Note From The President, Cerebus 173, August 1993Copyright 1993 Dave Sim
I had really forgotten how exhausting the Big Cons can be. Just got back from Comicon in Chicago and I wanted to write this while a few things were still fresh in my mind relative to self-publishing.
I would have to say the biggest self-publishing success story at Comicon was Martin Wagner. Martin is one ballsy guy, let me tell you. I had made a general suggestion some time ago that an artist-writer who is interested in self-publishing should consider finding a certain number of stores who are willing to invest in him; finding stores who will pay in advance for a book before it goes to press in order to have enough 'up front' money for a printing bill. Well, Martin gave it a try. And he managed to round up eighty (count 'em, EIGHTY) stores willing to send him a cheque for seventy-five dollars for ten trade paperbacks and two hardcovers (the numbers might be wrong, but I think it was ten and two) of the Collegiate Hepcats which reprints all the Hepcats strips he did for the Dally Texan as well as Hepcats 1 under a new painted cover. It worked! It really, really worked. He brought a few boxes of them with him to the convention and he sold every last damn one of them. He'll probably need to do a second printing before the end of the year. Now, making all those phone calls was undoubtedly a pain in the ass, but Martin didn't get discouraged and what do you know? It worked! I'd like to thank every one of those stores for such a tremendous show of confidence in Collegiate Hepcats. That book would not exist without your support; and in this case it isn't hyperbole; it's a fact. Eighty retailers made a self-published trade paperback exist.
The next biggest self-publishing success story at Comicon was the tidal wave of ash-cans and mini-comics that were circulating. I came home with a stack several inches thick of ash-cans, mini-comics and first issues. I'd like to thank all of the folks in Artists' Alley who gave me a copy as well as everyone who brought copies of their mini's and ashcans to me during the autograph sessions. I had such a whale of a time reading them all (Collegiate Hepcats alone took about three hours) from cover to cover that I didn't even get around to reading the mainstream books until I got back.
The one hour talk I gave on Saturday was very well-attended (thanks to everyone who braved the July heat). One question in particular, I made a mental note to cover in this column. Someone asked about working for the mainstream companies; something along the lines of 'what if you have a really good Batman story or X-Force story you want to do.' I pointed out that 1963 is the answer to that. Everyone knows who the characters are supposed to be. Just change the way they look and the name. It dates back to Watchmen, actually. As soon as a DC executive told Alan Moore to change the original Charlton characters into new characters (DC already had plans for the Fly, Blue Beetle, etc.) and as soon as DC trademarked and copyrighted those new characters; well, hey, that's checkmate on the big board. If you change the way the character looks and his name, you've created a new character. So if that's what's holding you back from self-publishing, just pick a character you've always wanted to do, call him something else, change a few things about his appearance and away you go. And you don't have to worry about some editor with a stick up his or her ass making you conform to company policy. You can do the story exactly the way you want it done. Isn't that great? Well, I think it is.
Steve Bissette had a few pages of Tyrant with him which he'll be self-publishing later this year. His best work ever. As I said to Larry Marder, 'Who would've guessed that the loosest, sloppiest inker in the business had Al Williamson hiding somewhere inside him?'
Next issue, I'll get back to guidelines on self-publishing (Martin made an excellent point that deserves a few paragraphs), but this time out, I just felt like, y'know, celebrating a bit.
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