Friday, 28 April 2017

Dave Sim: "Breaking The Glass Ceiling"

Original ad for the first printing of High Society, 1985.

(from Brighter Than You Think, Ten Short Works By Alan Moore, Uncivilised Books, 2016)
...The dispute arose over Dave Sim's decision to sell the trade paperback edition of his Cerebus graphic novel, High Society, himself rather than through the comic book retail market, for which Diamond was the primary distributor.  When it was originally published as a single "phonebook" edition in 1985, High Society (which collected Cerebus #26-50) pioneered a radical new format for graphic novels. According to [Stephen] Bissette, "When Dave decided to make comics history by publishing the first collected editions of Cerebus that were larger in format and page count than any previous North American comics volume - Breaking the glass ceiling that would immediately and profoundly reshape the marketplace... he got a lot of resistance."

In order to sell High Society in comics shops, Sim would have had to sell the books to Diamond at a 65% off cover price. Because of the size and format, the book was priced at $25 (a bargain for nearly 500 pages) and, given Sim's background in self-publishing, he decided to try to maximise his profits by distributing it himself. This decision alarmed executives at Diamond, who feared that other creators might follow his example and attempt to by pass the traditional distribution channel. After some terse  communications back and forth, when Sim also refused to sell the second printing of High Society through the direct market, threats were made by Diamond employees to stop carrying and distributing The Puma Blues, an ongoing series by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli which Sim published separately under his company, Aardvark One International (the same company that was supposed to publish Taboo).

This unprecedented abuse of Diamond's inductry position served as a rallying call for creators and self-publishers in the late eighties, and many, including [Alan] Moore himself, contributed art and stories for The Puma Blues #20 (1988), a benefit issue to both help support the creators effected and make a statement against Diamond's unethical practices. Once the dispute was covered by the comics press, Diamond softened its position  and agreed to continue carrying The Puma Blues, but by that point, Sim had lost his appetite for publishing and dissolved Aardvark International One, leaving Taboo without a home...


Jeff Seiler said...

Man, how I hate Diamond! (But, let's keep that on the down-low; I'd still like to get CIH? #4 in May.)

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

I always thought Diamond was in the wrong with this -- and cowardly, to boot, for striking back at Puma Blues.

-- Damian