Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Cerebus-Ending Crisis: Can We Keep Going? - Part 3

A Portfolio of 10 Signed & Numbered Prints with Exclusive Commentary by Dave Sim
Raising Funds For The Restoration & Preservation Of The World's Longest Graphic Novel 



In answer to our Kickstarter Survey Question "Do you have any suggestions for future Cerebus Kickstarter campaigns?" Greg G of Los Angeles, California wrote:
Second suggestion is to break these campaigns out of the Cerebus fan echo chamber. Something like a CEREBUS ARCHIVE-endorsed anthology of criticism, not unlike the Eric Hoffman book [CEREBUS THE BARBARIAN MESSIAH edited by Eric Hoffman, McFarland and Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7864-6889-8] And it should be real criticism, and Dave should have the opportunity to respond to it. Bring in heavyweight literary and comics critics and maybe the premiums could include signed copies by some/all of them, or a video of some of them reviewing their thoughts with Dave, or something like that. Serves dual purpose of widening reach of Cerebus dialogue and raising the bar on Cerebus as literature.

2) I don't think it's possible to break CEREBUS out of the (your term) "CEREBUS Fan Echo Chamber". Everyone -- except 200 people -- are not likely to respond in any way but unfavourably to my suggesting that I and my work are deserving of anything other than the malice and contempt and universal dismissal that they've elicited for the last two-decades-plus. The evidence suggests that that's "baked in" to the collective societal choices we've made (or, as I see it, the collective societal misapprehensions to which everyone besides me has chosen to subscribe).

BTW, I respectfully submit that I don't agree with the premise of a "CEREBUS Fan Echo Chamber". It seems to me that the term itself is prejudicial in compelling the inference that the few remaining CEREBUS fans should be self-conscious about BEING CEREBUS fans and to convince them that there's something inherently wrong with them being CEREBUS fans. No one wants to be part of an Echo Chamber or to think themselves part of an Echo Chamber. So, I hope no one reading this takes your characterization to heart and decides to "jump ship" because of the way you've chosen to portray them.

We can't really afford to lose too many more supporters.

I see the remaining 200 fans as GENUINELY OPEN-MINDED people who are interested in what I have to say even though they completely disagree with pretty much everything that I say. That is, that they always have and always will disagree with everything that I say, but they're still CEREBUS fans and Dave Sim fans because of the quality of my work. 200 people is what we've got and I think it's only sensible to presuppose that that's ALL we're ever GOING to have. The likelihood is that the audience can only contract from there. A Feminist Theocracy is always going to be less open-minded than any other societal construct short of totalitarian communism.

We've (I think, self-evidently) arrived at a point where everyone -- besides me -- views Reality as being interchangeable with feminism. Everyone besides me has decided there's only One Right Way To Think About Feminism. I've made clear my views about feminism with The Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast. I reiterated them just last year with Erik (Hello, Erik!). I'm the only one, evidently, who thinks that way. I don't really see where a dialogue on feminism between Dave Sim and…well, anyone…would of any practical use -- or genuine interest at this late date.

Bottom line: to paraphrase the homosexual credo of the last century: "I'm here. I'm not a feminist. Get used to it."




Thought Experiment said...

If Dave would stop the self-pity and self-martyrdom, he vould ptobably get more attention for the quality of the work. But the continual carping about how he is a pariah mskes it tough to continur to support him.

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Dave, as one the 200-PLUS genuine Cerebus supporters who actually agrees with about 95% of your views (as you well know, or ought to), I still hold out hope that things will continue to improve.

"Continue?", you ask.

Yes. I see a small but steady uptick in interest, via the covers book, CIH?, and the remasters.

Now, of course, if the remasters are a break-even venture, then uptick in interest be damned, but it is an investment in the future. Once remastered, always remastered. Digital doesn't die; it can only get better.

I believe things will continue to get better. If Diamond ordered 3,000 copies of the remastered V1, then that's, what, a cool $60,000 to you, eventually. Surely, after the printing, remastering and proofreading costs, you're making some kind of profit, right? Right?

Oh, F*&#!!!

D.H. Sayer said...

Yeah...can't say I'd be psyched to read this either. I know Mr. Sim has an obvious stake in expanding Cerebus's audience and we fans might occasionally think it'd "be nice" to have truckloads of more vocal Cerebus fans in the world, but sometimes that isn't for the best. For example, speaking as someone who was a David Foster Wallace fan before he killed himself, it's been pretty horrifying how the general public's opinion of him has been reduced to regarding him as either some sort of wise saint or just someone who overexcited, typically young, white, left-leaning males worship. Or how they seem to glom onto one aspect of his work to the exclusion of the superior stuff. He's also become someone who everyone has to weigh in on, so you get collections of takes like the one described above, which can turn out to be pretty worthless. Granted, some of the writing generated by widespread interest in someone can be worthwhile, but there's a lot of sifting through crap to get to it.

Anyway, I find that one of the big advantages to widespread interest in an artist (usually occasioned by that artist's death) is being able to see stuff that you would've never been able to see otherwise. In this respect, we are incredibly lucky as Cerebus fans that Mr. Sim shares stuff like notebooks, correspondence, direct commentary on the work, etc.--stuff that is almost impossible to get from other major (or even minor, now that I think about it) writers (or, at best, it's all squirreled away in some university's collections). Like, speaking very selfishly here, for a fan of Cerebus there is no advantage gained if Cerebus got really popular--Mr. Sim is already providing us with all the "perks" that usually come with increased attention (not to even mention the direct lines of communication he gives us).

Again, this is probably irrelevant to the artists themselves who have other vested interests in having their work do well in the world (not the least of which being financial in nature). And of course it's a great "problem" for a fan to have, having the world pay attention to something you're interested in. But sometimes it can all seem like a steep price to pay to have a constant flow of people saying to you (for example), "I wonder why an Aardvark" or "I've only read #186" or "I like the earlier, funnier stuff"--especially when it doesn't prompt more output from the artist, which is the case here; I can't see Mr. Sim working any harder at providing access than he already is.

Jimmy Gownley said...

If you're interested in finding new Cerebus readers make an active push to get Cerebus into more libraries. It's sounds like a small thing. It isn't.

Jeff Seiler said...

I agree, Jimmy. I did that for years, back when I was a substitute techer and and adjunct college professor. I had very mixed results, to say the least.

I think the reason most librarians balk at it is the cost of the entire run in book form. Perhaps, as the world, even libraries, becomes increasingly digital, the $99 digital download vs. approximately $600 for all 16 books will lead to increased purchases by libraries.

Dominick Grace said...

In the vanishingly remote chance that such a reward collection were to be considered, I would be happy to write something for it.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

I agree with Jeff S. (I know!) that we are at the moment seeing an uptick of interest in Cerebus. I note that two spurs for this seem to be the covers book and the Photoshop-strips book. Given the commercial failures of Judenhass and Glamourpuss, it seems that what the public wants is "Cerebus by Dave Sim" and not "comics by Dave Sim".

I also agree with D.H. Sayer that we are fortunate that Dave has never been shy about the "inside baseball" aspect of his career. This will be useful for Cerebus scholar-squirrels (a significant part of Cerebus knowledge is not in the comics themselves), for comics historians studying the 1970s - 1990s period, and for cartoonists navigating their own artistic and commercial careers.

And Dave ... So far in three of fourteen parts, we have gleaned two relevant pieces of information: 1) The financial situation is more dire than we may have known, and 2) Dave estimates the number of Cerebus fans at 200. (That's a bit below the "1,000 True Fans" threshhold, so perhaps that might be a goal.) The rest of the 2,000 words is the usual Dave whinge: "I'm not as acclaimed as I should be, and it's all Feminism's fault!"

-- Damian

Dave Sim said...

Jeff Seiler - In the long, long climb back up The Mt. Everest of Comics, no situation is exactly like the previous situation. Each time we can get a book completely remastered and get Diamond stocked up to the 3,000-copy level, that alleviates the pressure in the area of THAT BOOK. But CHURCH & STATE is a good example: V1 is in that category but V2 isn't because it's been remastered but hasn't been printed (because Diamond still has copies and I still have copies). I describe those as "unfunded" books: it's all expense with no revenue. But, it needs to be done. Remastering is such a long process, that you can't just stop and say, "Well, okay, we'll do C&S II when Diamond runs out of them." That could be two years or three years from now. So we're all the way over Big Impediment (C&S are the biggest books) #1 and halfway over Big Impediment #2.

Also, there was a trade-off with Diamond that the payments on the print runs are broken up into three quarterly instalments. So, we're paying ALL the printing bill but only getting a third of the money. With no idea when the next book is going to be "in play" (which is looking to be MINDS right now). Whatever book it is, it's going to be ALL the printing bill with only a third of the revenue.

And the CEREBUS trade is always a variable because its sales outstrip all of the other books. We can't time when we're going to need more MINDS and more CEREBUS so it makes financial sense. And WHEN we need them is always "As soon as they're sold out". :)

Dave Sim said...

Damian - 1) Yes, that was one of those things that I thought people should be notified about and there was never an opportune moment to do it: "I appreciate all you folks coming aboard CEREBUS PONTOON AIRLINES, I just thought you should know that those intermittent -- every six months or so -- 'bumps' you've been feeling mean that we've hit the water and are partly submerged. Fortunately, we've managed to get airborne again after each one. In the event that we DON'T, your personal flotation device is...either largely fictitious or almost completely theoretical. So, sit back, relax..."

2) 200+ insofar as Kickstarter is concerned and that's really the "make or break" when it comes to remastering because of the unpredictability of when the books sell out. I mean, Good News We Only Need To Get The CEREBUS V1 Trade Back In Print (in the foreseeable future). Bad News Where Are We Going To Get The Money to Remaster and Print MINDS? if the three payments from Diamond are needed to keep the doors open and the lights on.

"So far so good on CEREBUS PONTOON AIRLINES!" though :)

Dave Sim said...

Jeff II - We're charting CIH? #0 sales through Diamond. Diamond very kindly took 1,000 more copies than they had orders for -- 8,000 instead of 7,000 -- and from what we can see, half of the extra 1,000 have sold. What that does to the orders on CIH?#1? Well, we're waiting to see. That's why I left the gap between the publication of #0 and #1. Whatever was going to happen it would be in enough time for the stores to have their "best information" on sales in hand.

Wildly optimistic? There would be a need for a second printing.

Well, that hasn't happened, so the next possibility is the stores deciding to stand pat on #1 or increase their orders because it's a #1. Which pushes the next possibility down the line: do they stand pat on #2 or drop their orders and how much do they drop them by?

CIH? was developed as something to drive traffic to cerebusdownloads.com and that definitely hasn't happened, so the days of the daily online strip might be numbered.

Now it's: what are the orders on the mini-series and is it viable as a series of one-shot comic books?

Michael Grabowski said...

If the purpose of CIH? is to drive interest to cerebusdownloads.com, does it not make sense to release it digitally on Comixology? That is, if you're looking for digitally-oriented readers who aren't already catching the daily webcomic, shouldn't the comic show up on the leading digital comics site?

Dave Sim said...

Michael - I've definitely thought about that. But more along the lines of "Does it make sense to advertise ON Comixology?" Maybe the thing to do is to pitch Comixology on running the daily strip and linking it to cerebusdownloads.com. I suspect they aren't looking for off-ramps from their site, however.

But, we should probably look into it. They MIGHT look at it as "daily content is a good idea and there aren't a lot of daily online strips."