Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #243 (May 12th, 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.


Dave Sim Selleth Out: Part the Second

"There sure are a lot of

Gaming Companies in this here

Industry Directory…


GAMING companies."

I always forget the extent to which the Internet tends to facilitate gleeful celebration of misfortune rather than the honest interchange of ideas, so let me interrupt myself here to state that my financial situation is actually pretty good. As it stands, I could buy back Gerhard's shares by basically liquidating all of my own savings and investments and by mortgaging the house and giving him a single lump sum payment. Of course, that's the last thing that Gerhard would want because he would lose roughly half of the money to the government, as would I. So, that's a big reason that the payments are stretched out over five years. What we're looking to do is to put as much money in Ger's pockets as possible within the stipulated length of time for share redemption in the event of a corporate buyout.

In addition, and I don't know if he wants me to mention this, but I will anyway, Neil Gaiman phoned very early in the proceedings to offer to give me a no interest loan to buy back Gerhard's shares…basically as soon as he found out what was going on. Which I have to say was very touching and affecting in an environment where I'm always pretty certain that I'm just sitting here while the vultures circle and everyone else looks on with vague disinterest wondering what I'll look like with my eyes plucked out and my bones stripped of flesh. Larry Marder once said that the comic-book field is mostly made up of charming, ruthless people and my own, admittedly anecdotal experiences would tend to support that. So, Neil's offer, coming as it did from the upper reaches of the comic-book field couldn't have come as more of a gratifying and pleasant surprise. As I told Neil, I'm pretty sure I can make all the payments one way or another but it was certainly a great load off my mind to know that his cheque book was there at the ready if I had need of it. He said that he figured this was no time of life for either Ger or myself to have to consider selling our artwork at fire-sale prices just to keep our heads above water. Good ol' Neil!

I've also had a run of offers from banks and financial institutions offering me lines of credit up to $100,000. I doubt that Wells Fargo is a devoted reader of the Blog & Mail—I'd say it's more a tribute to the fact that the 30-year old Aardvark-Vanaheim corporation has absolutely no debt --but it does seem that these opportune circumstances are there more as a safety net from God than anything else. And I don't like to rely on God in that way as if He's supposed to run interference for me and keep my bank account stuffed full.

Sales are also up substantially on the trade paperbacks and that I will attribute to the Blog & Mail since the volume of sales is virtually all coming from Diamond Comic Distributors' Star System which I now mention intermittently rather than constantly.

Intermittent mention for retailers:

Could you do me a favour and check and see if

You have all 16 volumes in stock right now?

I'll be right here when you get back.

My own best guess is that an unknown percentage of retailers are reading the Blog & Mail at least once in a while and that that keeps Cerebus' 16 volumes at the forefront of their thinking in a way that those volumes weren't prior to September 13 of last year when I started doing this. It really doesn't take that many retailers keeping track and keeping all 16 volumes in stock to have sales start to rise. Even the post-Gib Bickel Laughing Ogre in Columbus had all 16 volumes and Collected Letters on a shelf pretty much all to themselves even though the store now skews more in the direction of the mainstream than it did when Gib was running it. Good news! I still have weeks where no orders come in but those have become the exception rather than the rule. Very little of the money "sticks" but the company is back to being more or less self-sustaining: enough money comes in to pay all the bills immediately and for me to pay myself a modest stipend when the need arises (a total of $1800 in the first four months of this year, a little over $400 a month—one of the great things about working 12-to-14 hours a day is that it really tends to keep your expenses down: if you're working you aren't spending money).

But, you can't keep a small corporation in business for 30 years by being complacent and trusting that the future will always be rosey. I'm taking an awful risk with my secret project in the same way that I did with Cerebus except that I've really expanded on the non-paid working time front (it took me about a month to draw the first issue of Cerebus and I've been working on my secret project for two years) and am now having to contemplate how much money I'm going to put into promotion which only compounds the risk. At my most pessimistic I think that I might as well just take several thousand dollars and flush it down the commode for all the good that it's going to do in today's market. It's very possible that the market will just register the secret project as "not super-heroes" and ignore any and all efforts on my part to try to get "in their face" about it. I'm in a particularly grisly mood after reading Wizard magazine or Comics & Games Retailer. Why don't I just stand outside the video game arcade downtown and try to flog copies of my commentaries on Mark's Gospel to the customers coming out?

Speaking of Comics & Games Retailer:

Obviously, one of the places that I intend to promote the secret project when the time comes is on Robert Scott's CBIA (Comic Book Industry Alliance) website ( which "enables communication between members on its 24-hour forums, which cover ways to improve direct market sales of comics and related merchandise lines, financial and legal information, general interest and even stock balancing". That's certainly what I'm going to be trying to do but, to me, the hidden factor is the extent to which the overall direct market has retreated to Marvel and DC with only occasional forays into Deepest Darkest Dark Horse and Image territory as I discussed last month in regards to one of Phil Boyle's columns in Comics & Games Retailer.

Joe Field has also just started up ComicsPRO along the same lines. "ComicsPRO is a trade organization dedicated to the progress of direct market comic-book retailers, allowing us to move forward together." Again, it's hard to tell exactly what "moving forward" means in this case. Joe writes a regular column in Comics & Games Retailer where he makes a great point about regular publication—that the direct market needs good monthly comic books to get regular customers coming in on a regular basis. And I agree: comic books are, as Larry Marder once called them, "habitual entertainment". Well, obviously, I thought that was what I was doing from 1980 to 2004: producing a good monthly comic book but (equally obviously) that isn't what Joe was talking about and the industry consensus would be that I wasn't producing what their customers wanted. If the market is made up primarily, if not exclusively of super-hero readers which I'm sure it is then you are presenting the retailers with an insurmountable difficulty in giving them something which isn't super-heroes or even tangentially related to super-heroes. You can stuff your store full of thought-provoking indy comic books but that doesn't mean you can get anyone to look at them. I've been working on the problem mentally for years and I hope to have some suggestions when the time comes but I would have to say that I consider it more realistic than pessimistic to think that there really is little to no hope for my secret project in the direct market. Even though it has nothing to do with Cerebus, I imagine most people will order enough copies for all two or three of their Cerebus customers on the assumption that that's the only market for a comic book by Dave Sim. That's either built-in pessimism on the part of direct market retailers or pragmatic realism on their part. I can argue that you can't expand the market if all you buy are super-hero comics but they can counter with the factual view that you can't stay in business buying comic books that don't sell.

Obviously, when the time comes, I have to make my case that the secret project is worth investing in. I also have to make (what I see as) Peter Birkemoe's case that there are comic books that are worth buying in bulk quantities so that you have a five-year supply of them. After all, it was his challenge that I produce a self-contained comic book that could be given to Real World Civilians as a way of demonstrating that this is what the comic-book medium is capable of, so that's what I've been aiming for the last two years.

On a day-in-day-out basis, however, I'd be surprised if the average comic-book store sees more than one or two Real World Civilians in any given week. It's mostly the regular, reliable super-hero-addicted crowd or those who faithfully plod in every few weeks to find out if any of the Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly creators has produced anything that came out (and who are rewarded for their patience roughly once a year) or they're people who have come in to buy copies of whatever comic book is currently on the silver screen for the first time. To me, only the latter of those three groups constitutes—even potentially—a Real World Civilian.

As I understand Peter's approach, he would want my secret project to put into the hands of someone who is just standing around looking at everything with a perplexed look on his face, who is dressed in such a way as to suggest that he makes a good living and would be happy to spend enormous sums of money on anything that interests him sufficiently, but he just can't find any means of egress into whatever this strange place is that he's walked into is all about. Obviously Peter can only do that if he has a small stack of them ready-to-hand behind the counter or in a drawer. "Here, read this—it'll take about twenty minutes".

I don't know if any retailers besides a handful like Peter have a frame of reference for doing something like that or who would see merit in having a comic book in stock that people who have no frame of reference for comic books would respond to. Even if I can find a concise way to explain it at the CBIA and ComicsPRO websites and discussion forums—I can try to and I will try to—still, I have to face the fact that if someone from Marvel is discussing the re-launch of The New Captain America right before me or right after me, I might as well just be talking to the wall in front of me here or trying to flog copies of my commentaries on Mark's Gospel at the video arcade downtown. Which is why, as my Digital Production Director & Research Assistant on the project put it: "It wouldn't surprise me if this thing sold 3 copies and it wouldn't surprise me if it sold 35,000." If it sells 3 copies, I'm out thousands of dollars and I'm back to square one. If it sells 35,000 copies then I can justify the two years plus of work I put into it.

Hey, welcome to the direct market.

Monday: Dave seriously intends to discuss Gaming Companies, but then he seriously intended to discuss Gaming Companies in this instalment and look how that turned out.

Tomorrow: G.K. Chesterton

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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.