Sunday 14 June 2020

Moving Forward with SDOAR

Carson, here-

You all deserve more details. Also, it is important to hear from the fans regarding the future of SDOAR given this massively disappointing news coming from Dave.

Where the projects stand:

Two full volumes of SDOAR are completed and ready to print. They have been for quite a while. This is about 250 pages of material, about 75 pages of art from myself. (Sorry, not gonna take an exact count).

Both issues of YDKJ are ready for print, and have been for an even longer time. This is mostly my work, but includes a few drawings by Dave and a page per issue by Sean Robinson.

The Heritage Auctions parody catalog, Hermitage Awesomes is ready to print and has been for over a year. I wrote and designed the book with very vague instructions from Dave. He took what I did, made slight modifications to the design, and almost entirely re-wrote the gags.

There are 20 or so pages of mock-ups for Volume 3. Dave quit producing those when I told him I could not justify time away from my painting, which is important to my actual career, unless we had solid release dates and at least one actual book on store shelves. Basically: until I can put something tangible on my resume.

At some point "forthcoming from IDW" on the resume started to feel like a lie. Now it is actually a lie and I have been telling it to potential employers for a couple of years. Not cool.

Regarding IDW:

They are firmly out of the picture now that Ted Adams is no longer there. Scott Dunbier communicated this to Dave some time ago (I just found this out yesterday from Sean. Thanks for the updates, Dave.)

Ted told Dave many times that he was not in debt to them for the page rate he received while producing SDOAR. Dave continued to insist he was something like thirty-grand in debt, which was his reasoning for doing the release of SDOAR all backwards. He had to pay IDW off first, because he had no faith the book itself would earn them their money back.

Dave's marketing/release "scaffold" was initially something like: do a limited Artists Edition print of the first 50 pages of SDOAR, then release YDKJ, then release V 1., then another AE of another 50 pages. As time went on this shifted to 20 pages for the AE's, I believe. It is hard to tell. As may now be clear I often wasn't in the loop.

Regarding Heritage Auctions:

The plan then morphed into something like a collaboration between Heritage Auctions and IDW, in which we would release the HA parody, possibly with the full V1. in the back, then have the auction, etc. Neither company was ever fully on board. I am not sure IDW even knew Dave was working on this.

Dave was supposedly in contact with Todd Hignite from HA about all of this. As far as I could tell HA mostly wanted to auction the remaining original Cerebus art and was humoring the idea of a parody of their catalogs in an effort to get some of that action.

Hard to tell. Dave usually called me about these issues and the details often changed. He once asked me to just show up at the Heritage offices in San Francisco and walk around to check out their operations. I never understood what this was supposed to accomplish or why Dave thought I could just saunter in without him setting up an appointment for me.

We rarely ever talked about these things through fax. I have come to suspect Dave faxes and request faxes in return when he wants things "on the record" and calls when it benefits him to be able to say the other party got something incorrect. Just my perception.

For instance, Dave hoped aloud to me a number of times - knowing it was a long shot, I think - that HA would fly the two of us around the world to do showings of the art at their numerous show rooms. Wouldn't that be great for my resume? Or, more recently that we could set up a show of the art in San Diego to coincide with Comic Con when he got down there at the end of his CA trip.

Regarding the California Trip and the Edition to fund it:

This never made any sense to me either. When Dave first proposed it his thought was that if we worked our way from the top of CA to the bottom we would cause a word-of-mouth storm of excitement that by the time we hit Southern California would have Hollywood executives asking for a meeting to option our properties.

His plan for these meetings was to offer You Don't Know Jack as a television series in which Jack is stuck in a Groundhog-Day-style loop of the same day being lived out in different realities, as a different intersectional-identity-Jack each time. Each episode would have to be done entirely by representatives of a certain "community." For example, a Gay-Hispanic-Catholic-Female Jack episode, written, acted and directed by entirely by gay, Hispanic, Catholic women. Funny. I would have loved if we made it happen and got an award for contributions to diversity in film and television. But, uhhh... really? This is the plan? Really? Can we just release our comics?

Sean Robinson and Oliver Simonsen can back me up on this. They were both asked to help contribute to a producing a teaser trailer that would be shown to the executives in the meetings Dave's trip was supposed to whip up enough excitement to ensure. I never saw what was made and would love to see it.

Dave asked me to plan his trip. I refused, but did plug the list of stores Rolly generated into a trip-planner website that we paid $200 for.

The Fundraiser Edition for the trip was never mentioned to me. I would have been against it. I was against handing out free copies of our products on the trip as well. I can't imagine a product being interesting to publishers when the core audience has already purchased it and there are loads of free copies floating around the market.

But, apparently I was going to be signing them? A call or fax would have been nice.

My take:

I was always against these marketing and release plans. My stated position to Dave, since I finished my part of V1 in 2016, was always, "Give it to IDW and lets print this bad boy. The fans deserve it."

I, luckily, still have a lengthy letter I sent in early 2017 expressing my dissatisfaction, prior to me starting work on YDKJ. Dave called instead of faxing back on that one. That letter is available here.

Most of my faxes were sent by typing them directly into the text form at Hopefully they exist somewhere in Dave's archive. I suspect only his responses do.

But, it is Dave's baby. I bowed to his plans.

I was thrilled to work on YDKJ and was totally willing to delay V1 with the idea that YDKJ would be promotional material for SDOAR. Still proud of the work I did on that.

I was against the HA catalog, but felt it was the last barrier Dave could possibly throw up to publication so produced it begrudgingly. By the time I was done I was proud of it and still think it is funny.

I foolishly spent four months painting a cover for V1 that got scrapped. I hated every minute of making that painting and agreed upon completion it made a piss poor cover.

I foolishly worked on and completed V2, largely because the mock-ups Dave sent me excited me so much. I just really wanted to draw them. I am extremely proud of those pages.

At that point I became absolutely convinced of my suspicion that Dave has never had any intentions of releasing SDOAR, especially not of completing it., This worry had been in place since Dave first asked me to produce commentary for the AE (which I also did) intended to precede V1 in 2017. That ask was the impetus for the aforementioned letter.

As far as I can tell Dave will generate reason after reason, project after project, to push the release back in hopes of dying before the work is done. I really hate to say it, but that is my gut reaction to everything I have witnessed in the last four years.

I have never received on cent of payment for any of my work on any of these projects. I spent about two-and-a-half years not producing any of my own work. Associating myself with Dave has always been a massive risk to my career in academia, for what should be obvious reasons. I did it all, gladly, because I believed in the products. No regrets.

Moving forward:

Dave has always been very clear that all creators who contribute to a project have equal right to seek publication. I consider Eddie Khanna and Sean Robinson as massive contributors to the work and thus as co-owners. I hope Dave will honor his long-standing position on ownership and allow us to share our hard work with the world.

I, personally, think the best thing we can do is seek out a publisher willing to publish V1 and 2 as a single, printed collection. I would happily illustrate the 20 or so pages from Vol 3 that have been mocked up once a contract and release date are in place.

Part of Dave's reasoning for doing things his way was his belief that the book would perform so poorly that it would be immoral to let a publisher waste money promoting and publishing it. The best chance we all have of seeing the work completed is to actually publish it. If, IF, it were to do well and prove to be an income producer for Dave, it MAY convince him that SDOAR is more worthy of his time.

If it does poorly, well, at least it is out there, in a physical edition that we can all have as a record of where Dave hit a wall. Trust me, this does not look anywhere near as good digital as with proper printing. Everyone who has seen it in both formats will back me up on this.

Dave always said that if he died before he finished Cerebus it should be printed up to the point he died as proof of where God said "Enough." I would like to apply that here as well. "This is where 'far enough' was on SDOAR."

I believe even in an unfinished state SDOAR is a work worthy of publication. It is a real, formally ingenious, master-class in the comics medium. The world deserves to see it in the same way the world deserves to see every last scrap of Big Numbers. This is part of the medium's history and deserves to be revered as such.

Dave would be paid his cut. Of course.

It would be great to hear from you all what you think about this hope to publish. Doesn't mean we are going to agree, or that you will get your way (too many different opinions to achieve that, I am sure) but the input would be much appreciated.

Carson Grubaugh


Tony Dunlop said...

I want to read all of it. On paper that I can hold in my hands. I am willing to pay.
I could say more but that's it, in a nutshell. Carson, if you can pull it off, comicdom will forever be in your debt.

jonbly said...

Maybe we could get Terry Gilliam interested in this as a movie project: "The Strange Death of 'The Strange Death of Alex Raymond'".

> I believe even in an unfinished state SDOAR is a work worthy of publication

Well... the problem there is that a lot of the target audience already have an unfinished version of SDOAR, from glamourpuss. I'm not interested in anything less than the complete work at this point.

Michael R. said...

I would like to see SDOAR V1 and 2 published. Get the 20 or so mock up pages drawn and have the rest of V3 filled with Dave and Eddie's notes the rest of book. Ultimately, wouldn't be great to get Dave's blessing moving forward. But that's just me.

No digital. I want the real thing. Everything including YDKJ, HA parody. Everything.


andrew b said...

wow! thanks for sharing all that. i’d love to buy a print hardcover

Carson Grubaugh said...

Thank you, Tony. I will try.

Lmao. That would be amazing.
SDOAR is significantly different enough from Glamourpuss. Whether that justifies this or not, I get your concern.

The small amount of notes I have been privy to are ridiculously copious. GOodness knows what I have not seen. i am assuming multi-thousands of pages.

Welcome. Thanks.

M Kitchen said...

I want to see this thing in print.
Let's make it happen!

Bill Ritter said...

I'll echo Michael R. (and others)
Do it.
Keep it simple. If simple is Vol1, then Vol2, then Vol3...that's the way. If simple is Vol1 is a single edition 1-2 and the last 20 pages, and then as much a finish as possible but leave for potential Vol2/new story...then that's the way.

I've been a long tenured Patreon (2016, maybe...?) and early contributor to the CA roadshow a long time waiting on this. Reading Carson's commentary (thank you, Carson)...he's deserving of this being "alive" as any of us supporters.

Whether publisher or kickstarter...what's done needs to be released.

Robbie Foggo said...

I’m keen to see the finished work, preferably in print but would be happy to buy in digital format if that was the only option.

I didn’t sign up for the recent test volume due to other financial commitments recently (and postage to the UK adds a healthy chunk on to any purchase) but if you went through the shops or Kickstarter, I would be happy to pay for a Cerebus fan pleasing phone book or several smaller volumes of SDOAR and YDKJ.

Kyle Pinion said...

Personally, I'm pretty pro-digital just as a temporary salve for those who contributed to the Fundraising Edition, but Carson, you wouldn't be the first creator who feels strongly that their work should only be seen in print (see: Takehiko Inoue and Naoki Urasawa just off the top of my head), so I totally get it. Format is just as important as the medium itself.

I think a Kickstarter is the way to go. Stretching all the way back to Dave's public negotiations with Kim Thompson and Fantagraphics over at TCJ, there were *many* eagerly awaiting a released version of SDOAR, and I can't imagine that interest has withered at all in the last 8 years. A reprint of Cerebus #1 almost collected $50k, and I may be foolhardy here in my optimism, but I'm certain that the long awaited "second major work" of Dave Sim's career would easily garner lots of attention and support. Much like Cerebus, I think self-publishing SDOAR is the most fitting approach, but obviously only you, Dave, Eddie, and Sean know all the particulars and parameters in that decision-making process.

Anonymous said...

I'll echo the others in that I would love to see this out in some format. I backed Cerebus # 1 and would gladly back the SDOR material if it is something tangible not merely a speculative effort. That would include digital if you really had to.

Jason T said...

Thank you very much for your update, Carson. Clearly digital vs. physical publication (if there is any publication at all) is up to the remining three of you. I appreciate and support your desire for the work to see print in the best available format, BUT I have to say, as I look around at what is left of the direct market (post-COVID 19, post-DC separating from Diamond), and think about larger societal trends in general away from physical media, I don't see how it is feasible. If we look at Soundcloud rappers and artists (like Billie Eilish), they built a following through digital distribution of their work before moving into physical formats. This seems to me to be the way of the future even in comics. As a for instance, when I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio in the 80s and 90s, there were literally dozens of comic book stores I could go to for my purchases. Now, the entire city has three. Three. This is taking place all over the nation. Who is left to buy a physical copy and where could they even find one (all exceptions here duly noted)? This isn't a criticism of you or SDOAR, just an observation.

As is this: Dave ripped you off. Period. I am glad to read that you have no regrets, but unpaid labor is unpaid labor. It is a huge problem within the arts and non-profit fields, and I am aghast that Dave would be a party to it. I spent my career warning students away from it and working against things like unpaid internships.

If work made for hire and page rates were so unethical to Dave during his career, he should never have asked, much less allowed, for you to work "on spec." I couldn't even believe what I was reading. He owes you many thousands of dollars (if we use a $100/page rate as a baseline). I will ask the same question here as I sent to Eddie regarding the acceptance of money for the FE, all while Dave knew by his own admission that it probably wouldn't work out: How is this different than theft? Unpaid labor is theft. End of.

MichaelVP said...

To all who need to read this -- There is no book I am looking more forward to reading than The Strange Death of Alex Raymond. I will wait for as long as I have to. I will pay whatever you guys ask. I would like to see as much of it as there is too be seen or can be seen. I would like to read it in print-- in a real book or comic book -- I want to hold it (them) in my hands and put it (them) on my book shelf. I want something real. I'll buy it online or go to my local comic book store to get it. Whatever you guys want. Whatever you guys can do to make this happen sounds just fine by me. There is no book I am looking more forward to reading than The Strange Death of Alex Raymond. I thank you all very much.
- Respectively -

Jeff said...


Not since the 70s have I thought of the phrase "carpet bombing".

But, Carson; wow.

I have had many dealings with Mr. Sim over two decades, and I have always known him to be overly generous. And, at times, difficult. Boy, howdy.

He is, of course, now 64 years old (I'm 58 and disabled), but I think he's still sharp. If he disappointed you, stiffed you, I think that you need to wait for the denouemont.

If he is unwilling or unable to pay you, after I hear his side of the story (if it approximates the truth, as has yours, there's always three sides), then I will consider paying you off, in exchange for art.

All of these contretemps are solid proof that Dave was very smart, 43 years ago, to decide to be independent.

Bill Ritter said...

"then I will consider paying you off, in exchange for art."
That is hardly a pay off, Mr. Seiler.

Future Pastimes said...

Print it all.

Margaret said...

Carson - Please print it, hopefully on nice paper so we can see all the fine line work you did from what I saw on the few pieces posted to AMoC. I'm mostly looking forward the SDoAR work, but also the YDKJ and the HA work.

Michael Grabowski said...

Having specifically supported the effort to create & produce SDOAR every month since the pre-Patreon Paypal days, I definitely want to purchase a final (affordable) printed edition compiling all the completed work, particularly if it compensates Carson and others for work done. Let's not let thus be another Last Dangerous Visions.

Brian West said...

Hi, Carson.

I'm Brian West. CIH? Twitter volunteer #0001. I help solicit many items from Aardvark-Vanaheim on Twitter.

I am sorry to hear that you were not as involved in the decision making process as you deserve. I am surprised to read that you were surprised about the FE of SDOAR volume one. Also I am surprised that you have not been given compensation as of yet. Very surprised.

Well, to answer your question: print, print, print. If SDOAR is as good as advertised it could be a boon for both you, Dave, Eddie, Sean and the comics field as a whole. Going digital seems commonplace. Bucking the trend and going in on a print edition will send a message to the field, I think.

Concomitant with that thought I myself would like to have a copy sooner than later. When I forwarded the money to A-V via I thought that this was a good way to help support Dave. But now that I know more about your story here I would be willing to accept waiting on publication of Vol. 1 until you, Dave, Eddie, Sean can come together to formulate an equitable solution to this dilemma.

I think it fair to you and to many of the long-time SDOAR patrons. But I would rather see it in print. More time consuming, I am sure, at your end. However, it seems more archival to me. Plus, you never know. There might be a nuclear war which wipes all electronic media out. ;)

Ok, enough from me. Thanks for being willing to air your concerns and grievances here at AMOC. Very big of you, I think. Thanks to Matt too for allowing it to happen.

Tim Gagne said...

I went in for the first issue of SDOAR, I'm hoping that you guys can find a way to do it. Yes, 123 copies isn't going to make anyone rich, let alone break even. Sounds like there are 2 books finished and another that could be partially done. As great as this is, it falls short of the plans. Its the Big Numbers of our time. All I can say is there are some of us who would like to see whatever we can.

I'm sure there will be things to argue about from what comes out, should anything come out. Dave has his view of this history/mystery and others do as well. Hopefully the work can get published, even in a truncated form. All of the time Dave put into it as well as Carson should get something put out into the world, even if it only gives some people something to bitch about.

Tony again said...

"There might be a nuclear war which wipes all electronic media out. ;)"

More likely a solar storm. It's when, not if...

Dave Kopperman said...

It's been a little (?) difficult to parse exactly what Dave's intentions were regarding SDOAR, as that seems to have shifted a bit over the years. I'd assume that if actually printing the thing and getting it to market were his preferred goal, the Dave Sim who lived by the work ethic that brought Cerebus to stores month-in and month-out for three decades would have worked to get something out soonest. Given that every official statement from him on the subject of release over the years was hedged in one way or the other, I'd have to give Carson the benefit of the doubt, here.

I also think of Dave's interactions with offers from Fantagraphics and Marvel (that were well-documented by Dave) that unless a very strict set of conditions were met, he had no interest in a partnership/WFH arrangement with either entity. This is, of course, Dave's right, and in each instance, his reasons were logical and (Sim) ethical. But given that the end result of each - especially Kim Thompson's offer - was that nothing came to fruition, I can also only conclude that Dave's goal in both of those situations (at that stage in his career) wasn't to get Cerebus in front of the widest-possible audience but was instead to prove a point. Prove a point at his own expense, it must be added, since as he states in his SDOAR towel-throwing communiqué, he views the remainder of his career as trying to monetize Cerebus to the hilt.

And while I deeply admire the sense of ethical business practices that led to the decision, I'd say I agree with Carson's view that Dave insisting on paying off the original SDOAR page rate from IDW before printing DESPITE THE FACT that it had been effectively forgiven was ultimately another way to postpone releasing the thing.

On the SDOAR Artist's Edition, the scattershot nature of the loose Cerebus fanbase/production room/sales team (it all seems to be one and the same, at this point) was definitely to the detriment of buying it. When it was first announced, I had me a "Holy Shit!" moment. I really really wanted it. I clicked through, but got discouraged by the byzantine process by which it would be procured. TBH, I wasn't entirely sure I trusted it, no offense intended to anyone involved, so the two or three times I had second thoughts and went back to purchase, I had third thoughts and again demurred. And of all the ongoing methods to capitalize AV, it received the least push on this site and on other platforms, so it fell off the radar of the daily AMOC postings in favor of CIH tidbits.

My best thought is to first to find a publisher or, filing that run a Kickstarter/IndieGoGo to publish the first volume. It's the last major work by one of the most important creators in comics, full stop. It needs to get out - to quote Stephen King, here - "to escape the wearisome cage of its creator's questionable reputation." The desire to make SDOAR incarnate has been behind all of the money I've directed at Dave in the years since it was announced. My (admittedly, small) monthly Patreon donation, the two portfolios, even the few issues of CIH I continued to purchase long after I realized it wasn't to my taste, all fronted from me because of the stated goal of it being the way to make SDOAR happen. My groundless but real bitterness about that will pass. But my disappointment will linger pretty much for the remainder of my time as a fan of the man and the medium that he contributed so much to.

Steve Peters said...

My two cents:

I want, and would be happy to pay for, a copy of any Strange Death or You Don't Know Jack books. I don't care if they're never finished. If there's enough completed to put out a product that I can hold in my hands and read, I want it. I don't want an Artist's Edition or Portfolio or anything like that. I just want the product.

Sorry you had to deal with this, Carson. After 20+ years in the comics biz, I've had my share of disappointments, so I can certainly relate. It surprises me that Dave hasn't paid you anything given that he has so staunchly always made sure Gerhard got his cut, even after Dave bought out Gerhard's portion of A/V.

---Steve Peters

John Christian said...

I am definitely interested in having the physical book, to read, enjoy,and add to my collection. Preferably this book would contain both completed volumes along with whatever can be put together of volume 3 (that would hopefully include the completed 20 pages that were mentioned, along with whatever relevant notes on the remainder of the project that are available to be shared. It would be a travesty for this work to never see the light of day. It should be published, preferably with as much extras as possible, and hopefully without further major delays. And I would be willing to pay good money for the final product. Thanks for all of the work that you have put into this so far, and for your willingness to try to get it over the finish line.

John said...

Happy to pay for physical copies of everything. SDOAR was always something I knew was slowly making its way toward release, and I was willing to wait as many years as it took. If content exists and is ready to go now, it doesn't matter whether the story is complete. This has always looked like an important work. Incompleteness does not subtract from that importance. --John Thorne

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Carson G. is, shall we say, not an intellectual (funniest thing in the whole thread is Carson spouting, "Associating myself with Dave has always been a massive risk to my career in academia, for what should be obvious reasons." Ha ha hah! Yeah, Carse baby, yer gonna get blacklisted in academia 'cause you worked with a minor cartoonist they've never heard of. You're importing Dave's paranoia), but his account jibes with other stuff I've read. Sad to see the onging hardening of Dave's mental arteries.

Jeff S.: You're a gigantic weenie, dude.

I think Dave K. is on to something when he says that, "I can also only conclude that Dave's goal in both of those situations (at that stage in his career) wasn't to get Cerebus in front of the widest-possible audience but was instead to prove a point. Prove a point at his own expense, it must be added". Dave has repeatedly claimed he's just "reading into the record" his latest obsessions -- as if there were some Official Record of the Universe that someone will consult afterward and discover his neglected pearls of wisdom. Sad, really.

But hey! We still have Cerebus, and it's still worth studying for some people. Glass half-full!

-- Damian

Jeff said...

Damian T. L.? Thanks! It is big. The girls like it a lot! 😘 Sorry, to the rest of you.

I was not happy with Carson's post, but I know that he is an honest person.

Honest people can be wrong. God knows, I have been, at times.

I've called Dave for four days now and left various messages, with no response. That is unusual. I am seriously worried that he may be ill. I have tried leaving provocative messages on the voicemail, to no avail and, no response. Whenever I have called him, in the past, Dave has called back. Within two days.

I'm worried.

Who's gonna take care of the cats?

Anonymous said...

Check your email. I forwarded a message from him to you last night

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

"The girls like it a lot." What girls, Jeff?

"I have tried leaving provocative messages". No doubt boasting about your gigantic weenie. We all know how you feel about Dave, but I don't think he reciprocates.

-- Damian

Anonymous said...

Sorry that was for Jeff

David said...

Publish it! I'll buy it!