Sunday, 18 August 2013

One For Sorrow

One For Sorrow:
The Photocopied Editions
by Lee Thacker
(from The Blog & Mail #158, 16 February 2007)
...I also got a package from Lee Thacker, who started with the micropress model with his 800-page graphic novel One For Sorrow, which he would photocopy and then package individually as eight 100-page perfect bound chapters. As I said in my review of the project in an attempt to sell people on the 128 pounds sterling cover price: "Look at it this way - each copy will be put together by hand and autographed by Lee himself. And what do you suppose those will be going for in twenty years time when One for Sorrow finally gets the wider distribution it deserves? Yes, exactly." Well, Lee has gone the print-on-demand route and has now published One for Sorrow as two handsome hardcovers with a cover price of 40 pounds sterling each. Lee writes:
I thought I'd send you my One for Sorrow books now that they've been printed "properly", and as a replacement for the new work I have yet complete. I don't expect you to spend your valuable time reading the whole thing again, I just thought they'd look nice in the Cerebus Archive alongside the original hand made copies. I went along to an international comics event last weekend. I managed to sell a total of 5 items (none of which were my One for Sorrow books - softcover versions of Book One - 8 pounds each) but I was expecting as much so, although disappointed, I'm not too discouraged. There's another show in London in March, so I'll try again there.
It's hard to know what sort of conclusion to draw from this... The optimist in me thinks that it's a matter of the market catching up with the pioneer efforts that have been produced largely in a vacuum. How many completed 800-page graphic novels do you figure are out there? Not many I don't think. Obviously Cerebus, Finder, Usagi Yojimbo and others have demonstrated that there is a demand for longer graphic novels but I suspect at this point that the demand is not enough to overcome sales resistance on the part of retailers to move too far over in that direction. A graphic novel is still largely envisioned by the retail community as something between 70 and 150 pages with Batman in it. Outside of that construct - no fantasy or superheroic elements..., no star name cartoonist cachet - it's just too much of an uphill struggle to expect someone to pay roughly $160 US for a book in that category or for a retailer to devote the time and energy to persuade even his indy customers to take a chance on it.
One For Sorrow:
The 2-Volume Hardback Editions
by Lee Thacker
I mean, part of me thinks what Lee Thacker needs to do is to take the books to a show and set up two or three easy chairs and get people a cup of tea and just have them read the first fifty or sixty pages until they're hooked. Of course comics-buying dollars are at a premium these days and I suspect that a lot of customers still wouldn't go for it. "No thanks, mate. If you're that confident in the material half an hour from now, I'll be handing you eighty quid and I've already got that money earmarked for the Marvel Essentials volumes I'm missing." That really gets into the long-term direction of buying habits and customer interest in the marketplace. Most comic fans don't try Cerebus or Love &  Rockets or other indy books until they've exhausted their super-hero jones (along about the time that they notice that the nine Spider-man comics they're buying every month don't remotely connect with each other or make any kind of internal logical sense). With Hollywood Super-Hero Blockbusters still dominating the environment what I see is mostly a potential indy market but probably another decade down the line when everyone who got drawn into or back to comics by the first Spider-man film have hit that super-hero exhaustion threshold. At that point, I think at least potentially interest will shift to larger self-contained stories - one 800-page story with a beginning, middle and end rather than 800-pages of an endlessly continued story that never gets anywhere near to a conclusion or resolution.

It's a theory anyway.

Anyway, the One for Sorrow hardcover books are available from Raw Shark Comics... If you're a Cerebus completist, you'll have to buy volume one just to get my introduction (which Lee put together from the above-mentioned review). Not the best idea in the world to have an intro in your book by the Pariah King of Comics, but he asked very nicely and had no success selling the books up to that point so, where's the harm? was my theory. It's a really good story and maybe it can overcome that Pariah King taint... And I bet the two versions of One for Sorrow will be a Gold Star in the Cerebus Archive one day. 

1 comment:

Lee Thacker said...

The two hardcovers are going for the bargain price of £24 each at the moment. Get 'em while stocks last! Oh, wait... it's print on demand... the stocks are endless. I'm so crap at marketing!