Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #225 (April 24th, 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.


In our last stomach-churning episode,

Dave's light table died right in the middle of

his secret project, leading him to wonder

"How the heck am I going to SELL this thing

in today's market?"

The Pan-Corporation Year-Long Crossover Story used to be the exception back in the Secret Wars days when Jim Shooter invented it, then it became a fad and then it faded away for a while but now it's back and now it's the Carved In Stone Current Reality subject to Comic Store Principle rules. As sure as God made little green apples, Marvel and DC are working on year-long pan-company crossovers. If the story takes a year or two years to come out and the early issues continue to go up in value ("Civil War tie-in!") then the high-end has been attained. Civil War is officially a good comic. Two years from now, if those early issues continue to appreciate in value in the aftermarket and the hardcover and trade paperback collections sell well, Civil War will officially become a great comic. It's one of the reasons that I think the future of independent comics is in individual self-contained comic books.

"Feel free to argue that point if you wish…" but a core reality is that there's no way that the independents can compete in that context unless they do a genuinely engaging story and come out on time and on a more regular schedule than twice a year—and have enough money in reserve to keep them going while waiting for their value in the aftermarket to actually climb and (more importantly) to actually be noticed. Cerebus wasn't accepted in the Overstreet Price Guide until well into the 1980s and the values attached to the early issues continue to be in the "extreme lowball" category. My innovation of keeping all the early issues in print in trade paperbacks was deemed "anti-aftermarket"—I was killing my back issue values by keeping the stories in print and available—and caused the aftermarket to basically lock the 1980s prices in and to not revisit them. Which is why Cerebus back issues are genuinely scarce these days and command prices far higher than their "established' value.

As for "regular publication", our past independent history tells us it's possible but the Comic Store Reality is that it isn't likely or more than a handful of people would have done it and would be doing it. No comic store owner worth his salt is going to seriously believe that Indy Tales #1 is going to be followed anytime soon by issue 2 or that he will ever see issue 3 and he or she is not going to bet heavily in that direction. Certainly not to the tune of buying 20 or 30 or 40 copies. In a market which has as thin a profit margin as the comic-book field does the hard choice is between Reality and Wishful Thinking. The former gives a store a chance to keep going, the latter is a recipe for suicide.

What I had hoped would happen (that is, Wishfully Thought) when I championed independent publishing in the 1990s was that independent creators would learn to be reliable so they could compete with Marvel and DC: that reliability was the one chance we had to make a level playing field. Instead, the opposite happened; mainstream creators learned from and adopted the slovenly work habits of the independents and suddenly virtually everyone became unreliable. If a store is going to bet on an unreliable creator, he or she is going to bet on an unreliable creator who is drawing Spider-man or Batman and falling months and sometimes years behind schedule and even there, the speculation bug is only going to last so long. If a hot book is eight months late, Principle #1 has been met—the comic book has gone up in dollar value immediately—but Principle #2 has been violated. The comic book hasn't continued to go up in value and not only the aftermarket value is destroyed, so is the pre-market value: issue 2 isn't worth what the retailer would have to pay for it when it turns up, so the retailers are going to return issue 2 en masse without even looking at it when it comes in hanging on to a small fraction of the original order for the only market for the book: the most devoted collectors who don't care how late it is, they have to have it (a smaller and smaller minority of customers).

My new advocacy of the individual self-contained comic book stems from the choice between Reality and Wishful Thinking. It removes the latter to the extent that that's possible. The retailer doesn't have to wonder what issue 2 will do while contemplating issue 1. The retailer doesn't have to wonder if it's actually going to come out. It is out. It exists. You don't have to "trust me" on that as you would if I told you I was going to do a bi-monthly series where you have to order issues 2 and 3 before you've even had the chance to see how issue 1 sells. And I hope it removes Wishful Thinking from the creator/publisher side of the equation, as well. You invest x amount of time and energy in a single comic book and then you find out what the response to it is. If it tanks you do something else. If it does okay or really well, you can expand it into a graphic novel or do sequels or just print some more.

Of course, the individual self-contained comic book brings its own logistical problems with it. Mr. Boyle objects to the $3 comic that represents only 15 minutes of entertainment. But I think I'm safe in saying that that's pretty much a fixed commodity as well, a Comic-Store Reality. Try selling a comic book with over-abundant use of text (relative to the perceived "right" amount of text) and you'll find yourself dismissed just as readily for your book taking too long to read as for it not taking long enough to read. If you challenge the store owner/collector/reader's suppositions—in terms of content, story-telling, theme—you limit your sales. "Too many words" is the kiss of death for a comic book. "Feel free to argue that point if you wish…" (i.e. no literate person should ever see any comic book as containing "too many words") but do so at your own peril. If you can push the 15 minutes to 20 minutes or 25 minutes you are scratching the reader's itch for "more value for the money". Push it beyond the 25 minutes and you are encroaching on his comfort zone and taking up too much of his time. The name of the game, now more than ever, is "delivering the goods". The collectors and readers don't know what they want, but they'll know it if and when they see it. And if the comic book isn't—not only A super-hero but one of the High Iconic Marvel and to a lesser degree DC super-heroes—the odds are that 98% of comic store patrons won't even look at it even if you do make it to the shelf. So it seems to me a nice long comic book (not TOO long, but longer than the average Marvel comic) at a reasonable price (the same as the average Marvel comic or only fractionally more expensive) strikes the right competitive note: more reading value for the money, a self-contained package so there's no chance of future disappointment and (hopefully) those two offsetting a lack of colour.

There are ancillary considerations that have caused me to revise parts of my secret project that would have been deemed innovative visually but which were unfamiliar territory for the average comic-book reader. My decision was: I'm already swimming upstream by being an indy, there is already massive sales resistance because it's not a Marvel or DC book. Conclusion? Don't make things needlessly difficult for the reader, don't make your work difficult or impenetrable, don't venture too far outside of the accepted comic book "tropes" don't occupy too much of his time so that he wants to give up or too little of his time so he feels cheated. Whether we want to admit it or not—and I think the only sensible thing to do is to admit it—the track record of independent comics being roughly 98% unreliable in all of those areas (not enough value for the money, too many words, not enough words, too esoteric story-telling, not enough content, uninteresting themes, irregular schedule) is something every (EVERY!) independent comic, as a consequence, carries with it into Diamond Previews. As an independent you have to compete with a clear awareness that—because of the almost 100% failure rate: the unreliability of your predecessors and peers—you are metaphorically down by five runs and have two strikes against you before you even get up to the plate. The consensus view in the environment is that you and your book are unnecessary without even having to look at what you've done. You basically are going to have one swing at one pitch and you're either going to make it to first or you're going to be out. Don't fritter away that one swing of the bat by doing something that is pretty much guaranteed to rub people the wrong way.

Tomorrow: Now that I know THAT what do I know? And how does it help me sell copies of my funnybook?

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.