Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #71 (November 21st, 2006)

All right. You win. Come back closer

where you can hear Staroo and Staroo will tell

you his …cough…cough… secret

Elaborating a bit on the extent to which I'm falling seriously behind on my mail, I think one of the things I'm most uncomfortable about this experiment is that I have gone over to the "dark side" in the sense that I tend to answer things here and never stop to consider if the people I'm talking to even read the Blog & Mail or know that it exists. My time is so taken up with getting this done every week and with remarking on the fact that it does seem to be boosting sales (the first time an order from Diamond has come in for Collected Letters 2004 since the initial sale of 1,000 copies, then 100 reorders and then another 100 when we relisted it—this time, 113 and only two months after I plugged it for a whole week? Is that how this works? We actually sell what I'm selling but it has to hatch out two months later?) that I never really stop to consider the more direct issues of communication. This became especially clear when Claude Flowers sent me the final manuscript/galleys for Collected Letters 2 which I've been reading and correcting for about two hours before bed every night. Because I'm responding to an individual's letter there, my response is tailored to the individual, a little rancour where it's called for, a leaven of humour, all of it provoked by what I've just read in the letter they wrote to me. The Blog & Mail is an entirely different process having more to do with broadcasting. I have no idea who I am talking to or how interested they are (common sense would dictate that there is no specific reader. Some people are fascinated by some things and bored or repelled by others. Doesn't matter what I write about or how I phrase it the reaction is going to be across the whole spectrum). In fact, the main reason that I tried doing this is that I figured it wouldn't work so it would be just one more thing on the list of things that haven't worked but sounded like they might. The appearance at the Salt Lake City Book Festival was a good example. The Number One Library in America (and it is gorgeous), a prestigious book festival, one of the best comic stores in the country, right there at the library with one of the most aggressive retailers on the planet, a fair amount of media coverage. It's worth a try—I've never had that combination of elements all in place. But, it really didn't work. It was still just the usual handful of people—all of them interesting and I'm always appreciative that I can spend that much time with each one—but still just a handful of people. As I've gotten fond of saying, a Cerebus signing usually has about a half dozen people—two of whom drove for at least nine hours to get there. Weighing even the limited expense of getting back and forth to the airport (which is really all we had to invest besides books and time) and the four days or so that it took out of the schedule, there were any number of more lucrative things I could have been doing, starting with commissioned drawings which we're starting to get inquiries about. And that's really what it comes down to. I'd rather be writing and drawing my own stuff first of all and drawing commissioned pieces that interest me if there is just no way to actually promote the trade paperbacks which seems to be the case. This works better. The Blog & Mail, I mean. But I really have no idea what to do, because I thought it wasn't going to work. In fact when I was talking to Claude on the phone (that's another weird thing—after two years of avoiding the phone like the plague, I've started using it a lot more when it's someone like Claude Flowers that I'm working with on something—bye-bye 2204-05 paper trail to keep people from reinventing Dave Sim to suit their own agendas) I just sort of blurted out, "How do you think I'm doing?" With the Blog & Mail. Which was a silly question. Claude is a huge fan. And, of course, then he turned around and asked all the Yahoos. Do you read it? What do you think? Which, already, it isn't going to tell you anything because you can pretty much predict the half dozen people who will respond publicly on the Newsgroup which leaves up in the air the question, Who are the people who compelled Diamond to order 113 copies of Collected Letters? What do they think? And you're never going to get an answer to that question because of the structure. Who's reading this? No idea. Why are they reading this? No idea. How often are they reading this? No idea. Is this working? Yes, really well. That's the bottom line. I don't really believe in surveys because they always tilt towards the answer that they're looking for. Any survey I take, I just have to look at the responses and none of them are going to match my own. That last one was Chester Brown with a survey that asked "Are You a Libertarian". Most of my answers to his questions were "That depends." But, of course, surveys don't have "That depends" as a category. Just "yes" or "no". No big surprise that when forced to respond "yes" or "no" I turned out to be a Raving Libertarian. So, at least in my case the pretence that a survey can help show What Our Customers Want or What The Voting Public is Interested In or What Is Your Political Affiliation is inherently false. And I've begun to suspect that might have the direct implication that the people I'm reaching with the Blog & Mail, people who, more than 50% of the time 19 times out of 20 are in the same category: "Other" or "within the bounds of statistical uncertainty".

So, I'm starting to get some ideas of different things that I want to try.

I finally got a chance to check out Jeff's revamping of the www.cerebusart.com website and was so enthusiastic about the animation thing he has happening there that I dug through to find the Cerebus Radio Show animation tracing paper and just sent it to him. This is made for this. That's an instant response thing. No point in taking a survey to find out if people want to see that. I want to see that, so it's a done deal. That having used up the sum total of Aardvark Vanaheim's animation inventory, I started thinking what else I could do. That was when Ger brought in Sean M's commission request for a Doctor Strangeroach, a la Steve Ditko. I told Ger to give him the number here and I'd talk to him about it which I did just a little while ago. He's one of those really good art collectors who likes to give artists a lot of latitude. Major Steve Ditko fan so I wanted to know what his level of compulsion was. I don't remember a lot about Dr. Strange, but I did remember that they changed his costume pretty quickly after he first appeared in Strange Tales #110. It was sort of a subdued blue number to begin with. Sean mentioned that the amulet used to look different, that it actually had something sculpted on it, a figure or something. I had definitely forgotten that part and wished I had some reference to check (yes, I know, if I was hooked up to the Internet I could just Google it and there it would be). He told me about another artist who's working on a commission for him where it's going to have all these giant disembodied floating eyes with devouring maws. Because we're talking about Steve Ditko, I instantly get a definite mental image. Sean said that he had mentioned it to his wife (who shares his love of comics, lucky guy) and she said, "How could an eye have a devouring maw?" I think you have to have grown up with Steve Ditko for that to be second nature. So, all right, now I'm getting the range and this was what I was interested in—Steve Ditko's way with drawing otherworldly dimensions. Nobody else even comes close. And he's going to give me the latitude to do whatever I want in that way, so specific preference for the earliest Doctor Strange over the later Doctor Strange.

Tomorrow: More On the Evolving Dr. Strangeroach

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.