Friday, 26 September 2014

Weekly Update #50: Cerebus Archive Number Two -- Launches Today!


Hello, everyone!

Back before I found out that Chester Brown thought I was a misogynist, we used to talk about Harold Gray (and it IS Gray, isn't it?) quite a bit.  I remember one of the things that I wondered about was What did Harold Gray make of Little Annie Fanny?  If I'm not mistaken the strip debuted in 1962 when Gray had (if I'm also not mistaken) six years to live.  Did he find it disheartening?  Typical of the "sort of people" on the opposite side of the political fence from himself (which -- this was the 60s -- was pretty much EVERYONE except, maybe, Steve Ditko).  Did he want to sue?  Did he take a "the dogs howl but the caravan rolls on" attitude?

These are the sorts of "internal musings" -- "am I the only one who wonders about this stuff?" -- that eventually led to THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.

I would guess that Harold Gray wouldn't have thought it inappropriate to have a black child as Little Orphan Annie but only because Little Orphan Annie is -- and always has been -- white.

I'm not sure how many people would agree with him and how many people know that they better not
DISAGREE WITH HIM.  OR ELSE!!   Which is a very different thing, I think. Even though I know I'm not SUPPOSED TO THINK THAT'S A VERY DIFFERENT THING.  You can only get thrown out of society once.

  1. CEREBUS COVERS GALLERY is an unsolvable problem that I think IDW has done its best to solve.  It's their money on the table, so it's their call. I think they made -- are making -- a good one.
  2. The two- to four-week mail answer delay is over for the time being.  ALL replies that I had finished on 9/12 when my copier was DOA have been copied and will be mailed today.
  3. October 7: final orders for CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE the unsigned unnumbered edition.  October 27: final orders for the re-release of CEREBUS VOLUME ONE REMASTERED.
  4. THE BIG NEWS THIS WEEK!  CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO (God willing) launches today on Kickstarter at or near to 6 pm ET.
  5. End-of-Life Lease on Life for the Off-White House:  The Cerebus Trust
  6. Entertainment Content for Kickstarter coming your way "Multi-page Surreal CEREBUS strip" being done for our Mr. $10K Retail Patron!  

1.  Just reading the comments this week on CEREBUS COVERS GALLERY suggests to me what a Mission Impossible it was to conceive of the book.  Once you start including EVERYTHING you really get outside of all sensible proportions.  VERY late in the initial discussion, I suggested to Ted that he consider a 300 page book.  Basically the David Banks model. On the assumption that that would satisfy the largest number of people.  It's all 300 covers.  Some original art, some scans from printed copies, some Dave Sim file copies.  Some recreations.  I think they took that into account and came up with a Goldilocks Spot closer to the 300 covers concept than anything dramatically expansive.

432 pages means an average of one and a third pages per cover.  So it's not STRICTLY the covers and it's not the Exhaustive Overkill I was preparing myself to do if they couldn't decide.  Basically, here's EVERYTHING I have to say about the covers and whatever you don't use I'll give to Tim for AMOC.

I'm glad I didn't "muck in" on the discussion.  Scott Dunbier already had the unenviable task of distilling a massive amount of visual material down to an unspecified number of pages.  That's hard enough to do without thinking you've got a massive reworking on the way that you have to negotiate mentally after already having "DONE" a 432 page book.

I'm assuming I'll get 12 pounds of proofs (and Gerhard as well) at some point and I'll just correct any factual errors and try to write some pithy aphorisms if I think of any.

IDEALLY IDW is going to want to do a book that stores want to stock on an on-going basis.  Right now the stores only want CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY but CEREBUS COVERS GALLERY might make "the cut" as a way of representing that this WAS a 300-issue series and -- as it stands now -- none of Gerhard's 20+ years of work is seen on virtually any comic store shelves. It would be nice if stores saw this as a valid way to let Gerhard be represented.

Might have to wait for the softcover for that.  Which is going to be tough if the hardcover only sells once and only in a specific quantity.

Long-term project, in other words.

2.  I'm hoping that I can get back to keeping up with the mail but that may have to be sacrificed to trying to keep SDOAR and CEREBUS ARCHIVE on a semi-reasonable schedule and continue to do these updates AND supply AMOC content.  Something, presumably, is going to have to give, but it might just be that ALL of the schedules become semi-regular.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE is looking like it's going to be three times a year, at best, right now.

3.  Major signposts up ahead: October 7 and October 27.  I talked with Matt Demory, my Diamond Brand Manager and he said that's when I can expect to get Purchase Orders for a) CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE and b) CEREBUS VOLUME ONE REMASTERED.  This is important because it's going to tell me how viable we are in the Direct Market generally and PREVIEWS specifically.  Matt pointed out that he retailers wait pretty much to the last minute when they know how much cash they have on hand (or will have on hand).  So, as always, a lot depends on whether Image or DC or Marvel has a Major Hit that is just spewing cash into the stores at the same time that the retailers are getting down to crunch time.  Nothing new in this.  As much as everyone deplored THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN overreaction in 1993, that spewed out a LOT of cash that retailers used to buy other things.  Don't want to bite the hand that is literally feeding us. Or pretending that there ISN'T such a hand.

How the CEREBUS trade is doing its first time through PREVIEWS since it was REMASTERED is going to colour a lot of Diamond's thinking about HIGH SOCIETY.  And it's quite possible that HIGH SOCIETY will be going to the printer at or around October 27 -- so you see the problem.  They aren't going to know until then how many of the new printing they've sold and won't be able to commit to a HIGH SOCIETY new printing until they do.  While, obviously, WE would like to have HIGH SOCIETY in stores for Christmas.

Compounding the complexity, Diamond has roughly 270 copies of CHURCH & STATE volume one and 700 copies of CHURCH & STATE volume two (mainly because the current printing of volume two was done just before Lebonfon decided not to store books anymore).  So, we're definitely talking about "How do you sell 500 copies of volume two?"  We're going to be discussing a lot of possibilities but the leading candidate looks like "signed bookplates"  (the ones available from Kickstarter) actually stuck in volume two.  My question was:  "Do you want bookplates for volume one and volume two and make it a package deal, blowing out the last 270 volume one and meaning volume one won't be available for -- what? -- a year?  Two years? Or do we just LEAN ON volume two."  I've agreed to sign as many bookplates as they want.  So they're mulling that one over right now.

4.  As Funkmaster John enthused by fax:  "We are AUTOMATICALLY APPROVED FOR LAUNCH ON KICKSTARTER!"  That is, there will be NO assessment delay.  They trust us that we know what we're doing!  As Funkmaster also faxed:  "How COOL is THAT?  Kickstarter Street Cred!"  I'm wondering if we get All Access backstage lanyard passes!  Or Tour jackets or something!

Funkmaster's counting on pushing the button around 6 pm Eastern Standard Time, so everyone can be watching for that!

We're just tweaking the final details on the Bonus Prints (the newest new thing this time).  I faxed both Funkmaster and Sean in the "wee small hours of..." this morning answering their suggestions.  Sean has reviewed the digital files and is MAXING the reproduction (as only SMR can do with his "restoration Kung Fu" as George Gatsis calls it: you KNOW he's the best at what he does!).  He's suggested that some of them are going to better as "mini-prints" in terms of sharpness.  So we're going to have two ends of the scale:  the double-page "Cerebus at the wheel of his Porsche" (glamourpuss No.5) which is two pieces of 11x17 art will count as TWO Bonus prints.  But the mini prints will count as HALF a Bonus Print.  And we might be offering the mini-prints as stickers as well.  For, you know, STICKER people.

The Bonus Prints will be $8 each and an extra $1 for shipping (which is average across US, Canada and International).

Speaking of which, a Big Shout-Out to the Aussies and Kiwis who are STILL waiting for their CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONEs.  We DID offer FedEx, but the rate is absolutely outrageous, so that really just left surface mail with NO tracking (even if we HAD tracking, Canada Post won't consider an international package "missing" for Six. Weeks.  And, yes, virtually ALL packages will arrive in six weeks so...THAT's why we're having this Big Shout-Out to the Aussies and Kiwis! Because that's, like, really ALL we can do from here!  HELLOOO AUSSIES!  HELLOOOO KIWIS!)

Seriously, though.  Six weeks puts it at the beginning of November.  So if you haven't gotten your package or your package has arrived damaged let Funkmaster know then.  By November 7 and we'll start getting replacements together.  From May to November -- that gives you an idea of what it's going to take for us to get All The Way Through this first round and do a final assessment -- and improve on it.

5.  End of Life Issues Update:  I just found out that my lawyer, Wilf's, retirement -- which seemed so long off in the future -- is coming up November 30th. YIKES!  And, as he explained, once he retires he is forbidden to practice law.  DOUBLE YIKES.  And he also pointed out that his "I can barely afford these rates" rates are actually between twelve and fifteen years out of date and gave me a ballpark figure of what I can expect to pay with the law firm that's inheriting me.  TRIPLE YIKES.

Fortunately, we had a fruitful half-hour discussion on the phone where I pitched him on the plan I've been developing for preserving the Off-White House -- which is basically to fold Aardvark-Vanaheim Inc. on paper ahead of time (A-V is the beneficiary of my life insurance) so that CEREBUS goes into the public domain and the insurance money provides a pool of cash as The Cerebus Trust that will just keep paying the bills on the house.  It's just that no one will live there.  Which should REALLY slash the old grocery bills, I think.  Laundry!  Dead people don't NEED No STEENKEEN' LAUNDRY done, MON!

But, seriously, the idea is that the keys to the house will be in one place, the security codes for the alarm system will be in another place (and changed frequently by the security firm).  If someone wants to visit the house, they make arrangements through The Cerebus Trust and pay the hourly rate for a security guard to let them in.  Where they can look at whatever they want as long as they don't break it and put it back where it came from if they take it out.

There might only be one visitor every eight months for two or three hours.

But that seemed to me to be the best thing to do with all of the Debris of Dave Sim's Life. Just leave it all in one place so that people who think that was (and IS) important can have access to it.

The problem with trying to do it LEGALLY -- rather than as a FINANCIAL thing -- is that a Legal thing has to be "bulletproof" -- or the lawyer is culpable for any metaphorical "bullet wounds".  It won't be "bulletproof" but it should be viable for however-long and that's really all I can ask.

It definitely favours people with money who can afford to hire a security guard and it does limit what can be done with the house after I'm gone.  But hopefully, that can be "worked on" by CEREBUS fans  "of good will" which, in my experience, virtually all CEREBUS fans are.

The next thing I have to find out is if I can make The Cerebus Fund "donate-able" so that anyone who wants to contribute a few bucks (or if Bill and Melinda Gates want to drop $1M into the kitty), that means my life insurance just provides the "base" and it gets built from there.

I'll keep you posted on developments, but this is really the first time in twenty years that I've been working on this that it's looking "do-able".

6.  Still trying to figure out how to say THANK YOU loudly enough to Our $10K Retailer Patron, TF. I had pulled out some CEREBUS tracing paper drawings used in the production of the issues and figured I'd do some "display lettering" on them.  THANK YOU TF WHO SAVED THE EARTH PIG'S BACON (THAT kind of thing:  as in, nyuck nyuck nyuck.)  (Parlez vous, nyuck nyuck nyuck?  Oui?  C'est tres bon vivant!)  That led to turning these pages with all of the images turned this way and that into pencilled comic pages, tightening up some of the drawing.  Surreal doesn't half sum it up.  I ran across a Zootanapuss pencilled tracing paper page.  "How the heck did that get in with the CEREBUS tracing paper?"  Hmmm.  This would be FUN to tighten up.  So, that's now page three.

So, that's what I'm going to be working on in the work time I had allocated for doing THE CEREBUS COVERS book in microcosm over -- what?  The next week?  Two weeks?  So, no idea how long the strip is going to be.  But one thing I can promise:  it won't make a Blind Bit of Sense as a coherent narrative.  Complete Comedy Improv.

I'll be scanning the pages as I get them done and feeding them to Funkmaster to post on the Kickstarter site.  God willing.

Thanks to everyone planning to help us out with CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO!

Don't watch the skies!  Watch the clock!  Six PM!  Funkmaster! Has! Spoken!

See you all NEXT Friday, God willing!


Taylor said...

Not sure if this was ever suggested as an option, but was the Billy Ireland cartoon Museum ever suggested for the archive?
They have a huge collection of comic book and strip art.

Lee Thacker said...

Roll on 6pm!

Anonymous said...

Dave is quite correct: it is "Harold Gray", not "Harold Grey". That's how we spell grey in Canada, and I carelessly carried it over. And my crack last week was meant to imply that I thought it changing Annie's race in the movie is a smaller matter than missing major points about the strip in crafting the movie in the first place. (Does anyone recall that the movie didn't even credit Harold Gray anywhere?)

Do people really think that the Cerebus Covers book will be a big seller? Who will buy it? The covers aren't paintings by fan-favourite artists; they aren't pin-ups of "Cerebus in costume using his powers". By Dave's own admission, they were often after-thoughts or chores -- to be dispensed with quickly so he could get to the real meat of telling the story.

I fear that the Covers book is of interest only to Cerebus fans and Dave Sim fans -- both small groups, and with a great deal of overlap. They're not even of great interest to cartoonists interested in studying Dave's technique, because many of Dave's strengths are unrepresented in the covers.

I think a more marketable book would be Cerebus Extras: the Swords stories, the Jam stories, the Epic stories, maybe the Turtles and Spawn and etc. stuff. That's material from disparate sources, that has never been collected, that's hard to find, and that would be interesting to a reader as well as a Cerebus collector or completist.

Not, of course, that I wish the Covers book ill in the marketplace. What we want, I feel confident saying, is for Dave to have enough of an income that he can devote himself to Strange Death rather than spend his time repackaging his old work or accepting commissions. I hope that, if the Covers book does not sell to his expectations or hopes, he is not soured on the comics business and doesn't feel further that "there's no place for Dave Sim in comics", but rather considers that this was perhaps the wrong product for that marketplace.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, zaz

Adam Ell said...

Surely those going home covers could be printed 4 to a page.

And the book should only be the 1-300 covers, phonebook covers, Swords covers and supplemental sketches and commentary. NO stories, save those for another volume.

But that's just me.

Joey said...

Hit me up if you need help with your copier or print production questions (indesign stuff?), happy to help. Anything to further your comic forthcomings!

Travis Pelkie said...

D'oh! Considering how annoyed I get about seeing anything other than "Winsor McCay" and how I can spell "Sienkiewicz" without looking it up, I am chagrined that I did not look up Harold Gray's name and get it right in the first place. Mea culpa! I didn't figure Dave would spotlight it, either!

It's...because we were discussing England. Yeah. That's the ticket. They spell color with a "u", for cryin' out loud!

Anyway, I should also add that I was not trying to imply that Harold Gray was a racist (although one might infer that from my comment), but that I do agree more with what (I think) Dave said here: the change in race would be inappropriate not because it was inherently a bad thing but because Annie's always been white. (However, I don't know that there's anything inherent in the musical's premise that would preclude Annie being non-white, so it is an interesting choice, anyway!)

Travis Pelkie said...

If Wilf is retiring, shouldn't he be good enough at it by now that it's not "practicing" law at this point? Nyuk nyuk nyuk!

More seriously, I'm looking forward to the covers book. I think there are enough cases in recent years with art books focused on particular comics creators that it's a "thing", and of the Cerebus project, the covers offer a nice chunk of art that also, as Dave says, nicely highlights Gerhard's contributions as well, so it's something that I could certainly see as a perennial seller.

I don't know how much commentary Dave is currently doing or planning, but if it hasn't come up, could the "Synchronicity triptych" (covers 74-76, I think?) essay that was online several years back get included? I think it was something featured on the Beguiling's website, but I haven't searched hard enough online to find it, plus I'd rather have it in print, if possible. As I recall, it was entertaining and meaty, and while I certainly don't expect that much of an in-depth look at ALL the covers, if there are some that merit that focus, it will be good to have in print.

Also, and this is more of a Ger thing, and it doesn't fit in the covers thing, but if there ever is a "Cerebus Auxiliary" volume of various short stories (the Zero issue and the World Tour book, plus anything else that might qualify), the "how to draw backgrounds" piece Ger did for Wizard is something that ought to be included. I remember my reaction: "Dave doesn't even draw the rice cakes?!"

Will Collier said...

'Kay, I'm in.

Wish I'd known about the first one in time, but whatreyagonna do? Looking forward to this one.

Terry Hardcastle said...


Thank you for your reply to my letter and redirecting me here.

I volunteer at Billy Ireland. It is . . . incredible. It is both a library and a museum. Got an Eisner exhibit up right now. If I had any pull, there'd be a Sim exhibit.

Releasing Cerebus into the public domain and preserving your home are both extraordinary gestures toward the folks who love your work.

Glad I found the online Cerebus Clubhouse!