Below is a message from Eddie Khanna, Dave's research assistant on Strange Death of Alex Raymond, followed by a fax from Sean Michael Robinson to Dave regarding SDOAR and followed again by a transcription of a conversation between Eddie and Ted Adams, SDOAR's publisher.
The idea here is to show what Sean, Ted, and I have said so far about the situation regarding the Strange Death of Alex Raymond, and then to get as much feedback from as many people as possible given that:
1) Dave's not going to be doing any drawing anytime soon.
2) For the foreseeable future, Dave is going to be roadmapping the story, and then hopefully scripting it, and then hopefully pasting up pages.
3) It would be nice if he got further in terms of actual finished pages, but he's not even LOOKING at inking or experimenting with that until he experiments with autographing the CANIII or the Off-White House copies.
4) Right now we have maybe 200 pages of SDOAR as well as scattered pages from the middle of the story dealing with the actual accident, and a GIANT pile of research papers. Given these parameters, what do people think should be done or would be a good way to go forward? e.g. if he can't draw / ink and doesn't get any further than roadmapping and pasting up pages, should all the research material just be printed, showing where it was all going?
Dave said there's no idea how long any of this is going take, so there's lots of time to solicit feedback and opinions from everyone. We're basically at a base camp right now, discussing how to climb this mountain, or even if this mountain is going to be climbed.
He'll be reading the comments and feedback, and then when he thinks he's seen all the ins and outs of it through people's responses, he'll respond with what he thinks should be done.
So, Dear Reader, what do YOU think?
Excerpt from a fax from Sean Michael Robinson to Dave Sim, June 1st, 2015--
Sean Michael Robinson:
Okay- unsolicited SDOAR advice/thoughts ahead. For the past few weeks I've been thinking about SDOAR and how the book might change depending on your health outcome. It's possible some of the thoughts I've been having might be useful to you, so I've recorded them here. Don't worry about writing me back unless you have something pressing to say-- I just wanted to pass them on.
First off, setting the terms. The way I see it, SDOAR, or the portions of it I've read in glamourpuss, anyway, fall into four intertwining threads. For the sake of convenience, let's call them--
- the forensic narrative
- the metaphysical narrative
- the technical and stylistic explication/ “tool talk” (discussion of evolving style and tool use)
- the Performance (teaching yourself to think and ink in those same styles)
Furthermore, I'd say that the first two categories relate to each other in a way that roughly corresponds with how the second two categories relate to each other. Your metaphysical extrapolations are your contribution to the forensic narrative, above and beyond “who did what,” just as the technical analysis speaks to and is changed by your re-drawing the panels themselves even while you're analyzing them, and then using those same skills to illustrate the narrative.
Okay, having set up these categories, and knowing full well you might see my categorization here as presumptuous, ridiculous, or some combination of the two-- what might this mean for SDOAR going forward, if your hand is diminished in functionality?
If you do indeed have limited functionality going forward, I see two potential general directions that might be fruitful, each path suggested by how much value you personally place on the performative aspect of the book.
If the narrative aspect is the most important part to you-- both the forensic narrative and the metaphysical narrative-- then illustrating that narrative in a way that can be easily read would seem to be the most important objective. If you could, for instance, pencil, but inking was too physically demanding, then you could hire an inker. I know, not a real revelation-- but I think I have a method that would make it much easier to both try people out, and to not be locked into that one solution if you have a full recovery.
I did some freelance illustration last week that involved a lot of revisions. Some of the revisions I accomplished through digital manipulation of my pencils. Afterwards I inked it using a technique I learned from David Lasky when I helped ink his Carter Family book-- printing the pencils using cyan only, on special art board that has a smooth surface but is thin enough to pass through a printer. This is very similar to the process used to created painted full-color originals in the eighties while keeping the line art as a separate plate-- Ronin used it, as did the First-release color Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volumes. So I could scan the inked page in Photoshop, drop out the cyan channel, and voila, an inked original that's preserved your pencil original.
Of course, finding an inker would be quite the task, but not impossible, I think. I do have a few ideas. (It might have other consequences, though--for instance, I could see your pencils occupying more of your time if you're having to indicate every nuance of shadow in a way you might not inking yourself. It might defeat the purpose if you're having to work harder to carry the help.)
Conversely, if your hand recovers enough to ink, but fine lines prove impossible, you could prepare your pencils at the normal size, and I could send John oversized cyan files. So, pencils normal size, and you executing the inks much larger than before, at whatever size might be ergonomic.
Okay. If the performance aspect is more important to you than the narrative aspect, then I would suggest doing what you've already suggested-- that you complete the book at whatever level you're capable of. Fully inked pages turn into pencil roughs with lettering with clippings turn into even rougher roughs until what's left at the end of the story is the text on the page. For a book largely about process, and personal development, I could see this being a very fitting way to tackle the problem.
I feel morbid speculating about the future like this when I believe the most likely outcome is your recovery. But as a fan, an enthusiastic fan who can't wait to read your new book, I want to make sure that anything I've thought about the past few weeks that might be potentially useful to you, has been communicated to you.
Okay, that's all from me Dave! I hope you're had a restful week.
Ted Adams and Eddie Khanna Talk Strange Death of Alex Raymond, May 18 2015 --
EDDIE KHANNA AND TED ADAMS:
EDDIE KHANNA AND TED ADAMS:
EDDIE: Thanks for taking the time to do this. First of all I want to say I really, really, really appreciate all the faith and support you've put into the project, that's just, it's just completely amazing, so I think I'm safe in saying that on behalf of all the fans and supporters out there thank you so much.
TED: I appreciate that but no thanks necessary. I'm a big fan of the work, and a huge fan of Dave's, so it's been an absolute pleasure to watch him doing it as he goes along and be able to help and just do something has been a pleasure for me, actually. I frankly can't wait to publish it.
How much has he told you about the whole thing, like I know he's been sending you the pages as they're being done...
He's given me a few teases here and there, but I don't know much more than what's been done.
Right. So it's definitely expanding quite a bit, so Dave kind of wanted me to set it up a little bit for you. He’s sent me the pages as well that he's been doing, so the basic idea is, that it's kind of looking into the circumstances of what happened for Alex Raymond's crash, but at the same time also sort of going into the history of Photorealism and the different sort of art styles that came about before and after. As we're going through it, we're just finding SO much, I mean, I don't think I have to say that Dave's really, really good at finding really, really interesting things, and just the fact that I have the internet as a resource as well, between the two things it's really pulling out a lot of information. As an example, I don't know if you had chance to take a look at those Mangler notes?
I looked at those. Yeah. Those are exhaustive!
Believe it or not, there's more that's come out on that. Wilson Hicks, he's actually the guy who gave Al Capp and Milt Caniff their first big break in comics and brought them together...so it's just all these interweaving connections that are kind of coming up, and they're resonating very strongly in comic strips of the time and comic books of the time. So, there’s definitely a lot of information, and one of the things we've been doing is trying to separate, okay, this is what goes in the book, this is going to be in the notes section, this is going to be in the extra notes section, and then this is going to be, like the Way Too Much Information section.
I always thought that was a fun part of Cerebus, that Dave, not that there were so much notes on Cerebus, but that there was all the back up material and comics, and the annotations, and some bits, and I read the letters, books that Dave published, and notes, and I prefer having all that material for the people who, like me, who really want to take it to the extreme. It's really not gonna be people who just want the book, the work for the sake of the work, but they could do that too, read the too Many Notes as you call it.
Exactly, and it's one of those things where you're documenting historical facts, you kind of have to have an appendix to say, okay, this is where it comes from, but this is how it relates, and then there's just so much that might be a little bit difficult to get into the book, so that's where that would kind of fit in.
That's cool. That's great, man. That's the way to go.
The other thing too right now is with Dave's hand, we don't know how that's gonna play out, he said on his last posting on the updates that his hand has started hurting again, so we don't know.. I think he's thinking about acupuncture, so we'll see how that plays out. The basic idea is that if he can't finish it, or if something happens to him, knock on wood that doesn't happen, or if he's just unable to finish it, what would be the next step then?
I think at this point, Dave is very fortunately still with us, and I wish the best for him, but I will take my direction from however he wants to proceed. There's certainly enough of a work there that it could be either be presented and then maybe it could be fleshed out with your notes and kind of finish the story that way, but I'm going to remain hopeful that Dave's hand gets better.
Definitely. In fact I even told him, I said that I don't need, on the Kickstarter stuff, I don't need anything signed, I don't need anything drawn or anything, I don't want anything.
I'm a backer on the Kickstarters too, and I know Dave being Dave, he definitely goes way above and beyond all duty on those Kickstarters. The last one that I got had so many signatures on it, so I actually took a mental note to myself to call him and say, 'Dave. Next time, you do one of these, you just sign off one of them. You take it easy on mine.' But I think that's part of what makes Dave Dave, right? He takes it to 11.
This may sound kind of funny but on my end a couple of times when there's been a delay with something, it's kind of helped the project overall, because it kinda gives more time to discover stuff, and just like for the last few weeks since Dave's been just resting his hand, he's finding soooo much. Like, just in the stuff I've already sent him. And then he's sending me stuff, and I'm finding stuff based on what he found and sending it back, and it's just .. on one of the updates he said it's just, right now, it's just a wealth, a treasure trove of information, so he's been organizing it and it's a matter of picking and leading with the best shots, and there's definitely some really, really good shots in there. The main thing is if something does happen to him and he's no longer able to work on it, I do remember him saying that the first thing he'd want would be for us to kind of try and get as much out in print as soon as possible, up to where he finished.
Well there's not a bad idea. Completely on-board. I'm ready to publish it whenever Dave will let us publish it as I'm sure he's told you, but I suggested that we could easily break this up into, you know, 2, 3, 4 graphic novels, however long it would take and publish it on an annual basis, and he could do a 100 page chunk, or a 120 page chunk, and do it that way, so I'd be., I'm...whenever Dave's ready to publish it, I'm here to publish it.
Awesome. I know the original idea was to have it serialized, but I think several trades or whatever would be a good way to go
It just works so well, again if you're reading it, again, in big chunks, I think the comic format just wouldn't service the material very well.
I agree. I think if that would be the case, then just get it out and as many notes as possible and then..he also said he'd kind of like to sort of have you and I do a print, signed and numbered, where the proceeds would go to the Cerebus Archive or Trust Fund, so I guess that would be the next step on what to do. I personally would like...I think he would've want...or would want us to kind of incorporate his death into the project but I think he would want to make that a part of the narrative, and I think to be included. It would be a matter of getting it all out. The other thing is I don't know if...like in terms of continuing on with a different artist or something, I don't really know...first of all I don't know if that's possible, I don't know if there's anyone....
Dave's still with us, so he should inform this decision, but, I just don't see how anybody could do what he's doing...So that wouldn't be a direction that I would suggest going.
I haven't spoken to Dave about that particular issue. Again Dave's still with us, so he can certainly let us know what he wants, but if it were my personal decision, I wouldn't go down that way. It just wouldn't work. What Dave's doing right now is completely and utterly unique to Dave, and I just don't see how it would be that anybody could come in and do what he's doing. That just doesn’t seem....it's what makes him not just unique but one of a kind in the world. This particular work is completely and utterly exceptional.
You just said basically everything I had written down in my notes. I don't think anyone would be capable of doing it at that high level of quality and mimicking the different styles and that technical ability. It just wouldn't work.
The bonus is that there's a lot of visual reference already. In terms of comic book art that's already been done from the time period, or comic strips newspaper strips that have been done, or articles, so in terms of visual references, it wouldn't be just dry text. I think there's got to be a way to get a lot of visual information in there, it's just the actual drawing and recreation of some of the art would probably not happen, unless we were to somehow use what Dave's done already and put that..sort of recreate that...
Because we do deal with the Library of (American) Comics (IDW's Reprint Imprint), we publish a lot of the books that Dave, or a lot of the strips that Dave references, so we could certainly get permission to do that. If there are strips that we don't have the publishing rights to, I'm sure we could get those because we work with the, I think all of the syndicates at this point. I think we would have access to as much supplementary art in the form of pre-printed strips as we want.
There's a lot of stuff as well that I've been getting from some of the free on-line comic book sites, like they're supposed to be considered in the public domain. Whether they really are or aren't,..I believe the sites are very scrupulous about that, but I think that's also where it's interesting because it's a recreation sometimes, like in terms of what Dave's been doing, so technically it's not the original artwork, it's a recreation of that.
That's 100%, that's what makes what Dave's doing so unique, there's just nobody who could do what he's doing, to be able to work in so many different styles.
The other thing I wanted to let you know is that there's a lot of stuff we're finding in the IDW reprints, so... just right now, Dave's been working going through the first volume of Rip Kirby, we had done a kind of first pass, I can't even remember when, a few, many months ago, but now he's really going in through it, and he's just finding so much, and then I'm finding so much based on what he's finding, and back and forth, so, and there was a bunch of stuff I found in the Al Capp reissue as well? One of the volumes there, so, there's definitely going to be a lot of IDW reissue references in there.
Perfect. Those are books that I am happy to push people to buy because they are some of the greatest comic strips ever printed.
Yeah. I think that will definitely come in handy. Okay, so I think we're pretty much on the same page in terms of getting the material out after, if something was to happen. Would you have any concerns about, like how to continue it on? Like do you think it should still be in a comic book trade format or would you say, "okay. At this point we've got all the pages, we've got all the graphic novels done up to what Dave had done, do we put the rest of it on like a web site, or do we still continue to do it as a graphic novel kind of thing.
The answer to that question will come as we see what, again, I'm fairly optimistic that Dave completes this work... but again, going with this worst case scenario, I think the answer to that question would really be driven by what's left to be shown and which part of the work is left to still publish,
I think depending of the page we're on, and where it's at, a stand alone, hard cover graphic novel would be a good way to go, if we're talking about something that's in the, you know, the 150 to 200 page range, probably would be, we probably would do that in a way that would still be affordable enough for a more casual consumer to pick up. I wouldn't want to do something that got beyond a probably $25 price model, just because I want the work to be accessible to as many people as possible. So a lot of that's going to be, a lot of those decisions are going to be driven by, what exactly exists and what still needs to be created.
And then also definitely with the notes and everything, because I think that might add a big chunk to the back of the book.
I'm hoping Dave will chime in on this and I will take my direction from him, but you could do the core work, with some notes and have that be in the $25 hard cover, again make it accessible to as many people as possible, and you could have a complimentary volume that's going to be maybe, more of a trade paperback size that's for those really hardcore people who want to see the more exhaustive notes, so again like the people, like I wouldn’t publish it, I would be a consumer for that material, but I don't know that we would want to have to drive up the price line on the actual book where it would less accessible to people.
You definitely want to make it as accessible as possible. I just was talking a while ago with Dave about it, and I thought there might be a big market for it, especially in Europe, because it seems a lot of these photorealists seem to be a lot more respected over there.
I agree, I think we're gonna have a great market for it. We have a pretty robust foreign rights publishing program at IDW, and we're represented in every major territory and I really think that what Dave's doing is going to have a reach around the world.
I don't know if he agrees with that, but I definitely do, because it's just such a fascinating story, and it's pulling in a lot of stuff. I don't think anything like this has really ever been done, especially to this extent, before. The closest thing you might get is From Hell, but that was kind of before the internet, and I don't think, that didn't....I don't know, I'd like to toot my own horn here a little bit, but I don't think that was as deeply, exhaustively researched as this is going to be.
I agree. I think From Hell is one of the greatest works of Graphic Literature ever created, and I'm actually fortunate enough now to be its publisher through Top Shelf, which is..go figure
This is getting into marketing, but there's the correspondence Dave did with Alan, there's a line in there where Alan said something about "to glean anything useful from history, you have to delve into myth and meaning," and Dave said, "I agree." And that might be a great byline, or a little heading there.
I didn't actually think about Alan Moore's response to the work but I do think it's something he would really respond to. I don't know him at all, but it does seem, having read, maybe not all of his work but most of his work, what Dave's doing does seem like it would really appeal to him. Do you know if Dave's said anything to him?
I don't think there's any communication there. That's getting into the realm of no contact to Dave by certain people. I don't think there was any kind of break or friction that I know of, they just don't talk, where as like, with Neil Gaiman I think it's more of a specific thing where Neil's definitely not talking to Dave for whatever reason. Just out of curiosity, would your preference be, to me it seems a little bit more useful if the whole thing was done, or as much of it was completed, as possible before publishing sections of it or volumes of it.
Like I already said I'm ready to publish what we have, but much of that is going to be driven by Dave's health and however it goes with his hand, and where he's at. I don't want to be able to publish volume 1 and then not be able to publish volume 2 for 2 or 3 years, that length would probably be too much, but if you could do a book every year or a book every 18 months, I think that's a high publishing strategy, that's what we've done, with the Parker books (Richard Stark’s Parker graphic novels by Darwyn Cooke) and March (about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, told through the perspective of civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis.) every 12 to 18 months.
Do you find it's more effective if they keep to a schedule?
No, no. I don't think there needs to be a hard and fast rule, where there's going to be 3 volumes and they all need to come out in October of every year, not at all. We could publish the first one and then just say, hey Dave's working on the next one. Expectation will be somewhere between the next 18 to 24 months, and the world knows what they're going into. The truth is, that the work, where it is today, is completely and utterly compelling, so the fact the story doesn't end doesn't matter. It's just a great ride along the way. So when you finish to where he's at today, I don't think anybody's going to be disappointed, "Oh I can't go out and have the rest of the story,” it's going to be "I need to read more." You want an interested audience, right? So, anticipation is good.
Definitely. I just get concerned because if something happens where it's, you've got them all sort of left hanging, or there's a delay or something, it's kind of like, for example a good analogy is the Sandman issues right now, that are coming out through DC that Neil Gaiman's doing, the prelude or whatever...
Yeah but that's a pretty different animal. You know they went for trying to do that as traditional comics, monthly publishing model, and that's not what I'm suggesting we do here at all. I actually agree it's never a good idea to say you're going to do a monthly comic, or an every other month comic and then not have it come out on time. To me, that's what makes stand alone graphic novels that continue a very different animal. If you look at the March books as the role model. The books come out every 12 to 24 months, and you enjoy the book, you enjoy each one of it, and then you have something to look forward to when the next one's out, but not this treadmill of monthly comics or bi-monthly comics. If I was gonna do a Transformers monthly comic, and it comes out every 4 or 5 months, that's a real problem. But that's not what this is.
Right. For example, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Nemo Books that were coming out, they didn't really have a set..
That's another good example [and another book we now publish].
Any concerns you have about anything, or any questions or any thoughts?
No, I’m very happy to be Dave's publisher. I'm hopeful that Dave will let us know what he wants, and I'm completely optimistic that Dave's gonna have a complete physical recovery, and be able to complete the book in the way he wants, and that he's gonna be around with us for another 30 years, so, I'm happy to have these conversations with you, but I think they're... the bulk of these conversations are unnecessary. Dave will be able to let us know directly what he wants us to do, I'll take my direction from him. This is his work, and we will ultimately do what he wants.
Awesome. I definitely think there's a lot of enthusiasm for it and I think there's a lot of fans of Dave's that'll definitely enjoy it.
But this work is going to go way beyond even those people who are fans of Dave's. This is a work that anybody who's interested in comics is going to love and anybody who's just interested in art in general. We spoke about this, the first part of the book, he talks about the different way that comics can be inked, and the brushes that were used, and how the strokes worked. I'm nowhere near art and I find all that stuff fascinating and it's stuff that... I've been reading comics since I was 5 years old, and I didn’t know about how a brush works, and how they laid ink on the paper correctly and those kind of things, I just thought it was completely fascinating. So this work is gonna have...and I told Dave this, if we do our job right from a publishing standpoint, and we market this book right, this book is going to be big. This is not...I know it feels kind of inside baseball because it's about comic strip careers and in most cases comic strip creators that the general public has never heard of, but that doesn't matter. What matters is it's a compelling story, well told. And with a compelling story well told, it doesn't matter what the subject matter is. You don't have to come into it with pre-knowledge. So that's why I know, I KNOW this book is going to be an important book, and I know it's going to have a big audience.
I agree. I agree too. Now it's just a matter of we...gotta convince Dave of that too. The techniques being used are gonna go down a little bit as the narrative goes forward, like that stuff at the beginning of the book, but that might be a little less prominent in the later parts of it
But that's the cool part of it! That's what's great! It's about the art that's interesting, the mystery that's interesting, the unraveling of all these different threads is interesting, it's just..it's great work. It should be shared with the world.
What he’s doing right now is he's mapping out as much as he can of it. He's pretty much said it's a huge road and a huge road map. So he's putting everything together and mapping it out so that hopefully, once that's all done, we'll have a pretty detailed or concise sort of map about, "okay. This is where it starts, this is what goes through, this is where it ends." And it hopefully will be then just a matter of, kind of, just doing the artwork, and the story, just putting it together, and not having to sort of worry about, "Okay. Where does this go. Are we gonna put this in, or are we gonna leave that out." So, in a way I kind of think that's what the next step is, but yeah, my biggest concern is the hand, so....
Yeah, no question. Dave's gotta focus on getting better. How often did Dave wants us to have these calls?
He wanted us to sort of touch base in case something happened, like in case something happens and he wasn't able to finish it, so, like, kind of come up with a plan about what we would do if he was no longer able to do any work on it, At All. So that's kind of what this was about. So like, I think, definitely I'd wanna put it.. I'd wanna address the fact that something happened to him, I'd wanna put it in the narrative, I'd want to do like, a print for the Cerebus Trust Fund, and then, after that, get as much of it out as possible, add the notes to what's going out, and then try and finish it up with whatever visual images, and any story notes I have.
But the problem with that is, it's gonna be a little bit, it's gonna be a combination of what Dave told me, what I found, and then what I thought Dave would want to go in there. So it's not gonna be, that would not be 100%, you know, "okay. This is exactly what Dave wanted or what Dave was going to put in the story.” This is going to be more like, "this is what Eddie thought Dave would want in the story." So there is going to be that kind of issue to deal with, if something was to happen.
Okay. I'll still publish it after, no question.
Okay. Ted, great talking to you!
Appreciate it. I enjoyed talking to you Eddie, and let me know, just let me know if there's something I could be a help with, and if you talk to Dave, tell him I said, "Hi."
I will definitely, and if you ever need to get a hold of me, you've got my email. Take care Ted, and once again, thank you so much.
All right. I appreciate it, Eddie. We'll talk soon.