Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #68 (November 18th, 2006)






Cough…uhlgg…Staroo feels as if he ruptured a

blood vessel in his throat or something

Concluding my review of Create Your Own Graphic Novel, I think the average retailer would have to get a copy and read it and try to figure out if this is just something they want to sell a few copies of and forget about or if this is an actual Graphic Novels for Teens/Graphic Novels for Dummies that they can use as the thin end of their wedge of public outreach. Although I think Scott McCloud and Will Eisner say a lot more in their books that actually apply to the nature of the medium, I think a persuasive argument could be made that they are still, for the most part, preaching to the converted and that we as a creative community and (particularly) as a retail community might still be looking for the entry-level Holy Grail book for the Total Civilian. There may even be two books required: Teens and Dummies and Create Your Own Graphic Novel might one of them, both of them or neither of them.

[Just to head anyone off at the pass, I can't picture ever doing an Understanding Comics or a Comics and Sequential Art or a Create Your Own Graphic Novel book of my own. I consider those to be just Too Large As Subjects to tackle definitively but I certainly think all three are potentially very helpful to what we are all, presumably, trying to do here. The closest I came was The Guide to Self-Publishing which I will be theoretically revising and republishing somewhere up ahead and that I only tackled because in the course of 1992/93 with the US Tour I had been asked the same questions enough times that I had a clear idea of how to compose a primer that would take care of most of the immediate self-publishing entry-level questions. How I wrote and drew comics myself is, to me, Too Large A Subject for a book. Usually all I can picture is looking at someone else's comic book and critiquing it on the basis of my own creator prejudices and hopefully giving them a different perspective or a helping hand. Sometimes the lettering is the biggest problem, sometimes it's the inking, sometimes it's the layout, so if I can just do some suggestions on tracing paper, sometimes I can help and sometimes I can't. Sometimes the honest answer is: stop looking at my stuff and start looking at Chester Gould or someone who's more stylized. Sometimes they just have to go through a few years of wrong turns before they get there.]

Anyway, I do think Create Your Own Graphic Novel is worth checking out, again, particularly for retailers ( and possibly for XTreme Cerebus Completists (yes, I'm looking at you, Margaret and Jeff) since it does include 6 reproductions from Cerebus. I think retailers have to look at it and decide if this reflects their own viewpoints to a sufficient degree that it can serve as an introductory volume for the comic medium in their own context, their store where they labour on a day-in day-out basis to establish what comic books and graphic novels are and what they can be. "This will help you, as a new customer, to start seeing the way we see". Of course that might just be my own prejudice in favour of brick and mortar over Internet consumption.

[And I also have to say that I don't think any Holy Grail publication is ever going to take the place of hand-selling on the part of retailers, managers and store employees. And hand-selling at every level. I had occasion to be at Night Flight's Library store around noon on the Saturday of my recent visit and the store was empty except for me and Mike Justice—a comic-store employee name if ever there was one—and a single customer who didn't seem much interested in buying anything and didn't have much knowledge of comics in general but was engaging Mike in conversation. My visual sense being engaged by scanning the racks for anything of interest—I ended up buying American Splendor #2 and three random issues of Big George since Big George himself had come to our signing the day before and we had had a nice chat. He's produced twenty issues in twenty years, Big George has—my ears were able to stay occupied listening to Mr. Justice's patient and prolonged explication of comic books as a reading experience versus comic books as collectibles or investments (which the potential customer kept belabouring in one sense of another). Unfailingly polite—always watching for some on-ramp clue of a book or comic he could direct the fellow to—this I think is the engine that drives the comic-book economy. If there was an unlimited supply of Mike Justice's out there, Night Flight might be a national chain of comic stores, but there aren't which is why staffing is always going to be a key irreplaceable element. The sales resistance to comic books is profound on a percentage basis. If you have a store with an interchangeable high school kid slouched at the counter listening to his iPod, I think you have a store in danger of a swift demise. Mike Justice is the exact opposite of that kid.]

At 15 quid plus mailing it's going to be a high ticket item for a store that doesn't look at things the way Mike Chinn does and would likely result in the average store owner spending the next three years having to explain who Luther Arkwright is and why they don't carry him. For me, seeing Bryan Talbot's work on that seminal graphic novel again was worth the price of admission (in my case, authorizing them to use Cerebus in the book) and was definitely one of the gold stars in Ilex's notebook by my reckoning. Luther Arkwright will never be forgotten in Merry Olde England, I don't think. Bryan made a place for him and then persevered with blood, sweat and tears to bring it in for a landing and even in a book dominated by computers and in tiny flawed reproductions, those fine pen lines and meticulously spotted blacks which were so many years ahead of what most others were doing in comics at the time have more than stood the test of ensuing decades. Sometimes that's really all you need to get a favourable opinion out of me: playing up somebody who should never be forgotten and Bryan Talbot and his Luther Arkwright are both in that category.

Oddly enough, just as I finished writing that part, I turned over an old chequebook and there was Bryan Talbot's phone number. I must call and find out if he's still living in his remarkable Talbot Castle.

There's More For YOU




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.