Monday, April 23, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #224 (April 23rd, 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.


More on the NEW WORLD


And what I see this as meaning for

My Secret Project I've been

working on for two years

Cerebus has proved itself in the "aftermarket value" category over the years, but the secret project isn't Cerebus and it isn't a continued series so I'm definitely staring down the barrel of "Does a Dave Sim indy comic have aftermarket value or is it only Cerebus?" You can do a monthly comic book reliably and on-time for 26 years, but the ultimate question is going to be the same: what have you done for us lately? I can point to the Cerebus trade paperbacks and their perennial sales, but only if I'm selling a new trade paperback, or a new trade paperback that is "like Cerebus" which I'm not.

Leaving that imminent catastrophe aside, there is a major schism in the field, it seems to me, that has taken place, "major" to the extent that the opposing sides, "indies" and "mainstream" don't even have common frames of reference in which to discuss much of anything. "Indies" have gotten more entrenched in the view that comics should be exclusively a reading experience, taking it as a given that the more you can eliminate speculation and collectibility the better the market will become. But the indies -- and the core belief that it is better to read than to collect a comic book -- are and always have been the branch and not the tree. At one level or another, the vast majority of comic-store patrons know the value of what they are buying by whether or not the comic they bought last week is selling for more money than they paid for it the week after. It seems to me less pertinent to automatically disagree with Mr. Boyle in dutiful "Reading Uber Alles" fashion (which I suspect most independent publishers and creators would and which Mr. Boyle anticipates when he says "Feel free to argue the point if you wish...") than to recognize that it's always the height of foolishness to disagree with reality (see "The Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast").

Principles of Comic Store Reality

1) Successful comic books immediately go up in dollar value in the aftermarket

2) The most successful comic books continue to go up in value in the aftermarket while less successful comic books level off or decline in value

3) Fewer and fewer comic books are in either category these days

4) Virtually all comic books in either category are from Marvel (and, as Mr. Boyle puts it, DC to a lesser degree)

Mr. Boyle's line in his article, "DC to a lesser degree" is significant. It represents a dramatic retrenchment in perception from even five years ago. It's no longer "Marvel and DC and ImageĆ’...and Dark Horse to a lesser degree" as it would have been through most of the 1990s and the early part of the twenty-first century. If you're an indy and Mr. Boyle has made you feel bad, maybe what he had to say about Image will cheer you up:

There was a great moment at Comedy Central during an awards show they did for themselves. They started by showing clips of everything that made Comedy Central what it was to that point; every clip was of South Park. If Image held those same awards, Robert Kirkman's Invincible, Walking Dead and Battle Pope would be the only clips shown. Image moves into 2007 as a company without a direction. They've launched one creator-owned series after another until the publisher now looks like a clearinghouse for unknown talent. Yes, such talent should have a place to go but as I stated about a comics store in this same column some months ago, a store without a focus is a store without an identity. Robert Kirkman: [graded] A. Image: C-

I mean, "ouch", eh? The universal perception is reverting to what it was in the early 1970s; to what it was in the pre-Direct Market days. There is Marvel, to a lesser degree there is DC and then there's everything else which is pretty much not worth discussing (then: Charlton, Gold Key and Archie). What has taken place is Principles #1 and 2 Writ Large. Only those publishers whose books go up in value on the aftermarket are on the Big Radar Screen. Ergo, Comic Store Reality consists of Marvel and, DC to a lesser degree. Consequently Independents not only don't exist for most stores, they don't even have the advantage of regular publication and newsstand sales which their pre-Direct Market predecessors like Charlton and Gold Key had or regular publication which the early Direct Market titles (like Cerebus and Elfquest) took as a necessary "given" in order to be granted space and attention in marginal comic-book stores, "quirky" stores: stores outside the paradigm where readability was given credence secondary to aftermarket value ("sort of quirky"), equal to after-market value ("really quirky") or greater credibility than after-market value ("Twilight Zone quirky").

Given that these are the Comic Store Realities that are emphatically reasserting themselves after thirty years of the "tree" being bullied by the "branch" into believing that "comic books as investments" was a shameful way to look at the medium, it seems clear that I can't just "release" my secret project and just, you know, hope for a good sale. Just by being an indy creator and a indy publisher I'm (I think justifiably) tarred with the same negative indy brush: I'm swimming upstream against the direct market tide. If I want an honest answer to "What should I do?", the sincerely honest answer, founded in the unshakeable and now reasserted reality of the Principles of Comic Store Reality would be: You want to be noticed? Go to Marvel and do a really cool Wolverine mini-series.

And, truth be told, I see a lot of that in Diamond's weekly Direct Market "snapshot" newletter, Diamond Dateline these days: creators I've never heard of who are using a Marvel or DC credential to try and sell an independent or self-published book. I don't think it works. The overall momentum of the market is towards a Marvel comic being real -- what could be more real, more verifiable than something that goes up in value immediately after you buy it? -- and therefore the creators of any Marvel comic are real, the degree of that reality being directly attributable to the extent that their work goes up in value immediately in the aftermarket. But that reality for the most part is not transportable or extendable. If you do your Marvel project and then do an independent project, you exist and then you cease to exist -- independent comics don't go up in value. You basically "vanish" like an infant's game of peek-a-boo: if I can't see you, you don't exist. If you move from the DC section or the Marvel supplement in Previews to the General Comics & Graphic Novels section I can't see you because I don't look back there. Then you do Batman and suddenly you exist again. I SEE you!

So the question becomes, "How do you do a commercially viable project in that context?" And, again, the frames of reference are so radically divergent that there's no way to even communicate as an "indy" addressing the "mainstream" because they mean something very different by the term "context". To the market, the vast majority of the market -- probably 90% or more -- the answer is obvious. You do a Marvel comic and make it really good. To even discuss the idea of a project being commercially viable that isn't a Marvel comic automatically pushes you completely off the radar screen.

You don't "get it" with all that "not getting it" entails.

"As a collector, fan or store owner, I can sympathize with you "not getting it" and if I'm the compassionate type, I might commiserate with you for a while, but ultimately you're going to have to face the fact that you're like King Canute ordering the tide not to come in. The tide is coming in. Your indy book because it is an indy book isn't going to sell very well. You can try to discuss an indy project with me, but if the "me" you are talking to is a comic-book fan, collector or store owner, while you're talking about your esoteric comic book, my mind is thinking about Batman, Spider-man, Thor, the Hulk. I'll try and agree with you to be polite, but I'll cite a Marvel or DC title in doing so."

The Mass Direct Market Mind doesn't accommodate Batman at its high end and modern-day versions of Elfquest and Cerebus at its low end as it used to. There's no longer even the urge to pay lip service to "Celebrating Diversity" or to feel guilty when the rising tide floats only Marvel's (and to a lesser degree DC's) boats. Now the high end is Civil War and the low end is Wonder Woman. Reality is reality and reality is never a thing you should feel guilty about.

Tomorrow: More Good News!

There's MORE for you

In Today's Blog &



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.