100 Hour Tour: The Comics Village Pt 2
What follows are the posts from Dave Sim made to The Comics Village's message board as part of his "100 Hour Internet Tour".
2/21/2008 10:26:00 AM: Hi, I'm almost late again: trying to figure out/remember how you post a reply here. All the way to the bottom. Anyway, thanks to everyone for tuning back in again a couple of weeks later. I'm here to talk about my new title glamourpuss which will be shipping in April. By now, pretty much all of the retailers will have gotten their COMICS INDUSTRY PREVIEW EDITION of glamourpuss No.1 as part of their Diamond Dateline package for Feb 13 -- so, if you're curious about the book but don't want to "commit" quite yet I'd strongly recommend that you go into your local store and ask to see the CPE of glamourpuss No.1. It'll take about 20 minutes to read and I think you'll "get" what the title is about right away. There's still about a week until the retailers have to have their final numbers in at Diamond so there's no HUGE rush, but you might want to indulge in a mental or literal post-it note reminding you to hit your "local" over the weekend or early next week.
Anyway, it's nice to be back in The Village so I'll skip back and see what I missed.
2/21/2008 10:36:00 AM: It's true I can run but I can't hide. I'm hoping to come into NYC on the Wednesday or maybe even the Tuesday and dinner with you and Kristen is at the top of my list (and has been since your original offer). I don't have what I would call a BETTER offer, but certainly a DIFFERENT offer: Neil Gaiman and Peter Straub. After that I'll be looking forward to having dinner with two folks, like myself, who AREN'T New York Times Best-Selling Authors (er -- Kristen ISN'T a New York Times Best-Selling Author is she? I know you aren't)
And it was ARM wrestling...not WRESTLING wrestling. If it's a nice place (and I assume it is) maybe Kristen can hold up her coat while we settle things so as not to attract the attention of the other patrons. No sexism intended but I would feel funny arm-wrestling both of you.
2/21/2008 10:48:00 AM: Sorry we missed each other here. I'm really trying to limit my personal appearances through 2008 so that I can make SURE to get glamourpuss out on time. Just about everything is a steep learning curve at this point: juggling ALL of the business side, ALL of the art chores, as well as coordinating the scanning, promotion (how much time SHOULD be devoted to promotion on an on-going basis with a new title? Good question). I'm hoping I can have a clear idea of what my 60-day work cycle is going to be looking like and can include a number of major conventions starting in '09 (and Birmingham is definitely a city I'd like to get back to).
But not this year, mate. I'm sure everyone will have more than enough fun without me, but I really appreciate the interest.
2/21/2008 11:00:00 AM: Hi again, Alex. Sorry to hear about you and Tony C. packing it in on the digest. Turned out to be (snicker) Box Office Poison, eh?
No, seriously, I think it has become a major problem in comics that anything that is serialized x number of people are just going to wait for the "collected" version to come out. It's particularly true in the indy end of things with the indy specialty stores. Peter Birkemoe at The Beguiling can always be counted on in any discussion of any project I'm thinking of to say, "And this would be a hardcover?" I can't argue the point successfully, especially with the way The Beguiling is set up like a high-end avant garde bookstore but it does suggest a slippery slope that we all find ourselves on.
So how does that affect your forward momentum as a creator? One of the things about serialization to me is that it gets you to the board and gets you working because of the relentlessness of the schedule. Wherever I am in the process I better be producing usable pages. Have you slacked off on the storyline since the digest was abandoned? The indy guys who are coming up through the ranks should, I think, be made aware of as many of the pitfalls as possible. Between producing an OGN with no serialization and getting invited to way too many conventions way too close together, it's got to be like coming up to the plate with two strikes against you before you even get to swing the bat.
Anyway, say hi to Kristen for me and ask her to PLEASE not write any New York Times Best-Selling books before mid-April for the sake of my ego. Much obliged.
2/21/2008 12:39:00 PM: Hi. We've hit a snag. I typed a long post and I'm being notified there's a Server problem. Duane's taking a look on the other laptop. Of course it has to be the longest post I've done in a while...won't let him cut and paste it even, John just told me.
Houston We have a problem. Please stand by. He has cut and pasted it. Message has been saved.
2/21/2008 12:51:00 PM Okay, Duane has saved the previous post and we'll try to post it later on. It was more than a little long-winded, in answer to Craig's question about the "classics".
Long story short, I think that we have to get used to the fact that there does tend to be an adversarial relationship in comics between the "cartoony" and "realism" factions. Before I type any more I'm going to see if I can post this message. One week from today, computers will be a rapidly fading memory for me.
2/21/2008 12:58:00 PM: Okay, we seem to be fine now. Actually a recommended reading list is a good idea, but it's also true that there is very little that has been written and published about the photorealists. Burne Hogarth was an overt exception but most of the realistic illustrator/cartoonists seemed to adopt a "I'll let the work speak for itself" credo which doesn't really work in this Internet day and Internet age. I think those of us who think very highly of photorealism need to be a bit more vocal about it. If you don't talk about something in the 21st century everyone tends to just "read in" the compelled inference that everyone thinks the way they do.
Since I've started doing glamourpuss, I've been surprised by the number of Raymond School, Al Williamson/Stan Drake/et al enthusiasts there seem to be. Okay, I'm going to post this and then Duane's going to see if he can post the mammoth one. Hang on.
2/21/2008 12:59:00 PM: You know even back in 1994 when I MC'ed the Harvey Awards in Dallas in the years when Al Williamson was winning the Best Inker award every year for his work on DAREDEVIL over John Romita Jr., it was amazing the number of people who ONLY knew him from that work. But that's very much the nature of the environment is the unpredictability of it and the extent to which one individual can suddenly change everything -- so suddenly and so dramatically -- that you don't even notice until it's a fait accompli. The comic-book field was built, in large part, on the foundations of Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Milt Caniff. Just about every big name in the Golden Age of comic books could be charted directly to one of those three Schools (Joe Shuster "doing" Raymond, Bob Kane "doing" Caniff, Shelly Moldoff "doing" all three, as Jules Feiffer pointed out, often in the same story). In the National Cartoonist Society it was the same. The big foot strips were really just "filler" between the jaw-dropping full page glory of Jungle Jim/Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant and Terry and the Pirates.
The reduction in size of the strips coupled with the appearance and exponential rise of the success of PEANUTS just...eliminated...the high-end guys. Stan Drake spent the last few years of his life drawing Blondie, Leonard Starr was tapped to revive Little Orphan Annie and so on.
Even as I was conceiving of glamourpuss, talking it over with Chester Brown particularly, there was a definite sense of "Why would you even bother doing this? Go with the flow. Do a cartoony Dave Sim autobio graphic novel." And I don't mean just from Chester, Joe Matt said basically the same thing about the COLLECTED LETTERS 2 cover when he was up from LA for TCAF and I showed it to him at The Beguiling. He couldn't have hated it more if it was a guy's face in one of his dubbed porno tapes. But when he saw the Kirby Monster I did as a benefit for the Doug Wright Awards? "See, you're really good at this...you should do more stuff like this." I had talked to Chester about it on the phone ("I told Seth I'm doing a Kirby Monster and he's doing one, too") so I got off the phone and three hours later I had a full colour 11x17 Kirby Monster. Coming off all the photorealism stuff I was doing it was like leaving the NHL and playing road hockey for the night. No precision necessary. Going from a situation where a few microns difference in placement of a model's eye can be the difference between "Sweet!" and "Dude, yechh -- what's up with her left eye" to "This is roughly where the eye goes -- could be off by an eighth of an inch but, hey, it's a Kirby Monster. If it's too symmetrical, if the ink line is too clean or sharply defined, if the feathering all goes the same way it's going to look like an illustrator trying to "fix" Kirby. Like the Langridge cover on the COMICS JOURNAL of Fin Fang Foom. Beautiful picture, but only vaguely Kirby-like.
Like when I inked the promo illustration for Bissette's horror slide show, doing my best Berni Wrightson improving on Graham Ingels' illustration line. "Too pretty," pronounced Steve, "Too clean". And he was right. Technically it was a better picture but it was lousy Bissette.
It's part of the point I was making with the COMIC EYE cover. Here's me cleaning up Ghastly Graham Ingels a la Berni Wrightson. If I had submitted it to Gaines and Feldstein in 1952 I'd probably have gotten SOME work but I'd just be known as that guy that does the "too pretty" Ingels knock-off. There's a reason Al Williamson did mostly sf and very little horror for EC.
Anyway, the problem with that is that the discussion just moves away from realism and everyone acts as if realism is inherently bad comics. And as tends to happen when these illusory consensus views take shape you find yourself being carried along with it. Oh, yeah Todd McFarlane -- MUCH better than Art Adams. Whoah, whoah, whoah. But the longer no one says anything the more the entire field slides in the other direction. I was lucky enough to be in the situation where I knew the vocal elite was going to dump on whatever I did next no matter what I did so, hey, let's go back and try something Incredibly Difficult and Challenging but Also Fun -- let's "do" or more to the point DO Alex Raymond, Stan Drake, Al Williamson.
What's odd is that it is starting to seem like I'm very far from being as alone in that as I thought I was -- a lot of guys my age are starting to go back to Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, Al Williamson, Neal Adams and so on out of personal preference. Dark Horse is bringing out the CREEPY ARCHIVES, the ALEX RAYMOND book is selling well. Bryan Hitch is at the top of the WIZARD Top Ten list this month.
The vocal elite in indy comics is reacting predictably -- photorealism is s--t -- but that doesn't mean that we can't investigate if that's just them or if that's an actual consensus in the field. I suspect it's just them and that there's still a great deal to be said in trying to be as "true to life" as those of us who are interested in "true to life" choose to attempt.
Sorry I got a little long-winded there, but it seems to me that's part of the problem I'm facing and that people who share my preferences are facing. It's not just talking about what I consider the best work in comics, it's identifying how it went from the center of the field to the margins of the field and why that doesn't seem to be a particularly valid "truth" to adhere to. People will call you crazy for liking realistic artwork but, hey, don't worry about it. Those people call anyone crazy -- or s--t -- who doesn't share their preferences. That doesn't mean that you're crazy -- or s--t -- in my opinion. If you think it's the best stuff, for you it is. Changing your opinions to conform to those of a self-declared elite seems really silly to me. Life's too short.
I have a prayer time, Craig, but when I get back, I'll get to the rest of your question[s]since you've touched on a number of pertinent areas to the discussion of photorealism.
See you soon.
2/21/2008 1:28:00 PM: Okay. That's two posts that it didn't accept. Let's see if it will accept this one.
2/21/2008 1:30:00 PM: Okay COMMA let's answer in telegram form COLON RIP KIRBY is owned by Alex Raymond which COMMA I think COMMA explains why KFS only publishes it off-shore STOP
2/21/2008 1:35:00 PM: Not sure who to complain to STOP Suspect squeeze play on Raymond heirs COLON not enough money to sue King Features Syndicate ergo KFS playing waiting game STOP No RIP KIRBY copyright listed in Tom Roberts ALEX RAYMOND LIFE AMPERSAND ART STOP Copyright in Spanish reprints KFS SEMI-COLON Trademark Hearst Holdings STOP Suspect stink like fish on ice STOP What else new QUESTION MARK
2/21/2008 1:37:00 PM: Roger Gleenn STOP Read you loud and clear STOP Old Cary Grant fine STOP How you QUESTION MARK
2/21/2008 1:42:00 PM: Dave Sim attempt light HYPHEN hearted Raymond homage STOP Stumble into huge creator's rights issue dating back fifty years and SLASH or more STOP Reduced to explaining self like caveman STOP Please Advise STOP over.
2/21/2008 1:45:00 PM: Old Dave Sim not want lose more long posts STOP minimizing risk of same STOP Will come second night STOP If you have one STOP
2/21/2008 1:50:00 PM: Old Dave Sim now out of telegram anecdotes COLON Cary Grant AMPERSAND Winston Churchill STOP Will attempt normal post STOP short STOP normal post STOP
2/21/2008 1:54:00 PM: Old Dave Sim explain obscure anecdote COLON playwright wired Churchill COLON QUOTE Two tickets for opening night STOP Bring a friend STOP if you have one STOP Churchill wired back COLON QUOTE Unable to attend opening night STOP Will come second night STOP If you have one STOP
2/21/2008 1:58:00 PM: Old Dave Sim explain first anecdote COLON Gossip columnist wires Cary Grant COLON QUOTE How old Cary Grant QUESTION MARK CLOSE QUOTE Grant wires back COLON QUOTE Old Cary Grant fine STOP How you QUESTION MARK
2/21/2008 2:05:00 PM: Hi Craig: I think it may be more complicated than that on the RIP KIRBY trademark and copyright if the correspondence still exists where Raymond got talked into doing a new strip when they wouldn't give him back FLASH GORDON (because he volunteered for military service, they weren't obligated to hold his position open for him) and his requirement was that he would own the strip. It certainly sheds new light on why Milt Caniff dropped TERRY & THE PIRATES (which he didn't own) and signed a deal to do STEVE CANYON (which he did) a couple of years later. I suspect the Raymond family cares very deeply about this, having seen the agonies that Alex Raymond went through 1945-46 and I suspect KFS is counting on subsequent Raymond generations not being as interested.
As always seems to happen to me, none of this is any of my business and yet of critical importance to me as someone who sees RIP KIRBY as one of THE high water marks in comics. What to do?
2/21/2008 2:14:00 PM: Hi Craig: There are certainly a lot of potential pitfalls. It's obviously easier for stores to focus on a new book that only has two issues out than the World's Longest Graphic Novel at sixteen volumes. I am pretty confident after thirty years of experience, though, that a lull is just that: a lull -- and the stores and customers will always rediscover CEREBUS every few months: in the case of the stores when volumes two and twelve are flopping around in a big empty space by themselves ("Hmm. Maybe time to reorder").
Just the fact that glamourpuss is getting (what is to me) the enormous amount of attention that it is getting is absolutely astounding to me (LOOKIN FOR HEROES talking about ordering 30 copies or so: I mean, this is a great store but it's definitely a Marvel and DC and card store) given that when I closed my eyes and threw a ninety-yard spiral in the direction of the end zone at the beginning of December, I had no idea I'd have so many "receivers" under it with six days left on the clock (to absolutely torture a metaphor to within an inch of its life).
2/21/2008 2:26:00 PM: See, again, I don't think it's that simple. My best speculation is that the Hearst people and the King Features Syndicate people are publishing the strip offshore in order to maintain their claim to the copyright and trademark by basically making it difficult for the Raymond family to challenge them. You want to go all the way to Spain and hire a Spanish lawyer and live there long enough and spend enough money to challenge Hearst Holdings? They'll use up every nickel of yours and then force a concession.
They aren't publishing in North America, I suspect, because there are more legal recourses here: the Illustrators Club might take it up as a cause celebre or the National Cartoonists Society could do so. Bad headlines, possibly enough money for the Raymond family to fight and win -- and then they have grounds to claim every penny KFS has made off of RIP KIRBY offshore since the 1950s. That jeopardizes the whole ball of wax since these are not exactly salad days for King Features Syndicate. How many papers is POPEYE still in? How many papers is BLONDIE still in?
What's the Raymond family's attitude? Tom Roberts book was delayed a couple of times and it comes out with RIP KIRBY art in it and no copyright in the indicia. It's not exactly Fort Sumnter but it is volley of some description on someone's part.
And along comes Dave, "Say -- I'm going to try to teach myself the Raymond School by tracing Alex Raymond panels and commenting on them in the word balloons. Anybody got a problem with that?"
Little realizing that I'm standing between two armed camps that have been keeping their powder dry for five decades. Only Dave Sim could do that completely inadvertently.
2/21/2008 2:32:00 PM: Stan Drake with HEART OF JULIET JONES: I'll have to check and see who owns that. Al Williamson's SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN -- that's King Features, too, according to the indicia in the Tom Roberts book. Raymond signed to do that the way he did with FLASH GORDON, basic work-made-for-hire (at roughly $3,000 a week in the 1930s in the latter case, but still work-made-for-hire). It's interesting that in both cases, he was hired to compete with other strips: FLASH GORDON was created to compete with BUCK ROGERS, SECRET AGENT X-9 to compete with DICK TRACY. You can picture Hearst saying to himself "Jeez I've GOT to be able to find someone who can draw better than these guys."
Yeah, but there was an enduring mystique to BUCK ROGERS and DICK TRACY that Raymond couldn't touch (even when teamed with Dashiell Hammett on the latter). RIP KIRBY was the first and only time that he did a strip just because the subject appealed to him.
Okay prayer time. Back soon.
2/21/2008 3:49:00 PM: Hi Martin: Well it would be nice to think so. I just lost another long post. So let me see if this one gets posted.
2/21/2008 3:54:00 PM: Hi, selling artwork is right off the board entirely for me. Like Will Eisner I'd rather own the artwork than have the money. Gerhard sells pages under his jurisdiction (we have half each)on occasion -- usually if he can set a new benchmark -- and then compensates me for my part based on what he thinks my part was worth.
But in my case it's pretty much a "stored for the Archive" thing unless I'm donating a piece or two for a charity auction.
2/21/2008 4:02:00 PM: Well, you also have to be careful that you aren't turning into a boring old f--t where most of your conversation is about "these kids today". I'd have to say that if you look at the average Marvel or DC comic you're going to see a lot of blood, sweat and tears being poured into every page, no matter what time period that you're looking at. I'm not a big computer colour fan but there's an INTENSITY to the super-hero books now that my generation and the generation before that couldn't touch. The first DARK KNIGHT seemed to me to be skyer no higher in intensity and twenty years later it looks kind of tame when you look at the more intense Vertigo titles and, say, Mark Millar's stuff.
There's nothing new there, though. I always try to picture what the top guys at DC were thinking looking at Neal Adams on THE SPECTRE or DEADMAN. "If this is where we're going, I think I'm done for." Like DC looking at Jack Kirby when Marvel was overtaking them in the 60s. "It's BAD DRAWING! That must be it. Everyone suddenly lost their taste and all they want is BAD DRAWING! This stuff doesn't look remotely like Dan Barry drew it."
2/21/2008 4:06:00 PM: On the single panels, I can't say I was really big on them. THEY'LL DO IT EVERY TIME by Jimmy Hatlo was well designed and executed. I always preferred Andy Capp as a strip than in its single panel incarnation. MAJOR HOOPLE'S BOARDING HOUSE. It would be interesting reprinting that and having to explain what a boarding house is.
2/21/2008 4:12:00 PM: Sorry, I'm being really cautious here with my tendency to lose posts today. One of the things I would like to see is a black-and-white revival. That goes back a long way with me because it is almost impossible to learn from drawings with colour on top of them. That's one of the big pluses with daily strips. Even if the reproduction isn't the best you can still see what's on there a lot better than you can if the entire background is covered in 70% Magenta and 50% Cyan.
2/21/2008 4:15:00 PM: Like the issues of FLASH GORDON that Al Williamson did when King Features was experimenting with comic books (again) back in the 60s. I can see that there's amazing Williamson art under there, but the colour just buries it. It's always going to be a problem. There are relatively few RIP KIRBY strips in the Raymond book and a lot of colour work. People like colour. I just want to see the linework as clearly as possible.
2/21/2008 4:24:00 PM: All right. Let's try going back to Rick Sharer. It just ate my last post again.
2/21/2008 4:29:00 PM: There was no Secret Project Three. Glamourpuss, it seemed to me was more commercial than Secret Project One (we'll soon see) so it was a guessing game. Do I go with this and hope it finds an audience or try to come up with something even more commercially viable (that I actually want to do).
Let's see if this gets posted.
2/21/2008 4:37:00 PM: In retrospect I was undervaluing the three months of promotion. Had I just put a cover reproduction and two line description in PREVIEWS, I don't think the book would have done much of anything. In retrospect it probably would have made more sense to do three months of promotion on THE LAST DAY and have issue 300 come out in June of 2004 instead of March of 2004.
It's actually pretty obvious DUH stuff. You have to make use of every opportunity and vehicle to promote your work, flat out. Just look at Hollywood. A Hit Film doesn't just arrive in the theatres and suddenly, miraculously turn over $70 million on its first weekend. Lots of man hours, lots of money, lots of promotion.
2/21/2008 4:45:00 PM: Well, yes. That's going to happen. For a certain number of retailers (we have no idea how many) it's just, Oh a Dave Sim comic book: who's my biggest CEREBUS customer? I'll give it to them. A month of phone calls, 4500 free copies and 100 hours on the Internet is really only the beginning. I know for a fact when I get to NYCC there will be retailers in line to get TURTLES No.8 or SPAWN 10 signed who will say, "Oh, hey, you doin' a new book? When's it coming out? What's it about?"
I'd imagine it doesn't happen a lot to Frank Miller but I imagine it happens occasionally. "You did a Batman story? No way. I thought you quit comics to write ROBOCOP or something."
2/21/2008 4:48:00 PM: Really, it's no big deal. Look at it from my perspective: Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and that's it for me and computers. Done. Finished.
2/21/2008 4:55:00 PM: It's just one of those things. Duane just had his laptop malfunction -- one of those "I've never seen that message before." If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that, for every time something has happened with a computer in proximity to me that there is just no rational explanation for or no precedent for, I'd be a very wealthy man.
2/21/2008 4:58:00 PM: I type a few lines, click on the little green check mark and then wait what is obviously too long a period of time to see if anything is going to happen or if the screen is going to fill up with indecipherable instructions. I mean not just a little box with two or three lines that only vaguely approximate English but a whole page of stuff. Evidently the problem is a "/".
Oh, well. As Allan Fotheringham used to say, "That muddifies the fuzzification nicely."
2/21/2008 5:04:00 PM: In a sociological sense it's interesting. It feels as if your brain is filling up with guacamole dip because you're really just a laboratory mouse and you're pushing the little lever expecting a food pellet and sometimes you're getting one and sometimes you aren't. You can't really concentrate on what you're writing because all you're really thinking is, "Will this post or will I get that big page of indecipherable instructions?" You ever tried telling someone what it said? "It was something about..." And it's like trying to remember how a government press release was phrased. And then you see it again and you go, "Right. It's very simple. That's easy to remember." So you try to describe it again. "It was something about..."
Ayn Rand was right, I think.
2/21/2008 5:18:00 PM: Well I just wrote a whole piece about my phone conversation with Jean Shuster Peavy, Joe Shuster's younger sister, last night and how that ties in with Secret Project One -- she wrote a two-page letter I'll be using on the website -- and that's gone. F5 didn't bring it back, I'm afraid.
2/21/2008 5:19:00 PM: Hey, Stanley. Holds what preference?
2/21/2008 5:27:00 PM: Duane's doing a Diamond order and asked Richard to ask John if he wanted to order any Afro Samurai figures. Samuel L. Jackson voiced cartoon character I'm told. Well, I had to get up and walk around the desk and take a look. I told him if he ordered even one of them they better order at least 50 glamourpuss No.1. Turns out they aren't ordering any Afro Samurai figures. That was a close one.
2/21/2008 5:32:00 PM: Okay. It's time for my sunset prayer. I'll be back for the last half hour or so and see if I can get anything to post.
2/21/2008 6:36:00 PM: Sorry StanleyLieber -- long answer to your question just got deleted. Can you and Jack Baney just re- post these posts to Newsarama and we'll try over there tomorrow? I'm heading over there now to let them know I'll be there starting around 10:30 am.
Thanks, Craig, thanks, Glenn. Sorry it didn't work today.