Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #141 (January 30th, 2007)

Dave Sim's Collected Letters Volume 2 will be released in late spring/early summer 2007. Until Dave (who currently has the flu) is feeling better – and to whet your appetite for the book! -- The Blog & Mail will run two-page excerpts from the manuscript each day.

Today: Pages 86 & 87:

It's the book. Of course, if you call manga comic books — which I don't — I think that lets us out. They've got hundreds of 10,000 page stories just as a matter of day-to-day business, from what I understand. You can do that with a sweatshop. Besides it would take away a major enjoyment for me — the fact that no one can figure out how to explain what we did. I mean, it's a central reality that has led to system meltdown. I find it funny to just shrug and go, "Well, I guess we didn't actually do anything." Because that just gets people more irritated.

"Well, come on. You did SOMETHING!"

"Really? What?"

And then watch them stumble around trying to find words for it all over again.

As to your outline of your proposed and/or imagined project, my best advice would be to try doing a self-contained issue. This is the biggest karmic burden I have to bear at this point are the number of people who want to start off doing 150 issues. I started off trying to do three on a bi-monthly schedule. Same format, same character, same logo, letters page, note on the inside front cover. I managed to accomplish it. So then I decided to keep going. But I can pretty much guarantee you that if I hadn't kept to the bi-monthly schedule on the first three I would've rethought what I was doing from the ground up. I don't see that in the generation of aspirants. They want to do a monthly comic. They sit down and do the first issue and it takes them eight months. Well, you know, as John Lennon said in Help!, "You've failed, haven't you, scientist?" I mean, face it head on. You failed. Don't work another year on issue two and say, "I'm still going to issue 150." You're torturing yourself needlessly. Scott Berwanger with Anubis has thirty-two issues done. It's taken him about ten years to get there. At least theoretically he's a little less than halfway. Well, okay. There's one guy. And he's given up on trying to publish them until he's done. That's decision-making. Something has to go overboard and its publication. It's speeded him up a bit and is devouring less money than it was when he was publishing them. Do you see what I'm saying? That's decision-making. He's breaking for the opening, looking for short yardage, calling an audible on the field. The odds are still not anywhere near great that he'll finish, but they're better than they were.

So my best advice is to start with your first issue and see how long it takes you to do. If it takes you a year, I'd really recommend against doing any story longer than three issues and take it as a given that it will take you three years or more to finish it. If it takes you three months to do the issue, you can possibly do four [a] year and can start thinking about doing eight or twelve issues. Even if everything had gone wrong with Cerebus from the beginning, I would've had three self-contained issues. "Not brilliant material but, huh. That was okay." Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. "Hunh. That one was okay too. But I liked the first one better."

There's value in that. But don't expect that people are going to be collapsing to the ground because you've taken their breath away and your 150-issue story is now the center of reality. A comic book is a comic book. If they read your first issue and it cost them what a beer would cost and they come to the end and don't say, "I should've bought the beer instead," that's as big as it gets in the comic-book field. You're a hit! Why? Because you don't totally suck. Try not to totally suck and try to give them something self-contained in the first issue.

Take it as a given (because it is a given) that no matter how good your first issue is, no one is going to be on the edge of their seats waiting for the next one. It's not an "edge of the seat" thing. It's a comic book. First issues that don't suck are a dime-a-dozen with a cover price of $2.95. I could've paved downtown Kitchener twice over with first issues of comic books that didn't suck that people sent to me or gave to me. I didn't, as an example, when I read the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, think that I had seen the promised land. It didn't suck. The cover was Frank Miller's Ronin cover done with Turtles. Now, that's funny. The title was funny. And when you read it, it didn't suck. And it flew off the shelves.

I mean, that's a whole other category. The story you're describing to me is a lot more like Cerebus. "I think I see the world differently and I think I have something to say that's worth listening to and I think I can do it in an entertaining way." Great. It's not going to sell much. You have to not even secretly hope that it's going to sell much. And you have to realize that IF you get to issue 150 and it takes just about everything out of you getting there, no one is going to care and no one is going to say anything. You'll have an audience and with any luck a number of patrons with very deep pockets who are going to be your best hope for a secure retirement. But that's all you're going to have. Do you. Really. And. SERIOUSLY want to go there? Well, great. Have fun. Smoke `em if you still let yourself.

I answered all of your questions that you sent me in the Guide, including how to solicit Diamond. That's a really bad sign. That means you aren't paying attention and you think you are.

For someone who still hasn't found a paper he's comfortable using and hasn't got finished pages in hand, you're getting way ahead of yourself. Before you can pay attention, you have to wake up. So wake yourself up, pay attention and start moving forward. And recognize that it's been several months already and you still haven't even gotten to the starting point. Pay attention to that, Nick. Reality is reality. It is the way things are, not the way you want them to be in your head.



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.