Note From The President, Cerebus 145, April 1991Copyright 1991 Dave Sim
Well, skipping over the patented Grothian histrionics, Gary addresses the question I posed in Cerebus 141 in the last column of "Opening Shots" (Comics Journal 140, Feb.1991);
Oops, I almost forgot. You asked me if I thought the Hernandezes, Peter Bagge or Dan Clowes should have the right of "free movement" in mid-contract. Well, Dave, it depends. Your answer would be yes, under any circumstances; mine would be yes, under certain circum- stances. If, for example I mortgaged the house, hocked the stereo, and sold the children in order to finance a mass-media blitz for Eightba/1, only to find Dan taking Eightba/1 to Random House's new avant-garde comics division, I might be a little miffed. In fact I might want to kill him. But, even if I never wanted to publish such a treacherous swine ever again, our contractual arrangement might give me the legal basis I'd need to win back my home, my sound system, and the kids - which seems to me only fair and equitable.
Well, first of all, no one spends that much money on promotion, Gary. I would assume that in the case of on-going creator-owned series like Ms. Tree, Flaming Carrot, Journeyand others which have migrated from publisher to publisher, the promotion costs are just the price of doing business. That is to say, Eclipse didn't sue us to recover promotion money spent on Ms. Tree. Or sue Max and Terry. While they published it, they promoted it. When they stopped publishing it, they stopped pro- moting it, and the promotion of the book became the current publisher's responsibility. Gary continues;
And you have to remember that contracts work both ways. If I called up the Hernandezes and told them that the only way I could figure out how to afford that new yacht was to pay them only a third of the contractually agreed-upon royalties on all those copies of Love & Rockets collections in our warehouse, their "free-movement" to a publisher who wouldn't rip them off wouldn't mean much, would it? They'd want to make sure they received their contractually agreed- upon royalties, and the only way to do that would be to have those royalties stipulated in writing, in a signed contract. (Then they could sue myass off, which they probably would.)
I would doubt they would "sue your ass off," Gary. Legal action is a luxury of those with large amounts of available cash (as you know probably better than any of us). There is not very much money to be had in publishing independent comics and there is usually less to be had writing and drawing them. Free movement, I believe, at least guarantees that revenues from creative work are not being eaten up in legal costs in the part of publishers or creators. Gary continues;
Your hypothetical involving Peter, Dan, Jaime, and Gilbert isn't quite appropriate because the relationship isn't a purely business one (I know this is hardforyou to believe.) Still, the reason contracts are entered into in good faith and abided by equally by both parties is so that either party can seek legal redress, if he so chooses -which, granted, in most cases he probably wouldn't.
It's not hard for me to believe at all, Gary. As I put it to the very Fantagraphics-Loyal Peter Bagge when I met him in Toronto (nice guy, by the way); if Gary decides Eros and Monster and Fantagraphics and Redbeard aren't enough and he decides he needs, say, a dozen imprints with two dozen titles each, to keep Love & Rockets, Hate and Eightball alive, are we all just expected to bite the bullet and amiably agree that a Fantagraphics glut is in a "good cause" and, say, DC's isn't? Could DC not argue that they have to publish all this drek to keep Sandman going (under that same rea- soning)? Is it unreasonable to suggest that Love & Rockets, Hate and Eightball will survive and flourish whatever fate befalls Gary Groth and Fantagraphics?
I think, Gary, in your heart of hearts, you know that free movement is the only thing that makes sense. Like every other publisher (my past self included) you get (whether deserved or not) unquestioning loyalty from those who perceive your treatment of them to be fair. Those who don't think you treat them fairly will leave (or, in some cases, have left). You win a few, you lose a few. Giving a lot of money to lawyers over the course of several years, to interpret, re-interpret, counter-interpret and cross- interpret a contract in a court of law strikes me as a sad waste of anyone's money; whether he is a conscientious and dedicated publisher or a conscientious and dedicated creator.
Ger and I will NOT attend the 1991 San Diego Con as previously announced. Apologies to everyone involved.
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