Sunday, 18 December 2016

In Defense Of Bud Plant

Editorial: In Defense Of Bud Plant
by Gary Groth
The Comics Journal #121, April 1988

(from We Told You So: Comics As Art, Fantagraphics Books, 2016)
...I haven't looked at this in ages, but I think we had a back-and-forth where I wrote a couple of pieces about [Dave Sim], and he wrote a big piece about me in Cerebus, and naturally I wrote a response and so forth. It was one thing after another. I remember Dave also attacked Bud Plant over some utterly specious nonsense, and I mean Bud is probably one of the few fucking saints in the comics industry. So they had this big brouhaha, and not too long after that, Sim was palling around with Steve Geppi and lifting brewskis and watching football games with him. Earlier he had taken this exhibitionistically moral stance about what an unethical person Geppi was, and then shortly thereafter he's buddying up to him. So I think he was displaying signs of neo-Ayn-Randian economic models back then that were sort of seeping out of his writing, which I thought were morally dicey. I think I went after that too.

At the time, these were like life-and-death issues and I wrote with that kind of urgency. Looking back, perhaps that was naive, but I wouldn't mitigate that passion, in retrospect, for anything...

Dave Sim "buddying up to" Steve Geppi
Backcover, Following Cerebus #6
(November 2005)

Related AMOC Posts: 
The 1995 Distributor Wars


Anthony Kuchar said...

So was Steve Geppi a "bad guy" or something? In the Wikipedia article it said that he founded Diamond and was against distributing the famous Miracleman "birth" issue by Alan Moore. But it seems he backed down and realized that was censorship and silly.

Then he was investigated by the US Justice dept. for anti-trust violations. And that was dropped.

Unknown said...

Anthony - That pretty much sums it up to the best of my knowledge. Steve also served on the COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND Board of Directors and, as far as I know, donated to the CBLDF as well.

I got a phone message from Baker & Taylor today, coincidentally, asking who my U.S. distributor was and could they buy direct from me? I explained about my loyalty to Diamond because they're backstopping the remastering by buying entire print runs and explained that they have ALL of the CEREBUS trades except for Volume One because it's being printed right now. I think that might have been what prompted the call: they hadn't been able to get Volume One with Christmas bearing down on us.

So, good news in a way: that Baker & Taylor was interested enough to leave a phone message.

Slumbering Agartha said...

I had to google Baker and Taylor, not having heard of them prior, and was amazed to see they've been in business for 180 years!

Unknown said...

Mike - Yes, they are definitely "go to" guys, worldwide.

The more esoteric LCS's like them because they provide another distribution means of getting books that are HOT! (i.e. have great "velocity" and aren't always available from Diamond BECAUSE of that "velocity"). It's a balancing act for the stores: you want to keep your Diamond numbers up to maintain your discount plateau (the more you order, the better your discount) but you also want to make sure that you have HOT books in stock WHEN they're HOT.

We used to sell to Baker and Taylor waaay back when and they usually only ordered one or two copies of a title (in response to a single-copy walk-in-customer request from a book retailer). The reason the phone message is good news is that we must have hit a "tripwire": multiple requests for the CEREBUS Volume One trade and no availability from Diamond. That put it on someone's desk to contact us by phone.

Slumbering Agartha said...

Dave - A Cerebus resurgence would be a great thing. It's already been twelve years since the final issue, so one could argue that we're due for one. To put it in perspective, twelve years is close to half the length of the Cerebus run. Hard to believe it's been that long.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Mike B.: I think we're definitely seeing a bit of an uptick with the covers book, CiH, and (the best part) the phonebooks being restored and reprinted.

-- Damian

Unknown said...

We'll see. Sales are still dropping across the board so we aren't standing pat: everything that we can think of that might work -- however temporarily -- we're going to give it a try!

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Dave: Am I remembering correctly when you said sales on the second issue of CiH were about two-thirds of the first? That beats your own rule-of-thumb of a fifty-percent decline issue over issue. So perhaps there's room for hope (still, as my mother always said, hope for the best but plan for the worst).

I thought at the time that Diamond was being hypocritical by dropping Puma Blues and not Cerebus. It smelt as if they wanted to appear to make a point (dropping a book to get Dave's attention to an underling (and the worst part is that there are enough "Dave's giant ego" stories out there that this isn't immediately deniable)) without jeopardizing their bottom line (Cerebus vastly outsold Puma Blues). It wasn't Dave who cast Murphy & Zulli as pawns in the game. It was like hurting a man's kids to get to him. Unsavoury.

-- Damian

Unknown said...

Damian - Well, actually, there was a tit-for-tat logic to it: if I was going to pick and choose what I was going to sell to them -- CEREBUS and THE PUMA BLUES but not HIGH SOCIETY -- they were going to pick and choose what they were going to carry.

It was actually Steve Harold who brokered the truce between me and Steve Geppi -- which he reminded me of when I was staying with him and Liz and the kids in Chicago last year. "Steve Geppi and Dave Sim CAN'T be on opposite sides." Steve Geppi was persuaded and I was persuaded. All that was missing was a face-to-face meeting. Which then happened (you couldn't make this up) in a washroom at one of the comics trade shows. Standing at the urinal, doing my business and turned to my left and there was Steve.

"You know the last time that happened to me?" he said, when we were back outside. "A fundraiser for President Clinton. Turned to my left and there was the President of the United States."

Seemed auspicious and Steve and I have gotten along just fine ever since. Diamond wouldn't be backstopping the restorations and keeping the books in print without Steve's okay.

And it was baseball. The Baltimore Orioles. Steve's a minority owner with seats right behind the Orioles dugout.

Unknown said...

Damian II - That's one of the big reasons behind doing a four-issue mini-series, so we can see what the sales do over the course of the four issues and then take a month or two to go "Okay, now that we know THAT what do we know?"

You're right that it's a shallower-than-usual drop-off, which means there are some -- theoretically -- solid sales there.

If the successive drops between 1 and 2 and 2 and 3 and 3 and 4 are similarly gradual or -- unlikely but the best possible news -- actually level off, then we should be in good shape for doing CEREBUS IN HELL? one-shots and seeing what that would/will do.

Probably experimenting with the page count and price point. CIH? originally had a $5 cover price that we dropped to $4 before the solicitation in response to the sales figures on #0.

If there's a steep drop-off on sales, then there's the possibility of dropping the page count from 24 to 16 pages and putting the price up to $5 and then $6 and seeing what that does to sales.

Diamond actually solicited #0 as 32 pages and no one has noticed or mentioned that it was only 24 pages. Which I'm taking as good news.

Slumbering Agartha said...

I'm wondering what the impact of CiH will be on someone who has never before heard of Cerebus (some 15 year-old just coming into their sense of aesthetic). Lured in by the cover, the kid begins to flip through it, and at first it's confusing because the kid doesn't know why this little gray guy keeps talking about someone named Cerebus, and then it dawns on the kid "... ohhhh... this gray guy speaks in third person...". At first the strips just seem weird to the kid, but they're unlike anything else on the market so the kid is drawn in enough to ask the comic shop owner a question: "you got any more stuff with this gray guy in it?", to which the comic book store owner responds: "yeah, another six thousand pages..."