Tuesday, 8 April 2014

"Top 5 Mistakes At Orb I Learned Not To Repeat With Cerebus"

ORB Magazine #1 (1974)
In 1975 Dave Sim was hired by James Waley as senior editor at Toronto's Orb Magazine, which ceased publishing with issue 6 in 1976.

(from Cerebus Archive #6, February 2010)

Number 5:
Super-heroes just don't work in black and white. If you're going to do black and white comic books, stick to subject matter and characters that work in black and white (Cerebus wasn't created to be gray by accident).

Number 4:
Changing the format is a bad idea -- going from magazine size to comic book and then back again was just confusing. A mistake in instructions to the printer meant Cerebus No.1 was magazine size and I thought I was done for. I never varied the format after issue 2 and never consciously.

Number 3:
An anthology title is only as timely as its slowest contributor. If you do the whole book yourself, it's only late if you're late. I tended to be the only guy to get my work in on time no matter who I was working for (except when Gene Day was involved). Just being reliable will get you more work and sales over the long term.

Number 2:
Continued stories don't work in erratically published titles or anthology titles. 5- or 6- page installments are too short to "hook" the average reader. A continued story has to be book-length and anthologised stories have to be self-contained.

Number 1:
Starting with issue 4, Orb was distributed to Canadian newstands by Pentams Ltd. It's a standard trick to give the publisher widly optimitic preliminary "sell through" numbers (i.e. 80%) that then plummet (i.e. 20%) when finalized. By the time 5 and 6 were both in the pipeline and disaster looming. As a first-time experiment it was costly if not fatal in itself.

The addition of a colour section in the middle multiplied costs and had no appreciable positive effet on sales. Jim wasn't alone in making this mistake: Jim Warren did the same thing with Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella and so did Mike Friedrich with Star*Reach and Imagine.


Jeff Seiler said...

So, I looked at the linked websites and none of them lists Dave Sim as a contributor. Anyone here know what issues he contributed to? Was it a case of when he was just helping Gene Day with inking, and therefore was not credited?

eric fennessey said...

On point 2: the British anthology comic 2000AD has bucked that "rule" for over 30 years. That said the British norm was anthology titles, and it's pretty much the last survivor of that era.

Damin J. Toell, Esq. said...

Jeff, Dave was hired as a senior editor, so he wouldn't be credited for any content contributions. That said, he and Gene did a proposal for a series entitled "The Partisan" for Orb, as seen in Cerebus Archive 4.