Cerebus Archive Report #6

August 2005



Policy Talk

July 13th to August 28

> reality check is called for here. The consensus among retailers, the
> comics press and the comic-buying public on Cerebus at this point is
> that everything after Jaka's Story is useless garbage.

I wonder how he came to this conclusion. The consensus on _Melmoth_ is that it's useless garbage? That doesn't sound right. Is this supported by sales on the respective volumes? What other evidence is there that volumes 6 through 16 suck?
Dan Parker


-------- I think Dave is speaking *exclusively* about sales here.  Compared to everything before, and including Jaka's Story, I would also be inclined to agree with that, judging by sales in comic stores I've been in, or at least which volumes are kept in stock. Oddly, I just looked at the Amazon sales rankings. Anybody know how these work? Doesn't Dave have a huge problem with Amazon? Do the ranks mean anything? Because if so, this theory is out of whack (although, you will notice Reads is next to last).


The Last Day #108,486 in Books
Latter Days #109,493 in Books
Going Home #109,570 in Books
Form & Void #110,647 in Books
High Society #146,929 in Books
Jaka's Story #153,052 in Books
Cerebus #175,624
Melmoth #186,729 in Books
Church & State 2 #242,999 in Books
Guys #288,269 in Books
Flight #327,847 in Books
Church & State 1 #343,467 in Books
Women #351,372 in Books
Minds #423,969 in Books
Reads #427,732 in Books
Rick's Story #489,414 in Books



I'd expect the low position of "Reads" and "Rick's Story" has less to do with politics and more to do with the number of text-only pages.

- Larry Hart


I don't have a source handy, but I think Aardvark Vanaheim was selling the trades directly to Amazon and found it was more trouble than it was worth. I think Amazon now gets the trades from a distributor -- probably Diamond.

Dan Parker

I'm thinking that the release date is also particularly relevant.  i.e. online buying has only become more popular in the last 5 years or so. So many people would shift from buying their phonebooks directly from Dave to buying them on Amazon at a discounted price. These people already had their earlier phonebooks, hence the lower sales.

L nny


------ Hmm. Makes sense. I guess Dave would know what the *real* sales figures are.


********* Dave: Actually, to me, I’m just trying to be as realistic as possible and think the consensus has shaped up that Cerebus was really good and really funny and then it got really serious and really boring and/or evil.  I don’t think that’s the case and I don’t think the Cerebus readership shares that view but I do think that’s the Family Feud/Lowest Common Denominator on Cerebus. My analogy would be Woody Allen.  “The early, funnier ones” makes a great line in Stardust Memories because it’s so true in the general sense.  That doesn’t mean that Woody Allen wasn’t at the time making—and hasn’t since made—good movies and it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a devoted core audience and a certain amount of market cachet.  He always manages to find someone to give him a sufficient number of millions of dollars to make his next movie and that puts him on a very short list of people of whom that can be said—particularly over the long term.  But, at the same time, I think he recognizes that it would just be foolish for him to be acting as if he was widely perceived to be in the same category as Steven Spielberg or Orson Welles.  You have a better chance of making your way successfully through life if you have an accurate grasp of how you are perceived and deal with that rather than having an inflated self-opinion of you and your work that keeps bumping its head on the fact that the ceiling is actually a good deal lower than that.  In terms of actual sales, the books have all sold pretty steadily—to the extent that Ger has been reasonably successful at predicting even eight months ahead of time when we are going to run out of a title.  Which means we aren’t about to break any box office records—our sales surges are virtually non-existent—but at least so far (God willing) we have been able to maintain a minimum level of sales.  Even through rough stretches in the market in general that usually just means that the inventory lasts longer as a result.  Instead of having to bring a book back into print in December, we have to bring it back into print in April, or whatever.  The Cerebus and High Society volumes tend to sell a lot faster than the others.  Even when we upped the print run to 6,000 on Cerebus when we were printing 4,000 of the others during the last slump, it still sold out before Ger had predicted that it would. 

********* Dave: The Amazon numbers, I have no idea where they get those.  We haven’t sold to Amazon in several years and when we did we were lucky to get an order for a single copy of High Society once every two weeks.  A big Amazon order was five copies of something and that would be once in a blue moon—and they didn’t order all of the books.  The most common orders from Amazon—again, one copy and rarely as many as five—would be on High Society or Church & State I and very often they would cancel the order before it had even been processed and then reorder the same book the following week.   I would be suspicious of the fact that Church and State volume 2 is 111,000 places higher Church and State volume 1.  I realize that it is as dangerous in our world to suggest that Amazon just makes up its numbers as it is to suggest that the CBC is a Marxist government propaganda vehicle, but that would be my best assessment.  If they accompanied the list with the number of copies sold, then we could tell you more accurately if the numbers were accurate or if they were just making them up.  Which is why I’m sure they just do it by ranking without hard numbers attached.  That way the information is purely internal and there’s no way to disagree with it.  

********* Dave: It’s very possible that reality is changing since the comic-book field is widening so dramatically—in terms of the accelerated history: things just don’t stay the same for any length of time anymore companies and books come and go at a phenomenal rate—that most people don’t subscribe to the on-going mythologies because they just aren’t aware of them.  For a teenager who’s been reading comics for four years it would be all they could do to keep track of who is and who isn’t in the X-men without having to figure out if Dave Sim is evil and his book garbage or if Dave Sim is great and his book wonderful.  The comic book field has been an on-going war of attrition for a number of years and the casualty figures among stores are very, very high and so far as I know going higher all the time.  For all I know, our orders—just by remaining steady—are astronomically high relative to how the market in general is doing.    

********* Dave: I’m sure that reality will change any number of times over the coming years relative to Cerebus.  I derive what reassurance I can from the fact that the Comics Cadaver Derby cover featured on Comics Journal No.98 has proven fatal for all of the publishers depicted except Aardvark Vanaheim and Fantagraphics.  But a lot of the reason we’ve managed to stay in the game is that I’ve never allowed myself to see the book as being any bigger than it is.  If I’m erring on the side of caution (and I might very well be) I think that’s more beneficial in the long run than erring in the other direction. 

********* Dave: It’s very possible that Larry Hart’s viewpoint is pretty typical of the market in general.  It begins with the view that the volumes with “too much text” are no good and proceeds from there.  Depending on how you define “too much text” that eventually whittles the story back to Cerebus, High Society and the two Church & States.  Even Dan Parker’s observation would seem to imply that it only extends from Jaka’s Story to Melmoth. 

********* Dave: Of course there has also always been a war of attrition over the quality of the storyline in general.  Everyone hated High Society when that was coming out and Church & State’s ending was met with deafening silence, as was each of the books after that.  It could be that only Cerebus, High Society and the two Church & States will ever be accepted or it could be that it will take ten to fifteen years for each successive book to gain acceptance. 

********* Dave: One way or the other, Cerebus has remained a very marginalised title throughout its existence, far more widely denigrated than approved of and only grudgingly approved of rather than celebrated. An uphill struggle all the way.  I was more just trying to warn those participating in these Policy discussions that the universal “damning with faint praise”—both inside and outside the Cerebus readership—has made the future of the balance of the storyline precarious at best and that I am far more concerned with the entirety of the storyline being preserved than I am in whether or not future generations get to read all 104 of the Beavers strips or Revolt 3000.  People want very, very desperately to avoid what Cerebus as a creative work is saying and I would hate to see the people who are going to be in charge of preserving Cerebus as a creative work assisting in the process of distracting people away from Cerebus.  Part of that is going to involve forcing yourselves to say something nice about something besides the first five volumes as difficult as I understand that is for you to do.     ________________________________________________________________

Miscellaney Volume Database: Just got around to taking a closer look at all this (and Dave's comments). Awesome job Jeff – truly excellent.

Story Order: BTW, is there a pattern in the order in which they're listed in the database? Or was that just the order in which you got around to entering it? The sort function on the database is very nice though. This raises an interesting question with respect to the MV itself, will Dave include the material in the order that it was created? Or in the order in which it fits into the series
chronologically. I can see reasonable arguments both ways. I guess I might lean towards story chronological order myself (it would certainly make it easier to skip back and forth on subsequent
rereads). The other 16 volumes are, of course in BOTH story chronological and creation chronological order. Also, would you divide the book into 2 separate sections, Canon/Iconic, and then order within each section? I'd lean in favour of doing it that way.

********* Dave: Well, I’m very interested in getting as many opinions as possible.  My brain really isn’t over in this particular direction at the moment because I am finally coming to the end of the 8½ x 11 and smaller chronological Archive, 1972 to 2005—six large filing cabinet drawers full—so at this particular juncture in history my brain seizes up when I hear the term chronological.  We have to actually get past the Collected Letters Ground Zero in order to assess where we are and what we’re doing.  We only printed 3,000 and sold 1,000.  If it takes a year for those 1,000 to sell through in the stores and the remaining 2,000 prove to be a three year supply, then we will be in a situation where we can start thinking about the Miscellaneous Volume in terms of actual scheduling a year from now or so.  If Collected Letters has substantial reorders and we’re running out of them a year from now and we really can’t look the retailers in the eye and tell them no they can’t have anymore then I think we have to postpone the MV and bring Collected Letters back into print.  Of course both of those volumes take second place to the volumes 1-16, the storyline proper.  Ger and I have already agreed that if any of the 16 volumes need to be reprinted that takes priority over Collected Letters for obvious reasons.

Color: So Dave's response seems to imply that he's definitely thinking a color volume will occur. He seemed extremely doubtful about that when we talked to him at SPACE 2004 - the prohibitive
factor being cost. I wonder if he's changed his mind on the matter/took a closer look at the economics involved, or if he's just projecting ahead on the off chance he can make it work?

Animated Portfolio: While it might be nice to see Dave do a reconstructed portfolio, leaning towards historical purity, I'd prefer the 2nd rate (since 1st rate isn't available) reproduction of the
original portfolios. Either as a page per plate, or, as Dave suggested, 3 rows of 2 per page (although I didn't quite understand his alternative comment of "or do we stick with the original format and just reduce it a lot?" - if you printed at 3 x 2 , wouldn't that be shrinking it A LOT more than if you stuck to the original format of one cell per page??)

(as an aside, I finally had one of the stories - His First Sword (complete with Dave's autograph to me on the last plate) - framed and it looks AWESOME. I did make the hard choice of selecting 12 of the 17 plates for this project, and then I lined them up in 3 rows of 4.  I'll upload some pics to the site - I actually created a folder in the picture section of the site, but had trouble uploading it - but since I finally dumped my dialup in favor of a cable modem a few weeks ago, I'll revisit that upload soon. Also, I think I posted here that I was originally quoted a price of about $400 for the project (which lead to my delaying do it), I ultimately found a decent place to do the whole
job for about $135!).

********* Dave: My reference there was to the actual format of the portfolio where the image size was square but it was on a rectangular background with the name of the story and the plate number printed off to one side.  It seems more sensible to me to print the image as close to actual size as possible and just drop the original format OR to reduce the image to get two or three or four of them on one page

********* Dave: [which is one of the reasons that I’m soliciting input on this a little more urgently than I was a while ago.  I knew that the Collected Letters experiment needed to have some space cleared around it and that the MV would be next (whenever “next” turned out to be—anywhere from 2006 to 2010) from our standpoint with the colour volume as a distant hypothetical concept for somewhere at least two or three years out (depending on how Collected Letters and the MV did).  The fact that Erik Larsen is willing to do the heavy lifting on it with Bob Chapman (and as far as possible I want to do the negotiation publicly as part of the Bill of Rights discussion at Al Nickerson’s website) means that it doesn’t have to be considered in the context of the Aardvark-Vanaheim pecking order of priorities—and might actually be on its way to press while we are still assembling and assessing the data on the Collected Letters experiment.  Erik told me that he when the films for the American Flagg book came in they were a mess and he devoted a lot of his working time to fixing them with Photoshop and the other techniques that he has.  Knowing that Jeff Tundis and other Cerebus readers are inclined in those directions as well—using the technology to recover or recreate rather than “improve” the original material (which “improvement” usually means everyone ends up looking like the back end of an airbrushed Buick) as they did with “Passage” means that all discussions of the colour volume are now moving from the hypothetical to the specific very quickly—a matter of “speak now or forever hold your peace”.  To cite one example, Bob Chapman has all of the Epic stories in negative form except for “A Friendly Reminder”.  So, at this point, I think what’s required is an APB on the 3 original pages for that story and probably at least the initial stages of reconstruction—trying to determine what would need to be done and what could be done with scanned printed pages if any one of or all three of the pages fail to turn up in time.  If you have a specific idea in mind of what should be in the colour volume and how it should be put together, Erik and Bob Chapman are, I’m sure, open to input.  Since I’ve got printed copies of all the material, I’m less interested I think than the average core Cerebus reader is going to be who—like Erik himself—really wants one book that has all the Cerebus colour material in it.  I will approve the final package but if I’m the one who actually defines the contents, the odds are pretty good that I’ll leave something out or deemphasize something. 

********* Dave: As the target consumer for the product in question, how much are you willing to spend?  If we included the best reproduction of each of the 300 covers, would you be willing to pay a premium price for that or would you prefer the conventional package where the better covers are highlighted and the others are presented in blocks of ten or so? I’ve already told Erik that I’m willing to write introductions for each of the sections but I really think the colour volume needs to emphasize the visual over the literary. 

NS Canon Category: Good move. It seemed to me that this was needed from when I heard Dave's original categories - i.e. just b/c we can't pinpoint the exact time the story takes place shouldn't mean it's less canonical when it seems to have "really" occurred to Cerebus as much as the time-pegged stuff (as opposed to the high iconic stuff which is just out there). Although, to be honest, I'm not sure if I now know the difference between NS Canon and non-high Iconic. In fact, it
seems like regular Iconic has now been wiped out except for "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" - why isn't that NS Canon too? I suggest that perhaps the High Iconic category be turned into just plain Iconic given the existence of NS Canon.

********* Dave: I’m certainly flexible when it comes to being talked into or out of the various categories that have been proposed and that I’ve proposed myself.  Likewise with the timelines.  Just to expand a bit on what I said earlier, I’ve been working full time on the Archive for the last few weeks.  I just want it done because a) it’s a lot easier to do research for Following Cerebus when I know where everything is and b) I can’t really think of doing anything else until it’s done.  I’m writing this on the Friday of the Labour Day weekend and plan to spend Saturday and Monday on a major push to get everything besides the Publications Archive and the Photographs Archive done.  The problem is that this has moved me into what I would describe as a Higher Iconic category—completely absorbed in keeping track of the sequence of actual historical events so I can file undated documents accurately.  All of my memory is taken up with touchstone points in the Archive like Kevin and Peter’s printed invitation to the premiere of the Turtles movie in Northampton in March of 1990. I know that one by now because it is printed on bright, bright magenta paper so wherever it has moved in the drawer when I’m shifting things forward or backward, that tells me roughly where the 1990s start.  If the document I’m trying to file is from 1988 then it is somewhere forward of the movie premiere invitation.  But that’s at the exact opposite of the spectrum from Cerebus’ fictional universe.  I read the five Yahoo questions for August before answering them and thought, “I really have no idea what they’re talking about.”  Basically as if I had spent the last two weeks studying for the wrong exam.  I had to go and look up the sequences in question.  Right away, I knew the answer, but just not off the top of my head.  I have no idea if that is a temporary or a permanent condition now that I am coming to the fixed end on Cerebus—the completion of the Archive. 

********* Dave: So as much as possible, I’d like to off-load responsibility for this on those of you who are reading “Policy 3” and who are fully absorbed in the mythos—particularly those who are re-reading or have recently re-read or who intend in the near future to re-read the entire story, because I have no idea when I’m going to be able to make it back from the Higher Iconic end of Cerebus reality.  Or (perhaps even more sobering) if I’m going to make it back.  I am definitely beginning to experience the loss of conscious Cerebus memory that I’ve warned everyone about now that I don’t need to keep track of it for the sake of the continuity and that, for me, Cerebus is actually coming to an end now that Collected Letters is out and the Archive is about 75% done.  This is my personal March, 2004.

 ********* Dave: It’s all well and good to warn you about this, but I’m also more aware than ever of my personal responsibility to see that the colour volume and the MV take shape in such a way that makes sense to a reader who is immersed in the mythos and that will keep those volumes compatible with the 16 Trade paperbacks.   

Alexx Dating: Dave suggests that Alexx's timeline is sort of the default "official" timeline, in the absence of other suggestions on time placement. I haven't looked at Alexx's timeline in a while, but IIRC, there were points here and there that I didn't agree with. Has Dave studied it in detail?

********* Dave: I haven’t studied the timeline in detail except for when Alexx first sent it to me and when he gave me an updated version at the Words and Pictures Museum (a decade ago? GAH!) I did find it in Cerebus Companion when I unearthed the Archive copies and skimmed through it, but, there again, that was a good example of the conflict I’m talking about.  I can’t do an effective job on the Archive if I stop and read everything that looks interesting and I can’t to an effective job if I keep getting distracted by the Cerebus continuity.  I have to stay focused on “What year was the Cerebus Companion published and where does that go relative to all of these publications?”  The only content that registers right now is the real-world timeline, Aardvark-Vanaheim’s chronology rather than Cerebus’ chronology and if the colour volume takes shape in the environment, that is going to figure prominently in how the volume gets done.  That is, all the pieces will be described in terms of Aardvark-Vanaheim’s chronology, rather than Cerebus’.   

 Has he spoken with Alexx?

********* Dave: No, as far as I know the last time I spoke with Alexx was at the Words and Pictures Museum in the downstairs lobby back in ’96 or ’97.  As I recall, he wasn’t able to stay for whatever event it was and just wanted to give me the latest update of the timeline which I thanked him for as profusely as you can thank someone who clearly has to be somewhere else at that exact minute.

 Perhaps we or  Dave can take a more in-depth look at it in an effort to elevate it to "official" status?

********* Dave: Yes, ideally, as I’ve said I think this is a job for those who are most immersed in the mythos at the present moment.  Let me give what I think is a good example.  At the time that I was doing my Fitzgerald research, and immediately after I had finished, I would have been very useful in critiquing a Fitzgerald chronology.  The whole thing was vivid in my mind—not just Fitzgerald but all of his books and characters.  Five years later, I wouldn’t be of much use at all because I’m not currently absorbed in it.  That end of Policy—what structure best suits the format and contents of the colour and MV volumes—is best served by that level of immersion.  Dan Parker has just finished reading not all 16 volumes but all 300 issues in their entirety so, for the time being, he would be in that category.  I think it only makes sense to defer to that level of immersion when it comes to figuring out structure or making sure that the people who are the most immersed in the subject are the ones at the core of the debate.  Put another way, at this moment you’re going to get a better application of Alexx’s timeline to the colour and MV volumes out of Dan than you would get out of me.  He’d be looking at it from the standpoint of what is missing from his Cerebus collection which he has just familiarized himself at many different levels and so would be able to describe more accurately the two missing pieces.  The same as someone who’s been working on a jigsaw puzzle for a week.  If there is one piece missing from an otherwise completed area, he or she is going to have a clearer mental image of what that piece looks like than someone who just sits down and is seeing the puzzle for the first time.

OTOH, Dave has sort of evinced a lack of concern over such a fanboyish degree of concern over the "official facts" of Cerebus plot minutiae - so that might be of little interest to him (which could imply that he'd lean toward just ordering the MV in creation chronological order (a point on which there can be no dispute - i.e. we know what was published before what) (unless you want to
start splitting hairs and order it by when Dave created it, rather than when it was published - would that change things?).

********* Dave: I didn’t so much express a lack of concern as I expressed a level of disbelief that someone could be that absorbed in something they weren’t making a living off of.  I mean, it was a big part of my job description to keep everything internally consistent in the book but it sort of threw me for a loop when, as an example, Alexx went to the time and trouble to assemble a complete timeline.  It was like finding out that all of these little intricacies I’d been weaving out of moonbeams and pixie dust were actually an exam and someone was going to grade me on the internal consistencies and inconsistencies.  I was just grateful that I had been as needlessly (as I thought of it then) compulsive about being consistent as I had been and passed Alexx’s tests.  

Page Count: So what is the projected page count of the MV? Page count might be a nice additional column to be added to the database table (if Jeff had some spare time to kill! lol). Just wondering though – is it a few hundred? A quick eyeball at the chart, assuming most short
stories are 5 pages, gets me to about 265 pages. Is that close? Has anyone done the math? And the Color Volume? What's the total page count of the 4 Epic Stories plus Spawn 10 (looks like that's all of it, except for the portfoli, right?)? I'd guess that's about 32 pages, plus another 50 for the portfolio (at a plate per page) or 9 (at about 6 plates per page), yielding an approximate total of 41 or  82.

********* Dave: This is very valuable. This is along the lines of what I think is required at this point is to get as accurate a picture of what the two volumes will look like physically.  My inclination is to just get everything in one spot.  It’s either colour or it’s black and white.  It’s either in one book or the other.  If you don’t leave anything out—if every appearance of Cerebus outside of the 16 volumes is included, what do those two books look like?  Let me see if I can supply another useful question.  The colour volume isn’t going to look like the 16 trade paperbacks.  If you’re going to do colour, it only makes sense to do a coffee table book, slightly oversized and on coated stock for the sake of the reproduction.  So you picture it next to the 16 trade paperbacks and Collected Letters and it will be bigger and different looking.  Now. Picture the MV.  Should the MV match the 16 volumes or the colour volume?  That is, do you do an oversized black and white book on glossy paper for the sake of things like the Six Deadly Sins Portfolio so the images can be reproduced closer to the original printed size or do you reduce everything to trade paperback size so it looks like a more natural volume 17?

So has Dave ever mentioned a time frame in which the MV will come out?

********* Dave: It seems clear at this point that the MV will be after the colour volume.  I think we’d just be asking for trouble trying to do both at the same time, both in terms of doing a good job on the production and in terms of promoting them and bringing them both to market at the same time.  Erik Larsen and Bob Chapman are both very busy guys and there’s no way for me to know how interested either of them is in the project, nor is there any way to know what is going to come along to distract them from the project.  My last communication on the subject from Bob Chapman was in December of 1994 before Erik revived the whole thing.  It’s not completely outside of the realm of possibility that we will still just be talking about this in 2015.  

Is the Collected Letters being numbered as 17 in the phonebook sequence (due pretty soon, right?)? Or would this volume be 17?

L nny

********* Dave: No.  Gerhard asked that question and my gut instinct was to say that Collected Letters wasn’t volume 17 although I didn’t know why that was my gut instinct.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized several things that told me my gut instinct had been right.

********* Dave: One, that the Aardvark-Vanaheim formal backlist has to consist of the 16 volumes—the story proper.  All of our energies are devoted to keeping those books in print at all times which is a daunting task as it is.  If we run out of Collected Letters’ first printing at the same time that we need to print Melmoth and after we’ve brought Melmoth back into print we find out we need to do another printing of High Society right away, well, that’s the way that it needs to go even if it means we’re out of Collected Letters for six months or a year or two years.  It’s in the same category as the Guide to Self-Publishing which is currently out of print because I intend to do major revisions to it before we reprint it this time.  I’ll take as long as I think I need to take in order to do a version of GSP that won’t need to be revised in another year.  That may take a year or two to accomplish in itself.  By contrast, when we finally included the “Silverspoon” strips in the Cerebus volume, that was in complete “hurry up” mode.  The Cerebus volume needed to be printed now. 

********* Dave: Two, to make Collected Letters into volume 17 would be to take unfair advantage of those little numbers on the spine, forcing someone who was only interested in Cerebus to buy Dave Sim’s Collected Letters so there wasn’t a jump from volume 16 to volume 18.  If we reach a consensus that the black and white MV (BWMV) should look like the first 16 volumes, then it will be volume 17.  If we decide that it should look like the colour volume then there won’t be a volume 17, just the 16 trades, a BWMV and a CMV. 

********* Dave: Part of the Collected Letters experiment is that—if we find out that 1,000 copies is all that we can sell or that we can’t even sell 1,000 copies (that is, every store that ordered four still has two left a year from now), then we have to reconfigure Collected Letters, perhaps as a print-to-order book.  Right now, I have enough letters stored in the computer to do three books the size of the volume that just shipped.  If all we can sell are 500, then we would probably go the “print to order” route and make all three volumes available that way at whatever horrible price that would work out to (probably $75 to $100 a book if the print-to-order quotes Ger got off the Internet are typical).  If, on the other hand, we’re able to sell the 3,000-copy first printing over the course of two years or so then we would have to reconfigure in a different direction.  At this moment—if that turns out to be the sales pattern—I would lean in the direction of letting the first volume go out of print and releasing a second volume on the assumption that the only audience is the core audience, they’ve had two years to buy their copy and it makes more sense to offer the core readership the next 600 pages of letters rather than bringing the first volume back into print in an attempt to find another 3,000 core readers or spreading our resources too thin by trying to keep seventeen and then eighteen and then nineteen books in print.  


--------- Yes. Shrink it by 20% for regular format, maybe (?) 60% for multiple panels.


---------- The color thing began to look plausible when Erik Larsen got involved. But, Dave hasn't heard from Erik since the first handshake, so he doubts Erik will come through at this point.

********* Dave: Yes, I was surprised.  Those interested in following the CMV negotiations and participating where and when they see an opportunity can click on cerebusart.com and then click on the discussion space for the Creator’s Bill of Rights.  It’s going to go very slowly.  Erik Larsen is just finding out how big your plate becomes and how full it gets when you become a publisher.  He’s actually getting back to me a lot more frequently than I thought he was going to which would seem to suggest that he’s genuinely interested in the book getting done.  Which is why I have to relay a sense of urgency to all of you to come up with the running order and contents of the ideal colour volume even though it might not end up getting done for another five years.  It might, on the other hand, be on Image’s publishing schedule for next year.   

-------- Too funny. I hadn't noticed that. Yeah, “Breaking Up” should be Canon NS. Then all High Iconic could become Iconic.

********* Dave: Again, I don’t have any fundamental objections to this but I think you’ll get a much better assessment from someone in full immersion mode if they are able to review all of the material for the CMV and the BWMV.  Some stuff will fit and some won’t.  The largest open question there is, will two people in full immersion mode agree on what fits in which category or can one of them persuade the other in a free-ranging discussion?  I don’t think anyone would want to live in FI mode.  Dan’s 300-issue Reread went from December 26 to July 22 so I’d imagine he would qualify as FI for the next couple of months or so at least. 

There is one more story that is still "undecided." The Turtles story.

********* Dave: Yes.  When the time comes, I will try contacting Pete indirectly and Todd indirectly to find out if it’s possible to include the two major crossovers in the CMV.  Indirectly so they don’t have to feel any pressure to agree.  They can just tell the respective intermediaries, no and that will be the end of it if that’s either of their answer.

--------- The first priority is Dave, whether printed in a book or here online.

********* Dave: Mm. Not necessarily.  This is a benevolent dictatorship and I am your benevolent dictator but in these situations I prefer to be the court of last resort as opposed to the first priority.  I would defer to someone who was in Full Immersion mode or I would be willing to adjudicate a disagreement between two or more people in Full Immersion mode anywhere they had reached a serious impasse about something that needed to be decided yea or nay. In terms of setting an overall course, I would suggest as complete as possible since I’ll be the one who gets the blame if it isn’t complete and a big part of the reason for doing the volume in the first place is to get people to stop asking about it.  At the moment it’s just another way for everyone to be distracted from the storyline itself.  I’m hoping that the DVD with all of the back-of-the-book material is making progress, because that will be the next thing.  No one is likely to say, “wow, great colour volume”.  What they’ll say is “where’s the black and white volume” and if we get that out, then they’ll say “where’s the Aardvark Comment volume?” I’ve finally had to admit that each of these distractions has to be eliminated one at a time if we are going to have any kind of focus on the storyline itself.  I’m hoping the storyline will be the center of the discussions again by 2009, although I think 2015 or 2017 is more likely given the way these things tend to go..  

After that, Alexx's timeline. I read through everything I could concerning the Miscellany stories, and Alexx seems to have  covered all the bases. I doubt *anyone* will do a more thorough job.

********* Dave: Yes, I would tend to agree and would, actually, put Alexx’s timeline in the position of the first priority.  It’s a perfect example of the practical application of Full Immersion.  For all we know, Alexx hasn’t given a second thought to Cerebus since the turn of the millennium, but we still have the product of his best work while he was in Full Immersion mode.  The same thing that my annotations of Going Home would represent my best thinking on Fitzgerald while in Full Immersion mode for any Fitzgerald scholar interested in making use of them.  A lot of this didn’t occur to me until Dan was most of the way through his Re-read or I think I might’ve suggested to him that he give some thought to what he might accomplish while he was “in there” given that even the world’s biggest psycho-fan is not likely to spend seven months immersed in Cerebus too many times in his (or Margaret’s) lifetime.  At the very least, anyone considering doing the same thing, I would suggest having Alexx’s timeline handy while re-reading the complete story since Alexx is still the guy to beat at this point when it comes to Cerebus cred.  Cerebus readers will modify Alexx, I think, but they will never supplant Alexx at this point.

--------- 18 (b&w) and 19 (color). I would guess it's too late to go back and change the number on the Collected Letters volume. But even if there is time, would Dave pull a "Toddster" and release Volume 19, followed by 17 and 18?


********* Dave: See above.




Personally, I was a little dubious of Dave's rationale that any mention of the storyline proper automatically converts an iconic story to canon. Like the TMNT story is canon simply b/c it references a date consistent with the Cerebus timeline? hmmm.

********* Dave: Again, not necessarily, but not unnecessarily either.  My answers are coming from someone who isn’t in Full Immersion mode.  I don’t think we want to partake of the “creator’s as definitive viewpoint” being carved in stone when the creator is being quite frank about the fact that his own knowledge is nowhere near as encyclopaedic as Alexx’s paper trail at this point.  Alexx’s timeline is what needs to be built upon and added to.  I’ll be happy to adjudicate as best I can, if presented with the most persuasive arguments on any and all sides.

 I agree as a whole, but to the extent flaws exist here and there -
i.e. illogicities, is Alexx open to discussing them and revising the

********* Dave: I don’t think it’s really a matter of Alexx revising his timelines as it is of Alexx having his timelines questioned and annotated.  If Dan had had Alexx’s timeline next to him while he reread the whole works, he might’ve taken significant issue with some of Alexx’s conclusions, in which case it would make sense to have a dissension attached to the timeline.  Not replacing that part of Alexx’s timeline, but presenting a countervailing argument as to why it might follow that the day or year of Astoria’s birth is in the wrong place, as an example based on internal evidence within the storyline. 

Is Dave in dialogue with Alexx?

********* Dave: As I said, before, no.

 Is Alexx still around? (has he ever shown up here?).

********* Dave: Two very good but—it seems to me—entirely separate questions.  Is Alexx still alive is one question, is Alexx still around and in Full Immersion mode is another question.  Is Alexx still around but completely disinterested in Cerebus at this point.  Depending on the answers that would point us in different directions.  If he’s still around but largely disinterested in Cerebus, then I think it would nice to give him one big THANK YOU, ALEXX as the undisputed Cerebus Scholar champion if he stops by to see why his cybernetic ears are burning.  If he’s interested in Cerebus and is considering his own Re-read, I think it would be very useful to see if he was willing to time it so other people could do the re-read with him.  Since his own scholarship exceeds everyone else’s—including, on paper, my own—it’s reasonable to assume that he would be our own best critic of his earlier timeline(s) explaining why he changed his mind about various dates and their placement so that doubtful areas could be more clearly marked with a list of specific OTOH’s rather than just parenthetical question marks.  

hah! OK..so then it is, officially, Book 17? Drats! To be honest, I'm not sure I want to buy this one, but I definitely want the MV & CV - whatever will I do???

********* Dave: Relax.  It doesn’t say Book 17 anywhere on it so if you don’t want it to be so, there isn’t a scrap of evidence to make you capitulate to the Collected Letters Faction.

BTW, is it currently his intention to include EVERYTHING in the Miscellany database (at least the B&W stuff) in the Miscellaney volume? Or at least everything he has the right to publish? In terms
of what he needs to secure permission for, I guess that would be:  TMNT 8, Miami Mice 4, Bacchus 1, Normalman 10, and Awakening Comics 2? Or not all of these? Or more than this? I assume he can reprint the Jam stuff w/o permission - or is that wrong?

********* Dave: Depends on who you’re asking.  My own political viewpoint is that if you worked on something, you have the right to reprint it.  The fact that the volumes will be done by another publisher means that that could get tested.  I doubt Erik is going to take the chance of printing something that might get him sued. I’m going to recommend that he send out letters to everyone, notifying them that their work is going to be reprinted and giving them a deadline to contact him with any objection they might have.  And some kind of royalty will have to be worked out for everyone whose work is included.

 ********* Dave: My own view is that you have to include everything to the extent that that’s possible, using the various indexes of all of Cerebus’ appearances and then my own culling of the Publications Archive for obscure pieces that may have only appeared in a convention program booklet.  First you make the pile, then you see how big it is and then you decide what to leave out if the pile is too big or if the material itself doesn’t seem to be worth printing.  However, knowing the core Cerebus readership, I would say that you will be better served with a complete book.  You are never going to get credit for what you include, you’re only going to get criticized for what you leave out.  One of the things that set the Cerebus collections apart from most indy material was that the whole story was reprinted in sequence so that’s become a core element of Cerebus.  If you can fit everything besides the actual storyline into two books, that’s what Cerebus fans will be expecting.  In the same way that if we were to do an Aardvark Comment Volume, it would have to be the Complete Aardvark Comment, not The Best of Aardvark Comment. 

********* Dave: I think it’s also worth pointing out in terms of rights that we would just be reprinting the pages with Cerebus on them where he only made a guest appearance on a single page or in a single panel.  It would be hoped that the individual copyright holders would understand the motivation and realize that in a Complete Miscellaneous Volume it’s the fact of Cerebus’ appearance that is of interest, not their own creative work per se. 

  One other point - Dave mentions putting footnotes in subsequent printings of the phonebooks to refer to the MV. I hope he does it the other way too - i.e. the MV has a note before each story telling the reader where it fits in for the story proper in books 1-16. I'd love it, in fact, if he put a Swords of Cerebus type intro in before each story giving some context to its creation. In fact, as far as I can see, there are no plans to reprint the Swords Intros at all - is that right? That would be an excellent thing to include in the MV too.

********* Dave: Again, I have no fundamental objection to it.  It’s not something that would occur to me because I’m not in Full Immersion mode but this would definitely tie in with what I just outlined.  If I leave out the Swords introductions the week after the book comes out, the core audience would be saying, “I noted that the Swords introductions weren’t included, which seems a shame to me because they were such a vital part of the package for me when it was coming out”.  The parameters of the Big Pile have to come from the core readership for that exact reason.  If you can think of anything that exists that you think should be in there, now is the time to say something while the actual planning is going on.

********* Dave: And further along those lines, I think the best prospect for making progress on that basis is for the person with the most complete line-up for both books to just put their list together and post it here and then have any additions made from there.  I’m not sure if we’re set up for that but I think a master list that gets added to makes more sense than a first draft list followed by a bunch of e-mails that end up getting buried or ignored.  Hopefully inside of a month or two months we would have something to show Erik.  Here, this is what the book is going to look like and here’s the order that everything is going in.  From there we move into Annotation City—what needs to be described in order to clarify any natural questions the core reader would have?  That could be marked with either an asterisk “We’d like some notes on this one” or with excerpts from published interviews and other sources. 

********* Dave: This is an area where we are being a little premature since the “keyword” function which will (God willing) one day be attached to the finished Archive allowing for all relevant passages to be found just by typing in, say, “Terry Austin”.  There you go: three pages of comments on the “Squinteye” strip, pick which ones you want to run with the strip in the Black and White Miscellaneous Volume. 

********* Dave: That brings us to SFI—Serious Full Immersion—guys who would be able to tell you where a story had been discussed and be able to pull up the quote from Comics Feature or The Comics Journal or the letters page in issues 32, 78, 117, 189, 205 and 238, The Yahoo Questions.  My point being that you can’t just put an asterisk next to everything in the BWMV and the CMV and say, “Tell us a story, Dave”.  A big part of the motivation behind the Cerebus Archive is to organize the material that exists because I think I’m safe in saying that in addition to writing the longest sustained narrative, I have written and discussed more about that sustained narrative than most authors would ever dream of writing about their own work.  I’m willing to continue doing that, but I am also trying to taper off at this point and would prefer to supplement what I’ve already said rather than to always have to keep saying something new and trusting in my memory which is just not being engaged by the material the way that it used to be.  If I’ve already written three pages or the equivalent in interviews on a specific subject then I would rather that those recollections be attached to the material permanently.  If I’ve only written a paragraph, I’ll be happy to add another paragraph or clarify the one that I already wrote but I do think that the comics material should carry the two books.  300 pages of comics and 800 pages of commentary—even if that commentary already exists—is, I’m sure, going to run contrary to the intention behind the two books: The Complete Cerebus, not the Complete Dave Sim View of Cerebus.

Alternatively, perhaps another volume would be "Dave on Cerebus" and collect EVERY interview Dave has done, and all writing he's done on Cerebus, including his Q&A here. I'd certainly buy such a volume in a second.

L nny

********* Dave: You might, however, Lenny, get a major hernia carrying it out of the store.  I can’t believe the number of interviews that I did over the years both published and unpublished.  Likewise the pile of Dave Sim writings which, apart from the Notebooks and specific subjects and correspondence, is darn near a foot high.  No doubt some of it would be of interest to Cerebus’ core readers (like outtakes from Reads and the notebooks full of Torah commentaries, 82 Tour diary, vacation diary), but I really have no interest in typing it all up and it sure wouldn’t fit into Following Cerebus and I don’t think it’s particularly suited to the two-volume capper to The Complete Cerebus.  I think deciding what needs to be reprinted and what doesn’t need to be reprinted vis-à-vis Dave Sim Collected Writings is a future problem when the Archive has actually been scanned in by Margaret & Co. and everyone can see just how much %$#@ material there is and then begin the discussions of what would be worth publishing in a book or books.  EVERYTHING, well, to me that’s the Archive itself either on the Internet or on disks.  Here’s EVERYTHING.  If EVERYTHING is what you want, you’d probably serve the material better by simply transcribing it and preserving it.  Over there you can see all of the actual notebook pages, handwritten.  Over here, you can read our best guess as to what that hen-scratch says. To me, Lenny, as an EVERYTHING guy, that will likely be your game preserve, working your way through EVERYTHING in one form or another.  Several steps to your right are the “What should we put in a book?” folks.  There’s no point in you going over to them or them coming over to you to pose the question, because your answer is always going to be the same:

********* Dave: EVERYTHING. 

********* Dave: And God bless you for that.  You are the sort of guy upon whom guys like me build their careers.    ________________________________________________________________

Indeed. To me, it was a great disappointment when I found that the Swords-style introductions no longer featured in the phone books. Admittedly, two or three pages on each individual issue of High Society, etc.  would have been way too much, but I loved those Swords intros and really wished the phone books had  something similar--say one ten or fifteen page intro per volume. In fact, I don't own that many of the phone  books, because I have all the original comics, and a lot of the phone books really don't add anything to  those originals. The later phone books, with the appendices, are great, but something similar for the ones that originally had minimal or no intros or afterwords would be nice.


********* Dave: I tended not to do that with the trade paperbacks because I really, really wanted them to stand on their own as books, as graphic novels.  For Fitzgerald and Hemingway, it seemed to make sense to explain what it was that I was trying to do because so much research went into each of the characters and it was a chance to discuss my current enthusiasm which is always more interesting on paper than it is in conversation.  And by that time I was pretty confident that people were treating the books as graphic novels so they wouldn’t just see them as an excuse to read more Dave commentaries and would see the commentaries as a supplement to the work and not preferable to or a replacement for the work itself. 

********* Dave: To reiterate what I said above, I have no problem with including whatever amount of commentary the core readership thinks is appropriate to the books but I would prefer to use existing commentaries rather than writing new ones.  I mean there’s a sort of Rubicon of Lunacy that I would be crossing, in my view, in writing a new introduction to my Swords introductions if those end up being included—which I suspect everyone will prefer that they are.


========== A few people on the group mentioned different presentation formats. Dave must still be mulling it over.

********* Dave: Yes, and so’s Erik and so’s Bob at this point.  If you’ve got a clear picture in your mind of the format that you envision and you want to pitch in on the discussion, you’re more than welcome.  We’re all just throwing out ideas and in my experience, the clearest and sharpest vision most accurately conveyed usually prevails in those situations.  The first Complete Running Order posted here will probably be the one that ends up—with some modification—being used.

========== Me too. But Dave flatly shot the single volume idea down. Not possible to bind the different formats and paper stock together.

********* Dave: Mm. I don’t really shoot ideas down.  It may seem that that’s what I’m doing but I’m always more than amenable to having my mind changed on any given subject.  If the BWMV and the CMV are both coffee-table-edition-sized, you can certainly look at incorporating them under one cover.  I think it would be pretty unwieldy.  That’s why it’s sort of necessary to find out how big the pile is first and then determine if it’s too big for one volume.  If you need two people to pick it up and both hands to flip to the middle of the book, I think you’ll be better splitting it into two volumes. You have to be realistic about it.  If you want EVERYTHING in there, it isn’t likely to be very sensible to try to do it in one book. That’s why I think the two books need to be visualized.  You can’t say I want EVERYTHING but I also want it in a nice, slim 250-page book.  The two are incompatible.   

========== Alexx? You can try tracking him down. There's a link to his web page in the Links section. He's probably registered here too, or  Margaret has his email address. In dialogue with Dave? No idea.

========== Any particular illogicities you are referring to?

********* Dave: Yes, that was the same question that I had.  Since Alexx is the king of the storyline scholarship mountain at this point, I think we should really stick to specific criticisms.  I have a mental impression of things that I didn’t agree with in his first try, but as far as I know he fixed all of those in the revised version he gave me at the Words and Pictures Museum.  But, then, I haven’t really been in Full Immersion mode since I saw the first one so there could very well be a few inconsistencies.

========== Buy 'em all. After all your bitching, you haven't dropped X-Men yet--- you're gonna' pass up a Cerebus Volume?? Sheeyeah, right! :P

********* Dave: There’s a very good reason to make sure we do this right.  Too many members of the core audience are going to feel compelled to buy the books, so we better get it right the first time or all we’re going to hear is what a rip-off it was and all the stuff that was missing and so on. 

========== I'm assuming Dave retains some kind of publishing rights. certain things probably have to be sorted out, only Dave can do that. Other than Laird being a bitch with the TMNT story, I can't see it being a problem.


********* Dave: Since anything we say here is very apt to get back to the copyright holders, I think it would probably be a good idea to avoid pejoratives like “bitch”.  I can understand what Pete is doing a lot of the time.  For example, he Photo-shopped all of Kevin’s duo-tone shades out of Turtles No.1 in a commemorative edition that he did.  On the one hand, you can say that he mutilated Kevin’s artwork.  On the other hand, I think even Kevin would agree that the tones didn’t work really well.  He was trying to be Richard Corben.  When I used the same duo-tone board on issue 12, I was trying to be Bernie Wrightson.  We both fell well short of the mark.  By buying Kevin’s share of the Turtles, Pete bought the right to do things like that, to fix the things that he thinks needs fixing. If I knew a way to get the duo-tone shades off of issue 12, I’d probably do it, too, at this point. 

********* Dave: I think ideally what I would like to reproduce is the colour version of the Turtles crossover that First Comics did which—except for trying to colour over the grey Letratone on Cerebus (which never looks right) I thought came out really good.  I have no idea if those films exist or how difficult it would be to Photoshop it out of a printed copy.  That never works either although, as Bob Chapman says, everyone is acting as if it works fine.  I’m glad that Bob and Erik are both involved in this project because they both have the same attitude—don’t pretend that it looks fine if it looks like $%#@.


None that come straight to mind. However, next month's book Guys
present some real timeline problems - perhaps that's where it was.
I'm thinking one of my suggested Q's will be on that issue.

I was also thinking about what we'll do as a Group after Reread II
ends in January (actually, I took it on myself to suggest that Feb. be
a Miscellany month and Mar. be a Wildcard/General Discussion month,
and altered the schedule accordingly. (although I didn't include
Collected Letters - should I?). Perhaps we could devote a month to
discussing Cerebus timeline issues and do a "Reread" of Alexx's

********* Dave: I think that might be a good idea.  We’re very apt to get a clearer idea of what belongs where in the two MV’s if you all agree to bear down on that side of things as close to simultaneously as possible. Because I really don’t think anything takes the place of Full Immersion.  I know that sounds odd, and it probably sounds odder still to have people step forward on that basis, but as can be seen by your ambivalence about Alexx’s work at this point—with no clear idea of whether any criticisms of it are valid or not—I think the viewpoint is validated.  Our best people when it comes to decision-making are going to be the ones who are most fully immersed at any given time, particularly if it’s the ones who still have a complete set of the original issues.  That way, they not only have High Society straight in their minds, they are also aware of everything else that was happening and being referred to in context in the Notes from the Publisher, Note from the President, Aardvark Comment and so on—at least until the full Archive is assembled and the “keyword” function up and running.   

OK...18 are done, 19 left. I think I have all of them at home with reasonably easy access except Miami Mice, Awakening & Cerebus Dreams (which I don't own), Arnold & Friendly Reminder (which are in a hard to access place in my house), and perhaps Arghh (which I think is in
an easy to access place, but am not sure). So if you can add those, that'd be cool. Alternatively, if anyone knows the page counts on those, just let me know and I'll add them to the database.

-L nny


+++++++++++ Preaching to the choir, my friend. I think it should be iconic as well. But it does work... hmmm. From Alexx's timeline:


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8 (date on p.12). Could Cerebus' punitive shape-shifts done by whoever he was working for have left  him with the elongated nose that he had for much of his mercenary  period (but notably *not* in his youth)? When his nose gets elongated again in Church and State (CS2 p.632), it is in apparent connection with magic...

********* Dave: I definitely incorporated the snout elongation in CS2 as a means of covering for any timeline discrepancies (i.e. pre-long snout, post-long snout) where Cerebus is shown having a short snout in a story that predates Cerebus No.1, so we might as well make use of it where it’s needed.

Talking with Bear about Cirinists (Mel p.240-244). (Cerebus' nose is still a bit on the long side.)
Jaka loses the ringing in her ears from her childhood injury (JS p.111).


********* Dave: Good example of how far from Full Immersion I am at this point. I didn’t remember either of these.



Well, that's it. If there's anything you'd like us to focus on, feel free to suggest it.

I will be writing back to you soon, I promise. It's been a rather complicated 2 weeks. I'll explain later....

-Jeff Tundis