Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #31 (October 12th, 2006)

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A Day in the Blog & Mail Life

8:48 am: Resume work on the Blog & Mail item "Cerebus stars in 3D Animated Film"

More from the letter from the 3D animated film coordinator

"Storywise we are attempting to do the first issue of Cerebus with, I hope you don't mind, three main changes: The first one being we couldn't get anyone to do a skeleton (Boy, did we try!) so there is a beast/monster instead. Secondly, the two partners-in-crime who follow Cerebus are now the McGrew Bros. And thirdly, the wizard is more short and chubby with refined tastes rather than tall and lanky. Again, if you don't like these changes, please let me know and we will make it happen!"

He also sent along roughly a dozen pages of colour print-outs of various props, set designs and character designs, storyboards, etc.

Now, right away there is an obvious problem. I don't want a film made and the guy is making a film. In my own view, I was meeting him halfway saying that I wouldn't prevent him from using Cerebus in any animation that he wanted to do. Obviously what he inferred from that was that I was authorizing him to get as many people together as he wanted in order to make this huge project whereas what I was trying to imply was that he would have to keep it small by only doing it himself. But, it's obviously too late for that. And then, of course, there's the implication of greater involvement for me. Having tried to reach a compromise with him that would allow him to do some animation so that I wasn't this complete hard ass, now he wants me to take more time and go through the project step by step explaining what I don't like about it and what I want him to change. I really don't have any inclination to do that. I don't think Cerebus would make a particularly good film and I have never thought Cerebus would make a particularly good film. I don't think that's anything against Cerebus or against film. I don't think Citizen Kane—a great movie—would make a very good graphic novel. That's nothing against Citizen Kane and nothing against graphic novels.

At the same time, I'm not really sure that this even qualifies as a film. It's more of a "movie jam"—guys who do 3D animation who like Cerebus and see this as a chance to put the two of them together. It's exactly what's wrong with Hollywood as far as I, as the custodian of an intellectual property, am concerned. "The two partners in crime who follow Cerebus are now the McGrew Bros." Why? Well, obviously because the McGrew Bros. are more compatible with film than the two anonymous characters is Cerebus 1. But the McGrew Bros. didn't appear until issue 27, until High Society. So right away you're violating continuity, "deconstructing" Cerebus to make it into something else. When I write something for Hollywood, I take that as a given. The movie that I have on the producer's desk right now is a good example. If he phoned me and said, "Great! Love the script. But instead of a married couple, can we make them two army buddies?" I'd say sure. As long as you pay me those Hollywood rates…

[this isn't so much greed, I don't think, as trying to be realistic about how "our end" of the comic-book field—i.e. everything except super-heroes—is doing right now which is "not great". If it suddenly goes from "not great" to "great" or "Great" that's fine but it's never been my nature to just sit and wait and see what happens to me if it suddenly goes from "not great" to "terrible". I also have to couple these cyclical "industry doldrums" with the fact that Cerebus is in the `known quantity' category for most retailers. This is how fast it sells, this is how often you need to restock on it. Even in "gravy times" the retailers aren't apt to suddenly decide to increase their orders, so there's really just "known quantity" orders alternating with flat-line periods when only super-heroes are on their radar screens. That holds for Cerebus and for Following Cerebus and, presumably, for anything I am attempting to do or might attempt to do in the comic-book field. "This is the category Dave Sim is in." I am working on a project that might be a comic book or might be a graphic novel but if it sells the way Following Cerebus sells—again, "not great" and, presumably, that's how it is going to sell—then I have to start looking elsewhere to figure out how to reinforce the "real world insulation" of the company bank account if Ger and I are going to continue to get paid at our reduced post-Cerebus salaries. We have, I would guess—depending on how often we have to reprint the trade paperbacks (an unknown variable)—roughly three years worth of money in the bank if absolutely no money comes in from now on. I'd rather have enough money to last four years than enough money to last three years, five years rather than to last four years. I'd rather have the money and not need it than need it and not have it, etc. I'm also aware that I, as an anti-feminist, can't expect any help from a virulently feministic society and I'm not one of those believers in God who thinks it's God's job to take care of me and that by giving large sums (relatively speaking to charity) I'm jeopardizing mine and Gerhard's futures by guessing wrong as to how much is too much. What can I tell you? I come from a different time period. I pay off my VISA balance every month and I never put an amount on my card that I can't pay off every month. Wouldn't dream of it. For obvious reasons, I prefer to start looking where the money is the best, where the amounts that are trafficked in are "year-long" amounts. And that means, if possible, Major Studio Hollywood money. If I can sell them a script that means a two- or three-year supply of money in one go…and, no, that doesn't include the movie rights to Cerebus because there you're talking about jeopardizing the core intellectual property which I would be unable to protect in that environment. It's only greed if, unlike me, you don't see the issues as being life-or-death for Aardvark-Vanaheim.]

…as long as you pay me those Hollywood rates, you can do whatever you want to it because the bottom line is, you will anyway. Or the director will or the stars will or the studio will or the distributor will. It's the way the environment is built. I have no clout and the person with the clout (all or any one of the above) is the one who makes the decisions. If I have a string of three successes after the "married couple who became two army buddies" script then I'll have clout. Right now I don't have any.

The problem with this project is that I have clout—it's my property and the guy can't do anything with it unless I give my OK, but given that I have zero interest in a Cerebus film—for the reasons of jeopardizing the core intellectual property—the clout I have is just a recipe for using up a lot of hours that I won't be able to get back. And I have no inclination to spend untold hours trying to make something that I don't think would make a very good film into a film. There are only so many hours in the day.

9:20 am: Case in point: time to erase the pencil from and paste the lettering on the Collected Letters 2 cover and take it and my comic pages from Howard Shum's The Secret Life of Comic Book Artists film over to Sherwood to be scanned so Gerhard can colour the logo on the former and so I have all three for the news section in the next issue of Following Cerebus.

This portion of the Blog & Mail has been brought to you by

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In the heart of Downtown Kitchener

30 Duke Street West Suite 110 The West Tower of Corporation Square

Say hi to Paul W. the manager who used to be our landlord in the Medical Arts Building—maybe he'll tell you some stories about the "drunken rock star" days

10:05 am: Right. There are only so many hours in the day.

At the same time, this is obviously an interesting experiment very much in tune with the Internet Age—people with like interests coming together to work on a project for the sheer love of it. A big part of me says that, hey, what the heck—you should be flattered that all of this high-priced Hollywood talent is going ahead with this without even a promise of a promise that they'll see nickel one out of it. Where's the harm?

Tomorrow on the Blog & Mail: the harm, I see it.


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.