Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #365 (September 11th, 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.


Here on this most unhappy anniversary – the first time it has fallen on a Tuesday since the actual tragedy -- I'm wrapping up the carry-over of Scott Berwanger Week from last week with his two most recent letters.

This one's from July 21:

Dear Dave,

Thought it would be a good idea to follow up the barrage of distressed publishing schemes I sent you a week or two ago, to let you know where my head is at. After coming out the other side and surveying the scene, I am still most interested in putting together boxed sets of mini-comics and exhibiting them at trade shows. Although the impulse to turn ANUBIS into a business venture is attractive at a glance, I realize that if I keep my grassroots model going, I'm likely to get better results on the book aesthetically. Plus it's more fun doing it my way even if I have to sacrifice a more widespread degree of recognition. Just going through it mentally, I am made aware that the pressure for things to be productive and/or lucrative puts a strain on me artistically. I'm a lot like the archer who gets better marks competing for clay vessels than the archer who competes for gold chalices, or the fellow who can walk a straight line, but if elevated to the height of a rooftop ledge, loses his footing out of fear of falling.

I also think that working a day job is probably more secure than trying to make a go of it with small-press book sales. Even though business is horribly slow right now at the company I work for, it is preferable to what I would have to endure as a self-publisher. And things will pick up eventually. I just gotta stay happy. And that shouldn't be too hard to do, not if I've got ANUBIS!

Well, yes, these are all your decisions to make. If your gut instinct tells you that the grassroots approach is going to be better for the book aesthetically, then you should stick with the grassroots approach since you've already decided that your primary interest in the book is aesthetic. I think that definitely gives you an enormous level of creative invulnerability. You're not relying on the book to provide you with a livelihood so you can make all of your decisions on the basis of what will make the book look the best and read the best IN YOUR EYES.

I think that's certainly one of the great strengths of the model that you've chosen. By producing the book with no specific idea in mind of how you're going to publish/print it or disseminate/distribute it you're able to get as close as possible to the ideal of pure creativity. Although on a much smaller scale, my 49-page secret project turns out to be in the same category. It wasn't until it was done that I actually looked at it in the context of the marketplace and immediately saw that the driving ambition behind it – to do a self-contained, affordable comic book for Real World People that stores could use to show them what the comics medium is capable of – was diametrically opposed to the marketplace as constituted and, if fact, couldn't be further away from what the market is "looking for" right now. So I turned 180 degrees practically as soon as I was done. All the way through I planned to solicit the book as soon as I had my part finished – couldn't wait to get it out there! – and now I am definitely in no rush, a release date is the furthest thing from my mind.

I'd suggest that you might go through the same kind of thing. A project that you're working on has a certain presence in your life. A project that is finished has a separate presence in your life. Moving from the potential to the kinetic state creates a whole new sense of reality. Which is not to say that the potential state is misapprehended or inherently false. That is, I don't think it's a matter that the project would have come out better had I known all along that I would be in no hurry to publish it when it was done. I think I needed to believe that I would publish it right away in order to put in all the time on it that I did. The fact that I didn't have to sit down and talk seriously to Gerhard about how we were going to publish it, when we were going to publish it, how much money I wanted to invest in promotion was really what moved it to the front burner at Aardvark-Vanaheim and made it a full-time project. All those decisions would be mine alone. They didn't need to be negotiated or debated. Okay, full speed ahead. Some pages are going to take two weeks to do, some I can get done in two or three days. But instead of picking away at it, I locked into getting page 18 done. Then page 19. Then page 20.

The fact of the matter was that all those things still needed to be negotiated and debated – but not with Gerhard, just with myself. I thought that I had them all negotiated and debated and then found out that I hadn't even started. Now, I've started and I've realized that I have to see the secret project in context – in the context of Aardvark-Vanaheim's publishing plans and in the context of the comic-book marketplace. And I couldn't do that until I got my nose out of the secret project and was no longer micromanaging every square inch of it and that wasn't going to happen until it was done.

The biggest decision I made this week? New caption borders on pages 8 through 49. According to my TD & RA doing that is apt to take another two weeks on the production end. When I see them I might decide to go back to the old look. But I won't know until I see them.

It's a mysterious line of work we're in, Mr. Berwanger.

And now Scott's latest letter from August 4:

Dear Dave,

First off I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart to you, for being a bother.

Well, again, you're not a bother. As I said earlier, we both have a great loyalty and devotion to the comic book/graphic novel medium. You're exploring a whole new way of going about it so you're the only one who can really document what the process is like and, hopefully, be a pathfinder for others who choose to adopt your course.

Second of all, I'll have you know that my idea of hand-crafted boxed sets is for the scrap heap. I tried making one of the boxes and not too far into the project it became clear to me that this wasn't going to work as well as I had planned. I should have figured as much. It was a disaster.

That may be true. I was wondering about that. I think there's a lesson in this when it comes to decision-making as well. If you're picturing how something is going to go and it's a critical part of your program, it's a good idea to get to the prototype stage as soon as possible. As I've explained in another area of publishing, promotion, I pretty much go down the list of things that I haven't tried and try them so I can check them off and say, "Right, that didn't work." I've been doing it for so long that I've actually come to a "negative inference" conclusion: promotion doesn't work in the comic-book field. The only exception in recent years has been this, the Blog & Mail. Right, let's try it out. Create the illusion of a daily blog by doing a week's worth in one day. Try it for six months then check it off. Right, that didn't work. But it did this time. Just about at the six-month mark. The advantage to just "going ahead and doing it" (whatever it is) is that you eliminate things from your list so you are always engaged in new thinking. In this instance, if you had sat down and tried to do a prototype hand-made box a year ago or two years ago or whenever you started thinking about it you would have found out it was a disaster and you could have been thinking of other things to try for the last two years!

But before you throw the baby out with the bathwater on your boxed set idea, there are boxing companies that specialize in boxes. You can get them made just about any size and shape you want out of just about any material that you want. You can get them so they're re-sealable. You can get them with an ANUBIS decal on them. That's another big part of self-publishing. Figure out exactly what you want, go find someone who does that, describe it to them and get a cost estimate. Most artists continually have the mistaken idea that the business world is like school or your parents where everything you come up with there's a good reason why you CAN"T. Business isn't like that. Business functions on finding a way to get your money out of your pocket and into his pocket.

If you walked into a boxing company with the first 40 minis and just explained to the guy, I want to sell these as a boxed set at trade shows so I'd like to get an attractive box specially made to hold them. I probably only want a hundred boxes to start with but I'll probably need more later on and I'm looking to spend roughly a dollar a box, maybe more depending on what I can get for the extra money that will make the boxes more attractive.

Now if it was school or your parents, that's where CAN"T would come in. And they'd make you feel like an idiot into the bargain, which is why most artists would rather roll around in broken glass and iodine than go into an Actual Business and discuss Business with someone. But, the difference here is that unlike school or your parents, there is money to be made. Buddy behind the counter – particularly if he has a stake in the business -- doesn't care if you're a nerd or your glasses make you look funny. He isn't going to make fun of you because you don't know if the Angels are a baseball team or a football team. All he knows is that there's a chance for him to sell you a hundred boxes. Maybe more after that. If he doesn't sell them to you, somebody else will. He's got a lot of customers who came in looking for a hundred boxes and now order thousands every year and have for the last fifteen years and without them doing that, he couldn't pay his rent or his help.

You want a nice-looking box for your boxed set of mini-comics? I'm all ears. Tell me what you're looking for.

Then he asks you some questions most of which are going to hinge on whether he has to make the box specially or if he can sell you a standard box and just put some lamination on it or something. His job is making boxes so he knows every box-making trick there is. You maybe can't get a box that fits the books exactly, but for 3 cents a box you can maybe get an insert that will fill up the extra space. For another 1.5 cents you can get a decal made that says ANUBIS that you can stick on the insert and it looks as if you designed it that way from the beginning. And you don't have to make a decision right there. Tell him you're getting quotes from other companies and get quotes from other companies. You live in a democracy. You don't have to pay for something until you decide that it's the thing that you want. Especially if you're buying in quantity and especially if you're getting it tailor-made.

Tomorrow: What Scott's decided to do


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.