Monday, April 23, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #221 (April 20th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


Quoth the Contact:

What OTHER Marvel

Character would you like to

do, Dave?

And there I draw a blank. I had an idea for a Spider-Ham story. It's really the only time I've had an idea for a Marvel or DC character. Also, what character I'm going to do, to me, is a minor element that comes much later in the negotiation process. "Real world" Dave is once again trying to figure out a way to work in the "work-made-for-hire" context but tweaking it a bit. That part has to be decided before we start talking about specific characters. "Ask not what Dave Sim can do for the Scarlet Witch, Ask what the Scarlet Witch's bank account can do for Dave Sim". Or something like that.

When I suggest that maybe I could just draw something someone else would write he quickly asks who I would want to work with. I laugh and tell him, "Stan Lee," and the phone connection hollows out completely. Oxygen go bye-bye. He's trying not to say it—"You and everyone else on Planet Comic Book"—but I'm aiming too high. But something gets established for me right there. We're thrilled to possibly work with Dave Sim but you're not on that level of importance. Again, that's the point that I got to with DC. Who else? What about Chris Claremont? I laugh again and tell him that he's trying to find my fanboy hot button—the Marvel character I want to do, the writer I want to work with. He sincerely apologizes because it sounds as if I'm accusing him of something unethical. No, not at all. You have your artillery. If you think something is going to hit me below my waterline, you're sort of obligated to take your best shot. I would guess that most of the time it works. You hit the right character or the right collaborator and most guys will fold like a cheap suit. He laughs, realizing that there's nothing personal in this. This is business and this is negotiation and I haven't got a hot button in any conventional sense but if he thinks he can find one, he's welcome to keep probing.

The overall sense, what he seems to be conveying to me, is that "tweaking is do-able". Marvel does "tweak". There are several instances of Marvel "tweaking" that he describes, some in general and some in more specific terms. That still leaves open the question of whether Marvel will "tweak" for Dave which (at least as I found at DC) was a different question entirely. Obviously Marvel would "tweak" for, say, Frank Miller, but, in 2007, Dave Sim is definitely aware that he is not in Frank Miller's league. He assures me that, at least in the Direct Market context, there is an awareness at Marvel that Dave Sim agreeing to do a Marvel character would be an [insert nebulous positive term]. A "coup" would be stretching the point, I think. My contact is a Cerebus fan, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that this fact is distorting the reality of the negotiation. The "awareness at Marvel" might be his alone. He might think that it would be a positive to have Dave Sim do a Marvel character. That doesn't mean that Marvel as a corporate entity can see it as any reason to "tweak" anything in a major way for a creator one of their employees is enthusiastic about and who is definitely not Frank Miller. As I say, from what I can see, that's ultimately what happened with DC. It was, at least theoretically, a big deal for Bill Willingham to have Dave Sim do a Fables short story. I was on a short list he gave to Shelly Bond, his editor, who was at least portraying herself as thinking it was a big deal, but that portrayal is a big part of the corporate job description. I got a big pile of Fables graphic novels and comic books and a nice handwritten note from Shelly which had essentially the same tone as the notes I used to get from Jeanette Kahn. As long as we all stay ostensibly enthusiastic and positive maybe Dave Sim will get swept up in that and just sign on the dotted line and capitulate without a peep because he's really just a fanboy who wants to work at DC and he's having such a good time talking with us.

What we're sort of at loggerheads about, my contact at Marvel and I, is that what I want to do is to write and draw and publish my own stuff and the Blog & Mail seems to be helping sales, so I have to maintain that for the foreseeable future (I mean, I dearly love doing this, you all know that) and what that adds up to is that I have four or five days a month to do outside work basically for money to supplement the trade paperback sales. I get $800 or $900 for a commission that takes me two or three days to do. Two days, preferably. That's for a single picture. If Marvel wants me to do a multi-page story (five to eight pages), well, a comic-book page takes longer to do than a single illustration, substantially longer. The odds are it will take up four or five days just to do one good comic-book page. I already know that Marvel isn't going to pay me $1600 to $1800 a page. So the dispute comes down to the likelihood that the powers that be at Marvel are going to look at what I'm making doing commissions and decide that I'm not worth half that. Which is kind of funny if you think of it.

At some point in this situation, Gerhard had to come into the office for something and he told me he had gotten an e-mail from Mark S. who was really quite ardent about wanting a drawing of Cerebus and Yoda as drinking buddies and Ger tells me that he tried to warn Mark how I feel about Yoda and not to hold his breath. Am I really that far out of step? I have nothing against Yoda personally (I never met the Muppet!) and what I do have against him is the Frank Oz /Fozzie Bear voice. It still perplexes my real world self. Usually Hollywood is scrupulous about keeping those kinds of associations out of big budget films. It's the reason that most actors known for situation comedies can't get work in serious cinema. No one wants to have millions of dollars at stake and have the entire audience wrenched out of the movie at an inopportune moment because The Fonz or Barney Fife or Ed Norton just walked onto the screen. And yet nobody tells Frank Oz to use something WAY WAY far AWAY from Fozzie Bear or any of the other Muppets. But that has nothing to do with the look of Yoda which is great. Any qualms I had about anything having to do with Star Wars visually are swept away by the fact that Al Williamson drew the newspaper strip. So I call Mark and we talk it over and I explain what I'm getting for a commission these days and I say that it sounds as if he isn't talking in that ballpark and, no, he isn't. But then he suggests that I just do it in pencil—he prefers pencil anyway—and that he'll offer me $400. Hey, sold. You're in the "on deck circle."

Well, you know, I'm willing to bet that that isn't far off Marvel's top rate for a fully penciled and inked multi-panel comic-book page that I am duty bound to change if anyone from the janitor on up doesn't like anything about it. So like I say, we're at loggerheads. And then I get a fax from a guy who has just read the correspondence on Al Nickerson's Creator's Rights page between me and DC and he's very jovial but perplexed. "What are you negotiating with Time-Warner for? I thought you published your own stuff. What's the relationship between you and Aardvark-Vanaheim, anyway?" Which has Interesting Timing written all over it. He has a script for a graphic novel and would I be interested in drawing three sample pages that we could use to pitch it to various companies? He offers a straight 50% of all profits. Well, as I wrote back to him, no. 50% of nothing is nothing and all that he has to offer right now is nothing. I explain (and it's the first time I've assessed it) that it only seems polite to me to entertain offers of work. Marvel and DC are the biggest comic-book companies in North America, so when they contact you, the least you should do (as a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying comic-book person) is to hear them out. But, as I explained, they really aren't in the ballpark of what I'm getting paid and my best guess with the current negotiation with Marvel is that there is a chance I would do a cover for them (assuming that their rates for covers are substantially higher than the rates for interior pages and that they would offer me their top rate) because I could justify it as a single illustration and, hopefully, get it done in a day or two. But even that possibility seems remote when I can get $400 for a pencil drawing with no possibility of being asked to redraw it because the editor thinks the "right arm looks funny". Then I thanked him for his interest, wished him good luck with his project and went back to what I was doing. So another fax comes through from him and this time he admits that he's a movie producer but right now all anyone cares about in Hollywood is graphic novels (this was the third week of 300 being at #1 at the box office), so everything he does now in pitching a movie, he packages as a graphic novel. He didn't want me to actually draw an entire graphic novel, he just wanted me to draw three pages that he could present as being from a graphic novel and we would split the profits 50-50 on any deal that he could make.

Am I the only one who finds this terrifically amusing? I imagine so.

So I write back to him that I'd be willing to read his script for two days and charge him $500 a day for two twelve-hour days where I'd read it, analyze it and make suggestions as a "famous graphic novelist" (you can Google me if you want) if he makes me Co-Producer. Basically what I did for Brian Moore on his Demon Joe screenplay for free. Since that's all that he really needs is "graphic novel cachet" why not get more direct about it? He could then read my suggestions and decide if he wants to buy another two days next month when I'm into my next week of doing outside work. So, latest fax I got from him, he's contacting his "money people" and recommending that they go for it.

And, at that point, it was back to my secret project.

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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.