-White House (a 1995 printing of the CEREBUS trade and SWORDS as it turned out).
Peter is accredited by CGC as being able to authenticate signatures for their Signature Series: if Peter says he saw you sign a comic book, that's good enough for CGC. So that's what Peter did on 13 March 2004 -- the day #300 hit the stores: witness me and Gerhard sign all of the Dave Sim File Copies, which Peter now has custodianship of: as a way of verifying that they are the Dave Sim File Copies and not just books that I signed for someone else.
They haven't all been encapsulated by a long shot.
First of all, it costs a lot of money per book and second of all there's something called the CGC Census which keeps track of all the books that have been encapsulated and what they are graded at. So, if you're reading a Heritage Auctions catalogue and they're auctioning a -- say -- 9.4 CEREBUS No.2, they can tell you how many encapsulated copies there are, how many in that grade, how many higher and what they sold for. The FULL stats are available at a place called GP Analysis.
The idea was to encapsulate some and sell them and use the proceeds to encapsulate the others. If we just got all of the No.2's encapsulated that would skew our Census.
"20 copies in 9.8, one higher", let's say. That doesn't look particularly rare which would drive down the price.
There's SOME interest, but basically just in the first 20 issues or so which are the hardest to find in the best condition.
MY interest was to have the best copies in the Cerebus Archive, so basically I'm skimming the occasional 9.9 and really exceptional 10.0 Gem Mint for permanent preservation as the books are getting encapsulated. BTW The Dave Sim File Copies have a few of the earliest 10.0 Gem Mint books in the CGC Census. There's interest in those, but more as "1978 Gem Mint 10's" than in anything having to do with CEREBUS.
We tried auctioning a few 9.8's through Heritage and got...very spotty...results. To the extent that the best solution seemed to be to just forget the whole thing for a decade or so. Literally. I'm Mr. Long Range Planning as you know. It's been about five years since Peter and I had a serious discussion about what we're going to do and it will probably be another five years until we have the next one. These things take time.
And, as I say, my interest is in making sure that the Cerebus Archive retains the 3 of the 20 copies that have the highest grade attached to them. The rest aren't going to go DOWN in value, so there's no motive to flood the market. Starve the market until you need the market.
I didn't have much confidence in the File Copies for restoration purposes. My concern with them, at the time, had been that they be in as close to perfect condition as possible, bagged and boarded and then put away. It was Deni's job, originally, then Karen's, then Monique's. When Monique left we were up at issue 135 so I figured there would be no shortage of mint copies at that point, so Ger and I stopped bagging and boarding them. We'll see what posterity has to say about that.
I figured Peter pulled the books, FedExed them to Sean, Sean looked at them and went "Meh." and that was it.
I realize part of that reaction comes from my use of the studio copies -- the complete set of CEREBUS that is unbagged and unboarded and pretty much falling apart -- that I use anytime I have to refer to something. Just this past week when Tim at AMOC faxed me for anything I had on Dan Vado. I knew there were Petuniacon photos of him and roughly where they were. Shuffle shuffle shuffle, flip flip flip. Issue 65.
I just ASSUMED that the File Copies were the same as the studio copies, none of which I would have used for restoration or as good example of printed CEREBUS.
So the day before yesterday, Peter leaves me a phone message. "Dave, you left me a phone message last month when I was in New York. I just remembered today. Give me a call."
You know when they say that you have ice water pour into your bowels? I always thought it was an expression.
Here we are -- tick tick tick -- against Lebonfon's clock and Sean hasn't even SEEN the File Copies. So I phoned Peter and Peter was very YIKES and I made the decision to send Sean all 25 issues. Peter. You have to get on this. Which he did.
Peter doesn't get as much credit in the field as he should so let me say right here that he is probably the only comics dealer that virtually EVERY OTHER comics dealer would trust with his life. Or, even more significant, his best comic books. Dealers are notoriously "whatever" about their lives in comparison. So, I knew he would get the job done, even though he had left his message about 4 pm on Wednesday and I hadn't called him back until I got the message around 5 pm.
Didn't think about it again for another half hour or so.
Today's the 2nd I thought.
Tomorrow's the 3rd.
Friday is...the 4th of July.
He already had the package wrapped.
"It has to go out tonight."
"Well, it's not going out TONIGHT. The FedEx guy has already been here. It'll go out tomorrow and it'll be there on...the..."
He's obviously looking at Sean's address.
"Where's FedEx in Toronto? Peter, it has to go out tonight."
"I'll go online and check."
And that's where we left it.
Fax comes in from Sean the next morning. "Peter made it happen!"
I don't even want to check and see how far FedEx is from Paradise Comics and do the math. "Let's see. I spoke to him at...6:45...FedEx closes at 7:30? 8? And it's...THIS...far away.
Anyway, like I say, a shout out to the guy that virtually everyone in the comics field that he touches on would trust with their lives. Or, as I say, their comic books.
2. And it turns out that the File Copies are the Best Source possible for Sean's purposes. The only exception is #5 which is better in SWORDS. He and Mara had checked as far as No.13 when I heard from him yesterday.
Anyway, since this is the only MAJOR story happening in the CEREBUS world right now -- and, as you can see, there are a lot of twists and turns yet to go -- I've asked Sean to post BULLETINS in the countdown to Lebonfon's deadline.
Ultimately, when the book is printed, I'm going to get Sean to give us all a guided tour of the restoration. If you have a copy of the restored book, we'll invite your input. What I'm suggesting is that Sean do some "high end" work on the book once he has all four signatures up to what he considers a good journeyman version and then as many pages as he can to Legacy Edition level.
Then we all have to have a serious talk about what it's going to cost to do Legacy Edition level restoration -- which will tell us how long it's going to take (roughly). With our Patron Retailer's $10,000 contribution (and THANK YOU AGAIN, "TF") and Sean and Mara's on-going experience with how long it takes to do what as the "canary in the mine shaft".
When the first $10K is gone, we look at where we are and that should give us a ballpark figure on all 6,000 pages.
CEREBUS ARCHIVE which is what's financing the restoration.
I think I'm safe in saying it will drop, we just don't know by what.
Taking out an ad in PREVIEWS was/is a bit of a risk. We have to sell roughly 50 copies of NUMBER ONE just to pay for the ad. Is that going to happen? We don't know. I'm assuming we can sell NUMBER ONE and NUMBER TWO and NUMBER THREE in perpetuity but in very small quantities as soon as they have Diamond order numbers and barcodes on them. That was one of the things that I tried to "build in" the other way. John should be able to put together 1 or 2 copies and ship them to Diamond and there will be the same fixed cost. We don't have to do a print RUN. Each one is expensive, but should be profitable.
Anyway, we seem to be sitting on this crumbling ledge.
As an example -- when we pitched Kickstarter #2, ahead of time, to the 1,100 people on Kickstarter #1, we got 90 people who reserved CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE, but only 70 of them actually pledged, despite John contacting them several times. Don't want to rain on anyone's Independence Day Parade, but that big a drop is not a good sign for the future of CEREBUS ARCHIVE.
What I've found -- and this is anecdotal -- is that only a small percentage of CEREBUS fans are even aware of A Moment of Cerebus and what we're trying to do here. It's been ten years since the book ended. It's not a Hot Topic of Conversation in comic-book stores (most of which are, likewise, not aware of what we're doing here).
I appreciate that people want to make me feel famous and admired and secure but...uh...we're ARE on this crumbling ledge.
What I'm picturing is some means of trying to contact "alumni" CEREBUS that (obviously) doesn't involve spamming people but which (also obviously) involves spamming people. Let me, Luddite that I am, pose the question:
Is it spamming if CEREBUS fans -- looking at the names and addresses of the CEREBUS fans that appeared in the book over the years -- tries to find those people on, say, Facebook and asks to "friend" them and wonders (e-mail aloud) if they are aware of A Moment of Cerebus and the efforts to restore the trade paperbacks with the CEREBUS ARCHIVE Kickstarter campaigns?
I mean, it's a quandary.
You have to do it in an organized way -- you can't have two dozen CEREBUS fans all sending e-mails to the same people (who may -- and, my guess, most of them do -- absolutely HATE CEREBUS and Dave Sim at this point). And if you're organized -- dividing up the number of issues "I'll try to find and contact everyone in #74 to #84" -- well, then, you're spamming. But you're spamming as an individual. And they're individual e-mails. Is that spamming?
Are there enough of you who are even interested in doing this?
I'm just asking because sustainability is a core on-going problem. I'll keep living, personally, below the poverty line in order to make preservation possible. But, you know, a crumbling ledge is a crumbling ledge. And, really, I don't think it's possible to CREATE a new CEREBUS audience. It's a comic store thing and the stores, realistically, say "I have two CEREBUS fans and they have everything. All I can do is sell two of whatever Dave produces to those guys. There is no audience and no potential audience beyond that."
I mean, REALISTICALLY.
So the only possibility is for me to give all of you the benefit of the doubt that there is this large untapped market out there. And what I see is "People who used to read the book but aren't likely to ever hear anything about it in Our Information Age".
I've asked John Funk to post the invoices for his work on the Kickstarter campaign every Friday in the comments section so everyone can see...uh...how fast the ledge is crumbling (you...uh...might want to consider edging over this way a bit) (there, that's good).
Anything else you can do on your own to help the situation -- and if you have a better way of contacting CEREBUS alumni, we're all ears.
4. Looking on the bright side! One of the people now joining us here on the crumbling ledge is Dr. Paul Williams of the University of Exeter from whom I've just had a letter today informing me that he has, indeed, gotten the funding for his plan to research The History of the Graphic Novel (1970s to 1980) and will be here from 29 September to 10 October going through as much of the material as I have on hand as he can get to in that space of time.
He won't have a climate-controlled basement research centre I'd like to have here on day, but he is our first official researcher.
And he's actually been following all of this stuff on A Moment of Cerebus.
Will wonders never cease?
5. And a plug for Sgt. Christopher Woerner who sent me his new book REVOLUTIONS. Just to give you an idea of how high my regard is for Sgt. Woerner's writing, Mimi Cruz sent me a copy of Christopher Hitchens' ARGUABLY collection of essays which also came in today.
Obviously I disagree with Hitchens about religion but agree with him about the threat of Terrorist Islam -- and I have to call him my top "must read" columnist on ANY subject -- agree or disagree -- when he was alive.
But I have to say it was a "no-brainer" that it was Sgt. Woerner's book that I was flipping through and reading compulsively even though I had ABSOLUTELY NO TIME TO DO SO today (or any day, for that matter).
He mentions in his cover letter that he sold a grand total of 12 copies of his first book, DOUBLE, which he self-published a couple of years ago.
He's reading this, I know, so hopefully he'll let you know how you can order a copy of his book or books.
He personalized the copy writing that I said to him, once, before his first (of three) tours of duty in Iraq "The War on Terror needs writers".
And he sure hasn't been slacking off.
Keep 'em flyin', Sarge! And have yourself a happy 4th of July!
See you all next week!
Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond'
by donating at Patreon.com or via Paypal.
by donating at Patreon.com 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.