Monday, 9 October 2017

On Sale 8 Years Ago: Cerebus Archive #4

Cerebus Archive #10 (October 2009)
Art by Dave Sim


Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

This project was not quite as misconceived for the marketplace as was Glamourpuss, but its lack of success was predictable. This was the work that failed to break Dave into a mainstream cartooning career when he did it -- and he got a lot better since then, so this represents his less-good work; the comics-buying audience regarded with indifference this dated, amateurish material. By the time this title came out, Cerebus had been selling under 4,000 copies a month and Dave Sim was not a name to conjure with; you have to figure that the audience for this would be only a subset of the Cerebus audience. And the marketplace itself had moved on; Dave tried the same thing he'd done 30 years previously, but with Cerebus he captured lightning-bugs in a bottle and he couldn't repeat that trick.

All of which is too bad, really, for students of cartooning. Dave was a damned fine cartoonist for a good while, and I for one found it interesting to see his early creative explorations. Perhaps this project might have been more suitable for ebook presentation, where preparation is the only expense and the work can remain "in print" forever without the cost of a printing bill. It might even have been suitable for a large collected volume, where a higher price-tag makes up for less-frequent sales. I think either venture makes more sense than his "Museum of Me".

I think the key to the success of such a project would be the annotations. The work reprinted in this title is dated, unpolished, and often just plain bad; an audience didn't buy it then, so why would they now? Old joke: It's like looking at those "evolution of humanity" charts: you can see where all the weird things that are alive today came from. If Dave contributed extensive notes placing these period works in creative and historical context, there would be a reason to read them.

But, in the end, I don't think that's the best use of his time. I would rather see Dave devote his time and energy to Strange Death than his obsolete work.

-- Damian

Anonymous said...

The primary reason why Cerebus Archive failed was the failure of the print-on-demand company, ComicXPress, to deliver orders in even a remotely timely manner. I think I paid for two or three issues that I never received. And, of course, they've been shuttered for years now.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Hey A.: I do not think that is entirely correct. The primary reason why Cerebus Archive went to print-on-demand is that there was insufficient market demand for the comics shop version.

-- Damian

Michael Grabowski said...

I think Damian is largely correct about the reasons for failure of Cerebus Archive. By the third issue he wasn't selling enough copies to make Diamond's minimum order cut-off, which was I think 600 copies? Someone in retail would know better than me. But it wasn't a big number to acheive, yet he couldn't reach it. Meanwhile Glamourpuss did fine for a while longer. So Dave Sim's name wasn't necessarily the problem but the quality of the work on display probably was.

I would add that a title like Cerebus Archive makes it sound like you're buying something much different from what Dave was selling. Compare to the CIH? sales, which are apparently good and consistent so far, despite being a very different Cerebus comic. People/retailers who bought the first series seem to still want to buy it. Come to think of it, Glamourpuss may have had more of Cerebus in it than CA did.

Hey, at least Cerebus Archive didn't include printers' and sales' invoices as part of the package. That's some mighty fine reading right there. On the other hand, I'd happily buy an audiobook version of it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Michael, I think that (IIRC) Cerebus Archive had a circulation of around 2,500. Which was what Diamond wanted.

I really don't think that it only sold 600 copies per month, until, maybe, the end.

But, again, the lack of sales was due to ComicXPress' very poor delivery.


Anonymous said...

Actually, now that I think about it, I think Diamond wanted 4,000 sales a month. It, Cerebus Archive, started out doing that, because it was something "new" from Dave.

But, then, fans realized that it was old stuff. And, then, they stopped buying it.

And, then, Dave went to ComicXPress, which was one of the worst online comics dealers, ever. Full stop.

So. Not an epic (or, EPIC) failure, but I'm guessing that Dave would like to have a re-do.


Tony Dunlop said...

I got several of my issues of Glamourpuss as POD comics, and they all arrived just fine. No idea if it was Comic X Press or not. But I never had any interest in the Archive books, and for exactly the reason articulated by Damian. A lot of it seems to have ended up here on AMOC for free, and it's fun to see but I still wouldn't pay for it (w/apologies to Chet) (Oh no! Not THAT again!).

Anonymous said...

Anybody know where I can get back issues of this beyond #3?